How We Do It: Organizing Our Spiritual Lives

27 February 2018

When Nancy wrote the original organization series back in 2014 that inspired this one, her Spiritual Life post was what sealed the deal for me. As a lifelong Christian who still feels like a beginner in so many ways, it was SO HELPFUL to read very specific details about what her faith life looked like on a day-to-day basis. Beginner though I may still be, I hope that today’s post can help pay the gift Nancy gave me forward, four years down the line!

To catch up any new folks: Nancy Ray and I are writing an eight-part series every Tuesday in January and February covering “how we do it” in eight different areas: the rhythms, habits, and routines that help us get things done and make the space and time for what matters most. You can read more of the backstory here.

As a Christian, organization in my spiritual life is by far the most important area we’ve touched on in this series. My natural inclination is to choose the path of least resistance, to opt for the lazy version, and to prioritize the wrong things. The easier I can make it for myself to choose the right things — to choose Jesus — on a daily basis, the better. Today I’m humbly submitting a few things that have worked for me:

1. Evening quiet time. My best time with the Lord and in the Word comes before going to sleep, curled up in bed. I usually begin by praying as I do some gentle stretches on top of the covers (helps me keep my mind focused!), then move into one of a few practices. I love using my Write the Word journal because it encourages me to roam around the Bible and not get stuck in one section. I use the “on my heart section” to reflect on a way I saw God moving that day. If I’m working through a particular book or section, I’ll use my prayer journal (just a blank notebook) to write out a favorite verse from what I read, then write out a short prayer. Then, I’ll spend another few minutes praying before cracking open whatever book I’m reading. Which brings me to…

2. Reading great books. There are some incredible teachers out there, and I have learned things from them that might never have become clear to me in any other way! First and foremost, C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity was faith-changing for me — so much so that I try to re-read it every year to soak in more of his wisdom. If you’ve never read it, please, please do, whether or not you’d consider yourself a Christian! Other favorites: The Meaning of Marriage, The Lifegiving Home, Too Busy Not to Pray, You and Me Forever, For the Love, 7, Love Does, and Crazy Love. I usually read a faith-based book at least every other month.

3. Attending church. The weekly rhythm of worshipping with other believers is so important for me personally. Not only is it an act of submitting my time to God (even and especially when I think I have a better way to spend it), but it’s a set aside time to listen for Him, to take communion, to encourage others in their faith walks, and to sing out some praise!

We also make a point to go to church when we’re traveling whenever possible, including this pretty one below! In addition to maintaining a weekly rhythm, it can be so energizing to see how another body does things, and also to take ideas back to your home church. There are a few messages we heard on the road years ago that John and I still talk about!

4. Listening to great sermons. In addition to our own church, John and I listen to sermons from a handful of incredible pastors around the country (and even across the pond). We listen to Adam Hamilton’s sermon almost every week (usually streaming live as we’re eating lunch on Sunday), and even after literally nine years of listening to him I still feel like I learn something every time and leave challenged to change something in my life. Highly, highly recommended, especially if you are newer to faith or curious. We also really like Darren Whitehead from Church of the City in Nashville.

5. Spending time with other believers. I’ve written about this a bit before, but moving to the South was life-changing for us in many ways, not the least of which being the way it changed our relationship with our faith. For really the first time, we were regularly and intimately doing life with people that were way farther ahead in their faith than us, and who lived it out as a crucial and foundational part of their daily life. I cannot understate how much I have learned and grown from these people, whether by listening to them pray, talking through scripture with them, or watching as they wrestle with a circumstance in their life.

I still so clearly remember the first time Nancy told me she would pray for something for me, and then she proceeded to list out the very specific ways she was going to do so (i.e. I’ll pray for skill for your doctor, wisdom and clarity as you make decisions, and peace for your heart). My mind was blown! I’m sure this seems so basic to some, but it was revolutionary to me, as I had never heard someone talk about prayer in that way before. I am always learning from those around me.

fruit of the spirit

6. Filling my mind with scripture. In addition to reading the Bible, we keep verses and good words close at hand and around our house, weaving them visually into the fabric of our family. When I’m faced with a challenge or question (or a joy!), I want a scriptural message to spring first to my mind, and that means becoming deeply familiar with the word. We have verses pinned to our fridge, framed on shelves, hung on our walls, and rotated out on our letterboard, to name a few. We also wear them, thanks to Walk in Love! My favorite piece of art is the Lindsay Letters fruit of the spirit canvas we just hung in our master bath – I love that it is one of the first things I see every morning!

7. Tithing. As people who are passionate about personal finance and filled with big dreams for our future, it would be so easy to go off the rails in this area. Tithing is one way we keep the first things first, reminding ourselves that everything that we have has been entrusted to us, and that we are simply the caretakers, tasked with doing the most good with what we have been given. Though I know the money we bring goes out into the world and does a lot of good, I honestly feel that the act of tithing is so important that I’d need to do it even if I just dumped the money into a hole every week. But I’m glad we don’t :)

8. Praying as a family. One of the best things that came out of my “year of prayer” last year was taking turns offering an extemporaneous blessing over dinner. As someone who grew up in a household reciting a standard blessing each night, this was a big step outside my comfort zone, but it opened the door to so much more, including blessings before each meal (except when we forget, which definitely legitimately still happens!), praying with June before bed, and praying together through our most extreme circumstances, both good and bad.


I’ll end by saying that of all the topics in this series, I most hope that if I were to rewrite this post in a year or five years or ten years, it would look totally different. I still have SO much to learn and so much discipline to cultivate, and for me, there’s no more important area of personal growth. If every year I can look back and say I trusted more, loved more, listened more, read more, prayed more, and acted more than the year before, I’ll be satisfied.

So friends, help a girl out: What’s one thing that’s bringing you closer to God these days? I would love to hear!

P.S. Don’t miss Nancy’s post today! I can’t wait to read her freshened-up perspective :)

The rest of the series:
Time: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Finances: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Home: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Personal Lives: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Work: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Relationships: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Kids: Em’s post and Nancy’s post

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February 27, 2018 8:34 am

One of the best ways I’ve been feeling more connected to God lately is sitting in the front or second row at church each Sunday. I know that sounds so small and insignificant but it was one of my goals for February instead of sitting at our normal spot in the back, and funny enough while it’s more vulnerable to sit there it’s so much more of a connected experience both in song worship, prayer and listening to the sermon. I have a few other ways I’ve been working on my own faith but I won’t hog the comments section :)

February 27, 2018 8:36 am

Em, this is such an encouragement to my heart. Your perspective is like a fresh spring breeze, and is inspiring. One way I’ve been brought closer to God is by attending my life group. These people are wise, and vulnerable. Finding a group of men and women in different walks but close in age has been so life giving to my faith.

February 28, 2018 12:22 pm
Reply to  Em

Yay excited for y’all! We have a couple bring their 8 month baby to group and its so fun to cuddle and play with her. But we absolutely understand when they miss, scheduling with sweet kiddos can be tricky!

February 27, 2018 8:44 am

Really helpful post. Thank you!

February 27, 2018 11:53 am

I really enjoyed reading this post. One of my favorite things is surrounding myself with other believers, and I felt like I was doing just that by reading this post!

February 27, 2018 6:17 pm

I love this post!! I love the Write the Word journals – I’m already on my third. I try my best to write in it every single day. I love that you use yours to talk about how God has worked that day. One thing I want to add more of into my spiritual living is to help others when I can. I also have Mere Christianity – I haven’t read it yet, but I really want to!

February 28, 2018 8:31 am

This was definitely one of my most favorite posts in this series. And I love every point – we also make an effort to try these three things: speak good over our friends and family, even when it cane be difficult, a life group (I’m busy working through a ladies bible study) and worship – on our own and as a family x

P.S. Happy birthday lovely lady x

February 28, 2018 9:12 am

Happy Birthday, Emily!

I have always loved your posts. This one was very special. Your vulnerability and humility is inspiring. I love the “when we moved to the south” comment because, as yankees, it is difficult to be so “out there” with our faith!! ;)

You go girl – you’re a sweet, strong leader!

February 28, 2018 12:20 pm

I accidentally found this journal (link at bottom cuz it’s enormous) while browsing a local shop and have started using it daily. It’s interesting to write something very small, but significant, each day. I like that I will easily see the progress I’ve made in my life over the next five years.
The problem is it’s very small! But I’m hesitant to have multiple journals going at once. I like that you have two designated journals, but, as an organized person, does this bother you? Not to mention, you also write in a blog, so I guess I need to hear that it’s okay to have more than one place to record your thoughts!

Living Well One Line A Day: A Five-Year Reflection Book link:

March 5, 2018 6:24 am

This was so interesting to read! A few things I especially loved: that you do an evening quiet time (I feel like, for some reason, I used to think if I couldn’t make mornings work, I couldn’t do a quiet time at all–working around Charlie’s schedule totally changed that perception for me!), that y’all make church a priority even when traveling (AMEN! I still wish we could have done a church double header and gone to Hillsong in NYC :)), and tithing (I am grateful Dave is intense about this because it has made me intense about it–what a gift!). Thanks for sharing your favorite books, too–adding some I haven’t read yet to my list :)

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