For the past five months, I’ve started every day the same way… STRETCHING. I pull myself out of bed, throw my yoga mat on the floor and spend fifteen minutes stretching my back, shoulders, hips, and neck. I even threw my mat in my luggage when we visited Julia in Georgia, so I could keep the streak going while on vacation. I’ve found the older I get the tighter my joints and muscles get. I figured that this is a habit I could begin which will have long-term health benefits.
I do the same set of stretches every morning… I like routines. I end with a “butterfly stretch” where I’m sitting with my feet together, back straight, and knees pushed to each side… and I look at the wall of crosses in my study (see picture above). I use this moment to center my day on Jesus. At different times I’ve prayed the “Lord’s Prayer” or recited Psalm 23. Recently it’s been Galatians 2:20 which has been on my heart:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
For me, looking at a wall of crosses takes my heart and mind to the crucifixion and the great love Jesus has for me… and then calls me to live this day as a person of faith, as a person who trusts Jesus through the ups and downs of my days. Starting my day with a routine of stretching and centering sets a foundation upon which I can build… I read a short daily devotional each day, study scripture and pray for my family, friends, and the church… and then I venture out into the unknown of a new day.
How we order our day matters.
I wish there was an easy way I could grow into greater Christlikeness… just snap my fingers or take a “spiritual supplement” which causes me to grow. But. There. Isn’t. It just takes effort, intention to be shaped into the image of Jesus, and habits that SLOWLY cause me to change.
I must be very careful here… I am not trying to earn anything from God. I am not attempting to prompt God to love me more. God’s grace and mercy have covered my sin. I can now freely put effort into my spiritual life so that the Holy Spirit can bring out the best spiritual fruit possible. Dallas Willard describes it this way: “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action. Grace, you know, does not just have to do with forgiveness of sins alone.”
There is an ancient Christian practice called “A Rule of Life” which can help order our days. A Rule of Life is “a pattern of spiritual disciplines that provide space and structure for growth in Christ-likeness” or to put it another way, “It’s an intentional, conscious, Spirit-directed plan to keep God at the center of everything we say and do. A rule of life can provide structure and support for our souls.”
Here is the process I used to develop A Rule of Life:
Take time to be alone or with your spouse to intentionally pray through and brainstorm.
How can I best grow my relationship with God to a place of greater trust?
How can I best nurture my most important relationships?
How can I best care for my physical and emotional life?
What practices will help me care for and serve others?
Is there a particular sin that needs direct attention?
How can I integrate silence and solitude into my life?
How can I ruthlessly eliminate hurry from my life?
As we come out of the pandemic, this is a perfect time to be innovative… I encourage you to think about one new habit which will help you flourish in the season ahead. What is one small change you can make that will bring about greater health physically, emotionally, relationally, or spiritually? It can be as easy as getting down on the floor and STRETCHING your body and soul.