Quiet Time

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September 28

Tuesday, September 28th, 2021

I was reading about the familiar story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10. Recap: Jesus was a guest in their house. Martha and Mary were hostesses and as such had preparation duties to perform. Well, maybe Martha. Not Mary. Mary chose to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to Him speak. Martha? She got more and more frazzled AND irritated. She even told Jesus her frustration. Unfortunately for her, Jesus commended Mary because “she chose the good part.” In other words, she chose the more important thing at the time: sit and listen to Jesus.

I thought about that in comparison to me. I know things clamor for my attention. I woke up this morning with things on my mind of what I needed to do today-some before I even get to the office. I tend to be pretty rigid about my morning schedule-get up, shower (that’s a good thing), then getting to the office as close to 5:00 as possible. One thing stands in between the shower and the office: my Encounter Time (ET).

It’s not a legalistic thing; it’s a life-saving thing. I have my ET to save me. It draws me to Jesus. I spend time with Him. I could find other things to do for this hour span. Sleep an extra hour. Work at the office. Work out at home, especially in the winter. But I have come to look at my ET as my lifeblood. I have mine in the morning because 1) I am fresher; 2) Less interruptions; 3) I need to start my day out right; 4) I know the distractions that will come later in the day.

I need to be in God’s Presence. I do not speak in hyperbole when I say, “I NEED THIS TIME!” Skipping this time is not a good thing for me! I’ve tried it before and the results were not pretty.

This is not a guilt trip for you. This is an “encouragement trip.” 🙂  Find the time that works best for you and fits your lifestyle. The important thing is to have that private meeting with God.

“Father, I need that time with You. May it always be one I look forward to and relish and draw strength from.”

July 23

Friday, July 23rd, 2021

I won’t lie. I like noise.

Most of the time.

I love music. Certain genres, that is. I almost always have music on. Working out. Ear buds in. Cutting grass. Ear buds in. Driving somewhere. Spotify playlist on.

There are times I want/need silence though. When I’m having my Encounter Time, I may have a song running through my head but I want it quiet. When I’m studying, unless it’s classical with absolutely NO singers. When I’m riding my bike. NO ear buds. That is way too dangerous since I need to hear oncoming traffic behind me. I also notice I can’t multi-task. Turn off the TV or the music if you want to have a serious discussion with me. I’m too distracted. My daughter, Tami, wore a t-shirt yesterday that had two words on it: Be Still. Was that for me?

Consider this then: if I can’t hear people with all the noise going on in my life, how can I possibly hear God’s still small voice? It’s like a whisper in my soul. But if all I hear is noise, how can I hear Him?

I think that is one of the reasons I like it quiet in the mornings. I want to hear. That makes me wonder how much or if I am missing something when the music is playing. Matt Redman once wrote: “When the music fades/And all is stripped away/And I simply come…”

Am I missing out? Do I need to turn off and tune in? Makes me wonder.

“Father, I already know I will have a ‘noisy’ weekend. Help me to be open to changes You might want me to make. Help me to hear Your still, small voice.”

April 22

Thursday, April 22nd, 2021

Have you ever wanted to say something but couldn’t find the words? That’s how I am when I’m talking to someone of greater intelligence than me (not that hard to find), smarter than me (neither is  this one), expresses his/her thoughts, and I’m not ashamed to say I’m lost. I have no clue what they are saying, nor how to answer, so I just clam up.

There have been other times when I’m free to talk about a subject because either a) it is something I know something about, or 2) it is something I’m comfortable talking about because I am familiar with it. It is then that what I may have studied or read in the past comes back to me.

I think that may fall in line with the idea Jesus left with His disciples when He spoke to them in the Upper Room about the Holy Spirit. He told them once not to worry about what they would say. When the time came for them to speak, it will be brought to memory by the Holy Spirit and He will tell them what to say. (Matthew 10:19). In Matthew 10:27 He said, “What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear!”

What God speaks to us in solitude, we will speak in the light. I recall how Jesus went off by Himself to be alone with His Father. I would love to have been a little bird eavesdropping on those conversations. As He was preparing His heart for the day, His Father was speaking life to His Son’s heart.

What an intriguing image! Jesus preparing for His day as His Father speaks to His heart. What a vivid picture for us! For me!!  Preparing for the day by letting the Father speak to my heart. And yours. Just another reason for an Encounter Time with Him. Not a legalistic one but a necessary one-letting the Father prepare me for the day by speaking to my head and my heart.

“Speak, Lord, Your servant listens (or at least sincerely wants to).”

March 18

Thursday, March 18th, 2021

So…why do I get up every morning? The short answer is so I can do what I need to do to live. I mean, if I didn’t get up but stayed in bed all day, I’m not sure I’d have a job. I know for some, because of depression,  getting out of bed is a chore. That is a legitimate reason. But for me? Getting out of bed is a must.

Let’s narrow that question down a little more. Why do I get out of bed at 3:30 every morning? (Some say it’s because I’m insane, that I’ve got a screw loose somewhere). Maybe so. 🙂 But…seriously, why?

The real short answer is not related at all to my job or my self-perception of what a lazy person might be. I get up early to be alone with God. I’m a morning person so I choose to have my time in the morning before I start the meat of my day.  The time of day is not important. What is in important is that I do have this time. Psalm 91: 1-2 says, “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God , and I trust him.” (NLT)

I want to be with Him. Back in 1999 I went through a rejuvenation of my faith.  Tami had moved back from Florida, moved in with us, and got a job teaching in town north of where we lived. On Sunday nights she began attending another church in town and then talked about their worship. It sounded like what my thirsty soul needed so I asked her if she minded that I tagged along. Of course she didn’t. It meant I would drive and usually buy us something to eat afterwards. 🙂 So we started going together. What a balm! During that time I heard a song which impacted me but I eventually lost track of it. Several months ago I looked for it. I searched everywhere. I even asked the pastor of the church, who was the Worship Pastor/leader at that time, if he knew the name of the song, or the singer, or where I might find it. He came up blank so I gave up figuring, “Oh well, Nice try. It is not to be.” Until this past weekend I got a wild hair while looking for some worship music on Spotify. I knew the name of the song and for some reason the name “Ian” came to mind. So I googled it by typing in the name of the song and “Ian.” Eureka! Lo, and behold, that was it.  The song: Encounter. The artist: Ian White. The link to that song is right here.

And that is why I get up so early. I want to have an Encounter with the Living God.  I want to be sheltered and find rest in His shadow. I want to live in the shadow of His wings. I want to Encounter Him.

So from now on this will no longer be called my Quiet Time. It will be called my Encounter Time. I hope you will join me each day and invite others. But more…I pray you will have your own Encounter Time with the Father.

March 17

Wednesday, March 17th, 2021

Focusing on the cross as I have over the past month or so has put me on “high alert.” Then after preaching this past week on the shadow of the cross, I sense a hyper-vigilance. Case in point: today’s Scripture reading from Romans 3.

The Familiar. “No one is righteous, not even one.” (3:10). “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (v.23)

The Refresher. “Yet, God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty of sin. For God presented Christ as the sacrifice for sin.” (24-25a)

The AHA moment. “This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate His righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declared sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.” (25b-26)

It is always good to read the familiar. The go-to verses. It is equally good to read refresher verses- those verses that shore up what you heard or taught but felt good to be reminded of. But those AHA moments! Those are what you live and read and study for. AND LOOK FOR. God took care of the past, the present and the future. He offered His righteousness BECAUSE HE IS FAIR AND JUST, to all who believe. Oh yeah!

Have you had any AHA moments lately? Care to share? How about the one I shared today?

“Father, I thank You that Your Word does not grow old. Your mercies are new every morning. I thank you for the familiar, the refresher and the AHA moment  this morning.”

All Scripture is from the New Living Translation.

March 11

Thursday, March 11th, 2021

I want to continue my thoughts on gratitude.

I was sitting in my chair last night unable to sleep. It was one of those nights where the combination of no gall bladder (and still learning), eating the wrong thing too late, and my mind refusing to shut off which made for a tough night for sleep to come.

But as I sat there (remember I said my mind refused to shut off) and a thought hit me.

  • A person cannot be envious of another and be thankful.
  • A person cannot be jealous of another and be thankful.
  • A person cannot be dissatisfied and be thankful.
  • A person cannot grumble and be thankful.
  • A person cannot be a complainer and be thankful.

All those examples are dichotomous. The idea of being unhappy with one’s lot in life and being overly thankful just does not gel.

I am pretty ignorant when it comes to knowing much about a monk named Brother Lawrence. I have heard of him and that is about where my knowledge ends. I know of him. But I just read something recently which gave me a whole new perspective of this unique man.  He was a monk of lowly status who spent his days washing and scrubbing pots and pans and doing menial work around the monastery. In spite of that lowly life, people loved to be in his presence. Why? Because he loved to invite God’s Presence into all he did. His heart was filled with gratitude and therefore, it had no room for grumbling, complaining, etc.

Do people like to be in your presence because you bring God’s Presence with you? I ask myself that question and tend to come up wanting.

“Father, may today be a start of something different. May it be a day where people enjoy being in my presence because I bring Your Presence in with me.”

February 25

Thursday, February 25th, 2021

As I sat down to begin my Quiet Time (QT), I did what I always do first. I pray. But something happened this time as I prayed. A song came to mind. A song from way back in my childhood memories. It would have been called a hymn back then but I wouldn’t call it that. I see it as a spiritual song. “Psalms, hymns  and spiritual songs” as Ephesians 4:19 puts it. A psalm is…well…a psalm. A hymn is an anthem of praise (like Great is Thy Faithfulness or How Great Thou Art). A spiritual song is a song with a spiritual meaning.  You may consider that nit-picky but I had my say. 🙂 Okay…now that I’ve taken that rabbit trail reign me back in. 🙂

As I sat and prayed these words flooded my mind: “Open my eyes that I may see/Glimpses of truth Thou has for me/Place in my hands the wonderful key/That shall unclasp and set me free/Silently now I wait for Thee/Ready my God Thy will to see/Open my eyes illumine me/Spirit divine.”

Not always do I approach my QT with an awareness of readiness to hear. More than I care to admit, my time is one of hurriedness and harriedness, (Yeah, I know my spell check is telling me those are not words…but what does it know?).  One of obligation. But today was different. It was like God was saying, “Slow down Bill. Don’t be in a hurry this morning.  Push aside your sermon agenda for a few minutes and be with Me. Stop hurrying and being harried and stop and listen.”

Then I read from Acts 1. The apostles found themselves in the same boat. Jesus told them to stay in Jerusalem. “Do not leave” is what He told them.  After Jesus ascended they returned to the upper room they had been in and waited. Can you imagine what they would have missed if they had gotten impatient? If one of them had said, “This is nonsense. I’m heading into town for some carry-out.” What a monumental “Epic Fail” that would have been!

How often do I miss out because I don’t wait? Won’t wait? “Silently now I wait for Thee/Ready my God Thy will to see.”

Perhaps it is time to slow down and listen.

“‘Speak, Father, for Your servant listens’ is what Eli told Samuel to say. Those are words I want to repeat right here, right now: ‘Speak, Lord, Your servant is listening.’ “

February 24

Wednesday, February 24th, 2021

Did you ever have a song in your head and it gets stuck there and it keeps repeating and repeating?  Maybe it was one you heard just before bedtime and you woke up with that song playing over and over in your head. Or maybe you were in a “mood” and a song just struck you right. Or you heard a song that had you waxing nostalgic, reliving a scene from the past that song dredged up.

A few weeks ago I had a medical diagnosis hanging over my head that was cryptic at best. “You have a mass of suspicious origin so I want you to get an MRI. It just looks different.” Of course all sorts of things run through the mind. He wanted that MRI to get a closer and deeper look. Thankfully, it was gall stones (which he was able to go in and take out with a process called ECRP).  That led though to a gall bladder surgery this past Wednesday. I’m glad it is over and out. But the morning after those initial words from the doctor, I was driving to the office and a fairly new song to me was playing on my Spotify playlist-Holy is Your Name by Petra. I pulled into the parking spot and found myself overcome with emotion and wept. I just knew no matter the outcome, I was going to be okay.  (Here is that song link).

One of my favorite worship songs was playing last night as I worked on a jigsaw puzzle. I have related here before how my relationship with my father was sketchy at best. No need to repeat it. But the song hit me last night and I became emotional. “You’re a good, good Father that’s who You are/And I’m love by You, it’s who I am, it’s who I am.” My earthly father loved me in his own way, I guess. But God!! There is no comparison. He is a good, good Father and I’m loved by Him.

Now…that’s a song to have stuck in my head and on repeat!! (Here is the link to that song).

“You are a good, good Father, Lord. I cannot thank You enough.”

February 16

Tuesday, February 16th, 2021

One of the major topics of conversation during the pandemic among pastors, leaders, magazine articles, podcasters, and other talking heads has been the well-being of pastors. It has been all over the spectrum-from depression; to excitement; to innovation; to pressure/stress; to a feeling of inadequacy; to innovation; to dreaming of what was/is/could be; to what could have been; to a bunch of other ideas. But it seemed one topic kept coming up over and over.

Burnout.

The burnout of the leader. The endless demands placed upon the pastor/leader by others and by himself. There was no overt sin involved which could cause it. No, it was simply a pastor or a leader giving too much of himself to the ministry, i.e. shepherding of his people and not taking care of himself. Not necessarily physically, although for some that definitely played a part.

I’m talking spiritual. Burnout comes when an individual gives so much of himself away that he doesn’t take care to feed himself. We neglect us for them. That spells disaster.

We can only take people where we ourselves have gone. We can only teach what we ourselves know or are learning. We can only give someone a drink if we have water to give. We can only offer a meal if we have food to offer.

Take care of yourself first. Cultivate God’s Presence in your life first. Then, and only then, will we have something to offer to someone else.

“Father, I need to refresh myself with You first. Help me to have a renewed fire because of You coming alive in me. Then, and only then, will I have something to give to someone else.”

February 4

Thursday, February 4th, 2021

I mentioned in an earlier post (February 2) that I have been reading through the NT using the NLT (New Living Translation). Today I read Luke 15 & 16. There was no one STOP THIS IS IT! moment this morning. There were several. So I thought I’d record those moments here:

  1. Luke 15 is the trio of stories Jesus told-the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son. Perhaps we can put a positive spin on them and say the Found Sheep, the Found Coin, and the Returning Son. All three end with a variation of saying the same thing. Verse 7, Verse 10, and Verse 32 all carry the idea of rejoicing because that which was lost is found; that which was dead has come back to life. The angels rejoice when someone has run their race and enters heaven, but they also rejoice when someone repents and comes to Jesus for the first time.
  2. Luke 16:10. Faithful in little, faithful in much. If one can’t be trusted with the little, how can they be trusted in the much?
  3. Luke 16:13. Where is my heart? Who or what has its attention?  Have I sold my soul to a lesser master?
  4. Luke 16:14. Where is my allegiance? When the world looks at me, do they see a religion that is dead or a life that is vibrant? More importantly, what does God see? He sees the deepest part of me.

Just a few random thoughts this morning. Random but convicting. Did any one passage stand out to you?

“Father, thank You for Your Word. It is a Light and a Lamp. Please continue to shine it on me.”