What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word discipline? As a mom of three, I think of child-tears, frustration, time-outs (or worse), and me feeling frazzled and worn out. Discipline, if we’re honest, is not fun. Rewarding in the long run? Sure. But not exactly a word with a positive connotation.
So when I talk about spiritual disciplines? Well, the danger for you and for me is that we can bring this somewhat negative connotation into the conversation. But Scripture uses several words that are translated at “discipline.” One means to chastise, correct, or instruct (see Hebrews 12:6-7). But here’s some good news: God’s Word uses entirely different words to talk about discipline in terms of our spiritual formation. Consider this excerpt from my book, The Busy Mom’s Guide to Spiritual Survival:
As we look at the spiritual disciplines, we’re instead aiming for the concepts of gumnazo and askeo. Gumnazo—from which we derive the English word gymnasium—means discipline in the sense of athletic exercise and training. We’re talking about a spiritual sweat here: regular “workouts” that keep our faith in shape. This is the word Paul uses when he urges Timothy, “[T]rain yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8, emphasis added). This is the same connotation the writer of Hebrews intends when he prods his readers by saying, “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teachings about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:13-14, emphasis added).
Askeo means the discipline of a master craftsman who employs skill, persistent determination, and great effort to turn raw material into a piece of art. Continue reading
Posted in Cultivating a Vibrant Faith, Resources & Links
Tagged Bible, celebration, community, contemplation, evangelism, fasting, fellowship, hospitality, life-change, meditation, outreach, prayer, Scriptural learning, service, Silence, simplicity, solitude, spiritual disciplines, spiritual formation, stewardship, study, train, training, worship
I’m excited to introduce you to my friend Marlena Graves. Marlena is a writer and mom of two who works at Cedarville University. She is a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog and is involved in Renovare. Listen in on our candid conversation about what it takes to “flourish” — and how to make it through wilderness times.
Marlena, welcome! Tell my readers a bit about yourself.
I contemplate, write, and speak about the eternal implications of our life in God. I am a lover of beauty (especially the beauty of my family and creation) and a justice seeker — trying to overcome evil with good. In addition, I seek answers to these types of questions: What does abundant life look like (John 10:10)? If God is good and we are his deeply beloved children and safe in his kingdom, how then should we live?
This month on my blog we’re exploring what we can do to spiritually flourish. For you, what practices or experiences are most helpful in keeping your faith vibrant and growing?
This is a great question. I think much of it has to do with our unique make up and bents. Here are some of the key practices and experiences that have become an integral part of who I am, allowing me to follow hard after Christ, staying right at his heels:
1. Solitude and Silence: In order to detoxify (be purified) from all that is in me that is not of Christ, I need solitude and silence. Busyness and over-stimulation keep me from seeing reality: from seeing God for who he is and myself for who I am and the world for what it is. However, solitude and silence allows me to drink deeply of the things of God. These disciplines allow me to pay attention to God. Then again, I might not like what I discover about myself in silence and solitude, but didn’t Jesus say that the truth sets us free? All throughout Scripture I notice that those closest to God spent a lot of time in solitude and silence. Of course, times of solitude and silence aren’t always a choice (Moses in the desert, David being chased by Saul). Sometimes searingly painful circumstances drive us into solitude and silence. Yet, I believe God still uses these times to form us.
2. Practicing the Presence of God: From the age of ten onward, I spent much of my time immersed in Scripture. For at least four years, from the age of ten to fourteen, I read the Bible two to three hours a day. Much of that had to do with the situation I grew up in. I was driven to God, to searching for his love and care. At the time, I didn’t realize how formational Scripture reading was; I did it because I wanted to. I did it because I needed to. As I read I thought, “Well Lord, if you did these things for those in Scripture, I see no reason why you can’t do similar things for me.” Continue reading
Posted in Cultivating a Vibrant Faith, Interviews & Conversations
Tagged community, confession, flourish, meet my friend . . ., practicing God's presence, prayer, Silence, solitude, spiritual formation, spiritual practices, spiritually dry, struggles
A few months back, I was privileged to do an interview with pastor and author Adele Calhoun. My conversation with her was so personally encouraging, and one thing she said really stuck with me: “Consider the biblical story itself and the wide variety of ways people experienced God and got to know God: Abram heard God’s voice, Jacob dreamed of angels ascending and descending, Moses saw a burning bush, Balaam heard God speak through a donkey, Samson felt God’s strength, Elijah heard God in a whisper on a mountain, Isaiah saw God high and lifted up, Daniel had dreams, Mary talked with an angel, and on and on. The Bible itself is a catalogue of people’s diverse and unique experiences with God.”
How do you experience God and connect with God’s presence?
Clearly, Bible study is a critical way to come to know and understand God and who God is. This is the starting place. We also connect with God emotionally, spiritually, and even intellectually in practices like prayer and worship. These are the “essential vitamins,” per se, of the Christian life.
But there are also some ways we can connect with God or experience God’s presence that surprise us. Continue reading
One theme I see as I reflect back on even just the last few months of my life is a recurring sense of conviction. A little voice—more my own than the voice of the Holy Spirit—saying in my head, You have a lot to learn. You have a lot to learn from this person.
See, I tend to judge a book by its cover. And I tend to “judge” a person similarly. Not in the sense that I judge by outward appearances, but in the sense that I may tend to think I have a person all figured out just based on a few interactions. And not necessarily in a critical sense (though I struggle with that too!) but more of a basic habit of boiling things down into simple categories. Oh, she’s a mom like me. Or oh, he’s a quiet engineer. Or oh, she’s a busy doctor. And so on.
And then God surprises me. And he convicts me. Continue reading
I’m excited to introduce you to my friend Christin Nevins. Christin is passionate about teaching, ministering to women, and leading retreats. She’s got some great insights to share about the discipline of fellowship, so keep on reading (and leave a comment to join in on this thought-provoking conversation) . . .
Christin, tell my readers a bit about yourself.
I’m a wife and mom — married to my husband Adam for 12 years. We have 2 daughters and a son. We’ve had the joy of adopting our son from India and have raised our family in an inner-city Indianapolis neighborhood for the last 8 years. Common Ground Christian Church is our church home. I’ve been passionate about ministering to women — inviting and equipping them to live into all that God dreams for them — for a long time. It’s a joy to be a guest on your blog, Kelli. Thanks for the invitation!
Community is a buzz word in some Christian circles. We’re challenged to practice “authentic community” — but sometimes, I think, idealized versions of community clash with reality. Community can be messy! And we also have legitimate needs for privacy, for family time, and so on. How would you define what it means to live in community — to practice the discipline of fellowship?
Unity is where fellowship or community starts. Maintaining unity is also probably the hardest part of living in community over the long haul. When we join our lives with others trying to love God and love people, it sounds so easy and good, but we all have our own ideas and understanding about how to live that out. Combining lives with other broken, messy people (as we all are!) also exposes our sinful nature which is the biggest challenge to living in unity. We see that throughout the Bible and throughout the church today. Continue reading
If you’re a mom, one of the most important ways to practice the discipline of fellowship may surprise you. We often long to “get away” from our kids for some “real” fellowship with adults. I can certainly empathize with that desire! And we certainly do need adult time!
But if you’re at a stage in which you’ve got kids in the house, whether they’re 2 months old or 18 years old, spending time with them can be a meaningful and significant aspect of “fellowship” in your life. Time building relationships. Time listening. Time sharing and mentoring.
And even those tough times — when your kids stretch your patience, push you to the brink of losing your temper, or frustrate you to the extreme — these experiences are part of the good fellowship can do in your life. Those tough times are opportunities to practice service, to choose humility, to exercise self-control and grace. Continue reading
Ages ago I read a magazine article with a title something like, “How Will I Be Able to Stand Heaven with All Those Annoying People There?!”
I chuckled at the title — and connected with it.
There are people within the church — both our local church and the broader global community of Christians — that will annoy us. I know there are people who annoy me. And I’m sure that some people find me quite annoying as well!
Part of the practice of the discipline of fellowship is coming to terms with this reality — accepting it and appreciating what it offers us. Continue reading
Relationship. It’s something we long for, something we were made for. Relationships bring us great happiness and joy in life — but also heartache, turmoil, and disappointment.
Community. It’s a buzz word in some Christian circles. It’s something we aim for and something we’re a part of. It’s an essential aspect of the Christian life. But I find it’s often over-idealized — like some pie-in-the-sky possibility that we can never quite fully attain.
And so I’ve chosen a different word: fellowship.
Essentially, practicing the discipline of “fellowship” is the same as the discipline of “community” — but I want to get away from some of the more radical or overly-idealized connotations of “community” in the evangelical subculture and get a bit more to the raw essence of what it is that God calls us to — and why we need it.
The etymology of the English word fellowship is interesting to me. Continue reading