It is Black Friday, a day some people woke up very early in order to buy more items for their households, or friends and family. Like any other day I woke up earlier than most people, turned the kettle on, made a French press pot of coffee, and sat down with my bible and journal. These quiet mornings set the cadence for my day, they remind me that there is time enough to accomplish all the goals of the day, they are a moment “just for me” in a day that will be dominated by parenting and pastoring and friending and…
More importantly, these quiet—sometimes boring, sometimes rote—practices bring me closer to God. Rarely does a day go by that an idea doesn’t jump out at me, God revealing something about himself, about his world or about me. Consequently, almost every morning begins with a posture of thanksgiving, thanking God for what he has revealed, even if it is a harmful action I need to make amends for because in that there is healing and cleansing.
I am writing about this today because I make a habit of reading the bible in a year and I use a series of readings with a weekly day for reflection and 28 day months which means that this Black Friday I have finished yet another journey through the bible.
I won’t share any of the insights I can review by reading the morning journal where I practice the SOAP (scripture, observation, application, prayer) pattern of reflecting on the pages of the day. Those are between God and I.
I will say that I delight, that is precisely the correct word for it, in lingering over the text, underlining a verse to return to, and then contemplating that verse for whatever it has to offer me this day. This isn’t a practice based in my being a pastor, it’s not bible study or sermon prep, it is about being created in the image of a merciful and compassionate God and a deep desire to draw closer to him.
I have found it helpful to “finish early” because as a pastor Advent can be busy and while that means more time with God and an even higher importance on pacing, I am also realistic and know that I will miss more days and have a little less time and be a little more tired. That’s why I love to engage in an advent study, something with a bit of scripture, someone’s reflections and/or questions to ponder, and a guided prayer, all of which lead me from the business of life into the anticipation and joy of waiting. There are many to choose from. Over the years I have tried online ones, iPad or iPhone ones, digital note keeping…you name it I’ve tried, one of the joys of doing this every year is I have plenty of opportunity to experiment with what works for me and I don’t feel the stress of having “to get it right” or of doing it how other people do it. I do me and I am gentle with myself in the process.
If you haven’t read the bible daily ever in your life, or if it has been a while, I strongly encourage you to pick up an advent study, a paper one (even if you just print something from online), and a notebook (it doesn’t need to be a fancy book, anything with paper you can write on will work). Doing so will help you slow down, learn more about yourself and your expectations of the season, it may help you sense you have time to get everything done or to at least appreciate the moment. More importantly, it will bring you closer to God. Who knows? It may even build the momentum you need to create a new and valuable habit. Go gently, and enjoy the season.