“Learn the Unforced Rhythms of Grace”

“The problem was, I made these ways to connect with God into burdens and self-improvement efforts. Disciplines that should have brought life were bringing condemnation.”

In my last blog post I mentioned the two authors who first introduced me to spiritual disciplines: Henri Nouwen and Richard Foster. Nouwen told me of my deep value before God — Life of the Beloved may be my favorite book. And Foster set before me a smorgasbord of ways to connect with God.

The problem was, I made these ways to connect with God into burdens and self-improvement efforts. Disciplines that should have brought life were bringing condemnation.

Eugene Peterson (a pastor who lives the reality of seeking God first) translates Matthew 11.28-30 this way in The Message: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

“Learn the unforced rhythms of grace” — do that and you will live. Come to Jesus, burned out on religion as especially only pastors and ministry leaders can be, and recover your life.

In the mid-80’s, an author named Dallas Willard began to be mentioned more and more in magazines and journals (those were the days before internet and a thousand resources at our fingertips!). I first read “The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives” (1988). Just the title struck a deep chord in me: Could it be that God truly wants to change lives NOW just as Jesus did 2000 years ago?

Dallas Willard gave me a vision of the Kingdom of God that is as close as my very breath — eternal life begins now. The Kingdom of God is not far off, up there or in a galaxy far, far away. Whenever we submit our will (our little kingdom) to trusting our good Heavenly Father, His Kingdom comes! As simple and as hard as that. And then Willard goes on to show us how we can actually LIVE the words of Jesus. His famously helpful quote about spiritual disciplines is: “Grace is not opposed to effort, it’s opposed to earning.”

Lent begins on Wednesday, March 1 — a perfect time to try a spiritual discipline. Which discipline are you drawn to that could help you learn the unforced rhythms of grace? How can you put forth effort without making it into one more burden?


One thought on ““Learn the Unforced Rhythms of Grace”

  1. Hello Judie,

    I loved your thoughts about Christianity being more than just doing. I have said for a long time that we are human beings, not human doings. God loves us in our entirety way before we go out trying to do for Him. In this morning’s Bible Study with several of our session members, we talked about singlemindedness. We were honest about how hard it is to stay focused on the Lord and His Kingdom with so many things pulling us in every direction.

    Regarding spiritual disciplines I would have to say meditating on God’s word is something I do pretty well at. I recently read an article by Don Whitney on Spiritual Disciplines where he said he uses 17 different ways to meditate on the Scriptures. Wow! I sure could not say that I have done that – well at least If I have used some of those methods I surely could not name what those methods are. Since my conversion in 1975 I have always loved God’s word – I have memorized and personalized Scripture. I have his Scripture in my heart. Oftentimes when I face a crisis, preaching a message, or am counselling someone the Holy Spirit will give me a relevant passage of Scripture for the moment – like a rhema word. I have found so much of my Christian freedom from what I have learned in the Scriptures. I have so much more to learn but what I have found out sure is freeing!

    Personal prayer does not come as easy for me. I do well praying with our intercessory prayer team and the pastors I meet with weekly, but struggle to be in a regular set aside time. I do pretty well praying without ceasing; breath prayers, prayers for people throughout the day, prayers for wisdom, etc. But it has been a while since I have lived in a season energized by a regular before the day starts time of prayer.

    Thanks again for sharing this blog.

    Grace and peace,
    Pastor Mark Frueh


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