Building a Trellis: Exploring if a Rule of Life is Right for Me

Feb 9, 2023 | 0 comments

Vision, values, goals, mission, strategies, and outcomes are all terms we’ve used in measuring success in the field of cross-cultural work. This terminology is congruent with the cultural methods we use today in any business, non-profit, or program in which we hope to see success.

Let’s imagine for a moment that God’s already given a mission and vision, he’s defined the values and outlined the goal. The mission and vision is God’s Kingdom and the values are to love God and love others. The ultimate goal is to make all things new; a new heaven and a new earth where he dwells among us (Revelation 21). 

But somehow when we partner with God, the mission and vision get muddled. Rather than asking God how he desires us to co-labor with him, we take parts of what we interpret to be his vision and add some strategies, goals, and measurements and call it God’s will for our lives. We quickly begin to live in a pattern that revolves around ourselves or the task at hand. We’ve all done this, it’s easy, comfortable, and often comes with immediate gratification. 

We want to be “successful” in what God has called us to, but our lives are more than the reason we fulfill our call, more than a task, more than success, and more than what we produce or do for God. When our lives get tangled in results, we lose sight of God’s vision and his voice becomes faint. This leads to paths that leave us rather burned-out, easily tempted by distractions, accepting roles that aren’t ours for the taking, neglecting community, hiding our loneliness, and living a non-fruit bearing life. 

Let me ask, when is the last time you paused to ask God, “What is your will for my life, my family, ministry, my team, the church, this nation?”

Imagine for a moment what your life and ministry would look like if your daily motivation followed a rhythm that wasn’t bound up in a work-focused goal or expectations from agencies and supporters? 

You may not even know how to imagine that.

That is why this year Global Trellis would like to offer a different way of ordering your life. It is a way that doesn’t neglect your work, supporters, calling, family, yourself or God. It is an order that, Lord willing, opens a way to bring balance and stability to all areas of your life in such a way that glorifies God, realizes the Kingdom vision, and supports bearing spiritual fruit. 

The way is by establishing a rule of life.


St. Benedict, a monk in the 6th century, wrote a 100-page rule of order, The Rule of St. Benedict, in response to a rather unruly communal living situation during the early development of monastic life. His order transformed the community. Benedict believed living a balanced life of work and prayer, centered on Christ, made space for one to walk in step with the Spirit in all areas of life. His way of ordering life provided guidelines for all aspects of life from what the monks wore, when and what to pray, and how to deal with a variety of conflict and sin. By creating the Rule of St. Benedict, the monks learned to live in rhythm with God, themselves, and others with balance and love.

Recently, in an article in the New York Times about establishing a rule of life, Tish Harrison Warren explains the Latin origin of rule. “The original word was ‘regula,’ which is where we get words like ‘regular’ or ‘ruler’ because it meant a straight piece of wood. A lot of linguists argue that it was the word used for a trellis in a vineyard. If you can imagine a winery in the first, second or third century, the regula was the trellis underneath the vine.” 

Stephen A. Macchia in his book Crafting a Rule of Life: An Invitation to a Well-Ordered Way expounds on this concept of building a trellis.  

“A rule is like a trellis which offers support and guidance for a plant, helping it to grow in a certain direction. There is already a rule in place that you are following today. Isn’t it time to give up our unwritten rule and prayerfully write one that more closely matches the heartbeat of God? Those who fail to do so are like wild, untamed grape vines. They will produce some fruit, but they probably won’t be as abundant as they could be. Growing on a trellis (a rule of life) and cultivated toward maturity, they become spiritually formed. The trellis curbs our tendency to wander and supports our rather frail attempts to be nurtured spiritually. Our lives will produce an abundance of fruit for the glory of God. Mature vines are cultivated to produce the best fruit.”

How fitting that a rule of life is described so closely to what we are about at Global Trellis; tending to your whole person and soul. We can’t imagine a better way to walk with you this year than by introducing how to partner with God in building a trellis to support you in all areas of your life by creating a rule of life. 

Throughout the course of twelve weeks, Global Trellis will provide articles, resources, and online chats to guide you through partnering with the Spirit toward discerning a personal rule of life. Many of the articles will function like devotionals and will have scripture, prayer prompts, and reflections to guide you toward the final step of creating your rule of life. All you need to bring is a desire to make time to be with Jesus with an open heart. 

Here’s what is up and coming from Global Trellis over the next three months. We do not want to throw a lot of stuff at you all at once, instead, we’re going to offer you a piece once per week so that it can be used in your time with God during that week:

Part 1 : Building a Trellis: Exploring if a Rule of Life is Right for Me

You will lay the foundation by exploring how you spend your time. We’ll provide you with an exercise that involves prayer and noticing that will help you discern whether God is inviting you to commit to establishing a personal rule of life. 

Part 2: Rule of Life: Beginning a Mutually Attentive Relationship

Once a week for 10 weeks, we will provide you with a downloadable reflective worksheet to guide you in prayer toward awareness in ten areas of your life: relationships and roles, gifts and talents, desires, vision, mission, time, attachments, body, stewardship, and community. 

Part 3: Rule of Life: Prayer & Creating My Rule of Life 

In Week 11, you will pause in the process with an examen called “A Prayer Inspired Rule of Life.” This pause to pray for a week sets the scene to review your 10-week assessment alongside the Spirit in order to attune to God’s will. 

In Week 12, you will create your Rule of Life. This final worksheet will help you write and commit to a personal Rule of Life for your current season and stage of life and cross-cultural work in which you and God have come together on through prayer. 

If this feels like a lot, it shouldn’t. Our hope is that by seeing the overall plan and flow, you are excited for the ways that God is going to meet you during these next three months. All you need to do to receive the articles and downloadable worksheets is to subscribe to the articles here. By visiting the website, you’ll be able to follow along with the journey, but you won’t have access to the downloadable worksheets.

Are you ready to explore if God is inviting you to create a rule of life?

Next Tuesday we’ll have a pdf exercise for you to download: A Reflection on an Ordinary Day

This practice will help you explore your day and notice the rhythms you keep. It’s an opportunity to pause and look at your life with the Spirit and listen and ask: Where does God desire to lead and am I willing to follow? 

See you next Tuesday! You’ll be able to read through the series on the blog, but if you want to download the worksheets that go with the series, you’ll need to be subscribed here.

Elizabeth Forshee

Spiritual director. Follower of Jesus. Mom and Wife. Former cross-cultural worker. Enjoys a good book and a cup of coffee. 




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