Devotional Time?

Years ago, during the Q and A after I’d made a presentation to a group of Catholic priests, one of them asked what I meant by “my devotional time.” Catholics pray the Rosary and walk through the Stations of the Cross, none of which are an ordinary part of my life.

Three important confessions:

  • I feel as if I am one of the worst pray-ers in the world;
  • I have what my mom called “ants in my pants.” I’m sure my 21st century diagnosis would be Attention Deficit Disorder;
  • Listening (to people or to God) is not something I do well naturally.

Southern Baptists, during my childhood, encouraged families to participate in Daily Bible Readings. They published suggested texts. My family, off and on, read these. Not always, but sometimes. Later, when I was involved with Young Life as a teenager and young adult, I learned the evangelical terminology of Quiet Time.

Whatever it’s called, I began the habit/ritual/routine of a morning devotional time with my morning coffee. I suppose thousands of volumes with short daily readings have been published, but I was always a Bible guy. Why read what someone else says about the Bible when I had access to the Holy Scriptures? So, almost every day for over fifty years, I’ve read about three or four chapters of the Bible. I jump around from the Old to the New Testament, from long dull passages to shorter brighter texts. I marked each “book” with the date I finished it. It takes me about a year and a half to read through the entire Bible. Then, I usually read a different kind of devotional literature for about a month (The Journals of John Wesley, Pilgrim’s Progress, etc.). Then I pick up a different translation of the Bible and begin again. My first favorite was The New Testament in Modern English, translated by J. B. Phillips. I also read the Catholic Bible, called the Jerusalem Bible, which included the Apocrypha. Somewhere after midlife, I began to make sure I read more of the New Testament and especially the Gospels.

Typically, my devotional period was in the morning, but I could also do my reading during the lunch hour or catch up in the evening. It might last five minutes or fifty minutes, depending on my schedule.

For a few seasons of my life, maybe for six months or a year at a time, I kept a journal as part of my devotional meditation.

For me, as a pastor, it was important that my reading was not for the purpose of sermon preparation, but for my own spiritual health. My quiet time was about the health of my spirit, about my relationship with God. So, at least once a day, I was a listener/reader instead of a talker or a preacher. At least once a day, I was focused on Something/Someone bigger than I was, transcendent, spiritual, hopeful. I learned about faith, love, justice. I was quiet and still.

During my retirement, I’ve given myself permission to read other holy texts, works by Lao Tzu, Rumi, Confucius, Thich Nhat Hanh and the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.

I’m pretty sure everyone can benefit from a regimen of quiet, disciplined listening to something other than Self. Sit down, turn of the radio and television, and read. Or pray. Or listen. A year from now, you’ll be glad you did.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality | Tags: , , , , | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “Devotional Time?

  1. Karenmartin

    Thanks for sharing this, Marion. I’ve recently begun reading daily (again) and this inspires me … that what I’m doing is good for me … and encourages me to continue.

  2. Your advice is good. I’ll follow it after I protest on Jan 21st at the Capitol building in Columbia. The SC Progressive Network is meeting between 10 a.m. and noon on the State House grounds.

  3. Marion, I am not quite sure how this got sent to me, but I am sure glad it did. I will check the box below to get new posts from you. I too found later in life the enormous value of regular reading in the gospels. I look forward to future blogs. LaMon

  4. Jim Catoe

    Marion I try to follow one of the “read the bible through in a year” schedules. It gets very difficult in Leviticus and Numbers, but my spirit is always lifted by the Psalms. I’ve tried to read a different translation each year. I am ashamed to say that I have not read the KJ through; although I did read an old Oxford Press printing of the Psalms in the KJ version. It was magnificent!

    • Jim, I haven’t succeeded with King James either. It’s just too much of a foreign language. I can’t do it in a year. Or, I should say, I haven’t. I’m always surprised by where my soul is lifted. It’s actually been in Leviticus before. You never know. But I do prefer Jesus.

  5. Anonymous

    My “Christian life” was transformed as a teenager when I was taught that it wasn’t just a Sunday habit, but a daily walk. I was introduced to a plan named “The 959 Plan” that originated(?) from Peter Lord at Park Avenue Baptist Church in Titusville, FL. A minimum of nine minutes and fifty-nine seconds has progressed to an annual practice of reading the Bible through (This year’s translation(?) is The Message. I have gone back to journaling over the past couple of years, and supplement my time with other devotional reading [ My Utmost for His Highest, an on-line golf devotional, and most recently with some guy named Richard Rohr that a friend of mine named Marion recommended.

    • I don’t know who this is, but thanks for sharing. I love the Message translation. Eugene Peterson is the real deal. And, of course, I like Richard Rohr and read his stuff every day. He’s had the most impact on me recently.

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