How is it with your soul?

My soul is tired…. I feel distanced from God…. I’m anxious….

When Methodists were asked this question in their small group, over two hundred years ago, they were encouraged not only to share how they felt, but more importantly how they were living. Our outward actions are an indication and a determinate of our inner life. To help guide the discussions, John Wesley developed the General Rules. These rules still guide our lives and our relationships today, and are designed to help us stay connected to God, to each other and to the world.

We would like for you to join us this year in practicing these rules. When we join together in worship and in small groups, we will ask each other “How is it with your Soul? This question is asked in true concern for each other and our relationship with God. We encourage you in your family unit and small groups to practice sharing with each other these questions, hold each other up when we are able to live out of them in holiness and justice, and encouraging each other when we find ourselves lacking. We are a people who believe that God can provide grace in our lives that makes us more perfect in love, we just have to be diligent in our practice and discipline.

Relationships are hard work (with God and others); they require time and commitment. As Bishop Ruben Job says, these rules are “simple, but not easy!” Good relationships don’t happen overnight, and require a lifetime of showing up. We hope these rules become a regular part of your life. We guarantee that if you practice them, you will grow in your relationship with God and your family and relationships will improve. We want to help you learn more and enable you make this a daily part of your life.

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how have you stayed connected to others: did you do no harm?

First: By doing no harm, by avoiding evil of every kind. This rule seems easy enough, until we take it seriously. John Wesley went on to expound on it saying “especially that which is most generally practiced, such as: The taking of the name of God in vain; not keeping the Sabbath holy; drunkenness; Fighting, quarreling, brawling, doing to others as we would not have them do unto us; doing what we know is not for the glory of God such as wearing costly apparel; the singing of songs, or reading those books, which do not tend to the knowledge or love of God; softness and needless self-indulgence; laying up treasure on earth; and borrowing without a probability of paying.

This list was adapted and shortened, but can be expanded based on our current lifestyles. What are the things in your life that do you or others harm?

If we were to take this question seriously, we would constantly evaluate how we use our time, gifts and money. What we watch, what we do, where we spend our time all are indications of where our heart is. Do we think about our lives as God’s servant to “do good”?

Ignatious encouraged a form of prayer called Examen. This prayer involves spending time each day reviewing the day with God. If we are honest before God, we can examine our lives and allow God’s grace to show us how we can grow in our love for others and for ourselves. We can trust God, because God wants the very best for us. By being honest with ourselves, we become more aware of the Holy Spirit’s guidance throughout our day.

Asking this question will require a change of habits, an intentional examination of your routines, a dedication to growing more perfect in love, and a holiness of life!

How have you stayed connected to others: Did you do good?

Secondly: By doing good; by being in every kind merciful after their power; as they have opportunity, doing good of every possible sort, and, as far as possible, to all men.

John Wesley utilized Jesus’ example in Matthew 25:35-40 to expound on what this rule meant. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

John Wesley said this meant: using the abilities that you have to give food to the hungry, by clothe the naked, to visit or help those who are sick or in prison; by doing good with each other (encouraging, helping and holding each other accountable); making sure that our actions do not make others distain Christianity; by running with patience the race which is set before them, denying themselves, and taking up their cross daily; submitting to bear the reproach of Christ, to be willing to sacrifice our lives and endure hardships from others and this world in the name of Christ.

Just as in “do no harm”, by examining where we “do good,” and the needs of our world today, can allow us to expand on this list.

Asking this question will require that you truly notice others in your daily routines, and that you set aside time to regularly serve those whom you would not normally come in contact with.

How have you stayed connected to god?

God wants us to stay connected to God. So God has provided us the Means of Grace that keep us connected and allow us to grow in our relationship with God. Bishop Ruben Job says these are ways that God helps us to stay in love with God. For John Wesley there were many means of grace, but he stressed particularly those that Jesus had named; Worship, Holy Communion, Study of Scripture, Private and Public Prayer, and Fasting. If we were to translate these into questions for our day and time we might ask the following:

  • Did you attend Worship?
  • Did you encourage others? 
  • Did you read your Bible?
  • Did you pray?
  • Did you consciously set aside something so you could be with God? 

We many times stay connected to God dependent on our feelings. But staying connected to God is like any other relationship and it involves a 24/7 commitment. If you begin to “feel” like God is distant or that you are “not getting something out of worship”, or that “prayer is hard”, you should re-examine the questions above. If you are not committing to these opportunities for God’s grace to help you grow spiritually, you will begin to feel dissonance and disconnection. This feeling of separation is the opportunity for you to re-examine and re-orient your calendar and your lifestyle to include the opportunities for God’s grace in your life.

How willing are you to change your routine and calendar to commit to God. Are you willing to put these means of grace above all other priorities in your life?

Asking these questions may require that you give up something precious or desirable to be with God.

Soul talk - family style

Staying Connected to God and others is based on the instructions of Jesus in the Great Commandment, Matthew 22:37. This is based on Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. Following the command in Deuteronomy is instructions on how to live them and teach them to your children:

"Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates." Deuteronomy 6:6-9, The Message

We encourage you to talk to your children daily about how they are staying connected to others and to God. Before they go to sleep, while at the dinner table or in the car, ask them how their day went. “Did they have opportunities to do good”? “Did they do something that prevented harm”? Read a bible story together, encourage them to pray out loud before dinner and before they go to sleep, and ask them if they encouraged someone?

Use your daily routines to talk about how each family member is staying connected. Encourage each other and hold each other accountable.