Quiet Time

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July 31

Wednesday, July 31st, 2019

I actually wrote the bulk of this Monday morning at Jo’s sister’s apartment that would see us for the final time that day. I was going to title this An Observation. But this morning I went back to it and reworked some of it, mostly by adding some thoughts. But when I reworked it this morning I decided on a different title:

Stretching vs. Atrophy.

Here is the reworked devotion:

This Monday as I read my devotion from “Faith” from an Our Daily Bread collection of devotions, knowing today would the last day we would ever see this apartment and all that has taken place over the last month or so, I had to make some observations. The author’s devotion was on Stretching. As I sit down to have my Quiet Time,  the apartment is quiet. The outside is quiet. My soul is quiet and at rest. Today we pack up and move what remains in Vicki’s apartment. It has been a “stretching” experience in so many ways.

For Jo it has stretched her far beyond her comfort zone. I have not seen her cry like she has in a long, long time. Maybe after my second bike accident when I was seriously injured and the ensuing trauma which followed. Jo has had to go to bank after bank-back and forth-many times. Talk to Job & Family Services (a government agency…’Nuff said0. Apply for Medicaid for her sister. Become POA.  Make future funeral arrangements. Nursing home. Hospital. Phone calls. Way, way, way out of her comfort zone.  She’s a saint putting up with all she has.

For me it was giving up the routine of my job. Not being there for what I consider my responsibility has been hard. It has been hard to leave for weeks (3 of the last 5 to clean out this hoarder’s apartment. Scrubbing on my hands and knees to clean up…stuff. I cannot say enough about how Ryan and Diana (youth pastor and secretary) have held down the fort. Nor can I praise the leadership of OVCF enough for letting me come and go as I have, telling me “you have got to take care of your family.”

Stretching is painful. I’ve had rotator cuff surgery and stretching was vital to recovery of motion. I’ve had meniscus and collarbone surgery. Stretching was vital to recovery.  One of the most important recovery mechanisms after a bike ride is stretching. In the life of the Christ-follower, stretching is vital to growth. It hurts to stretch muscles that want to curl up and atrophy. It hurts to stretch spiritual muscles that will do the same. But it is absolutely a necessity. Stretching helps us to focus not on what has been but on what will be. In our lives, stretching will help us focus not on what we have been, but on who we can become. It is easy to see ourselves with all our failures and shortcomings, but God looks beyond that to see who we are as His new creation through the power of His Spirit.

“Father, thank you for stretching me. Thank you for giving me (sometimes) unpleasant situations that challenge me to break out of sameness and safety and step out onto the water. As I take those steps-present and future-help me to keep my eyes on You, not the waves kicking up. And help me to remember this is all in your plan for me. Stretch me where I need stretched.”

July 9

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Nonchalance vs. Excitement.

What kind of attitude do you have toward God’s Word (GW)? How do you approach His Word? As I read today in 2 Kings 15-17, an overwhelming sadness hit me. But, at the same time, an incredible awareness of the patience of God toward His faithless people also crept in. At least until He’d had enough. Then enough was enough.

It is easy to read large sections like that; to read of the faithlessness of the people; to read of the long-suffering patience of God, and to get jaded. But I don’t want my approach to GW to ever get jaded.

Nor do I want to approach it nonchalantly. Psalm 119:18 says, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” The right approach to GW starts with a prayer for open eyes. Whether that be open eyes to see its truths, or open eyes to be receptive to its teachings, the first approach to understanding is to ask for open eyes to see.

I think a second necessity is to enjoy GW. 119:24 says, “Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.” There is something to be said about an eagerness approaching GW rather than a drudgery. Or even a nonchalance seen in a “whatever” approach.

A third necessity is a clean heart. 119:29 says, “Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law!” Sin is a barrier to learning. That barrier needs to be broken or at least lowered so GW can do its thing. When the clean heart is evident, the desire to seek becomes stronger. Psalm 119 also uses words like “I have chosen” [v.30] and “I cling” [v.31] to describe what I see is a hunger for GW.

Finally, one of my favorite verses in this chapter is verse 32: “I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart.” Physically, an enlarged heart is extremely dangerous. Spiritually, it is a by-product of love for GW. But it can also be dangerous. Who knows what can happen when God enlarges the heart!

“Father, Your Word is life to me, to all Christ-followers. May I never take a nonchalant approach to Your Word. Bring Your Word to life as I read it with open eyes. Enlarge my heart.”

July 8

Monday, July 8th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Sameness: Rut vs Routine.

I have spent the past two weeks playing hit-or-miss. My morning Quiet Time took a hit. Maybe I should say my normal, meet-God-in-the-morning Quiet Time took a hit.  I confess to getting up early so at the crack of dawn I could ride my bike. It was a good stress reliever plus I knew that later in the day would be a lost cause. I chose to ride before my hot day began. I would have my Quiet Time at night after Jo went to bed. But with no internet it was not possible to post here.

Maybe that’s why I told Jo last night as I was getting my things ready for my Quiet Time that I’ll be glad to get back to my routine. Some might call it a rut. And I suppose it could be. Early car drivers knew the conditions of the hard-packed roads means they needed to choose their rut wisely.  I’m choosing my rut. It’s early morning now and my routine is back!

I was reminded of that this morning as I began reading Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible. It is amazing to me how just after days out of the routine plays havoc with my spirit, Psalm 119 brings me back. “Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart.” [v.2] “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your Word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” [Vv.9-11]

What great words to hear this morning! I missed this morning “routine.” I missed this sameness. In this case, it is a good routine. I must keep it from being a rut, one I dread. But I must keep it a routine, one I look forward to. It is in this routine that I find my rest. I find my refuge. I find my strength.

“Father, let me seek you with my whole heart. Let me use this good ‘routine’ as the way to know you and to know your Word. Draw me near to you, Father, as I get back into your Word.”

June 12

Wednesday, June 12th, 2019

My title for today’s devotion is Autopilot vs Striving.

I read recently that pilots are become more susceptible to making errors due to auto-pilot and all the advancements made to flying and self-flying. One of the commercials I have seen lately has been one of the major car companies (Nissan) introducing a “Driver Assist” to the Rogue. I’m pretty sure the other car makers have as well. That sort of concerns me. I know how easy it is to get distracted while driving with the steering wheel in my hands, let alone be “relaxed” when it comes to driving with awareness.

Vigilance is a word that I think has lost its oomph. In some ways many have hit autopilot when it comes to their Christian walk. When I sat down at my kitchen table this morning to have my Quiet Time, I prayed earnestly (I don’t always) that God would give me something from His Word. The old hymn Break Thou the Bread of Life came to mind. “Beyond the sacred page, I seek Thee Lord; My spirit pants for Thee, O Living Word.” Another stanza has these words: “Show me the Truth concealed, Within Thy Word, And in Thy Book revealed I see the Lord.” (My apologies for the King James English).  🙂

One of the things I want to guard against is being on autopilot. I want to continue to hunger for God’s Word. That’s why Psalm 92:12-15 (Please stop and read it) stood out to me today. Not only do I want to flourish but I like the phrase “They still bear fruit in old age; they are full of sap and green.” What a vivid picture that puts in my head!  I want to continue striving, reaching for, and sweating with arms outstretched and hands wide open. No autopilot for me!! The only “driver assist” I want is God’s help to stay the course and keep going.  I want my last breath to be still seeking Him.

“Father, please don’t let me be content with autopilot. Even at age 66 I still want to be striving with arms outstretched and hands wide open reaching for all you have for me. I don’t want “couch-potato” to describe my remaining years.”