One habit I have intentionally added to my life over the past year was a regular bible reading every morning. I feel somewhat ashamed to admit that, at the age of 35, I have never had regular bible reading in my life and it always seemed there was not enough time to do it in the morning and I was always too tired to read my bible at night. I love the bible and I have always enjoyed learning about the bible and studying it but I definitely only read it devotionally on a semi-regular basis.
But this past year I was at such a loss as how to survive the fatigue and other symptoms of iron deficiency and care for my children that I had to do something. And, it seems, I had to be at the end of my rope before I added this to my life but I am so thankful that I did.
George Mueller, an inspiring Christian man, founded and managed orphanages and schools that served over 130 000 children. To accomplish all this he read his bible 4 hours a day! This is what he had to say about daily bible reading -
"I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord.....The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, or how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished... Now I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation on it, that thus my heart might be comforted , encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed; and that thus, whilst meditating , my heart might be brought into experiential communion with the Lord."
I have to admit I had given little thought to prioritizing having MY heart happy in the Lord and it was beginning to show in my life - in my impatience with my children, my quickness to anger, and my dissatisfaction- just to name a few.
Many people had encouraged me to practice self care now that I was a Mom and this was most often described as taking a bath, going to the gym, hanging out with a friend, or doing a hobby. These are good things, they can be very life giving and I wholeheartedly believe we are holistic people. We need to care for ourselves psychologically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically. And our faith can be expressed and lived out in many ways. But I do think it is interesting that no one said to me, "Read your bible everyday". I'm not sure if most people do this and assume I do to or maybe we are hesitant to be too dictatorial regarding people's spiritual lives.
I am a reflective person and so I had employed some strategies to deal with my inner frustrations. For example:
"I'm unhappy and I'm probably just a bit bored so I'll start a knitting project."
"I'm angry so I'll eat something and buy a new cardigan."
"I'm dissatisfied so I'll book a hang out with a friend."
I had given very little thought to the deepest state of my heart except that something was not right. Honestly, it seemed like too much work to look too deeply inside. I did not want to unearth something for which there would be no space to process it. I was short on "space" with three kids in just under four years.
These states of the heart rarely develop overnight and are more like a boat untied from a buoy that slowly drifts away with every wave. And then one morning the boat is out of sight of the buoy.
I had not given up on my faith in any stretch of the imagination but years without regular bible reading had left my soul rather anemic. Funny that my body was experiencing the same sickness as my soul.
Before I was married or had children, my spiritual life had been lived out with oodles of free time and lack of responsibility. I had time to drive out to a quiet country road and sit on the hood of my car and play my guitar and pray. I had time to read my bible whenever I felt the leading to do it and I could read for as long as I wanted. I had time to meander through the river valley and talk with God. And that had worked for a season but my new season did not lend itself well to that sort of practice.
Before we go any further, let me say two things:
1) What I am about to share is merely DESCRIPTIVE and not prescriptive. We homeschool here and thus I do not have the same morning rush that many people have with the need to pack lunches, get off to day care, day homes, school and work.
2) I had to seriously adjust my expectations of what this time would look like. What worked in my 20's was not going to work in now that I had little kids.
On average, the whole routine takes about 15 minutes. I hope one day for it to be longer, to be able to spend more time in prayer, word study, and contemplation while sitting in our country home sunroom, overlooking farmers fields, and wrapped in a quilt I made myself. Ha! But for now, the kitchen table in our little home will do.
I gave myself incentive to get started by buying myself a lovely mug and I promised myself a coffee or tea in the nice mug every morning while I read my bible. One time I ran out of dairy-free coffee creamer ( a nursing diet I was on for one of my babes) and I did not read my bible for three days because there was no coffee. The incentive was working a little too well at that point.
I have been working on this routine for a year and a half. I ensure that everyone is fed, including myself, and then I announce, "Mom is reading the bible and praying now. I can read out loud to you and you can come pray with me but this is what I am doing right now." Sometimes I have really great reflective moments where my children are engulfed in their own game but my bible reading often looks like this.
Notice the little hands around my neck? (Also, Pete's A Pizza is a great little book!)
Or it looks like this:
And finally, this is how it breaks down:
8:05- write 3 things I'm thankful for.
8:10- read 3 verses of the chapter for the day.
8:13- children are fighting in the next room and need to be sorted out.
8:15- look for tent poles to set up tent to distract children. Setup tent.
8:25- read 10 more verses.
8:30- child climbs on lap and read last 10 verses out loud to child.
8:34- someone needs a bandaid. Find bandaid and apply.
8:38- pray some written prayers and some spontaneous prayers.
You will notice that the entire process takes longer than 15 minutes but the actual devotion time takes about 15 minutes.
Reading my bible every morning re-orientates my thoughts to Christ and helps to focus my whole person. I have learned many things from reading the bible every morning but the most significant realization for me is how faithful God is. I have chosen to make a small offering of time every morning and He is faithful to fill it up. He is faithful to give me something for my heart, a new thought for my intellect, insight into my parenting, or courage for everyday life. He is encouraging, nourishing, comforting, and convicting me through this little act every day and I am thankful.
God is pleased to receive the sacrifices that we offer and bless them, no matter how small. He desires to be known by us and is steadfast in His promise that He will be found when we seek Him.
So- if you have five minutes or ten or fifteen- try it out. If you are not sure where to start- the gospels are always a good spot. Start in Mark and make a goal to finish Matthew & Mark and take yourself out for a Starbucks when you do. Or if you feel intimidated by the bible or wondering if you will understand it - buy a companion devotion specific to the book. N.T Wright has a great series of bible studies. Buy a nice mug, fill it with your favorite warm drink and settle into a regular routine somewhere in your day. I would love to hear what is working for you in your life!