In recent years, I’ve been introduced to the term “hard stop.” I first heard it on radio in connection with live talk programs. The term came up when the program host would tell a caller that their conversation had to end in the next few seconds because a “hard stop” was coming up. This meant a commercial or announcement was about to air that would be played at a certain time and that time was fixed. I’ve also heard the term recently in the business world when, in a meeting, one of the attendees, knowing she had another meeting immediately following this one, would indicate she had a “hard stop” coming up to allow her time to get to the next meeting.
I’ve also heard the term in a Christian context. Ann Voskamp, the author of the book “One Thousand Gifts” has made several references to the devotional value of “hard stops” throughout the day. From the January 18, 2012 entry on her website aholyexperience.com, Ann Voskamp made a simple and profound case for Christians taking (rather making) time for “hard stops” throughout the day. She wrote:
A House of Prayer, a SHELTER, establishes its foundation on twin piers: an established PLACE and an established TIME. We can only pray without boundaries, only pray without ending, when we have established borders, time and place, in which to pray.
For a house to withstand hard winds, it requires hard stops. God’s people have always prayed with hard stops — fixed hour prayer. At a fixed hour David prayed, Daniel too bowed in prayer at set times, like Peter and John and the Early Christians. When the clock struck a certain hour, those hard after God made a hard stop.
Everyone bent a hard knee and prayed. Hard stops make us rise soft-hearted.
I am learning to make hard stops. Three times a day — 9, 12, 6 — to make a complete stop and pray. It’s not long (Short!): A Psalm. The Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’s Creed: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Mt. 22:36-39)
Establishing a time establishes Who is the priority.
I mentioned this on Tuesday during a book study of which I’m a part. For the last two and a half years, I’ve been privileged to be a guest in a twice-a-month book study with the Field and Stream Team at Kensington Church in Troy, Michigan.
We have been reading through “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life” by Donald Whitney. In our discussion on Chapter 10, concerning Silence and Solitude, several guys asked how we can take what we’ve read about and discussed and make setting aside time to be quiet and alone with the Lord a day-to-day reality in our lives. It occurred to me to mention the idea of doing “hard stops” throughout the day. With most of us having some type of smart phone, programming in an alarm for the time we set aside should be no problem. The idea caught on quickly as a number of the guys started punching in alarms into their smart phones.
However, the discussion went one step further. One of our team members, Dave, gave us a challenge. During each of the next two weeks, we will set aside a one hour time to be with the Lord as well as two fifteen minute periods. We will discuss what happened when we meet in two weeks. Everyone present loved the idea and accepted the challenge.
I would like to challenge you. If you’re not already doing it, set aside some time as a “hard stop” to meet alone and in quiet with Christ. Let us know, by way of our comments section, how this went.