What is Spiritual Formation?

I’ve written on this before, but the question is coming up again. Simply put, spiritual formation is a new buzzword and perspective on the one thing the Church has been doing since the very beginning, discipleship. However, this new perspective (some may even argue an old perspective) is not the kind of discipleship that you may find in many mainline churches. The discipleship programs that I see most often involve getting you to commit to attending church weekly, go to Sunday school or join a small group, tithe (can’t forget to get our money!), and commit to personal Bible study. To me, this feels a lot like the “Gospel of Sin Management” that Dallas Willard talks about in The Divine Conspiracy. True discipleship is not about ticking the right boxes and saying “I am a disciple of Jesus.” Rather there is something different that is called for. Enter the perspective of spiritual formation.

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Why Should I Pray?

“What’s the point of praying?! It never does anything!” There are times in our lives when the disciplines that we practice seem to carry no weight in our lives. We know that we should do things, like praying, because we’ve been told our entire church lives that that is what Christians do. Yet, prayer feels meaningless when life doesn’t change or we do not recieve a response. Does this mean that we should be prayering? What if it means that our expectation of prayer has been wrong all along.

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Oh No! I Messed Up

We often hear how important it is to develop spiritual disciplines. These include fasting, Bible study, prayer, and many more. We are told that the importance of these disciplines is develop ourselves in Christlikeness; so we can be the people God created us to be. Yet, we’re human and therefore, imperfect. What does this mean for our spiritual disciplines? It means that we will mess up. We may set out to prayer, every morning, at 5am (before anyone else in the house is up), for 15 minutes. We are able to accomplish this task for awhile, but one day you wake up and its 7am. Oh No! You messed up but what do you do now? Below are some ideas that I have for you to remember when this happens.

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Becoming an Ordinary Mystic: Spirituality for the Rest of Us

Just like last year, we will start this year with a book that helps us to fulfill our New Year’s resolutions. Many people say that they want to pursue having a closer relationship with God in the New Year. However, many people also have no clue how to do that. They often resolve to goals of praying more or reading their Bibles more. While these can push us in the right direction, do these practices truly push us to have a deeper relationship with God? Enter Becoming an Ordinary Mystic: Spirituality for the Rest of Us by Albert Haase. Haase is an experienced Fransican friar with experience as a missionary in mainland China and as a spiritual director. This month’s book was released by IVP in August of 2019, and it shows us that spirituality is not something attained by the spiritual elite, but is accessible for all of us.

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What I’ve Been Up To

Man, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything on here (outside of that book review last week). Mostly this is because of school. I got very busy over the last couple of weeks trying to get all the work done I needed to, that I just didn’t have the brain space to write for this blog, for that, I apologize. Now that the school year is over, and I have a small break before my summer class begins, I think I have the opportunity to reflect on some of the ideas I have been wrestling with this past semester. Continue reading “What I’ve Been Up To”

The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction

4560Most people (especially Americans) live incredibly busy lives. With so many demands on our time, is it really any surprise that our spiritual lives tend to suffer? This month’s book seeks to combat that. It is The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distration by Justin Whithel Earley from InterVarsity Press. This book was published in February of 2019, and I chose to take a look at it and practice during this past season of Lent. Earley is a lawyer by training, but has experience as a missionary in China. He leans heavily on his experience of living a busy lifestyle, and overcoming that with a concious decision of living his life so he did not miss the things that were most important to him. He writes this book very similiarly to how you may find a rule for a monastic lifestyle, such as The Rule of St Benedict. He takes this style and presents it with a contemporary setting so it can make sense to the average reader of how this applies to your life today. You do not have to move to a monastery or a convent to practice the rule that Earley suggests.

“Since we’re too tired to make any good decisions, we’re extremely susceptible to letting other people — from manipulative bosses to invisible smartphone programmers — make our decisions for us.”

The Common Rule is broken up into eight different habits: four daily and four weekly. All of these habits are designed to help you realize you are not God and cannot possible accomplish everything, while also focusing you on the things that matter in life. The habits are: kneeling prayer three times a day (daily), one meal with others (daily), on hour with phone off (daily), Scripture before phone (daily), conversaition with a friend (weekly), curate media (weekly), fast from something for 24 hours (weekly), and Sabbath (weekly). Earley writes chapters that explain each habit, why they are important, and how he practices it in his own busy life. However, the warning with adopting rules and habits, is that we not become legalistic. Humanity is to quick to make ideas into laws that we must live by. Earley suggests that we keep our focus on Christ and love for others, then the habits will naturally fit. He also includes and epilogue where he talks about what happens when you fail your practice.  Here he shows how easy it is to slip into a mentality of giving up, but it is important to keep that focus of Christ.

“Those are the kind of habits with cultivating — little habits of love, not carried out for success, not carried out to prove who you are, but cultivated because of a longing to love God and neighbor.”

I essentially have 2.5 full time jobs, while also trying to blog, raise three childen and love my wife. I know many people probably just exlaimed and the crazy person that is writing this review, but honestly I found this book so helpful. Like other rules, you find having a set liturgy and pace to your life makes everything feel much more managable. I enjoyed the way that Earley writes about these spiritual disciplines he has been cultivating within the lives of his family and his community. The thing that I found most helpful was the Resources section at the end of the book. This is designed to be a reference guide to remind yourself of the habits, while also helping you implement them into your life. I found myself often turning to it for help in trying to figure out how to put these habits into my day. I think that this is a good book for any busy person to spend a week with. I found the content easy to get through in a week, but it can lead to a lifetime of closeness with God. Pick it by clicking on this link, and learn how to break through your busyness and lean on God.

So What is Spiritual Formation?

This morning I read a blog post about the future of the Spiritual Formation movement from Renovaré. Currently, one of my majors is in Christian Spiritual Formation, so naturally my ears perked up. I had a conversation with a professor of mine, where he asked what I thought the program was all about since I am almost done (graduation December 2019!).  My response was, “It helps me know how to practice my faith.” After reading this post this morning, I began thinking that this may have been slightly wrong. It is so much more than merely practicing my faith, it is a total orientation of my life. Continue reading “So What is Spiritual Formation?”

Serving Others and Worshiping God

Apparently I need some more discipline in my life as I’ve missed a couple of these posts!

The last couple of posts I did regarding, spiritual disciplines, were all about giving something up. First, it was about living a simple life of modesty so you could live in such a way that you could be a blessing to others. Then, it became about fasting and teaching your body and mind to live in a way that was focused on God. This post is not about giving something up. Spiritual disciplines are about training, and that doesn’t mean to cut everything away. Ask any athlete what training is like, and it will sound like a lot of adding onto what they are already doing. Continue reading “Serving Others and Worshiping God”

Getting Closer by Giving Something Up

Last week we talked about what it meant to intentionally live a life of simplicity and modesty, so you can do more in service to God. The spiritual discipline of frugality is all about training your desires to see that you do not need as much as you think you do and to be responsible with the resources God has chosen to bless you with. This week’s discipline seems to follow nicely because now we will be giving up something we actually do need, in order to train our focus to rely completely on God. Continue reading “Getting Closer by Giving Something Up”

Can You Give That Up?

It’s still a new year and I love taking a look at these disciplines to try and be closer to God. I find that every year I say that I am going to be closer to God but don’t really feel like I make progress in that direction. Last week we took a look at prayer and meditation. I felt like that was an easy place to start, as many Christians equate those practices with getting closer to God. This week, we are going to take a look at something that might be counter intuitive. This week we will look at the spiritual discipline of frugality. Continue reading “Can You Give That Up?”