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It’s another Theology Thursday Discussing religion in a blog dedicated to Old School Rules feels like discussing with a widow the $100,000 her late husband owed you. Sure, it needs to be done, but that doesn’t make it any less potentially awkward. The path of need versus awkwardness can be all too familiar territory when someone has a faith and tries to take it seriously. I’ll try to walk this path honestly and with consideration. In light of that, I’ve created Theology Thursday because 1) I love the Lord and 2) I like a little alliteration, too. Not every Thursday will be a Theology Thursday, but most theology posts will be on Thursday.
Build a Thick-Walled Fortress Around Quiet Time
A few days ago I was listening to the radio in my car and heard a contemporary Christian singer discussing a meeting he had with Billy Graham. The singer (I wish I caught his name, but he sounded like a young Southern white guy. That should narrow it down.) said he asked Billy Graham for advice on his own daily quiet time a.k.a. Bible reading & prayer time.
I thought, “What a great question about something so practical, so important, so Old School!” This singer had limited time with Dr. Graham and he hit one out of the park. Few disciplines are as central to the Christian life as daily prayer and study.
I wish I could offer you the exact words the Dr. Graham used, but I can offer the important main point the singer shared. Here it is:
You must put a wall around your quiet time. There will certainly be times when family demands are pulling you away from this discipline, but don’t let it happen. Time spent in God’s word will make you a better husband and father. To let the demands of family pull you away from this discipline is self-defeating.
He didn’t say, “make this a priority” or “do it first thing”. He used the near militaristic language of “putting a wall” around this time, reminiscent of how ancient cities were surrounded by walls to guard their inhabitants. Guard from what? Enemies. In a stone fortress the enemies are opposing armies and marauders. In the fortress of quiet time these opposing armies and marauders are not, of course, family, but the circumstances and personal weaknesses that encourage the Christian to forsake this discipline.
This is more than semantics. “Make this a priority” is the kind language Tony Robbins uses at a motivational seminar. “Put up an impenetrable wall” sounds like something General Patton would say to his troops as they prepare for war and defend their lives. So onward Christian soldiers, let’s build some walls.
Quiet Time Bricks
Pick the right time. Legendary and feared Hall of Fame linebacker and four time Super Bowl champion Jack Lambert was once asked, “When were your best hits?” He replied, “When the guy wasn’t looking.” A Christian’s best time to hit the books can be when the demands (family, phone calls, etc.) aren’t looking for him. For a busy parent, this could mean before the kids are awake or after they are in bed.
Pick the right place. The living room of most homes is probably a bad place. Too much traffic and too many distractions. Any place that’s not getting much traffic can be a great place. If you live in the sticks and have some “great outdoors” nearby where you can pray aloud and also in private, that’s great, too.
Have a proper attitude of urgent conviction. Language like “make something a priority” implies something is a matter of choice and can be put off if convenient. When ancient cities built fortress walls (to use Dr. Graham’s term) they didn’t do it as matter of choice. They did it so the enemy wouldn’t be able to stick as many arrows in their flesh. Related to this, be consistent. If a Christian’s quiet time is infrequent and irregular, how can his family respect the walls he puts around it. Brick walls go around mighty cities. Not occasionally appearing tents.
Don’t let a Trojan Horse in your fortress. Having a computer nearby during quiet time is guaranteed to suck the content out of anyone’s quiet time. Turn the TV off. Turn the computer off because even the “ping” of an incoming email distracts. Focus on the task at hand.
From a very young age let your your children know you have a daily quiet time. Not letting your children interrupt you during quiet time is not the same as not letting them know about it and share in it. Excuse me if I’m overworking the walls metaphor, but it’s probably a good idea is these walls have a few windows in them to set the example for your kids.
To its citizens, the fortified walls of a city are calming and instructive. “Calming” because they know they are protected. They see the leaders of the city have as a high priority the safety of the kingdom’s inhabitants. “Instructive” because the children will learn that their own quiet time will have a part in fortifying themselves and the family.
Let your children interrupt you and share your quiet time. Not all interruptions are the same. An interruption that takes you out of quiet time is counter-productive. An interruption that brings your children into your quiet time can be exactly what you want.
Finally, some days the ball is dropped. All I can bring to the cross is my sins. My “righteousness” even that expressed in daily quiet time, is “as rags”. When I begin reading some days out of some stoic sense of duty (Hint: it’s easy for that to become a code word for “self-rightousness”) God’s grace is shown when He allows some illumination of His word to go on inside my skull despite my self-centered, dour beginning. The answer to “What happens when I drop the ball?” ‘is simple. The answer is, “It’s not about me. It’s about Him.”
This may be an overwrought analogy, but if you’ve read this far, what’s one more?? If my neighbor borrows my lawnmower and he forgets to return it, I’ll eventually have to walk over to his house and say, “Leonard, I’ll need my mower back. I have to mow my lawn.” Leonard will tell me he’s sorry and that’s proper and right. But if he goes on and on with this apology and doesn’t get around to returning my mower, it’s worse. Why? Because it’s not about Leonard. It’s about my lawn. We have already established Leonard has needs (my lawnmower) and faults (forgetfulness).
I already know I have a need, Christ, and faults, my sins. It’s not about me; it’s about God. So when I drop the ball I have to say I’m sorry and then immediately “pick up the ball” and get going.
A great book on spiritual disciplines, including quiet time
Donald Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines For The Christian Life. I love this book. This book is a huge kick in the backside for quiet time and related disciplines. It sucks excuses out of the reader’s head like a Hoover Upright. It walks through each discipline giving scriptural relevance, “how-to” smarts and inspiration. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life discuss the disciplines of: Scripture reading, prayer, worship, Scripture meditation, evangelism, serving, stewardship of time and money, Scripture application, fasting, silence and solitude, journaling and learning.
Keep it Old School my friend,
The Old Man, Chris Dixon