Step 1 - Setting a Rule of Life



Earlier this spring, Ruth decided she wanted to grow a pine tree. I believe she is genetically predisposed to this. I have dreamed of starting a Christmas tree farm throughout every minute of my adult life.

 Not kidding.


 The first attempt that she made at this involved her grabbing a cluster of something she identified as seeds and sticking them into a pot with soil. As her mother I commended the effort. She knew seeds required dirt and she quickly followed up with water.

We will never know if said cluster was actually seeds or not because a few days later she lost patience with the entire thing and stopped watering. Soon it was just a little pot with an adorable label, full of dried up soil.

 Waiting isn’t a five-year-old’s giftedness.

Still, she couldn’t shake her dream of one day being a cultivator of a needley evergreen of her own, so she set out once again, tweaking her methods slightly by locating a tiny seedling and transplanting it into a jar of water. A bit ruggedly if we are being honest. It was mostly a yank than a gentle relocating.

 I applauded this approach. It was admittedly better than her first attempt. Definitely more certain outcome wise. First, it was clearly a pine tree, not a cluster of something that may or may not have been seeds of a plant that may or may not have been a pine tree. Here we at least had identification on our side.

But the sapling never made it from the jar to another pot of dirt. And eventually the water dried up and it too died.

Why? Because she didn’t have a good plan. And the parts of her plan that were good were haphazardly executed. And progress seemed far off she lost patience and didn’t follow through on what she had once set out in pursuit of with intention. Mostly because again, #five. But for all of their scattered indecision, five-year olds are also quite disciplined. Kids of all ages seem to love routines. They appreciate the predictability of plans, rules and the setting of expectations. Just think of all the times you have heard a kindergartener rat a friend out for failing to follow the rules.

It happens.

A lot.

They live to enforce boundaries on each other because in many ways it is how they are learning about the world and themselves.

Which is why I think this age is perfect for beginning to illustrate the importance of a few good rules. Bringing us to our first “tool” of the summer - developing a rule of life.

Because all cultivation requires intention. Pine trees and spiritual development alike. We grow stuff best when we follow a plan and stick to it. And then we slowly learn to develop confidence and trust in the process of slow growth and things we cant see.


Some people ask me what makes the spiritual disciplines Christian. Some even wonder if they are Christian at all. Then you go and throw the word ‘rule’ into the mix and others get a bit shifty.

I personally like the word rule. Because I lack self-discipline and benefit from structure. This is not a personal jab on myself, its self-awareness.

The point with developing a rule of life is not to trample our message of grace with legalism. It’s far from it.

In the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, author Adele Calhoun writes,


“Each rule or rhythm is a way we partner with God for the transformation only He can bring. Rules keep our lives from devolving into unintended chaos. They aren’t a burdensome list of dos and don’ts. Enumerating everything you might do in a day. Life-giving rules are a brief and realistic scaffold of disciplines that support your heart’s desire to grow in loving God and others.”

Who was an excellent example of this? Jesus.

He went into the city, then up to the mountain. Preaching to the masses and then praying in solitude. Fasting and then feasting. Healing and then resting. Jesus had rhythm.





Yesterday we went back out into the garden and happened upon a tiny little sapling that had sprung up. A second chance.


This time I leaned over and gave Ruth a couple of tips pointing her towards success.

#1 Go get a shovel. Dont just yank the thing

#2 Get a pot. Pine trees don’t grow in cups of water.

#3 Make it a big pot, so it has room to grow..

These are basic things that she is just learning.

Fundamentals of growth. An outline of what will set up plants for success. 

These elements should also be taken into consideration when developing a rule of life.



  • Pray.

  • Ask God to reveal something you need for growth

  • A realistic intention you can set for yourself. Can Ruth grow a pine tree today? Absolutely. In prayer, God will lead you to something within your reach something He will give you the tools and grace to make real in your life.


There are tons of spiritual disciplines that have been proven to work in the Christian life throughout time. But that doesn’t mean they all work for each of us all the time. 

We are dynamic creatures living in a world that moves. Just like plants. While some will root and thrive in a jar of water, others won’t. And in each season the demands of that an individual plant shifts. 


Is it dormant? Or in a period of rapid growth?

 Does it have energy stores or are they depleted? 

 Is the weather mild and forgiving through change?

Or is the sun beating down on it like a sauna making it frail and weak?

Likewise, with people our specific needs and abilities shift. Some people benefit from things like fasting, five year olds don’t. The point isnt to come up with some crazy plan that leaves a kid feeling like a failure, the point is to welcome them into something exciting, something that they can learn to embrace the discipline of, knowing it makes their life more full and more fun.




After considering the above details and praying about a rule that would work for us right here in our now, I found the answer for our rule of life coming from the mouth of Jesus himself. 



Within this one passage from the sixth chapter of Matthew I have found all that we need to fill this summer with intentional slowness and awareness of God’s presence. God alone being the ultimate source of our eventual inner slowing. The entire statement is somehow both incredibly simple and quite profound. With much to say to anyone searching the teachings of Jesus for answers on life in the Kingdom of Heaven.

So, each tool that we pull from our Spiritual Toolbox in the weeks that follow will be tied directly to this. 

 More on our second tool coming tomorrow. Until then, take a minute and step outside and once you are out there, find a flower and consider it for a minute.




Karen Milioto