I spent the day today in Mayfield, KY for my grandmother's funeral. Between a family breakfast, a 2-hour visitation, leading/preaching at the funeral and graveside services, and a funeral luncheon it was a busy day for sure. That being said, my day in Mayfield (as is often the case when I visit small towns) reminded me of a different pace of life then what I lead at home. People in small towns typically just aren't in much of a hurry todo anything.
In my daily life I often run at a pace that is hardly sustainable over the long-haul. This is something I am working on in all areas of my life. I am trying to learn to slow down… to work from my rest (not rest from my work) and live life at a healthy, sustainable pace. In this pursuit, one of the things that I have been discovering is the value in slowing down when it comes to spiritual disciplines as well — particularly when it comes to reading scripture. It has long been my practice to spend time (almost) daily reading the Bible and writing down my reflections and questions about what I read. Over the years I have tried a few intense reading plans (IE: Reading the whole Bible in a year or all four gospels in a month) and, while that has been a valuable experience, in this season of life I have been feeling compelled to slow down. I feel like God has been asking me (as he seems to be in so many areas of my life), "What's the hurry?" So a friend and I have committed to reading just one chapter (starting with Matthew) repeatedly each week and then we get together every Tuesday to talk about where God met us in the scriptures we read. We also talk about how God is compelling us to respond and how we ca hold each other accountable in responding to God's promptings. We are not researching or reading commentary or exegeting or doing word studies… we are simply reading the text and responding. We are reading and trying to allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us and meet us wherever and however he chooses. It is not a particularly difficult or ambitious pursuit. In fact, it is pretty low pressure, but what we have been discovering is that it actually takes a lot of discipline and focus to read the same passage again and again without just skimming through. What we have also discovered, however, is that focusing intentionally and repeatedly on one chapter of scripture has allowed us to breathe deep what God is speaking to us in and through what we read. For me, this "slowing down" has allowed me the opportunity ask questions and sit (sometimes uncomfortably) in the tension of the text, and it also has given me the opportunity to really listen… something that is very difficult to do when I'm in a hurry.
The other key element of the way we have committed to this disciple during this season is that WE have done it TOGETHER. WE are reading Matthew one chapter at a time not ME. WE makes a difference because WE gives us the opportunity to reflect on and get feedback from another person we trust. WE provides the opportunity for affirmation and challenge and accountability. I'm not saying that this is the only way to go, but in 17 years of ministry I have met person after person who has struggled to read scripture with any regularity or discipline… or in any way that has borne fruit in their lives. The Bible is a gift. It is one of the primary ways that Jesus is revealed to us, yet countless followers of Jesus never read it, at least partially because our usual method of encouraging people is, "Ready, Set, Go!" We send them speeding recklessly into scripture and often people simply crash and burn in frustration. What a tragedy. What would it be like if we slowed down? After all, what's the hurry?
What practices of reading scripture have you found to be helpful, frustrating, challenging, encouraging, etc.?