Practice, Practice, Practice
I can hear her words like it was yesterday. “Mr. Blakeney, you must practice, practice, practice,” she would say. Ms. Juliana Parker taught me Algebra in the age where calculators were taking over for old fashion work. But, in Ms. Parker’s class, old fashion work mattered the most. Her focus was not the answer, but the process.
And, so nearly 20 years later, I still hear her words echoing in my head – “Mr. Blakeney, you must practice, practice, practice.” Although I never excelled as a math student, I learned something much more important in Ms. Parker’s class. It was there that I first gained an appreciation for discipline, the ordering of one’s life to achieve particular results. Webster’s offers us this definition of discipline, “prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior.”
Discipline – not any old discipline - but spiritual discipline has allowed me to remain focus in my ministry as a youth pastor. I like what Richard Foster says about spiritual discipline. Author of Celebration of Discipline, he says the spiritual disciplines are, "a means of receiving God's grace. …[They] allow us to place ourselves before God so he can transform us."
In our Wesleyan tradition, we often refer to spiritual disciplines as works of piety. John Wesley believed that chief among the disciplines was prayer. Other disciplines are: meditation, fasting, study, simplicity, solitutde, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance and celebration.
Yet, practicing them has often been a stumbling block on my journey. The sheer commitment it takes to practice one of them consistently has challenged me in ways that I never knew existed, particularly the discipline of fasting. There have been times when I have had to make the tough decision between nourishing my soul or the souls or others.
Some times others have won out. But, most of the time my commitment to practice, practice, practice has won out. It has won out because I have found the need to remain spiritually grounded central and most important in my journey.
So as we approach the journey of Lent, a time when we focus on spiritual discipline, I ask you – how will you place yourself before God that you and the ministry entrusted to your care might be transformed?
For more information on Spiritual Disciplines, read
- Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard Foster
- “The Means of Grace” A sermon by John Wesley on this topic and the "works of piety" and "mercy."
- John Wesley on Searching the Scriptures from the Preface to Explanatory Notes upon the Old Testament
- John Wesley on Prayer An excerpt from his book A Plain Account of Christian Perfection
- On Scriptural Christianity A key sermon by John Wesley.
- Sermon on the Mount, VII A sermon by John Wesley that discusses fasting.
- “The Duty of Constant Communion” Why Christians should participate in the Lord's Supper as often as they can.