“A spiritual discipline is simply an activity you engage in to be made more fully alive by the Spirit of Life.” ~ John Ortberg
I used to think that spiritual disciplines were limited to "holy and sacred" activities. You know, like having a prayer time with a journal and a Bible, or listening to worship and praise music.
That all changed when I was talking to my spiritual director about my own experiences of God. I was sharing with her my frustrations that my prayer times had been feeling empty and lifeless. She paused, and asked me, "Well, what activities ARE bringing you life and joy?" I listed off several things, such as baking bread and writing stories. Before I could explain that these weren't spiritual activities, my spiritual director said, "Great - those are the practices that you need to do. See what happens if you do those things intentionally with God."
I tried it. I purposefully engaged in baking bread with God, turning my awareness to his presence. At first it didn't seem very sacred. But at some point, I noticed my expectation changing. Instead of assuming God only showed up when I was "praying," I began encountering God's presence while baking, writing, and other life-giving activities. I realized that my soul was being refreshed by God himself as I did these things with him. I had moments of hearing his voice and experiencing his peace in significant ways. Baking and writing became my prayer times.
As I encountered God in these "mundane" activities, I realized that a spiritual discipline isn't limited to a particular list of religious rituals. A spiritual discipline can be any activity that leads to deeper connection with God. You can freely embrace the ways that you connect with God, and not have to do things simply because they've been labeled "spiritual." Who has the power to decide what is "spiritual" or "unspiritual" anyway? God is a pretty mysterious being, who shows up in unexpected places.
The way I connect with God may be completely different that how another person connects with God. We each have our own personal relationship with God that is being nurtured in unique ways.
Maybe you receive life through long-distance running (this is my husband, and definitely not me). Or maybe you have profound encounters with God as you write poetry, or listen to music, or surf, or study art. This is where listening to your own soul is important - trust that your soul knows where to find deep refreshment from God.
I encourage you to pay attention to what activities help you connect with God. Do those things. Allow the soul-refreshing activities to usher the presence of God into your life.
ACTION & PRACTICE
Make a list of the things that bring you rest, joy, and life. What is something from your list that you can do this week with God? As you engage in that activity, invite God to be present. Turn your own awareness to God. Receive whatever God gives you - rest, refreshment, or simply a moment of enjoyment - and welcome it as a gift.
If you want more on the topic of spiritual disciplines, read How to Grow Your Relationship with God Through Spiritual Disciplines.
What activities bring you life and joy? What activity can you do that can forge a deeper connection between your spirit and God's Spirit? Please share in the comments.