We often talk about spiritual disciplines in Church. We encourage regular prayer, daily devotions, or time set aside for Bible study or journaling. The options are endless really. The idea is that you create space for regular connection to God. Otherwise, we can easily get swept up in the busyness of life and only connect to God on Sundays – or worse, neglect our relationship with God altogether. That temptation is ever heightened during Advent: a time when many of forget about Advent altogether because we are so focused on Christmas. And the secular world has no intention of helping us separate the two. Even the Church struggles as we plan Christmas parties, pageants, greening, and liturgies. Put simply, it is hard to focus on Advent, even if we want to focus on Advent.
To help combat this tendency, I have taken up two spiritual disciplines – one with my family and one with my Church. The discipline my family is taking on is the 40-day bag challenge. We are taking turns with the bags, figuring out who will be purging what areas. But the idea is that by clearing out space in our home we might also clear out space for one another and for God.
The other discipline is reading the Advent and Christmastide devotional book, Night Visions, by Jan L. Richardson. Richardson combines reflections, art, and poetry each day to take us out of ourselves and to help us reconnect with the quiet, intentional invitation of Advent. Our parish is reading this book together as part of our “Reading with the Rector” program. My hope is that by regular, short readings, I will get the boost I need to re-center each day in hope, waiting, and quiet expectation.
I mention these two disciplines not because I am proud or because I think my disciplines are particularly praiseworthy this Advent. I mention these two disciplines because I want your help. I want your help to keep me accountable to the life I want to have as priest, a wife, a mother, and member of my community, especially in a season when I could easily be tempted to do otherwise. That’s the funny thing about spiritual disciplines. Though they are personal and individual, we experience the most success in our disciplines when we share them within the community of faith. So feel free to message me here, email me, or post questions on my Facebook wall. And if you need help with your own disciplines, I’m happy to ask you about yours too. Maybe together we can prepare our hearts for that most sacred night with the Christ Child. I’m in. Are you?