304 – Spiritual Disciplines for Couples & Families

This Week on Soul Talks

In the midst of the chaos of life, work, or parenting it can be challenging to stay connected in your relationships and with the Lord.
In this Soul Talk, Bill and Kristi walk us through seven practical spiritual disciplines that have helped them experience more bonding and empathy with God, each other, and their children.
Tune in to learn these simple steps to create healthy rhythms that foster deeper relationships and draw you closer to Jesus.
You can listen to this Soul Talk below or scroll further down the page to read along!

Resources for this podcast

Spiritual Disciplines Transcript

Bill & Kristi Gaultiere

One of our listeners reached out to ask us:
“You mentor couples and families—thank you. That’s such beautiful work. Hey, do you have anything simple for couples who are in the midst of busy family life? Kind of a rule of life, a rhythm of life, or spiritual disciplines that are simple and sustainable for them to practice together?”
And we thought:
“Wow, this is totally what God led us to do.”
As a young couple, we were also very busy.
We were both getting our doctorates, learning how to be able to practice disciplines together that were doable in the midst of a lot of commitments, trying to work full-time jobs and being in school full-time—and yet, we were wanting to get married and wanting to grow together in Christ.
And then raising our kids.
And now, we’re empty nesters with grandchildren and a ministry that gets lots and lots of time and engagement from us.
And yet, it’s still so important for us to put priority on our own formation in Christ.
So we have developed some rhythms and simple spiritual disciplines that are sustainable for us.
Even in the midst of traveling, or kids coming back with grandkids in the home, or just between the two of us, and all the different rhythms that we find ourselves with.
And so, we thought we’d have a Soul Talk about that today.
I love that.
Thank you for that question.

The 7 S’s – 7 Spiritual Aspects of The Rhythm of Life 

So there are seven S’s that we’ve found as we’ve sought to answer this question:
What is our rule of life that we practice together spiritually? 
And in this post, we’re going to share what those seven S’s are. And then, we’ll talk a little bit about them.

1. Spiritual Retreats 

Spiritual retreats.
These happen the least often, and require not only the most intention, but also the biggest investment.
Ideally, you take a few days to get away—individually or as a couple. If you do it individually, taking turns is a great idea.
And then, you share with each other about your experiences on retreat.
Our vision for this came from this:
We would take little vacations or a weekend away, where my parents would watch the kids.
And instead of making it just a vacation, we’d be intentional to lean into it—to make it a spiritual retreat.
Maybe we’d read a devotional classic together and talk about it, or meditate on a passage of scripture together and talk about it—just to have a lot of time for Soul Talks.
Sometimes we just did this over the weekend, and it was just about sharing our peaks and our pits, and reflecting on that together, and praying together about that.
But it was about being intentional, even just on a vacation.
It wasn’t like we were going to some formal retreat at a retreat center led by somebody.
And in the midst of it, having a fun time as well.
We’d be in a beautiful place. We’re walking on the beach. We’re maybe watching movies, going to nice restaurants, etc.
So it’s not like we’re in a monastery, necessarily.
We did some of those too, but this was more just having some spiritual intentionality that’s embedded into the time so that it was both Christ-centered and enriching.
A situation where we’re really connecting not only with the Lord, but with each other as well.
And there is a spiritual intimacy that’s been really good for us that we’ve nurtured in this as well.

2. Sabbath

The next S is Sabbath.
This is a weekly Sabbath day:

  • A day of rest
  • A day of worship
  • A day of not being productive
  • Not doing work
  • Not doing some of the normal stuff, like: shopping, commerce, busyness, activity, noise, etc.

Just having a day that’s family-oriented, where there’s time to rest, time for scripture meditation, time for quiet prayer—just a day to quiet ourselves and experience being a human being without all the scheduled productivity and stuff that needs to be accomplished.
And we’ve done several podcasts on that as well. That’s a big subject in and of itself.
Getting rest is harder to do if you have kids, of course, because you can’t take a Sabbath from parenting. So, the work of family and the work of love continues.
But Sabbath doesn’t have to be all or nothing. And it’s not a legalism. It doesn’t have to be a rigid thing.
Well, when we had kids, one of the small ways in which we did this was in going to church together on Sunday mornings.
And then we had a family night every Sunday night. So that meant that I didn’t have to worry about dinner.
We took turns deciding who picked where we ate or what we ate, because sometimes it was takeout, ordering pizza, etc.
And we just did activities together as a family.
And each child would get a turn to pick what they wanted to do.
It could be just watching a movie.
It could be playing a game.
It could be going to miniature golf, or anything that that child particularly wanted to do.
And then, each one got their turn. They loved that.
And it was connecting for us, and it was worshipful in the sense that we were doing it together.
We were grateful to be together with the Lord on Sunday.
It wasn’t a time to be doing sports, for them to be having playdates, etc.
It was time to just be.
And we were able to simplify by limiting the number of the kid’s activities, which is a really hard thing to do nowadays.
This seems like it just gets harder and harder to do in our society.
We just keep cramming in more and more stuff for learning, more and more activities with sports, music, art, after-school learning, etc.
And that’s all good stuff.
But we can also get pretty frenetic in our pace of life as a family.
And that really works against Sabbath.
So as much as possible, at least on Sunday, we tried to make it so that there weren’t all those activities.
We could just have some slowness, and some time to be together.
And just in case somebody were to idolize and romanticize what we’re saying—there were definitely family nights that were ‘conflictual,’ and where it didn’t feel very restful.
Sometimes it felt difficult.
But, it was worth it to keep to that rhythm, because more often than not, they were really a good thing for us.

3. Scripture

So we have a periodic discipline with spiritual retreats, and we have a weekly discipline with a Sabbath day—a day of rest.
And ideally, you pick the same day every week.
Sunday is the traditional Sabbath, obviously.
But for pastors, this is probably not going to be Sunday—because they’re giving everybody else a Sabbath on that day.
But it’s helpful that if it’s not Sunday, that you make it the same day every week, so there’s some regularity to it.
And now, we can do some daily disciplines.
We’re gonna have three daily disciplines amongst these seven S’s—seven aspects of a rhythm of life.
So the first of the daily disciplines is scripture.
To be in God’s word each day is a value we have.
For example:
Right now we’re reading through the New Testament in the same translation (The Passion translation).
And often, we’ll have little conversations about things that we’ve noticed, learned, or felt from the scripture reading—listening to each other, and maybe praying together.
And so, that’s one way we do scripture.
And as a family, we also had some family devotionals that we did.
And that was an experience, because it was difficult to find the family devotion rhythm that worked for us.
After some frustrations with trying different systems and different books, I developed a system for us that was super simple.
It’s very similar to what we’ve put together in our Soul Talk cards.
Just super simple, with just one scripture and a question about it—something to discuss around the dinner table.
That’s what we did.
Yeah, that’s our Journey of the Soul: Soul Talk Cards.
They really just recreate the family devotionals that we had, in the sense of that simplicity.
Just one scripture and one Soul Talk question.
And then, being flexible.
If you have kids, little kids, school-aged kids, or teenagers in any of those situations—the amount of time and attention they have before they get squirrely or there’s conflict might not be a lot.
And so that’s why you want to keep it really short and sweet, but have it flexible so that when they are interested, it could go a little longer.
And then, we always wanted to involve the kids.
So one of the kids would read the scripture or ask the question, and we would try to draw them out so that it’s not like mom or dad are giving a sermon and the kids are feeling pinned to their chair.
Or, there’s this long reading, even if it’s a great reading from a book that’s got stories in it—that still feels like something the kids have to do.
And the other thing we did was this:
Missing a day was okay.
It wasn’t legalism.
And so, it came to just be part of our family culture.
And we wrapped it around sharing the peak and pit, as you mentioned at the start of this podcast, Kristi.
But that’s where everybody just goes around the table and says:
“What was your peak and your pit today? Your high and your low?” 
And everybody gets a chance to share something from their day, be listened to, and receive empathy.
That’s actually part of the discipline of “Examen” from The Nation Exercises, but we just practiced it real simple, and it put it in the kids’ language.
And we still do that.
We still often share our high point or low point—our peak and our pit from the day—our desolation, our constellation.
Those are all words to describe that, and to listen with empathy.
So the “Examen,” if you’re not familiar with that, it’s the ‘Examen of consciousness.’
So it’s not the examination of conscience, as in: where did I sin today?
It’s a different angle, where we’re looking at: How did I sense God’s presence today?
That’s implicit in how we would engage in conversation with the kids. But we would just keep it a real soft toss of just sharing about your day and your experience within.
And we would listen.
We would listen prayerfully.
And now and again, we’d make a comment about God’s presence in that, or a spiritual aspect of that—and just see if that could help them connect with God in that situation.
So now we’ve gotten into talking about another S.

4. Soul Talks

The Soul Talks, that’s right.
That’s another daily rhythm for us.
The goal is to personally, in our marriage and in our family, to have a Soul Talk every day.
And that eventually gave birth to this podcast a number of years ago.
How would you describe Soul Talks Kristi? What does that mean to you?
Just sharing what’s stirring in our soul, what’s troubling our soul, or what longing is in our soul.
Connecting about something that’s personal and meaningful.
Not gossipy, not talking about somebody else, not talking about politics or weather, unless we’re talking about our reaction to it.
As in how it’s affecting us and in our thoughts, feelings, and interactions.
So not so much about our opinions.
We all have opinions about things.
Not so much even about our perceptions.
We all have perceptions about things, and it’s natural to share those.
But in a Soul Talk, you’re really going deeper into your personal experience.
So you used words, Kristi, like emotions—and longings, desires, or needs.
So, it’s self-disclosure.
It’s inviting someone to understand what it’s like to be me.
But it could even be starting from something in my body.
It could be something like:
“I have a pain in my body.” 
Or, you’ve been hearing me in lots of Soul Talks talking about how I’ve lost my taste and smell from having COVID this summer.
And, sometimes we’ll start a Soul Talk just based on me sharing a little bit of my grief with that.
Yeah. And so, how’s that different from complaining?
Well, because I’m not just venting, although I might do a little bit of that.
I’m lamenting.
I’m grieving.
But I’m not without hope.
I’m not without looking for what’s God doing through this in my life?
How can I access the Lord in this?
Or, I’m directly asking you to empathize with me about this, because I’m feeling just sad and alone.
Like, it doesn’t matter to anybody else but me.
I’m just all alone with that.
And if I share it, then I get light.
It lifts from me.
So you’re taking ownership of your experience, your emotions, and what you need.
You’re not externalizing and just blaming, fuming, getting on all these irritations—that would be complaining.
And it’s not a sin to complain. It’s natural to complain.
And maybe that’s where we begin a Soul Talk, with some complaints about something.
But for it to really become a Soul Talk, we’re going to move away from externalizing.
Meaning, going from talking about the external situation, what’s wrong, and what we wish was different, to talking about the internal experience.
The experience that I’m having personally, what I feel, and what I need.
And now that becomes bonding.
So you mentioned lament or sadness—this means that now I’m being personal, and I’m asking for you to enter into that sadness with me.
I’m seeking comfort. And so that’s bonding.
That’s facilitating a connection.
And we can experience God in that readily.
And oftentimes our Soul Talks will start with just something like:
“How have you experienced God today?”
Which is the great question of spiritual direction.
That’s what our Spiritual Directors ask people.
When you talk to one of the Soul Shepherding Senior Spiritual Directors, they’re basically gonna say:
“So, how have you sensed God’s presence in your life recently?”
And there are a hundred ways to ask that question.
But when we ask it, we’re moving towards someone with interest in their daily life experience and their feelings.
But what we’re really looking for is the answer to this question:
“Where is God in that?”
The answer to that question in a Soul Talk is emotionally honest, because there are many times when the answer to that question for me would be:
“Hmm, I haven’t sensed God’s presence in that. Why?”
Then, I get the opportunity to see: Okay, where did I miss God?
Because he was present with me today. So how did I not experience it? 
And why did I not?
Sometimes our Soul Talk will just be about that:

  • I’ve been stressed.
  • I’ve been distracted.
  • I’ve been working hard.
  • I’ve been focused on other people.
  • I’ve been too depressed to notice it.

Or whatever. The ‘why’ will be different, depending on the day.
Confessing those feelings, shortcomings, or stresses can help you, then, to experience God’s presence.
It can. And oftentimes, one of the ways I’ll experience it is through your presence as I’m getting in touch.
Your presence with me, even in asking the question, helps me to get in touch with answers to it.
So if I give good empathy, then I’m paying attention to your feelings through my feelings.
And so, that sense of my presence helps you to be emotionally present—and then helps you to feel God’s presence.
I think that’s what you’re saying.
So this is a Soul Talk, and that’s a part of our rhythm of life. That’s our ‘fourth S’ of the seven S’s here.
It’s really pretty simple once you learn it.
These are things to practice.
But as you practice them, you’ll learn that they’re very simple to do.

Keeping Up With Spiritual Disciplines

We don’t need to say:
“Oh, today I need to remember to read scripture. 
Or, “Today I need to remember to have a Soul Talk.”
We’ve trained ourselves, and we do that.
There are lots of ways to interact with God’s word.
It’s not just sitting at my desk and doing my Bible reading.
That’s one way that I do it, and that’s a great way.
But I’ve got scripture memorized as well—and so, I might reflect on a scripture that I’ve memorized while I’m taking a walk or while I’m taking a shower.
There are lots of ways.
When I’m lying in bed, or when I wake up, or when it’s the middle of the night and it’s dark—when it’s not time to get up yet…
We’ve been having more times like that.
As we get older, we have more and more of those conversations while laying in bed—don’t we?
And that can be a time for reflecting on scripture that we’ve memorized, and letting that cultivate into prayer.
But so can standing in line, or waiting in the car to pick up your kids at school.
Or at a soccer practice, or in line at a store—there are all kinds of opportunities to engage with scripture that you’ve got memorized in your daily life.
And so, oftentimes, that’s what engaging with scripture looks like for us.
We’ve also done things to share and engage with scripture as a family.
Like, you put together our Visual Devotion Cards, which we have available and use in our retreats and with churches.
But we’ve used those personally—devotionally.
That’s what all of our Soul Shepherding resources come out of—our personal rhythm of life.
They’ve just really blessed us.
Yeah. There are four sets of visual devotions:
Rhythms, Journey, Playful, and Rescue are the four themes.
They each are tied to different scriptures.
And they are simple pictures from photographers that are very emotionally evocative, interesting, engaging, and that tie into scripture.
And so, that’s a simple exercise—where you pick a scripture, and if you pick a card, a visual devotion card with a picture, and then there’s a scripture on the back that connects to it.
And you have a way to simply say:
“Well, what feelings does this stir in me?”
“How do I relate to this?”
“How’s this reflecting something that’s going on in my life today that I’m struggling with or hoping for?”
And so then, you can share that picture with your friend, your family, or your small group, and say:
“Well, I picked this visual devotion card, and here’s how I relate to that. And here’s what I’m feeling.”
“Here’s what I sense God might be inviting me into.”
So it’s a simple way to have a Soul Talk.
We do this in every one of our Soul Shepherding Institutes.
The first day of the Institute (each Institute week is five days) we do a visual devotions experience because it just always works really well for people and for our groups to help us settle into a time of appreciating God’s presence and doing that together.
Yeah. So it doesn’t have to be a big elaborate thing that’s overwhelming or intimidating.
Even the little things count. They matter. They add up.
Yeah. So those visual devotions, like the Journey of the Soul: Soul Talk Cards—those are helpful for having a Soul Talk—and also for aiding in a little scripture meditation. You can find those in the Soul Shepherding Store on our website.

5. Songs

So then we come to the ‘fifth S’—songs.
This is singing, worship songs, singing Psalms, etc.
We like to sing the different Psalms. We’ve put a tune to some of our favorites, just to rejoice in the Lord, or even to lament with something that’s sad.
Some of the best songs are sad songs, and we express our heart to God through them.
But the goal is this:
To worship God each day, with the reality of what we’re experiencing, of who God is, and of how we’re thanking him and appreciating him.

6. Statio

The sixth S is statio.
That’s a word we get from the monks.
It’s a Latin word for ‘station.’
And the meaning is: come to your station early to be prepared, to pray, to reflect, to welcome somebody into a situationjust to be ready and to be conscientious of other people. 
It relates to punctuality; but it’s really more about prayerfulness and having margin.
And it helps us to be unhurried if we have a rhythm of life where our goal is to arrive early.
And it helps us to learn to find meaning—even comfort or strength—in being early and in waiting.
It’s learning to tap into God’s presence in the waiting.
And to pray, and to be intentional about what you’re going into—to be doing that with the Lord, to be present to the Lord with you.
I learned about this discipline many years ago from studying some of the old monks.
And I practiced this discipline because it’s a medicine for me.
I’m not good at this.
But practicing and training together over the years has really helped me, and I’m better—but I’m still not always early.
Sometimes I’m running late, and it’s because it’s a problem that I have.
I’m idealistic and I try to do too much.
And so, I have to keep checking myself.
But that’s the point of statio—that we’re dividing our life down into units of time.
So we started talking about these 7 S’s with a very big unit of time—a spiritual retreat, and now we’re at an event.
And so there’s perhaps multiple events, or meetings, or gatherings that are happening in a day.
Hopefully, before each one, I have had a reset point to just offer a quick prayer to the Lord—just to recollect.

  • Where am I in the day?
  • How am I doing with being in tune with God’s presence?
  • How am I doing with being in the easy yoke of Jesus?

So that’s statio.

7. Selah

Selah—the word of the Psalmist.
This word is mentioned 71 times in the Psalms.
The Psalmist says: Selah—which probably means to pause, to reflect, to pray, etc.
It’s a great word that helps us to practice God’s presence moment by moment.
And so, to help with this, I’ve memorized just a bunch of breath prayers from the Bible—just little verses or phrases, or a paraphrase from a verse—just simple things like:
“Be still and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10).
“In Christ alone, my soul finds rest…” from Psalm 62.
Or the simplest of all:
“Thank you, Lord.”
This is from Jesus’ prayer in the Easy Yoke passage, Matthew 11:25-30.
It says, “Thank you Father, Lord of heaven and earth.”
And so I just pray:
“Thank you, Lord.”
Breathing in, I say thank you. 
Breathing out, I say Lord—because I need to ‘breathe in’ God’s grace.
And I need to ‘breathe out’ all of my stress and my straining—and to relinquish and submit to God.
And so those two movements of receiving God’s goodness and letting go of my desire to control things or make things happen remind me of that.
And so, I’ve done some training with spending 5 or 10 minutes at a time—in some cases, much longer than that—but just repeating a breath prayer over and over until it just gets so deep in me that I don’t even need to think about it.
And I start to develop a habit.
Then, I learned that as I’m going through my day, at different points, I shoot up these little breath prayers—and often, I do this without even intending to do so—without planning to do so.
But I have a habit now.
And so, that’s where we want to be, where we have a habit.
Because when you hear yourself in your mind say the breath bursts, you’re reminded of: “Oh yeah, I can pray.”
And so we need habits in our spiritual life.

In Conclusion – Spiritual Disciplines For Couples And Families

So just to recap, the seven S’s are:

  1. Spiritual Retreat
  2. Sabbath
  3. Scripture (in lots of different ways)
  4. Soul Talk
  5. Songs
  6. Statio
  7. Selah

These have been very life-giving for us—very simple and sustainable.
And it’s fun to share them together.
See, that’s the point here.
You share them with your spouse if you’re married, or with a friend.
if you have kids in the home, you can invite them into some of this—and it just makes life more fun.
It makes it more meaningful. 
It makes it more intimate when we’re able to have a sense of where God is in our midst, and to appreciate that
We have great Soul Talks too, just even talking about our day.
For example:
Today, I was meditating on this scripture.
Or, today, I’ve been praying this breath prayer, and just asking/talking about how it has helped you, or has it been hard for you to do, or has it been a grace—all of those kinds of things.
And then, oftentimes, we’re feeding off of the fruit of each other’s spiritual discipline as we’re sharing that.
And we encourage one another, we take heart from each other.
Right. So your insight from God, your connection to God, or even your spiritual wrestling and experience of desolation—when you share that with me, that helps me connect with God’s presence.
And so, I’m feeding off the fruit of your meditation or your experience.
If you’re reading this, and you’re thinking:
“I wish I could have this kind of a spiritual relationship with my spouse, my child, or my friend—but we’ve got too much tension, or, it’s not that deep or that personal, etc.” 
It’s important to understand that in this situation with couples, what we have found time and again, Kristi, is that the way into a better relationship is sometimes to just realize that we get stuck with our conflict resolution.
And we need to step out of that pattern and find some time to be together, just in a friendship way that’s personal, that’s vulnerable, that’s real.
And put some deposits in each other’s soul—in each other’s marital bank account.
And that bonding, that generating of warmth and trust, then and helps us when it comes time to have those difficult conversations where there’s conflict.
And so, that’s the value of these simple conversations where we lean into something.
So, you can ask things like:
“How did it feel for you as you were reading God’s word today?”
“What was it like for you in the church service today? What was it that encouraged you?”
These sorts of personal conversations build connection.
And then listening with a warm heart and with curiosity, and asking some questions and reflecting back the feeling (so offering that empathy)—that can really build the bond in the relationship.
In turn, this helps us in the times of stress or conflict.

Share this!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Share on print