Monday Matters (May 9, 2016)


A spiritual Fitbit

One year, I gave my wife a vacuum cleaner for her birthday. Bad idea. She actually requested one when I asked what she wanted. But with the wisdom of hindsight, that doesn’t matter. Take it from me: Find another occasion to give someone you love a vacuum cleaner.

Maybe turn about is fair play. I had a birthday recently and my beloved gave me a Fitbit. Strapped to my wrist, it tells how far I’ve walked, how many stairs I’ve taken. It shows my pulse, calorie intake, and how well I sleep. It’s good to know all that, I guess, but the gift conveys a message that I could probably be doing better. One of those growth opportunities.

In the short time I’ve been wearing it, I admit it has made me more mindful. It has made me choose stairs over escalator at the airport. It drove me to choose furthest parking space, not closest. It motivated me to pass on the donuts near the coffee machine at work. No more onion rings. In other words, it is shifting the way I think about health. It has made me more aware, or awake. And it’s made me wonder, maybe because it’s my line of work, what a spiritual Fitbit would look like.

I’m spending a lot of time in the work I’m doing thinking about what makes for spiritual health. As I read doom and gloom statistics about organized religion, mainline congregations and religious affiliation, I’ve come to believe that the spiritual health of a denomination is linked to the spiritual health of local congregations which is linked to the spiritual health of individuals in them. I call it the cellular model. It means that each person who identifies and affiliates with the church (or with the Jesus movement, as our Presiding Bishop calls it) has both the freedom and responsibility to participate in those things that make for spiritual health.

It all has to do with spiritual practice, the word practice a double entendre, an indication of what we do practically, but also in the sense of practice by which we get better, go deeper, grow. It can easily be heard as a message that it’s all up to us, that unsatisfying brand of teeth-gritting religion that feeds the ego and thrives on comparison (Jesus loves you but I’m his favorite.) Spiritual health will acknowledge that temptation and by God’s grace, move beyond it towards awakeness and awareness. Spiritual health will set up habits of gratitude, silence, prayer, study, service. A spiritual Fitbit would be like a coach, commending practices that draw us deeper into love of God, reminding us that we’ve been through a day without offering thanks, or being of service, or finding some way to listen for God’s voice in all the clutter.

One pastor I know invites his congregation to the 10/10 rule, ten minutes of reading scripture, ten minutes of prayer or silence. Those who practice Centering Prayer and other contemplative traditions often recommend 20 minutes of silence in the morning and evening. Forward Day by Day is one way of developing patterns of spiritual health. I know one executive who begins each day with quiet reflection on the values he considers important for the day ahead, and then reviewing at the end of the day the ways he lived into those values. You get the idea.

In our culture we have coaches for all kinds of things: sports, finance, nutrition, management skills, job search, life decisions, relationships. Where are you finding spiritual coaching, the encouragement and challenge to go deeper in your life with God, to practice those practices that open the doorway for that deeper relationship with God?

It’s Monday morning, a good time to start.

-Jay Sidebotham

Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable garland, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air.
-2 Corin. 9:24-26

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.
-Hebrews 12:1

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
-Philippians 2:13

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
-2 Timothy 4:7



Jay SidebothamContact:
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
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