Week 2 – Cultivating Daily Habits

Christopher Hushaw   -  

Week 2: Cultivating Daily Habits

Shortly after being locked down for a year with the anxious season of Covid, a friend called me and invited me to play golf with a well loved pastor and one of my favorite authors and speakers. He was stepping out from pastoring a large church up north and shared with us how he came to realize his soul had fallen into an unhealthy rhythm for life—unhealthy spiritually, emotionally, and relationally. How simple and yet how complicated it is to slow down. Anyone relate? 

There is something that is touched by the holy in our soul (which I described in last week’s blog, if you haven’t read it, as being our “mind, heart and the decisions we make with them”) when our daily routines, foundations and relations are up turned. I know the hurry and busyness that characterize my own life and heart that precludes caring for my soul—and I know what that hurry and busyness does to my life with Jesus. I know what it does to my relationship with my wife and kids. With the patterns and choices of everyday life. I know what it does to my soul. 

I’m guessing I’m not the only one. Even in quarantine when we didn’t have anywhere to go, I still found ways to hurry! I found ways avoid slowing down, stay busy and distracted. Isn’t it interesting how insidious the ways of the adversary are to turn us from the most import rule of life? 

Only when our Habits of Life align to the most important can we truly care for our soul.  Our habits either conform us to the world or they can transform us to the will of God (The Roman’s 12:1-2 Principle). The way of Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Rule of Life  (“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” -John 14:6).

Over the next three months of my sabbatical season, I am recalibrating a rested and renewal pattern of life by pointing to the path of Jesus – I’ll call them simply my “Daily Habits”, with the goal of creating more at what’s beneath the hurry, busyness and distractions of life and explore the practices of daily, weekly and regular habits of silence, solitude and sabbath. Do you want to come with me?

This week I follow up on my spiritual retreat prayer and readings by creating common rules of practice toward the God who made us and loves us. So I am asking the Lord to reveal how hurry and busyness undercut my attempts to cultivate a rich life with Jesus. What the Lord revealed is the number one reason I, and perhaps you too, need a “Rule of Life.”

What is a Rule of Life?

The word “rule” comes from the Latin word “regula,” which literally means “a straight piece of wood,” but it’s also the word used for a trellis. Think about what a trellis does for a vine: it supports and provides structure for the vine to grow. Without a trellis, a vine will stop growing, begin to wither, and eventually die. This image becomes even more vivid when we recall Jesus mandate in his message to his friends from John 15.

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” -John 15:4-5

Jesus’ fundamental call to us is to create a “trellis” of structure that enables us to abide in him. To be with him. To find our life in him. A Rule of Life helps us order our life in such way to make that possible. It’s the trellis that enables us to abide in Jesus. 

John Mark Comer in his book “The Relentless Elimination of Hurry” writes, “What a trellis is to a vine, a Rule of Life is to abiding. It’s a structure—in this case a schedule and a set of practices—to set up abiding as the central pursuit of your life. It’s a way to organize all of your life around the practice of the presence of God, to work and rest and play and eat and drink and hang out with your friends and run errands and catch up on the news, all out of a place of deep, loving enjoyment of the Father’s company.”

Pete Scazzero defines it this way: “A Rule of Life, very simply, is an intentional, conscious plan to keep God at the center of everything we do.”

What I am discovering and Implementing as my “Daily Habits”: 

First, choosing “Daily Habits” (my Rule of Life) is a means to an end. The end is enjoying and abiding with Jesus! Daily Habits help me create space to cultivate my relationship with him. It’s a means to that end.

Second, Daily Habits encompass the whole of life. In other words, it’s not just a schedule for spiritual practices. My Daily Habits include my body, soul and spirit. When I focus on cultivating and caring for my soul (which is our habits, those decisions that create patterns of work and rest in my body, and all other parts that constitute me as a person), my body and spirit find peace. 

This is important to recognize because one of the greatest challenges of engaging in spiritual practices for me is seeing how they fit into the whole of life. For example, I might have great aspirations to incorporate more prayer, Bible reading, silence and solitude into my life with Jesus, but the reality is that’ll never happen unless I limit the number of hours I’m spending at work, watching reels, streaming Netflix  or scrolling on the phone. Developing Daily Habits helps me to look at my life as a whole and see the ways my spiritual life with Jesus is connected to the daily habits in my daily world, like our sleep habits, our use of technology, our work schedule, etc. In this way, a well constructed Daily Habit can help slow me down to love God and love people in a way that would otherwise be impossible.

Third, whether I recognize it or not, I already have Daily Habits. The problem is that they tend to be subconscious and un-intentional! Every day I make decisions with my soul (which is my mind and heart that shape my daily decisions I make). As Annie Dillard said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor and with both hands at sections of time.” 

The advantage of intentionally planned Daily Habits is that it guards us from living lives that we don’t actually want to live. It helps us organize our days in a way that keeps enjoying and abiding with Jesus in the central place.

Fourth, Daily Habits provides the structure we need in every aspect of life. I can look back on how the season of Covid created new schedules and rhythms of life that were thrown off completely which created both a need and an opportunity to put some key practices in place. Daily Habits are a much needed tool for my sabbatical season! How about you?

Daily Habits “can set us free to be our true and best selves. It is a working document, a kind of spiritual budget, not carved in stone but subject to regular review and revision. It should support us, but never constrict us.” Margaret Guenther

Some considerations as I develop my Daily Habits

There’s no single “correct” way to do my Daily Habits. Other wise they become self righteous and pharisaical practices to judge my self and judge others. Daily Habits depend on age, stage of life, personality, work schedules, my season journey with Jesus, what drains or what gives life and encouragement, whether a morning person or a night owl. I found some practical steps in my week 1 retreat and include some below:

Starting small & simple. My temptation is to develop an overly-ambitious list of Daily Habits that looks great on paper but is totally unrealistic in practice. So I’ll start small knowing I can always add more.

My stage of life. My young dad season with 4 kids under the age of ten looked very different from my season with Linda seeing our fourth child graduate from college and walking into her adult career. Linda and I, while grieving the quiet household of loving and raising kids, are finding our household is filled with a new season of creating Daily Habits of love. 

Being flexible. Developing Daily Habits that fits my rhythm of life is a process of trial and error. So my sabbatical will be filled with experimenting until I find what works.

Specific. I will try to creat Daily Habits for practices that are practical, concrete, and embodied, not vague and ideological, e.g. “Sabbath on Mondays” not “take a day off.”

Include the basics. I will include at least these three basic Daily Habits: Scripture & Prayer, Silence & Solitude, and Sabbath. These spiritual practices are the essentials to life with Jesus. I will look at these in greater detail in the coming weeks of my sabbatical, and try to include them as Daily Habits.

PRACTICE OF THE WEEK: Create a personal rule of life by creating Daily Life.

STEP #1: Spend some time looking at the resources from my week 1 retreat.

Crafting a Personal Rule of Life” from Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.
(The Scazzeros provide some great questions that help identify life-giving and life-depleting practices. His “Rule of Life” worksheet suggests four quadrants through which to view life: Relationships, Prayer, Rest, and Work.

Developing a Personal Rule of Life Workbook” from Bridgetown Church.
– a holistic and user-friendly workbook to help construct Daily Habits. They have some great questions and suggested practice.

STEP #2: Prayerfully reflect upon and answer the questions from the Scazzeros’ and the Bridgetown Workbook.

STEP #3: Draft my Daily Habits fitting it onto a single page to ensure that it’s realistic and doable.

STEP #4: Discuss my Daily Habits with my wife, Linda. Invite her to speak into what is written. Live and practice the Daily Habits together to find good daily, weekly and regular rhythms of silence, solitude and sabbath. 

STEP #5: Try it out. I will spend the next few weeks with it, and revise as needed. If I find it to be overwhelming or unrealistic in certain ways, then I will change those parts.

My Daily Habits will be a means to an end and not the end itself! The end is abiding with Jesus—the one who loves me and has given himself for me. And his love isn’t dependent upon how well I keep these Daily Habits! I will not judge myself or anyone else based on these Daily Habits. 

My sabbatical reading: