“Something has to change.”

That’s what I thought as November came to an end. I was sitting down to spend time with God and a part of me didn’t want to be there. And I didn’t know what to do about it.

It was such a change from the summer. In the summer, I experienced serious renewal in my time with God. I’d gone back to one of the ways that worked for me in the past — same early time, same quiet location, same electronic Bible, same electronic document:

Rise at the same time each day, drink a large glass or two of water, make coffee in our french press, stretch out, grab a cup of coffee, go to the same seat in our living room, scan the news headline, pray through my prayer list stored in Google Docs, write down any updates or thoughts I had as they came to mind, read a chapter of the Bible, write down any thoughts I had from that chapter.

I sensed I was hearing from God as much as ever, spending as rich a time with Him as ever, and was as close to Him as ever.

What changed?

School started which changed my daily rhythm, my weekly sermon review moved which changed my weekly rhythm, my back went out which upended a couple of weeks, my prayer list got longer and longer and longer.

I began to feel overwhelmed by how long my prayer list was. I was becoming distracted by reading the news I could so easily access on my phone. I started to feel guilty that I was letting people down because I wasn’t praying as much for them. I felt like I was letting God down. I missed my times with God. I didn’t know what to do about it.

On my birthday, I went back to an even older system that used to work for me: paper. I put away my smartphone and tablet. I grabbed my paper Bible. I grabbed a paper journal and a pen. It’s been renewal again.

My time with God often starts with pouring out my heart in letters that start, “Dear Lord”. I write to God about things I’m thankful for; things I’m worried about; things that I need to do; things beyond my control.

My relationship with God is like every relationship. It takes work, time, intentionality, transparency, trust, growth, appreciation, and the ability to change things up when needed.

I’m so thankful for this season.

And at some point in the future I will say again, “Something has to change.”

—Tim Howey