Wednesday, March 21

Lessons From Dark Corners

As I mentioned in a previous blog, I went through a pretty aggressive period in my life where I took quite seriously Paul's admonition to "KEEP WATCH ON YOURSELF." I charted all of my quiet times over a three year period into a spreadsheet, and discovered the following things about myself. (Any of these true of you, too?)

(1) I stink at bible reading. My mind (O, wretched man that I am) can often simply be a pipe, where the water of God's word goes in one end and right through. I mind needs to be like SOIL: thirsty and soaking up what the Lord has to say. So I invented my daft scheme.

(2) I need a plan. Often, after finishing a book, I would take a week (or, shamefully, more) off. As a general rule of thumb for me, if I'm unsure of what I'm supposed to do NEXT, I don't do anything.

(3) I tend to only read my favorite parts. Looking at my reading carefully, I found that I tended toward a pattern of rereading familiar, well-loved passages of scriptures over and over again.

And again. Seriously.

I love myself some Philippians, Pastoral Epistles, and Psalms. Then, well, start up 2 Corinithians, . . . then back to Philippians.

(4) I love new stuff. I discovered new stuff (new ideas, new pens, new bibles) caught my attention for about ten days. Maybe this is foolish, but I take advantage of this in myself and began to budget QUIET TIME STUFF with my money. About once or twice a month, I'll purchase something (new journal, new book, new bible cover) to take advantage of this part of me. When I discover a rut, I sorta gave up on beating myself up. I constantly invent new systems to keep my values happening. In my prayer life, I've done prayer lists, prayer journals, prayer cards, out-loud praying, prayer partners, night prayer, morning prayers, on-line prayers, prayer folders . . . you get the picture.

When I find the PRACTICE slipping, I change the PLAN to keep the PRIORITY high.

(5) The whole thing is the bible. I can remember specific times of careful study in Ezekiel, where my eyes filled with tears as the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart. It's the Bible, after all. Even the parts that never make it into "Scripture Memory Songs."

Anyways, please take this post as a plea to BE HONEST about yourself. The ways we think, the ways you interact with God are so important.

6 comments:

Ken said...

Matthew,

Have you ever used D.A. Carson's "For the Love of God?" I've found it really helpful, the thing that I keep going back to after my excursions to different things. I don't do it totally at the pace he sets, but it's still been the most helpful tool to me.

And also talking with friends about how I'm doing.

Thanks for the post, and for your humility.

Literacygirl said...

Love this post. I highly recommend Phyllis Tickle's prayer books.

Beloved said...

Here's an honest one (don't tell Pastor James on me). I don't prefer following my daily Bible reading plan daily. I find it terribly counterproductive to start, then stop; start, then stop; start... I have to keep going back and asking myself, "Now what just happened?" and "Where are they again?" and "What's the big picture?" However, if I sit down and read chunks at a time, say, 4 or 5 chapters (or more), the big picture comes into view and it helps me put the little pictures into perspective, thereby helping the scriptures to "sink in" more deeply. I also am not one to think on five different wavelengths at once, so I stick to one OT and one NT book at a time, and do not add to it a "daily devotional" plus something or other. Generally, I dig my heels into one extra-biblical book (Dallas Willard's The Divine Conspiracy at the moment) as well.

However, I wouldn't necessarily recommend my "plan" to beginners or to those recently "returning to their first love" (via daily fellowship w/ Christ). Pastor James is dead on about the progression of Discipline-Desire-Delight. It's the honest-to-goodness truth.

As far as "techniques" go, I've been in and out as well. At least at the moment, I read the Bible for breadth, and study it by way of theologically, missiologically, and ecclesiologically focused books. I'm simply not efficient enough at using concordances and commentaries to make them a regular part of my daily Bible study. Last time I tried that, I went out and bought five or six commentaries on Galatians from a used book store, and it worked out pretty well. But until you get conditioned to do it, it can burn you out pretty quick. Studying the scriptures is exhausting! It's not like math or history, where you're simply studying to get a grade on a test for a class. God is giving our exam, and the truth we're searching for has eternal significance!

Matthew Westerholm said...

Ken,

I love Carson's book and the M'Cheyne program he uses. I received the emails for that for a while, until the INBOX space became too important.

literacygirl,

I'm unfamiliar with Ms. Tickle's books. Is there a place to start?

beloved,

If you don't read each day, how often *do* you read? Are you consistent with it?

[r]

Literacygirl said...

http://www.northumbriacommunity.org/PraytheOffice/
(Celtic Daily Prayer)

http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/
(Phyllis Tickle)

Beloved said...

I dig into my leather-bound NIV Study Bible 3-4 times a week for extended periods. I engage with the Scripture via blogging almost daily, as I am constantly going back and reading passages. Ironically, I have been following Carson's modified M'Cheyne plan this year. Except, every couple days, I read from where I left off up until the current day. I still plan on getting through the Bible at least once this year, and am almost up-to-date with the plan.