bits from bob....
How do you feed your soul? What are the ingredients of disciplined spiritual training? The previous article mentioned three well-known spiritual activities--prayer, Scripture reading, and devotional reading. This week we focus on some less common spiritual practices.
Self-examination and repentance. A "Leadership" magazine poll of spiritual leaders found 62% practiced this discipline at least monthly. To move beyond "checklist Christianity," to enter into the depths of the heart where the real issues of life reside, a time of genuine reflection and repentance may be unsurpassed. The question here is not, "What have I done?" The question is, "Who am I?" Is God pleased with who I am, deep in my soul?
Solitude and meditation. When I mention meditation as a valuable aspect of my own spiritual walk with God, I can tell by the raised eyebrows and questioning faces that with some I am not communicating. In our activity-focused society, solitude is misunderstood and meditation takes too long to do too little. Not everyone enjoys "being still" before God in solitude and contemplation of God's creativity and grandeur, but this common practice (57% in the "Leadership" poll) is a valuable spiritual discipline.
Memorizing Scripture. Some include this with Bible reading, but the two are distinct. "Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee" (Ps. 1119:11). Enough said!
Journaling. Since Americans generally have so much difficulty quieting the mind for solitude and meditation, many find it helpful to write their self-reflections. About a third of the spiritual leaders who participated in the survey write down (at least monthly) some record of their spiritual journey. Excellent books are available which set forth various methods of journaling, and Christian bookstores even have beautifully bound, "blank page" books available to encourage this method of spiritual growth.
Spiritual retreats. In a society where most know the value of taking time away from routines and schedules, where the weekend vacation is commonplace, and where many enjoy recreational respites, I find it surprising that so few people take an evening, or a day, or a weekend for spiritual re-creation and renewal. What about an overnight trip or weekend devoted to increasing spirituality? While this may involve attendance at a special seminar or event, equally significant is the experience of time alone, with the family, or with a small group.
Abstinence. A consumer-oriented society focused on instant gratification little understands nor encourages any forms of self-denial or abstinence. Willard mentions seven disciplines of abstinence in The Spirit of the Disciplines — solitude, silence, fasting, frugality, chastity, secrecy, and sacrifice.
One might not practice all of these simultaneously or continually, but through study of Scripture which increases one's understanding of the value and place of these practices, and through awareness of the rhythms of one's own spirituality and lifestyle, one can find help and encouragement toward a closer walk with God. May it be in our lives!
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