Tag Archive | morning

Quiet Times in a Noisy World

I read something the other day that made me stop and think. It went something like this: God’s characteristic way of working is in quietness and prayer. Yet, it seems that in today’s society, quietness is nearly non-existent.

Nearly everywhere we go, noise is being promoted. Whether we’re shopping, eating out or participating in any number of activities, there is usually music or a radio station being played “in the background.” And restaurants of varying sizes and clientele now offer TVs as well — usually more than one and usually on different stations with the volume turned on. To carry on a conversation at some of these restaurants becomes frustrating, if not impossible. Then we also have added into the mix the not-so-private cell phone conversations being carried on at the table next to us. This list goes on and on. That’s what’s outside our homes.

Sadly, once in the privacy of our homes, things may not be much better. Family dinners around the kitchen table with everyone sharing their day are all but extinct. In many homes, families may still gather at the kitchen table, but cell phones are positioned next to plates as if they are another utensil and a TV is blaring nearby because we don’t want to miss the news, or because one of our favorite shows is on. Then there are the “family” dinners that aren’t even in the kitchen at all. Instead, these are found in the living room or family room with the TV front and center. And, for many families, most dinners are “on the go,” grabbing a bite between activities which have family members running helter-skelter in multiple directions.

Many of us have become so accustomed to noise that we find it harder and harder to do without it. Even when we’re alone, we have to have noise. The TV comes on first thing in the morning, is turned back on immediately after work, and stays on until the sleep timer shuts it off for us. And, what’s really sad is that sometimes we sit and watch TV shows we don’t even particularly like or enjoy — we just want the noise. We seem to have an aversion to quiet. I know. I’ve been guilty.

Bad habits can start innocently enough. For me, it was the death of my husband. The noise helped keep me from feeling quite so alone. But after a while, I realized this was not how I wanted to spend the rest of my life. So I intentionally went back to my pre-widow days of enjoying true quiet times alone with God in the early morning hours — no TV, no background music, only the sound of clocks ticking. I returned to the wonderful anticipation of waking up and being excited to see what God has for me in His Word.

If we are conditioned to only respond to noise, we will miss out on God’s word for us. We will miss hearing his still, small voice. As Christians, we should no longer be content to remain in our fast-paced, noisy world and let our time alone with God “just happen.” We must re-condition ourselves and purposely set aside a time of quiet and solitude every day. It must become a priority for us to find a time and a place where we can meet one-on-one with God and enjoy his presence.

I realize what is idyllic for one is not for all. We are all made differently and we are all wired a bit differently. And, besides that, no two homes are the same. So many factors have to be considered when planning your personal quiet time. For instance, I think of the working single parents with young children at home who are often stretched so thin with responsibilities that it’s hard to find time to think, much less spend a few relaxing quiet moments alone with God.

For those of you who struggle to find a few minutes to yourselves for a quiet time, I encourage you to read a blog Jennifer Rothschild recently posted entitled, “Who Made the Quiet Time Rules, Anyway?” at http://www.jenniferrothschild.com.

Bottom line: quiet times alone with God don’t often “just happen.” They must be planned. And it’s up to each one of us to evaluate our lifestyle and intentionally plan our daily one-on-one time with God. Whether it is in the privacy of your own home or (as Jennifer suggests) in the car or on the treadmill, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that, wherever you are, you are able to turn off the world’s noise, focus on God, and fine-tune your hearing so you can hear what His Spirit is whispering to you.

Question: In the fast-paced world that circles around you, how do you intentionally set aside a quiet one-on-one time with God? What does your quiet time look like?

Do I Really Want Normal?

A friend and I were bemoaning the fact that just when we think life is about to get back to normal, someone goes and moves the line! The more I thought about that, the more I began to wonder if there is such a thing as normal.

Although I had in my mind a definition of “normal,” I went to good ole Webster and looked up his definition. To my surprise, his definition took up nearly 1/4 of a column and included 8 different answers (with parts a, b, c, and sometimes even d) — the last of which I would have had to stop and look up about every other word in order to understand! Definition #8: “having the property of commutativity under multiplication by the transpose of the matrix each of whose elements is a conjugate complex number with respect to the corresponding element of the given matrix.” What???!!! I suspect only a math whiz could understand that definition on a first read-through.

The definition I most closely had in mind was 1b: “conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern.” Okay . . . now we’re talking!

So, if I were to pick one day to describe as being “normal,” what day would that be? A work day? A weekend? A day from years gone by when the kids were growing and soccer practice and/or cheerleading drills were part of the daily routine? Or is the definition of a normal day something more recent? Perhaps a day spent with the grandkids? Or a Saturday with no special agenda?

In my years of living, I have been guilty many times over of saying (or shouting), “I just wish things could get back to normal!” I would venture to say that every time I’ve said that, it was during a time when my life was in turmoil because of something negative that happened. Perhaps I woke up with a sick child on my hands. Or maybe the car broke down. Or maybe a family member was diagnosed with cancer. But, is that really fair? To only wish for “normal” days when things go awry?

What about when our days are interrupted by good things? Perhaps the unexpected visit from a friend or family member you haven’t seen in a while? Or maybe a surprise birthday party thrown just for you? Or maybe spontaneous celebration because of a check in the mail that came at just the right time?

Normal may not be all that it’s cracked up to be. To have a normal day would mean that I would have near “cookie-cutter” days — days much like the one before and the one before that and the one before that. How boring! I suspect very few of us would be happy for very long with days like that. Yet, many do. The first person who comes to my mind is my 99-year-old mother-in-law. Unless I or one of my kids goes to visit her, or unless she has a doctor’s appointment of some kind, her days are pretty much the same — normal. Each day is much like the day before.

So, while I suspect I will still sometimes wish life would go back to normal, my initial definition has broadened a bit. I don’t want “cookie-cutter” days. I realize now that, deep down, I don’t want that at all (at least not by the definition I initially had in mind!). I want days where there is the element of surprise. I want days where monotony is broken up by the unexpected — preferably good, of course! I want days when I’m surprised by the beauty of the sunrise or the sunset. Days when I’m caught off guard by the funny things my grandkids say. Days when I catch a glimpse of God working in my life and in the lives of others.

Ok, God . . . I Get the Point!

Living life around a three-year-old can be exhausting and entertaining, but it can also be educational. God seems to be using my grandson, Nate, to teach me a lot of life lessons lately. Take the most recent one, for example.

Nate and I were alone for a short time while his mom took his older sister to school. During the course of those 30 minutes, he brought a single piece of candy to me, asking me to unwrap it for him. As his grandma, it was tempting to give in to his request. But, knowing it was probably not the best “second” breakfast option and knowing his mom would strongly disapprove, I declined his request, promising him he could have it later. (As a side note, due to recent revelations of a heart health concern, we are working toward reducing his sugar intake severely. Much easier said than done this time of year!) Anyway, Nate apparently didn’t like my answer, because he promptly left the room and took it upon himself to unwrap the candy and eat it. I know because he came to me a few minutes later with chocolate on his sweet little sheepish-grinned face!

Now that he was thirsty, Nate then asked me to get him a drink. I told him I would if he could wait just a minute while I finished what I was doing. He obviously didn’t wait because the next thing I knew, I heard him frantically yelling from the kitchen, “Grandma, I need you!”

Wasting no time in getting to the kitchen, I quickly saw what had happened. This sweet little chocolate-covered-faced three-year-old had taken it upon himself to pour his own drink. The result: one cup on its side, juice all over the counter, and one little boy standing there frozen in place, not sure what to do. I thanked him for letting me know about the mess and reminded him that he should have waited. I then proceeded to clean up his mess while he (now more patiently) stood there waiting for his drink.

One lesson, twice taught, in the course of maybe five minutes. That morning it dawned on me that, very often, my responses to God’s answers to my requests are not much different than Nate’s responses were to me.

I don’t like it when I bring a request to God and he tells me I need to wait. On more than one occasion I’ve walked away and treated myself to it anyway. I’ve charged ahead with my own plan or agenda to make my request happen in MY time. Then, when everything backfires and I have a full-fledged mess on my hands, I run to God, yelling, “God, I need you.”

When that happens, I can almost hear God sigh as he lovingly takes my mess and begins the process of cleaning it up, all the while quietly whispering, “Cheryl, honey, we’ve been through this before — if only you could have waited just a little bit longer.”

Early Morning Wake-up Call

One morning last week, I woke up earlier than normal and was not happy about it. It wouldn’t have been too big a deal except for the fact I had gone to bed a lot later than normal — I mean A LOT later! After 30 minutes or so of seriously trying to fall back to sleep, I surrendered and got up to begin my morning routine, knowing that my afternoon was going to be a long one!

As I began my Bible reading and journaling, my mind wandered and began replaying a mental video of something that had happened nearly 29 years ago — something I had not thought about in a very long time. I paused to take in the scene.

Christmas, 1984. My husband and I and two young boys had made the trek from our home in Tennessee to visit our families in Indiana. One afternoon as the boys, ages 2 1/2 and 1, were napping on the couch, my father-in-law parked himself on the floor directly in front of them. After watching them sleep for the first few minutes, he then spent the better part of the next hour gently kissing their foreheads, wrapping their fingers around his, patting their backs, and holding their tiny little feet. As the mother of these 2 busy bees, I sat there anxiously praying that he would not wake them up. They desperately needed their rest and I desperately needed mine! My father-in-law, however, desperately needed to shower them with his all-consuming love and affection. It was almost as if he couldn’t stand even these few minutes apart from them.

I can picture him now, excitedly rubbing his two hands together in anticipation to nap time being over. He had things he wanted the boys to see; things to do. In his delight, he didn’t want to waste a precious minute with his two young grandsons. Oh, to be loved like that!

Then it hit me! Is it possible I am awake because God, in his great love and affection for me desperately had something he couldn’t wait to show me? Something he couldn’t wait to share with me? Something so exciting that it couldn’t wait a couple more hours? Had God spent the 3 hours I did manage to sleep waiting at my side until he couldn’t wait another moment? Had God been holding my hand as I slept? Had God curled my fingers around his forefinger, admiring this creation of his? What an exciting thought!

So I promptly opened my Bible and began reading where I had left off, settling on a verse I just know God placed there years ago for me to discover that morning. Although the verse God gave me that morning was from Jeremiah, let me share another one with you that will speak to all of us no matter the circumstances of our lives right now: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1) What love this one daughter felt during that early morning hour!

By the way, I did fall back to sleep for another hour. And what a peaceful, restful hour that proved to be!

And my father-in-law? He passed away a short 6 weeks later, not able to fight the pneumonia that had settled in his already diseased lungs.

Thank you, God, for giving me this mental video some 29 years ago to be replayed in this early morning hour, reminding me just how much you love me. Thank you, God, for your all-consuming love and affection for me.