Finding an Ongoing Rhythm
Our lives can be thought of as a sacred dance—a dance with the Holy Spirit, a dance made up of purposefully chosen patterns of movement, a dance choreographed to fit the everyday circumstances and relationships of our lives, a dance designed for the enjoyment and glory of God.
Dance and rhythm are connected. Many of us pastors know what it feels like to be out of rhythm. It doesn’t feel good. It often happens in times of transition, personal crisis, or heavy workloads. It happens when others’ expectations don’t fit who we are. It happens when we live distractedly. We long to create a meaningful flow or to return to a pattern that fits our temperament and our particular calling.
That’s what this toolkit is about—finding an ongoing rhythm. Finding your rhythm requires a vision of what God wants for you, along with an understanding of your heart's desire. It calls you to a commitment to take the necessary steps and engage with God’s means of grace. Finding your rhythm can be thought of as a personal expression of worship. But it’s always a dance with community and for the sake of others as well.
How to Find Your Rhythm
- Renew the mind. Think of Jesus' words, "come . . . learn the unforced rhythms of grace" not as obligation, but invitation. Come. Walk. Watch. Learn. Keep company with me.
- Consider. “What do you want me to do for you?” That’s what Jesus asked Bartimaeus (Mark 10:51). That’s what he asks you. What’s your deepest longing, your deepest desire? Sometimes you recognize it instantly. If not, ask the Spirit to reveal it to you.
- Begin. Once you know what you want, embark on a spiritual quest to find it. Which rhythms or practices or habits address this desire? Are there others who want what you want? Find them.
- Be practical. How can you make this a priority? What fits your temperament? What are the circumstances of life that will affect this plan?
- Commit. Share your plan with your peer group or spiritual companion who will support and encourage you in this, as well as hold you accountable.
- Remember. Grace is opposed to earning, not to effort (Willard). Explore. Enjoy.
- Be patient. If God seems slow in responding, it may not be because you’re doing something wrong. It may not be because God is denying your request. He may be fanning the flames of your heart, intensifying your desire. Remember that he cherishes you.
Three Resources for Finding a Life Rhythm
- Crafting a Rule of Life: An Invitation to the Well-Ordered Way is a practical workbook by Stephen A. Macchia. The related website offers multiple resources including a blog, stories, and many varied examples of a rule of life.
- The C.S. Lewis Institute provides instruction for developing “A Personal Rule of Life.”
- Marjorie Thompson concludes her Soul Feast book with a chapter on developing a rule of life. “A rule of life,” she explains, “gives us a way to enter the lifelong process of spiritual formation. Its disciplines help us to shed the familiar but constricting ‘old self’ and allow our ‘new self’ in Christ to be formed—the true self that is naturally attracted to the light of God.”
Additional Resources for Spiritual Vitality
Books with Practices to Transform Your Soul
- Companions in Christ: Small Group Experience in Spiritual Formation by multiple authors, including Marjorie J. Thompson
- Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation by Ruth Haley Barton
- Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life by Marjorie J. Thompson
- Space for God: The Study and Practice of Prayer and Spirituality by Don Postema
- Spiritual Disciplines Companion: Bible Studies and Practices to Transform Your Soul by Jan Johnson
- Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun
Books to Guide the Transformational Journey with God
- Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, along with Study Guide by Richard Foster
- Invitation to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation by M. Robert Mulholland, Jr.
- The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People and Participant’s Guide by John Ortberg
- The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives by Dallas Willard
- Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ by Dallas Willard
Audio Sermons on Soul Formation and Restoration
Reference the Center for Excellence in Preaching for many more
- Ezekiel 37: “That We May Live” by Jack Roeda
- “Psalm 1” by Mary Hulst
- Psalm 23: “Restoring the Soul” by Angela Taylor Perry
- Colossians 3: “Character Development” by Joanna Adams
Websites with Spiritual Formation Resources
Podcasts, articles, blog posts, books, training institutes, and more
- Dallas Willard Center for Christian Spiritual Formation: Westmont College aims to “create a new generation of individuals who will become thought leaders in articulating and experiencing an interactive relationship with Jesus.”
- Emotionally Healthy Discipleship: Through his website, Pastor Peter Scazzero encourages church leaders on a personal journey that leads to “deep, beneath-the-surface transformation.” This comes after his own experience with decades of unhealthy leadership. His transformation came about as the Spirit helped him link emotional health and spiritual maturity. Here you’ll find his books, podcasts, sermons, and training courses.
- Renovaré, founded by Richard Foster, is a Christian ecumenical international nonprofit seeking to “resource, fuel, model, and advocate more intentional living and spiritual formation among Christians.”
- Transforming Center has as its goal to “strengthen the souls of pastors and leaders, equipping them to guide their churches and organizations to become spiritually transforming communities that discern and do the will of God in their settings.” Ruth Haley Barton is one of its cofounders.
- The Academy for Spiritual Formation, a part of Upper Room Ministries, offers “an environment for spiritually hungry pilgrims, whether lay or clergy, that combines academic learning with experience in spiritual disciplines and community.” Upper Room is “a global ministry dedicated to supporting the spiritual formation of Christians seeking to know and experience God more fully.” It began with a congregant asking her pastor to provide daily comfort and guidance through Scripture during the Great Depression.
Resources on the Role of Rhythms and Practices
- Philip Yancey, in his article “The Death of Reading Is Threatening the Soul,” shows how modern culture presents formidable obstacles to nurturing spirituality and creativity. The solution, he suggests, is in constructing “a fortress of habits.”
- The Banner article “Redeeming Ritual” and the book You Are What You Love by James K. A. Smith show how imitation and Christian practices shape who and what we love so that we can be the lovers God created us to be.
One Indispensable Book: The Bible
- The Message by Eugene H. Peterson is a reading Bible, written to help Christians hear the living Word of God in a current, fresh, and understandable way. The Message is available in a wide variety of printed and electronic forms.
- The Renovaré Life with God Bible, with multiple contributors including Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Eugene Peterson, and Walter Brueggemann, “helps capture the reality of living with the trinitarian community in the ever-present kingdom of God.” Available in print and ebook formats.