In my trudge through the mundane and my continuing struggle with crabbiness, I am making an effort to be intentional about my ‘best practices’. Why is it so hard to do the right thing?
I get pretty methodical about attending yoga class 2-3 times a week, but this has a pretty significant physical pay-off almost immediately. The strength and flexibility I am obtaining and maintaining from regular yoga is noticeable. Of course, the mindfulness of attending to my breathing and setting aside my “brain activity” for an hour or so a few times a week has emotional pay-off as well.
I also don’t struggle with eating foods that improve my health. Although I don’t notice an immediate positive payoff from eating the right things, I do experience almost immediate consequences if I eat the wrong things. For instance, because I take homeopathic remedies, I don’t drink coffee. Apparently coffee can ‘cancel’ any benefit you get from homeopathic remedies. Last weekend, to celebrate my mother’s birthday, I had a small glass of kahlua — the only alcohol my mother drinks. (And when I say ‘drinks’, I mean “flavors her ice cream with.”) It didn’t dawn on me until about 24-48 hours after that glass of kahlua that kahlua is made from coffee. Why did I remember? Because the psoriasis on the palm of my right hand that had been almost completely under control, raged angrily. When I had scratched my palm to the point of bleeding it occurred to me that perhaps I had ‘cancelled’ out my homeopathic benefit. Ok, fine. I’ll stay away from coffee and kahlua.
Exercise and diet are very easy for me to maintain. I probably owe that to my history with an eating disorder. Although, my motivation has changed over the years from losing weight to feeling well, the ability to stick with a plan is pretty solid. However, the best practices that attend to my spiritual health are so much harder for me to maintain.
One hundred and twelve days ago, I got the YouVersion Bible app on my phone. I committed to reading the entire Bible in one year because our campus pastor told me to. I’m pretty good at following instructions, but I’m also pretty good at procrastinating. I’m almost always running about three days behind in my reading, but I discovered recently that if I put in my headphones and listen to the daily readings while I walk, I am more inclined to stay on track. I’m not as religious about Bible reading as I am about getting my steps in. (Insert eye-roll here.)
Last year, you might remember that I was reading Beth Moore’s Whispers of Hope: Ten Weeks of Devotional Prayer. The book encouraged me to write down my prayers in a journal after reading each devotion, so I did! It was a great practice. In fact, I think I have read through the book almost three times. But when I don’t pick up the book, I don’t write down my prayers. And, full disclosure, when I don’t have a regular time devoted to writing down prayers, my prayers often devolve to haphazard spur-of-the moment utterances. Yeah, it’s embarrassing.
And you remember my battalion? My group of ladies that I met with on Wednesdays the first two years that I was in Ann Arbor? The ones I did countless Bible studies with, prayed with, and got encouragement from? Well, my schedule doesn’t permit me to join them any more. And, though I claim to be mostly an introvert (yes, I know I look extroverted sometimes), I need the community of ladies and the regular time in my schedule to ensure that I am working through a Bible study, challenging myself, and connecting with God through Scripture in meaningful ways.
Not only that, I need my Sunday morning body of believers and a regular message from my pastor. Even that has been disrupted over the last several months. Because we had the distinct privilege of traveling to South Africa and Israel, the opportunity to visit with family over the holidays, and the honor of joining other congregations where my husband preaches, our attendance at our own congregation has been spotty. Yes, we have worshipped in other places — almost every Sunday, but it is not the same as gathering with our own church family and experiencing the spiritual journey that happens when you join with others in one place.
Failing to follow these spiritual best practices — daily Bible reading, prayer, group Bible study, and community worship — has consequences that, although not immediately noticeable, build over time and become quite evident eventually. Eventually has arrived. The evidence of spiritual apathy over here is quite real.
So, how am I returning to these best practices? Sluggishly, I’ll admit. As I mentioned, I’m plugging into my Bible ‘readings’ while I walk. I am meeting with a few other women who have committed together to reading Ann Voskamp’s The Broken Way. And, on weeks like this one, where I am not attending my own congregation, I am re-committing to regular attendance at chapel services here on campus. I guess you could say that the campus community is our second congregation — we grow within this spiritual family, too.
My blog seems to follow a theme. I’ve been teaching my literature students that authors use themes to convey messages through their writing. Those themes, I tell my students, can be stated in terms of a subject plus a verb — for example, ‘struggle transforms’, ‘tradition endures’, and ‘lies always surface’.
I force my students to follow a formula when writing analytical thesis statements — Author, in Title, verb + how or why. For example, I might write this on the board tomorrow: ‘Mark Haddon, in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time uses Christopher’s struggle with autism to convey the theme that difficulties can be overcome.’
Or, I might write this: ‘In the story of my life, God, through continually offering grace despite my habitual turning away, conveys the theme that He loves me.’ That’s His best practice.
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.