Tag Archives: Quiet Time

Bookends of Praise

Bookends of Praise (CaD Ps 149) Wayfarer

Praise the Lord.
Psalm 149:1a (NIV)
Praise the Lord.
Psalm 149:9c (NIV)

One of the thieves of my sleep is the never-ending task list. As my sleep ebbs and flows in the darkness from deep sleep to semi-consciousness, my brain tends to use the relative wakefulness of semi-consciousness (typically around 3:30 a.m.) to begin spinning on all the tasks I didn’t accomplish the day before along with the ones that I are on the list for the following day. There are mornings that I can’t shut my brain off and return to some restful log sawing. Hello insomnia, my old friend.

In today’s chapter, Psalm 149, I noticed one of the recurring thematic devices used by the lyricists of these ancient Hebrew songs we call psalms. I’d call it the “bookends of praise.” The song begins and ends with what is essentially a tag: “Praise the LORD.”

As I sat contemplating this device, I was reminded of a line from the lyrics of Psalm 113 (which is also bookended with praise):

From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
    the name of the Lord is to be praised.

I can certainly interpret this familiar line as telling me that my day should be filled with perpetual praise, and there’s nothing wrong with that. As I meditated on it this morning, I thought of it as the perpetuation of the metaphor of this device. As the song is bookended in praise, beginning and end, so my day should be bookended in praise, when I arise and when I lie down. I should begin my day by offering God praise, and end each day offering God praise.

And this is where I have a confession to make. As a morning person, I’ve developed a discipline of spending time with God in the quiet each morning. I’ve got the “rising of the sun” part of the praise bookends down pat. It’s the “place where it sets” part that I’m realizing falls woefully short. Wendy will tell you that it’s not uncommon for me to be in a deep sleep before she has a chance to finish her bedtime routine.

Somehow the childhood discipline my parents instilled in me of “saying my prayers” before bed got lost somewhere in my daily routine. I might do it once in a while, but its honestly few and far between. Have I unconsciously decided that my morning quiet time has got all the spiritual bases covered?

Then I thought about actual bookends. What happens when I’m missing one bookend on the shelf? The books spill out of that end. Is it possible that without bookending my day in the “place where it sets” with praise and a moment of conversation with God, that I’m allowing all of the tasks and pressures of my day to spill out into the night like thieves to rob me of my sleep? If I build a discipline of offering up praise for all the good things in my day, and I offer up my tasks and stresses to be entrusted to the God who cares for me, might it be a spiritual bookend that will help guard my heart and mind from being robbed of slumber?

I’m guessing I know the answer.

Some mornings, the action step from my time of quiet is crystal clear.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Now, If You’ll Excuse Me…

So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayerEzra 8:23 (NIV)

Before setting out on the long journey from Babylon back to Jerusalem, Ezra had the people fast, pray and commit themselves and their journey to God.

Today, I come out of my quiet time without great insight. Rather, I am struck by a simple reminder to begin my journey, each day’s journey into life, by taking time to petition God.

Now, if you’ll excuse me…

Breaking Points and Places of Restoration

Lake Mug 2 Snapseed LRWhen [the members of the Corinthian synagogue] opposed and reviled him, in protest [Paul] shook the dust from his clothes and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” Acts 18:6 (NRSV)

Wendy and I arrived home from the lake last night after a long weekend with friends. I tweeted yesterday that there are some weekends there that you just never want to end, and that’s truly the way I felt yesterday. I wasn’t ready to come home. Wendy and I have realized over time the same thing that my parents realized as they owned the place before us, that the lake is a place of soul restoration.

Our life journeys can wear us down at times. We get depleted. Our feet get dirty from walking through life’s muck. At some point, perhaps at many waypoints along the path, we reach a breaking point like Paul experienced in Corinth in today’s chapter. We can’t take any more of what life is throwing at us. We give up, give in and throw in the towel.

For Paul, showing love and kindness to those who reviled and hated him was wearying business. I think we all experience the breaking point from time to time when our spiritual, emotional, and mental reserves are tapped out. I get the feeling that the reason Jesus often stole away to a mountain side by Himself  was because He was driven by need to refresh His spiritual, emotional and mental batteries.

I’m reminded this morning that we all have breaking points. It’s part of the human journey. Jesus experienced it, Paul experienced it, I’m going to experience it too. The question isn’t “if” but “when.” Today, I’m grateful for places of restoration. I’m thankful for quiet and the encouragement of friends who recharge our soul batteries in ways that allow us to press on.

Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 42

Many paths from which to choose. "But I'll take the hand of those who don't know the way, who can't see where they're going. I'll be a personal guide to them, directing them through unknown country. I'll be right there to show them what roads to take, make sure they don't fall into the ditch. These are the things I'll be doing for them— sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute." Isaiah 42:16 (MSG)

There are mornings when I wake up and set out with no clear sense of direction, but with an overwhelming sense of burden. Everything seems muddled and the road ahead seems to branch off in a million different directions. I feel the need to take three or four different paths today because of competing demands. Which way do I go first? Which path should take precedent? If I take that path, will it eventually merge with the others? Maybe this is the wrong way to start.

This is why I regularly find it beneficial to start the day in a little quiet time with God and His Message. I regularly find God speaks directly into my circumstances and my need through which ever chapter we're reading.

I'm headed off into the day, but I know God has a hold of my hand. He is directing me. He won't leave me for a second.

Thanks for the reminder, God. I needed it today.

  Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and wheatfields

Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 17

The Divine Hours. And why? Because you have forgotten God-Your-Salvation, not remembered your Rock-of-Refuge. Isaiah 17:10a (MSG)
 

Okay, I admit it. I'm a forgetful person. Just ask my wife, whom I drive crazy with my forgetfulness. There are days when I pull out of the driveway only to pull right back in when I suddenly remember something I forgot to take with me. Somedays I'll pull back in the driveway two or three times before I have everything I need.

A few years I was waiting for Wendy at church and happened upon a book called The Divine Hours. It's a prayer guide with prayers to be prayed at four different times of the day each day. I read the introduction of the book about the ancient discipline of praying at different times of the day. I decided to pick up the book, because I thought that it would be a cool thing to try.

Over the past couple of years I've attempted to use The Divine Hours to build a habit of praying regularly throughout each day. I've come to realize how much I forget about God in the whirlwind of my daily activities. I'm pretty good at spending time in the morning reading God's Message and praying. Once the rest of the day starts, however, God easily gets shoved to the back-burner of my mind. More often than not The Divine Hours sits on my desk until the next morning when I, once again, realize that I gave God little thought the previous day and evening.

I don't want to remember God for just a few minutes of my day. I don't want to forget God as I remember all the tasks on my to-do list. I want to be mindful and engaged with God in the midst of and throughout all my daily journey. Today is a fresh start. Good habits are built one-day-at-a-time.