A Invitation to Spiritual Practices

Our lives are often marked by hurry and noise, and we can quickly become out of touch with ourselves and God’s presence in our lives. Spiritual practices help us re-orient ourselves to what matters most in our lives. Spiritual practices are anything that help us slow down and make space for God in our lives. They serve as places where we encounter and are transformed by God. Ruth Haley Barton writes that spiritual practices are how we create conditions in which spiritual transformation can take place by keeping us open and available to God.

Engaging in spiritual practices can look different for each of us and you ultimately need to find what works for you, but here are a few guidelines and couple really easy practices you may want to try. 

Guidelines for Spiritual Practices: 

  • Don’t make it a task! Find something that doesn’t feel like a task, but instead brings rest and peace to your life. 
  • Minimize technology. Technology is a gift in many ways, but it is also a massive distraction. Find ways to minimize or eliminate technology when you engage in your spiritual practice. 
  • Do it regularly. While we want to avoid making our spiritual practice one more thing we mark off of our to-do list, we do want to do it on a regular basis. We may not notice anything immediately, but in the long run, taking intentional and regularly scheduled time to slow down and make space will pay off. 
  • Make it realistic. It is easy to feel like we are not “doing enough” when it comes to spiritual practices. The reality is most of us struggle with spiritual practices because we are not realistic and set the bar too high. We do something for a few days or weeks, but get burnt out. If you are in the middle of a stressful semester or are a parent with young children it may not be feasible to get up and pray for an hour everyday before sunrise. Make your practices small, attainable, and something that you can realistically do on a regular basis in the season you’re currently in.

You may already have some practices you do on a regular basis or know of some that you want to do. However, if you’re just starting with spiritual practices or want to do something new below are a couple of really simple practices that you can do in just 5-10 minutes each day.

Sacred Reading (sometimes called Lectio Divina) 

  • Select a short passage of scripture (just a verse or two, typically from the Psalms or one of the Gospels) 
  • Read – Read through the passage slowly. You may find it helpful to read silently or aloud. As you read, pay attention to a word or phrase that stands to you. If no word or phrase stands out, then simply choose one. It’s okay if nothing stands out.  
  • Reflect – After identifying a word or phrase, read through the passage again. Notice how focusing on this word changes how you read the passage. Take a moment after reading through the passage a second time to reflect on the word or phrase and how it connects to your life. 
  • Respond – Read the passage again, paying attention to your natural and deepest response to God. Without judging, bring whatever thoughts and feelings you have to God. Don’t try to filter or edit your response, but let it flow naturally. 
  • Rest – Read through the passage one final time. Simply rest in silence and God’s presence. Be still and listen. 

Breath Prayer

Breath prayer is an ancient Christian practice that helps to incorporate words or phrases of prayer into your life throughout the day. Usually these prayers are said silently, but can also be said aloud or sung.  Begin with 5 minutes of breath prayer and gradually increase the amount of time you spend in prayer. 

  • Close your eyes and recall the line “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Be still, calm, peaceful, open to the presence of God.
  • With your eyes closed, imagine that God is calling you by name. Imagine that God is actually asking, “(Your name) what do you want?”
  • Give God a simple and direct answer that comes honestly from your heart. Write down the answer. Your answer may be one word such as peace or love or help. It may be several words or a phrase such as “feel your presence” or “lead me into life.” 
  • Select the name that you are most comfortable using to speak with God. Combine it with your written answer to the question God asked you. This is your prayer.
  • Breathe in the first phrase/word (generally your invocation of God’s name) and breathe out the second phrase/word (request or need).

You may need to “try on” several prayers before you find one which truly fits who you are and your desires for God’s work in your life. It may be the same from day to day or it may change.  However you use it, the breath prayer is a great way to be reminded of God’s presence with you at all times.

In teaching his disciples about the Sabbath Jesus said, “Sabbath was made for humankind, not humankind for the sabbath”. The same can be said of spiritual practices as a whole. They are tools given to us by God to help us become the people God created us to be. While we want to engage in practices with some sense of discipline, they are meant to bring freedom and joy in our lives, deepening our connection with God, self, and others. So as you engage in practices and find out what works for you, we pray that your experience is marked by grace and freedom as you allow these practices to make space for you rest in God’s unconditional love.

End of the Year Rituals

Rituals are central parts of our lives. They encourage us through the different seasons of our lives and help to move us from one chapter on our journey to the next. Through ritual we build community, we make transitions and mark important events in our lives, we remember and reflect on our joy and sorrow, and we create and sustain identity. For people of faith, ritual is something that sustains us week in and week out as we come together with our communities and tell the story of our salvation.

Each school year begins and ends with rituals – move-in day, Welcome Week, the first days of class, opening convocation. Each semester ends with pancake night (my personal favorite), final exams and projects, the telling of stories, the celebrations of accomplishments and a ritual that moves us from one season into the next.

Unfortunately, like so many other things in our lives right now – our rituals of ending this school will not be the same. There will be no moving out of dorms and apartments en masse, no talk about which Study Abroad or International Mission trip you’ll be leaving on soon. For folks that are graduating, your ceremonies have been postponed until August. We don’t get to feel the sense of closure that we need as we transition from one season to the next.

Below are a few rituals that you can do in right where you are that will help you to close out this semester, and maybe for some of you your time at Belmont.

  1. Labyrinth – A labyrinth is a tool that Christians have used for hundreds of years as a way to guide and structure their prayers, helping give them direction and structure, and helping them to feel like they are on a journey. You may have access to a labyrinth at a retreat center or church nearby, but you can also use this finger labyrinth. 
  • As you work your way from the outside to the inside of the Labyrinth, reflect on your experiences this semester – both the joys and challenges.
  • When you reach the center, think about what you have learned about yourself, about others, about God.
  • As you work your way back to the outside of the labyrinth, consider what you want to take away from what you have learned – what will shape the way that you understand God, relate to other people, the way that you are in the world?

2. Final Exams – Use your final exams or assignments as a place of reflection. You may find the following questions helpful as you reflect back on all you have learned. Do this for each of your courses as you close out the semester.

  • What have you learned?
  • How have you changed because of this course?
  • What will you take with you?

3. Journaling/Reflection – Find somewhere where you can be alone and quiet. Give yourself at least 15 minutes, but maybe up to an hour to think about your time at Belmont. Whether you regularly journal or not you may find it helpful to look back over this school year and reflect on relationships – good and bad, experiences – good and bad – and ask these questions:

  • What have you learned about yourself? What have you learned about others?
  • How have you changed? What will be different for you moving forward?
  • What will you take with you from this year?
  • What were some meaningful or impactful relationships?
  • What do you want to celebrate about the year and how you have grown?

4. Gratitude – Think about friends, professors, club advisors, campus ministry folks who have been an important part of your journey. You might consider writing a letter of gratitude to these people, expressing how they have left an impact on your life over the last year(s).

5. Grieve Your Losses – If you are a senior, you may want to take a few moments to grieve what you what you have lost. Recognize and acknowledge what you have lost, allowing space to feel whatever sadness, disappointment, or even anger that naturally arises.

God is With You. These are just small ways to reclaim some sense of ritual that we have lost, and take time in the midst of the uncertainty of our present to remember that you are not alone. As you close your time of reflection, end your time in prayer – offering thanks for your Belmont experience and the events, people and places that shaped it. As you move into the next chapter of your journey, whether that’s into summer school, an internship, grad school or your first “real job” know that the God who has walked beside you here at Belmont goes with you and will never leave you or forsake you.


Easter Sunday, April 12

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24, Isaiah 25:6-9, I Corinthians 15:1-11, John 20:1-18

“Do not be afraid…they will see me.”

These are words Jesus spoke to Mary Magdalene and Mary as they encountered him while running from the empty tomb on Easter Sunday morning to tell the disciples all they had seen and heard—a violent earthquake, an empty tomb, an angel appearing as lightening, and fear overwhelming Roman guards. After the fear and grief of Saturday, they awoke to the joy only Sunday could bring.

I have known fear, and I have known the difficulty in seeing clearly through the veil of paralyzing doubt. While I write these words in mid-January, I’m contemplating the final days of my father’s life as he wins his battle with end-stage cancer, and the near-end of real connection with my mother as dementia slowly diminishes her memory. These are the days and nights of pain and suffering, of doubt and despair, of fear and fainting sight.

Perhaps it’s no accident that I agreed to write this Easter Sunday Lenten meditation. All of us have or will have that moment when our world will turn to darkness, when hope will feel out of reach, fear will overtake us, and our sight will grow dim.

After their encounter with Jesus, Scripture tells us that Mary Magdalene and Mary were “afraid yet filled with joy”—the “dark night of the soul” met the “joy that comes in the morning.”

Afraid yet filled with joy! As I celebrate Easter Sunday, I will have been to my father’s tomb, and I will have likely moved closer to saying goodbye to the memory-life of my mother. I will have walked the path of mourning and will have begun to embrace the path of morning—the journey by which joy overcomes fear, hope integrates with grief, and promise breathes new life into the future.

What journey are you on today? Has fear overwhelmed and paralyzed you such that it’s difficult to see and embrace a future? Has joy come to you in the early hours and given you a hope and a promise? Or perhaps life is going well, and you’re preparing for a yet unknown Saturday. Regardless, resurrection is a reminder that death does not have the final say—joy, hope, and promise are the light that breaks into darkness, giving life to those who seek faith, hope, and love. And seek we must. Do not be afraid. You will see him.

Wayne Barnard, Lecturer

Department of Psychological Sciences, College of Science and Math



Holy Saturday, April 11

Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16, Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24, I Peter 4:1-8, Matthew 27:57-66

Some say that Holy Saturday is the day that Jesus rested from His work of providing salvation to the world. As I let my mind roam back, I think of some of the events that led to that fateful day: the miracles; preaching; the healings; fulfilling of prophecy; the teaching of his disciples; the betrayal of a friend; the agony of his suffering in Gethsemane when he prayed for release from his assignment; Peter’s denial; the mocking/insulting crowd that once hailed him as Hosanna; the beatings; the whippings, the scourging; the suffering of the cross and lastly being forsaken by His father. Then, finally before dying on that cross, he states “It is finished”.

I don’t know that I will ever fully understand that depth of love that led Christ to do what he did for us. However, I am grateful for it. I do know that, like Jesus, in this life we will suffer and through this suffering we will continue to be transformed into his very image. Following His example, we must strive to be obedient to the will and way of our Father and complete the assignments given to us, no matter the struggle. For there is also a rest provided for us each day as we rely on the word that God has given us.

“This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. The Lord’s loving kindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.”

Lamentations 3:21-24

There is something that is so incredibly gratifying about completing the assignment. With that final exhale, you know that every challenge, every problem, hardship, tear and moment of agony was worth it. Finishing the assignment that God has set before you may take you to places you least expect and put people into your path that may challenge you in ways you don’t expect. However, it is the journey and our obedience to God that brings us into harmony with Him. It is in those moments of harmony that there is true peace and rest.

Angie B. Bryant, Assistant Dean of Students

Division of Student Affairs

Good Friday, April 10

Psalm 22, Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Hebrews 10:16-25, John 18:1-19:42

The Not-Just-Superhuman Priest

We love superheroes. At least, according to the box office. Movies about superheroes have become the most popular and profitable film franchises, grossing billions of dollars in box office receipts. Black Panther grossed $700 million, while Avengers: Infinity War grossed $678.8 million. That doesn’t include Avengers Endgame, Iron Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, and many others. And then there are those heroic Jedi warriors from Star Wars who wield a superpower-like ability to tap into The Force and elevate themselves above their foes.

To be sure, there is something captivating and exciting about watching superheroes do super human things, routing evil and restoring justice, doing good for humankind and saving it from human villainy. Maybe it’s not so mysterious that we are attracted to superheroes. Perhaps we sense and clearly see our need for someone to root out the human inclinations that lead us to express the worse human nature has to offer, to let a lack of love fester until it becomes villainous. Even when we don’t sense our own capacity for sin, according to the Bible it’s there just the same. And it took someone with more than Superhero-type power to right it.

Scripture tells us that the blood of goats, bulls, doves, and lambs lacked the efficacy that comes from a human life for a human life. And even then, not just any human life. Rather, a Savior who would choose to experience what we do, to know what it is to be betrayed (multiple times), or discriminated against, or lonely, or an outsider, or anxious, or poor, or what it’s like to suffer a miscarriage of justice, to not be recognized for who you are. And yet, powerful over it all.

As the writer of Hebrews puts it: “Seeing that we have a great High Priest who has entered the inmost Heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to our faith. For we have no superhuman High Priest to whom our weaknesses are unintelligible—he himself has shared fully in all our experience of temptation, except that he never sinned. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with fullest confidence, that we may receive mercy for our failures and grace to help in the hour of need.”

This is not swooping down with the quick thunderbolt or crashing through walls and then disappearing until the next crisis. It is infinitely better.

Cheryl Slay Carr, Associate Dean

College of Entertainment & Music Business


Maundy Thursday, April 9

Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19, Exodus 12:1-14, I Corinthians 11:23-26, John 13:1-17, 31b-35

God does miracles to show us that he is on the side of healing, not disease; life, and not death; freedom, and not bondage. The Passover celebration took place before the Exodus from slavery in Egypt. The Jewish people had been enslaved for centuries, but now God was about to act to free them. He told them to take “a male lamb without defect” to be “slaughtered.” They would eat his flesh, while his blood would protect them from the death that would bring God’s people into a new life of freedom.

The very first account written about the last Passover meal that Jesus ate with his disciples is not in the Gospels, but in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth. This tiny group of Jewish and Gentile Christians was rejected by both the Jewish leadership and the Roman authorities. They needed to know that despite the financial and personal losses they suffered for following Jesus, they were not forgotten by God. Like the Jewish people who had suffered in Egypt, the new Christians were given a Passover meal to celebrate. Instead of being told “things would work out,” they were reminded that Jesus suffered with and for them: “This is My body, given for you;” this is the “new covenant in My blood.”

We call the day before Good Friday “Maundy Thursday” from the Latin word “mandatum,” meaning “a command to do something.” We are commanded by God to “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes”—a Lord who is put to death by his subjects; a sinless Messiah who suffers for his guilty persecutors; “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” but is scorned and mocked in the process.

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke contain accounts of the Passover meal that prefigure how “Christ our Passover lamb” will be sacrificed for our good. But there is no such account in the Gospel of John, the last Gospel written by the last Apostle to die. Instead, John focusses how we should respond to Jesus, the Suffering Servant who even washed his disciples’ feet, saying “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” We can echo St. Augustine in response: “O Lord, command what you will, and give what you command.”

 Todd Lake, Vice President

Spiritual Development


Wednesday of Holy Week, April 8

Psalm 70, Isaiah 50:4-9a, Hebrews 12:1-3, John 13:21-32

 Today in the Christian calendar is just a weird day, in my amateur opinion. In this Holy Week, today has no immediately recognizable affiliation.

Palm Sunday is now several days behind us. Yet, one of today’s passages remind me of Jesus’s triumphant entry. If I were asked to describe the scene on that day, the “cloud of witnesses” we find in Hebrews 12:1 would do a pretty good job to describe the cheering masses welcoming Jesus’s entry with shouts of Hosanna! The comparison feels straightforward for me to make!

And—from our perspective of hindsight—we know what is coming the next two days: a story partially captured in today’s passage from the Gospel of John. Looking at verses 26 and 27, the stage is set for Judas’s betrayal and the difficult events of Jesus’s trial and crucifixion. The excitement of Sunday is now giving way to the darkness of Thursday night and Friday. Hope is starting to dim; joy begins to fade. Because we are looking back at these events, we do know that hope and joy are not fully lost!

Where do we—as 21st-century Christians—go from here? My reading of today’s passage from Isaiah offers a good starting point. From the celebration of the previous Sunday to the despair of Friday to the ultimate redemption found this upcoming Sunday morning, our God has been, is, and will be there for us! How great is the litany in Isaiah: “Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me” (50:8, NRSV). Let the words of Psalms be our reminder and hope: “You are my help and deliverer; O LORD, do not delay!” (70:5b, NRSV).

Ryan Fox, Assistant Professor

Math and Education, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science


Tuesday of Holy Week, April 7

Psalm 71:1-14, Isaiah 49:1-7, I Corinthians 1:18-31, John 12:20-36

Now that the Son of God is here, there has been a shift– a true turning point– towards a new way of being. In His ministry, Jesus challenged the world’s wisdom with the Lord’s. So often we find ourselves so insistent on the manifestation of our own plan that we ignore the truth of God’s call for God’s Kingdom. As we become less interested in our own wisdom and strength, we become more susceptible to the voice of God in our life.

Isaiah 49 established that there is a change coming. Israel, as God’s chosen people, is to prepare as servants of the Lord in excited anticipation for God, the Redeemer and Holy One, to restore Israel. What this means is that God’s children are to put their trust in God. Psalm 71 reminds us of the faith we can have in the Lord for righteousness, rescue, and refuge. With this knowledge, we can look towards Jesus’ ministry, and the major change that took place with the manifestation of God’s plan. We are called to mirror Jesus’ faith in God’s seemingly crazy plan. Just as Jesus urged his followers to pursue a life of light in the gospel of John chapter 12, in our modern context we can pursue God fiercely.

In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul explains that Jesus’ death on the cross is certainly not what most would have predicted for our supposed savior. However, Paul’s words capture the character of God in the sacrifice of God’s son perfectly: “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” When we know God intimately, we may grow in our knowledge of God’s strength. When we are confident in God’s strength, we may walk in the confidence of God’s almighty power, goodness, and plan. Through this, we become saved and sanctified and made new, for God’s plan is that we are in relationship with Jesus, and we are confident in God’s boundless love for God’s children.

Kaela Buggy, Class of 2022

College of Theology and Christian Ministry

Monday of Holy Week, April 6

Psalm 36:5-11, Isaiah 42:1-9, Hebrews 9:11-15, John 12:1-11

Lent always occurs in the late winter and early spring. This is the time of year when the weather vacillates between warm and cold, sun and rain. We wake up to the crisp morning air, reminded that winter hasn’t left only to experience the warmth of the afternoon sun, reminding us that spring knocks on the door.

This time of year reminds me that I live between winter and spring. I have good days and bad days. Most days include elements of both struggle and growth.

I think we all live between winter and spring. We live between Christ’s first and second coming. The trajectory for the redemption of all things is set, but we have yet to arrive. Just as we experience glimpses of what’s to come in the trees budding and birds singing, we experience glimpses of what comes when one day everything broken will be healed, but we aren’t fully there yet.

I don’t do well living in between. I want to live in either winter or spring. I can lose sight of God’s faithfulness and lose hope. I can also totally ignore the brokenness in myself and the world around me.

These words from the Psalm and Isaiah provide a way for us to live in between, to live in that awkward space between winter and spring. They remind us that God’s love is steadfast and that evildoers persist. We see that God’s servant, embodied in the person of Jesus, doesn’t ignore what is broken and will not grow faint until all is made whole. There is dark and light. There is brokenness and healing. We experience despair and hope. God’s rule of peace, love, justice, and grace is now and not yet.

So as the rain drizzles and the sun peeks through the clouds, as the cold lingers and the trees start to bud, I hope that we can be reminded of God’s faithful presence with us in the in between. May we remember that God’s love is just as real on the days when we feel overwhelmed by living in a broken world and on the days when joy springs forth like an endless fountain. May we remember God’s goodness and steadfast love in the now and not yet, in between winter and spring.

Josh TenHaken-Riedel, Assistant Director of Spiritual Formation

University Ministries



Lenten Devotional for Sunday, April 5 (Palm Sunday)

Psalm 118: 1-2; 19-29, Luke 19: 28-40, Isaiah 50: 4-9a, Philippians 2:5-11, Psalm 31:9-16, Luke 22:14-23; 56, Luke 23: 1-49 

“A Choice” by Lauren Wright Pittman

Our Lenten journey heads toward its end with the beating of palm branches.  What do they signal?  The coming of a king?  The suffering of a servant?  Artist Lauren Wright Pittman offers the following reflections: 

“Jesus offers us a layered and complicated choice, one that is as complex as his own dualistic nature. The first option is self-denial, a heavy burden, and a lost—but saved—life. The second is gaining the whole world, but forfeiting life. It’s easy for a seasoned Christian to take this choice for granted. This choice that Jesus calls us into may even seem like a no brainer, but in this moment, Jesus teaches of the terrors that will befall him and invites the crowd to knowingly face that path alongside him. If we’re honest, it is extremely difficult to reject the tempting power and wealth this world has to offer and allow our life to take the shape of good news for all. 

The choice isn’t an obvious one. One side looks like an opulent pile of riches, a crown, and endless power, while the other looks like tattered and worn hands with new life blooming out of wounds, work, burdens and relationships. This choice may seem like a distant decision made long ago, but it’s a decision to be made every single day, one moment at a time. In working for and with the downtrodden, poor, orphaned, widowed, ostracized, and oppressed, we will find ourselves.”

The coming Holy Week calls each of us to answer Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?”  Our response is found in how we invest our lives. 

God, deliver me from the evil temptation of power, privilege, and wealth into wounds, work, and relationships so that love will supremely reign.  Amen. 

Kelly Moreland Jones, Trainer & Self Service Analyst 

Administrative Technology


Image link: (http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=57082