Just as many of us make New Year’s resolutions in January, as move toward the season of Lent, we sometimes hear about fasting, or “giving up” something. But the reality of these fasts is that they are less about giving up and more about taking on a spiritual practice or spiritual discipline. Historically, these have been fairly straightforward: reading the Meditation, Prayer (Listening), Fasting, Study, Simplicity, Solitude (Silence), Confession, Worship, Hospitality, Guidance, and Celebration. But over time, the people of God have embraced a multitude of different practices which strengthen our spiritual disciplines. 

I’ve never been great at repetitive tasks. I get bored and distracted easily unless there’s a certain level of novelty or variability. There are some areas of my life in which this is a helpful trait, but there are others where it is less so. If you’re like me (and even if you’re not) taking on a new spiritual discipline can be a daunting proposition, but that’s also kind of the point. Sometimes we need to shift the way we do things, in order to make space for what is really important. It’s called a spiritual discipline or a faith practice because both are required. 

There are many different definitions out there, but for the sake of simplicity, a Spiritual Discipline is a regularly repeated practice that enriches our attentiveness to the Holy Spirit, cultivates the life and character of Jesus Christ in us, and strengthens our love for God and others. This is true whether the spiritual discipline is something we take on as an individual or a practice which is taken on by a small group or entire community. 

At their heart, Spiritual Disciplines invite us to be more attentive to God’s presence with us not only in those practices but as we go through each moment of our lives. The more attentive we are, the more readily we are able to join in with what the Holy Spirit is already doing in and around us.

If you haven’t already taken on (or given up) something this Lenten season, I encourage you to prayerfully consider how God is calling you to be more attentive in this season.

— Rev. Bethany McCaffrey



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