We received another question regarding the spiritual disciplines and children:
“At what age did you and C.J. really start encouraging your children to be having quiet times on their own?
From the time our children began to read comfortably, we taught them to make a quiet time part of their morning routine. They had to read the Bible or a Bible study book, even if it was just for five minutes a day. As young children, they received most of their biblical intake and instruction from C.J. and me on a daily and weekly basis. The primary reason for insisting they have a quiet time was to train them to make the spiritual disciplines a part of their daily life. Chad, who is twelve years old has a quiet time every day, and two times a week, C.J. has devotions with him.
At some point, when our girls became teenagers, their quiet times became something they pursued themselves, although we sought to encourage and provide direction for their study. Each of my girls have said that helping them make the spiritual disciplines a habit at a young age assisted them in eventually taking full responsibility for their own pursuit of godliness.
Several years ago, in between the births of my sons Andrew and Liam I suffered two miscarriages in a row. When I was walking through the disappointment of my first miscarriage, my friend Nadia gave me the book Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss.
In this book, Elizabeth’s fictional character Katy begins as a selfish teenager, and Elizabeth brings us into her thoughts, struggles, and sin. Then she takes us on the journey of Katy’s life as she embraces her call as a wife and mother. We are able to see up close the Lord’s work in her life as she walks through much trial and suffering.
As I found my soul tempted towards discouragement and unbelief, Prentiss’ (loosely autobiographical) character’s suffering put mine in perspective. She lost one of her children and experienced significant physical challenges that confined her to her room for lengthy seasons. Yet as she passed through this shadow of death she took hold of Scripture and began to embrace a God-centered perspective on her trials.
As Katy recounts:
“During my long illness and confinement to my room, the Bible has been almost a new book to me, and I see that God has always dealt with His children as He deals with them now, and that no new thing has befallen me. All these weary days so full of feebleness, these nights so full of unrest, have had their appointed mission to my soul. And perhaps I have had no discipline so salutary as this forced inaction and uselessness, at a time when youth and natural energy continually cried our for room and work.”
Whatever my days and nights hold, my confidence is this: they always have their appointed mission to my soul. Whether it’s the significant trial of a miscarriage or the simple daily temptations faced in just patiently caring for my two-year-old, I can be sure that in every day the Lord has an appointed mission for my soul.
Ultimately my hope and joy rest not in my circumstances. Whether my days are happy or difficult, whether I experience loss or gain. God’s word points me to the joy that is unshakeable, the joy of knowing peace with Him, through Jesus Christ. Prentiss’ character, Katy, found in God the same unshakeable joy. And these are her words on a particularly happy day:
“This is the 10th anniversary of our wedding day and it has been a delightful one. If I were called upon to declare what has been the chief element of my happiness I would say it was not Ernest’s love to me or mine to him or that I am once more the mother of three children or that my own dear mother still lives, though I revel in each and all of these. But underneath them all, deeper, stronger than all, lies a peace with God that I can compare to no other joy, which I guard as I would guard hidden treasure, and which must abide even if all other things pass away.”
I want to be faithful to guard that hidden treasure of peace with God, whether in joy and prosperity, or in suffering.
Quotes taken from Elizabeth Prentiss, Stepping Heavenward (Amityville, NY: Calvary Press, 1995), 200 & 215.
I have discovered two secrets that help me wake up early in the morning. The first is positioning my alarm clock across the room so I am forced to get out of bed when it rings (no return to bed allowed). The second is realizing that if I press through about 10 minutes of feeling dog-tired, then I’ll feel awake and I’ll be glad I got up early for the whole rest of the day.
The first order of business after stumbling out of bed and downstairs is to make a pot of hazelnut coffee. I then set up my fan (I love both the sound and the breeze that a fan provides), gather my devotional materials, make my wakeup calls to Nicole and Kristin (Janelle has opted out of a wakeup call right now, due to pregnancy sickness) and by this time I’m alert enough and ready to begin my quiet time.
For the past few years I have followed Brian and Kristin’s new plan (see Kristin’s post)—reading through the Bible using For the Love of God commentaries by D.A. Carson. I found it to be very beneficial. However this year, I wanted to study certain books of the Bible more in-depth. I have chosen an Old Testament book (Genesis), one of the gospels (Mark), and an epistle (Philippians). My husband helped me select commentaries for each book to supplement my study: Genesis by Bruce K. Waltke; The Gospel According to Mark by James R. Edwards; Paul’s Letter to the Philippians by Gordon D. Fee.
Along with my book study (I’m presently in Philippians), I also read one Psalm per day using Charles Spurgeon’s 2-part commentary on the Psalms, and follow it up by reading the designated day’s meditation in Charles Spurgeon’s, Morning and Evening. (I guess you can tell we are big fans of Spurgeon!)
Like Nicole, I keep my journal in a computer document. This allows me to copy and paste verses and quotes from my journal to include in an encouragement email or use in other documents as desired.
For my prayer time I use the Lord’s Prayer (Mt. 6:9-13) as my guide. Recently the pastors of my church did a teaching series on the Lord’s Prayer which has proven to be a huge help in my prayer life.
After praying, I take a few minutes to create my “to-do” list for the day. I then copy and paste from my journal and add to the top of my “to-do” list what I want to take in to the day for mediation. I keep this list folded in my pocket and refer to it throughout the day. This verese and quote heads up my “to-do” list for today:
“Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name.” Ps. 29:2
“The actions which flow from His character are glorious; but while He intends that they should manifest to His creatures His goodness, and mercy, and justice, He is equally concerned that the glory associated with them should be given only to Himself. Nor is their aught in ourselves in which we may glory; for who maketh us to differ from another: and what have we that we did not receive from the God of all grace? Then how careful ought we to be to walk humbly before the Lord! The moment we glorify ourselves, since there is room for one glory only in the universe, we set ourselves up as rivals to the Most High.”
—Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, p.458.
Finally, while getting ready for the day, I worship with the help of a music tape. My present favorite is Upward: The Bob Kauflin Hymns Project by Sovereign Grace Music.
In concluding this little series on the spiritual disciplines I want to emphasize once again that we don’t think we are the standard for godly quiet times. We are struggling along, striving to glorify God just like each one of you. Our purpose in this series was not to highlight our own accomplishments, but to hopefully give you new ideas and fresh encouragement to seek God each and every morning!
Here is one final quote for our concluding day of posting on the spiritual disciplines:
“There is no duty we perform for God that sin does not oppose. And the more spirituality or holiness there is in what we do, the greater its enmity to it. Thus those who seek most for God experience the strongest opposition.”
John Owen, Sin and Temptation, edited by James Houston (Minneapolis, Minn: Bethany House Publications, 1996), 18.
Each and every morning when Mom calls to wake me up, I experience opposition. Sometimes I give in and turn over and go back to sleep. But this quote reminds me of the source of that opposition—it’s my sin. This truth also inspires me, by the grace of God, to seek Him more diIigently.
After a couple of sips of Starbucks Columbian coffee with three scoops of sugar and toasted almond non-dairy creamer, I’m awake and ready to start my quiet time. If you’ve read Kristin’s and Janelle’s posts it probably won’t shock you that I begin by reading a meditation from Morning and Evening. Charles Spurgeon’s grasp of the gospel, passion for holiness, and beautiful prose make him, I think, my favorite author of all time.
Currently, I am studying the joyful book of Philippians. After several years of read-through-the-Bible plans (I was always on my own unique two-year plan), I wanted to spend time digging more deeply into a specific part of Scripture. For my study I am using commentaries by J.A. Motyer, James Montgomery Boice, and my favorite, D.A. Carson.
This morning I read the following comments on Philippians 1:9-11:
“And this is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
“Our obedience, discipline and hard graft are not insignificant or optional. On the contrary, they are the God-intended context for growth. But something else energizes the growth till the fruit is ready for harvest: all is done through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God (verse 11)….In this setting the daily task of obedience remains hard, but not fruitless. We are often neglectful, frequently failing, ever inadequate; yet the end is secure, for God is at work.”—J.A. Motyer
J.A. Motyer, The Message of Philippians, (Downers Grover, Ill: Inter-Varsity Press, 1984), 60-61.
I have much need to grow in prayer, however, I try to collect prayers from others and use verses of Scripture to help me pray in a more God-centered way. Hebrews 13:20-21 is a favorite that I used today.
Also, I’ve been journaling differently the past six months or so. Instead of hand-writing the verses, quotes, thoughts, and prayers from my quiet time into an actual journal, I’ve been entering them in a WORD file on my Mac under specific categories (e.g. The Gospel, Unbelief, Self-Righteousness, etc.). So, for example, if I am tempted to fear in a particular situation, I type all the verses and quotes I read under the “fear” category. That way, the truths that provided me conviction and encouragement are easy to find the next time that I am tempted. This method may not be as artistic as using a felt-tip pen to write in a leather-bound volume, but it is intensely practical.
Finally, I must make a worship recommendation. For some time I have been listening to Redemption Songs by Jars of Clay in my quiet time. The words to this collection of hymns have lifted my gaze to Christ. So I’ll close with some of my favorite lines:
“O love of God O sin of man
In this dread act your strength is tried
And victory remains with love
Jesus our Lord is crucified.”
No doubt we can all identify with C.S. Lewis’ observation that: “The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals.”
But we must respond in kind: “The first job each morning consists in shoving it all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.”
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (SanFrancisco, CA: Harper, 2001), 198.
The stereotype of “bad women drivers” has been perpetuated for years—even though it is completely unfounded. Don’t you agree?
However, we recently discovered our hubands gleefully circulating the following incriminating pictures. We are officially calling for a full investigation into the authenticity of these photographs.
Women’s Parking Lot:
Please drive safely this weekend!
Carolyn, Nicole, Kristin, and Janelle
My day begins with a phone call; a phone call from mom who has graciously agreed to give Brian and me a wakeup call each morning. I have found that if I am going to have a quiet time, it has to happen before the boys wake up in the morning.
For my devotions I have just started a new plan. Growing up, Dad always encouraged us that the goal of the spiritual disciplines is to “make your soul happy in God” and to preach the gospel to yourself—not to finish a book. He wanted to make sure we didn’t feel obligated to complete a book we had begun if it was not feeding our soul.
So for this reason I stopped reading the commentary I had been using to study a particular book of the Bible and have begun a “read through the Bible” plan along with Brian. By reading through the Bible together, we hope we will experience even deeper fellowship in our marriage.
We are using the books For the Love of God, Volume 1 and Volume 2 by D.A. Carson. This plan takes you through the entire Bible and then the New Testament and Psalm twice in one year. To accomplish this, you read four chapters of the Bible a day. However, I am only attempting two chapters per day and going at my own pace!
Like Janelle, I read Morning and Evening each day, as well as Valley of Vision during my prayer time. And I am also currently reading Christ Our Mediator by my dad, because I always need to be reminded of what Christ accomplished on the cross in my place. Today, this particular selection affected me:
“As we watch Jesus pray in agony in Gethsemane, He has every right to turn His tearful eyes toward you and me and shout, ‘This is your cup. You’re responsible for this. It’s your sin! You drink it.’ This cup should rightfully be thrust into my hand and yours.
Instead, Jesus freely takes it Himself…so that from the cross He can look down at you and me, whisper our names, and say, ‘I drain this cup for you—for you who have lived in defiance of Me, who have hated Me, who have opposed Me. I drink it all…for you.’
This is what our sin makes necessary. This is what is required by your pride and my pride, by your selfishness and my selfishness, by your disobedience and my disobedience. Behold Him…behold His suffering…and recognize His love.”
C.J. Mahaney, Christ our Mediator (Portland, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2004), 57-58.
This verse and quote need to be taped to my alarm clock…
“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.” Psalm 19:7
“Even on days when every cinder in our soul feels cold, if we crawl to the Word of God and cry out for ears to hear, the cold ashes will be lifted and the tiny spark of life will be fanned. For ‘the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.’” —John Piper
John Piper, Desiring God (Multnomah; Portland, Oregon 1986) p.118
My devotions are usually the first thing I do upon prying my eyes open in the morning. (I used to fix myelf a cup of hot tea first, but since becoming pregnant the stuff makes me sick!) Therefore, I’m not much to look at during that early hour. Despite my hair sticking out in every direction it is a cherished time in my day. The Lord is so kind and gracious to allow me to meet with Him.
I am currently reading a number of wonderful books. In the Bible, I am working through the book of Isaiah with my new The Reformation Study Bible (a must buy item!). Charles Spurgeon’s, Morning and Evening is next. These short daily readings never fail to encourage and challenge me in some way. And I’m nearing the end of R.C. Sproul’s, The Holiness of God. I couldn’t recommend this book more highly! It’s easy to read and so insightful. For my prayer time, I often visit a Psalm and use The Valley of Vision.
Throughout my devotions, my journal is open nearby with my pen. I love to jot down verses, quotes and prayers as I go along. My favorite verse from my time with the Lord this morning comes from Psalm 103:11: “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him.”