Spiritual Disciplines for Today
By Heather A. Goodman
Oh, we’re the worst offenders, aren’t we ladies? We hope the women in our church will connect with God on a daily basis forming intimate bonds with our Creator, but between writing, Bible studies, teaching Bible studies, staff meetings, counseling, overseeing functions, attending functions, taking calls of those who need extra help, and spiritually tending for those under our care, we forget about the presence of God.
After graduating from seminary, I hung my degree on a shingle and opened for business. Four years of all-nighters, Greek and Hebrew translations, and theological games of “Luther says,” and I was ready to discuss Ephesians with the best of them and shepherd God’s people. Yet God wasn’t ready to use me just then. He first needed to teach me to be still and know Him.
Musicians know that you can’t play Rachmaninoff without practicing scales every day. A spiritual connection with God that feeds you so that you can serve others starts with each and every day. We have many tools to utilize for this connection, but often we don’t know how to use them. Or we aren’t sure how to teach them in a practical way to the women in our church. We both need to practice this connection every day. What is the secret to practicing scales in our spiritual lives?
Turn your inner monologue into dialogue.
Try “pray[ing] without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). Talk to God in the car, in the grocery store, or during your Pilates class. Redirect thoughts to God. Stuck in a frustrating traffic jam? Petition God for friends you know are hurting. It doesn’t have to be a deep theological prayer, only a dialogue that keeps you aware of the presence of God.
Find creative ways to get in the Word every day.
David says, “In my heart, I store up your words, so I might not sin against you” (Psa. 119:11, NET). There are many ways to keep the Bible with you every day. Try a devotional during your lunch break, or listen to the Bible on CD during your commute, or while cleaning the bathtub.
My husband and I currently do “The Message Remix,” which arranges the Bible with the Old and New Testament portions every day, breaking it up with options to read through the Scripture in a year, two years, or four years. If you choose this route, two tips: One, don’t beat yourself up for missing a day. You’ll make it up—just get back into it the next day; and two, don’t worry about understanding every nuance and meaning. There are times to dig deep, and there are times to let the fresh water God offers wash over us. As students and teachers, we have a tendency to want to pull out and know every detail—but sometimes it’s nice to just bask in the big picture.
Another path is daily devotionals, such as Oswald Chamber’s My Utmost for His Highest or The High Calling’s online devotional by Eugene Peterson (http://www.thehighcalling.org/). These tend to be shorter and ideal for busy lives.
Currently my favorite way to access the Bible is through audio. Several ministries have downloadable MP3 files that you can listen to through your computer, from a CD in the car, or on your iPod while folding laundry.
Schedule a one-meal fast periodically.
Fasting is perhaps one of the most confusing of the spiritual disciplines. While it can be misused as a manipulative deal-making tool, it can also serve as a time of sacrifice in order to delight in God and seek His will. We find numerous examples in the Bible of God’s people seeking His will through fasting (1 Kings 21; Nehemiah 1:4; 9:1; Luke 2:37; Acts 13:2; 14:23). Fasting is coupled with prayer and often with serving the Lord.
Because of lunch meetings and kids’ expectations, fasting can be tricky. To help, schedule time in advance, and try fasting one meal instead of one day. Use that hour to pray when you would be eating. Don’t worry about what you will pray. If you run out of things to talk about with God, put on some music or find your favorite Psalm. As the afternoon goes by and your stomach growls, use that as small reminders of Christ’s sacrifice for us.
Instead of meal fasting, you may choose to give up a certain item for a set time. If you seek comfort and security in an object, instead of God, trying a fast from that item. (I’m still trying to convince myself to give up TV for a month. If only I could find a month that doesn’t have any shows on that I like).
Be willing to sacrifice.
We show our commitment to God through spiritual disciplines, but remember: God calls us out of our comfort to serve Him. You may need to sacrifice something in your life, whether blog time, a TV show, or even attending every church and community function. My husband and I set our alarm clock earlier than we would prefer in order to spend daily time reading the Bible and praying because evenings for us go haywire.
Often in our fast-forward and niche-scheduling society, we forget that we are called to sacrifice, and we forget to teach sacrifice to our ladies who are looking for quick answers.
For me, finding time to practice piano everyday requires discipline, but creativity alleviates the stress. If I can’t devote myself for hours or even one hour to the piano, I dedicate five minutes, perhaps while waiting for the spaghetti water to boil, to run through scales. Our spiritual life calls for the same type of thought. We may not have hours every day or every week, but we can dig out time to see our Groom if we desire.