Spiritual Rules for Life
January, 2008 
In This Issue
Biblical Teachings
The Writers Speak
Spiritual Rule Helps
Book Review
Upcoming Events
Formation Thought to Ponder
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"And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind."  Romans 12:2 KJV


Inviting God's Presence DVD and Listening Guide

Inviting God's Presence: Congregational Committees Seeking God DVD and listening guide will assist congregational committees in seeking God's presence, direction, and guidance as they make deliberations and important decisions regarding the life and work of the local church. Power is available through the Spirit.

If you are interested in purchasing this resource, you may order here. 
Our Price: $20


Transformed by God's Spirit

DVD Now Available!
Cost: $5.00

This brief DVD features numerous individuals whose lives have been enriched by God's transforming presence. Not only have their personal lives been renewed and energized, also their churches have been renewed as God worked within the hearts and lives of the people.Reflection Questions are included.

Ordering Information:
Contact Devon Bagwell, 919.459.5513,

New Year
     I hope your holidays were restful and worshipful. I pray your new year is off to a fresh and healthy start. I trust you are renewed for the journey of 2008.
     At this time of year many of us are thinking about resolutions for the year ahead. We are pondering our experiences of the past year and reflecting upon the aspects of life that need changing. We are examining ourselves and our life journey and making determinations as to what, when, where, and how we will live life differently this new year. And that is good. Examinations and evaluations are sorely needed.
     I hope we will give adequate attention to our spiritual lives as we make resolutions and personal commitments for 2008. It is important for each of us to determine how we will avail ourselves to God's transforming presence. While spiritual formation is the work of the Holy Spirit within us, it is up to us to invite and allow God to work in our hearts, minds, and souls. If we do not develop intentionality in availing ourselves to God, many of us will experience another year much like many previous years. We will go through another year far too preoccupied, far too self-focused, and far too self-centered. Me and mine generally take control.
     Deciding how we will invite and allow God's transforming presence and committing to the actions we will take to avail ourselves to God's work is known as a rule of life. Rules are choices that govern our lives. They are freely chosen. Once our rules are set we do not need to spend a lot of time or energy deciding if we should follow them. Time and energy are expended up front in determining our rules. Once set, we simply abide by them. For example, most of us have developed rules of life in relation to our hygiene. We value cleanliness. Because we value and desire cleanliness we decided a long time ago that we would shower and brush our teeth every day. It's not that we enjoy showering or brushing our teeth so much. It's because we value cleanliness that we will take the time and make the effort to shower and brush our teeth every day whether we want to or not and whether we think we have time or not. We will take time for these practices because cleanliness and good hygiene are valued. The same principle applies to our spiritual lives. If we genuinely want to experience intimacy with God and maturity as disciples we will choose regular practices that will enable spiritual growth. Those practices then become our spiritual rules for life. We all have already chosen some practices that govern our spiritual lives. We pray before meals. We go to church regularly. We pray. Yet we all would do well to examine these commitments and add to them.
     Since this is a good time to look at the year ahead, this issue of SpiritLines will focus on spiritual rules for life. Keep in mind that a spiritual rule is not something to take lightly. It is not something we will flippantly think, say, or write down early in the year, only to push aside as the busyness of daily life returns. Spiritual rules are commitments we make to ourselves and to God. They are concrete ways of showing our Lord that we love God with all our "heart, mind, soul, and strength (Mark 12:30 NAS) and that we intend to make our relationship with God a priority.
     I look forward to learning of your spiritual rules for the coming year.
Warmest Regards,
Biblical Teachings Regarding Spiritual Rules for Life

"Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." (Joshua 24:15 NAS)

"The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him." (Lam. 3:25 NAS)

"They who seek the LORD shall not be in want of any good thing." (Psalm 34:10 NAS)

"At night my soul longs for Thee, indeed, my spirit within me seeks Thee diligently." (Isaiah 26:9 NAS)

"Cease striving and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10 NAS)

"O taste and see that the LORD is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!" (Psalm 34:8 NAS)

"Listen to the word of the LORD, O sons of Israel." (Hosea 4:1 NAS)

"So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth." (Hosea 6:3 NAS)

"Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened." (Matthew 7:7-8 NAS)

"And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13 NAS)

"If you would seek God and implore the compassion of the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, surely now He would rouse Himself for you and restore your righteous estate.  Though your beginning was insignificant, yet your end will increase greatly." (Job 8:5-7 NAS)

"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." (James 4:8 NAS)
The Writers Speak


"Salvation is free, but maturity comes with a price."
Seeking the Face of God: The Path to a More Intimate Relationship. Gary L. Thomas. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1994, p. 40.

"These practices offer Christians specific methods to 'know (God) more clearly, love (God) more dearly, and follow (God) more nearly,' as an ancient prayer goes."
Richard of Chichester, England (13th Century) as quoted in Staying Focused: Building Ministry Teams for Christian Formation. M. Anne Burnette Hook and Shirley F. Clement. Nashville, TN: Discipleship Resources, 2002, p. 17.

"All spiritual development stems from new commitments matured in practice."
Calming the Restless Spirit: A Journey Toward God. Ben Campbell Johnson. Nashville, TN: UpperRoom Books, 1997, p. 91.

"Creative, Spirit-filled lives do not arise until God is attended to, till His internal teaching, in warm immediacy, becomes a real experience. He has many things to say to us, but we cannot hear Him now, because we have not been wholly weaned away from outward helps, valuable as these often are. The living Christ teaches the listening soul, and guides him into new truth. Sad it is if our church program is so filled with noise, even beautiful sound, that it distracts us from the listening life, the expectation directed toward God."
The Sanctuary of the Soul: Selected Writings of Thomas Kelly. Upper Room Spiritual Classics, Keith Beasley-Topliffe, Editor. Nashville, TN: Upper Room Books, 1997, p. 47.

"The goal of a set-aside devotional time is to train the spiritual eye to 'turn to God in all things, in all things to see God.'"
Active Spirituality: A Guide for Seekers and Ministers. Kent Ira Groff. Bethesda, MD: The Alban Institute, 1993, p. 97.

"When people do not arrange their life around cultivating their interior life around God, they tend to become vaguely nicer versions of who they used to be."
Savoring God's Word: Cultivating the Soul-Transforming Practice of Scripture Meditation. Jan Johnson. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2004, p. 19.

"Setting goals but being unwilling to train toward them leaves us worse off than ignoring goals altogether, for we have done nothing but add an element of insincerity to our lives."
Seeking the Face of God: The Path to a More Intimate Relationship. Gary L. Thomas.
Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1994, p. 40.

 "A good rule is not something we do nearly as much as something that describes who we desire and intend to be."
Spiritual Direction: Exploring Spiritual Direction. Jeanette A. Bakke. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000, p. 239.

"A rule of life is a pattern of spiritual disciplines that provides structure and direction for growth in holiness...It fosters gifts of the Spirit in personal life and human community, helping to form us into the persons God intends us to be."
Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life. Louisville, KY : Westminster John Knox Press, 1995, p. 138.

"Having a Rule of Life encourages us to set attainable goals for our spiritual growth, and then to work steadily over time to achieve them. It calls for us to create an intentional pattern for our everyday life that opens us to perceiving God's presence and activity. " 
http://www.episcopal-dxtx.org/spiritlife/liferules.htm, accessed 2 January 2008.

"And 'practice' is the operative word. A Rule of Life is not meant to be a demanding test or a stressful exercise. Instead, the daily repetition of simple practices that focus our hearts on God does more to nurture deep, meaningful spiritual growth than the occasional mountaintop experience. "
http://www.episcopal-dxtx.org/spiritlife/liferules.htm, accessed 2 January 2008.
"When we speak of patterns in our life, we mean attitudes, behaviors, or elements that are routine, repeated, regular. Indeed, the Latin term for 'rule' is regula, from which we get our words regular and regulate derive."
Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995, p. 138.

"God wants us to have fullness in our lives, and he brings it about not by filling our schedules but by filling us."
Patterns: Ways to Develop a God-Filled Life. Mel Lawrenz. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, p. 18.

Spiritual Rule of Life Resources

Bass, Dorothy C., Editor. Practicing Our Faith: A Way of Life for a Searching People. San Francisco  Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1997.

Guenther, Margaret. At Home in the World: A Rule of Life for the Rest of Us (Christian Classics). New York: Seabury Books, 2006.

Lawrenz, Mel. Patterns: Ways to Develop a God-Filled Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2003.

Ortberg, John. The Life You've Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997.

Paulsell, William O. Rules for Prayer.  Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1993.

Thompson, Marjorie. Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995.

_______ . Making Choices: "Developing a Personal Rule of Life," The Pastor's Guide to Personal Spiritual Formation, Kansas City, MI: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2005.

Whitney, Donald S. Simplify Your Spiritual Life: Spiritual Disciplines for the Overwhelmed. Colorado Springs, Colorado: NavPress, 2003.

Willard, Dallas. The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives. New York: HarperSanFrancisco (A Division of HarperCollins Publishers), 1988.

_______. The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus's Essential Teachings on Discipleship. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2006.

Listing is for informational purposes only.  This is not an exhaustive or recommended list.

Spiritual Rule of Life Helps

Two Approaches to Establishing our Personal Rule of Life
 Ascetic Approach:  What do I need to let go of?
 Mystical Approach: What do I need to take up?

"Making Choices: "Developing a Personal Rule of Life" by Marjorie Thompson in The Pastor's Guide to Personal Spiritual Formation, Kansas City, MI: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2005, p. 145.

Three Basic Questions to Reflect on in Choosing Disciplines for Your Rule of Life
 What am I deeply attracted to, and why?
 Where do I feel God is calling me to stretch and grow?
 What kind of balance do I need in my life?

Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life. Marjorie Thompson. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995, p. 142.

Potential Spiritual Practices for a Rule of Life
 Daily prayer and prayerful listening
 Engage solitude and silence
 Faithful giving of time and resources
 Regular worship participation (other than worship leadership)
 Scripture meditation
 Practice biblical hospitality
 Regular confession
 Practice servanthood in secret
 Determine ways to simplify life
 Participate in spiritual retreats
 Engage in a spiritual relationship
 Read spiritual classics
 Practice courtesy, kindness, and respect for all people
 Engage in a variety of prayer patterns
 Practice forgiveness
 Refrain from thinking or speaking ill of others
 Count your many blessings
 Examine your day for God encounters and/or times when you overlooked God's presence
 Practice thankfulness
 Share your faith story
 Holy Communion observance

Wendy Minton Edwards

Benefits of Christian Disciplines
 We become settled and focused on God.
 We open ourselves to God.
 We experience an increasing awareness of God.
 We experience an increasing willingness to be limited by human beings in relationship with Divine completeness.
 We surrender to God.
 We believe in God's love for us.
 We are renewed by God.
 We become free to hear God.
 We continue to move along.
 We recognize fruit.
 We experience increasing satisfaction and an increasing desire for God.

Spiritual Direction: Exploring Spiritual Direction. Jeanette A. Bakke. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000, p. 242-244.

Book Review



Author:  Marjorie J. Thompson
Louisville, Kentucky:  Westminster John Know Press, 1995.
155 pp.

Category: Spiritual Practices


     In Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life, Marjorie Thompson provides a splendid introduction to the interior and exterior practices of the spiritual life. She begins by defining the spiritual life as simply "the increasing vitality and sway of God's Spirit in us." Therefore it is not just something we do, but something that is done within us by none other than the Spirit of God Himself. In light of that understanding, our spirituality is simply "a path - to choices of belief, value commitments, patterns of life, and practices of faith that allow Christ to be formed in us."
     Thompson explains and discusses various avenues of opening ourselves to the work of the Spirit. She clearly deals with spiritual reading, prayer, worship, fasting, self-examination, and hospitality. Her treatment of each of these practices is biblical, profound, practical, and simplistic. She concludes this great work with a look at one's rule of life or the means by which Christians put together each of these practices to form a meaningful whole. A Study Guide is provided for small groups wishing to walk through this journey together.
     For individuals or groups wishing to explore the meaning of spirituality I can think of no better tool than Thompson's Soul Feast. It is one book I plan to keep close at hand for years to come.
Upcoming Events
Disciple Making Communities: Moving from Maintenance to Mission
Jan. 22-24, 2008
Presenter: Ed White
The Alban Institute
2121 Cooperative Way, Suite 100
Herndon, VA 20171
Fax - 703-964-0370

Weekday Spirituality: Unleashing Faith in Everyday Life

Feb. 29 - March 1, 2008
Presenter: Wayne Floyd
The Alban Institute
2121 Cooperative Way, Suite 100
Herndon, VA 20171
Fax - 703-964-0370

(Latin: to renew)

A Regional Conference on Spiritual Renewal     
February 29 - March 1, 2008
Chapel Hill Bible Church 
260 Erwin Road  
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Download a printable registration form at www.biblechurch.org/renovare
Or call 919-408-0310, ext. 134 to receive a registration form by mail.
Spiritualities of Creation: Knowing God and Self in a Broken World
March 9-14, 2008
This course will look at the various ways the Old Testament deals with creation, particularly in light of our broken world, a world that cries out for restoration and renewal.  
Read on about this retreat...
Group Spiritual Direction (Weekend format)
March 27-30, 2008
This class will learn about and experience a way of being together in covenanted group community that is anchored in 1) scripture using lectio divina, 2) silence using a structured process with facilitators to hold the space made, 3) prayer both silent and spoken and 4) listening to self and one another to hear over time what God might be speaking into the community for us.
Read on about this retreat... 
Being Present
Spiritual Directors International Leadership Institute and Conference
March 26-31, 2008
Washington, DC, Metropolitan Area
 A variety of keynote addresses and small group workshops featuring such noted presenters as: Rose Mary Dougherty, Shalem Institute Senior Fellow and noted Author; Matthew Linn, Teacher and Author; and many more...
Read on about this retreat...
The Pilgrim's Way: Desert Spirituality
March 31 - April 7, 2008
2008 Pilgrimage to northern New Mexico

Read on about this retreat...

Discerning Forgiveness

April 24-27, 2008
Our class will help us attend to several voices in this debate, discern some of the complexities of timing and circumstance, claim a stance with scriptural and theological integrity, and engage in key practices to help us learn the "craft" of forgiveness.
Read on about this retreat...
The Gathering: Pilgrimage: An Ancient Path of Transformation   
June 11-14, 2008
Living Waters Catholic Reflection Center, Maggie Valley, N.C.
Registration: $150 due May 13 
Housing and meals fee: $150 due May 27
Advent Spirituality Center
Becoming a Praying Congregation
July 15-17, 2008
Presenter: Jane Vennard
The Alban Institute
2121 Cooperative Way, Suite 100
Herndon, VA 20171
Fax - 703-964-0370
3rd Bi-Annual Renovare, Covenant Retreat

August 3-7, 2008
Living the Gospel Life
YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch Center
Winter Park, Colorado

Read on about this retreat...

Listing is for informational purposes only. This is not an exhaustive or recommended list.
Formation Thought to Ponder

"Every moment is an opportunity to live in Jesus' name. All the everyday stuff in life can be filled with his presence - if you are."

Living the God Life: Finidng God's Extraordinary Love in Your Ordinary Life. John Ortberg. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Inspirio, the gift group of Zondervan Publishers, 2004, p. 134.

The formation thought/prayer that follows is an article written by R. Rolheiser that was sent to me by a special friend.

            "After the birth of Christ, we need not look to the extraordinary, the spectacular or the miraculous to find God.  God is now found where we live - in our kitchens, at our tables, in our wounds, and in each other's faces.
            That is hard to believe and always has been. When Jesus was on earth, virtually no one believed he was the Messiah, precisely because he was so ordinary, so unlike what they imagined God to be. They had expected a superstar, a king, someone who would turn the world rightfully upside down. Preaching meekness and gentleness, Jesus didn't live up to those expectations.
            It is curious that Scripture refuses to describe what Jesus looked like. It never tells us whether he was short or tall, with beard or without, had light or dark hair, had blue or brown eyes. Neither does it ever assign to him anything extraordinary in terms of psychological countenance. For example, it never tells us that when Jesus entered a room his eyes were so penetrating and his gaze so awesome that people knew they were in the presence of someone extraordinary. No. In terms of his appearance, Jesus apparently wasn't worth describing. He looked like everyone else. Even after the resurrection, he is mistaken for a gardener, a cook, a traveler.
            Things haven't changed much in two thousand years. Seldom does Christ meet expectations. We, like his contemporaries, are constantly looking beyond the ordinary, beyond the gardener, the cook, and the traveling stranger, to try to find a miraculous Christ. It is for this reason that we try to find the Child in places we perceive to be spiritually significant - like taking a trip to the place of His birth, but fail to see the significance of the tears shed at our own breakfast table. We are intrigued by a painting that depicts the wounds of Christ at his death, but fail to see the wounds of Christ in those suffering around us or in our own emotional and moral wounds.
            We pray for visions, but seldom watch a sunset. We marvel at the gift of tongues, but are bored listening to babies.  We look for Christ everywhere, except in the place where the incarnation took place: our own flesh, our own bodies.
            Love is a thing that happens in ordinary places - in kitchens, at tables, in bedrooms, in workplaces, in families, in the flesh.  God abides in us when we abide there. Through the Incarnation, God crawls into ordinary life and invites us to meet him there."

How does your rule of life include an awareness of God within the ordinary?
How does your congregation recognize and celebrate God's presence in the ordinary?

Please share your rule of life commitments for 2008.

Wendy Minton Edwards
Spiritual Formation Coach
Baptist State Convention of NC