Doing this 30 day Spiritual Discipline challenge has had such an impact on every area of my life.
I’ve lacked consistent discipline in most areas of my life for a long time. I’ve often thought of myself as not a “morning person” and that structure and routine were in contrast to my personality. I almost never got up early, lacked consistency in spending time with God, and had no real lifestyle of disciple in my life.
Over the last couple weeks, however, deciding to start every day with getting up early and spending time with God has not only been amazing for my relationship with Him, it has bred discipline in every other area of my life. I believe God has designed discipline to work like a muscle, where the more we work it out, the more strength we will have in it, when we need to use it later.
So by choosing to get up when that first alarm sounds to spend time with God, we are setting the tone for the rest of the day, hopefully breeding more discipline from that first simple act.
I’ve come to view discipline as a gift from God rather than a burden; a gift that brings freedom and joy. It has nothing to do with rules or legalism or religion. It’s the way our perfect, loving father designed us to thrive. When we choose discipline, we are choosing to step in to our God-given design and purpose for abundant life through Him.
Even though I usually am not jumping out of bed as soon as I hear that alarm, eager to start the day, it has become easier and easier to make that decision, because of all the God-given fruit that I’ve seen come from it.
Discipline = joy and freedom
I truly believe that’s the way God designed it.
Starting the journey of the booklet has given me a tangible opportunity to dive deeper into my relationship with the Lord. I was able to share the booklet with a few girls that I mentor back home in Saskatchewan. They are currently in grade 11 and are finding it difficult to navigate the Christian life in high school.
This booklet has given us a basis to practice Christian disciplines and keep each other accountable over group chats. Along with my youth girls, my best friend and her boyfriend are also going through it together. The Following Jesus booklet is not only being used by the CLA community but it is helping people grow in faith on a national scale.
While I was praying to be more generous and open handed with everything I have, I heard God say “Your car is a gift from me”. Now recently my car has been popping up with more and more issues and I’ve been getting so frustrated and stubborn about taking care of it. I’ve just been expecting my car to not cause me a lot of trouble, because I have more important things to worry about. But once he said “your car is a gift from me”, my perspective immediately changed from “Why do I HAVE to pour so much money into MY car?” to “I GET TO take care of the car HE gave me, and use it to bless people”. Now I’m more excited to take care of my car, knowing it’s ultimately His, and not just another thing of mine that’s draining my money.
I’ve always found the discipline of solitude to be daunting. I’m someone who hates being alone and I can’t stand being silent for more than a few minutes. I never really grasped the purpose of it, and thought that it wasn’t something I needed in my walk with Jesus. Most of my quiet times with Jesus consist of worship music, and if I’m honest I usually getting distracted. However, learning about the discipline of solitude in the second week of the book really started to convict me that it IS important. One of the unique practices in the booklet is to spend time alone with God and so I decided to put all my effort into making that time valuable. I put away my phone and anything else that might distract me, I sat on my bed with just my journal and said “God, I’m listening to what you have to say.” And what happened when I did that was honestly amazing! He spoke to me so vividly and so clearly within the first few minutes of choosing to be silent. I was amazed at how much He spoke when I just came before Him in silence, not distracted by my own words or ideas. I’ve realized the beauty of solitude, as it allows you to be fully present and in-tune with your Father.
I’ve now realized that most of the times I’ve sat wondering why God isn’t speaking to me are the result of not allowing for space, time, and silence. I now realize that I need to commit to spending time in solitude at least once a week because of its incredible value.
I have found myself on the tail-end of an absolutely crazy week.
In the past week I've lost my job, was kicked out of my house, and was told by God that it is time to pursue post-secondary education.
Suffice to say, my life is in flux, and it sort of feels like things are out of control.
One thing that making a commitment to following the disciplines laid out by this book, "Following Jesus", has allowed me to do, is retain my footing, and remain rooted in practices that God already had established in my life, but that perhaps would have been temporarily lost in the stress and turmoil of the past week due to the weakness of my flesh.
The fruit of daily scripture reading, prayer, and reflective journaling has been undeniable.
God consistently confirms the path He has laid out for me, and comforts me by the admonishment of His Word.
He draws near in moments and spaces where He is made the priority through prayer.
He gives clarity of thought, insight, and peace as I consider the implications of things He has spoken in writing.
I would hope that in the midst of your own sufferings, struggles, and confusions, you would make, or find the time to establish Jesus as King.
If I’m going to be honest, I’ve been totally sucking at participating in the unique practices during our exploration of the spiritual disciplines. If I’m being real, I’ve probably completed 3.5/15 practices completely and I’m being generous with that number.
However, there is one practice that has impacted me and it’s the practice of fasting. I’ve always known about this practice, but thought it was outdated. Thinking that only “really spiritual” people participated in this ritual. I was also hesitant to try it because of the implications it could have on my body.
Nonetheless I gave it a try and I’m still reaping the benefits to this day. Day to day our lives are busy and if they’re not busy our “downtime” is filled with episodes of Netflix or scrolling on Instagram. For me, this has produced a numbing effect. Almost like applying anesthetic to my pain, but never really dealing with why the pain exists in the first place. I think at times in my life I use these distractions such as, busyness, food, or entertainment, to avoid facing the pain of my own life. I use these distractions because if I let myself sit with my own thoughts, judgements, criticisms or shame, that pain may be just too much.
With fasting, you come face-to-face with the Father, having to present your real and honest self. The good, bad and the ugly. But the best part is you’re not met with judgement, but instead you’re met with gentleness and grace. You come to the one who has the authority to judge or shame, but He doesn’t. He chooses to meet us loving kindness. If you want to read more about this, read John 8!
One of the greatest benefits of fasting is realizing that those distractions don’t need to be a part of your daily life. That you're not a slave to the compulsion of seeking comfort. It’s like hitting a reset button. Allowing you to re-prioritize and see the world with new clarity.
Since I have started the disciplines, I feel so alive!! My heart is hungry to delight in the Lord more. I feel continually invited into surrender! And I’m more and more believing that in every season, he is at work using me to bring his kingdom here on earth.
I can get caught up in the hopeless pain of the world. Poverty, persecution, corruption, accidents, death, betrayal, fires, cancer.
My personality and heart empathize with other’s pain in a tangible way. Taking on other’s weighted burdens is something Jesus has taught me to do, slowly, surrendering my own comfort. But asking Jesus to break my heart for what breaks His has always equated with heavy.
The past 2 weeks I’ve found myself in the midst of hurting communities: mourning loss, navigating uncertainties, holding on by threads. Having just come out of the solitude and fasting chapters of Following Jesus, my knees hit the ground in response to all this suffering faster than ever. Being able to participate in people’s hurt, choosing to walk past the couch of personal comfort and sit on the cold, hard ground with them; joining together in communion over brokenness, is a blessing.
As I pour myself out and cultivate time and space for Jesus to re-fill me, my broken heart turns from empathetically sourced ache to: “God, what a privilege it is to intercede in prayer for those in pain.” Intercessory prayer reflects God’s own character of outgoing love and mercy. It is the power of being used by God as instruments, His hands and feet. What a joy it is to interact in intimate partnership with God’s heart by bringing the needs of others to Him through redemptive prayer. I’ve learnt that my part in intercessory prayer is not to be barricaded by the pain or to agonize over how to intercede; my part is to be fuelled by these heartbreaking situations and to use the everyday circumstances and people around me, by God’s providence, to bring them into His gracious hands- allowing His Spirit in me the opportunity to intercede for them. Once our eyes can be opened to this privilege, the ripple effect turns hopeless chaos into beauty.
The disciplines have helped me approach my faith in a new way that makes my connection with God feel more personal. Through meditation I have gained a greater ability to comprehend scripture and focus on my faith with minimal distractions. My understanding of Christ’s love has increased through the readings, challenges, and specifically through prayer. The morning prayer of submission helps me give up control and surrender my day to God. By asking him to work through me, I have been able to feel his continual presence in all aspects of my life. I find my thoughts have transformed - often thinking first of Gods intentions for us as opposed to my own interests. The disciplines have helped me create a daily routine of investing in my relationship with God, something I wish I could have done sooner!
Starting these disciplines was a grind. I struggled to wake up early. However, the struggle quickly disappeared as I learned the importance of these disciplines. I could see the Lord moving in my heart early on in the journey. I soon found myself excited to wake up early- to study and grow in a deeper relationship with Him. Taking time out of my day - sacrificing something I loved was important for me and it taught me the importance of giving things up.
Going through the week of simplicity was with out doubt the hardest for me personally. The Lord showed me how much I was attached to material things. Through-ought that week a lot of people I love lost much more then just a piece of clothing... there were lives lost, disease diagnosed and relationships broken. I originally found it hard to give the little things up but when God put this into perspective it hit me hard. The biggest take away for me was that this world is only temporary and that attachment to things can engulf our lives and end up resembling who we are. But when we submit to the Lord and simplify - we’ll come to realize how freeing it is. For me, the bonds to this world broke and now my relationship with God is on the road to reconciliation. I now have space to focus on what matters and my relationship with our Saviour has began to grow tremendously. Giving priority to these disciplines in my life has shown me who I am and what I love. Thank you Lord for making me recognize the cracks that need to be filled by your unfailing love.