If any of your goals are related to building or deepening spiritual disciplines, I’m sharing my favorite resources and tools.
- I enjoy reading a chronological Bible to help me understand the sequence of historical events and build foundational knowledge. The Daily Bible with devotional insights by F. Lagard Smith is easily my favorite. I enjoy having a hardback copy but I also enjoy using the ebook which is downloadable on Amazon. The ebook allows me to squeeze in my daily Bible reading even when I’m not in the convenience of my home. I have done a lot of reading in waiting rooms!
- One tip I use to increase my Bible exposure is listening to an audio Bible podcast. ESV: Through the Bible in a Year by Crossway allows
you to read (technically listen!) to the Old Testament once and Psalms and New Testament twice each year. This makes it easy to squeeze in extra Bible while you are folding laundry, brushing your teeth, or getting ready for work in the morning. Pro tip: Listen to the audio at 1.5x speed to fit more Bible in a shorter amount of time. By both reading and listening through a large amount of scripture each day, you will accelerate your Bible knowledge. I cannot express how transformative the word of God can be in your life if you commit to this practice.
- Memorize scripture regularly and review it. Having God’s word in our hearts is an amazing tool and gift from God. I have a terrible memory.
I have difficulty remembering past events, never know song lyrics, forget the name of someone I just met, and I almost failed history class because I couldn’t keep all those dates straight! However, my excuses are not a waiver to throw in the towel on this spiritual discipline. Seven years ago, I agreed to a challenge to memorize 100 verses in 100 days. It was my first committed attempt at memorizing scripture. It was intense but also life-giving. To have God’s word in my heart and treasure it at any moment, was and is a gift. All these years later I have maintained my recall of the 100 scriptures and added a couple hundred more. I have a few sets of notecards on binder rings with verses I have memorized along with new ones I am working towards memorizing. When I go to the gym, I spend 15 minutes going through as many verses as I can while I get my cardio on the elliptical. I keep a set in my purse for times that I may be waiting for a meet-up with a friend, sitting in a waiting room, or riding in the car. I just purchased this set on Amazon.
- Keep a prayer list to ensure you pray intentionally each day. Val Marie
Paper has some useful downloads for building this spiritual discipline and many of them are free if you go to her website http://www.valmariepaper.com. You will also find prayer journals like this one. Of course, you could also create your own journal for this practice.
- Meditate on scripture and encourage others. There is a time for reading large chunks of scripture in one setting and there is a time to spend in meditation on one verse or passage. I use the YouVersion Bible app on my phone to read various translations of a verse that I am meditating on. It is also easy to copy and paste verses and send them in a text. You can even download images with the verse you select or create your own to use on social media or to text to a friend. Sending scripture in text messages is a quick and easy way to encourage and challenge others in their walk.
- Read self-growth books. There are books on every topic out there! Even non-religious books can be helpful to hone skills in our faith. I read books on leadership and relationships in order to supplement my faith and help me put my Bible reading into practice. Habits of Grace by David Mathis is a book I recently started. It goes through various spiritual disciplines that Mathis refers to as “habits of grace.” I love that terminology and I am really enjoying his writing style. My book Mind and Body Wellness: Transformative tools to manage stress, create space for health, and live with purpose includes a chapter on prayer, meditation, and living with purpose. The interconnection of mind and body means that our thoughts, actions, and feelings affect how we approach life and, more specifically, spiritual disciplines.
- If you are still unsure how you are going to make these spiritual disciplines “stick”, check out my post on How to create your own daily habit and task journal. This technique costs nothing and has helped me build life-changing habits. How do I maintain daily Bible reading, prayer time, family spiritual growth? I put it on my daily task list. I built these habits one day at a time. Even though they are now a routine part of my day, I still write them down each day. This helps me maintain intentionality in my spiritual growth and keep my habits strong.
Eighty percent of doctor visits are for stress-related problems. Seriously, I think we can all agree that statistic is staggering and scary! So many of us live in a constant state of stress. This week Dr. Catherine Spann lectured on self-regulation. Spann explained that self-regulation includes skills like focusing and maintaining attention on a particular object, regulating emotions, reflecting on experiences, and engaging in positive social interactions. It also involves regulating our stress. The bad news is that self-regulation is one of the first things to go when we are stressed. Stress hijacks the brain and puts us in a state of imbalance. Without self-regulation, we have little control over our actions and responses to stressors (which basically turns into a vicious cycle).
But what does all this have to do with yoga?
Yoga and meditation heighten our awareness of body sensations and feelings. Once we realize something is out of balance (shortened breath cycles, tension throughout body, increased heart rate, etc.), we can use breathing techniques to calm the nervous system. Calming the nervous system is our first line of defense to helps us switch from the sympathetic (“fight or flight” emergency response) to the parasympathetic nervous system (relaxed, calm, energy conserving state). Yoga and meditation are mindfulness exercises that help us practice paying attention to what is going on in our body and mind while strengthening our self-regulating abilities.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’d like to suggest a gratitude practice which will help with this process of calming the body and managing stress better. Simply take a minute or two to sit in a quiet place and recall the blessings in your life. I find this especially helpful when I am feeling stressed or frustrated. Focusing on the positive can really put our problems in perspective. A few quotes I’ve read this week on gratitude:
“The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.” -Eric Hoffer
“If a fellow isn’t thankful for what he’s got, he isn’t likely to be thankful for what he’s going to get.” -Frank A. Clark
“If you want to change your life around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily.” – Gerald Good
“God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say ‘thank you’?” -William Arther Ward