Spiritual Discipline as Self-Care with Anthony Skinner

Spiritual Discipline as Self-Care with Anthony Skinner

When we think about spiritual disciplines in our life, whether we incorporate them or not, many of us feel the weight of shame. Maybe we have a difficult time with spiritual disciplines like reading our Bibles or praying.  And as single parents, it can be hard to have a quiet time every single morning amidst the chaos of life. But your relationship with God isn’t about what you should be doing. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s about not comparing your quiet time as a measure of how good of a Christian you are or if God is pleased with you.

That’s why we’re going to explore a new way of approaching spiritual discipline. Going beyond the intellectual exercise of praying and reading through your Bible (as many of us have been taught), and pursuing God in a new way. What if our spiritual discipline isn’t about fulfilling what God or the church’s expectation of us is, but is actually deep soul self-care? If that’s the case, what might that look like if it’s not your traditional method (like reading your bible or praying)?

Anthony Skinner joined us to talk about Spiritual Discipline as self-care. Anthony is a single dad of three. He’s also a spiritual, prayer, meditation, and enneagram director. He’s a music and podcast producer, award winning songwriter, recording artist, worship leader, and the co-host of the popular Typology podcast. He’s also an integral part of a devotional and meditation program called the Shamah Way.

Discovering Spiritual Discipline

Anthony’s parents were real defenders of the poor (and still are today in their 80’s). When he was 16-years-old, he had a mystical experience that fed his desire to want to know more of God. At the same time, he began to do genealogy research about his family and found that his great grandfather (five times removed) had a passion for the poor as well.

Knowing a passion for the poor was in his genes, he began to learn more about people like St. Francis which led him to having a kaleidoscope of passions: the poor, music, and God. Working through that knowledge about himself led him to diving into prayer, meditation, and even listening prayer.

Through that process, Anthony discovered that prayer is like the ebb and flow of the ocean or the beat of the heart or even our breath. You speak and you listen. And God speaks and He listens. Once he discovered that, it lit him up and changed his life forever.

Spiritual Discipline in Single Parenting

Anthony explains that the primary goal of a devotional life is to awaken to the nearness of God. We can experience God in our feelings, our thoughts, our relationships, nature, movies, books. And that awakening is about recognizing He is here with us always.

For Anthony, knowing the fact that God loves his children more than he ever could really helps him navigate anything they go through. There’s also an awareness factor. Anthony is first aware of himself and then aware of God with him. That helps him check in on a moment by moment basis with where he’s at with his children. Knowing that God is with us in our parenting is a game changer.

The Role of Spiritual Discipline in Self-Care

Every experience you have and every feeling you have points to a need. There’s a need of the heart that must be met. True self care is identifying that specific need and making space for it to be met. Prayer and meditation isn’t about toil. It’s a gift. We’re hardwired to walk and talk with God, to experience him in our hearts and minds, in nature, and in our relationships. When we can find that space and give ourselves that space, that’s the truest form of self-care we can have.

The Shamah name came from when Jesus was asked: “What is most important in life?” And He replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” When He said that, He was actually quoting a passage of scripture from Deuteronomy which is called the Shamah. And when Jesus said that, He was letting us know that our spiritual anatomy is made up of these unique four parts: heart, soul, mind, and strength.

In the west, we typically live mind and strength and bypass heart and soul (which is what we’re feeling and what our desires are). It’s very important for us to incorporate all four of those parts. If we don’t, we’re only living at 50% capacity or 25% capacity and there’s so much more for us. To nourish each of those four parts is paramount for us to experience the abundant life Jesus desires for us.

We’re not meant to toil in our walk with God—it’s life giving. So when you come to God and you’re able to bring your heart, mind, soul, and strength, then you come away living from love instead of for it.

How The Shamah Way Spiritual Disciplines Are Different

Jesus differentiated between the four parts: heart mind soul and strength. But we also believe that His order wasn’t random. He started with heart on purpose. So in the Shamah Way app, we start with heart. First, you check in with what you’re feeling, where you’re at, and who and what your desires are. Then you bring your heart to your soul asking God, “What are you doing in me? What are you doing in the world around me? Is there any sin I need to confess?”

Next, you bring your heart and your soul to your mind. This is where we open the scriptures and read. What is unique to you and what do you read in the scripture considering what you have thought about and the work you’ve done in your heart and soul as you’ve brought them to mind?

To end, you bring your heart, soul, and mind to your strength, and ask God: “What are you asking me to co-create with you today? How will it affect others (we live our faith out of community)?” And then we end with a one-word prayer (for example: go, stop, rest, patience).  That one word encapsulates what you’ve done in heart, soul, mind, and strength and helps you recall it as you live it out through your day.

Scripture is a very important part of this process, but bringing your heart and your soul to the Scriptures is paramount as opposed to bringing just your mind to a scripture like we often do. So often, devotion can feel laborious because we’re only bringing our mind to it instead of our whole selves.

Giving Yourself Grace Through Spiritual Discipline

There are days when we don’t have it in us to do our bible study, pray, or just be with God. And the same is true for Anthony. “There are days when I don’t go through my spiritual discipline. There are days I wake up in overwhelm and I can’t think about how I’m going to get through the next hour, all the things I have to do, or whatever it is. There are times when all I can do is just say the name of my children as a prayer.”

Anthony shares that in Hebrew culture, the idea is that God put his name on our very breath. With every inhale and exhale, we’re saying the very name of God. Some days, all he can do is just breathe and he knows God is with him. And there are other days he might even just be too angry to pray in the way we’re talking about. But whenever he’s able and ready to go there, this framework is there waiting for him. There’s room for showing up in whatever it is that we have and allowing God to move in a different way in and through us.

Teaching Your Kids About Spiritual Discipline

Anthony believes that teaching your kids about spiritual discipline and listening to God is just about being purposeful. In his family, they work through Chip Dodd’s Eight Core Emotions often and his kids know how to dig into those things. Whether it’s conversations in passing, conversations at the dinner table, or being with your kids as they wrestle through their desires to go deeper with God, intentionality is key.

Remember, spiritual disciplines aren’t just about taking information into your head. It’s showing up to God and your kids with all of who you are. It’s spending time with Him, being present with Him and with your kids, and being deliberate.

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