Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What I do

This is a "show and tell" post. I have always loved to read biographies, autobiographies, and journals of people I admire. I learn from seeing what they did and how they did it much better than I learn from reading "how to" books. So, humbly I pray, I offer you this little view of a morning routine.

I strive toward consistency in my times of Bible reading and prayer. I often fail but right now this is what I am doing each day. In detailing my routine for you, I do not mean to be prescriptive in any way. I simply want to show you what one struggling disciple does so that you might be encouraged to establish your own routine - if that is something you have not done. If you do have a routine, press on.

I keep my Bible, Valley of Vision, personal journal, and spiral bound prayer journal, and a couple of pens in a straw basket beside my desk. Right now, I am also keeping the book Mountain Breezes: The Collected Poems of Amy Carmichael in the basket. If the weather is nice, I sit on the swing on the screen porch. If it's not, I sit in the music room. Both places are quiet and private in the early morning. I usually make myself a cup of coffee and then take my basket from beside my desk and settle into my quiet place.

I start by reading the portion of scripture for the day. I am using the Discipleship Journal Bible reading plan and use the bookmarks that can be printed from the Bethlehem Baptist Church website. I have altered the plan and only use two bookmarks at a time. When I finish the scripture portions on these two, I'll go on to the next two. I don't worry about dates or months. I just check a portion when I've read it. I underline and mark up my Bible. I note particular verses that seem to speak directly to my life. After reading the Bible, I usually copy a verse or two in my journal and reflect on it. There is usually some application here as I think about what the verses I've just read are saying and how I apply them in my own life.

Once or twice during the week, I spend time reading and studying for our weekly small group. We're going through some Psalms right now and have a handout each week. I usually skip my bookmark reading on the days I prepare for small group so I can spend more time reading, answering the questions, and meditating on our verses for small group.

After Bible reading, I read a prayer from the book, Valley of Vision. I love these prayers. They are rich and so often capture in language that is more expressive than my own, the longings of my heart. I often write a section of one of these prayers in my personal journal and add my own written prayers of adoration, confession, or supplication.

For the last month, after reading Valley of Vision, I have been reading several pages each day of Amy Carmichael's poetry from the book I mentioned above, Mountain Breezes. I started reading these when my son went to India and decided to read through the entire book of poems. I've had the book for several years and had not read many of these poems, ever. Why read this poetry? It lifts my eyes and heart. It encourages. It gives words and images to thoughts and longings. Many people use hymns. I have done that at times but for now I am using dear Amy's poetry. If I find one I particularly like or want to remember, I write in the back flyleaf of the book the pages and titles and perhaps a small phrase to remind me of what the poem is about. I also date each page after I've read it so I will remember when I went through this book. You may not want to do as much marking up of your books as I do, but this is a book I will keep forever and one I go back to often. I want to remember where to find poems that I love.

Then I pray. My prayer notebook is divided into three sections: Family, The Body of Christ, and The World. I desire much more consistency in my prayer life and greater use of this little book as an effective tool. I jot down things I want to pray for and answers to prayer in the appropriate sections. I find that writing things down keeps me focused and helps me remember when I have told someone I will pray for them.

How long do I take each day? Depends. 15 minutes, 30, an hour. Some days are slow and quiet and I get up a bit earlier. Some days I have to get out the door sooner or pressing family needs intervene so my time is cut short. But, I always read my Bible first. And I always keep these books together in that basket so that if I want to grab it and go to another room later in the day I have all my "helps" together.

That's it. Pretty simple. It's a plan and I don't have to wonder each day what I'm going to do. Having a plan really is the first step in consistency. Yours will be different from mine. But I encourage you to develop a simple plan. Without one, you are likely to drift a runner running aimlessly or a boxer beating the air. I don't think we have time to waste running aimlessly in the race of faith.

Post #3 in this week's focus on running the race of faith

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