Coffee with God - Terry Hayward - ebook

Coffee with God ebook

Terry Hayward

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Although there is a lot of advice in this book about how to 'do' your quiet time with God, it definitely is not a sort of DIY work on meditation or prayer. It was written in the hope that it would be a help in not only developing our own prayer life, but also of becoming aware that God is with us all the time, not just during our Prayers, or our Coffee with God. Paul tells us to Pray at all times and the intention of this book is to help us understand what this means and then apply that to our everyday life. The aim of this book is to help each one of us to understand exactly what it is that God wants of us and then to do it by coming into such a deep relationship with Him. In the book we will look into many subjects all of which are in a way related to each other and so the different subjects are really only chapters dealing with one subject matter, notably our walk with God by making Him assume prime place in our lives. Let me make myself clear at the outset that although I'm no expert in “Christian Spirituality”, I do I invite you not to just ignore my suggestions, but to at least give them a chance and thereafter feel free to make up your own mind about them. The book is wide-ranging in an effort to show that nothing falls outside of our walk with Him but all of them can and will lead to an awareness of the Presence of God. Terry Hayward

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Inhaltsverzeichnis
FOREWORD
PROLOGUE

We rejoice because of what God has donethrough our Lord Jesus Christ,

Who has now made us God’s friends.

COFFEE WITH GOD

Copyright © 2013 Terry Hayward

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner in any media, or transmitted by any means whatsoever, electronic, electrostatic, magnetic tape, or mechanical ( including photocopy, file or video recording, internet web sites, blogs, wikis, or any other information storage and retrieval system) without the prior written permission of the publisher or

author.

Published in England

by

Abela Publishing Ltd.

Sandhurst, Berkshire, England

Email: [email protected]

ISBN 13: 978-1-909302-38-9

First Edition, 2013

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

All Biblical quotations are from the First South African

Edition of the GOOD NEWS BIBLE (Unless otherwise

specified) published in South Africa by the Bible Society

of South Africa.

DEDICATION

This book is dedicated to the Glory of God

and with grateful thanks to Him.

FOREWORD

As I write this foreword, I am reminded about my response to Terry when he mentioned that his book Wanderings with God was complete and submitted to his publisher. I had just submitted my own doctoral thesis in which I had tried to make meaning of my spiritual journey including my call to the ordained ministry. I joked and said well perhaps your next book should be about wandering about God’s Call. Well, here it is and I should have known that Terry would take up that challenge and I

am pleased to write this foreword.

Terry has a deep passion for God and God‘s people. I am one of at least four people who was

encouraged and guided by Terry as we discerned God’s call on our lives which for most us led to a deeper relationship with God and eventual ordination into the priesthood. I wrestled with my discernment of God’s call as a woman worshipping in an Anglican Church, in Southern Africa, in the early nineties for whom ordination to the priesthood had not been realised. I then was faced with moving home and parish amidst this turmoil. I joined the parish where Terry, a loving, caring yet challenging

priest, welcomed my family and I as parishioners. He was also able to guide me through the pains of responding to God’s call as a woman, wife, chemistry lecturer and mother in the only ‘coloured’ family in a parish and

COFFEE WITH GOD

diocese which was still undergoing transformation due to the legacies of the Apartheid system and the ordination of women as priests.

Terry’s life and the influence and impact of the four words, trust, love, honour and obey captured in this book, have been a living testament to me, and I am sure to many others, of how we can respond to God’s call on our life. The reality of the contradictions, denials and tensions we face in discerning and responding to God’s call are dealt with in a sincere and meaningful manner.

May this book help to strengthen your relationship as a Christian. As you read this book may you be willing

and ready to deepen your relationship with God whom you love, with your neighbour whom you love and with yourself created and called by God in and to love.

Revd. Dr. Delysia Timm

Priest-in-Charge,

Parish of All Saints, Bellair

Diocese of Natal, South Africa.

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CONTENTS

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ..................................................... 4

DEDICATION .......................................................................... 5

CONTENTS .............................................................................. 6

PROLOGUE .............................................................................. 9

PREPARATIONS ................................................................... 15

GETTING STARTED ............................................................. 25

NEXT STEP ............................................................................. 35

MEDITATION ........................................................................ 41

CONVERSION ....................................................................... 53

LIVING PRAYER ................................................................... 71

GO TELL ................................................................................. 85

CONTENTMENT ................................................................ 101

DO YOU LOVE ME? ........................................................... 118

CHILDLIKE FAITH ............................................................. 125

OBEDIENCE ......................................................................... 136

WORK ................................................................................... 149

MARRIAGE .......................................................................... 164

RICHES ................................................................................. 175

GIVING ................................................................................. 187

SOLITUDE ............................................................................ 196

ENCOUNTER....................................................................... 207

GOD CALLING ................................................................... 218

FAITHFULNESS .................................................................. 233

EPILOGUE – (THE DIY CHRISTIAN) ............................. 263

PROLOGUE

The Creation story is one that can be so full of meaning to us in oh so many ways. We hear there in the very first chapter (v. 31) that when God created us, you and me, we were created in His image, and He saw that it was very good. At first man and woman lived in peace and harmony, not just with nature, our surroundings and with each other, but also with God Himself. At that time

we are told that they walked with God and talked with

God, and that the human condition was in fact good – man and woman still had only goodness in them, or should I say they were in possession of a good core to their beings (Gen. 1: 25). This time in creation is known or symbolized by paradise and the Garden of Eden.

Unfortunately, then came the fall when we, both

man and woman, listened to the lies of the devil and tried

to become ‘like God’, forgetting that we were already made ‘in His image – made like Him’. This was the time when we invited into us the growth of a life of thorns, toil and pain that we had condemned ourselves to, in place of the inherent peace that God had wanted for us. Suddenly

this ‘good core’ of light that was born deep within us was covered up by a hard core of darkness as we developed our feelings of greed, jealousy, hatred, resentment, envy and the like. This succeeded in covering the inner core,

TERRY HAYWARD

which nevertheless still remains there deep within each

one of us, to the extent that our hard outer core became

the way of life (Gen. 3: 1 – 24), and what today the Church refers to as ‘original sin’.

This new place we now find ourselves living in is, like paradise, a reality where most of us are quite content to live and move and have our being, basically because we

have chosen the forbidden sins of the flesh and the devil to

replace our natural spiritual tranquility. We have been led to believe that sin is much more fun than walking with

God because we feel He is not fun. But in order to reduce

this pain that comes with this new lifestyle, we have had

to build this hard layer to hide the good inner core as we go about our daily lives.

Like the workman who develops hard callouses on his hands to protect the more delicate flesh underneath, over time we too have developed a similar hard outer core covering our good inner core, we pretend to protect us from hurt. This hardened outer layer represents our inbuilt resistance to the suffering we have condemned ourselves to through our wayward lifestyle, it’s what we’d

call our ‘built in’ defence mechanism. And so we have

tended to choose a life of sin instead of a holy life, because

it’s more fun and enjoyable, in fact it’s simply easier to follow than to search for a way back to the true inner good

core.

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Now we live our lives on the surface of our being where our inbred distaste of pain is in a constant war with

our longing for the ‘good life’ and this conflict keeps us cut off from our deep good core, cut off from the Garden of Eden, which is still hidden there deep within each of us. By our own folly we were evicted from the Garden of Eden and now an angel with flaming sword prevents us from re-entering the garden.

But thanks be to God, because He did not leave us

as orphans, but He came down Himself to live amongst us and be one of us to teach each of us that we can still go back and walk with, and talk with, God (Eph. 2: 6 - 12).

My hope and prayer is that this little book will help each one of us to develop our relationship with our God to that

extent we too will be aware of Him with us at all times

and thereby enabled to re-enter into that subdued good

core within us.

My wife and I recently spent some months in Canada with our son, daughter-in-law and new granddaughter. Probably my greatest memory of that trip was of our new little baby girl when she saw us each morning for the first time after she woke up. Her happy screech of recognition was filled with unsuppressed joy

and was just too beautiful for words. It well nigh broke my heart when we had to leave. When we returned home, our two grandchildren here in New Zealand who are both

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much older, but still very much children, were more shy in their excitement to see us again, yet their barely restrained joy at being re-united with us was equally

memorable and welcoming. All three of our grandchildren’s attitudes reminded me very much of Nathaniel, who also expressed his heartfelt joy in meeting Jesus (Jn. 1: 49), and in whom we too found nothing false – their out and out, undisguised love for us was so real, almost tangible and unspoiled that we were both left in no doubt as to their true feelings for us.

Life is a journey and the final destination is what Paul repeatedly refers to as ‘union’ with Christ as we enter

into eternal life with Jesus and the Father. This means that

the route to that end must be making God take first place in everything in our lives. When we travel we mostly have a final destination, and we would usually have a map or some set of instructions on how to get there. In our life’s journey the map, or directions, is the Bible and this will undoubtedly lead us down many exciting, and sometimes even boring, roads. We will also find little detours along the way which might or might not aid our journey, they might be only of scenic interest, but at all times we must not forget our ultimate destination, which is simply unity

with Christ.

At times it will seem that God (our destination) is

incalculable miles away or that we have even lost our way,

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but always our map, the Bible, will be there if we will just pause awhile to seek directions. We need to remember

that all the gifts that God bestows on us during our lifetime are not our final destination, in fact they’re not even necessary to help us on our way; they are only gifts and not God Himself. God is all that matters and although God wants us to be happy and enjoy our lives on the journey (Jn. 10: 10), like Jesus we must never take our eyes off the destination, union with God!

Jesus attended parties and also was confronted by evil on His journey, yet as He walked this earth His eyes were at all times firmly fixed on His Father. He made sure

He spent quality time with His Father so as to keep His eyes firmly on His destination. My prayer is that this little book will assist you in becoming aware that He is with you every step of the way as you journey to that final destination to God Himself. God is very much in all those gifts, including the gift of being aware of His Presence with you at all times. But these gifts He continuously

showers on us must never be confused with the Giver. Let

us always keep in mind that God alone is our final

destination, and be aware of Him with us at all times.

Let’s now move on into the main contents of this

little book, keeping in mind at all times the words of that beautiful old hymn, “Jesus I have promised” (with thanks

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to author J.E. Bode), with just one or two minor changes

made by me for the purpose of this book:

“O Jesus I have promised to follow to the end,

Be Thou ever with me, my Master and my Friend.

I’ll not fear the battle if You be by my side,

Nor wonder from the pathway,

If you will be my Guide.”

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PREPARATIONS

I chose the picture on the cover of this book (because I like it!) but mainly because it is a reminder to me, and I hope it will be a reminder to you too, that all too often we are too quick, with our cup of coffee still unfinished in our hand, to leave our quiet time to get on

with some work. I suffer from a work ethic that makes me

feel that if I’m not up and about and actually doing things, I’m not actually working. What I really need more than

anything else is to spend more time with God, enjoying my coffee with Him, rather than always being in a rush to get out and ‘do’. One of the purposes in my writing this book was to try to convince both me and you to take time out and sit with our God over a cup of coffee, and at the

same time come to realise that these coffee times with Him

are not a waste of time when we could be out there in the

world where we need to do things. After all Jesus Himself often found it necessary to take time out to be with His Father and so He would often go off alone to spend quality time with God (e.g. Mt. 14: 23).

The world we live in is a world of constant

change and we need to learn to change too and move with God’s changing times. I speak here not just of change merely for the sake of change, but changing as the seasons change which is all orderly. God has created spring to be a

TERRY HAYWARD

burst of growth, summer to be a time of consolidating and  then continuing that growth, autumn (fall) as a time when  things start to shut down, even die, as they prepare for  winter and the time of rest. Here we remember Jesus

telling us about the seed that must fall to the ground and  die if it is to spring back into bringing new life (John 12:  24). We need to find God’s rhythm in our lives and as we  do so, we will find that we have not only a daily rhythm  but also rhythms that span time. And I firmly believe that  it is in our coffee times, our quiet times, with God that  we’ll find our rhythm.

The monks in a monastery know all too well this

need for constant change and we would do well to take  their lives as an example for our own as we seek to

establish a rhythm in our own lives. All too often we see a  monk’s life as one long monotonous and boring drudgery,  the same sameness day in and day out, but this is  definitely not the case. While I certainly don’t suggest that  we all traipse off to join a religious order, I do suggest we  take a leaf out of their book, so to speak. The monk has his  day divided up into fixed periods of work (some work out  in the fields some at more academic pursuits), study,  which includes the Bible and related subjects, prayer (this

means private as well as corporate prayer where they will  come together to say the office, sing/chant the Psalms and  the like), and then too rest and recreation, which includes

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sleep. Of course it’s interesting to note that this word  recreation is in fact two words joined together – re and  create as we seek to do this to our lives. Without joining a  monastery we too can divide our days up into similar  periods, periods that will reflect our own personal lifestyle  and I hope that by the time you reach the end of this little  book you will have a better idea on just how to do this for  yourself.

The first few chapters of Coffee with God are mostly about prayer and developing our relationship with God, but it is not really a ‘how to pray’ DIY sort of book, so much as a sharing of a lot of my thoughts and

experiences in these areas. A great teacher on prayer and  prayer-life from the Scriptures is the Book of Psalms. Take  for example Psalm 42 which acknowledges our longing for

the Presence of God as heart calls to heart, and Psalm 80

which calls to God to “listen to us”, to “reveal yourself” and

to “come and save us”. Both these Psalms are prayers,  which, like all prayers, are not just ‘shopping lists’ of  requests, but are prayers, which should help us connect to  life. Both of these Psalms express a longing for God, but  not simply in some sort of distant way, but by joining our  own desires and longings to what is actually going on in

the world around us.

Everyone can pray and there is no one that cannot learn to pray, but all prayer should be an endeavour to

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live a life of prayer, or as Paul says, ‘to pray at all times’  and so to make our lives an ongoing prayer. All prayer  should not just be the short time we kneel to ask God’s  blessings on us, but should be carried over into our  regular daily lives as we face the boss at work, as we face  the teacher at school and in fact just do what we do every  day. Prayers are not meant to be something that is said,  and is then over and done with, another duty for the day  we can now put behind us. Nor may we regard our  prayers as something we do to try to twist God’s arm to  change His mind to our way of thinking.

All prayer is intended to be a part of life

and as such we must try to become aware of God’s  Presence with us throughout the day and this takes a  lifetime of hard work. Living a life of prayer means not  just being aware of His Presence when times are tough  and we ‘need’ Him, but it is something we must learn to  take into our everyday, mundane and even boring lives.  This can only occur under the inspiration and action of the  Holy Spirit on our human spirits and for this to happen

we need to become aware of the subtle movement of the

Spirit in our everyday lives as we listen for those quiet whispers, murmurs, challenges and appeals as we go

about our normal days and respond to the people around

us and to daily events.

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Despite the minor controversy caused by my previous book, “Wanderings with God”, I still believe every word written there was ‘of God’ and the truth. Like

Paul (2 Cor. 1: 12) my conscience was clear and what I

wrote was “ruled by God-given frankness and sincerity, by the  power of God’s grace, and not by human wisdom.” The book  was not easy to write because I knew that many who  would read it would not agree with some of the things I  wrote and it was definitely not my intention to cause hurt  to anybody who reads it. On the contrary, it was and is my  prayer that anyone who reads it and feels hurt by what is  written therein will under the direction of the Spirit of

God (Ezek. 26: 27) be led to the ‘truth’ (Jesus – John 14: 6).

Again, like Paul (2 Cor. 2: 4) in that book, “I wrote to you with a greatly troubled and distressed heart.”

This book however, while some very small parts might also be deemed a bit off the wall or unusual, I certainly write with a lighter heart and in the sincere belief

and hope that we’ll all enjoy our cups of coffee with God  as we read and meditate on my writings. But, I still write it

because, as “The scripture says, ‘I spoke because I believed’. In  the same spirit of faith, we also speak because we believe” (2  Cor. 4: 13). It is my hope and prayer that this book will  make you sit up and think for yourself and like the  Bereans you will not blindly accept what I write but will

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carefully test, against the Scriptures, everything I have to  say (Acts 17: 11).

Over the years my ‘quiet times’ with my God have  developed and changed on a fairly regular basis, as I’m  sure most of you have found in your own ‘quiet times’  with Him. As soon as I get comfortable with ‘doing’ my  quiet time in a certain way, God comes along and changes  things before I can become too comfortable and they  become something of a ‘rote’, the sort of thing I do only for  my own pleasure and not simply to spend time with Him.  I like that old expression ‘elastic Christians’ because God  stretches us so that we continue to grow and not get

caught in our comfort zones.

Many things have changed in my quiet times with  God over the years as He pushes, and gentles, me into His  path, but as I look back the one thing He has not changed  (so far) is my enjoyment of a cup of tea, or a mug of coffee,  with Him when I go into my quiet times. These times have  consequently become my appointment with Him, or as I  prefer to call them, my ‘coffee with God’.

During these times I have had such varying  experiences, ranging from wrestling with Him when I was  not enamored with what I perceived to be where or what

He was pushing me into, to those times when I had been feeling very hurt and fragile and He simply loved and nurtured me like a baby. There have been desert times too

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when I felt that He had left me to my own devices,  probably as some sort of disciplining, to those times when

He has re-assured me of His Presence with me and His

unconditional love for me. In retrospect, every way in  which He has dealt with me has proved to be exactly what  I needed at that particular time.

I will no doubt pass on to you suggestions as to  how to organise your quiet times with God, but I need to  underline the fact that I really do believe that there is no  ‘best’ way for everyone – God is not a ‘one size fits all’  God. Each one of us has to listen to advice from others,

particularly those more ‘knowledgeable’ and experienced

in these things than ourselves, and try them out if we  believe that they will be of help. But you need to

remember that the best Teacher will be God Himself. He

will undoubtedly use a few fellow pilgrims to influence  you on your way, but He will also use circumstances to  gently nudge you into His way, and in all these  movements you need to be open to His leading. By all  means, try new methods of praying and give different  techniques a chance, but the best advice I can give you is  to make sure you are serious about spending time with  God, hopefully over a cup of coffee, and then by trial and

error under the Spirit’s guidance work out what will suit

you best.

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Know for sure that God loves you more than you could ever imagine, after all He died for you before you were even born. It is that unsurpassable, unconditional

and incomprehensible love that you will come face-toface- with when you commit to a regular mug of ‘coffee  with God’. I want to start you off by sharing with you a  verse from the Scriptures that means everything to me and  which I hope will give you an idea of your inestimable  value in God’s eyes. It comes from a particular translation  (Good News Bible) of verse 2 from Psalm 29 and reads as

follows:

“Praise the LORD’S glorious name;bow down before the Holy One

in His beautiful Temple.”

I have highlighted the words ‘beautiful Temple’ because you and I are that beautiful Temple! Believe this because  Paul (1 Cor. 6: 19) tells us

“Don’t you know that that

your body is a temple

of the Holy Spirit”?

God finds you beautiful even if you find that hard

to believe, so beautiful in fact that He made you His  Temple. He finds you so beautiful that He died for you,

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and now in the person of the Holy Spirit He lives in you,  in the Temple He made you into. This God who is Love,  who lives in you, who finds you exquisitely beautiful,  wants to have coffee with you and invites you to ‘come to  tea’ with Him regularly (Luke 14: 21).

My quiet times have now become my times for  ‘coffee with God’ and I invite you to listen in to a few of  my ‘tea parties’. From the above I’m sure we all agree that  our bodies are holy because the Holy Spirit chooses to live  in them, but just think of this. We can become too  involved in caring for our own bodies, admittedly the  dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, that we will neglect

caring for our brothers and sisters who are also Temples of  this same Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament Book of the  Prophet Haggai we see that this Prophet warns the people  of Israel that they are taking too much time working on  their own houses that they have allowed the Temple of  God to become ruined (Hag. 1: 4). And no matter how  hard the people work, things just don’t come right for  them as we see repeatedly in verses 5 – 7 we read over and  over again, “You have…but not enough.” Then in verse 6  God asks, “Can’t you see why this has happened?” The  answer He gives very simply is this, “Now go…rebuild the  Temple; then I will be pleased and will be worshipped as I should

be.” We are to take extreme care not to spend so much

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time on our own affairs that we neglect our neighbours,

and possibly even worse, we neglect the things of God.

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GETTING STARTED

Let me make myself clear at the outset that although I’m no expert in “Christian Spirituality”, I do I invite you not to just ignore my suggestions, but to at least give them a chance and thereafter feel free to make up your own mind about them. Remember that they are only suggestions and I offer you what works for me, so these might not necessarily work for you. This ‘getting started’ chapter is really where I will deal with practical matters,

you know the suggestions of what’s the best time to start  your quiet times, the best place to sit, or even whether or  not sitting is your best bet. Even if you’re an old hand at  these things I’d encourage you not to skip this chapter but  rather grit your teeth and soldier on. You might just find  something that will suddenly spark up something for you,  maybe even, like I’ve so often found, something I’ve  always known but which never really clicked home  properly.

Prayer is not an attempt to produce a spiritual high  as we become aware of His Presence with us, but this

could arise out of the silence we seek because in our times

of coffee with God, it is in silence that we’ll find Him (Is.

30: 15). We will come to realise that He is Someone we can

rely on and our hearts will learn to recognise His voice  assuring us of His love in the midst of our doubts and

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sufferings. There will be times when we forget Him but in  these quiet times we will become aware that He never

forgets us. There will be times when we are not aware of  His Presence with us, but over the years as we persevere  with these quiet times, the times when we are aware of  His Presence will become sweeter and more frequent.

I truly love St. Peter because I see so much of  myself in him, I can really identify with him. Not the  ‘rock’ on which He ‘built’ His Church Peter, but that part  of him, the ‘poor guy who always has the best intentions  but still manages to get it wrong’ type of person. St. Paul,  on the other hand, I find quite intimidating because of his

deep spirituality and education and that’s probably the

reason I find him so difficult to understand sometimes.

But I am so grateful to him for this one particular sentence in Romans (4: 11b) where he says,

“We rejoice because of what God has done

through our Lord Jesus Christ,

Who has now made us God’s friends.”

This was obviously something I had read many times without it registering but later on, when God needed me to hear Him, it suddenly hit me and went home. This Lord of lords and King of kings, this Holy One whose robe filled the Temple and whose Presence filled

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the Temple with smoke; He was and is now my Friend!  And this not because of anything I’ve managed to do, in  fact it’s in spite of what I’ve done! Jesus did it all for me

and because of this I’m now His friend. I can enter His

Presence with ‘boldness’ because of the Blood of Jesus

(Heb. 10: 19). Coming to this realization made the world of  difference in not only my prayer life but also in my  relationship with this Mighty God who is my Friend now.  One possible problem you must avoid, though, is  becoming too ‘pally-pally’ with God. Just because He is  now your Friend doesn’t give you licence to treat him like  your rugby buddies down at the club. He’s still God

Almighty!

This revelation that I am now God’s friend, first

started me thinking that my quiet times were actually my

‘coffee with God’ times, or as the secular world love to

say, a time to ‘catch up’. I have always enjoyed having tea  (very often coffee) with my wife and when she gave up  work many years ago, she took to bringing me a cup of  coffee early in the mornings when I went into my study  for my quiet times. I then put two and two together and  the quiet time, plus my cup of coffee, turned into and  became my ‘coffee with God’ time.

Right, let’s get the show on the road, as the saying goes. The most important thing for you to do then, and

this is vital, is to come to terms with that word ‘commit’,

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which is a word generally frowned upon nowadays with  our modern ‘freedoms’ to please ourselves. Do not give  yourself permission to feel free to take what I’ve just said  with a pinch of salt if you so choose, because you have to  commit to a daily time of prayer and being quiet before  God, my ‘coffee with God’ time. For us retired folk this  might appear easy but for those still working, you might  well have to commit to much more than just spending  time every day with God. You might well have to commit  to getting up half an hour earlier each day to make that  time for Him. But make this a commitment of love and try  not to see it as drudgery and taking up your cross daily.

This time with God will, I promise you, become a highlight of your day and can make whatever a day has to throw at you more bearable.

It’s also vitally important to not put off a decision to have your regular quiet time with God. Work out what time of day would be best for you, then commit to it and stick to it. All you guys out there would be quite prepared to sit for ages in a room with Miss World, just the two or you. You certainly ‘find’ the time to watch the Rugby  Championships. I bet that at these times you’d be in no hurry to rush away and do all those other “important”

things that you keep thinking about during your quiet  time. And all you women, I bet you’d have not problem  sitting quietly with the likes of Brad Pitt without needing

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to hurry off to other “obligations”. So why are we so prone

to short change God?

This reminds me of the father who is a workaholic.

He keeps promising his children that soon he’ll take time off from the office and they’ll all go for a picnic. Of course, despite the children’s nagging, this never happens. One day the father overhears the children discussing the departure of the old neighbour in a hearse as he rushes into the room just in time to see the hearse driving away from the neighbour’s home and he asks them what’s happening.

“Oh,” the son replies, “Its just old Mrs. Smith –

she’s just died but one thing I’m sure of; she’s not going on  a picnic!” Don’t keep promising to start your quiet times,  tomorrow may be too late, so get started today.

The next thing to do is decide what time will work  best for you. There’s no best time for God because He’s  always there, ready and eagerly waiting for us to pop in  for a so-called catch up. I certainly find it best to have a set  time because that is part of what commitment means to  me. Being now in the fortunate position of not having to  juggle work times, I have found that my daily prayer  times and all that that means, have actually become more

of a temptation to me to sometimes cheat and not to have

a set time, than it was before I retired.

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A set time means you’re serious about this intention to spend quality time with your God, but do not become inflexible. Family and friends must be made aware that this is your time with your God and that you shouldn’t be interrupted unless in the case of an emergency. If you’re traveling you can often sit back in your plane/car/train seat and enjoy your time with God without making a big song and dance about it. But if this is a problem, for example if you need to concentrate on you driving, I’m sure God understands and it will make both of you (you and God) look forward to your next session together with even greater anticipation, and of

course there’s certainly no reason not to chat away to God  while you’re driving.

Next, you need to find a place where you will be  comfortable and have a reasonable expectation of being  undisturbed for the whole of your time period with God.  You might like to try out a few different places before you  eventually settle on ‘your place’, but the important thing is  to settle on a place and stick with it. My special place is my  study where I know that the family will tiptoe around me  and grant me my space and quiet. There might be  occasions when you have to change places, but this should

be the exception and not the rule.

A few years ago while my wife and I were staying in a very small house with my newly married son and his

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wife, I could find no quiet place inside the house and so I

had to settle for using our car, which was parked next to  the property fence. The car became very special to me  because of the memories of those quiet times it elicits in  me every time I get into it. Your special place will also  become very special to you and you’ll find that just any  time simply walking into you space will bring a sense of  peace to you, even before you actually sit down and get on  with your ‘coffee with God’ time.

How to sit, what to sit on or in, and what position  to adopt are the area in which I personally have the most  disputes with the so-called experts and gurus. So many

‘experts’ insist that to meditate properly we should adopt  the cross-legged lotus position. Now I have a gammy leg  and whenever I have tried to get into the lotus position I  experienced the most excruciating pains imaginable. Yet  those same ‘experts’ tell me that I should be comfortable  when sitting for meditation so I’m pretty sure God does  not insist on me trying to sit in that position. Go figure!

In the beginning I tried to force myself to get into  this position but when I couldn’t get comfortable because  of the pain, I gave it up and instead propped myself up on  the floor on cushions. This was slightly better but, given

time, my rear end would become numb and various joints  would start to complain as well and so would interfere

with my concentration. I stuck it our manfully until I read

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in a book about Zen where one of the Zen masters

explained that the reason those Eastern adherents sat in

these weird positions, was because that’s the normal way  for them to sit, not just during times of meditation but also  during the day! What a revelation this was to me! Out  went the cushions and up I went onto a chair.

I then learned that the chair should have a square  back (such as a dining room chair, preferably a padded  one) so that one could keep one’s back in a straight and  upright position to keep the back from getting tired. This  certainly made sense so I went with it. I try to keep my  feet flat on the floor and the back of my legs flush with the

chair’s seat so as to take pressure off the feet and legs  because any pressure on any part of your body will  become most unpleasant and distracting and can  eventually also lead to pain. The main imperative I learnt

in most books is the need to be comfortable and so that

became my mission, a painfree time. (I’m writing this in

brackets because I have a confession to make. At one time

I no longer sat in an upright chair but instead changed to an old inherited rocking chair instead as I found this most comfortable, yet I still supported my back with cushions and prevented it getting tired and breaking my

concentration. Blame it on my age! Eventually I felt guilty  about being too relaxed so I reverted to my usual upright

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chair.) Be careful, though, that you don’t become so  comfortable that you doze off!

I don’t want you to think that I’m laying down my  suggestions as rules and regulations. These ideas on  sitting are merely my suggestions, which are, however,  based on many years of personal, and teaching,  experience. Having said that, I need to re-iterate that you  should try them all over a period of time and then go for  what works for you. One thing, though, that I can’t over  emphasize sufficiently is the need to sit straight and  upright. Just think about this for a moment.

When you are feeling depressed or down in the