Rule of Life

At Perkins School of Theology, all first-year students are expected (“required” really, but I don’t love that word) to enroll in a one-hour Spiritual Formation course.  According to Perkins’ website, this course “seeks to prepare students for a ministry which incorporates personal spiritual formation, experience with the variety of spiritual disciplines, the ability to facilitate the spiritual growth of others, the critical capacity to evaluate trends in spiritual expression, and the ability to nurture the same capacity in others.” (via this website.)

Anyway, so I’m enrolled in this class & we have journal entries to turn in every week, and we have daily readings, and sometimes we even focus on a spiritual discipline to practice during the week.  Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy this course, I get to bond with 11 other students in a way that is different than simply being classmates in a lecture together.  However, for a one-hour course, it takes up a huge chunk of my studying life.  Still, all of this is beside the point…

The heart of the matter is that this past week we reached the final chapter of the book we have been studying since August (Soul Feast by Marjorie J. Thompson, definitely a recommendable book). As bittersweet as this moment was (we literally spent 20+ weeks studying a book with 9 chapters), the subject of our final chapter resounded within me.  It’s entitled “Putting It All Together: Developing a Rule of Life”.  Our assignment for this past Wednesday’s session, was to reflect on the chapter and to develop your own personal rule of life.  Thompson gives (in her book) the rule of life for many famous people, Pope John XXIII, Dr. MLK Jr., Dorothy Day, a Russian baroness, and so on.  One of Pope John XXIII’s rules was to make time for “[f]ifteen minutes of spiritual reading”, he didn’t try to make himself holier by setting an ungodly amount of time for reading (like 3 hours); he made it simple, he made it something he could hold true to every single day.  For Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “[s]acrifice personal wishes in order that all might be free”  was a rule he wanted to conform to each day.  None of these rules seemed unattainable, or super pious; instead they were simple, they were true, they reflected the person’s personality.

As a class, we then delved into John Wesley and his three rules of life: 1) Do No Harm 2) Do Good 3) Attend on the ordinances of God (I got this out of Wesley and the People Called Methodist by Richard Heitzenrater, simply because it’s what I’m currently reading, also a recommendable book).  We agreed that all of these were rules we desired to follow; however, our professor, Dr. Stamm, encouraged us to look closer at the 3rd rule.  There are a lot of rules of life that we agree to, yet sometimes forget to consider; i.e. our Baptismal Covenant, Steve wrote about this forever ago & I think it is something that can get lost outside of a baptism.  Wedding vows (including the Declaration of Intention), our Communion Invitation, in each of these we are making promises, we are saying that we will uphold our values, our rules (okay, I’ve never made a wedding vow; I needed another illustration though, go with it).

I shared my 9 Rules of Life with my classmates and as I read through theirs, I found things I want to incorporate into mine as well.  Lent seems like a good time, for me at least, to focus on the rule of life that I will hold myself accountable to.  I will leave you with this quote…

“O, Begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises… Whether you like it or not, read and pray daily.  It is for your life; there is no other way: else you will be a trifler all your days… Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow.  Do not starve yourself any longer.”     -John Wesley

Lint vs. Lent

I’m awful at laundry.  It either piles up in my dirty clothes hamper or ends up washed, but wrinkled in a pile on top of my dryer because I’m too busy (or lazy) to fold/hang every article up (mostly hang, I have an incredibly hard time with folding).  The sole laundry-related gift I am blessed with is my ability to clean out the lint tray.  It doesn’t matter if I am super late for a date with the President (accept my exaggerations, they will only get worse), I am going to make sure that the lint tray is completely cleaned out before I put my clothes in there.  I’m scared to death that my apartment will go up in flames if even a minuscule piece of lint is left in that tray. (Is this a rational fear? Probably not.)  Also, who likes lint all over their clothes?  No one.  I want my dryer to be pure of anything that could possibly taint the smell and cleanliness of my clothing, or could destroy my entire apartment by catching fire.

Lint is messy.  It sticks to everything, it has little to no benefit to anyone anywhere… Unless someone knows some sort of crafty thing to do with lint (I wouldn’t put it past Pinterest to have something, let’s be real).  Lent (yep, capital L and with an ‘e’, switch gears with me real quick) can also be messy, yet in an unintentional way.

Sunday morning during Sunday School, my 4th & 5th graders had a hard time grasping the concept of Lent. They totally got Easter and the resurrection and the love that Jesus has for all of his people, but the 40+ days of preparation was something that was puzzling to them.  Finally, when we began to compare Lent to school something seemed to click.  They understood that if they wanted to get an “A” on a test in school, they would have to pay attention in class, they would have to study; they couldn’t just show up the day of the test without any preparation and expect a good grade.  They then made the jump – perhaps that is what it’s like with Lent and Easter.  No, we’re not trying to get a good grade with God, but we are trying to understand the love that God has for us and the ultimate sacrifice Jesus makes on Easter.  If we were to show up on Easter morning without taking into account the days leading up to Easter, we would miss something.  We wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate what Christ did for us, we wouldn’t understand the limitless love that is offered to us on a daily basis.  By realizing that there is more to the story than Easter morning, my 4th & 5th graders were able to understand the focus and emphasis and intentionality that comes along with the Lenten season.

Lent is not easy, it’s messy; it is a season to wrestle with, it is a season to come to terms with the enormity of God and the grace that is constantly offered to us.  I once wrote a tweet that said, “Christ’s love is the only thing that is consistently there & the only thing I constantly push away.”  This is still true for me today.

What lint is filling up your lint tray during this Lenten season?  What is threatening to start a fire in your life?