Today I am excited to launch a new series on the Spiritual Journey blog called "My Spiritual Practices." In this series, a variety of people will be interviewed about their spiritual life and practices.
I love learning from other people, and in particular, learning how they live out their faith in daily life. Each person being interviewed is sharing an intimate look at their lives. For that, I am grateful. My hope is that these interviews will offer us a snapshot of how different people experience God in their lives, and that they might inspire and guide us in our own unique spiritual journeys.
How do you connect with God? What spiritual practices and rhythms do you have?
For me, life is worship, so I try to remain in communication with God throughout my day, pausing to ask him for wisdom or insight as I work, or acknowledging his goodness as I notice something beautiful, whether it’s the sunrise or a hummingbird at my feeder. In the mornings, though, I am intentional about listening for what God is teaching me through his word. For a while now, I’ve been using a book by Jim Branch, simply called The Blue Book to get me started with my reading. But I don’t stick to that religiously. I also like doing a lectio divina reading of the psalms or the gospels. Most days, I capture thoughts in my journal. I find that when I don’t do that, insights get lost in the busyness of the day. I find that if I have one spot where I go to read every morning with a cup of coffee--a comfy chair on my porch--helps me to make a mental transition and be ready to hear God speak.
What daily or weekly spiritual practices are most important to you?
Daily: intentionally checking in with God first thing in the mornings and last thing at night, often with a prayer of examine. When I allow reading social media or listening to podcasts to take that spot, I find that my day feels off kilter. Weekly: In other places in the world, I’ve always found a church I love and enjoy going to worship with others. I usually also find a Bible study or soul talk group where I can engage deeply. In Belize, that’s been very hard to find, but I still go to church, trying to see where I should connect, and reaching out to the few believers I’ve met to see what might develop into relationships where soulful conversations can happen.
Describe the environment that helps you best connect with God.
In nature, I feel keenly connected to God. It’s one great thing about living in Belize, where I’m surrounded by trees and water. I love simply being with God as I watch the sunrise or sunset, or do birdwatching etc. Yet the times I feel most connected is during great corporate worship. Since I don’t have access to that in Belize, I make the most of connecting with God through nature.
What tools or resources help you connect with God?
I’m constantly reading a variety of Christian books, and I try to read widely. I make a point of studying God’s Word. And I often listen to a variety of worship music. When I’m studying, I prefer instrumental worship such as Steve Hampton’s music, not songs that I know words to, else I get distracted by the music. Lately, I’ve also been intentional about incorporating a lot of silence--turning off podcasts, the radio & TV. Every so often, I like to do a study that takes me deep into a topic, like Beth Moore’s studies, but those I like to do with friends. At times, I like using the Pray As You Go app to guide me through the Examen.
How have your spiritual practices changed over recent years?
They’ve changed significantly, from checking items off a list and me talking to God to looking for God in the distractions of the day and listening much more.
On days when your schedule changes, are you able to adapt your spiritual practices to fit in with a different environment?
When I travel, I try to maintain the same rhythms, but I’m not always successful, especially insofar as in-depth reading goes.
Do you practice the Sabbath or spiritual retreat? If so, what does that look like for you?
I make a point of having a day of no work, usually on Sundays. It has made a significant difference in my energy levels insofar as approaching work after a day of rest. On those days, I make a point of doing something special, like eating out, walking on the beach, or indulging in a movie. When I’ve shared spaces with others, I made a point of going on a day-long silent retreat by myself every month or two, but since my life is spent in solitude for much of the time, I don’t do that at this stage.
What people or relationships contribute most to your spiritual growth?
Until recently, I met monthly with a spiritual director. The monthly connection made a significant impact on me. (We paused due to family needs on her side.) Other than that, I have a handful of friends with whom I engage deeply around issues of faith.
What gets in the way of your spiritual growth?
Social media can be a huge distraction to me, especially since my life’s been marked by transition and I use social media to stay in touch with good friends...same with seasons when I get lackadaisical, which is often triggered by major change.
What do you do when you get spiritually stuck?
I try different disciplines, at different times of the day. I journal my prayers. And I talk with close spiritual friends.
How do you connect with God through life transitions?
My life has been in major transition for a few years now (as in changing jobs, moving countries and continents) and I know I couldn’t go through the changes without God being very close to me, even at times when I don’t feel his presence. (That can easily lead to me being lazy about maintaining spiritual disciplines.) Those are the times when I journal most. And I often learn the most when I look back on those journal entries...
What is one particular way you’ve experienced God recently?
This may seem random and insignificant, but last week, I was passing through a city in Belize I didn’t know, and I had to run an important errand before leaving that city. But I couldn’t find the office where I needed to go, and no GPS was helping! Before going too far and getting frustrated, I pulled into a gas station to ask if they could point me to the office I was looking for, realizing if it might be on the other side of the city. Turns out, the office I was looking for was upstairs from the gas station! I was parked right in front of the office I was looking for. God totally takes care of me, even in the small things.
What bit of wisdom from your own spiritual journey do you want others to know?
Over the past few years, especially, I’ve come to appreciate the fact that spiritual practices are just tools. Similar to gardening tools, they can help aerate the soil, or help remove rocks, or dig a hole for a seedling to be planted. The fruit our lives bear isn't dependent on the tools, but on the seeds God scatters about every day, and on the condition of the soil (our souls) to receive and nurture those seeds. The tools aren’t the main thing, but they are important. As Marjorie Thompson says in Soul Feast, these tools “enable us not only to receive but to respond to God’s love, which in turn yields the fruits of the Spirit in our lives.” At times, when it feels like a drought has hit our souls, it’s still good to pause and ask, first, “God, what can I learn about YOU through this that I could not have learned through other circumstances?” Only then, ask, “And what are you teaching me about myself?”
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