Scripture Meditation: Keeping it fresh

Book of Nature by joosmesie

My regular reading of Scripture has morphed a lot over time. Early on in my life as a convert, I read out of a sense of duty. It was an obligation. There was occasionally the joy of discovery and the not-infrequent encounter with the Living God that made the practice worthwhile, but my heart wasn’t always in it. Mostly there were long seasons of little regular reading, punctuated with brief bursts of intense reading and study, usually during periods of crisis or transition in my life.

That was pretty much the norm until a few years ago, when I learned to take Jesus at his word and started living my life as if I actually believed the veracity of the things he proclaimed to be true. Since then, the obligatory aspect of all spiritual discipline has fallen away (see the letter to the Galatians), while not negating the power and helpfulness of those classical spiritual practices (see the letter penned by James). Entering into Scripture became one more element of my interaction with my Good Friend, a way to hear his voice clearly day in and day out, a way to center myself back on the foundational truths and correct the inevitable drift that occurs from being “in the world”.

I am an organized fellow, so I like to have a game plan for any task that occurs on a regular schedule. I like to be thoughtful and intentional with any activity that is a meaningful priority to me. For reading Scripture, this has meant having some sort of study plan or reading list to follow. And this has meant falling into the trap over and over again of rendering this important time of relationship and communing into little more than a checklist.

So, that has been my challenge for the last few years: How to keep the reading of Scripture fresh while also giving it enough structure to be intentional and keep it from getting repetitive? Here is a (partial) list of the things I have tried, just off the top of my head:

  • Just winging it – Read whatever I feel like on no set schedule. Inevitable pitfall: With no scheduled time, I never or rarely ended up reading Scripture.
  • Winging it on a schedule – Read whatever I feel like at a certain time each day. Inevitable pitfall: The reading each day becomes a checklist OR I get bogged down in Leviticus or Isaiah and ready infrequently.
  • Don’t worry about it – Read when I feel like, don’t read when I don’t, and don’t worry about it so much. Inevitable pitfall: My time in Scripture fell to almost zero and, even if reading other “good” books, the inevitable “truth drift” began to occur.
  • Reading whole books at a time in chronological order – A suggestion from Frank Viola which was wonderful! Inevitable pitfall: I don’t always have blocks of reading time sufficient to not lose the thread of the narrative. (When the kids are grown, this will be one practice I return to more often, as I enjoyed these seasons quite a lot.)
  • Reading a little bit from different sections of Scripture each day – This is my current practice. The first reading list I used to help with this was from my friend, Chris Suitt. Potential pitfalls: Trying to stick to a rigorous schedule led to a “checklist” mentality. Since I am a homeschooling stay-at-home father to school-age boys, there are inevitably days that I missed and then I was “behind” and then further and further behind, to the point where I got frustrated and quit altogether for a while. So I went looking for something along the same lines but with a bit more flexibility built in and found Sam Williamson’s Scripture Meditation Plan. For me, for now, this is the right mix of keeping it fresh, giving it structure, and surrounding it all in grace. Potential pitfall: With such a forgiving schedule (no penalty for getting “behind”!), engaging with Scripture may not happen all that often.

So after a lot of looking and more than a little trial-and-error, I have found a routine and a rhythm that works for this stage of life. It is doable, it is an encouragement to me and not an obligation, it invites being engaged, and is forgiving when life happens and I can’t read every day.

And yet the enemy and life seem to conspire to keep me from this life-giving practice, from connecting with Jesus, the source of life, in this meaningful way. And I have found over my years-long quest that no matter the “system”, no matter how good my intentions are, no matter how firm my resolve — the time on my schedule for sitting still and reading Scripture and praying through it and meditating on it almost inevitably gets crowded out.

To counteract this tendency, I am part of a weekly Bible Impact Group (BIG). During this weekly time together, I am held consistently accountable by a fellow disciple or two in an environment that is both firm and gracious. I have found that this practice of intentional community is the only effective counter to my own tendency to drift away from the helpful practice of meditating on Scripture.

As an additional help to me in this practice, I have made the commitment to start posting somewhat regularly my notes from my times of Scripture meditation. These will be available under the “Scripture Meditation” category.

This pursuit has been quite a journey, and it ain’t over yet. Further up and further in!

Jeff Herron

Homeschooling dad of two boys. Husband of one terrific woman. Disciple of and disciple maker for Jesus. My cup runneth over!

8 thoughts on “Scripture Meditation: Keeping it fresh

  1. Thanks, Jeff, for sharing your experience. I certainly identify. I have been in the same spot and understand, full well, the “angst” over trying “to get it right” (my own words, not yours). I have never felt as much freedom and peace in my life as I do now, despite how little or how much I read and study the Scriptures. Every heart beat is one spent in the presence and (when I’m aware, 🙂 ) in the awareness of our loving Papa. Learning more about, and experiencing more of, the Trinity has changed my world and my life. The divine beauty of their dance, of which I have learned I am a part of, has turned all my striving into rest, peace, joy and awe. To delight in their presence, and to enjoy their delight in me has resulted in a daily walking/living “in the flow”. So much to learn, so much to enjoy, so much to anticipate. May we encourage each other on our own spiritual journeys…which all lead, ultimately, to the same place.

    1. Yes, it is a wonderful thing to be set free from the heavy burden of the Pharisee — especially when that rule-loving, finger-wagging hypocrite is me! 🙂 Knowing that “it is finished” allows me to try my best without fear of failure. God’s grace is truly an indescribable gift!

      As far as the journey leading each of us to the same place, I’m not sure I understand your meaning fully. Our Lord himself spoke of two roads, an easy one accessed through a wide gate that leads to destruction and a hard one accessed through a narrow gate that leads to life (Matthew 7). I currently understand this to mean that we enter into life through him and learn to walk the path of the disciple, which is largely comprised of saying “your way, Lord, not mine” — and that there is no other way to find and live out his undying kind of life. Rather, there are numerous ways to say “not your way, Jesus, but mine” and thereby to miss life entirely.

      Of course, a friend of mine once said to me, “There is only one way to the Father (through his Son), but there may be many ways to Jesus.” And it does seem that our Good Friend draws to himself those from every imaginable walk of life. One thing I can say for sure: Knowing Jesus is life itself, and my days before him seem now in retrospect dark and dead indeed. How can it be otherwise?

      Hope we can talk more soon. Love you!

  2. So beautifully said both of you. I am so thankful that you shared this with all of us because I find, with little people at home, this seems to be my very struggle. I too have tried many of these same practices & find myself slipping into a liturgical (wash, rinse & repeat) boredom. I don’t want the living word to be boring or a checklist. I want it to be a breath of fresh air or wind in my tired sails at times. This is not to say that it is never that for me, but I find myself in the valleys & lower, more than I would like. Realistically though I also understand every experience cannot be a mountaintop, as God has reason & learning for us in all seasons. To striving each & every day for listening, seeking, awaiting, & resting in what God has for each of us even if it is just that two minutes in the shower or few seconds at the stop light. God I am so greatful you meet me right where I am. Amen

    1. My performance is not perfect. It likely will never be so. But I have not given up yet, and I do not plan on giving up. With his strength to empower me and his hope to encourage me, I needn’t despair or be afraid. Today may not be easy or even particularly good at first glance, but he is with me. I may suffer, but I will never suffer alone. And so even in the hardest, darkest days, I can say “He is with me” and be glad. As we say in our home school: “Nil desperandum!” Keep putting one foot in front of the other, and keep choosing him each day in all the small ways. It adds up to a lot. And just think what a force to be reckoned with you and Jesus will be when those little ones are grown! Love you, Betsy.

      1. So well put, Jeff, and so true. I remind myself often, also, that even greater than me choosing him is that HE CHOSE ME. Ahhh…I love the sound of that! 🙂
        Can’t wait to see and talk with you tomorrow.

    2. I remember those days well…the days of little ones running all and around and me trying to grab a minute here or there with Father…often falling asleep myself during the kids’ nap times, when I was trying to do my reading and praying. How wonderful to know that (as you said) those “two minutes or few seconds” communing with him were so amazingly delightful to him and resulted in more intimacy and growth than I had ever anticipated. Remember the HE is the Living Word and the Bible the written word. So…though we may not have as much time as we would like in the written word, we can be sure that the Living WORD is always Life-giving power IN us, even when we forget. Never fear….he is always loving and accepting. He, after all, became FLESH, so understands full well our lives and challenges. Love you…

    1. I am grateful to all the folks who arrive at some practice in their spiritual life and think, “I bet this might help someone else, too,” and then go ahead and share whatever it is. Your Scripture Meditation Plan has been a blessing to me not only for what it is, but also for the humble way it was shared with the world. I appreciate not only the gift, but also the giver — so thank you, Sam! I hope I’ll be able to pass it on to others in the future.

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