Have you ever felt like a tree being whipped about in a storm? The competing needs of family, friends, community, and career have tossed me from one crisis to the next during seasons of bad weather. It’s spiritual practices that keep me grounded…spiritual practices that work.
During such times, I am glad to be rooted in God. God is the one who keeps me from being uprooted or snapping in two. Just as a tree has to develop deep roots to stay whole, we need deep spiritual roots to stay healthy and holy. Deep roots require the right kind of soil with the right kind of light along with the right amount of rain. When these things are in place, the tree is grows tall and strong and we are able to withstand any storm.
The classic spiritual practices prepare us to sink roots deep into God: prayer, fasting or abstinence, study, and spiritual friendship. My years in the church have shown me a very unfortunate attitude about spiritual practices.
I call it the “One Way Syndrome.”
Somehow we have been convinced that there is only one way to pray, study, fast or abstain, or have holy conversations.
- Prayer is silent with closed eyes, bowed head, and folded hands.
- Study is answering questions in a book and then memorizing verses.
- Fasting requires willpower to keep from eating certain foods.
- Spiritual friendship means being held accountable for our failures.
Then when these spiritual practices fail to nourish our spirits, we blame ourselves.
We may even stop trying to develop a healthy root system.
Each of us is created in the divine image (Genesis 1:26) and ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Psalm 139:14).
Each one of us is unique. Just as my three children are so different from each other, God’s billions of children are completely different from each other.
Because we are different, the ways in which we pray, fast, study, and fellowship will be different as well.
To find the most nourishing ways in which to engage in spiritual practices means experimenting. Over time, we may find that what worked in the past is no longer helpful – and we have to experiment again. When “One Way Syndrome” rears its guilt-producing head…
Be Gentle With Yourself
You are not a failure because your best way to connect with God is not the way your pastor, mother, friend, or small group leader connects. Try something new to help put down deep roots in God. Try:
Spiritual Practices That Work!
- If closing your eyes, bowing your head, and folding your hands puts you to sleep, take a walk. Taking in God’s creation through your senses can keep you energized and increase your gratitude.
- If you find yourself making grocery lists while trying to pray in silence, write your prayers. The rhythm of pen on paper or the sound of keys clacking may be what you need for focus.
- If answering questions in a study book bores you or memorizing verses is difficult, try using your ‘faith imagination.’ Put yourself into the Scripture: What do you hear, see, smell, feel, or taste? How did that exercise inform your understanding of Scripture?
- Many of us can not fast from food because of health issues, but all of us can fast from attitudes or words that harm relationships. Abstaining from harmful habits such as smoking can create new opportunities for prayer or study.
- Spiritual friends hold one another accountable – but true spiritual friends also support, encourage, and celebrate. To have such a friend, you need to be such a friend. In your small group or with your friends, offer tangible help, give honest praise, and applaud victories. Do not be afraid to ask for the same from them.
As we draw nearer to God through our spiritual practices, our roots go deep. We will not just survive. We will thrive and withstand any storm that comes our way.
If you would like other suggestions for prayer, study, fasting/abstinence, Christian friendship, or other spiritual practices, please contact me or leave a comment below. I would love to walk with you as you discover your best way to connect with God.
About Carol Pazdersky
Carol Pazdersky is an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church. She serves Bel Air UMC in Bel Air, MD, as the Pastor for Congregational Care and Missions/Outreach and on the Boards of Faith Communities and Civic Agencies United and Be the Change Baltimore addressing issues of homelessness. On a daily basis, Carol ministers with women who are seeking to balance their personal, professional, and spiritual lives. She is a wife, mother of three young adults, daughter of aging parents, friend, and animal lover and on the same journey to find balance. Her sermons are archived on the following sites: www.MtCarmelChapel.org and www.BAUMC.com.
I’m Carol Pazdersky, a pastor at Bel Air United Methodist Church in Bel Air, MD (Jory’s church). Spiritual formation is my passion! I have seen so many women facing burn-out because of the heavy load they carry – being a supportive partner, involved parent, care-giving daughter, strong business leader, and dedicated friend. With all that is happening, the spiritual life can take a back-seat – and without the firm foundation of Jesus, we may feel like a dry well. What are your greatest spiritual needs? How can I offer support and encouragement for your journey? On the other hand, some women have figured out the balance between faith, family, friendship, and business. I would love to have you share your wisdom as well. Email me at pazderskyc@ baumc.com with your victories, challenges, questions, and thoughts, and I will respond to them in the coming months. I’m looking forward to sharing this journey with you.