Spiritual Practices for 2020
It is nearly the New Year. My heart and body have felt the fullness of the last month: the longing of Advent, the chaos of culture, the joy of celebrating Jesus' birth and meaningful connection with family and community. It has been good, but I am ready for rest and renewal.
Christmas can be a time to look and reach outward in generosity and relationally. Perhaps now is a time to attend to the inner landscape and dive deep as the slower, darker days of winter are upon us. Is there an invitation to pay attention to the spiritual rhythms or practices that are needed for 2020? I am ready, perhaps you are too.
What spiritual practices align our hearts with God? Spiritual practices include the mental, emotional, and physical. The health and design of our soul will influence what is needed. A healthy individual training for a marathon has different needs than an individual facing cancer. A pregnant woman supporting a new life within her needs different nourishment than a teenager. The uniqueness of our being: capacities, strengths, and weaknesses, wounds and gifts, and even sin tendencies will influence what is needed as well. What nourishes intimacy with God and what loosens my grasp on those things that I attach to rather than God? Spiritual practices (disciplines) are those ways we remain open-hearted, obedient, and responsive to God. So, how is your heart? How is your soul? How is your body?
There are multiple ways to meditate on God's word (Scripture memorization, study, meditation, lectio divina, etc.) and there are countless ways to pray (converse with God) – these are critical spiritual practices. There are many other spiritual practices that deepen our intimacy with the Triune God.
There are practices of celebration and practices of fasting. If I am too attached to my screens perhaps God invites me to fast from technology. I know that I am praying through healthy boundaries for my screen time. If I choose sweets and endless cups of coffee to cope with countless pressures perhaps a fast from food, from sugar, or caffeine will untangle my heart from the attachment to sense-oriented relief (I must admit I am a grumpy faster, but it is still a significant practice for me).
If I am caught in the busyness of living life without margin I can ask God how practices of simplicity or Sabbath might deepen my growth and open-heartedness. I can ask God what boundaries I need to put in place to guard my time?
Do I use emotional dishonesty or denial to cope with life's pain? Maybe God invites me to a practice of authentic journaling, meeting with a counselor, or investing in a spiritual friendship to honestly embrace the life God has entrusted to me.
If I am rigid in my disciplines and consistently "over-function" perhaps God will invite me to silence and rest to loosen my grip, my attachment to control. Or perhaps God will invite me to a practice of play or creativity. There are practices of community and practices of solitude. And then there are practices of worship and service, generosity and more. There are practices that require courage to step out and practices that demand trust to surrender. What do you need?
The practice of retreating is critical for me. When I retreat God brings me back to the practices of silence and solitude, again and again. I pull away from usual rhythms of life for 1-3 days to spiritually attend to God and to my heart. In that space of retreat I listen. God may reveal a new practice, remind me of an old truth, invite me to a new repentance, or reveal an area of my heart that he desires me to listen and respond. The button below gives a one page simple guide for a personal retreat based on Hebrews 12:1-2. Ruth Haley Barton's book Invitation to Retreat is a wonderful guide to the practice of retreating.
Our Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer knows us like no other. We can ask God to reveal our hearts and interpret us... to ourselves. God knows what we need, and, sometimes, we know what we need if we pause to pay attention or to listen. A New Year may be the time for a new practice... or to renew a familiar spiritual discipline We can ask God what practices will deepen our intimacy with Him, allow us to live wholeheartedly, and enable us to love well and bear good fruit.