On a lazy Saturday morning, the sun rising above the house across the street, and peace-filled music playing on the television, I slowly sipped my coffee. My body and spirit were slowly getting into the zone of my morning time with God. Just as I began to journal my first thoughts of the day, there came the all-too-familiar ping from the cell phone. Out of habit, I reached my hand to the end table and retrieved my phone. Just as I was about to turn it over and look at who was contacting me, I stopped. It dawned on me that were I to open the message and read it, I would leave the territory of quiet contemplation that I had entered. That I would short-change my time with God.
You see, it had been a busy couple of weeks with work, weekend travel, and the day-to-day tasks of life. The hectic schedule made it difficult to get in touch with God in my morning time. Too many taps of the snooze button had shortened my morning schedule before heading to work. Some days I even told myself I would spend the time after work or before going to bed. Rarely did it happen because I usually spent the evening binge watching Netflix shows or watching late night TV. Upon reflection, I realized these are just hollow excuses for not making God a higher priority in my life.
Short-changing the Creator ultimately short-changes me. The dictionary defines short-changing as cheating someone or withholding something that has value. Carving out time to spend with God is valuable to me, and it helps me grow in my relationship with God. Other important relationships are those with family and friends, as well as time spent eating well and exercising. Yet to always put these before centering my heart and time on God and God’s vision for my life, is to cheat God and the calming effect God has on my heart. Time and time again, this pattern of centering first with God before engaging the world, has proven crucial. To do so allows me the best possible defense against the challenges that come into my orbit because of God’s unfailing faithfulness in my life.
Evidence of God’s faithfulness has been recorded for thousands of years in the biblical text and other sacred writings. Yet it is hard to know how to respond with our own faithfulness without seeking out God’s wisdom through prayer and study. Some of the first writings God inspired eventually became the Book of Exodus which contain the Ten Commandments. One of the Ten Commandments states, “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8) This was handed down to the Israelites through Moses, just after God helped them escape slavery in Egypt. God was providing the Hebrew people with a pattern for living that called them to set aside one day a week that was dedicated to God. A day that looked different from the rest of the days. It was necessary to provide this guidance since the Hebrews had worked seven days a week without breaks in their captivity. Because God is still speaking today, I believe we are called to continue to take time for Sabbath rest.
When I was growing up, on Sundays all the stores were closed, and the day was spent with family and friends. These days, as work and family schedules dictate a wide variety, experiencing Sabbath rest must be more flexible. A pattern that I learned in pastoral ministry was taking time to start the day with a Sabbath rest. On work days, I spend the first thirty minutes of my day with coffee, a journal, and my Creator. On non-work days I seek to extend that quiet time in order to read more, journal longer, and sit with the Lord. I view this as my intimate space with God and myself, seeking to connect deeper with both. I am not one for traditional meditation, finding it difficult to just sit and think and pray. Instead, my meditation looks more like calming my mind, slowing my body, and allowing the Creator to come into my heart. As this happens, I am able to relinquish a bit of my own self, and thus allow God to better guide my actions and thoughts. When the distractions in my life--like my cell phone, the morning news, the ever-present To-Do List-- are removed, I am able to be fully present in my quiet time.
Over time I have come to realize that the Creator yearns to draw close to all of us. For some people they find that intimate time while worshiping. For others it happens while listening to faith-filled music. For me though, I feel closest to God when I seek to set aside time to nurture my friendship with the Creator in my quiet time. Sometimes it’s sitting in a comfy chair with coffee and my journal. Other times it’s when I take a walk amid God’s glorious creation. There are no ear buds blasting music. It’s just my pup, my Lord, and the beautiful natural world guiding my steps and calming my spirit.
Dear ones, how can you seek out tangible ways to calm your spirit and center your heart on the Creator? Some suggestions are: journaling about your thoughts, prayers, hopes, desires, and offering them to the Lord. How about a prayer walk where you are free from technology? Try listening to the wind in the golden leaves, birds singing from the branches. See the V formation of the geese on their journey southward. Bottom line--don’t short-change the Creator, who desires to work in and through your life and heart.
Creator God, I try hard to connect with You, and yet still fall short and seem to short-change You. Guide me to start my day with You, and then hopefully all else will fall into place. I thank You for loving me so much, You call on me to set aside this time for Sabbath rest. Amen.
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