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Rules

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I have had the blessing of being part of a graduate certificate program in Church Planting and Revitalization at Pittsburgh Seminary this year. While some of my fellow students are in fact church planters, starting their own New Worshipping Communities, a majority of us are more interested in the revitalization piece of the equation. We come at our studies from the sure and steady conviction that every organization, community, and indeed church will need to be revitalized from time to time to avoid extinction. It has been a remarkably fun program to be a part of it, and I’m just getting started!

Our first class took place in June, and we had the opportunity to meet with BJ Woodworth of the Open Door in Garfield. BJ spoke to us about discernment, about listening, about hearing the voice of God. Throughout his presentation, BJ kept referring to his “rule of life.” I was intrigued, so I asked him about it afterward.

A rule of life is nothing new for the Christian tradition. St. Benedict wrote perhaps the most famous one, outlining for the monks in his community how they were to live in community with one another, and more importantly, how even the simplest tasks were related to a healthy spirituality. For the centuries that have followed, both communities and individuals have been creating rules of life, guidelines for how their daily tasks will point them in the direction of God.

So I sat down as soon as we had left that presentation with BJ, and set about making my own personal rule of life. I decided the easiest way to go about this would be to divide things in to daily tasks, weekly tasks, monthly tasks, and yearly tasks. I also wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just adding new chores and spiritual practices that needed to be ticked off the to-do list, I wanted to look also at what I was already doing and try to recognize the Divine where I might not otherwise have seen God.

For example, once a week I have to mow my lawn. Or I should say, I’m supposed to mow my lawn once a week. This is a chore I have come to absolutely loathe. The backyard at our house isn’t so bad, but the front of our yard is on a hill with a roughly 90% grade. It’s kind of like mowing a grassy brick wall. It takes a long time, it leaves me winded, and it’s miserable. Worse, because I’m a world-class procrastinator when it comes to jobs I don’t want to do, the grass often sits until it’s unbearably tall, making the whole process much harder than it needs to be. Perhaps someday I’ll learn.

So I put mowing the lawn on my rule of life. While there’s nothing inherently spiritual about mowing the lawn, I decided that as someone who loves nature, I would focus my time spent mowing the lawn thanking God for the creation I’m surrounded by and tasked with nurturing. Instead of listening to music in my earbuds, I do my best to be in a state of prayer while I’m mowing the lawn, thanking God for what God has so graciously given to me and Sarah in this yard.

There are indeed other spiritual tasks that I’ve added to the rule of life. Once a week, I do my best to claim a bit of time at Westminster’s Labyrinth. If you’ve never done this, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s a beautiful time of silence and contemplation for me, and I’m amazed at the frequency with which Jesus shows up and has something to say to me. I read the Bible every day, working my way through the lectionary. I go to church every week. These habits are good, and essential to my spiritual walk. But I think I’ve found more fruit in things like mowing the lawn, or doing the dishes, or riding my bike. These activities that don’t have a specifically Spiritual orientation, but wind up teaching me to focus on God’s goodness anyway. I’ve been delightfully and pleasantly surprised what adding these things to my rule of life have done for me.

What would you put in your rule of life if you were to write one? What activities do you think can show you God, even when they don’t seem related at all?

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