I’ve wanted to write for several days now about a practice I’ve engaged in over the last few years. It’s become a pretty popular exercise, and you’ll find all kinds of information out there on the world wide web! I was probably first exposed to it through using a planner created by Sacred Ordinary Days. The idea goes back to the 6th century when a monk named Benedict developed it for his monastery. I’m not going to go into much detail here but google it and find what you can, if you’re interested.

What I do want to say is that a rule of life is not a set of resolutions, or a mission statement or a set of rules. It is not a list of things that need to be done; it’s about ways we are called to live. Rule refers to measure not regulation. This past year I sat with the idea for several months, and let it simply emerge out of my relationship with God, and some things He was calling me to.

“It is a commitment to live in a certain way. It is created with prayer and discernment as we consider the way God made us and the unique ways we are invited to partner with God in kingdom building” (Sacred Ordinary Days).

“It helps us to stay connected to God in the present moment by noticing the now – not by adding disciplines to an already busy life but by becoming conscious of God in what we are already doing. Our part is to remain available, to listen, to observe, to act, to be. This enables us to remain spiritually alive – mindful of God’s presence with us” (Northumbria Community).

The rule of life is descriptive not prescriptive. Henri Nouwen said this about it – “it does not prescribe, it invites, it does not force, but guides.”

So that’s a quick view into the idea – and you will find all kinds of different ways to create your rule of life, should you choose to do it. I did not start 2023 with a clear idea of what I wanted here – but a few things directed me toward what I wanted it to do.

…regla, a feminine noun, carries gentle connotations;

a sign post, a railing, something that gives me support

as I move forward in my search for God.

Esther de Waal

The first was this definition by Esther de Waal. – I loved that she refers to it as a feminine noun (whereas I think of mission statements as being more masculine in tone – not bad, just very action oriented!).

I knew I wanted something to measure my intentions by and I loved the picture of a signpost. One of the ways I’m wired is that I’m not a details sort of person; I’m more drawn to the big picture. I’m much more likely to tell you how to get somewhere by giving you landmarks, not mile markers! The relevance here is that I am more drawn to symbols (pictures) than instructions. But that’s not true of all of us is it? We may all approach this idea of a rule of life differently. My only recommendation is that we keep it “being” centered, not “doing” centered.

Secondly, I found what I needed in a word by Alexander Schmemann, as I was reading Of Water and the Spirit during Lent last year. It says it all for me… well maybe not all, as you’ll see in a minute. But this quote by him changed the way I started each day.

…that he may remain faithful to his baptism, living by it, making it always the source and the power of his life, a constant judgment, criterion, inspiration, rule of life.

Alexander Schmemman, Of Water and the Spirit

I will explore this more in our journey through Lent (if you stick around for that). The pastoral schools led by Leanne Payne, were, from her perspective, a school of baptism; a preparation for and an affirmation of our baptisms! And they truly were. In some liturgical traditions, this is what the season of Lent is about: helping prepare converts for baptism (which happens on Easter). And I thought – what a way to approach Lent! To spend those weeks affirming my baptism by asking the question – “how will I live out my baptism today?” I’ve been trying to do that on a regular basis throughout the whole year. But “Into Our Bones” for the season of Lent will pursue this in a very intentional manner.

Last year, sometime around June or July – I felt I had a sense of what God was calling me to do in creating a rule of life. I had been praying and reading – and found a few scriptures that were really relevant to the season I was in. (Some people take one word for the whole year – and it becomes something like a rule of life). I had a few quotes, a prayer, and a few questions. As I approach 2024, I’m finding it easier to formulate something that will serve as a signpost for my journey through the year. I’ll share them here.

Schmemann’s quote on baptism is right up there for me. As I ask the question (daily, weekly??) “how will I live out my baptism today?” I know it will include confession, repentance, forgiveness, joy, death, resurrection! So many things…

I’ve also been led to a Scripture passage for 2024 – 2 Peter 1:3 – His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence… (ESV) I know for me I desire to live more fully from Christ’s incarnation in me!

I’ve found a quote that is meaningful to me:

Above all else, trust in the slow work of God.

Pierre Teilhard

And then a prayer – Give me a grace that precedes, follows, guides,
sustains, sanctifies, aids every hour,
that I may not be one moment apart from thee,
but may rely on thy Spirit to supply every thought,
speak in every word, direct every step,
prosper every work, build up every mote of faith,
and give me a desire to show forth thy praise;
testify thy love, advance thy kingdom.
I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year, with
thee, O Father, as my harbor,
thee, O Son, at my helm,
thee, O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.
                        The Valley of Vision (a compilation of Puritan Prayers), Arthur Bennett.

A word God gave me at Cedar Springs last year was about how He wanted me to use the years left to me (I know… I’m not that old!) My calling in this season of life is to share the wisdom God has carved out of me (carved into me) through His sanctifying work – whether in joy or sorrow, suffering or peace, absence or presence. Identifying your calling in the season you are in provides a great signpost not only to your intentions but to the decisions you make about how you spent your time, your resources.

And finally, this question has been on my heart for the last few years – Dealing with chronic pain, being prayed for, being willing to be prayed for when the answers have not gone the way I’ve wanted, have made me wrestle with this question: “What is the posture toward pain that God is calling me to?” It’s an unsettling, deep and profound question because I have to approach it in honesty and humility. It causes me to “reason together with the Lord” (Isa. 1:18).

Let me summarize -a rule of life is simply a way to stay aligned with what God is calling you to become, not a way to measure what you’ve done. It’s a marker, a signpost. It can include all measure of things. A question, a song, a Scripture, a prayer… Whatever God leads you to! I have found there is no end to the resources out there. I’m reminded of part of St. Patrick’s Breastplate. It would make a great signpost or rule of life.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I could say more, but I won’t! Let me leave you with this as you consider a rule of life, and I’m including myself in it.

May it start in us through the song God has sung over us through all our days. May it spring from a place of hunger, and a desire for transformation that can only result in our becoming like Him. May we be resolute in casting off any hindrance, any sin, any relationship that inhibits His sanctifying work in us. May we live out our baptisms every day. From the moment we wake up to the moment we fall asleep may we remember to take our place in His death and in His resurrection – through prayer, through confession, through practicing His presence, through virtue, and through love.