Your Soul . . . Spiritual
Introduction to Growing Your Own Soul:
Your soul is the place where you know there is a God even before you
meet Him. The soul is that in us which longs for the right thing.
And once we come into a relationship with God, it's the place where
we commune with Him. The soul can be filled with God or devoid of
Him, but if it is empty, God is the only thing that will fill it. We
can throw all sorts of pleasures and loves in there, but none will
satisfy like God, because the soul was made to long for Him and no
other. When God breathed into Adam, he became a living soul forever
longing for God's breath to fill him again.
Our soul is ours to do with as we please. We can choose to grow it
or let it atrophy. The Psalmist, David, goes as far as to talk to
his soul and tell it what to do. "Bless the Lord, O my soul." is a
common phrase in his poetry, as if it might do something else if he
didn't tell it to do this.
So to grow our soul means to enlarge our capacity for God and truth.
Growing our soul is all about learning to walk with God -- listening
to Him through His word and through the natural revelations of Him
that come through the things He has made, which includes all the
people you know since they were made in God's image. Growing your
soul can also have to do with finding God in the ordinary life and
activities we share in every day. It's about being more conscious of
the presence of God within you as you go about your normal routines
of life. Growing your soul doesn't only happen through spiritual
activities like praying and reading the Bible; it also can happen in
the way we do everything else. It's a God-consciousness that
enlarges as we grow it. When Paul says to pray without ceasing, he
means to be more of a soul-conscious person.
Thus growing you soul means to enlarge your capacity for God and
your awareness of Him. For even the most mature of believers, this
may be hard sometimes. We all go through times when everything
around us seems dry and barren, spiritually. Our souls still long
for God. David's soul longs for God in a dry and weary land where
there is no water (Psalm 63:1). And like a deer pants for water, his
soul longs for God (Psalm 42:1).
That's important to know, because this is not a longing that is over
once we meet God and are filled with His Spirit. We still long for
Him because we long to know Him more, and we sometimes lose sight of
Him even though we know better. Just as we must regularly take in
physical food in order to stay alive, our souls must have spiritual
food in order to grow and be healthy. If your soul is undersized, it
is because you haven't been paying attention to it. It's been
telling you all along what it needs, you have just been too busy or
too distracted to hear it and do anything about it.
These pages are designed to help you do just that -- to grow your
own soul. It's a good dose of soul food, some of it inspirational
and some of it practical, but all designed to help fill up that
place we have for knowing God, loving Him more, and becoming more
conscious of Him in our daily walk.
Rick Warren's article on spiritual growth is a good place to begin,
as he tells us why it is important to pay attention to what our
souls need. Then I would recommend Henry Cloud's article in Purpose
Driven Relationships on growing your own soul. He spends some time
at the beginning defining what the soul is and then gives some
practical suggestions as to how to help it grow. That theme of
practicality is continued in a very personal way in Katie
Brazelton's article on the ABC's of meeting with God. You'll even
laugh along with this one! Then Brett Eastman shows us how pain
plays an important role in growing your soul. And finally Lance Witt
will talk to us about what we all need and don't take enough of:
solitude. He even guides us through one possible map for a time
alone with God.
All in all, this is a good feast for your soul and hopefully add
some new habits to your life that will help you to become more of a
soul-conscious person. Remember your soul is longing for the right
thing. Listen to it!
by John Fischer
Does Spiritual Growth Just Happen?
Many people act as though spiritual growth is automatic. They may
have a plan to save for retirement. They may have a plan for sending
their kids to college. But they don't have a strategy for enriching
their souls. They leave the single most important facet of human
existence to chance!
But a soul doesn't automatically grow to maturity any more than a
baby automatically grows to physical maturity. You've got to have a
plan for feeding, exercise, education - and especially potty
training - if a child is going to grow up healthy, strong, and
A baby left on its own withers and dies. The same thing is true of
your soul. Our world is full of people who have grown older but are
still babies when it comes to spiritual maturity.
Spiritual growth is not automatic even for people who have opened
their hearts to Christ. The writer of Hebrews sadly noted, "...
though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to
teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again." (Heb.
5:12) Millions of Christians have grown older without ever growing
Spiritual growth must be intentional
The truth is that growth in the human soul requires a commitment to
grow. A person must want to grow, decide to grow, and make an effort
Spiritual growth begins with a decision. It doesn't have to be a
complex decision, but it does have to be sincere. When Jesus'
followers decided to choose his Way, they didn't understand all the
implications of their decision. They simply expressed a desire to
follow him, and that was the beginning of an exciting journey of the
soul. Jesus took that simple but sincere decision and built on it.
In Philippians 2:12-13, Paul to people who are already saved about
their spiritual growth: "... continue to work out your salvation
with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and
to act according to his good purpose."
Notice that it says "work out" - not "work on" - your salvation.
There is nothing you can do to save yourself spiritually; Christ
took care of that by his life, death, and resurrection. The
important thing to note is that God has a part in our growth - but
so do we. We must make an intentional effort to grow.
Spiritual growth is the result of the commitments we make
We become whatever we are committed to - without a commitment to
grow, any growth that occurs will be circumstantial, rather than
intentional. Spiritual growth is too important to be left to
circumstance. It needs to be intentional, not incidental.
Spiritual growth that leads to maturity begins with the kind of
commitment described in Romans 6:13: "... give yourselves completely
to God - every part of you - for you are back from death and you
want to be tools in the hands of God, to be used for his good
Spiritual growth is not a private matter
Some of us hesitate to commit ourselves to developing an intentional
plan of growth for our members because we believe spiritual growth
is a personal and private matter. Rather than interfere, we choose
to allow each person to develop in his own way at his own rate.
This is an aberration from the truth. The idolatry of individualism
has influenced even the way we think about spiritual growth. So much
of the teaching on spiritual formation is self-centered and
self-focused without any reference to our relationship to other
Christians. This is completely unbiblical and ignores much of the
The truth is that Christians need relationships to grow. We don't
grow in isolation from others. We develop in the context of
fellowship. Over and over again in the New Testament we find this
basic truth: Believers need relationships with each other to grow!
Hebrews 10:24-25 says, "Let us consider how we may spur one another
on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together,
as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another
.." God intends for us to grow up in a family.
by Rick Warren
Soul Care: The ABC's of How to Meet with God:
Soul care is a subject not often addressed in today's hurried,
harried culture. How in the world are we, mere humans, supposed to
go about caring for our God-breathed soul? Soul - being simply
defined as the very center of our being that knows God and longs to
be closer to him. Psalm 25:1 teaches us to pray: "To you, O Lord, I
lift up my soul." But what can we do to lift up our soul, to unlock
the treasures that God has stored there, and to share our deepest
desires and love with the One who created us? Thomas Moore, in Care
of the Soul, states:
Culturally we have a plastic esophagus, suited perhaps to fast food
and fast living, but not conducive to soul, which thrives only when
life is taken in a long, slow process of digestion and absorption...
The soul needs an intense, full-bodied spiritual life as much as and
in the same way that the body needs food. (206, 228)
So, how can we give our soul a fully adequate meal everyday? How can
we daily experience the long, slow process of digesting what our
soul needs to live on? There is only one primary way that I know of
and that is in regularly spending time with God and being
continually in his Word. It is such an intense and rich method that
it can't help but bring about renewal in the process of personal
soul care. Let today be all about the freedom and permission to
nurture your soul by private time spent with God, but do it in a way
that makes sense to you. I've certainly experimented with what seems
to work for me on any given day!
You see, my real name is Bored Easily Brazelton. I belong to the
school of thought that says, "Variety is the spice of life" and that
there is no right or wrong way of meeting with God and getting to
know him. I love changing the location, style, conversational
content, expected ritual, and obligatory order of my quiet time,
because I have come to realize over the years that, for me, doing
this greatly increases my ability to worship God and, therefore,
lift up my soul.
Here are a few suggestions to do just that. Let your visit with God
A - Alive with ambiance: It may work for you to take refuge in your
favorite La-Z-Boy recliner, meditating on a new-found Scripture
verse. You might choose to lounge on the floor in the front of your
living room fireplace as you clear the day's busyness from your
mind, or you may decide to sit in a straight-back chair at your
kitchen table, intently reading your daily devotional while chomping
on peanuts. It could be your thing to crawl into your unmade bed
with instrumental music playing in the background, while you glorify
God. You may want to speak to God in your son or daughter's bedroom,
thinking of requests and praise from your child or teen's point of
view. Never underestimate the power and joy of sharing a cup of
coffee with Christ at a quiet sidewalk cafĂ© or of inviting him to
sit with you and watch the sun go down from the comfort of your bay
window. Or you may be among the rare breed who actually opens your
Bible and prays, while seated behind your workplace desk - before
checking e-mails, voice messages, and instant messages!
I've climbed the hill behind my home in the rain to declare my love
for God's people; I've sat in a local park on a winter's day bundled
up in blankets arguing with my Lord; and I've gone to the beach to
weep and journal about being the stumbler that I am. My all-time
favorite prayerful conversations, though, have been on my patio
while sipping ice cold tea, nestled on a well-padded, swing chair
for hours on summer Sundays, and engrossed in my Life Application
Study Bible. Nothing has ever taken my soul deeper with the Lord
than those unhurried, cherished times.
I draw the line at praying in the bathroom, although many good
Christians have told me that the "lavatory" is the only place they
have the privacy to pray. So much for my ambiance suggestion!
B - Based on the Bible: I disagree with letting our exercise time
(jogging, swimming, biking, treadmill, kayaking, etc.) or our long
commute to or from work be our only designated quiet time. I think
that alone time like that (which includes singing, talking to, or
listening to God) is a perfect prelude to even more incredible
prayerfulness, but I feel that it shortchanges God when we squeeze
him into another activity that does not include reading his Word. He
doesn't strike me as a type of God who says, "It's okay if you
multi-task on the go without Scripture."
Those who have an audio version of the Bible or those spiritual
giants who have large portions of the Bible committed to memory can
obviously disregard my unsophisticated opinion, being that I am an
C - Conversational in content: I've been taught that it is a good
idea to prepare my heart with praise and confession, so that
gratitude and requests can come spilling out. I never dictate to
myself, though, which of those four basic expressions has to "be
handled" first or last, or whether one conversational element can
overshadow the others in a specific prayer session. If I am humbled
by the mighty power of God or burdened with sadness over my sinful
behavior, I allow that feeling to pour out without restraint.
Whether I've got my face to the floor beseeching God for a favor or
am kneeling with my hands raised in joyful thanksgiving, I go with
the reality of the moment, rather than with a set of "should's" and
Another common, human response to God, but one that is not often
mentioned in Christian circles, is anger at God. For that
emotionally charged feeling, I rely on a fast and furious game of
tetherball in my back yard - me against him. Of course, he's a
patient and gracious opponent, and eventually, I calm down enough to
join him on a walk and hear his gentle voice and persistent,
faithful message that assures me that I can trust him.
And for those who believe that a quiet time must always begin with
purifying their heart, so be it. I stand amazed at the inner beauty
of those repentant sinners.
Bottom line: What a privilege and joy to visit with our Creator and
meditate on his Word - whenever, wherever, and however! May God
greatly enrich your precious moments with him, as you strive to do
everything in your power to care for and feed your soul, a soul that
longs for nothing but intimacy with God.
by Katie Brazelton
Why We Must Open Ourselves Up to Pain?
Nobody likes pain. Even Christ, while hanging on the cross, asked
God, "Why have you forsaken me?" Yet God often uses pain to lead us
into dimensions of life we never even knew existed.
Has it ever occurred to you that pain often points out a problem
that's blocking your personal growth? In order for God to deal with
certain areas of our life, he allows us to experience discomfort or
pain. Pain leads us deeper into the life of the soul because pain
requires more than we have. Dealing with painful situations requires
us to trust God more deeply. Pain deepens our faith.
How many times have you had a great idea, but you just fell short of
following through on it? One reason we don't pursue those dreams
more aggressively is that we fear the pain of failure or we are
discouraged by the pain of self-doubt. Most people don't realize
that the path to a richer life of the soul requires us to take risks
- to open ourselves up to the possibility of pain - and learn to
depend on God, rather than ourselves.
If we fail to open ourselves up to pain, how can we grow? If we fail
to grow, how can we share the deeper things of the spirit with
others? And if we fail to share, how will God's Kingdom flourish?
When pain creeps in, it's important to remember what its purpose is.
Whatever we are experiencing, it's something God wants to work on.
Allow him to have the first say in what he wants for our lives.
Allow him to show us what it looks like to trust him completely in
every aspect of our daily lives. Allow him to help us become more
As difficult as pain is, experiencing it alone is even harder. We
endure pain better and grow more as a result of it when we have
others to help us through it. Praying with each other and helping
one another can help us stand strong together against our fears and
pain. Ecclesiastes 4:9 says: "Two are better than one, because they
have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can
help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him
Once we admit we all are in over our heads, we can strengthen and
encourage each other in our difficulties. Then we begin to take
steps toward permanent healing and growth. When we push through the
pain and plunge into the new spiritual territory God wants us to
explore, we'll be amazed at how far he can carry us to do his will.
by Brett Eastman
Growing Your Soul:
"Soul" is a very difficult concept to get our arms around sometimes.
In one sense, it seems easy as we speak of a musician as having a
lot of "soul." Other times, we speak of things we love using the
word soul: "It touches me all the way to my soul," or "Deep in my
soul, I feel this." These examples are a collection of meanings that
we all understand, but trying to precisely define the word gets
tricky. So for a moment, allow me to not be the technical theologian
and let's just use some simple definitions about soul that we can
relate to and learn how to grow.
I like to think of the soul as the same as "life." Jesus said that
it would not be a good thing to gain the whole world and lose our
"soul" (Mark 8:36). He was speaking in the context of saving our
"lives" by "losing" them. What did he mean? He wanted us to get rid
of the things of this world, denying ourselves the things that get
in the way of our "real lives," so that our souls could grow and
prosper now and through eternity. So how do we make sure that our
"lives" are growing?
Simply put: Invest in life, not the passing things of the world. And
guess what? That does not mean religion or religious activities. It
means investing in the things that God himself does and has passed
on to us in his image. Things like the people you love, your love
and relationship with him, investing your talents to grow them and
use them to grow his Kingdom, and celebrating life.
So here are two questions: What things are taking up space in your
soul - your life - that are not really alive? And what things do you
really need to invest in and grow? Remember, the things that have
our hearts and attention are the things that are going to grow.
Wherever we sow, we reap. So, here is a suggested diet:
Dump religion, and get a relationship with God. Don't think that by
doing a religious activity that you have been connected. Sit with
God, talk to him, make dates with him, sing to him, cry to him, and
praise him when you are in the car. In other words, just "hang."
That is what the teenagers call it when they are with each other,
and Jesus' word for that was very similar - "abide." In other words,
just stay connected. If you do that, your real life - your soul -
will grow in relation to God.
Dump some of your relationally meaningless, non-soul-nutritious
activities, and spend some real relationship time with the people
you want to invest in. I am not trying to be a killjoy, because I
love some mindless TV to unwind at times, too. But there are a lot
of time-filling, non-life activities that we all do from time to
time that could be better spent calling that person you want to
invest in, going for coffee, and really talking about matters of the
heart. Or joining a small group that goes deep and stays down long.
Or just spending fun time with people your soul is really connected
to. Remember, you will carry that love in your soul forever. But if
there is nothing on the inside, then everything else will be left
down on Earth. So, pack your bags - your soul - with a lot of deep
relational ties with people who matter to you.
Invest in life-giving skills. Remember, as Jesus said, life comes
from carrying our cross and doing some hard work. If life is about
relationships and talents, among other things, then what are you
doing to grow those areas? Take a class or join a small group on
communicating, loving your spouse, dating, or parenting. We all need
help and continuing education in life skills. The Bible is actually
a manual for that very purpose, to grow our ability to love and work
so we will be ready for eternity. So, what is your current
Take new risks in the world of talents and service. Get out of the
boat and use your talents to serve somewhere - either professionally
or as a volunteer. As the old saying goes, if you "don't use it, you
lose it." This idea can also be seen in the Parable of the Talents.
(Matt. 25) Take a class, get a mentor, read books, and begin to dust
off that talent or that dream and go for it! God gave you some
unique talents and he wants you to develop them. They are a part of
your soul and life. Invest in them, and you will get an eternal
Get healed. Remember, your soul and life have been injured too. That
is part of living on this Earth, and God wants to heal your life. If
that means joining a group, getting a counselor, or going into
recovery, then do it. You want to redeem those pains so that aspect
of your soul is available for growth and life. Right now, some parts
of your soul may be sitting out the game of life because they are
injured. If that is the case, they aren't growing. Get in a healing
environment and get better. Then you can live more fully, even for
Party! God is a celebrator! He loved weddings, feasts, gatherings,
and festivals. Have you become a workaholic or so serious all the
time that your soul is not being stretched in its ability to have
fun and celebrate things with the ones you love? Take time for
celebration. Have some fun. Remember, God is not all about work!
So, the soul, as technical as it sounds, is, in the end, what you
are passionate about. That is why musicians so often speak of it
that way, as you can feel the passion and the heart in the music of
someone who has "soul." The trick is to get passionate about the
things of real life and not the things that are passing and bring no
life at all. If we do that, then our souls will grow.
Henry Cloud, Ph.D.
Enjoying God's Presence in Solitude:
You were designed to enjoy the presence of God, but that's easier
said than done.
George Gallup has said, "If the focus of the twentieth century has
been on outer space, the focus of the twenty first century may well
be on inner space."
I think he is right. There is an insatiable hunger in our world for
spiritual reality. However, much of this hunger is misguided and
misdirected. Even a casual observance of the cultural landscape
reveals that there is something hard-wired into man that longs for
This reality sets up a titan clash of two worlds. On one hand, there
is the world of the inner man in need of soul connection with God.
On the other hand is the outer or external world of our culture that
We were created with a need for solitude. Before the defining
moments of many biblical heroes, they went to be alone with God.
Look at Abraham, Moses, and Joshua. Jesus himself spent time in
solitary prayer at the Garden of Gethsemane before his arrest and
Your life is full of pressures, distractions, and fast-paced living.
According to Thomas Merton, it is reflection and wonder (solitude)
that scoops these invaders out of your life. Through solitude, there
is finally room in your soul to meet God and for him to do the work
in you that he longs to do.
Unfortunately, we fill our souls with lesser gods, and we miss the
richness of the relationship with God we were created to enjoy. Your
soul does not have an infinite capacity. Solitude creates capacity
Everything in our culture seems to keep us from experiencing that
solitude. We live in an age of continuous activity that consumes all
of our time and attention, but it cannot satisfy our soul. By the
way a lot of us live, you would think that we believe the bumper
sticker theology that says, "Jesus is coming soon. Look busy."
Hurry is a devious enemy of the soul. In our rush to accomplish much
and live life to the fullest, we rob ourselves of some of life's
richest moments. Following Jesus cannot be a sprint.
The goal of solitude is not so much to unplug from my crazy world,
as it is to change frequencies so that I can hear the Father.
Richard Foster has said, "Solitude doesn't give us the power to win
the rat race, but to ignore it altogether."
But how do we do it?
It will take some work and cultivation. Psalm 143: 5-10 gives us a
great template for our endeavor.
Psalm 143:5-10 (NIV)
I remember the days of long ago;
I meditate on all your works
and consider what your hands have done.
 I spread out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.
 Answer me quickly, O Lord;
my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.
 Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord,
for I hide myself in you.
 Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground.
1. Look to the past (v. 5)
An integral part of the solitude experience is looking into the
Bible to discover the person and character of God. Open your time
with God by praying, "Lord, I come to your Word to meet you. These
are not just old stories or something on my to-do list. These pages
reveal you and your heart. I want to know you."
As you keep reading in Psalm 143, you'll notice the phrase, "I will
meditate on all your works." Meditation is giving attention with
intention. You must linger on scripture by carefully processing it.
This isn't Bible study. You are using Scripture to prompt access to
2. Look at the present (vv. 6-8)
Now you'll move from the historical to the personal. The Psalmist
says, "I spread out my hands to you." Spreading out hands symbolizes
an openness of heart and a searching soul.
You want to develop a hunger for God during this time. You might not
be there yet. That's OK. Tell God that you want to hunger for him.
That's a prayer God will answer. But come in expectation. God is
with you. His reality is fact, not conjecture. You don't need to
wonder about his arrival, simply be still and realize he is already
That presence must come on a regular basis. You can't rely on either
last month's or next month's portion.
3. Look toward the future (vv. 8b-10)
During your solitude experience you need to place your future in
God's hands. The more time you spend with him in solitude, the more
you'll be able to discern his voice.
We don't just learn about God's will for us during the time of
solitude. We also work up the courage to live his will. Discerning
God's will is never a substitute for living it.
The Psalmist also says, "May your good Spirit lead me on level
ground." Knowing God intimately puts you on level ground. Life might
take others on a roller coaster ride, but deep, intimate knowledge
of God that you'll gain through solitude will put you on level
Solitude isn't just for the postcard views in the mountains of
Colorado. You can get off by yourself anywhere. Solitude is more
about the heart than it is the physical location. You just need a
few minutes alone. It could be in your car, it could be in your home
or backyard or it could be in a quiet booth at a restaurant. When we
go into solitude, we are withdrawing temporarily from conversation,
noise, distractions, deadlines, and the constant bombardment of
It's God's greatest desire that you know him intimately. It's why
you were created. Take a look at your schedule and find some time to
spend with God in solitude. Start slow. Be gracious with yourself
and realize that discipline of the mind doesn't come easy. Your mind
might wander. Then buckle up. God will use your time with Him to
move you along the greatest adventure of your life - the journey of
by Lance Witt