Are We There Yet?: Recognize & Respond

The Martin Institute Part 2 of 3


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Frank Laubach and the "Game with Minutes"

On March 23, 1930, Laubach wrote in his diary, “Can we have contact with God all the time? All the time awake, fall asleep in his arms, and awaken in His presence, can we attain that? Can we do His will all the time? Can we think His thoughts all the time?”


When he posed these questions, forty- five- year- old Laubach was laboring under a cloud of profound dissatisfaction, despite his academic achievements— a BA from Princeton, a graduate degree from Union Theological Seminary, and an MA and PhD in sociology from Columbia University— and his success as a missionary to the Philippines. For fifteen years he had won praise as a teacher, writer, and administrator.


Laubach’s sterling achievements make it doubly puzzling when we read the self- assessment he made at the halftime of his life: “As for me, I never lived, I was half dead; I was a rotting tree.”


Even as his churches filled with converts, his heart was becoming crowded with loneliness, discouragement, and mild depression. Even after planting a seminary in the Philippines to train missionaries, he confessed that he had learned nothing of surrender and joy in Christ.


How can that be? Frank Laubach spoke of God daily. He had a devoted wife and family and all the trappings of success. Why was he so weighed down with doubt and despair?


Like Augustine’s, Laubach’s soul would forever feel restless and alone until nestled into the arms of God; it would forever feel lonely until awake to constant companionship with God. He was waiting for something more.


Laubach determined to do something about his miserable condition and decided to make the rest of his life a continuous inner conversation with God, in perfect responsiveness to God’s will so that his own life could become rich with God’s presence.


All he could do was throw himself open to God. All he could do was raise the windows and unlock the doors of his soul. But he also knew that these simple acts of the will were very important and so he resolved to spend as many moments as possible in listening and determined sensitivity to God’s presence.


He invented something he called a “game with minutes.” Laubach’s “game” is a method of calling God to mind at least one second of each minute for the purpose of awareness and conversation.


As he began to live moment by moment in attentiveness to God’s presence, Laubach experienced a remarkable change. By the end of the first month of his experiment with the game, he had gained a sense of being carried along by God through the hours of cooperation with him in little things.


When Laubach began his experiment he was living among the fierce Moros, an anti- Christian, Islamic tribe on Mindanao. Not long after he began to keep constant company with God, the Moros began to notice the difference. Two of the leading Muslim leaders began telling people that Laubach could help them know God. And even though he never pretended to be anything other than a follower of Jesus, the Moros began to take Laubach into their hearts and lives, loving, trusting, and helping him without regard to their cultural and religious differences.


Laubach lived the second half of his life as God’s constant companion. His life is a picture of the path of real change. He took the time to be with God, was honest about the condition Session 1: Are We There Yet? 11 of his heart, and trusted that God desired the same intimate relationship that he craved.

Game with Minute Ideas

Make a list of some ways you might become more aware of God’s presence as you go through your day. We’ll start you with a few ideas from Laubach’s “game with minutes.”

  1. Wake up and greet God with a warm “good morning” and listen for his response.
  2. Read favorite portions of Scripture as faded love letters— listening for the voice of the Author as you read.
  3. Recognize the long line at the grocery store as an opportunity for a few deep breaths and a time to listen for the voice of God.
  4. Make sure your day planner has at least one appointment with God that is written in indelible ink. Close the door. Offer him an empty chair. Then be quiet, be patient, and lean in.
  5. See each person you meet as a new opportunity to show love to the imago dei (the image of God inside them). God’s reflection is on every face.
  6. Make hugging your close family or friends a sacrament of communicating love to God.
  7. When you turn the light out, ask God if he enjoyed spending the day together and listen for his response.
Listen to all parts in this Are We There Yet?: Key Activity series