How to Have a Meaningful Quiet Time

I’m often asked how I “do” my quiet time and how to fit one in to a busy schedule.  I’ve hesitated to presume any authority on the matter because I am a girl just like you who has great intentions and sometimes lets the urgent overrule the divine.  I do fail but I can tell you that God’s Word and relationship to Him is everything to me and even when I do fall, I am not cast headlong.  This is one area where I will always persevere if it kills me.  I must persevere or it WILL kill me.  Life operates at break neck speed around the McKay house but this past December took the cake in terms of how many mornings in a row I had to hit the ground running way too early and fall into bed way too late.  I don’t begrudge a single activity that required the rush but I would be lying if I said it didn’t take a severe toll on the time I count most precious which is my morning devo in the park.

The first couple of days I had a more limited Jesus time at another part of the day but by day three I was struggling to do much more than read my Oswald Chambers which is ironic because my pitiful efforts certainly were not my Utmost.  Thankfully it didn’t go much further than that because by the end of the week I couldn’t stand myself.  In my deteriorating state of mind, a seeming rejection had taken over and I had decided to quit the call, cancel my teaching engagements, shut down the blog, and never speak of those things again.  And I was in a horrific mood in the time of year when Jesus should be the Reason for the Season.  So spiritual.

Would you like to know something I learned? (Not for the first time, mind you.)  A person has no business whatsoever making life-altering decisions outside of consistent communion with God in both the reading of His Word and prayer.  As I already said, it took no time whatsoever to believe my call was void (by call I mean those things extracurricular to the most important role of being a wife and mother) and that whatever it was God has asked of me up until now was done.  Finished.  Because of an imagined rejection born out of an impulsive decision on my part that was more fleece than faith.  I didn’t wait out the thing like I should have and a couple of weeks ago, that realization stung but not unto death.  After a few days apart from talking to the Lord about it, that stinger revived and spread a Quitter’s Poison that convinced me I should never again put myself in a situation to be reminded that I am of no consequence. (I know better than this.  I’m quoting The Voices.)   I wasn’t hearing from the Lord because I had not positioned myself in such a way to listen for a response.  How does He respond?  Through His Word!  I can’t tell you the number of times I have been in a season of prayer about a specific thing and the verses in my devo or the pastor’s sermon or the radio teacher were precisely God’s part in the conversation.  Had I not been in a position to hear His Word from many angles I would missed the opportunity to know His response on the matter.  And here is one other thing I’ve learned.  Or re-learned.  When we are in consistent communion the stuff of life that threatens to overwhelm seems to keep its proper place.  There is greater discernment for right and wrong.  Clarity comes in decisions where there was confusion before and we are at peace with God when His answer is ‘no’ or ‘not now’.

So, what does my positioning look like?  I humbly submit just one way of many to have a meaningful time with the Lord.  I call it the “I Say, You Say, I Pray.” format.  Tools needed:  Bible, Devotional, Journal, Pen, and Highlighters

 

1.  I Say:  Simply enough, these is where I get to have “My Say”.   I begin my time by writing those things that are a part of my dailyness.  I usually record events and end up with concerns.  These are my written prayers to the Lord where I am specific with the concerns of my mind.  I find vague feelings of doom seem to dissipate when they are spilled out into the light in black and white.

2.  You Say:  After I’ve spelled out my prayers, I refer to my devotional and ask the Lord, “What do You Say to me today?”.  My favorite for this purpose is Thomas Nelson’s Daily Light on the Daily Path.  It is nothing short of amazing how the topical scriptures on the pages so often address exactly what I’ve already written. (And no, I do not peek first! I let His Word be a surprise to me.)  I then write down the scripture that is most meaningful to me.  If it seems completely irrelevant to anything I’ve already written, I simply write at least two reasons that particular scripture spoke to me.  I often find they are a foreshadowing of something yet to come. Not trying to be superstitious here and I’m not at all saying God tells me the future. *grin* But I do believe God’s Word is a lamp unto our feet and I believe He means to light the paths we may soon walk.

3.  I Pray:  After I have God’s Word as food for the Spirit, I pray aloud to Him using those scriptures.  I also write those requests for specific issues or individuals that were already on my mind or that came to it.  I also write down any responses I have to what the Lord has said to me.

I hope that doesn’t sound overly complicated because it really isn’t.  This is just the stride I have stepped into with the Lord that works for me.  If any part of it is helpful at all to you in establishing your own routine with Him, then God be praised!  I realize I am very spoiled in that I have time after I drop the kids off from school to really sit with Him.  But, and here’s one other thing I’ve learned, we do what we want to do every part of the day.  30 minutes is a sitcom is a Facebook session is a phone conversation.  30 minutes is all that stands between us and the divine.

You can do this.  You WANT to do this.

Persevere, sisters!

 

 

Just One Away…

Over the course of our ministry lives, it seems the Lord has continually placed Luke and me in an environment to serve “the least of these” i.e., children who are living in homes that are not just a little dysfunctional, but severely so. As in, they are lucky if divorce is the only painful visitation upon them.  Sometimes the kids are keenly aware of how their lives are being affected by the terrible decision-making of their parents.  Others seem to have no clue.

I was reminded of this once again while teaching Bible Classes to our elementary students a couple of weeks ago.  During prayer time I heard everything from “pray for my dog” to “pray for my dad who is in prison and won’t get out for another 2 years”…”pray for my mom to quit smoking pot”…”pray for me because I’m in foster care and I really want to see my mother but they won’t let me” … “pray for my step-brother because he can’t be around me right now because I was right all along”.  The implication of that last one caught my breath and I had to call on one of the kids to pray because I just couldn’t do it in the moment without sobbing.  It is just about enough to make a teacher want to stop asking for prayer requests.  The burden is too great and yet I know that for whatever reason I’ve been placed in their lives to share the love of Christ with them.  For many of those kids, it is the only exposure they have to His healing.  I’m ashamed to admit for a long time I whined about wanting someone else to take over this program because in my mind teaching little kids all day was taking me away from the “important” work of teaching women.  Shame, shame, I know your name and it is Lisa.

By default of our church’s relationship with the school many of the “least of these” attend our Wednesday night AWANA and Youth programs.  There is a stark contrast between the seasoned church kids and them.  I am particularly sensitive where the “least kids” (not a fitting term but y’all get what I’m saying here) are concerned because I know so many of their stories and God help them, I don’t know how they are surviving.  We were all in the auditorium recently and I noticed how the two groups naturally segregated themselves – one on one set of pews, one on the other.  And in my heart I thought, “The ‘church kids’ were just one good parent away from a seat on the other side of the aisle.”

I couldn’t stop thinking about the implications of that.  How it only takes one individual intervening in the life of a child to make certain they learn of the love of God, who makes rational decisions in daily living, who provides nurture and stability in the home and who sets high standards in school performance, etc. in order to give that child the tools to be someone capable of entering the world prepared to operate within it.  It is the rare child who will outlive the expectations placed on him by a parent or guardian.  The cycle is maddening.  How in the world is a child supposed to function with the sins of the fathers piled into their laps and overflowing above their precious heads?  How does anyone expect a 13 year-old to want more for himself than the most important person in his life wants?

I also teach Youth on Wednesdays so I’ve been on a perhaps unrealistic tangent about unity within the group and creating a loving, Utopian environment that will be a safe place for all the kids for one hour.  Just one hour. Some days work better than others but I got my feelings on my shoulders when a remark was made that Youth would be so much better without “the bad kids”.  I could have cried a thousand tears.  I have carried that sentiment like a heavy, soaking wet blanket for days and yesterday prayed once again and begged the Lord to help me not be disappointed in myself for being unable to inspire the ‘church kids’ to love the ‘least kids’.  Would you like to know what He said to me in a way only He can?  “How can you expect a child to do what you don’t do yourself?”

What?  Come again?  Lord, you know I adore the least kids!

And then it flooded over me.  All of the times I had labeled the parents of the “bad kids” as “bad adults”.  How I had been so completely critical of their parenting, their mistakes, their badness when in reality they are just grown up children most of whom are simply living out the effects of having parents just like them. And grandparents just like them.  And great-grandparents just like them.  And what could have broken this cycle for them?  They were just one person away from a different life.  Is that one person me?  Is the mercy God wants to offer them tightly clenched in my judgmental fist because I don’t believe they deserve a break?  That they deserve their consequences?

Let’s just say yesterday was a weepy one.  I made specific notes in my journal about things the Lord has shown me to do that will hopefully make up for precious lost time. Let’s not miss it, Church. Let’s not cause people to trip over us on their way to Him.

Instead, let’s be the one.  Because when we are, maybe our kids will learn to be the one, too.

 “Go and learn what this means. For I desire mercy and not sacrifice. 

For I have not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

 ~ Matthew 9:13

 

apPraise

Yesterday Luke and I met the appraiser at the house.  It was somewhat of a mad dash trying to get the floors cleaned and the bathrooms wiped down so the place didn’t so much resemble something that had been dipped in powdered sugar.  That ordinarily wouldn’t be a bad thing if in actuality the dippee was pastry-like and the sugary substance weren’t 7 months of dust.  As it is, my respiratory tract is in active rebellion and I was starved most of the day because there was no food unless I wanted to lick the dirt off the counter tops or eat peanut butter-filled pretzels which I hate.  No, I do not like peanut butter and I am not sorry for it.

Except on days when that’s all there is to eat.  That or dirt.

So, we are ending the end of this long and tedious building process and hope to be closed by mid-December.  In the meantime, we’ve been living lots of life and the Lord has been talking to me about things that may mean nothing to you but have tested my faith, my resolve, and most importantly, my attitude while I am waiting on the Lord.

I wonder if any of you are currently in a season of waiting?  For an answer that could change everything.  For a Word on how to proceed next.  For some good news for a change, for Pete’s sake, and yet you are scared to death you are about to hear the worst and that the proverbial rug is about to get pulled right out from underneath you.  And then there is what we do with ourselves in that excruciating meantime – the moments between when the thing first presented itself and that day when you will finally know.

I’ve been struggling with this one much and conducting a spiritual appraisal of sorts.  There’s this thing I am waiting on and I have had a very clear idea about what the answer ‘should’ be.  Up until this morning even, I was convinced that this was the only outcome that could possibly make sense, give me joy, or be in line with how God has guided up until this point.  Anyone else ever find themselves in situations where they’ve sought God diligently and all the ‘signs’ seem to align in one direction and then the exact opposite come to pass?  Do you think God gets upset when we ask, with humble heart, “Lord, what’s up with that?!  Are you just trying to kill me?!  Can’t this one thing just be easy?!”  

So, the Lord and I have been hashing through those kinds of questions and this morning I had a break through of sorts.  I felt He said, “Lisa, do you really want this if I’m not there?”  {Silence.}  Do I?  Do I really want the thing if He is not present in it even if the ‘thing’ seems so good or appears to be something that will bring Him great glory?  Or perhaps the harder question:  Have I set my hopes on that thing moreso than the Giver of it?   If the removal of that thing brings Him greater glory, can I be okay with that?  Can I trust Him with even that?

And though it panicked me to say it to Him, I answered ‘yes’.  Yes, I can be okay with that.  I can confidently say that I don’t want anything that becomes a barrier between me, my family, and His Presence and His approval over us.  Anything that I could scratch and claw and manipulate to be mine will only be a deadly abomination if His Spirit does not rest upon it.   Job 26:14 says “Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways and how small a whisper we hear of Him! But the thunder of His power who can understand?”  I don’t understand all that He does, but He knows the way prepared for me so when I can’t clearly discern, or when I’ve thought I have heard from Him only to realize I misunderstood, then my faith has to trump my fear and disappointment and follow Him.  And here’s the kicker:  I have to go there free of bitterness or despair or I’ve gained no spiritual ground in the matter whatsoever.

After I prayed this through, the strangest thing happened.  I was at peace.  I’m not saying if the answer isn’t what I want that I won’t cry or that the answer to these times is to pretend the bad things are good.  Sometimes they flat out are NOT good.  But we can all be okay and continue to find refuge in Him because He knows.  He knows what it is like to give up something He loved for the greater good and that when we do the same thing we’ve joined with Him in His sufferings.  We’ve died with Him and in some strange way, that allows us to live like Him and for our souls to remain at peace as we wait. 

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”  ~Phillippians 3:7-10

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