What is a Rule of LIfe?

Meister Eckhart: “If you know God, you know that God’s primary activity is giving birth.”

I love this wreath.  It implies a set of scales and I believe a Rule of life offers us the opportunity to partner with God in co-creativity- to daily weigh our lives and ask is we are living the life we want to live.  It is a daily course-correction.  Most marriages do not fail because of one misstep – they fail because of many, very small, careless missteps – left unnoticed.  Same with bankruptcy.  So why not have a tool to help you live your life – one you wrote with God?

The Problem: Why a rule of life?
Living well is a contract with a God for the willingness for something new to be born in you.  It requires deep humility and many apologies.  Communities, from long before the time of Christ, have written a Rule of Life as a guide for how they want to live together and what boundaries are to be set. It is very likely that Jesus was aware if not involved in the Essene Community, which lived its life by a very detailed and comprehensive Rule of Life in a Jewish form of monastic living.

The Rule of Life is a format for communal living and comes from monasticism – monks and nuns living together. They needed a way to soften the barbs of personal choices which bumped up against each other, while channeling themselves and their passions into a pathway towards Christ.

A Rule of life is a written document with a series of “chapters” each of which deal with a topic of life together which needs to have norms established. Our legal system is a corporate, secular Rule of Life. But a person can have a Rule of Life as well.  That is what this Epiphany Season of blogs is about – thirty small chapters explaining how to write your own Rule of Life.

A community spending their lives together may need 47 chapters with a full page each, describing why this topic is of importance to the community, what they have decided are reasonable norms to which they all agree, how it is based in Jesus’s teachings and why following these guidelines may bring health and joy to their life together.  But  person or a couple or a family or a church may do the same thing – or write a shorter Rule.  And shorter is always harder to write.

Writing your own Rule of Life is easy! It will take you about 30 minutes over 30 days and if you keep at it, at the end, you will have your first draft!

Make a list of the areas in which a daily reminder of how we live would be helpful – such as food, home, worship, study, rest, playfulness, prayer, church involvement, friendship, Money, mindfulness, conflict, marriage (if you are in one), relational boundaries, etc.  Then simply draft a “chapter” for each topic. (we will go into more details over the next 30 Sips but this is basically it!

A “chapter” of a Rule of Life may be as long as a few pages or as short as a few sentences.  I suggest most people write something between 250 – 1,000 words.  The important thing is that it not be so long that you will not end up reading your chapter each day. Make each chapter readable in a single setting and not so laborious that you will not want to have to read it regularly.  And try to keep them all about the same length wth some exceptions.

Once you have written your chapters and agreed on their content, they are assembled into a three ring binder and each chapter is read out loud regularly as part of your morning devotions – like checking a map to be sure you are on course.  This is Holy reading, which means that you are still, the reading is in the context of your life with God and your reading is slow and intentional. The difference between these “chapters” and “Bible chapters”  or “chapters” from your favorite novel, is that your Rule was written by you, in the context of God, for you to have read to you by you.

Every time you hear a chapter – read out loud or silently, your words, written to yourself, are a reminder of how you have chosen for you to live your life. These chapters are correctives when you migrate into ways of life which you did not intend for yourself.  For example, when a person writes a chapter on “friendship” which states that you commit to maintaining carefully connected friendships , the regular reading of that chapter reminds you that you want to do this, why you want to do this, and what joy you hope it will bring you and has brought others in the past.  Then, if you find you get busy and neglect your friendships, then when you hear this chapter read out loud, it hurts a bit. Then you self-correct and remain on your path.

A Rule of Life helps a person or a community to remember and live by its intentions, making it harder to wander off course.

Here is a Sample Chapter outline for a Rule of Life Chapter on


What do you see in scripture, church tradition or reason regarding this topic?

What do you see in yourself regarding this topic?

What are your goals for how your life will express this topic?

What measures will you take to encourage the goals you have set for yourself (people, resources, checks and balances, boundaries, etc.)?

What do you seek from God in assistance regarding this topic?

Answer these questions and you have a Rule of Life chapter! …so, write!  Do not be afraid!

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