Celebrate Discipline

MEDITATION

The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people. ~ Richard Foster

 

SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES:  activities that make us capable of receiving more of God’s life and power; exercises unto godliness.

The Spiritual Disciplines call us to move from surface living to deep inner transformation. But to change our inner most being requires dedication, an intentional commitment to new actions, and new habits.

MEDITATION: a long, steady look at God, His creation and His Word; stopping to give God our undivided attention.

Meditation is an inward discipline, one that leads to intimacy with God, a deepening of our life, making more room for God.

Many Christians are turned off by the word Meditation. Christian Meditation is unlike traditional Eastern Meditation where the goal is total emptying of the self. What we are talking about here is meditation upon God, His goodness, and His Word… sitting in stillness and listening for His Voice to speak to your spirit; a filling of our spirit with God’s Spirit.

Let’s consider a few practical questions regarding Meditation: 

  • WHAT TIME OF DAY SHOULD I MEDITATE?
Personally, I prefer my meditation time be in the morning when I first wake. But with work schedules that vary around the clock, not everyone is waking in the morning or sleeping at night. The important thing is that you find a time that fits your schedule and dedicate it to meditation. Start small with just five or ten minutes. As you get more and more comfortable with meditation you will find yourself forgetting about time as you soak in God’s Presence.

If I’m sleepless at midnight I spend the hours in grateful reflection. ~ Ps 63:6

  • DOES MY POSTURE DURING MEDITATION MATTER?

We should find a comfortable position, but not so comfortable that you get drowsy. It’s often best to begin with sitting in a straight back chair. If you lay down you may end of falling to sleep. Not that that’s a bad thing, but save this relaxation technique for bedtime. I practice Yoga each morning and find this a wonderful time for meditation on various Scriptures. Surprisingly, a long hot bath is where I have my best meditation time.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. ~ Psalm 19:14

  • WHAT AM I GOING TO GET OUT OF MY MEDITATION TIME? 
There are many benefits to meditation the least of which is a closer walk with God. With a foundation of silence and solitude in meditation we will find ourselves less stressed, daily life comes with more ease. We will have greater appreciation for the things of God: His Word, His Creation and most importantly His Presence in our life.

I’ll ponder all the things you’ve accomplished and give a long, loving look at your acts. ~ Ps. 77:12

Here are some suggested meditation activities:

  1. Take a nature walk, meditate on the wonder of God’s Creation around you. Enjoy the plants, trees, birds, squirrels, clouds, the breeze… This world is full of beauty that we miss everyday!
  2. Select a section of Scripture (Ps 139, Ps 86, Ps 42) read through it slowly. When a verse pops out, ponder it. What is God saying to you? Write down feelings and questions that surface.
  3. When in a public place, take time to meditate on people, see them as God sees them, hurting, loving, joyful. Delight in them as He does. Take some time to pray for them.
  4. Without getting too bogged down, meditate on current events. Look at the world through God’s eyes. Is He prompting you to pray in a new way?
These are just a few ideas to help you get started in your meditation time. The main goal of Meditation is to gaze deeply on God, His work and His Words. Anytime you can do that it will be wonderful!

What are your favorite things to use for meditation?

You may be in a place of reflection on past transgressions and needed desire to change. One of my favorite things is to meditate with choral music, specifically Gregorian. Here is one of the most beautiful of all: Miserere Mei Deus written in the 1600’s by Gregorio Allegri. I suggest reading Psalm 51, on which this song is based, before meditating on this exquisite music. You will be transformed! https://youtu.be/3s45XOnYOIw 


Resources:
Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun
Devotional Classics by Richard Foster and James Bryan Smith

01.09.13

A Monk in the World :: HUMILITY

As MONK IN THE WORLD WE ARE LEARNING THE TEACHINGS AND PRINCIPLES OF CHRISTIAN MONASTICISM AND HOW WE CAN APPLY THEM TO OUR LIVES OUTSIDE THE MONASTERY WALLS. 


humil’ity, n [L. humilitas.]
freedom from pride and arrogance; humbleness of mind; a modest estimate of one’s own worth; a deep sense of one’s own unworthiness in the sight of God; self-abasement; penitence for sin; and submission to the divine will.** 


Showing respect to the Lord will make you wise and being humble will bring honor to you. ~ Proverbs 15:33


One of the toughest things to learn and practice is humility. Certainly not a topic of daily conversation. But in the last couple of years this is exactly where God has had me parked. And I am reminded of it regularly.  


Why? 

Because I struggle with pride, vanity and every possible opposite of humility.

I will sit and think lowly of myself, having a pity party, imagining no one cares about me, thinking that nothing I do matters to anyone.  I never imagined doing this was prideful.

In fact I am having an immodest estimate of my own worth. I am thinking I should be more important to everyone else than they seem to be showing me.

Everyone who tries to honor himself shall be humbled; and he who humbles himself shall be honored. ~ Luke 14:11

This saying demonstrates that all exaltation is a type of pride. ~ The Rule of Benedict 7:2

Saint Benedict’s Rule has humility at its core because humility is at the core of the Gospel. That means it should be at my core as well.

I might be walking around with humble behavior. But if in my heart I am always seeking more recognition… I’ve still got a lot of work to do!

**Noah Webster 1828 Dictionary

A Monk in the World :: STABILITY

IN MONK IN THE WORLD WE ARE LEARNING THE TEACHINGS AND PRINCIPLES OF CHRISTIAN MONASTICISM AND HOW WE CAN APPLY THEM TO OUR LIVES OUTSIDE THE MONASTERY WALLS. 


Stability is a vow taken by a Benedictine monk binding her to residence for life in the same monastery in which she made her vow. 


Many of us outside the monastery walls change jobs, houses, cars and partners as quickly as we change our clothes. The idea of staying in the same place of residence our entire life is unimaginable! 

Stability is also a critical aspect of addiction recovery. When I was practicing addiction and emotional pain would show up, the first thing I wanted to do was escape.

If I couldn’t numb out with a substance then I wanted to run away. Some how I thought the pain inside wouldn’t follow me, but of course, it always did. 

Even after years of recovery there are days I struggle with the need to escape. But God gently pulls me back to a place of stability.

  • Stability centers us in something Greater than ourselves so nothing less than ourselves can sweep us away.
  • Stability requires listening and acceptance. We must quiet ourselves and listen to what the situation is it trying to teach us.
  • Stability takes the monotonous and creatively betters it. Once we accept the situation freedom comes and we find the creativity to improve it.

The world clamors for us to change everything about ourselves.


 Stability asks us to stay and grow so that change may come.


RESOURCES:
Seeking God: The Way of Saint Benedict by Esther de Waal
Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants by Dennis Okholm
How to be a Monastic and Not Leave your Day Job by Br. Benet Tvedten
Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict by Joan Chittister, OSB

Image credit: iqoncept / 123RF Stock Photo

12 Steps of Humility :: PERSEVERANCE

EACH MONTH IN THE 12 STEPS OF HUMILITY WE ARE CLIMBING SAINT BENEDICT’S LADDER OF HUMILITY.  WITH EACH RUNG WE COME CLOSER TO THE PERFECT LOVE OF GOD.

The ladder is our life on earth, if we humble our hearts God will raise it to heaven. ~ St Benedict

Step 4 of Humility: In this obedience under difficult, unfavorable, or even unjust conditions, [her] heart quietly embraces suffering and endures it without weakening or seeking escape.

If you remain faithful to the end you will be saved. ~ Matthew 10:22 


In our world today we want any trial we are facing to be corrected yesterday. We don’t have time, nor are we willing to persevere through the crisis.  This leaves us living as spiritual infants.

According to Saint Benedict in our obedience, we are to hold fast when things aren’t going our way. And the only way to do that is to stay centered on God!

We must take our eyes off the circumstances and how we want things to be and remember everything in life can be a learning opportunity if we allow it.

I love this Webster 1828 definition:

perseverance: continuance in a state of grace to a state of glory.


When we are walking in God’s grace we are more likely to give Him glory. But we can’t be walking in His grace with our eyes on the ground, or on the circumstances or the rearview mirror, or on ourself.

God will only get the glory if we keep Him in the center minute by minute.


RESOURCES:
The Rule of Saint Benedict by Saint Benedict, Edited by Timothy Fry, O.S.B.
Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited by Joan D. Chittister**
The Twelve Steps of Humility and Pride by Bernard of Clairvaux
Living in the Truth: Saint Benedict’s Teaching on Humility by Michael Casey

Image credit: designerkrim / 123RF Stock Photo

A Monk in the World ::OBEDIENCE

IN MONK IN THE WORLD WE ARE LEARNING THE TEACHINGS AND PRINCIPLES OF CHRISTIAN MONASTICISM AND HOW WE CAN APPLY THEM TO OUR LIVES OUTSIDE THE MONASTERY WALLS. TODAY WE’RE FOCUSING ON the vow of Obedience.



Closely linked to Step 2 of Humility is the discipline of obedience.  In the Benedictine monastic community the members profess three vows: obedience, stability and a life of on-going conversion. Implicit in these are the evangelical vows of chastity and poverty.


Obedience… is not one of our favorite words. Most of us like to think we don’t have to follow all the rules. Some would even say rules are made to be broken. But the truth is most rules are made to protect us from something. 

The root word of obedience is a Latin word for listen. When we want someone to obey us we are really asking them to listen to us. Thinking in this way obedience doesn’t seem so harsh. Isn’t this all God is asking of us? That we listen to Him? After all, He has our best interest in mind when He asks us to do something. 

In the book of Romans the Apostle Paul says obedience comes from faith, (1:5) faith comes from hearing God’s Word (10:17) and that we are mutually encouraged by each other’s faith (1:12). Which leads us to our next point.

In the spirit of Benedictine obedience, I should practice “mutual obedience”  obeying not only those in authority over me but also my fellow brothers and sisters. This fosters harmony in our communities and households. When we see others as the voice of God we will be better listeners.

Obedience is not what we expect from others, it is what we do ourselves for others… Obedience says: Set aside what you are doing. Focus your attention on the person before you to discern what God is asking you to do.  (St. Benedict’s Toolbox)**

Our response to obedience must be joyful and spontaneous. More than the action itself, what matters is the attitude of our heart. When we respond without grumbling, replacing competitiveness with consideration we can live a life of obedience as Saint Benedict teaches in his Rule.

If you can’t see the screen below CLICK HERE for a beautiful worship song by Chris Tomlin.

RESOURCES:
**St. Benedicts Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine
Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants by Dennis Okholm
How to be a Monastic and Not Leave your Day Job by Br. Benet Tvedten

Celebrate Discipline :: CELEBRATION

IN OUR CELEBRATE DISCIPLINE COLUMN EACH MONTH WE ARE LEARNING A NEW SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE, HOW TO APPLY IT AND HOPEFULLY GROW INTO THE PEOPLE GOD WANTS US TO BE.

SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES: habits that nurture spiritual growth; exercises unto godliness.


CELEBRATION: actions that turn our spirit toward worship, praise and thanksgiving.

It seems odd to think of Celebration as a Spiritual Discipline. But if it weren’t for Celebration and the joy that feeds it our spiritual life would be drudgery. The Bible tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength so that means if we don’t find time to celebrate we will run out of energy to function.
During the holiday seasons it is difficult for many to join in the spirit of celebration. Cloudy days and my husband’s demanding work schedule leave me sad and lonely much of the time. I am having to make a decision to find joy in the midst of these oppressive feelings.
The best thing that helps me is to put on some worship music, to search the Internet for an uplifting music video. I sometimes even get up and dance along. That’s sure to change my mood!
If you can’t see the video screen below Click Here for a beautiful example of Celebration and Worship!

Celebrate Discipline :: GRATITUDE

IN OUR CELEBRATE DISCIPLINE COLUMN EACH MONTH WE ARE LEARNING A NEW SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE, HOW TO APPLY IT AND HOPEFULLY GROW INTO THE PEOPLE GOD WANTS US TO BE.




SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES: habits that nurture spiritual growth; exercises unto godliness.


GRATITUDE: a thankful and loving response toward God for His presence with us and goodness to us;  joy in our heart in response to someone for who they are or something they have done.


For years we’ve heard the saying, “Have and attitude of gratitude.” But I’ve come to learn that being grateful is more than an attitude. It’s a practice. You can have an attitude about something without acting on it. Not until we begin practicing gratitude consistently will we see real change in our lives.

How can we practice gratitude?

  • Gratitude starts first with a change of heart. Only when look beyond ourselves and see the good around us, in other people, in nature, in our pets, can we begin to walk in gratitude each day.
  • For me keeping a gratitude journal has been helpful. Taking a few moments before bed to reflect on the good things of the day. I’m not as faithful to it as I’d like to be. But at least I’m making the effort to start.
  • Making a conscious decision to thank others. So many times we get lazy and overlook the kindness of people around us. You will make someone else’s day better by noticing them.

Gratitude enhances satisfaction and balances greed and entitlement. And is so lacking in today. It starts with us. We must make the effort, to take the first step. It can change our world!

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17

If you can’t see the video screen below CLICK HERE and let your gratefulness overflow into blessings all around you!


RESOURCES:
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun

Image credit: robwilson39 / 123RF Stock Photo

Celebrate Discipline :: WORSHIP

IN OUR CELEBRATE DISCIPLINE COLUMN EACH MONTH WE ARE LEARNING A NEW SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE, HOW TO APPLY IT AND HOPEFULLY GROW INTO THE PEOPLE GOD WANTS US TO BE.


SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES: habits that nurture spiritual growth; exercises unto godliness.


WORSHIP: a response to God’s love as the Holy Spirit touches our human spirit.


It may seem odd to look at worship as a Spiritual Discipline. But if you have ever been so angry you could explode or struggling with an ailing body… think about being in the midst of these situations and still able to worship God. That takes Spiritual Discipline. 


Though worship is usually associated with religion, there are people who aren’t religious that have a type of worship. Worship is often revealed by the people or things we value most; money, power, possessions, substances, etc… 

Where do we turn when we’re coming undone at the end of a bad day?

There are many styles of worship: liturgical, charismatic, traditional, and contemporary. Because the New Testament doesn’t specify rules and forms of worship, no one style is better than another. The most important thing to consider is our heart motivations before, during and after. 

Before beginning a time of worship we must be sure we are in right relationships with family, friends, and God. If we go into worship angry that will block our ability to give and receive love, which is the primary purpose of worship. 

The quality of our worship comes from the focus of our heart. We mustn’t look at another person and compare styles of worship. God wants my very best, not my interpretation of someone else’s very best. 

The heart of worship is to seek God and love Him in our own personal way. 


Take some time to evaluate your type or style of worship. Is it all you want it to be? You can lay face down on the floor or dance around the room. Whatever you do that shows God how much you love Him is what He wants from you.

God is Spirit and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth. ~John 4:24

JOIN THE CONVERSATION:

What does worship mean to you? How do you like to worship?


If you can’t see the video screen below click here for one of my favorite worship songs. 

RESOURCES:

Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun
The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney

Photo credit: designpics / 123RF Stock Photo

Celebrate Discipline :: CONFESSION

IN OUR CELEBRATE DISCIPLINE COLUMN EACH MONTH WE ARE LEARNING A NEW SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE, HOW TO APPLY IT AND HOPEFULLY GROW INTO THE PEOPLE GOD WANTS US TO BE.

SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES: habits that nurture spiritual growth; exercises unto godliness.

CONFESSION: an admission of misdeeds or faults to God or another person.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. ~ Psalm 139:23-24

Since God desires to give and forgive, He has put in place the process of redemption which started at the Cross and was confirmed with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is because of Christ’s holy work and through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can make our confession and know that forgiveness is possible.


The Spiritual Discipline of Confession is a difficult one for us because we often choose to see our community as one full of saints rather than a fellowship of sinners. All the more reason for confession to be a priority in our lives. When we are able to help someone struggling with their lives it helps us to know we aren’t alone in our struggle with sin. If I am left alone in the confession of my sin, I stay in the dark. It is in the light of mutual confession that healing power is released and lives are transformed.

In some Christian traditions there are formal printed confessions spoken as a congregation or to a confessor. There are many advantages to this method.

  1. No more excuses or blaming. We confess that we have sinned by our own fault. 
  2. Forgiveness is expected and given. With words from a brother or sister our forgiveness is sealed by the Holy Spirit.
  3. Remorse is experienced. We use this time to consider the seriousness of our sin against God.

Confession journalling is another avenue to consider. As we go about our daily lives we can process our various sin struggles in a diary or journal. This can be a sweet time of self-examination with the Lord at the end of the day.

The most common view of confession is that spoken to another person. But before we run off and start sharing our deep dark secrets we must take care to find the proper person. Key qualifications we should look for are: spiritual maturity, compassion, wisdom and the ability to keep a confidence. 

Having found a confidant there are three things we must check before we begin.

  1. Our conscience ~  We invite God to show us where we need healing and forgiveness.
  2. Our sorrow ~ We are taking our confession seriously because we know we have offended God.
  3. Our desire to sin ~ We ask God to help us live holy lives from this point forward.

The Spiritual Discipline of Confession breaks all pretenses over our life. We are now free to walk in our God given grace and forgiveness with the hope of making a difference in the lives of those around us.


“Honesty leads to confession, and confession leads to change.” ~ Richard Foster


If you can’t see the video screen below CLICK HERE for a beautiful song to meditate on.

RESOURCES:

Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun

Celebrate Discipline :: SERVICE

IN OUR CELEBRATE DISCIPLINE COLUMN EACH MONTH WE ARE LEARNING A NEW SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE, HOW TO APPLY IT AND HOPEFULLY GROW INTO THE PEOPLE GOD WANTS US TO BE.



SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES: habits that nurture spiritual growth; exercises unto godliness.


SERVICE:  offering resources, influence and expertise for care and protection of others.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “ ~ Matthew 22:37-39

The Christian discipline of service is the way we can share God’s love with the world. We are the mouth, hands and feet of Christ in our world today. Unless we see the needs of our friends and neighbors as real and as important as our own we will never really be serving others. 

True service requires checking our motives. 

Are our efforts all in our own human strength?  

Are we trying to impress someone?  

Are we looking for an external reward?


Service is rooted in seeing others the way God does. It requires us to put on our Jesus glasses. In service we experience the little deaths that come when we move beyond ourselves into the shoes of another.

The Discipline of Service is worked into our lives with the grace of humility:

  • Hidden, anonymous, maybe even secret.
  • An act of submission allowing other to serve us.
  • Simple acts of common courtesy.
  • Practicing ungrudging hospitality.
  • Being a listening ear.
  • Sharing the Life of God’s Word.
Because service is one of my primary Love Languages it comes easier for me than some other things. The main thing I have to remember is to keep my motives pure and serve as unto the Lord. That prevents bitterness from taking root. 

JOIN THE CONVERSATION: Where do you like to serve? What can you do different this week?

If you can’t see the video screen below CLICK HERE to watch an inspirational video.

RESOURCES:
Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
Spiritual Discipline Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun
The Spirit of The Disciplines by Dallas Willard

Photo credit: valeriylebedev / 123RF Stock Photo