For the past evenings I’ve been reading Natalie Goldberg, and she always starts me thinking about how I spend my days. I’m especially drawn to her use of the word “practice;” how her life centers on writing practice and spiritual practice. Her daily practices influence everything she does and writes. I’m talking about practice in the sense of daily regular activities done for the purpose of doing them. Not out of rote or mechanical repetition, but knowing there is benefit. For example, maybe you start off practicing piano every day to become a better player, but eventually it becomes part of your identity. You keep practicing because it is who you are.

This makes me ask, “What are my own practices?”

My longest running practice (sorry about the pun) is running.

Friends often ask why I’m determined to keep running on sore knees when there are other exercise choices. I don’t usually have a good answer. It feels pretentious to say running has become a spiritual practice for me, so I keep that answer to myself. Still, it’s true.

I don’t expect other people to get the same benefit from running that I get, and I don’t think badly about them if they don’t become life-long runners. We’re each drawn to different activities, and I don’t expect anyone to be drawn to mine.

Still, I’ve had people tell me they were inspired to run after reading something I wrote. But then they tried it for a while and gave up because it was too hard. I can’t blame them. It is hard.

I started running in June 1978 in order to win the heart of a girl, to lose weight, and get fitter. It was hard work all summer long. In fact, I ran miles and miles, maybe a year to two, before I found any benefit. Certainly before it became fun. I had to push through discomfort and stress in order to find mental release on the other side. It wasn’t quick, it wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.

My second-longest practice is reading from my Daily Bible.

I have read through the same copy of The Daily Bible in Chronological Order year after year, almost every day, since 1993. I started because, as a Bible teacher, I wanted to learn more things about God. However, after I few passes through the book my motives evolved - I wanted to change who I was and how I lived so I could love God more.

It became a daily practice for me, a spiritual thin place. It grounds me, brings me back home to my base relationship with God, settles my wandering mind, and keeps me from rambling too far from truth. Just the physical act of doing it is peaceful. In fact, a day feels strange and empty until I have my reading.

The thing about spiritual practices is they’re not easy or fun every single time you do them. Some days are hard and cranky and I have to remind myself there is real value in continuing.

Last week I posted, “Is a hard cranky run when I’m struggling with every step better than no run at all?”

Yes, it is, but it isn’t obvious. Even a bad run slows down my day and anchors me to the present. Nothing settles my brain floaters better.

Practice means going out anyway, whether hot or rainy or cold or snowy or early or late. The regular repetition is as important as each actual mile.

Practice means digging my Daily Bible out of my backpack and squeezing today’s reading into a busy day even when the passage is nothing but a long genealogical list of unpronounceable names. Putting my attention to God’s Word centers me.

So why bother? Surely we have enough on or schedule already without adding more things to do.

Because our heart, soul, and mind are influenced by what we hear, read, and do. If we don’t have daily practices that intentionally bring us toward God, the Enemy will pull us away from God. Over the course of our lifetime, it is our practices that make us who we are.

What are your practices? Sharing them may help someone else who needs grounding in their own spiritual life.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32


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Give it Away

Question: What truth do you feel obligated to pass along to others? Last Sunday morning our adult Bible study class took a tour of the new construction at our church - a remodeled worship center, chapel, and visitor center - which will be open for use in a couple of months. It was great to see the progress, but the time spent touring meant I had only a short time to teach the morning’s lesson.

I didn’t want to dive into an Old Testament prophet with so little time, so I talked instead about some verses I read recently in my Daily Bible.

Do you have Bible verses that reach out to grab you, calling you by name? These are some of mine.

“What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you - guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” (2 Timothy 1:13-14)

The Apostle Paul was telling his young student, Timothy, how to live. He was saying, “Do what I do.”

To be honest, for most of my teaching career, that notion that I should expect people to live as I do has made me uncomfortable. Who am I to say something like that?

However, in the margin of my Daily Bible I have a series of notes, each from a different year, and they describe my personal journey through these verses.

“2001 - The longer I teach, the more comfortable I am to say this.”

“2006 - In fact, this is the heart of my ministry as a teacher and writer.”

“2011 - I shouldn’t teach anything unless I believe this.”

The cool thing for me was that once I got over worrying about how I could say, “Do what I do,” a worry that was too self-focused anyway, I was able to notice something deeper in those verses.

The verbs - hear, keep, guard, and entrust - describe a progressive deepening, an embrace, or ownership, of the message.

First, we HEAR something from someone we respect.

Then, because what we heard is important, and because we trust the person who shared it, we decide to KEEP it. We remember it. This requires a decision on our part since we don’t keep everything we hear.

At some point, merely remembering isn’t enough, and we realize the need to GUARD it. We make sure to follow it. We decide to own it. This requires another level of commitment, since we don’t own everything we remember. We remember many useless facts that have no effect on how we live. But when we own this “good deposit”, when we guard it, we have committed to living it out through our daily lives.

And finally, once we realize that what we’ve heard, kept, and guarded, has changed our life and drawn us closer to God, we have to share it. Because it’s more than data, it’s the truth, a good deposit, and it was ENTRUSTED to us.

This verse is talking about more than a transfer of useful information. Something of value has been deposited in our lives with the expectation of a return on investment. The only way to guard the truth is to give it away. A truth kept secret will eventually cease to exist, so we are obligated to give away what we’ve received. And that is that heart of being a Christ follower - giving yourself away.

As you make plans for 2013, ask yourself: What have you HEARD that you finally need to OWN? What has been ENTRUSTED to you that you need to GIVE AWAY? What truth do you feel obligated to pass along?

“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

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