Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Quiet Time

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

As the deer pants for the water so my soul longs for Thee
Song of Solomon 2:10-12

My lover spoke and said to me,
“Arise, my darling,  
my beautiful one,
and come with me. 
See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.  
Flowers appear on the earth; 
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves is heard in our land.

I hear people mention from time to time the dryness of their quiet time. They want to meet God and they set a time in their day and they dutifully read their bible and try to pray. Rather than feel re-charged and like they have met with God, it feels more like the heavens have become brass and their prayers are like soap bubbles that pop before they even float beyond arms reach. They are frustrated and give up.

So I thought today I would talk about my quiet time. Not because I am some super saint and have it all together. Trust me I struggle with all kinds of stuff. I have learned that I really depend upon my quiet time with the Lord each morning. Not that every morning is an amazing mountain top experience. A lot of it is just ordinary and then other days I have great insights and revelations. Your quiet time may not look exactly like mine, because your relationship with the Lord is unique and and God knows how he has wired you and what makes you tick.

Showing Up:
Showing up for my quiet time is where I want to start today. I have to make room in my life for those things that are important to me. I want my relationship with Jesus to be central, everything else flows in and through and around that primary love relationship. So one of the things I do is I show up at the start of my day. I get up early before my family so I have a block of protected time to spend with the Lord.  I don't get up and spend this time to fullfil some religious notion of what it means to be a "good christian".  Wake up and smell the coffee...You can't atone for yourself, you can't be good enough, or holy enough to even begin to live up to Gods righteous, holy standards. You have to accept that Jesus has done for you, what you could not do for your self. Quit trying to pray enough, read the bible enough, do enough good works, --- enough already. Yes, those things are wonderful things and God wants us to share them with us but we have to quit trying to preform for his approval. Things like reading the Word, Praying, learning to be silent, fasting, giving, using your gifts, are disciplines much like learning to play the piano that take regular use and practice to become proficient.  When you live your christian life trying to some how tip the scales in your favor - thinking this much good out weighs that much bad - you are still trying to get to God by your own merit. At some point you need to accept that you are accepted just like you are in this moment with all your flaws, failures, baggage, sins, sorrows, and your talents, abilities and successes.  God loves us where we are today but He does not want any of us to remain in the place we are today. He is always healing, cleansing, refining and tuning our life for His plans and purposes. There are benefits that come with having His word hidden in your heart, in knowing how to rightly divide it and to know what verses to stand on in various situations. There are benefits in learning to hear his voice and to learn to be led and guided by the Holy Spirit, there are benefits in knowing how to connect with God, to walk in the assurance of your salvation and your calling and place in His Kingdom. We must use our gifts and practice various spiritual disciplines for them to develop and grow.  So disciplining our selves to spend time in the word, to memorize it, to study it is really important. Learning to be still and listen, to not just come to the Lord with your long list of prayer demands like a spoiled child with a long list to Santa is important.
So I hesitate to tell you what I do each morning in my quiet time because I don't want you to think that it is some formula that if you need to follow like a doctors prescription to become a spiritual person who is approved of by God.

Preparing The Way of Your Heart
Luke 7:27 This is the one about whom it is written: “‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’  This verse is written about John the Baptist. For about 400 years there have been no prophets in Israel. Then this weird guy John comes on the scene. He dresses in course clothing and lives out in the wild, and eats bugs and honey. This is the child who is born to Elizabeth and the Zachariah. The story goes that old Zach and Liz were up in years and had no children, which was quite the disgrace in those days. So Zach is part of the the priesthood and it becomes his turn to go into the holy place which happened by the drawing of lots to determine which guy got to do which job. Zack got to burn incense and might only get to do that job once in ones life. Check out Luke 1 for more of this story. So in my quick version, while he is in there to burn incense an angel appears. He is pretty startled and he allows doubt and unbelief to creep in and needs more proof than an angelic visitor to believe what the angel is telling him about having a child. So the angel says ok you won't be able to talk till the baby is born. When he he is born you are to call him John.  So old Zach comes out and everyone is wanting to know what happened and what took him so long but he can't talk. Its a great story but this very old couple become the parents of John who incidentally is a cousin to Jesus. Mary visits Elizabeth while both she and Elizabeth are pregnant. I'm thinking they had some pretty wild stories to swap.  Anyway the big message of John was to repent and be baptized. To prepare your heart for the coming of the Messiah.
In my quiet time I try to prepare my heart for the Lord to come. If I have bitterness, un-forgiveness, or if I am offended, or angry, or hurt I try to work through those issues. I often need the Lord to help me see things from another perspective. I try to prepare my heart to make more room for Jesus in my thoughts, and in my day.

There are a variety of other things that I do from praying in my prayer language, to reading the word, some times I sing songs, or write songs, sometimes I am studying a topic, sometimes I journal or write these posts. Some times I just sit and let the Lord hold me. Sometimes we just talk.

I was talking to a friend today and she shared that in her quiet time sometimes she meets Jesus by a little river and he lets her hold her aborted babies. She has long time ago worked through her guilt and shame for the decisions she made once upon a time. What is so beautiful to me is that God meets each of us in a unique and special way. While much of how we each spend our quiet time is similar, we both like to journal, and to be very open and honest with the Lord about how we feel about stuff. We both spend time in the word and read until some verse or passage speaks to our hearts. She has her own intimate places that are totally unique to her relationship with the Lord.

The Lord wants to help you find those special ways of connecting with him too. I think what really makes my own quiet time work is that I realize that God knows me inside and out. He knows he created me from dust. He knows my limitations, he knows my strengths. Its not about achieving some spiritual stature but more just some of the things we enjoy doing together.

My ex husband used to love to drive to beautiful places and meet God. He called it finding "spots". I know he is reading - we are good friends.  God would lead him to find special places and in those places he could find the quiet to hear Gods voice. He would often compose beautiful songs during his quiet times. Don't know if he still does that or not but it was unique to his relationship with the Lord.

Another friend feels closest to the Lord when out walking in the woods. For me its on my couch with a cup of tea or coffee in the quiet of the morning with two dogs who insist on being right on top of me. A little later my early rising child comes and quietly joins the pile.

I read of one woman who had lots of children and she would put her apron over her head and all the kids knew not to bother her she was talking to God.

I guess my point is that in any love relationship the more quality time that is spent together the more the intimacy of knowing and being known grows and develops. So while you may feel a little awkward in your quiet time let it become a time to meet with the lover of your soul. The more you spend time together the more that intimacy will grow and you will soon discover those special things that you enjoy doing together.

Dear Lord,
Thank you for those who already look forward to their quiet times with you. Thank you for the special things that you have helped them discover that are unique and special to their relationship with you. Maybe they will post a comment and share about how you meet with them in some special way. I pray for those for whom this is all new and who still feel awkward and clumsy in their relationship with you. They struggle to find the words to say to express how they feel.  Maybe they have been trying to earn your favor or approval and are exhausted by trying to do and be enough. I pray you will deliver them and help them to accept what you have done for them. Help them to have more than just head knowledge of your acceptance and atonement, cause to really understand in a deep way that your love for them.

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