“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”
“Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks”
“Rule of Life” (a practice associated with the communal lives of monks, and especially the order of St. Benedict) is a set of guidelines for how to live successfully in a monastery. I first heard about the Rule of Life from Ken Shigematsu, who referred to the rule of life as “a lattice” - the little frame that the beans or vines grow across, that keep them up out of the mud.
A Rule of Life is an established set of practices and relational rhythms that help us find space and time to be with Jesus, and to be like Jesus - to walk as Jesus did (1 John 1:6). It is like a pre-commitment, defining how we will live our lives to the full (John 10:10) prioritizing God’s Kingdom, as well as our giftings and passions. It is classic Christian - and classic Crow - stuff. It is “Look well to each step and from the beginning, think what may be the end.”
Incorporating healthy practices into a rule of life is not magical. It’s just goal setting: a deliberate way to put ourselves in a position to be refreshed and renewed. Being refreshed and renewed is something that can get crowded out during a busy summer.
To avoid being too busy for rest, I am planning to follow a rule of life in the summer of 2023.
There are many different components that might fit into a Rule of Life. Here are some common practices that might be part of a rule of life:
Prayer and Meditation
Study and Learning
Work and Service
Community and Relationships
Sabbath and Rest
Intentional Practice of Specific Virtues: setting aside time, or bringing a particular prayerful attention to the practice of one virtue (for instance, compassion, or kindness; honesty, integrity, forgiveness, and humility).
My family is central to my plan - especially to my sons and my wife. I incorporated a regular practice of prayer and reflection/meditation, as well as a pattern of rest and sabbath in my week - even at the height of camp! I included some practices aimed at physical well-being, like exercise, and sleep. I also want to have some camp-type fun, so I have been jumping in the lake every day for the past two weeks.
David’s Summer 2023 Rule of Life:
Schedule a weekly block of 3 hours of focused time with Kathryn (W)
Spend one day per week with each boy at camp (W)
Send a letter to a friend weekly (W)
Exercise at least 30 minutes per day before 2 PM (D)
Follow with The Daily Prayers in the Book of Common Prayer (D)
Jump in the lake every day before 2 PM (D)
Write one reflection/bullet journal every day (D)
“Turn off” my phone from 10 PM to 8 AM daily (D)
I put a Google Doc right here, as an accountability practice for me - so that you can see where I am having success, and where I still need to get into the rhythm of this practice.
You should consider your own Rule of Life. Look for ways to make these practices “communal” in some sense - so that they can be shared. This is a way for the Senior Staff to model and encourage sustainable structure for cabin leaders, and outtrip directors.
There are many components that Christians have included in their Rule of Life. To spur your thinking, I’ve listed weekly and daily habits - the kind of practices you may need during the summer, as well as a suggested rhythm so that these practices can be implement them in the busy camp season.
KNEELING PRAYER THREE TIMES A DAY
The world is made of words. Even small, repeated words have power. Regular, carefully placed prayer is one of the keystone habits of spiritual formation and is the beginning of building the trellis of habit. By framing our day in the words of prayer, we frame the day of love.
ONE MEAL WITH OTHERS
We were made to eat, so the table must be our center of gravity. The habit of making time for one communal meal each day forces us to reorient our schedules and our space around food and each other. The more the table becomes our center of gravity, the more it draws our neighbors into gospel community.
ONE HOUR WITH PHONE OFF
We were made for presence, but so often our phones are the cause of our absence. To be two places at a time is to be no place at all. Turning off our phone for an hour a day is a way to turn our gaze up to each other, whether that be children, coworkers, friends, or neighbors. Our habits of attention are habits of love. To resist absence is to love neighbor.
SCRIPTURE BEFORE PHONE
Refusing to check the phone until after reading a passage of Scripture is a way of replacing the question "What do I need to do today?" with a better one, "Who am I and who am I becoming?" We have no stable identity outside of Jesus. Daily immersion in the Scriptures resists the anxiety of emails, the anger of the news, and the envy of social media. Instead it forms us daily in our true identity as children of the King, dearly loved.
ONE HOUR OF CONVERSATION WITH A FRIEND
We were made for each other, and we can't become lovers of God and neighbor without intimate relationships where vulnerability is sustained across time. In habitual, face-to-face conversation with each other, we find a gospel practice; we are laid bare to each other and loved anyway.
CURATE MEDIA TO FOUR HOURS
Stories matter so much that we must handle them with utmost care. Resisting the constant stream of addictive media with an hour limit means we are forced to curate what we watch. Curating stories means that we seek stories that uphold beauty, that teach us to love justice, and that turn us to community
FAST FROM SOMETHING FOR TWENTY-FOUR HOURS
We constantly seek to fill our emptiness with food and other comforts. We ignore our soul and our neighbor's need by medicating with food and drink. Regular fasting exposes who we really are, reminds us how broken we the world is, and draws our eyes to how Jesus is redeeming all things.
The weekly practice of sabbath teaches us that God sustains the world and that we don't. To make a countercultural embrace of our limitations, we stop our usual work for one day of rest. Sabbath is a gospel practice because it reminds us that the world doesn't hang on what we can accomplish, but rather on what God has accomplished for us.