Essential practices that I think, more than any others, shape our spirituality
In no particular order:
- Be still. It’s also called centering down. It’s linked to solitude and silence and is the heart of contemplative prayer. For me, this is what makes prayer possible. It’s only when I am still that I can begin to listen and hear the “still, small Voice” that is not my own or any other’s.
- Fear not. A lot of fear-based activity is passed off as faith-based. Parker Palmer puts it succinctly: “We have fears, but we don’t have to become our fears.” Think about the many times in the Old and New Testaments we hear this imperative. What fears are driving you? Name each let them go in light of grace.
- Forgive. “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” “Forgive us our sins/debts/trespasses as we forgive…” Forgiven of insurmountable debt, we are called to forgive relatively lesser offenses. Commit to it and you will find grace assisting you. Recall, also, that you live as a forgiven person.
- Repent. Related to confession, repentance goes beyond it. It is an existential turning of heart and mind. It should be continuous. Every time we realize another aspect of our lives that remains unyielded to the way of grace, repentance is appropriate. “To turn, turn will be our delight, ‘til by turning, turning we come ‘round right.”
- Make room. Hospitality shapes and defines us as much as anything else. Go out of your way wherever you are. Welcome strangers as Christ. Not just nice strangers who seem like us. Not just occasionally, but routinely. Not to convert, but to serve and learn from.
- Gather together. “Do not forsake assembling together.” “Where two or more are gathered together in my name…” Community may not be found in assemblies smaller or larger, but the Spirit certainly will not have an opportunity to melt and meld hearts otherwise.
- Attend to the Word. We find our story reflected in the stories of the Scriptures. Take the Bible literally, though not literalistically. It’s not magic. It’s not about rules. It reveals a relationship and a way and a future. Turn to it often as a wise and faithful friend.
- Tell the truth. Bearing false witness—from little white lies to legal perjury—poisons relationships, shatters trust and cheapens life. Of course, one doesn’t have to speak a word to misrepresent what’s real and right. Truth short-circuits the endless rationalizations and self-justifications that consume psychic energy and sabotage what grace makes possible. Truth-telling sets things right.
- Love. Be merciful. Choose compassion over judgments. Regard others with unconditional love. Since we are loved infinitely, we can find a way to love our neighbor as ourselves and love our enemies, too. If we get everything else right but this, says Paul, we’re missing the point.
- Serve. Jesus “came not to be served but to serve.” This is not so much a position as it is an action. Disregard yourself. Where there’s a need, pitch in. When someone’s hurting, help. Make a difference. Lay down your life. A South American poet writes, “Whoever gives of himself grows.”