Categotry Archives: My Story

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Deconstructing "Quiet Time"

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Categories: changing mindsets, Meanderings (look it up), My Story

I want to give a bit of a disclaimer about this next bit I’m about to write….

It is part of my story, my journey. It doesn’t necessarily have to be part of yours. In other words, by sharing what I’ve been going through and the conclusions I’m coming to, I’m not suggesting that this is how it ought to be for everyone. Just sharing, that’s all.

I grew up in a family that placed a high value on a daily “quiet time”–or some of you might call it, “personal devotions” or “prayer time”. It was understood that before you got going with your day, you would take some time to pray and read your Bible. If you didn’t, it was understood that things just wouldn’t go right that day–or at least, you wouldn’t want to make a habit of skipping it often.

As an adult, I understand that the purpose of this “rule” was simply to build good discipleship habits. As a child who longed to please…it might as well have been written into the canon of Scripture. (It isn’t, you know–you DO know that, don’t you?) It was so ingrained into me that I felt like it was a sin not to have my quiet time, like I might miss the rapture or something. (I related quite a bit to Brant’s post from a few days ago.) And even after I made it to adulthood a few weeks years ago, and I could rationalize it differently, I still felt somewhat unclean if I didn’t have that quiet time.

Never mind that all through my “quiet time”, my mind would wander terribly and I would waste hours at a time daydreaming, or that I remembered almost nothing of what I read in the Bible. Never mind the fact that The Wild One regularly acted more like Jesus than I did–without having a regular structured “quiet time” every day. If I had that quiet time, I felt “okay”, and if I didn’t–I didn’t.

Until finally I came to the point where my religion failed me.

I’ll spare the details for another blog entry, but for now, suffice it to say I was in an extended time of trial, and working all the spiritual formulas I knew to turn things around–all to no avail. And I came to a place where I had nothing left, and I got very, very real with God. All I could do was to throw myself upon Him, admit to myself that I didn’t know anything about real trust, and ask Him to teach me.

It was one of the best things that ever happened to me. My religion failed me, and I am now living on what is left.

So after that experience, I found myself at a crossroads. I would come to my “quiet time” in the mornings, and find I had nothing to say and no interest at all. It was a little scary because I was a pastor, and it felt a bit like backsliding. I honestly felt like all my praying and contending had done me no good; the only thing that had worked in my situation was letting go. So why go through the motions anymore? That was when I realized that’s exactly what this “quiet time” had been all those years–going through the motions. I didn’t want to do that anymore; whatever my faith looked like from now on, I wanted it to be real. Again, I asked the Lord to show me.

And this is where I have to say, this is my journey, not yours. I gave myself permission not to have a set quiet time. I didn’t give myself permission to walk away from God (and I didn’t); I just gave myself permission to relax. And in that decision, I found a sense of rest for the first time in nearly 30 years of being a Christian. I was free now to start over, to learn all over again what true discipleship would look like for me.

I am a work in progress, but this is what my devotional life looks like now, since I made that decision…
  • I pray, but not at a set time, or for a set time period. I pray as I go through my day, as I’m driving, while I’m working out. I involve God in my internal conversations, constantly aware of His presence. And I pray in a more focused manner when there is a need to do so. I do not pressure myself to intercede and travail if I don’t feel it.
  • I don’t read my Bible every day. (GASP!) But I do still read it.
  • I traded my “prayer closet” for new scenery. I used to hole up in my living room in the mornings; now I go to the gym, and then to a local restaurant or coffee shop to read and study, whether it be the Bible or whatever piece of nonfiction I’m working through at the time. Or lately… I use that time to write in this blog. A lot of what you read here is coming straight out of my new-and-improved “quiet times.” (I’m letting you into my prayer closet–don’t you feel privileged??)
I grew up believing that all that time of pressing in, praying hard, and diligent study would keep me close to God and make me more like Jesus. (Remember the Sunday school song? “Read your Bible, pray every day…and you’ll grow, grow, grow.”) But since I’ve deconstructed my quiet time, an amazing thing has happened–or, hasn’t happened. I haven’t backslid. In fact, I feel like I love Jesus more, because I no longer feel imprisoned or held hostage by my religious expectations. I am much more relaxed, much less anal (can I say that?), and overall much happier in the journey.

I still believe there is a time/place for fervent prayer and diligent study. That’s all still in the Bible. I just believe that for my own journey, God has given me a time of respite, because all of it was based on religion and not true discipleship. The truth is…I need to rest. 🙂 What did Jesus say? “My yoke is easy, My burden is light.” That’s the only burden I want to carry these days.

Interestingly, and strictly by coincidence, Steve over at Emergent Kiwi has written along a similar line with regard to reading the Bible. Leave me your thoughts about all this in the comments, then go check him out.

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What is "church"? A personal history…

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Categories: changing mindsets, My Story

Below is an excerpt from a book I am working on called “I Grew Up in Church.” The content below is copyrighted, so please don’t copy it without my permission. However, I’d value any comments or feedback you have about the material–from content to writing style, whatever you’d like to say. Enjoy.
My earliest memory of church was at a little Episcopal Church called St. Joseph’s. I don’t know how old I was, exactly. I think it must have been missions week or something, because the memory I have is of being chosen to stand in front of the church holding one of those globe coin banks. I don’t remember whether anyone put any money in it. I just remember standing there looking at all the grown-ups looking back at me and smiling the way grown-ups do whenever little kids do something cute in church. I wondered what I was doing to get all this attention.

The only other thing I remember about St. Joseph’s was the priest, a big jolly man named Father Al. I never understood why his name was Father Al and not Joseph, since it was Joseph’s church. Father Al was over at my house a lot when I was little, and stayed friends with my mom long after we left that church. I didn’t know at the time why he came over so much, but now I know he was helping my mom cope with my dad leaving us.

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Pastoral Manipulation

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Categories: My Story, Rantings

Oooh, now that’s a provocative title. 🙂

Church pastors can be the most co-dependent people in the world. (Being a recovering co-dependent myself, I ought to know.) I don’t say this to slam well-intended men and women of God; I say it because I believe the institutional church system promotes codependency among its leaders.

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The Chocolate Button part 2

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Categories: My Story, Rantings

Okay, time for true confessions…

I spent most of my childhood and adulthood in the institutional church system. I was a proponent of it, and ::wincing:: I looked down my nose at those who had a problem with it or abandoned it. I passed them off as anomalies, as people who fell through the cracks, as people with issues of their own, predisposed to being negative, etc., etc. I blamed the devil for it. All sorts of denial.

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Great expectations, part 2

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Categories: My Story, Rantings

In my last entry, I made a rather blunt remark that great expectations can be a terrible curse. I’d now like to pick up that thread and explain that statement.

It’s not that we shouldn’t strive for excellence, have vision and goals, or just go through life by the seat of our pants and all be under-achievers. That’s not what I mean. Great expectations are when people are so enamored with your gifts and your perceived potential that they fail to see the real you. And those kinds of expectations are so weighty that the greatest of men and women buckle under them. Why? Because there is no such person as super-Christian, and none of us were meant to carry that kind of burden. I’m convinced that this is a huge reason why we’ve seen so many high-profile “celebrity” ministers fail morally and financially. We just aren’t built to be worshiped that way.

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Great expectations, part 1

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Categories: My Story, Rantings

So…some more about my background…and with it, some of the cracks that started to appear in my religious foundations…

I grew up as a “good kid”. I said my prayers (usually), I ate my vegetables (mostly), I obeyed my parents (except for a few compulsive behaviors). But even when I didn’t do everything right, I tried very hard to please. I hated to be in trouble. For the most part, I was all about following the rules. Not only did I consider it my honorable duty to keep the rules, but I felt it was my moral obligation to help everyone else keep them, too. If I noticed my mom slightly speeding, I’d point out the speed limit signs. When I saw a classmate breaking a rule, I’d helpfully remind that person that we weren’t supposed to do that.

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A Bit of Background

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Categories: My Story

Welcome. This blog is intended to be an ongoing discussion of a journey of faith–a journey of seeking something real, a journey of deconstructing and reconstructing paradigms, a journey away from performing religious duties and toward becoming a true disciple of Christ. So I think it would be good to start off with some of my back story, so you’ll know a little bit more of where I’m coming from.

As far as Christians go, I don’t think you’d find too many people more “churched” than I was. I have spent my entire life in church culture, and not just in one vein of it. In my early years, my mother was a devout Episcopalian. An only child, I was baptized in that church as an infant; I can remember my mother dragging me out of bed to early morning Lent services where we were the only two people in attendance (except, of course, for the priest). My father left when I was two…then during a 9-year divorce my mother had a born-again experience, and my father returned to his evangelical roots after backsliding for awhile to become a hippie. My parents reunited when I was eleven; Mom had left the Episcopal Church by this time, and we all attended a Christian Missionary Alliance church for awhile.

All during this time, though, my parents had been influenced by the charismatic movement and the Word-of-Faith movement, and eventually all three of us received the experience of the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. We realized we were going to have to find a church that permitted that sort of thing, so we began attending a variety of charismatic churches, whose worship was way different from anything I’d been used to. Instead of organs and hymns, they used guitars and drums and sang simple choruses over and over again. People actually smiled as they sang, and they raised their hands. Then sometimes they’d stop singing the song and everyone would just sing to God out of their heart. It was fresh, alive, more Jesus-freaky than anything else I’d experienced before. I loved it. It has flavored my worship of Jesus ever since.

A couple more things I should tell you about my background. First–not only did my family go to church–they went to church a lot. I already mentioned Lent in the Episcopal Church. In the other churches we didn’t do Lent, but we did go on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night (or Friday night) every week. When the church had special services, we were there every night. And when I started playing piano, I added Thursday night to the schedule, for worship team practice. Plus, from junior high on, I was in Christian school at one of the churches we attended, so I was there every day during the week. I didn’t just go to church; I lived at church.

The other thing is that my parents were highly influenced by the burgeoning Word of Faith movement. At first there weren’t Word of Faith churches, so whenever there were special meetings within driving distance, we went. Of course, when Word of Faith churches started springing up, we went to one–and it became one of the first charismatic mega-churches of the 1980’s.

So that’s my background. My religious/church experience was broad in the sense that I had a wide variety of church expressions ranging from liturgical to evangelical to charismatic. But my church experience was also very thick because of all the time I spent in those different churches and meetings.

So when my religious mindsets began to fail me, and when the religious institutions began to reject me as a result, you can imagine the upheaval I went through. It has rocked the foundations of my whole life…more on that later…
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