“Insights from The Spirit of The Disciplines from Dallas Willard”, Introduction from L.Willows (Power of the Spirit, Discipleship)

Insights From The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard

Dallas Willard teaches that discipline works by indirection. A discipline is something we can do that enables us to do what we haven’t yet been able to do by our own direct effort. We train and enlist a new skill using a power greater than our own. In the disciplines we use the Spirit of God that raised Jesus Christ, to lift us to greater ability.

More importantly, he emphasizes that the greatest asset to discipline is a joyful attitude! Imagine that your heart is smiling through it. Your most true part longs to be where this is leading you. We are encouraged to connect to the perspective of love and joy. Why are you drawn to the disciplines? Because you love God and desire the intimacy of Spirit filled-living. It is a loving reunion with the One that has always been faithful to you. We fill ourselves with the goodness that has always been There. Our own hearts and lives need the disciplines, or the chance to develop new perspectives and patterns of seeing and living so that we experience intimacy with God and walk in His Spirit.

Discipline also works when developing new habits of body, mind, and heart. In daily living, we are faced with a multitude of choices at every turn. Developing a new habit means opposing a force that has “learned” to cope with these choices in one way and formed a set response.

A discipline asks that the pattern is broken. It asks that we “wake” from the habitual way of living long enough to purify and permit a new “aspect or perspective” to be born in its place. This will be by the power of Spirit, led by God. We joyfully walk in the discipline praying that we will re-form, emptied of what was needed to be left behind,  forward renewed by The Spirit of God. We pray that our new perspective bears the fruit of Spirit-directed living.

Here are some main disciplines of abstinence and engagement that have been helpful to Christ-followers over the centuries as offered by Dallas Willard.

This Spiritual Disciplines List features some main disciplines for life in Christ with concise definitions for each. You will notice disciplines of abstinence and disciplines of engagement.

Disciplines of Abstinence (Self-Denial)
These are ways of denying ourselves something we want or need in order to make space to focus on and connect with God.

Solitude: Refraining from interacting with other people in order to be alone with God and be found by him. (Solitude is completed by silence.)

Silence: Not speaking in a quiet place in order to quiet our minds and whole self and attend to God’s presence. Also, not speaking so that we can listen to others and bless them.

Fasting: Going without food (or something else like media) for a period of intensive prayer — the fast may be complete or partial.

Sabbath: Doing no work to rest in God’s person and provision; praying and playing with God and others. (God designed this for one day a week. We can practice it for shorter periods too.)

Secrecy: Not making our good deeds or qualities known to let God or others receive attention and to find our sufficiency in God alone (e.g., see Matthew 6).

Submission: Not asserting ourselves in order to come under the authority, wisdom, and power of Jesus Christ as our Lord, King, and Master. (If you think of this as submitting to a person as unto Christ then it’s a discipline of engagement.)

Disciplines of Engagement (Christ in Community)
These are ways of connecting with God and other people, conversing honestly with them in order to love and be loved.

Bible Reading: Trusting the Holy Spirit-inspired words of Scripture as our guide, wisdom, and strength for life. (Related disciplines include Bible study, Scripture meditation, and praying God’s Word.)

Worship: Praising God’s greatness, goodness, and beauty in words, music, ritual, or silence. (We can worship God privately or in community.)

Prayer: Conversing with God about what we’re experiencing and doing together. (As we see in the Lord’s Prayer the main thing we do in prayer is to make requests or intercessions to our Father for one another.)

Soul Friendship: Engaging fellow disciples of Jesus in prayerful conversation or other spiritual practices. (Related spiritual disciplines or practices include small groups, spiritual direction, and mentoring relationships.)

Personal Reflection: Paying attention to our inner self in order to grow in love for God, others, and self. (The Psalms in the Bible model this.)

Service: Humbly serving God by overflowing with his love and compassion to others, especially those in need. (Also tithing and giving.)

Dallas Willard – Wikipedia

“Gratitude, Joy and Revival”, from L.Willows (loss & gain, our hearts, God’s Love)

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Gratitude, Joy and Revival from L.Willows

As the month of June began to speed by, I watched trees and gardens blossom to fullness. Just a short time ago, the parks in my area reopened. I remember on that first morning I drove to my favorite garden park and crept past the gate. I could not believe that it was open. I drove slowly in as if I was doing something alien. I felt like a child that was sneaking into a forbidden zone, even though I had been entering on foot during the pandemic! When I entered, this time, everything felt new and filled with hope. As I took those first steps on the dear and familiar path, tears of joy ran down my face. My mask got wet. There were no other people near by. I took it off. That was when I stopped being afraid.

That soaking of joy was gratitude for many things. It wasn’t only that the gate to the park was open. After months of being isolated at home alone and navigating the heart trials that we have all been faced with, I was grateful that this had been a time when the Lord had felt so close. Every day caused me to seek God.

Going back to that sense of restriction vs freedom, it was a discipline to follow the strict guidelines and learn to live “the new way”. For me living alone, I felt like I was in a new frontier.  Shopping in the supermarket was like going to into battleground at first. I remember panicking in the beginning with anxiety that I would catch the virus from gathering groceries, or getting gas for my car or other necessities. Friends called and instructed me in lengthy new ways of taking precautions.

New Life Lessons

We re-learned “life”. Then there were ways of speaking.  We had new phrases like “New Normal”. It included restriction and a lack of the cherished freedoms that were taken for granted just months before. As I took it all in at lightening speed, I think that a part of my heart must have constricted into a ball of stressed fear and anxiety. Part of me was saying, “No, I don’t want this. It is a frightening world to walk into. I want yesterday back!” It was very difficult to assimilate the changes so rapidly. I think that my heart, at least may have needed some time to go through some stages of shock, grief, loss and acceptance. Fortunately, as a Christian I was prepared to walk through this with God at my side.

I confess that did have a difficulty with having no control over circumstances. It  is an ongoing lesson in life. I realized that I love to hope and anticipate the future, to dream of a wondrous “next”. Living in a complete not knowing with all connections seemingly severed threw my heart into chaos. As much as I thought that I put all trust in God I saw that I was trusting something in myself, in others and leaning on many sources other than The Lord for security and peace in my heart.

My mortal heart interpreted it all as fearful environment even though everything that I have been taught tells me that circumstances should not rule my perspective or my peace. I went through grieving for what was lost. I longed for the “world” that we may not see again.  At one point in the beginning I could not even watch an images of people being in happy gatherings on television because it caused me mourn that we could not all be together now and worry about our future. I had stages of a lack of hope in the world that we live in. I questioned everything and everyone. In stages I worried about other countries as they became afflicted. The news buried me. Then I climbed out and learned to filter what information entered in and how and when.

Hope and Encouragements

I was fortunate because I was in two Bible Study groups from my Church and also attended two weekly prayer meetings all on zoom. The sermon was also online with a mid-week encouragement. Did I describe myself as alone? That was wrong. I have been actually carried by the body of Christ, by the Church that I belong to. This journey has be filled with God’s protection, Love and Grace. I was never alone.

I also experienced a deepening of love and concern for others. My heart turned outwards and thought less about myself. Community and the body of Christ became palpable as the church without walls was a true experience to me. Prayer intensified and was the first and most important activity of every day and night. Groups that prayed were my lifeline and remain so. Connecting with Christians and loved ones is a heart activity that can’t be stopped by any restriction. It is intensified by adversity.

The church was my real home during the most difficult months of the pandemic and it all continues. We don’t know for how long. The next unknown is when and how Churches will reopen. But my sense was that God will surely lead this. It is His Church. I trust this. I believe that we will worship together again. But, I am not like a child waiting with impatience or fear of the unknown any longer. Somehow, my heart has developed patience. That amazes me. I don’t need to control what happens next month or even three months from now.

Overcome with Gratitude

Lately at the end of each day, I tell The Lord all of the things that I am grateful for as I review the day. There is much that I am grateful for so far from this time in self isolation. I am grateful for the measure of patience that has been born in this heart of mine. I am grateful for Church. I am grateful for Christians that reach out generously to others. I am grateful for those that have a heart for fellowship, for those that teach and mentor others in these times. I am grateful for prayer and prayer groups everywhere and for the lone prayer warriors that pray consistently for others. I am grateful for the kind ones that work in the supermarkets that have been an encouragement throughout these seasons, sometimes the only other people that I saw. I am grateful for family and sweet supportive friends that can listen to your heart when you are feeling sloppy feelings and love you still. That is the love of a True Heart.

We have all been through many trials, some much more difficult than others. Many, in the afflictions of the illness itself. We don’t know if it will be in our own path. We don’t have that complete control even taking every precaution. But, God is with each of us and He sets the days before us for good. I am certain of His Love and of His Leading. My gratitude is to The Lord. He is the Gatekeeper and the only One that can free us regardless of our experience.

Revival. God’s Love is in His Holy Presence. It sets us Free.

My deepest gratitude is that God is making His Presence known to our hearts with His Love. His Spirit moves us in Prayer and lifts us to face Eternity in ways that cause us to review everything in our hearts and renew our perspectives. We are to join in revival. His Gate opens for us by the power of The Holy Spirit. That is a garden to walk in with Holy Joy and complete fearlessness. We can place our trust in God, we are His Beloved Children.

© 2020 Linda Willows

“Times of Turmoil”, a letter from Cherie Harder, President of the Trinity Forum (Loving One Another, the Shalom of place, Justice)

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Friends, I received this open letter yesterday from Cherie Harder, President of The Trinity Forum which has it headquarters in Washington D.C. and wanted to share it with you. I continue to pray for my own heart, all hearts to open to listening, bending and bowing before the power of God’s love so that we can be led forward. -L.Willows

Times of Turmoil

This has been a week of such pain. As I write this, the death toll from coronavirus has passed 108,000 with nearly two million still battling its ravages. The anguish and rage from the on-camera killing of George Floyd has spilled out to the streets. In several cities, peaceful protests have devolved into riots and looting. Wise leadership has been desperately needed – but our most powerful public figures have instead stoked division, encouraged the use of lethal police force, and tear-gassed peaceful protesters to pose with a Bible for a photo op.

Proverbs reminds us that “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Americans need a shared vision of justice and flourishing for all of its citizens that extends beyond our tribes, parties, ideological bedfellows, and includes the marginalized, struggling, and overlooked. And Christians are called to enter into the often challenging but always God-honoring and life-giving work of loving our neighbor as ourselves. Such love requires equal justice, rights, and protections, but it also calls for listening, attending to the experience of others, and valuing them as we might our own being.

In a fallen and unjust world, we love imperfectly, and see through a glass darkly, our vision obscured by our own biases, filters, and scars. But the call to love our neighbor, and seek the shalom of the city is not optional, but a summons to partake in God’s work. May it be said that they will know we are Christians by our love.

 

© 2020 Cherie Harder