May 19, 2014

Early morning priorities

. . . He leads me beside still waters. (Psalm 23:2)

This morning I changed my routine, partly because I am in holiday mode. I slept in, started a backup on my computer while getting dressed and let it run while having some breakfast. After that, the computer was still whirring so I prayed until it was done, then opened my devotional guide and read about the importance of a morning quiet time with God. It is not a legalistic ritual but preparation of my heart for the day and the day for my heart.

The illustration came from a shepherd who said when he led his sheep to a clean, quiet stream for a drink, they often stopped and drank from the polluted and muddy pools along the way. Yuck! While I was not relying on this morning’s stuff along the way in the same way I rely on God’s Word, I could see how doing so would affect me. Besides settling for less, one thing quickly leads to another and the clock keeps ticking until I look at it and say, “Where did the day go?”

In the wilderness days of Israel, God fed them with manna. This pictures the daily need for spiritual bread and has some interesting parallels. One of them was that they must gather it early in the day. Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.” (Exodus 16:21)

I’ve noticed that when my quiet time with God gets delayed too long, I’m often frustrated and anxious. Melted is a good word. Part of that problem is because I missed it, and the other part is because I missed it! Inside me is this hunger for God. Without being fueled up, my spiritual life is out of tune and I feel out of sorts. He gives me more energy and a clearer head than I would otherwise have. However, God also blesses the day. When I spend time to hear His thoughts and gain His strength, problems are reduced, even more easily solved. Those things that are out of my control do not become frustrating issues. I change, but so does the day become bright and easier to deal with.

The psalmist writes, “O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.” (Psalm 5:3) I echo that. Sometimes a quiet time with God seems like a sacrifice, depending on the to-do list and on the weather. Sunshine beckons. But God wants me to give Him the best part of my time that I might watch Him and see what He will do.

As for the muddy pools, they might not seem like that, especially if God’s sheep have never experienced anything better. Some might have a “quiet time” reading the newspaper, having a second cup of coffee, or smoking a cigarette in a comfy chair on the patio. But a quiet time with God transforms His people as well as our day when we make that a priority, even when it seems a sacrifice. On the other hand, putting muddy pools first or using them as a replacement or substitute does not bring the same blessing. Israel found that out the hard way . . .

Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2:11–13)

It took me longer than usual this morning to get here, and how like God to give me this warning to take care and not let anything change my glory (which is God Himself) into anything else, or try to use anything else to satisfy my thirsty soul.

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