Sunday Ponderings: On Spiritual Disciplines

Ashley has started a carnival of sorts to make us think about our Sunday sermons a little more- and hear what others are learning called Sunday Ponderings. I was busy with new-house things and missed church last week, so was delighted to get back this week. This week's service was the last in a series titled Rhythm: Riffs on Sustainable Living. The suburban culture around here (maybe everywhere? I don't know.) encourages habits, practices and attitudes that result in an unsustainable life- rushed, stressed, and separated from God and others.

The topic this week was the second part of a series on spiritual disciplines. The disciplines were broken into 4 categories:
  • The Disciplines of Space - Solitude, Silence, Sabbath
  • The Disciplines of Engagement: Prayer, Bible Reading, Worship, Communion
  • The Disciplines of Limitation: Fasting, Abstinence, Simplicity
  • The Disciplines of Awareness: Journaling, Examen, Confession

The disciplines of space and engagement, we discussed previously when Lauren Winner, author of Mudhouse Sabbath, was speaking at the church. Today, we discussed disciplines of limitation and awareness.

There isn't much talk about fasting these days. I participated in a fast- the 30-Hour Famine- sometime in early high school, but haven't given the practice very much thought since then. I do remember, however, that the experience was meaningful- the practice of depriving myself of one thing, food, in that case, for a time, for a purpose, and diverting my energy instead to prayer- did make me more focused, and I was able, in my broken state, to be more sensitive to God's will. When looking at examples of those who fasted in the scripture, a couple things were clear. First, fasting was always for a clear purpose- whether it was seeking God's direction, imploring Him for supplication, or mourning a loss- there was always a reason for the fasting, it wasn't something done on a regular basis Also, fasting was always coupled with prayer. Fasting is limitation for a specific purpose, Abstinence is limitation for a season (like Lent, for example), and Simplicity is limitation as a lifestyle. We didn't talk much about simplicity in the service, but it's something I'm very interested in, and want to pursue more.

The Awareness disciplines ask the question, What's truly going on in me, and what is God doing around me? Slowing down to see myself as I really am being- not how I am trying to be, or how I am supposed to be, or how I want others to think I am- is the purpose of Awareness. Journaling and the discipline of examen force me to sit and think about what happened in the day past and examine my intentions for the future. Am I who I want to be? Have I sinned against God or my neighbor? These disciplines ultimately lead to the discipline of Confession.

Am I good at keeping up these disciplines? Do I have it all together? Not at all. I need this structure in my life. I am glad God can meet us in the midst of all of these practices. I am glad they are so varied, so at different seasons in my life, I can express myself to God and meet Him in different ways. In high school & junior high, I journaled every day in a diary of sorts. Now, I journal here, in a different way, and am pursuing the discipline of simplicity. I've always met God through bible reading and prayer, but over the years, the discipline in my life changes what it looks like, depending on my season. I've talked about community as a discipline. I hope to try the other disciplines someday as well.

I am glad God is a creative God, able to communicate and meet His children in a variety of ways- because we are all so different!


Stephanie said...

Fasting can be a very powerful way to get the focus off our selves and back where it belongs.

ashley @ twentysixcats said...

I liked this. Breaking it down like that makes it seem not so hard. I'm not very disciplined either, so it's probably good that you reminded me! :-)


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