I have found myself in slower and quieter season lately. I have found time to create, read and dream. With that came time for me to be able to get back in His Word, and my own quiet time. The days that I take the time to be still in His presence and offer up my heart and mind to learn more about who He is are a completely different from the days when I don’t. You would think after you learn that His joy and peace are for you taking you wouldn’t go a day without learning more about His goodness. But it simply isn’t true. It is our human nature that as things start getting good we forget we need the God who has provided it all to us. So here I am, at a good and calm season… and I will commit to quiet time with Him, will you join with me?
I love a good Bible Study program just as much as the next lady. Really. But I think that there is power and freedom in getting into the Word all on your own. Learning how to read, how to study, how to apply and how to see God in each verse brings understanding, wisdom and power. What I do during my quiet time and how I get into the Word has come up several times in the last few months in conversations with friends. Because of this, I wanted to share my routine. I pray that this helps and encourages you. If it helps you hold onto it and use it, if it doesn’t let it go in one ear and out the other.
1. Wake Up Early : In the not-so-distant past every time I would read someone giving this as advice I would sarcastically laugh. Why would I wake up earlier then my child when I could really use that sleep, right? But over the last year and half I have realized that my quiet time with the Lord take priority over sleeping. That 30-45 minutes of extra sleep doesn’t compare to the peace, joy and direction that I get from His word. So set that alarm and disable to snooze button.
2. Coffee : If you don’t drink coffee in the morning here is a great big high-five! But if you can’t wake up in the morning might I suggest you start. Sometimes I need a little boost, daily actually. Every morning I wake with B to send him off to work, make my coffee, let Hunter outside and head upstairs for reading and quiet.
3. No Distractions : I think this changes for people but it is a big one for me. I have to be able to focus. Right after my quiet time I usually jump into emails, blog posts or editing. Often right when I sit I have a lot on my mind of what needs to get done for the day. If I can’t focus on my quiet time I will pull out a notepad and write down everything that I am thinking about, so I don’t forget it later. Sometimes while I am reading my brain will float away and think on those things, so I write it down again and start from where I remember reading last… the key for me is being intentional with the time that I have taken to be in His Word. Another distraction, as silly as it may be, can be making things look fancy. Someone out there is agreeing with me. Fancy pens, notebooks, coffee cups aren’t what make quiet time real and soul filling. They make things pretty and can be a helpful tool just don’t let them become a distraction.
3. No Time Limit : I try to study for 30 – 45 minutes each morning but I do not put a time frame on it. There are days where I don’t get more than fifteen minutes from the time I sit down but instead of letting that get to me I put everything away and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God sees my heart and He will honor my faithfulness. Do not allow yourself to become guilty because you missed your quiet time or your children decided to join you (which makes it quite impossible). Grab your scripture cards and read those while making breakfast… get creative.
4. Study One Book : I pick one book of the Bible. One. I started with a small one for my first few, the minor prophets. I didn’t get overwhelmed at the size and content or get discouraged because I had not met my goals. My first goal was to do one book each month, but by the end of the month I was still so enthralled in the book so I changed it from one book every month to one book until all resources were exhausted! I started at the beginning : Hosea, so this book will be my example for the next few steps.
5. A Quick History : I love finding out the general timeline the book was written, the writer, the people it was written to and a bit of quick history. All study Bibles have this information before each book, otherwise you can Google it and find a reputable source to get the basics. I have a journaling Bible so I write down the year of the book and any other notes about the back story. For the minor prophets (and many other books) there are other books of the Bible that will give you context and History, such as 1 & 2 Kings. I found out where Hosea fit into the timeline and read those verses first.
6. Read It Through Three To Five Times : Yes, this is why I started with a smaller book. I read it through one time, two to three chapters a day. I take notes as I am reading, highlighting verses that get me thinking, writing down questions that come up while reading and noting themes and keywords. For example a keyword throughout Hosea is God calling His people to “return” to Him. Once I caught on I boxed off the word as I read it, it helped tie in verses and relate them to one another.
The second time I read through I do one chapter a day. I look up a lot of the verses in several different versions of the Bible. My favorites are ESV, NASB, and NKJV. I love that this can easily be done through a Bible application. At this time I also read a simple commentary that I have grown to love, it goes through each verse individually but in a very simple way. When I am reading one verse a day sometimes I finish in five minutes so I ask myself the IfEquip questions :
“What does this mean :
• about God
• about Me
• about the world.
Once I finish each chapter I read it one additional time, with my notes and annotations just for good measure. I don’t think you can read it too many times, each time it seems to bring a greater understanding and revelation about how great and good our God is.
7. A Good Commentary : I mentioned above I do use a simple commentary right away, but there are much deeper and bigger commentaries out there. I have tried a few and finally landed on what that is written perfectly for me. John Phillips gives a great historical outline before diving into the interpretation and application of each chapter. The link to my current commentary is in the resources at the end of the post! When I read through commentary I, again, read through the scripture before I read the chapters in the book. It helps to know what verses they are talking about before they break it down! By this time, the fourth time through, you should have a pretty good idea. I am always ready to take notes in my journal or on my Bible pages when things jump out to me.
8. A Bible Study : Once I have exhausted those resources if I still have unanswered questions or don’t feel like I have grasped the book I will research and invest in a Bible Study that guides me through the book. These help immensely with application to your day-to-day life. As I get into the Word and ask God to show Himself and who He is in my life through each day’s reading I see the application of it without needing this. But just in case, it is there!
10. A Review : On my very last day I sit and read through all my notes, highlights and journal pages. Then I ask, with great sincerity, for God to show me who is through this scripture, this God-breathed text. My heart purpose for this quiet time is to learn more about who my Savior is. To know who He is will open the door for a deeper relationship with Him, for a greater understanding of my purpose in His plan, and to bring more glory to Him through my life. And that is the heart of it… we were made for more and I want to live that “more” out daily and intentionally.
11. Prayer : So you don’t feel like doing it today… I mean be honest right. Somedays it call for discipline and on those days my quiet time starts with asking for forgiveness for not wanting to be there, in His word. I then pray for passion, for longing to be right where I am, for His peace and love for these stories, for each and every verse that has been God inspired to come alive and speak to me that day. It helps, it helps because He is faithful and it helps because you are being honest. To come to terms of where you are is the first step to moving forward to who you want to be.
12. Some days I Fail : There are days that are quite frequent that no studying happen at all. I just recently entered the stage of life called mother of a toddler but life with a newborn/baby was a bit different. Sleep is a treasure, that little lump needed me for everything, I mean everything. Anything was a challenge for a while. In addition, I am a work at home mom and sometimes a work away from home mom. Some days I don’t know where each hour went or how it became night so quickly. I felt like I didn’t get a single thing done during this stages of life (you know other than raise a tiny human being). If you find yourself in this season let me share the most encouraging words that spoke to me from the brilliant Jen Wilkin, writer of Women Of The Word. She says :
“If a life stage is making it difficult for you to set aside regular time for study—either with a group or in your own personal efforts, please hear me say this: That’s okay. Give the Lord what you can and trust that he will honor your faithfulness in the small things. Trust that the Lord knows your circumstances better than you do and that he sees your desire to learn and grow. And trust that those times are being used to mature you—to teach you that it is a privilege to be able to devote yourself to learning and studying, and to write more deeply on your heart the truths you have already learned.”
The purpose of this post is in no way to bring the feeling of guilt into your life, or to make you feel like you need to add one more thing to your “to do” list. This system works for me during this season but seasons are always changing. If it works let it work and if it doesn’t forget every word of it! The good news is that God is still God, never-changing and always constant. Just like Jen says He will use anything and everything to speak to you if you are there, resting and waiting on Him.