Ring in the New

Rule of Life

O, Begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises… Whether you like it or no, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way; else you will be a trifler all your days… Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer.

John Wesley

Always we begin again. The new year is a precious opportunity to not only begin, but to continue healthy relationships and rhythms. “Nevertheless, I am continually with YOU, it is good to be near God.” (Psalm 73) You are being spiritually formed everyday by the way you most typically live your day, week, month and year. How you go about this is called a Rule of Life. 

“A rule of life is a pattern of spiritual disciplines that provides structure and direction for growth in holiness," Marjorie Thompson, Soul Feast.

St. Benedict was the first to develop a Rule of Life, a regula to help monks order their days around three simple elements of their life in God: prayer, scripture and work.  St. Benedict’s Rule, like any rule of life, is a pattern of attitudes, behaviors and practices that are regular, routine and intended to produce a certain quality of life and character.

Rule of Life is best explained with the analogy of a trellis in a vineyard, which creates a support structure that helps a vine best grow and bear fruit.  The Rule itself is not what changes us; rather, it provides the space and the framework for transformation.

There are many resources to help write a Rule of Life. Start with these suggested categories in the chart adapted from “Crafting A Rule of Life,” by Stephen A. Macchia. And then be free to be creative and make your own design or categories. John Mark Comer, Portland pastor, says, “Craft a rule of life that is conducive to your personality, cultural context, city you live in, your day and age, and to particular crises such as Covid19.” I would call that your “season of life.”

SPIRITUAL. The spiritual disciplines you incorporate daily, weekly, monthly or yearly are a matter of prayer and discernment and become your pathways to connecting with the Divine.  Ask these questions: How has been God drawing you closer into connection? Which spiritual disciplines seem to facilitate this and which ones are not helping you? In this season of life, what will best offer balance and growth?

Healthy Rhythms, Relation-ships  Spiritual. (Time) Pathways to connect with GodRelational. (Trust) Roles or primary relationshipsPhysical. (Temple) Season of Life, rest, exercise, travelFinancial. (Treasure) Opportunities giving, simple lifestyleMissional. (Talent) Ministry, service, missions, church
  Quarterly Seasonal     
Rule of Life Chart, Adapted, Crafting a Rule of Life, Stephen Macchia

ROLES. Your personal rule of life is also framed within the context of your primary relationships and lived out in community and service.

List all your key relationships (names) and the role you play in each (mother, boss, friend, student). From the list, identify your top five most important roles and prioritize them.  Determine if any can be eliminated or minimized for the sake of a better life balance.

Place a + sign next to the roles that are most life giving and a – sign for those that are draining.  A * for those that need attention. Prayerfully consider how God might be inviting you to focus on your primary roles and key relationships during this season of your life.  Are there specific issues you need to attend to within your roles?

Pray about how to best care for your own emotional health.  How is your current emotional health affecting the quality of your relationships. Consider if you need the help of a professional counselor, spiritual director to attend to your emotional and spiritual health.

PHYSICAL. What descriptive words come to mind when you review the current state of your physical health and well-being? How are you currently resting, replenishing, and renewing your body?  What needs your greatest attention and how will you accomplish this?  Consider diet, exercise, rest, sabbath, sleep.

FINANCIAL. What words or phrases best describe the ways you manage your material and financial resources?  What do you need to change about your current ability to steward your resources?  Is the Lord inviting you to adopt any new or renewed practices?  In what ways do you desire more simplicity in your lifestyle?

MISSIONAL. Where are your currently investing yourself in service to others? In what ways do you need further training or partnership with others in order to fulfill your personal mission.  Which areas of missional service are most life-giving?  Should any be eliminated because they have come to an end or are not a good investment of your gifts and calling?

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Romans 12:1-2, MSG

As humans we are much like wild vines that often grow in tangled confusion, and go our own way, gasping for sunlight, water, and nurturing. The Rule of Life is just a resource, a way of giving support and space to for air and light in order to flourish. There are many resources and ways of developing your own rule of life if you want to explore further. robbijames@gmail.com

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