Hi everyone – welcome to our final week of this virtual retreat on the spiritual disciplines!

I’m afraid Spring Break delayed my final post, and I apologize for any confusion. We’ve had some gorgeous weather here in Tidewater, Virginia!

Rather than delve into another discipline this week as planned (hospitality), I think our last session would be better spent considering how we’d like to design our own rule of life, based on what we’ve learned over the past nine weeks. Now that we’ve covered the full content of the retreat, let’s reexamine some themes that have emerged:

1. Spiritual disciplines are not burdensome demands upon us nor achievements we use to get God to do what we want, but are practices that build intimacy with God. They do require an exercise of the will, yes, but they are more akin to tending a seed rather than building a house. We’re only nurturing the eternal life within us; we’re not creating it.

2. Perhaps you noticed that we covered these spiritual disciplines in a particular order: the movement of the course began with internal submission, which is foundational to a relationship with God. Believing (even subconsciously) that we are coequal or superior to God is the root of all that went wrong in the Garden of Eden, and all that continues to go wrong with our current relationship with God. He will not yield to another God – his power is absolute. Fortunately his love is just as absolute: he is constantly and simultaneously disciplining us and wooing us.  He relentlessly fashions the circumstances of our lives to get us to turn to him as our only God and realize all he does is for our good – collectively and individually. Only he has the capacity and the patience to work out all the intricate threads of that process, which leads to #3.

3. Giving up being God, or giving up ultimate control in your own life, is a great freedom, and is the key to how the disciplines remain life-giving, nurturing practices of intimacy instead of back-breaking burdens. Once we know how to yield to God (and others), we can see how each discipline strengthens one particular aspect of our souls, increasing our multifaceted capacity for hearing God and developing intimacy with him. We begin to see how practicing silence and solitude reveals the noise in our lives that competes with God’s still, small voice – and we are motivated to remove those distractions. We see how fasting reveals our tendency to drown out our spiritual hunger by overfocusing on or oversatiating our physical hunger – and we are motivated to reign in particular physical appetites that have begun to control us. We see how prayer reveals our true prayerlessness and how we take God for granted every moment – and we are motivated to spend more time investing in our most important and vital relationship of all.

With these summary points in mind, what would you like your personal rule of life to look like? As a reminder, here’s the list of disciplines we covered:

Discipline of Rule (why we should have a regular rhythm to our spiritual practices in the first place)

Submission

Guidance

Meditation

Prayer

Silence/Solitude

Fasting

Celebration

Simplicity

Reflecting over your practice of these disciplines over the past nine weeks, which did you feel like you needed the most? What practical habits could you add to your life on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis that would nourish these particular needs of your soul? Choose just three at most. Then write down and commit to your intentions. For example: if these nine weeks clearly revealed my habit of using my speech to establish my superiority with others and my habit of eating something whenever I felt uncomfortable or insecure, I might choose to incorporate the disciplines of submission and fasting on a regular basis. One is a discipline of thought and intent, and one is a practical action of self-denial, which is a good combination. For the discipline of submission, I’d probably memorize Ephesians 5.21 (“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ”) and consciously try to bring it to mind as I entered conversations with others. For the discipline of fasting, I might schedule a 24-hour fast (sundown to sundown) once a month on a day that would be easy to fast on. With fasting especially, it’s important to pick a time and stick to it, and not leave it to when you feel like it. You’ll always feel like fasting “tomorrow.”

I hope this exploration of the classic spiritual disciplines has been helpful! For further reading in practical spirituality, in addition to Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline (which I’ve referenced throughout this course), I’d also recommend his books Prayer and Freedom of Simplicity, as well as Hannah Whitall Smith’s The Christian’s Secret to a Happy Life, Tommy Newberry’s The 4:8 Principle, Dallas Willard’s Hearing God and Renovation of the Heart, and – for the spiritually adventurous – Agnes Sanford’s The Healing Light and The Healing Gifts of the Holy Spirit. I’ve found all of these resources to be both transformative and practical.

As for me, I’ve decided to reestablish habits of daily silence and weekly scripture memorization (to get my thought life under control). I’d love to hear what you thought of this virtual retreat, and to know what your new rule of life will look like! Feel free to post a comment or email me directly at info@amandarooker.com.

Thanks again for taking this journey with me! Check back regularly to find out where we’re headed next!