Celebrate Discipline :: SIMPLICITY

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.

SIMPLICITY: freedom from complexity, pretense or guile; direct expression; absence of luxury.

“Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little.” ~ Philippians 4:11-12 (The Message)

All the Spiritual Disciplines are important but I believe Simplicity is a linchpin to our spiritual growth. Our culture has us so busy, our homes and lives so cluttered with possessions and noise that we can barely think let alone hear God’s still small voice.  


Starting in 2006, because of several moves for my husband’s work, we were forced to sell most of our possessions. At the time we owned a 3000 sq foot home that was full to the brim with “stuff.” We needed to trim that down to the bare minimums required for survival as we moved back and fourth across America; the rest went into a 10′ x 20′ storage room.  It was a challenge but well worth it.

After four years we came out of that experience with a decidedly simplified lifestyle. We learned valuable lessons that taught us how much we really can live without. 

If you want to live life free, take your time, go slowly. Do few things, but do them well. Simple joys are holy. ~ Celtic Daily Prayer Book


Simplicity is more than eliminating possessions and adjusting lifestyle. It must begin with our heart attitude.

Thoughts Toward Simplicity:

  • What am I clinging to?
  • Am I buying things for their usefulness or for their status?
  • How can I avoid media marketing that drives me to buy?

Simplicity is the breath of fresh air we desperately need to revive our weary bodies and souls. It begins by trusting God for our everything, in our heart, our mind and our spirit! 

What step will you take today to create a simpler lifestyle?


Click here to watch Part One of Richard Foster and friends discussing the Spiritual Discipline of Simplicity. You can find Part Two here.


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

Celebrate Discipline : STUDY

Whether college students or students of life, when trying to learn something new we need the discipline of study. It’s the same when it comes to our personal spiritual growth. Let’s look at how we can become better students of and for God.

Our goal of integrating the Spiritual Disciplines into our lives is to transform our total person; to re-place old destructive thoughts and habits with new life-giving ones. Today we’ll learn four steps that will help us make the most of our valuable study time. But first let’s look at our definitions for this week:

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

STUDY: application of the mind to the acquisition of knowledge.

The Bible tells us that we are transformed through the renewal of our mind. And our mind becomes renewed as we apply the things we’ve learned in new habits. Some of us have naturally good study habits but many of us need help in this area. 

Here are four steps that I learned from Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline:

  • REPETITION ~ channels our mind in a specific direction by ingraining thoughts. Whether rereading, re-writing or reciting material aloud, repetition always works for me.
  • CONCENTRATION ~ our brain’s natural ability is enhanced by centering our energies on our subject of study. Remove distractions and find a quiet place where you can focus. Again key for me.
  • COMPREHENSION ~ understanding what we are studying is not always an easy task, but when we put the previous steps to work, comprehension is more achievable. Before we know it we have that light-bulb moment!
  • REFLECTION ~ once we have defined our subject through comprehension we are ready to bring significance to what we have learned. With reflection we can now apply what we have learned to our life.

Whether listening to audio books, studying nature on a daily walk,  or doing an intense scripture study, there are many ways we can become attune to the message of God’s love in our lives. 

One of the most important things I’ve learned from Richard Foster these last several years is don’t get stuck reading only current books or publications. By alternating classic Christian literature into my reading, more depth has come into my spiritual learning experience. Now the classics are my preference.

If you are unfamiliar with Christian classics I encourage you to check out Spiritual Classics by Richard Foster. This excellent book contains excerpts from many of the greatest books ever written. It’s designed like a devotional or can be used as a small group study. 

Whatever your do turn off the TV, put down the smart phone and pick up a good book. You won’t be sorry!

What’s your favorite Christian classic book?


Click here to watch How to Study the Bible with Joyce Meyer and Rick Renner.


RESOURCES:

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

Celebrate Discipline :: FASTING

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

FASTING: voluntary denial of a normal function for the purpose of intense spiritual activity.

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting… But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” ~ Matthew 6:16-18

“Like all the Spiritual Disciplines, fasting hoists the sails of the soul in hopes of experiencing the gracious wind of God’s Spirit.” ~ Donald S. Whitney

The spiritual discipline of fasting is often misunderstood, causing avoidance altogether. If we do hear teaching on it, it’s usually in relationship to food. But there are many ways to fast that can be as effective, if not more effective, than fasting from food. Personally, I have trouble fasting from meals because of blood sugar issues.  So I look for other ways that I can deprive myself in order to deepen my relationship with God.  

TYPES OF FASTING:

  • Abstain from food, drink, shopping, desserts, etc… to intentionally spend time with God.
  • Abstain from media: television, music, computers and games to hear God’s voice.
  • Abstain from comfort habits: reading, sports, elevators to give God your undivided attention.

IF YOU WANT TO HAVE A TRADITIONAL FOOD FAST HERE ARE SOME SUGGESTIONS:

  • Pray to be certain of God’s direction for your fast.
  • Don’t fast when you are sick, pregnant or nursing.
  • If you have any health issues, consult your doctor before fasting.
  • Start small. Begin by fasting for one meal. Then work up to longer fasts.
  • Always drink plenty of liquids.
  • Don’t break your fast with a large meal. The longer the fast the gentler you should break it.


When we fast we lay down an appetite, placing that time and energy on spiritual things. Through our self-denial we begin to recognize areas of our life that control us. When we are willing to set aside something we enjoy and be attentive to God’s voice we will receive grace and nourishment we can’t get on our own.


In what way can you deny yourself in order to spend more time with God?


Click here for a beautiful music video by Shane and Shane. Blessings… Tamara




RESOURCES:

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

Photo Courtesy of 123rf.com

Celebrate Discipline :: PRAYER


Prayer is standing in the presence of God with the mind in the heart; that is, at the point of our being where there are no divisions or distinctions and where we are totally one. ~ Henry Nouwen


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

PRAYERpersonal conversations with God; expressing our concerns and listening to His response.

The season of Lent is a wonderful time to consider our prayer life. Most of us would be embarrassed to admit how little time we spend praying. With all the advances of our day it seems we could find more time for prayer. However, today’s technologies often bring more distractions unto madness. Rather than bring guilt, I come with possible solutions and maybe a new perspective that can help usher us into a place of solace where The Source of Peace awaits.


Sometimes it seems like praying is a waste of time; we feel like our thoughts are floating out into the universe. But as our prayer life goes, so goes our spiritual growth. Prayer isn’t just about our own godliness. As warriors in the spiritual battle, without prayer we fight unprepared and defensless. Something that has been very convicting to me is to think about people of other religious beliefs… Hindu and Muslims pray multiple times per day at set increments.

Shouldn’t we Christians be as devoted to our prayer time?

For the last year I’ve been learning about Benedictine Monasticism. As a way of living out the command to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) the monastic pray the Liturgy of the Hours seven times per day. St. Benedict teaches that by returning portions of our most precious gift of time, we are practicing a basic form of hospitality to God; making room in our schedule for the entertainment of God’s Presence. It is from that divine foundation that other forms of hospitality derive. Wow! How can we not want to pray after that?

This apparent “wasting” of time on God is the wisest possible use of this precious gift!

Often we do everything but pray. We want something more “substantial.” Even studying the Bible, going to church, talking to the pastor or receiving counsel seems more tangible than prayer. But it’s time to roll away the stone of prayerlessness. It’s the most prohibitive obstacle on the road to a believer’s victory. ~ Beth Moore

Types of Prayer

There are many ways to pray but today we are going to focus on Contemplative prayer.

Contemplative Prayer: a receptive waiting with hearts awake to God’s presence and His Word.

Breath Prayer: is a form of contemplative prayer that is linked to the rhythm of our breathing. When we breath in we call on a biblical name or image of God, and when we breath out a simple God-given desire. This is one of my favorite types of prayer to use as I’m going to sleep at night.

Breath in: “Holy One,” breath out “keep me true.”
Breath in “Lord Jesus,” breath out “have mercy on me.” 

Centering Prayer: is a form of contemplative prayer where one seeks to quiet the scattered thoughts and find stillness in Christ’s presence. By centering prayer on simple words like Jesus, Father, love, peace, or a phrase from Scripture. With these words we linger with God and open our hearts to His presence.



Postures of Prayer

In what position is it best to pray? Here are a few biblical postures for prayer:

  • Walking: a nature walk can be a sweet time of companionship with the Father.
  • Standing: is a way of giving honor to the majesty of God
  • Outstretched Arms: opens the core of our body up toward God.
  • Prostrate: lying face down puts us in a place of submission and obedience.
  • Kneeling: expresses reverence and humility before God.


Final Thoughts

I’m not here by any means as an expert in prayer, quite the contrary. I am on my own spiritual journey and only wish to share the things God teaches me.

As for prayer, I have found that setting aside a specific time helps me tremendously. If it works out today, great. If not, I’ll try better tomorrow. Another thing, when God brings a certain person to my mind, I take that as a prompt to pray for them.  A few helpful points…

  1. Set a regular scheduled time for prayer.
  2. Before praying, listen for guidance first.
  3. Pray with expectation!


We each have to find what works best for our schedules, personality types and temperament. The most important thing is that we take time to companion with our heavenly Father. 

As we put these habits into practice prayer continues within us as we are go about our day. Prayer become the active presence of God’s Spirit guiding us through life.


Take a moment to pray with this beautiful song by Celine Dion and Josh Groban  http://youtu.be/jhxIjRO6Wj


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RESOURCES:

Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook  by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney
So You Want To Be Like Christ? by Charles R. Swindoll
The Way of the Heart by Henri J. Nouwen