Understanding a Rule of Life

The Psalmist says, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows God’s handiwork’ (Psalm 19:1). We believe that the rhythms and patterns of life that we see in the natural world around us can inform our own lifestyles and life choices. Growing a ‘Rule of Life’ can help us to think about how we want to live, and help us recognize which patterns and rhythms will bring real life, the abundant life that Jesus promised.

A reading from Soul Feast, by Marjorie Thompson:

Certain kinds of plants need support in order to grow properly. Tomatoes need stakes, and beans must attach themselves to suspended strings… Without support, these plants would collapse in a heap on the ground. Their blossoms would not have the space and sun they need to flourish, and their fruits would rot in contact with the soil. We would be unable to enjoy their beauty and sustenance. When it comes to spiritual growth, human beings are much like these plants. We need structure and support. Otherwise… the fruit of the Spirit in us gets tangled and is susceptible to corruption… We need structure in order to have enough space, air, and light to flourish. Structure gives us the freedom to grow as we are meant to. There is a name in Christian tradition for the kind of structure that supports our spiritual growth. It is called a rule of life. A rule of life is a pattern of spiritual disciplines that provides structure and direction for growth in holiness… It is meant to help us establish a rhythm of daily living, a basic order within which new freedoms can grow.

Reprinted from Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life by Marjorie J. Thompson. Copyright 1997. Used by permission of Westminster John Knox Press. www.wjkbooks.com.

What is a Rule of Life?

The word ‘rule’ comes from the Latin word, regula, from which we get ‘regularize’ and ‘regulate.’ Keeping a Rule of Life is a way to regularize our lives in order to stay on an intentionally-chosen path. A Rule of Life is not just a set of rules; rather, it is a supportive framework to gently guide us on our way.

  • A Rule of Life allows us to live with intention and purpose in the present moment. It helps us clarify our most important values, relationships, dreams, and goals.
  • It is meant to be simple, realistic, flexible, and achievable. It is a purposeful tool to help us grow into a more meaningful life with God.
  • The first Rules of Life grew out of Christian monastic communities in the deserts of Egypt during the 4th and 5th centuries. Communities as well as individuals have benefitted from following this ancient practice of keeping a Rule of Life.

Exercise: Other Garden Plots

Before we begin planting our gardens, we may want to take a stroll around the block and explore other gardens to see what works well and what doesn’t work well.

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Watch Videos in this Phase:

What is a Rule of Life?
Why write and keep a Rule of Life?
How could a Rule of Life be helpful to you right now?
How might the rhythms you observe in nature inform the way you live? (Feb 10)
In the garden of your life, what is thriving and what is not?
When you connect with nature, what makes it meaningful?
What ‘seeds’ have you collected for your garden plot?
Compilation


Watch this video invitation from Lisa Kimball, Ph.D., Director, Center for the Ministry of Teaching, Virginia Theological Seminary to go deeper with this Lent by participating in “Growing A Rule of Life” an offering to help you develop your spiritual practices that keep you balanced and centered.

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Love is of our essence. In the series’ final week, the Brothers explore God’s love for us and our love for others, which make us human.

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Questions:

Love 1: How might you love someone you may not necessarily like?
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Love 2: Are your expectations too rigid?
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Love 3: How are you a lover?
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Love 4: Do you greet the day with a growl or a yippee?
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Love 5: How does your love bubble up in response to others today?
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Love 6: What is the greatest experience of love you’ve ever had?
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Love 7: What is it about you that God delights in?
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Play can revive us, free us, and return us to ourselves. From molding clay to rainstorms and chicken coops, the Brothers explore how some unexpected ways to play have opened up new life.

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Questions:

Play 1: Play for at least half an hour today.
How does it feel?
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Play 2: What is your favorite project?
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Play 3: In play time today risk getting lost.
What happened?
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Play 4: What helps you relax and be fully present in the moment?
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Play 5: What activities take you outside of yourself?
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Play 6: What has surprised and delighted you most recently?
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Play 7: Book yourself a play date.
What did you do?
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For many of us, work is at the heart of our struggles with Time. The Brothers discuss a Christian view of work, offering wisdom for managing our busy modern lives.

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Questions:

Work 1: Is replenishing your being a priority in your life?
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Work 2: Consider your routines – where is God?
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Work 3: How does your work serve others?
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Work 4: What limits would give you life?
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Work 5: By what measuring stick do you gauge your worth and the worth of others?
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Work 6: Make a list of three intentions for your work life today.
What difference would these make?
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Work 7: How is the pace of your life?
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You needn’t live in a monastery to make time to pray. The Brothers explore how crucial prayer is to their lives as they share unconventional ways and places they like to pray throughout the week.

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Questions:

Pray 1: Where do you find God in the ordinary?
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Pray 2: Where and how do you pray outside?
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Pray 3: What is the “arrow prayer” in your heart right now?
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Pray 4: Can you name out loud what you are most grateful for?
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Pray 5: How might being attuned to those around you shape your prayer today?
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Pray 6: What desires are shaping who you’re becoming right now?
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Pray 7: Listen: what is God presenting to you in prayer today?
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To balance our relationship to Time, we first must simply Stop. Speaking from their own experiences, the Brothers suggest ways to carve out time for rest.

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Questions:

Stop 1: Sit in total stillness for five minutes today. How does it feel?
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Stop 2: Where is your invitation to stop during the day?
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Stop 3: What taskmasters do you need to be liberated from to reclaim your dignity?
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Stop 4: How do you picture a day spent “being” – as opposed to “doing”?
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Stop 5: Where are you drawn when you follow your heart?
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Stop 6: Are you content right now?
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Stop 7: Schedule a day of complete rest: What does it help you realize about your life and heart?
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