“Hey.” Although Granger knew the voice, he knew who it was anyway. He’d set the ‘Despicable Me’ ringtone himself. Something garbled about bananas.
“And a good morning to you, too.”
“Yeah, well, stow it. This one’s a bit time-sensitive. I think this one is waiting to read your answer.”
“As in, ‘now if not sooner’?”
“I think so.”
Granger told his friend to go ahead and send the message and he’d immediately tend to it.
” ‘Kay. By the way, your coffee’s cold.”
The email from Dan was there. The first line made Granger pause, cup half lifted to mouth, then slowly set it back down as he read. . .
“You ever get fed up with being good? Honorable? Always trying to do the right thing? I’m there. I know it’s not healthy for me in any way, shape or form. I need your input.
“I’m sick of people acting and sounding pious and sincere and sweet when I know they’re neither. I’m ready to brace them on it, call them out, denounce them with specifics about their lying, cheating, deceptive ways and just walk away leaving them to deal with their own messes. And don’t bother telling me to go see my pastor.
“I’m him. My spirit’s out of gas. My creative juices spilled and are pretty much dried up. Bible study is a joke. It’s perfunctory at best and I have to force it. Preparing for each Sunday’s a drudge. My joy has gone someplace and left no forwarding address. You know that movie, ‘Despicable Me’? Well, it feels like those little yellow minions are all over, just looking for more ways to frustrate and mess me up. I really am ready to just quit. I know popular opinion says I ought to be able to go to my immediate superior and lay that all out for him. The actual truth is that he’s human, too. If I say what’s really on my mind, that’s going to stick in his mind the next time he evaluates my future ministry. You know–who sits on which committees and boards, who he recommends to which churches, etc.? Like that? That’s the real world. So, no. I don’t really have anybody to share this with. Colleagues? They remember stuff, too. They’re all competing for the same ‘plumb’ churches I am. They’ll politely listen and promise to pray–but that’s about it. Corporate structure and heirarchy is the same in or out of the church.
“None of that is pertinent to my request here. You said for me to WRITE YOU MY HEART so I am. I guess I’m talking to the chaplain part of you here. I’m drained and angry by dealing with two- and three-faced people, some of them also in ministry, getting themselves and others into trouble and then whining when I can’t fix it for them. They want to look and sound good without being good and I’m tired of looking the other way.
“Here’s my request. What’s your suggestion for renewing my personal quiet time? I mean as a person, as a Christian man whose tank’s on empty, whose resources have been allowed to run out. It has suffered—ah, who am I kidding? My quiet time’s non-existent. Everything I do is professionally acceptable but personally anemic. My spiritual life is on life support. I’m not growing. That means I’m becoming just like the people I despise. I know I need to love them and to do that I need first to renew my love for God. I know you’ve ‘been there’ as a pastor. Please help me. Sign me, “Had It Up To HERE”.
Dear “Had It”,
First, thank you for being real. I admire you. I can’t imagine what you’re feeling right now. But I am willing to listen and glad you spoke up. Okay, wrote up. The fact that you’re willing to face yourself and do what it takes to overcome this dry time in your life tells me you’re not as far gone as you think.
Quiet time is a non-negotiable item in the life of any authentic Christian. That’s why it’s the first thing that suffers when a believer’s spirit is low. It’s the spiritual equivalent to what you and your wife, or you and your best friend regularly do: listen to one another and talk to one another.
Regular communication is the cover charge for a meaningful relationship. Let the comms lag and the relationship grows cold and distant. You know that. No matter whether it feels awkward, difficult, embarrassing or just plain hard it needs doing every day, this spending time with God and His Word.
You ask me how. I can’t answer that for you; you’ll need to sort out what works best for you. I can tell you what I’ve decided works best for me and keeps my friendship with The Master fresh and interesting.
Like you, I’ve tried about every devotional program or system of Bible study ever offered. They all have their place. Some were wonderful and others were—Mmmph. You know. After trying them all and giving most of them a good try, here’s what I’ve chosen for myself and what I recommend for any Christ-follower wanting to keep things fresh and growing.
- A Bible translation or version easily readable and that you enjoy reading.
- A steno pad and a pen.
Seriously? That’s it?
Seriously. That’s it.
The Bible is the only book I know that is busy reading you while you’re busy reading it. That means you can read the exact same passage right now, then read it two weeks later and have something completely different catch your attention each time.
When you’re reading a devotional someone else wrote, some days will be boring and hard to focus on because it fit the writer’s life that day–not yours.
When you’re reading through a steno book full of your own thoughts, it never is boring or uninteresting. You’re reading your own spiritual journey, your own life history. And since you’re always growing and your journey’s always ongoing, there’s always new stuff God’s showing you–same passage or not.
Eventually you’ll likely start marking in your Bible with highlighters and different colors. That’s okay. But for now I’m recommending you focus on what you’re writing in your own journal.
Journal? Me? ‘Journaling’?
Sure. All that means is that you’re regularly writing down your thoughts. You can’t possibly remember them all. Write them down.
Put each day’s date at the top of the page, plus the scripture passage you’re reading that morning. Put NO pressure on yourself to read a certain amount of verses or chapters. Read until something triggers a response inside you. Then stop, think about what you just read and why it grabs your attention right there. Then jot down your thoughts and ideas.
What if nothing really jumps out at me and I don’t feel anything writable?
Don’t worry about it. A year from now when you turn to that page, you’ll see today’s date and where you were reading that day. Leave the rest of that page blank. It will tell you that you stuck with your reading and thinking and praying, even though nothing surfaced that you felt like writing down. I’d be real surprised if the following year you didn’t have something valuable to write down that had happened during that year.
This is what I mean by NO PRESSURE. Don’t make your quiet time anything but an appointment you cannot, must not, will not break. It’ll become a time you look forward to and can’t get along without.
Done? Okay. Lay down the pen and tell God your thoughts. Spend some time quietly listening to His. After this quiet time, you may often find some more things impressed on your mind to add to your own thoughts.
Close the notepad and lay it and your Bible together until tomorrow morning.
It won’t be very long until you begin sensing a warmth growing within you–first for God, then for those of His people who’ve been making you suspiciously look around you for small yellow creatures.
Quiet time does affect your interpersonal relationships with other people. But it’s not primarily for them.
It’s for you. For your spiritual vitality. And when you’re spiritually healthy, you make much more impact on those around you. And whatever it is God has you doing in life will be that much more meaningful. It’ll have new joy flowing, new sparkle and verve going on.
And to think it all started with a book, a notepad and a pen.
Thanks, Had It, for opening your heart like this. I’m just guessing that you articulated some thoughts that a good group of others have been thinking and might have been unwilling to say. Thanks for being their voice.
Don’t let the minions get you down. Oh–and share your review of ‘Despicable Me 2’.
It might even make you grin!
Granger smiled as he hit ‘Send’, rifling the email back to Dan to resend to “Had It”.
“For all I know, that’s how email actually works–there’s a whole BUNCH of those little yellow squirts scurrying back and forth, carrying these messages all over!”
© July 2013