Monday, August 25, 2008

Manly devotions

I am reading "Jesus in the Margins" by Rick McKinley. It is a fairly easy read. I am enjoying it, looking to see if there is some new insight in there.

One thing he talked about was the story from Jeremiah where the people make broken cisterns to hold water rather than relying on God. From there McKinley talks about some of the broken cisterns we have. For a person whose heart has been moved to the decision to put Christ as the foundation upon all the rest of life flows, one would think that there would be no broken cisterns. But there are. For me, especially in the past couple months it was "Why haven't you been spending time in prayer/meditation?" and then I nag myself "If your God is really as important as you claim he is, why is there no time in your day for him?" Ouch.

That isn't entirely true. In some ways everything I do has a spiritual element. I am constantly giving thanks, not because I am so great, but probably to compensate for the lack of actual time being spent.

I read this all to J, about the distractions that we happily fill up our time with, computers, TV sets and entertainment or busyness. He, as usual disagrees. He tells me he has never gotten anything from devotion time.

(Sound of brakes screeching to a halt) What? How can you spend time seeking God and come away feeling like the time was wasted?

Then he cites people who spend time in devotion and it doesn't seem to make any difference as to their ability to live out the Lord's teaching.

And of course with my liberal education I am thinkin "WAAAAAAIIIIIT a minute!" Are we even referring to the same thing and in a leptosecond I realize, no, probably not.

So let's define what we are talking about. I am talking about time spent meditatively in prayer. It might be reading the bible as well, seeing how the Lord will speak to you through his word.

Further out, like a poseur or wannabe of some sort, like a meat or milk substitute, like carob for chocolate or saccharin for sugar are the books called "devotions". I realize in the course of our conversation that while these books are apparently useful for some people, to me they are unnerving, useless. They offer light platitudes of things that I can't believe people don't already know. They offer them in bite sized pieces, one per day, that may or may not have anything to do with anything in ones life. I realize instantly: this is what J thinks is a devotion time. These are what I have tried in vain to find some use or meaning. I have grow to a point of holding little more than contempt for these "devotions".

Suddenly I understand why he considers meditative time to be close to worthless. Neither he nor I need bite sized pieces of gospelfood. But we do need to not give up that time spent listening, meditating and praying.

Before this conversation, I never realized that I had any feeling here nor there about these "devotion" books, only that like vitamins, maybe I was supposed to read them, however, the books I was reading made me think more, reflect more, seek more and pray more than the platitudes of a devotional.

It isn't important what I think about these books, but it reminds me of a bigger thing. J detests the singing in churches by and large. As we have talked about it, I understand why. The lyrics are very feminine in a way. "I want to know you, I want to hear your voice, I want to touch you, I want to feel you..." I have to admit, I can't sing this song. It has no value to me, at times it just grates. Now I hear these lyrics and I can tell J is tuning out without even looking at him. He does feel more at home with hymns, but will sing anything as long as it doesn't sound ridiculous to him. I gave up a long time ago figuring out whether the lyrics were ridiculous, feeling like I should just not be critical. However, I do understand his point of view.

I think for a guy, church is a place largely reflecting the touch of women. It is very hard to find a place as a guy. There is a mens group that meets on weekday AMs at our church, which is a strange time since most men are at work. I understand his frustration. At one point he belonged to a great group of men, and then the studies started being watching a DVD. I understood when he expressed "How is that fellowship?"

So when I asked him about devotions, I could just imagine him trying to read one of those day by day devotions and have him think that this is the way time with God is done. A rigid definition. No wonder he rejects it, I have my own difficulty with it.

And yet as followers of Christ it is our job to not stop there.

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