It was dark and a brisk 19 degrees when I went for my run this morning. The chill remains even now, hours later, refusing to vanish even though I donned wool socks and wrapped up in a blanket. My office heater is set to sauna; I’m hoping that soon my bones will thaw.
The socks, the blanket, the heater—all these things I do in an attempt to warm up. That is my goal. When (if?) that happens, I will rejoice, but I will not pat myself on the back as if I’ve accomplished something grand. I will be grateful for the means by which heat and warmth have come. My part is minimal—I can only set myself up for my best chance at thawing out. I have no internal heater to boast of. I do what I can and trust the process.
In 2016, I’ll be reading my way through Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. It’s a classic on the practices of the Christian faith. Each chapter covers a different discipline, such as prayer, worship, service, and solitude.
I must admit, the title doesn’t win me over. Discipline isn’t a word that woos (at least, not me). But years ago, I read this book for a group study and found it was full of rich treasure that reframed my perception of the word. Spiritual disciplines are simply practices that exercise the soul and keep it functioning properly. It’s similar to exercising your body—if you don’t use it, you lose potential for health, fitness, and strength.
Because I am not by nature a disciplined, structured person, I need the insight and direction like that found in Celebration of Discipline. And so, for the next 12 months, I’ll be reading a chapter a month and practicing that discipline as a means for spiritual fitness and growth.
God has given us the Disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of receiving his grace. The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that he can transform us.1
Just like the chill that has invaded my bones today, there is a chill in my heart, spiritually speaking. I have neglected my soul over the past few months, as busyness of work and writing and holidays crowded in. There are actions I can take to thaw out. And when (if?) that happens, I will rejoice, for that means God has visited me and accomplished something grand. I will be grateful for the means by which the heat and warmth were given. My part is minimal—I can only set myself up for my best chance at thawing out. I have no internal heater to boast of. I will do what I can and trust the process.
Practicing spiritual disciplines will place me in the Light. The rays of His presence and love will warm me. My job is to come out from the shadows, to turn my heart toward Life. When the thaw comes, it is only because of God’s goodness toward me in Christ Jesus. And I will declare with the psalmist, “We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near. We recount your wondrous deeds” (Psalm 75:1, ESV).
1. Foster, Richard J. Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. 3rd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1998. 7.