June 27, 2011

Pay attention to God

“Can one reach God by toil? He gives himself to the pure in heart. He asks nothing but attention.”—W.B. Yeats, Autobiographies
Billy Alexander—sxc.hu
I resisted for many years the advice to take time in the morning to meet with God, even though I heard it repeatedly from multiple ecumenical sources. Chief among those was Chip Ingram, whose podcast I listen to regularly. He returns to this topic often. In his book Good to Great in God's Eyes, he identifies this as a habit of great Christians.  Good Christians, he says, can meet with God anytime. But the point of the book is that we don't want to be mediocre Christians or even good Christians, we want to be great Christians. And great Christians, Ingram writes, "give their first and best time to meet with God before anything else."

Pride is among the worst sins, and there is nothing more arrogant than believing we can handle everything this fallen world will do to us without help from above. We may think we can manage our lives, but how much better could we manage if we took time to consult the King of the Universe before we begin?

“The only way to receive the Spirit is silently and prayerfully to wait upon the Spirit.…For [one] whose every waking moment is occupied, and who even steals time for work from the hours of sleep, there may be necessary a complete reorganization of life if [one] is to find time for this silent waiting on the Spirit.”—William Barclay, The Promise of the Spirit

As one who has indeed stolen time for work from sleep, I can attest that a reorganization need not be complete -- sometimes a minor adjustment is enough. Setting the clock five minutes earlier each week worked for me, along with increased diligence about not staying up half the night.

We make time to watch our favorite TV shows, yet we resist making time to meet with the One who made us. Maybe that's because a morning devotional requires not only stillness and quiet, but concentration. But it can be done.

"All my life I have risen regularly at four o’clock and have gone into the woods and talked to God. There He gives me my orders for the day."—George Washington Carver, quoted in The Man Who Talks with the Flowers by Glenn Clark

A morning devotional, what some call "quiet time," ideally includes reading the Bible, meditating on its message, and prayer. It can also include devotional reading and journaling. I also use this time for reviewing three-by-five cards of scriptures and inspirational quotes I'm using to train my brain.

Jesus modeled the practice of communing with God early in the day: “In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.” (Mark 1:35)

It is appropriate for us to do likewise.