Monday, February 6, 2012

Mondays with Martha: Bible Reading Inspiration

If you read Katie's guest blog post here on Friday and clicked over to find mine, you may not have found it. But it's there now. 

I was at a fabulous women's retreat with my church all weekend, so housecleaning wasn't on my mind. It was glorious. I don't know about you, but I come back from a retreat all excited about the new spiritual truths I learned, ready to face the daily grind with deep spiritual insight and discipline my children with grace and an understanding of their hearts. And then reality hits. We dropped my friend off after the retreat and she was greeted by her little boy in a diaper and t-shirt, crying at the door. She called me about an hour later and told me he had just stopped crying. What was he so angry about? He wanted to go outside, but he didn't want to put on pants before leaving the house. Some parents are just so unreasonable.

I came home and found a clean house, a baby sleeping peacefully, the 4-year-old and 7-year-old putting together a truck . . . and no one else. My hubby had left the 7-year-old in charge while he dropped the other two kids at their grandparents' house across town. I know she is a responsible 7-year-old, but seriously?

At the moment my 22-month-old is screaming in her highchair because she wanted oatmeal, which I made her, but she did not want bananas on top of the oatmeal. And I thought I was giving her a treat.

So today's Mondays with Martha we'll switch gears a little bit and answer the question of how to organize a quiet time when real life strikes. These are some ideas, see if one of them might be something for you to try.

1) Get up early. I'm starting with this one because it's conventional wisdom, but I've got to admit that it doesn't work for me. The ladies over at girltalk have a 5 o'clock club of women who have decided to get up at 5:00 to have a quiet time before the rest of the house is awake. I tried it for a while, but whenever I got up early I was grumpy and my toddler woke up early too, thus defeating the purpose. But lots of people find this works great, so maybe it's worth trying.

2) Have all your quiet time "stuff" organized and ready, maybe near your favorite comfy chair. I find that if I've organized my Bible, prayer journal, and whatever devotional book I might be reading, I'm more likely to get to the chair and read. Somehow that step of gathering my stuff together can make having a quiet time a daunting task and there are so many opportunities to get distracted by other chores in those two minutes of finding my Bible.

3) Find a Bible reading plan that works for you. If reading through the Bible in a year seems too hard because you get behind and then give up, try something else. Here are some ideas for different ways to read the Bible:

This one from Ann Voskamp has a few links for free downloads of reading plans including a through-the-Bible in a year plan that has 25 readings per month and a through-the-Bible with your children plan.

This one encourages a slow approach of reading the same book several times in a row. One of my friends is trying a similar method where she reads the same book 20 times in a row, with the goal of reading one book per month. The book of Numbers sounds a little daunting with this method, but the epistles would be great to read this way. I love the idea of going deep into a section of God's Word.

This one offers such refreshing insight from Noel Piper. Love it!

How about a two-year Bible reading plan? (Intentionally two years, not "oops, I'm not done yet" two years!)

Sometimes I do read the Bible in shorter sections and ask three questions: What does it say about God?; What did it mean to the original readers?; and What does it mean to me? J.I. Packer has a slightly different take on this idea here.

4) Have a pad of post-it notes near your Bible. When I sit down to read my Bible, my mind starts to swirl with things I need to do. If I have a post-it note right there, I can make a note to myself and then stop thinking about it and focus on what I'm reading.

5) Sometimes we need a good devotional book to read to help us apply the Bible to our daily lives. I cannot recommend enough the book A Praying Life by Paul Miller. Also, One Thousand Gifts is worth a read, although you may have to slog through parts of it. I also love a good classic: Charles Spurgeon, Oswald Chambers, A. W. Tozer, C. S. Lewis, Andrew Murray, and Christian biographies are very inspiring.

6) Relax your standards. Bible reading requires discipline, yes, but it is about relationship. It's not about getting things right or reading the right amount or meeting someone else's standard. It's not about finding the perfect time when the house is absolutely silent and there are no little people around to distract us. That may never happen. Maybe you'll have to distract the little people with play-dough or a video or a stack of books and settle for "mostly quiet and a few minutes when I can sort of concentrate."

In the end, it's not about meeting our goals or getting through the Bible in a year. It's about spending time with our heavenly Father, our best friend, our bridegroom. It's about communing with the Person who knows us better than we know ourselves and loves us more than we can imagine. It's about coming home.

What are your best Bible-reading tips? Leave a comment!

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