Practice

Ever notice how yoga teachers are always thanking you for joining their practice that day? I used to think it was a humble brag, like look I can pretzel my legs behind my neck while reading a magazine but I’m calling it practice so you can tell me how awesome I am. But now I realize that it’s something different altogether. Practice as a way of life, as a way of centering yourself, honing your skills, training  your muscles and ingraining your craft into your very bones. 

I am reading two amazing books right now… You Are What You Love by James K. A. Smith and Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Wilson. Both books focus on the premise that souls are calibrated by more than just facts. That right thinking isn’t the end goal of discipleship. Rather, our daily practices, our actions and reactions, the way we live our lives, reflect the true desires of our heart. And the only way to become more fully aligned with Christ, to issue in the Kingdom of Heaven, is to intentionally shape and reshape our daily practices to point us more closely to God.

For years, I had an ingrained daily habit of ‘quiet time’. However, when my son was born, all of a sudden I had a LOT more going on. Free time was at a minimum. Free hands were inconceivable. And add to that some Big Feelings that I was reluctant to face head on. The thought of journaling filled me with anxiety. And so, I put the journal away. And have only picked it up sporadically since. 

Interestingly enough, it was about the same time that I felt like I was becoming unmoored in my spiritual life. I felt like it was harder to hear from God, harder to feel centered and secure in my relationship with him. I told myself it was because my journaling had become an idol – a way to ‘check off’ my good behavior for the day. That I felt like I wasn’t feeling God’s presence because I wasn’t stuck in my old habit. But, what if I was feeling this way because I had simply walked away from over a decade of daily spiritual practice? What if it was neglecting a way that my soul connects with God, a way I had learned to process my thoughts and feelings and lay them before the Throne? 

If what we do shapes who we are, then our daily practice, the times when we intentionally engage with God, become all the more vital. Not in a legalistic way – having a quiet time or not does not change God’s love for you. But does it change our consciousness of him? Or does it change us? Is fasting for God, or is it meant to remind us the true source of our daily bread?  Does God keep record of how much we read his Word? Or does reading the Bible make us more fully aware of who God is?

In the past few weeks, I have resolved to start journaling again. Not because I ‘should’, but because I want to. Because I want to more fully attune my soul to my savior. To remind myself of what matters and how the pattern of my days point to God’s work in my life. To remember my prayers, and watch as God answers. To have tangible written proof of the story God is writing in my life.

Journaling isn’t a magic bullet. It’s not a must for being a good Christian. But it is a tool. A practice, if you will. A way to take the head knowledge of our redemption and pull it in to the center of who we are.

And as I proceed, I will continue to ask myself… how do the things I do point towards the things I love?

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the 20 mile march

As I said in the last post, this is a series on principles of discipline that have resonated with me and help shape the way I live my everyday life.  Each principle is borrowed from someone else, so I will do my best to give credit where credit is due, while also talking about how it impacts my own life!

Jim Collins writes about the principle of the 20 mile march in his book Great by Choice.  In this book, he tells the story of two arctic explorers, Ronald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott.  In October of 1911, each man was leading a team of explorers in a race to be the first humans to traverse the 1400 miles of wilderness required to reach the South Pole.  While both teams were 20 mile marchsimilar in makeup, Amundsen and Scott differed greatly in approach.  Scott took each day as it came, on clear days his team would press on until exhaustion, travelling the greatest distance they could.  On days with poor weather, his team would remain at camp, not venturing out into the storm.  Amundsen’s team had a different strategy.  No matter how the day dawned, his team had the same goal- 1/4 of a degree latitude- or 15 to 20 miles per day.  On stormy days they would press ahead, eyes fixed upon their goal.  On clear days when they could have done more, they would rest, knowing that their task had been achieved.  Each explorer could justify their approach… yet, Admunsen’s team reached the South Pole a full month before the other team.  Once they got there, they turned around and headed back home, 20 miles at a time.  Scott’s team reached the South Pole, but perished on the return journey, exhausted and depleted.

I have the reputation for being a voracious reader.  When people ask me how I read so much, my answer seems condescending: One chapter at a time.  I don’t mean to be rude, but that is truly how I get the reading done.  I promise myself that I will read one chapter per day.  That means, in a week or two, the book has been read.

The same with scripture- 3 chapters a day will allow you to read the entire Bible in a year.  Done.

Walking or running 3 miles each day helps ensure you that you will reach a 10,000 step goal each day.

When I walk into the office each morning, I make a practice of using the first 30 minutes to read and reply to each email in my inbox.

These small, achievable goals add up to progress.   1400 miles, one step at a time.  What small daily goals could you make part of your 20 mile march?  Would shifting your thinking to encapsulate this make you feel more in control of your life?  If you would, I would challenge you to take up the practice!  It has changed my life!

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.
Colossians 3:23