Week 6 Day 7: Do It in Pencil

Week 6: Create a Solid Garden Plot
Workbook Exercise: My Rule of Life

Watch: Week 6 Day 7: Do It in Pencil
Draft a written Rule of Life that will enrich and enliven your relationships.
Click here to write your answer.
Share: Invite and join with others #GrowRule

Transcript of Video:

During this course, we have been exploring the elements of a Rule of Life and how to create your own Rule of Life. Now we come to the exciting bit, which is bringing all the elements together and actually writing down a Rule of Life for yourself. And I would say right from the start that this isn’t a task so much as kind of fun. It’s something to really enjoy and saying, “Gosh, I really long to become more the person that God created me to be and I just know that if I can put certain things in place in my life that they will enable me to, as it were, be free enough to receive the grace of God,” because it is all about God and what God is longing to give to us. All we are really doing with a Rule of Life, rather like a gardener, is helping to create a terrain, helping to create enough space and other things to allow a young plant to receive the sun and the rain, and that’s really the model, I think, for a Rule of Life. We put certain things in place so that we are more able to receive what God has to give to us and of course, that gift is the gift of life itself, the abundant life that Jesus promised us.

So when you’re making this Rule of Life, first of all do it with a certain lightness of touch rather like creating a garden saying, “Hey, it would be good to do that – let’s see what that will be like,” and if it doesn’t work – well, change it. So make the Rule of Life do it with pencil so you can erase it later and say, “I thought that would be helpful, but actually, if I’m realistic, I simply won’t be able to do that, so I won’t do that.” I think God would just be delighted for your desire. Your desire to make of your life something which kind of honors God by putting in these elements of a Rule of Life, which will open you up to receive all the wonderful gifts that God has to give you.

So be patient, try it out, see how it works and be realistic, and be full of hope, and full of joy, because God is the one who, I believe, has encouraged you to do this because God so loves you that he longs for this deeper relationship with you and to give you that life, which is his great gift to each one of us.

– Br. Geoffrey Tristram


  1. David Damon on October 16, 2021 at 08:13

    Thank you Brother Geoffrey for this encouraging message – as I’ve reached the end of this course I’ve been getting tense about actually writing down a Rule of Life for myself. “What if I don’t get it right? What if it doesn’t work? This is really important so I’d better do a good job” I really appreciated what you had to say as this puts me in a much better position to reflect back on all God has shown me through this course and begin to pencil things down on paper.

  2. Jaan Sass on March 15, 2017 at 12:43

    I know that finished this almost a year later and still have to do the last assignment. Reading all the responses has made me feel like this is a possibility. I have written rules for myself in the past but never kept them. I would get excited follow the suggestions but end up making it to difficult. I would become discouraged and then table it. I love the idea that a rule exists to deepen relationship with God and others.

  3. Linda on June 22, 2016 at 08:35

    Morning and evening BCP prayer.
    Healthy eating plan.
    Spiritual director Ignatian Exercises.
    Cook food in morning for the day.
    Time in nature.
    Be more open minded about who to make as friends and encourage God in them.
    Visit the elderly and lonely.
    Practic silence times.
    Work on Godly speech and less speech.
    Assist ministries if and when able.
    (Not all of this daily, when able)

  4. mmclaughlin on March 31, 2016 at 08:32

    Wow! What a great Lent you have given me, both Brothers and followers! The daily work toward creating a rule was brilliant, along with the support of those who wrote their reflections. Thank you, thank you! I have learned so much!

  5. Muriel Akam on March 21, 2016 at 09:30

    I’ve learned much from this Lenten series- taking care of oneself . nurturing ourselves , regular workouts, spiritually , regular daily prayer and contemplation , doing things that we enjoy and that which is uplifting , thankfulness for all that we receive , appreciating nature, the wonder of creation , giving of ourselves to others without expectations ——. Thank you.

  6. Stan on March 20, 2016 at 21:47

    I’m a pretty free-spirited fellow, and, I’m not much for rules and regulations. I’ve never really felt that life was to be lived via following other people’s rules. Oops! What did I just say? That’s it … Other people’s rules.

    So … what if I made up a rule of my own? Now there’s a concept! Maybe make myself a rule about how to live. But where would I start? How would I know how to make a rule like that?

    This session has been like a long retreat for me. And I’ve learned very much. I now understand that one must grow a rule like that from within. We are all different … yet we are all the same. With thought, contemplation, meditation, prayer, we must first learn to get to know our own spiritual self within, and let that inner self guide us on the path which best suits ourselves. And with patience and thoughtful care, we can lay the path out before us by growing our own personal rule of life, and using it like a road map to the life we want and need.

    This has been a wonderful Lenten study … a study within ourselves guided by others who we’ve come to feel a mutual kinship with. I feel I’ve made many wonderful friends here, even though we’ve never met. At least, not in person. But I do feel that we’ve met in spirit, and perhaps that is the best way to communicate.

    Thank you Brothers, and all of the brothers and sisters who have become part of my family for these six weeks. And Thanks Be to God for enabling us all to get together in such a meaningful way!

    • Chioma Nwaogu on February 14, 2021 at 18:21

      I hope to draft a rule of life, that will be all encompassing, as well as simple and suited to my personality and calling. I long for a deeper and meaningful relationship with God, creation, others and myself, and so I hope for the best these days of prayer and opening my life to God. I am happy for this opportunity and time spent doing this exercises, with others, I learnt a lot, from everyone and many thanks to the brothers, who made this possible, gracias!

  7. Eugene Wright on March 20, 2016 at 20:36

    My sincere thanks for inviting me to participate in this process of establishing a Rule Of Life. I have learnt a lot about myself in this short time and though I have been using Micah 6 :8 for a long time as my rule of life, I see now that I have to add some more specific items to this rule. In doing so I believe that I have become a better person with the right rules and boundaries in which to conduct myself if I am going to be a child of God.
    Thanks a gain for the enlightenment and may God bless you all in your ministry.

  8. Betsy on March 20, 2016 at 12:13

    I absolutely loved this entire Lenten offering, Growing a Rule of Life, and my heartfelt gratitude to all at SSJE who created, developed, contributed to and shared it with us. The monastery has come to me every day, and I have enjoyed living there through each Phase, the videos, exercises and accompanying revelations. Wow! Such a rich experience that will stay with me like a reliable friend.
    The last exercise was amazing, full of wonder as all areas filled in and then could “see” them overlapping, not like weeds gone wild but more like a ground cover. This will be foundational for my life.

  9. susan zimmerman on March 20, 2016 at 10:08

    …a rule i heard years ago and I still live by because of several related experiences, is the following rule:

    …Keep you friends close and your enemies closer…

    …ones enemies really ‘enliven’ ones’ life and keeping ‘them’ close, for me, is about keeping balance between complimentary opposites…according to Gen 1 God put everything in complimentary opposition and this is a daily experience…choosing to keep an enemy close may take years but one can encounter spectacular growth.

    • Stan on March 20, 2016 at 21:10

      Those are some very challenging words, Susan, but vital advice. It’s taken me much of my life to learn that same rule. If you can learn to know your enemies, you can then understand their wants and needs. Their strengths and weaknesses. Where they’re coming from and what motivates them. Once you understand them on that kind or personal level, they are no longer your enemy.

  10. Rhode on March 20, 2016 at 08:34

    I, too, thank the brothers for this inspiring series. I have learned much from all the individual responses and praise God He is moving in hearts who long to draw close. We are His children.
    My rule of Life is to Love Him most who loved me first. To follow as close as I am able in the footsteps of the master Gardner… to not kick myself to hard when I stray…to offer myself to His service each day.
    Here is a poem by e.e.cummings that I keep above my desk that speaks for me.

    i am a little church(no great cathedral) – i do not worry if briefer days grow briefest,
    i am not sorry when sun and rain make april

    my life is the life of the reaper and the sower;
    my prayers are prayers of earth’s own clumsily striving (finding and losing and laughing and crying)children whose any sadness or joy is my grief or my gladness

    around me surges a miracle of unceasing
    birth and glory and death and resurrection:
    over my sleeping self float flaming symbols
    of hope, and i wake to a perfect patience of mountains

    i am a little church(far from the frantic
    world with its rapture and anguish)at peace with nature – i do not worry if longer nights grow longest; i am not sorry when silence becomes singing

    winter by spring, i lift my diminutive spire to
    merciful Him Whose only now is forever:
    standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence (welcoming humbly His light and proudly His darkness)

  11. Kristi on March 19, 2016 at 22:24

    At first when I read this transcript I was briefly filled with dread. It seemed like an “assignment ” & I felt worry that whatever I did wouldn’t be enough or right in my mind. But as I thought some things through, I could envision a sketch of garden plots, and in certain ones would be areas where I’d like to grow and evolve, especially in my spiritual life. And the notion that God would be happy just knowing I desire a closer relationship made me feel so relieved- like it will all be ok because my intention & purpose is true.

    • Dorothy P. on March 21, 2016 at 12:58

      Amen to both the dreadful feeling, and the relief.

  12. a city monk on March 19, 2016 at 21:27

    very grateful simplicity…
    very grateful fasting…
    very grateful feasting…
    very grateful celebration of nature…
    very grateful gentleness…
    very grateful peaceful undivided heart…

    When I first began gardening a rule of life, the trellis was… Every Week is Holy Week
    A Celebration of the ministry, Passion, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
    NOW, very grateful to unfold the growth of the Body of Christ from Easter through to Pentecost… and beyond.
    There have been seasons of being “stuck” in just one day of Holy Week. Opening my heart to wholeness of God’s Love for us, means enlarging my heart to being Grown by God’s love for us. Focused on the Miracles, the teaching the preaching of Jesus… these things and more if you have but the faith of a mustard seed! The Hospitality of Holy Thursday, being taken, blessed, broken, and given…. and wounded by betrayals of trust. Not getting stuck, in Good Friday that is all about pain and suffering — disconnected from the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Or getting stuck in the uncertainties and self-doubts, the endless recriminations of Holy Saturday, begging Our Blessed Mother to teach me her Holy Saturday prayers that I may know in my heart such grace and faith as hers. And the praise and thanksgiving of He is Risen, as he said!!
    So begins then the journey toward Pentecost … and the unfolding of the Rule of Life, the trellis, of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit … first comes, the buds, then the blossoms, then fruit… then God decides when I am ripe!
    Peace and all Good

  13. Robert on March 19, 2016 at 20:12

    With many thanks to all the Brothers and to those who have shared their reflections. Your caring words remind me that my Rule should begin and end each day with gratitude.

  14. Ruth West on March 19, 2016 at 15:05

    I have so enjoyed being a part of this Lenten Series. My new rule of life:
    Be consistent in prayer, Scripture reading, playing the piano, calling one or more family members daily, attend worship, read, write, follow healthy eating and sleeping rules, give, give, give of myself and my means to others. May God grant me the strength and His Holy Spirit to accomplish this.
    Thanks to all of you brothers in Christ who have given to us these loving messages.

    • Stan on March 20, 2016 at 20:59

      Ruth, you really hit me square in the heart. Playing the piano was always one of my favorite spiritual releases … all of your emotions and feelings, and other things which can’t be intellectualized can just flow like tears thru your fingertips …

      • Dorothy P. on March 21, 2016 at 13:03

        One thing I had left out of my original sketch for elements of my Rule was music! I learned to play Classical guitar in high school, and still remember some of my favorite pieces all these years later. I still have the concert guitar purchased for me by my mother at age 14 — it’s survived re-stringing & even repair when moisture made the bar come unglued. Now my son is very interested in music, and I have pulled the guitar out a few times to entertain him, as my husband has with the harmonica. I think, with a bit of research on age-appropriate pieces I could play & sing w/ him, this could become part of our regular pre-bedtime play. Enriching both for me and for my close relationship with him. Thank you! And thanks to the brothers for an enlightening and enjoyable Lenten experience.

  15. Paul on March 19, 2016 at 12:52

    I thank God for the gift of you brothers and your extraordinary labors of love. Please accept my heartfelt gratitude. I thank God for giving me the fortitude to do all the Rule exercises on a daily basis; and I look forward to now writing my personal Rule and giving it to my life coach and soulmate to “second-guess” me. I thank all the people who have written comments and opened my eyes to new possibilities. Amen

  16. William Spies on March 19, 2016 at 11:40

    rule of Life for me is to balance work, pleasure, study, exercise and help to others for me. it’s jogging with my three digs thru the forest and helping my church where ever possible. now that I am retired it’s giving back to the community by building Habitat for Humanity homes for people.

  17. Christina on March 19, 2016 at 08:15

    Like you, Jane, I send thanks and blessings to all those who have created the Lenten program. My mornings are not going to be the same, but no doubt the homilies will continue – I sincerely hope so.
    Easter blessings to all those who have responded to the videos. I have learned from many of the messages.

  18. Betty Donahue on March 19, 2016 at 08:06

    Rule of Life
    I really long to become more the person that God created me to be and I just know that if I can put certain things in place in my life that they will enable me to, as it were, be free enough to receive the grace of God.
    Here is my Rule-
    Whenever negative thoughts enter smell the roses and blow the candle and let them flow through. Replace with positive thoughts- Elisa, Jack, Aaron, Pipa, Blake, Uno

    When I have conflicts with others work to resolve with love; if not able to be resolved and accept the difference and move on from the relationship. i will shake the dust off my feet and walk away.

    Take time for prayer and listening for the response each day.

    Be in the natural world for a time each day.

    Recognize when I am stressed and take steps to counter the stress- pray, walk, call friends, breath.

  19. Jim V on March 19, 2016 at 07:36

    Rule to enrich and enliven my relationships

    God- daily word and prayer, weekly worship, monthly retreat

    Nature- daily interaction with nature of some sort, weekly long walk, monthly immersion with a quality experience

    Others- daily practice of non-judgement, weekly visit with friend, monthly day of service

    Self- daily exercise, daily examine, daily music, weekly prioritization and goals, plan monthly treat of joy

  20. Jane on March 19, 2016 at 05:58

    First, my thanks for the nourishment of this Lenten study. I will write more expansively in my workbook, but a few new things that will be in my rule will address taking care of my physical body which at my age is needing more and more of my attention. And I will acknowledge the things I’ve been doing that might be keeping me from being open to God’s nourishment, like some strategies to be a bit more organized so that I have more time to do some soul-enriching things. And I think I will include some times to spend on reflection and prayer, which is hard for me because I like to stay busy, busy which can crowd out the time for listening more for God. So these are a few things. Thanks be to God for all of you at SSJE – many blessings for a joyful Easter and a time of rest after all of the Easter busyness! Love to you all.

Leave a Comment