New Year, New Spiritual Rhythms?

I’ve had habits that were life giving, but then found a new season upset the apple cart.

New Year, New Spiritual Rhythms?

In the last few weeks I have had a number of conversations on the topic of spiritual rhythms.

Some of my Mill City Church community members were sharing that they were feeling out of step with what God was doing and saying in their lives.

I have also been teaching a class on Spiritual Formation at Bethel University this summer.

I have noticed five things in these recent experiences:

1. Spiritual rhythms, disciplines or practices are often given a bad wrap. Like they are just “going through the motions.” It’s a sort of left-over legalism from the “devo” and “quiet time” days when people saw these rhythms as a way to achieve spiritual points or something. Rather than a way to connect with a God who loves us, wants to lead us, refresh us and guide us toward greater well-being in our lives.

2. Those who try to practice spiritual rhythms are often surprised by the challenge to actually do the rhythms in our hectic lives. It feels like everything is against you: the noise, the Internet, the crowds, the to dos, the list goes on…

3. When people do make an effort to give it a try, they are surprised by how refreshing it is when they get into the habit. They describe feeling a deeper sense of connection to their own soul and to God. They describe peace (or I would use the deep Hebrew word shalom).

4. Many have reflected, myself included, that life is so unpredictable, full of chaos and transitionWhen they have spiritual rhythms in place, those practices may be the only constant in their lives for a whole season! It reminds them that while everything around us is in constant flux and change, God is unchanging.

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5. Finally, those who are questioning God in some way, or even the very existence of God, can find it very difficult to continue spiritual practices. However, the right practices help provide a space to be active in the questions, rather than passive. Space can be created in our day and week to let our questions, curiosity and even doubts expand our minds and hearts.

Personally, at times, I’ve been right there with all five of these observations.

I’ve struggled to pray when I didn’t know if there was a God actually listening.

I’ve felt I was going through the motions—only to find that the chaotic motion of life needed these practices to keep me grounded.

I’ve had habits that were life giving, but then found a new season upset the apple cart. I had to figure out the new rhythms that created the space for my joy, sorrow, questions, praise, gratitude, anger, lament and grief.

What does that space look like for you right now?

In my experience, there is no right or wrong way to fill that space…but not having it can be a disaster.

Don’t get me wrong, creating space for spiritual practices won’t make God love you more.

Failing to do so won’t make God love you less.

It’s about the best life you can live.

It’s about being connected to who you are and Whose you are.

It’s about having a time to enlarge your heart and mind to exist in a world filled with anxiety, tension and dissension. 

It’s about actually having the capacity to love like Jesus:

Love our neighbor. Love our enemy. Love our family we disagree with. Love those whose politics are opposite of ours.

Capacity for that kind of love doesn’t happen by accident.

Next, I will write about the battle of technology and the spiritual life.

I’ll share some thoughts that have helped me use technology to enhance my connection with myself and God rather than detract! So stay tuned and subscribe if you’d like me to send these posts right to your inbox.

In the meantime, below is a short video lecture I gave for the Wellbeing course being launched at Bethel University this fall! Check it out of you have the time.

VIDEO: Establishing Rhythms With God

Steph O'Brien
I pastor Mill City Church in the heart of the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota. They are an amazing group of people with incredible missional zeal.