The creation of the world is recorded in Genesis, and throughout the process of creating God saw that what He created was good: “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good” (Genesis 1: 3-4). We worship an all-powerful and creative God, and one of the ways we can adore God is by finding delight in what He has created. For today’s spiritual practice spend time in nature observing the wonder of what God has created.
Gratitude is a way of communicating kindness. The spiritual practice for today is gratitude. Expressing gratitude draws us closer to the Lord, and also can have the benefit of lightening depressive symptoms. Let’s look at a few ways to express gratitude to God, others, and even to yourself.
Gratitude to God
Express gratitude through written or spoken word to God – specifically for what He has done for you.
Be of service to God, making yourself available and ready to be used by God.
Show gratitude to God by following His commands and delighting in His Word.
Gratitude to others
Write a note or send a text to someone for something about them that you are grateful for.
Be of service to someone: hold a door open, return their shopping cart, share a smile.
Tell someone that you are thankful to see them.
Offer gratitude and accept when a kindness is offered to you.
Gratitude to Yourself
Be grateful for an able body and an able mind.
Be grateful for a soul that yearns to connect with God.
Be grateful for the breath in your lungs that comes from God.
Prayer is our direct line of communication with God. It draws us into deeper relationship with God, prayer reminds us that God is in control, and prayer helps us to be patient. The spiritual practice for today is prayer. There are many different ways to pray, but today I share seven ways to communicate with God through prayer. Select one or two of the following suggestions for praying today.
Writing a letter to God, writing a journal entry to God, writing a poem or hymn to God, drawing an image from scripture like the manger, the cross, or empty tomb.
A great prayer for releasing anxiety, worry, or stress to God. Inhale for 4 seconds, and exhale for 6 seconds. See the following pairings for breathing in God’s presence:
Inhale --->The Lord
Exhale ---> is my Shepherd
Inhale ---> Our Father
Exhale. ---> who is in heaven
Inhale. --> Let go
Exhale. --> Let God
Whether in person, on the phone, or even through text, connect with a friend and include Jesus in the conversation. Be intentional to pray with each other, for each other, and for others. This type of prayer connects us with God as a community of believers.
Read a passage from the Bible then have a conversation with God about it. Tell Him how you connect with it, or how you are thankful for the scripture, or whatever you notice from your reading.
Spending quiet time with God through confessing sins, confessing struggles or heartaches, confessing desires. He already knows what you need to confess, but confessing helps us to grow in our faith walk.
Prayer of Examen
Examen is an Ignatian prayer practice that occurs at the end of the day consisting of giving thanks, asking for help or direction, reflecting on the events of the day, asking for forgiveness, and deciding to change.
The Daily Office
The daily office is a spiritual practice of morning and evening prayers. The practice begins with David in the Old Testament, and later encouraged in monastic orders of the 6th century early church. The daily office consists of scripture reading and morning and evening prayer. It is more formal and reverent in practice. This is a link to the Daily Office in the Northumbria Community in Ireland – a Celtic Christian community:
The spiritual practice for today is praying Scripture. There is a security in the prayers that have been set before us in the Holy Scriptures, and that security can give us peace for each new day. Choose one of the scripture passages below (or you can select both) and make the prayers a personal confession to God. Pray the scripture in the morning, in the afternoon, and before bedtime. Prayer doesn’t always have to sound formal; it can be a tender conversation between you and God the Father. For the Lord’s prayer, you will notice that I changed the first-person pronoun from plural to singular to make the prayer even more personal (“our” becomes “my,” “we” becomes “I/me”).
The Lord’s Prayer
"My Father in heaven,
may your name be kept holy.
May your kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
Give me today the food I need,
and forgive me of my sins,
as I forgive those who sin against me.
And don’t let me yield to temptation,
but rescue me from the evil one."
The Shepherd’s Prayer
"The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
He leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to His name.
Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for You are close beside me.
Your rod and Your staff
protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely Your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
In Psalm 30: 11 David says “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,” and in the same chapter, verse 5 David says “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” We may not always feel like dancing or singing, but, in time, God leads us into joy.
The spiritual practice for today is worship through singing. Since the fruit of the Spirit for today is joy, let us rejoice in the day the Lord has made with a grateful heart and praise. Allow this song to fill your mind and heart today as you draw close to the Lord.
This is the Day
This is the day, this is the day
that the Lord has made,
that the Lord has made;
we will rejoice,
we will rejoice and be glad in it,
and be glad in it.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
we will rejoice and be glad in it.
This is the day,
this is the day that the Lord has made.
Today begins the final segment with the Fruit of the Spirit in our 40-day Lent journey. For this last portion we will focus on being formed by the Holy Spirit through spiritual practices. These spiritual formation exercises will not include as many questions as previous sections, instead an offering of daily guidance for a spiritual practice that helps to conform us to the Lord’s will. Spiritual practices not only draw us into deeper relationship with the Lord, but also help with mental health and well-being.
The spiritual practice for today is Scripture memorization. We return to the fruit of the Spirit with a few verses about love. Select one or several of the verses below about love and spend time today memorizing the verse(s). Notice the comfort that memorizing Scripture will bring to you today.
“Jesus replied. ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the greatest commandment. A second is equally important: love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Matthew 22: 37-39
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3: 16
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
1 Corinthians 13: 4-7
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
1 John 4: 10-11
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, training us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live in a manner that is self-controlled and righteous and godly in the present age.”
Titus 2: 11-12
Meditate or Reflect
We live in a world of excess and accessibility: if we want something, it can be delivered to our door in a day or less at the touch of a button. Food delivery, grocery delivery, everything under the sun from Amazon delivery – it seems all these conveniences have made us overindulgent. I love books, the traditional kind that you can hold and turn the pages. I love the smell, the texture, a beautiful cover, and if there is a collection or series – I want them all. Admittedly, I have given in from time to time and purchased all the books from an author in a single purchase. I lacked self-control because my desire became impulsive, and I lacked the “holy pause” to make the right decision. Impulse control can be a challenge, it can be emotionally and even physically painful to deny our “wants.” In those moments we can lose sight of what is good for the soul simply to placate the desires of the “self.” The visible image I have of the desiring “self” is as an emotionally unregulated toddler having a tantrum on the toy aisle of the grocery store – it’s loud and nonsensical. But we have a Helper that is more accessible than an online shopping cart, and the Helper is leading us and training us to live self-controlled, godly lives. When I do boundary work with clients I always say: “time and space are our great tools.” Many times, the most important boundary we set is with ourselves; living in a way that is neither too loose, nor too rigid. Self-control begins with a holy pause as we bring our desires (even the small stuff) under the Lordship of Jesus. Praying for direction, letting go of the excessive, and delighting in the only thing that really matters: “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvations to all” and that we “live in a manner that is self-controlled and righteous and godly.”
“Brothers and sisters, even if a person is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual are to restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you are not tempted as well.”
Galatians 6: 1
Meditate or Reflect
In many of our public and private spaces, we have lost a spirit of gentleness. In political discussions, cultural debates, theological disagreements, the way we speak to family or friends – the tone has become more aggressive, and far less gentle. Looking at Twitter can be an astonishing glimpse into the heart of man. Most surprisingly, Christian disagreements on Twitter are reminiscent of the frenzied accusations of “I saw Goody Proctor with the devil” in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Our pitchforks and torches have become tweets and screens. In many ways we are grieving the decay of our culture; perhaps, we are grieving the sinfulness of the world, and sometimes we lose the heart of true discipleship, which is in our gentleness. What if we were more winsome and less aggressive in our theological disagreements? What if we met “wrongdoing” (sin) with the gentleness of Jesus? The way Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman, and the woman who was being accused of adultery was truthful, loving, and gentle. His gentleness invited them into deeper knowing, and into wanting a greater relationship with Him. Are we being gentle in a way that invites others to grow in deeper relationship with Jesus? Jesus was responsive to others, not reactive. A reaction often happens without much thought, but a response takes time and thought. When we give into our reactions, or the carnal part of being human, we miss out on gentleness and being formed to Christ-likeness. Slowing down to respond, and being engaging are a few ways to grow in gentleness with one another.
“Now faith is the certainty of things hoped for, a proof of things not seen.
Hebrews 11: 1
Meditate or Reflect
My grandmother was bed-ridden for nearly the last year of her life. I visited her often as she was my dearest friend. She was no longer able to speak, had lost most of her memory, and she slept much more than she was awake. On one particular visit during the last weeks of her life, something spectacular happened on a February afternoon. I was standing with my mother next to my grandmother’s bedside, and we saw Grams’ eyes opening wide and bright like they were dancing over something wonderful in the very empty corner of the room. We just knew we weren’t alone that day. There were things mom and I could not see, but Grams was making her transition, and quite possibly had her lifetime of faith becoming sight just as Ephesians 5: 14 says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” And we, too, had the assurance that angels were present to escort her home to Jesus. I feel very blessed that I can recall this experience, and many others where I have had the assurance of “things not seen” that were working on my behalf. Have you experienced or witnessed the marvelous assurance of knowing, of having faith in what you cannot see? Sometimes when we are going through a difficult time, it can be challenging to have assurance in things not seen. In fact, I remember the difficult time of seeing Grams suffering and asking God why He was taking so long to deliver my Grams. Our timing and His timing don’t always align, but when we open up to His timing, we will see through faith the blessed assurance of things not seen.
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Romans 12: 9
Meditate or Reflect
The Gospel of John recounts the following words of Jesus: “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (16: 33). While this is truth, it is a challenge to be of “good cheer” while undergoing tribulation. The unfortunate fact is bad things happen to good people. When bad things happen in life, it is easy to revert to an “eye for an eye” mentality. But Jesus leads us in a new way: do not overcome evil with evil, but with good; that is, be morally honorable. Be good. Not passive, but good. One of the great modern Christian examples we have of overcoming evil with good is Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Under threat of beatings, use of deadly weapons, and jail from law enforcement, Dr. King united with people of one voice – all against the evils of racism and segregation. They marched in peace and spoke in peace to overcome evil with good. My first years of teaching began in a violent part of southeast Dallas where a small part of the student population was equally violent. It was a hard place to “be of good cheer” on most days. Gathering my materials before the first bell, I often heard a reassuring gospel melody from a lovely mentor teacher: “this is the day, this is the day that the Lord hath made. I will rejoice, I will rejoice and be glad in it.” And suddenly, I could “be of good cheer.” We may not be able to change the evils of the world around us, but we can change how we face it – with goodness in the spirit of godliness.