Contemplative Spiritual Disciplines: Writing a Rule of Life, Part One

Rule of St. Benedict, 810 AD, oldest existing copy of St. Benedict’s Rule, housed at St. Gallen, Switzerland, at the Stiftsbibliotek Library, one of the largest and finest library of medieval texts in Europe. I visited this library with my wife and photographer son Thomas Robinson, and I was able to spend a few hours reading and enjoying this amazing ancient manuscript in Fall 2008.
Photo by Thomas Robinson.

One of the classic contemplative spiritual disciplines from ancient times is writing a “Rule of Life” or spiritual guidelines for daily living. The early church followed a “Rule of Life” as seen in Acts 2:42-47.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. ~Acts 2:42-47

This ancient Rule of Life guided their life with God, their life within, and their life in community.

Below, I offer to you my Rule of Life. I review and update this Rule of Life annually, and seek to live by these principles and practices in my everyday way of life. My Rule of Life is divided into three parts: Life with God, Life Within, and Life in Community. I have four spiritual guidelines for each part, for a total of 12 guidelines. For each guideline, I have a Bible passage, a quotation from the Rule of St. Benedict, and a life practice. I have also embedded into my Rule of Life the three basic vows of Benedictine spirituality: the vow of Obedience, the vow of Lifelong Conversion, and the vow of Stability. Finally, I’ve also incorporated the Vision Statement of Cannon Beach Community Church, the congregation I’ve served since 1993: Know Christ, Grow in Christ together, Go with Christ into our Community and World. These words are in BOLD CAPS below to highlight this aspect of my Rule of Life.

This is Part One of “Writing a Rule of Life,” offering an example of a Rule of Life. In Part Two, I will explore how you can write a Rule of Life, giving guidelines and resources for practicing this ancient contemplative spiritual discipline.


Practice the Presence of God

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. ~Psalm 139:7

We believe that the divine presence is everywhere.  ~RB 19.1

I seek to practice the presence of God daily, to KNOW CHRIST in every moment. I will look for God’s presence in the ordinary events of each day.

Listening Obedience

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. ~ Ecclesiastes 5:1

Listen . . . with the ear of your heart.  ~RB Prologue 1

I seek to listen to God, to people, and to creation with the ear of my heart. I will learn to listen keenly and sensitively to God’s voice, to people, and to creation, especially through the spiritual discipline of silence. I seek a life of obedience, putting God’s Word into life practice.

Walking Ancient Paths

This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” ~Jeremiah 6:16

The brothers should have specified periods for . . . prayerful reading. ~RB 48:1

I am committed to daily walking ancient paths, including praying the Psalms, prayerful reading of Scripture, centering prayer, and Sabbath Keeping. I will seek to draw close to God, abide in Christ, through praying the Psalms and daily centering prayer. I will root my heart and mind in Christ through daily prayerful reading of God’s word. I rest my soul in Christ weekly on Fridays as a Sabbath day, stepping away from work/ministry, to sit at Jesus’ feet and abide in Christ.

Preferring Christ 

For Christ’s love compels us . . . ~2 Corinthians 5:14

Prefer nothing to the love of Christ.  RB 4:21

Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way; the love of Christ must come before all else. ~RB 4:20

I am committed to preferring nothing in life to the love of Christ. I seek to magnify Jesus in everything I do, seeking to give the love of Jesus Christ priority above all else.



Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. ~1 Peter 5:6

‘Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted’ (Luke 14:11).” ~RB 7

I am committed to a life of humility, laying down my life before Christ and others. I seek to yield myself to Jesus and to live in loving accountability to others.

Lifelong Conversion through Spiritual Direction

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. ~Romans 12:1-2

Through this love, all . . . will now begin to be observed without effort, as though naturally, for habit, . . . out of love for Christ, good habit, and delight in virtue.  ~RB 7.68-69

I seek ongoing, lifelong, deep transformation of my whole person, with the help of a spiritual director. I will meet regularly with a spiritual director. I will actively receive and give spiritual direction through the ministry of Jesus Christ.

The Cloud of Unknowing 

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” ~Matthew 17:5

All things are done in moderation.  ~RB 48.9

I am committed to entering into the Cloud of Unknowing daily, through the day and during the night, putting everything less than God beneath God in the Cloud of Forgetting.  

Grace Hunting 

Out of his fullness we have all received grace upon grace. ~John 1:16

Regard all utensils as if they were the sacred vessels of the altar.  RB 31.10

I daily go grace hunting by viewing all creation as sacramental, seeking God’s grace in all life, appreciating and lovingly caring for all the goods of home, work, community, creation. I will GO WITH CHRIST INTO OUR COMMUNITY AND WORLD, to love others as Christ loves me.  


Life Together

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. ~Acts 2:42

May he bring us all together to everlasting life.  ~RB 72.12

I am committed to GROW IN CHRIST TOGETHER with others, seeking to become more of who I am in growing, loving relationships with others.


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 . . . ~Matthew 25:35

Let all . . . be received as Christ.  ~RB 53.1

I practice hospitality by welcoming others as Christ, by offering warmth, acceptance, and open heart to others, receiving them as Christ.


So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. ~Colossians 2:6-7

Now the workshop in which we shall diligently execute all these tasks is the enclosure of the monastery and stability in the community. ~RB 4

I root my life in Christ Jesus, and in life with people, including my wife and our family, Cannon Beach Community Church, and Mount Angel Abbey. I seek to be well-rooted, secure, committed to God, to God’s calling, to the communities of Cannon Beach Community Church, the Evangelical Covenant Church, and people of the north Oregon coast. 


You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. ~Psalm 16:11

…as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love. ~RB Prol 49

I seek to live with joy in all I do, bringing joy and playfulness to others through my life. I will try to offer Christ’s gift of joy, celebration, playfulness, and delight to others.

Are you hastening toward your heavenly home? Then with Christ’s help, keep this little rule that we have written for beginners. After that, you can set out for the loftier summits  of the teaching and virtues we mentioned above, and under God’s protection you will reach them. Amen. ~RB 73:8-9

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