“He became a poet in the way other men become monks: as a devotional practice, as an act of love, and as a lifelong commitment to the search for grace and transcendence.” –Elizabeth Gilbert about poet Jack Gilbert in her book ‘Big Magic’.
While pondering the idea of what it really means to have an effective devotional practice I stumbled on this quote. As usual it lead me to connect my two lives – my life of devotion to God and my life of commitment to music, both of which are spurred on by deep love.
This reminded me that making a creative life truly is an act of love. It must be, because there often are few extrinsic rewards. I have friends who work day-jobs to support their passion of composing music, hoping for the day when the dream actually pays enough to let the safety net go. Many musician friends of mine piece together a life that is a tapestry of teaching, performing, and frankly prostituting themselves musically. Have horn, will play. Why? Because we are in love.
To engage in a devotional practice is not an easy feat. It is not however the torturous journey that some might think. Instead, as you regularly visit the crystalline pool of inspiration, dipping your toes in the waters of commitment, your devotion grows deeper. It swells. It wells up from a primal, soul-level place within you. Your devotion births desire. Now dipping a toe in the pool is not enough, and the whole foot goes in. Now a half an hour of time in prayer is like a tantalizing aroma that makes you only yearn for more. Now, the bit of time you can steal away from other duties to play your instrument flashes by in moments because there’s nowhere else you’d rather be.
Becoming a person of devotion is about commitment. Becoming a person of devotion is about love. With these keys as the backdrop, here are some things that have helped me along the way:
Give yourself time and space
I wonder how many of us have never allowed ourselves the time and space to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” What pleasure we are missing if we have not! In His word he says, “In my presence is fullness of joy. In my right hand are pleasures forever.”
Would you believe me if I told you those pleasures are not for everyone to enjoy? They are only for those who will come and linger. They are for those who learn the practice of “being still.” Just as the unnamable pleasures of making beautiful music are for those who will commit themselves fully to it and stay committed, no matter how bumpy the path, no matter how often you get drawn away. You see, there is no instant validation here which flies in the face of our microwave culture. Instead we pray the prayer of Psalm 51 that says, “Lord put a steadfast spirit it me.” And with this prayer as our anchor we cultivate, work and give our seedlings of devotion time and space to grow.
Allow your practice to be for you and God Alone
It seems so much these days is about extrinsic validation. But don’t you know that it is no accident that seeds grow in the dark? In obscurity, God is able to cultivate and prepare that seed for its destiny. Matthew 6:6 says, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you openly.”
What if we abandoned self-promotion? Earlier this summer when I was having some extended alone time with God, I wrote this in my journal, “The recipe for going deeper does not necessarily include sharing.” This is a foreign thought in our culture. We tweet every deep thought. We turn it into a meme or a post and see how many likes we can get. But not everything we hear from God is meant to be shared. I’m learning that much of it is just for us. It is pride that tells us what we heard was for someone else, when in all actuality, He was trying to speak right to our own hardened heart.
Keep at It
The path to a musical career often feels as though it is two-steps-forward, one step back. But if you keep marching, putting one foot in front of the other, there is profound joy to be found, and found again, and found again.
I feel like our private devotional time with God is much the same. No matter how close to God we get at different moments in the journey, it seems like life has a way of just grabbing our attention and pulling us away. A new baby. A health issue. Work-related stress. Marital problems. You name it; exhaustion and distraction abound.
But somehow in the midst of that, our souls yearn for the courts of the Lord. Our hearts pant for his presence. And when we finally shut off the noise enough to draw near…… well that’s when life becomes as precious as a work of art. Those moments with Him are like jewels, sparkling like fresh dew upon our hearts. Those moments awaken us from the noise and grind of surviving and remind us of the untold glory hidden deep beneath the curse of original sin. Something in our being recognizes in those moments whose we are and what we are meant for, and the majesty and intimacy of it all is life-altering.
Like Moses, we leave the inner chamber shining with His light, wholly transformed by His presence.
2020 Copyright by Misty Tolle
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One Reply to “Cultivating a Devotional Practice”
Once again a good Word. Thanks so much!!