Spiritual Practices - Rhythms and Rules of Life

Spiritual Practices - Rhythms and Rules of Life

My life dramatically changed when, at fifteen years old, I first played on a drum kit. It motivated new habits (particularly air drumming), different hairstyles and helped develop best friendships. Fifteen years on I get to combine my love of drumming with my passion for serving young people.

As part of my role as Youth Pastor at Titirangi Baptist Church and affiliation with 24-7 Youthwork, I mentor students at the local High School by teaching them to play the drums.

The first lesson for each new student will often involve me displaying some of my drumming skills. I hope this can inspire them to see that I might have something to teach them. But more importantly, I want to convey this: discipline is the pathway to freedom.

WE ARE WHAT WE DO

Through this demonstration, students observe my freedom compared to their sense of disorientation. This freedom, as they will soon learn, originates from frequent practice. It has been said, “we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” (1)

Throughout the centuries, Christians have also acknowledged that to enjoy a life of freedom in knowing the Father, Son and Spirit, intentionality is paramount. The Scriptures continually testify, in a variety of ways, that we must “seek the LORD and live” (Amos 5:6) and, subsequently, the church has recognised that habits and disciplines are essential to remind us of God’s brilliance.

THE HARE & THE TORTOISE

As a youth group this year we have sought to live intentionally by discovering habits that cause us to live in freedom. To help us on this journey we have started using a fantastic book called The Hare & the Tortoise: Learning to pace ourselves in a world gone mad and we are following the book’s plan of discovering a new practice each month.

As I share these spiritual disciplines here each month, my hope is that these articles will help inspire a newfound depth and richness in your relationship with God such as we are beginning to enjoy as a youth group.

So to begin, let’s take a look at the notion of Rhythms and a Rule of Life.

RHYTHMS

We all have rhythms in our lives, don’t we?! There are certain moments in our day-to-day experience that occur with such regularity that they’ve become ingrained habits. However, not all the rhythms of our lives happen due to necessity or blind habit. As Chris Webb of Renovaré says, “sometimes we make choices…because of who we wish to become." (2) Whether in relation to a sporting or musical ability, or a particular type of career, we dedicate our lives to specific rhythms that shape us.

When we think of how intentionally we live to achieve our career aspirations compared to our faith, we may see some disconnect. As the Hare and the Tortoise states, “most of our decisions are reactive rather than proactive. It’s not that we avoid decisions, we just make most of them on the fly…how we live our day-to-day lives has little connection to what we think life is actually all about." (3)

Let’s reflect on our lives using these two questions from the Hare and the Tortoise:

“What sort of life do [you] want to be living?

 What do [you] want the rhythms and habits of [your] life to look like?" (4)

I wonder, if we sought to imitate Paul’s cry that "I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." (Philippians 3:8), what the rhythms and habits of our lives would look like? If knowing Jesus was the freedom we truly desired to enjoy, what disciplines could help us experience him?

RULE OF LIFE

In sixth-century Italy, Benedict of Nursia was asked to disciple a number of friends to radically follow Jesus. Initially drawn to his freedom in God these friends soon grew to hate his vitality. So much so, they sought to poison him!

Benedict reflected on this dramatic experience and subsequently developed a set of rhythms that would shape future communities to follow Jesus in life giving ways. This framework was called the “Regula Vitae” or the Rule of Life. Its purpose was to offer a structured list of habits daily, weekly, monthly and yearly that would “remind us who is the Lord of our lives." (5) Furthermore, the rule of life offers a way to measure one’s life to the way desired.

It’s worth offering a disclaimer; the Rule of Life is in no way meant to be a new form of legalistic ritual. It is meant to be a healthy reminder and guide to live intentionally with God and enjoy a greater depth and freedom with Him.

Here are some examples of what a Rule of Life could look like:

Daily: Choose to study a book of the Bible alongside an inspiring commentary. Aim to read the Bible at least four mornings each week.

Weekly: Walk on the beach and examine your conscience and the condition of key relationships in life.

Monthly: Meet with a spiritual director/mentor for supervision.

Yearly: Attend a silent weekend retreat to listen to God’s voice.

This Rule of Life is very simple but it can be fleshed out according to the life you wish to embrace. I have learnt that by placing myself before the Father, Son and Spirit in these ways I am opening my heart to His life. Through discipline I am walking on the path to freedom.

I challenge you to spend time drafting your own Rule of Life. What kind of life do you dream of living? Are you willing to walk the pathway of discipline to enjoy a life of freedom?

As the poet Mary Oliver beautifully declared, "what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" (6)

See you next month!

Matt

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES

1. The Hare & The Tortoise: Learning to pace ourselves in a world gone mad – Andrew Shamy, Sam Bloore and Roshan Allpress

2. Celebration of Discipline – Richard Foster

3. Presence-Centered Youth Ministry – Mike King

4. Practicing the Way of Jesus: Life Together in the Kingdom of Love – Mark Scandrette

5. www.renovaré .org

REFERENCES

1. Will Durant. 1926. The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World's Greatest Philosophers. p. 76. US. Aristeus Books. (Durant’s take on Aristotle’s quote: “these virtues are formed in man by his doing the actions”)

2. Andrew Shamy, Sam Bloore and Roshan Allpress.  2013. The Hare & The Tortoise: Learning to pace ourselves in a world gone mad. p.19. NZ. Compass Foundation, Venn Foundation. (See https://www.renovare.org/)

3. Ibid., p.18.

4. Ibid., p.19.

5. Mike King. 2006. Presence-Centered Youth Ministry. p.151. US. Intervarsity Press

6. Mary Oliver. 1992. “The Summer Day”, New and Selected Poems. Boston, US. Beacon Press

Matt Vaine is the Youth Pastor at Titirangi Baptist Church, Auckland

Photo Credit: Rob Birkbeck/lightstock.com

Scripture: Unless otherwise specified, Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. 

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