Experiments in Spiritual Disciplines

In our Studies in New Monasticism internship, our interns are reading Richard Foster’s classic book, Celebration of Discipline. I love the way Foster moves us away from spiritual disciplines as a “to do list” to be good Christians, and invites us into a perspective of the practice of spiritual disciplines as a means of “putting ourselves in the path of oncoming grace”. God has so much he wants to pour into our lives, and we can actively position ourselves to receive it. Exciting!

For their assignment this month they are choosing some of the Christian disciplines and creating experiments where they will be exploring them in new ways or with a new focused intention.

Here are some of their experiments. Maybe they will spark some of your own!

Going for walks by myself (solitude and silence)

Deleting my Facebook account (gasp! fasting)

Giving away one evening of my time each week to help someone (simplicity)

Making myself accountable to one of my co-workers about my attitude and language towards my boss (confession)

Volunteering at church (service)

Having a dance party at my house every week (celebration)

Picking a Scripture each morning to think about while I’m at work (meditation)

Letting go of my desire to be right all the time (submission)

Not hanging out with my friends for a week to make room to talk to God about my life (guidence)

Going to church every Sunday (worship)

What about you? How would you like to experiment with Christian Disciplines?


Fasting Fashion – the October Dress Project

October is over.

I guess I can put the dress away now.

But I’ve grown quite fond of it.

This year I participated in the October Dress Project.  For thirty one days, I wore the same dress.  I mixed up the slacks that I wore underneath, and the sweaters and scarves on top, but each day, the dress was the same.  And yes, I did wash it!

“The same dress each day?  Why on earth?” you may ask.

I did not realize how pathological my clothing acquisition had become until I moved to Hamilton. Packed and hauled and unpacked boxes and boxes and more boxes of clothes.  It was ridiculous.  Really.  Sure, I bought most at Value Village

(it sounds fancier if you try and pronounce it with a French accent – just try it Valoo Veellage!).

Bottom line is too much stuff is too much stuff, cheap or not!  Shopping had become a recreational activity, and I was spending more money than I wanted to (in my more rational moments).  I decided that it would be beneficial for me to adopt a spiritual practice of simplicity, clothing-wise.

What would it feel like to wear the same dress each day?  As part of an online community of people who were adopting the same practice?

What would it be like to identify with the majority of women on the planet who only have one or two dresses – at all?

I can’t believe how much I loved it.  I loved the simplicity of not having to figure out an outfit each morning.  I loved how comfortable it was.  I loved that I spent a lot less time fussing about what I looked like.  My wallet (and my husband) loved that I didn’t spend money on clothes!  It was very liberating, and I can see why monks and nuns adopt simplicity in their clothing choices.  In culture addicted to fashion frenzy and disposable clothing, it was a refreshing change.

Interested?  Wanna join me next year?  You can check out the facebook group at http://www.facebook.com/groups/132972689585/ or read a couple articles http://www.fortmilltimes.com/2011/11/03/1765116/1-dress-30-days-more-than-a-fashion.html and http://octoberdressproject.blogspot.com/p/about-and-faqs.html

Getting Naked – Dismantling and Re-mantling

I’ve got a love/hate relationship with fasting.  Who doesn’t?  I love the spiritual benefits – an increased sensitivity to the voice of God, a quickened spirit, a soft and mushy heart.  The hunger isn’t really an issue, at least not after the first couple days, but the physical weakness I can do without, as well as the brain freezes (2+2= um, let me think about that for a minute), or when your sentences just trail off, unfinished, and blow away on the breeze.  I have girlfriends who refuse to get in a car with me behind the wheel after a certain number of days, cause I’m definitely a driving hazard!  And certainly for me, body image issues sneak in, and I can easily be drawn into over enjoying the weight loss part of the journey – losing a pound a day makes me want to hop on the scale ad infinitum – c’mon ladies you all know you do it!

I gave up fasting food recently, because it was just making my already eating disordered mind too squirrely.  However, God in His kindness, has invited me into another kind of fasting (gee, thanks!) – giving up sleep.

Actually, fasting sleep is an ancient monastic tradition.  One of the most famous of the Desert Fathers was called Alexander the Sleepless!

God has been waking me up daily at 2:30 am to pray.  Every day.  For three weeks now.  Without alarm.  I thought that maybe my body clock had just adjusted to the new time, and I was waking up out of habit, until daylight savings hit and I woke up, at 2:30 on the dot, daylight savings time!

For me fasting is about being dis-mantled and re-mantled.  Being dis-mantled means embracing weakness – laying down our natural capacities, giving up you’re A game, so that we can get out of the way of the resources that are being released from heaven.  Because, quite honestly, it is easy to run a moderately successful ministry by virtue of your own charisma, strength and soul power alone.  Hopefully the prospect of that frightens you as much as it frightens me.

When I’m fasting (sleep or otherwise), I know that my brilliant, encouraging word is not really a word from me at all, cause frankly right now I can’t even spell my own name! (thank God for spellcheck).  It’s all God, cause I’m a mess.

Elijah’s School of the Prophets weren’t looking for “soul power” in Elisha.  They weren’t looking to his natural ability as a leader.  What they wanted to see was that when Elijah (now Elisha’s) mantle hit the water, that the power of God was demonstrated.  “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” was their cry.

May God’s power be demonstrated in the midst of our weakness, and may we have the courage to lay down our natural capacities to position us to receive His supernatural ones!

Sleep is over-rated, anyways (yawn!)
the passing of the mantle