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Bits from my 35 year journey to a disciplined quiet time

Dear Friend,

“Lord help me do this breathing exercise, meditation exercise, work this reading into my thinking and living, and intercede for these my brothers and sisters.” That is how I begin my quiet time each day. Following are more of my prayers and thoughts.

“Give the persons I pray for the books, ideas and people to bring wholeness, healing, and health into their body minds, soul and society.”

“God, help me realize I am your servant and not You.”

Prayer is the language of people who are in trouble and know it, and who believe God can get them out.

I have found it helpful to write down prayers, concerns, and people's names to help me remember to pray for them. You are on the list. Often I just read the list, but I sense God still uses it, the effectiveness depends not on me but on God. Other times I sense I touch the people as I pray for them. Another help has been a picture of Jesus to remind me that God is present.

Sometimes I have carried worries for years until one day I realized I should be praying about it. I have struggled with depression for many years, and it was not on my prayer list, till it dawned on me one day. Having the list is a help in keeping my mind from wandering.

My wandering mind is one of my greatest challenges during my quiet time. These distracting thoughts are like seeing boats on a river and the challenge is to just let them go by and not follow them. Because that is what my mind is so use to doing, it takes lots of practice to retrain it. It is like learning to play basketball, practice, practice, practice… and I am still in the 1st grade practicing stage. But it has been worth the effort for sure as my quiet time has been an instrument of transforming me. At times helpful insights or good things to do come during my quiet time.

I have had relapses for even two months one time and many shorter ones when I forgot to take time to pray. How much time I take is often determined by how distracted I am that day. Often my distraction is some problem relationship or concern in which I have a lot of emotional baggage. Some common distracting thoughts are “This is a waste of time”; “nobody is listening”; “Am I crazy?” But praying and meditating is as important as any work.

The principal effects of meditation are experienced in daily life, not in the periods of meditation itself. My wife can tell when I miss my quiet time.

Being a peacemaker I pray for my enemies, so I have put some politicians I did not like on my prayer list. I noticed once I did that it helped me view them more as people and less as evil beings. Prayer can change US. Try it.

One of the most practical helpful books to me on quiet time has been It's a Meaningful Life, it just takes practice, by Bo Lozoff (from the foundation). One of his missions is to teach prayer and meditation in prisons as a way of reducing violence. One of Bo’s suggestions for getting started is to commit yourself to 10 to 30 minutes a day for a month or two. Set your time commitment to be something you can be sure to do. Choose to do something that is meaningful to you. Then do it. And don’t evaluate or change it until your month or two is ended. One of Bo’s quotes is “the Old Testament itself does not say… 'Be obedient and know that I am God' but, 'Be still and know that I am God.'”

The Message Bible by Eugene Peterson really speaks to me, such that I really look forward to getting up in the morning to hear what the Lord has to say to me through it and other books I am reading. The new remix version has the verses designated. His introductions help me understand more clearly the overall purpose of the Bible and each of its books. I find his insights very healthy and understandable. Some examples:

From the introduction: “Jesus is the descent of God into our lives, just as they are, not the ascent of our lives to God, hoping he might approve when he sees how hard we try.”

Eph 3:20: “God can do anything, you know-- far more that you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deep and gently within us.”

At the PAPA Fest (People Against Poverty and Apathy), which Plow Creek hosted in June, I gave a workshop sharing about my quiet time journey. I was very encouraged by the interest of 40 some people who attended.

Here at our son Andy’s graduation at Knox college. His fiancée is at his right; they are planning a wedding next year. Andy has a job teaching physics and chemistry in Chicago. Lyn and I are on the ends. Here at Old Main in the background Abraham Lincoln first denounced slavery as immoral in a debate with Douglas in 1858. Over 25% of Knox students are international or students of color. Knox library now includes about 10 of my peace books which I contributed.

Pray for
1 the Lord to speak to us in presentations I will give in the coming months and for help to open venues in which to share about peace making..
2 I need a translator from English to Spanish, I could even pay someone.

Peace, Jim


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