Wednesday, February 16, 2011

God Time

It's a topic many Christians subconsciously avoid in conversation: the daily devotional. We talk about it in vague terms, asking each other things like, "How is your walk with God?" or "What is God teaching you these days?" Then we answer in equally nebulous language, sidestepping the fact that our devotional life is sporadic. Spiritual "checking in" conversations often don't even touch on whether we have read the Bible recently (does Bible study count?) and the fact that most of us usually forget to pray unless we're in trouble. We all understand: we're busy people! Life is hectic. How can we fit in a spiritual practice into the daily craziness?

I admit, I am one of those people who evade questions about my spiritual practice. Lately, though, I have made an effort to stop making excuses and start having some meaningful devotional time. My mom sent me a book for Christmas called When You Pray by Reuben P. Job. It contains small devotional tidbits for each week of the Revised Common Lectionary, along with short Bible readings for each day of the week. I'll admit, she sent it to me around Week 4 of the book, and it took me until Week 12 to actually crack it open. But I finally did after I had an epiphany: I realized I have spent every morning on the bus to work surfing Facebook on my iPhone and texting friends and family. That's approx. 20-25 minutes every day that I could spend differently. The Reuben Job book is small enough to pass for a Kindle, so I can slip it into my purse and do my devotions en route.

I quickly discovered that I would not be reading my Bible passage before grabbing my bagel (still hot, ow!) and making a run for the bus stop. So I need a portable copy of the Bible that I can read while on the bus. Luckily, I found this amazing Bible and study tool on the App Store by OliveTree. The $.99 app comes with the King James Version already loaded, naturally, because copyright laws didn't exist in 1611. So for $9.99 you can get an extension for the New International Version, and for $13.99 you can get the New Revised Standard Version. The NRSV is the most scholarly translation on the market, so I sprang for the NRSV extension. It helped that my mother-in-law had given me a $15 iTunes gift card! Thanks to her generous gift, I read the Bible on my iPhone this morning while hurtling into another part of the city.

By the time I'm crossing the Charles River for the second time, I'm done reading and ready to pray. This past Sunday, I committed to pray for my fellow church member and former seminary professor, Dr. Inus Daneel. He is a missionary to Zimbabwe for 6 months out of every year, but the worsening situation there forced him to relocate to South Africa during his 2010 trip. Inus has just returned to South Africa and plans to visit Zimbabwe. Every morning, when I take time to pray for Inus and those he engages, I am aware that they are in a whole different world thousands of miles away. Yet God connects us at all times, and I remember that when I pray for them.

Granted, it's dangerous to blog about my spiritual practice, having done it only three times. I'm hoping this will be an ongoing way to set aside time for reflection and prayer. It's only 20 minutes of reading a few Bible verses and a spiritual quote, and praying. Yet it makes all the difference in my day. I've been more inclined to thank my bus driver for his good driving, and I walk into the office with a smile on my face and a spring in my step. In 20 minutes, I could watch an episode of one of my favorite shows, Big Bang Theory, on my Netflix app. I could surf Facebook. I could check my email. But when I use that same snippet of time to read and pray, my whole outlook changes.

It strikes me that recent technology allows me to take my devotional time anywhere- even on a noisy, crowded, and sometimes smelly city bus. Has technology made it easier to find quiet time? Or has its omnipresence made it harder to find time and space for prayer?

How do you experience technology's influence on your life? Is it helpful or hurtful to your spiritual practice?

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