Monday was tough. We had a great weekend with friends in Chicago watching Cubs baseball, eating amazing food and seeing the downtown through the eyes of first time visitors. It was fabulous. But by Sunday evening I felt pretty tough. And not tough like, “I can do it all with one arm behind my back” but rather tough like, “I think I have contracted a flesh eating disease!” I struggle with an ongoing health issue and, even though I was tired, I couldn’t sleep in the car. My body felt like it was turning into a blob of slimy goop, I didn’t know if my legs would hold me up anymore and I was sure my brain was locking up.  Pretty much I felt bad.

Monday morning came too soon but I managed to get to the kitchen, make coffee and some breakfast. The coffee was good. The breakfast was bad. I threw it away. I stumbled through laundry, ate lunch with my husband, tried to take a nap.

I effectively ignored the every day disciplines that help me stay sane. I danced around my usual quiet time. I thought about checking into Barre3 online. But it wasn’t until late in the day that I actually did any of those things. Putting off the daily practices that help me stay centered and balanced wasn’t a good idea. Don’t misunderstand me — I know how to be gracious to myself when I am not feeling well. I no longer have to push through illness or pain to run 8 miles. There is an immense difference between not showing yourself grace and taking care of myself mentally, physically and spiritually.

My daily practices help to calm the chaos that so easily swirls in my head. Sitting quietly with a cup of coffee and a breakfast that feeds my soul as well as my body gives me impetus to face the day with confidence. A time of quiet scripture reading and listening to what Jesus wants to say about my day fills me with joy and strength to live life on purpose. Moving my body and stretching my muscles allows me to face the challenges of life with confidence and strength. Reflecting over my day as I lie in bed at night, giving thanks for God’s presence in my day and listening to his voice as I drift to sleep, helps me rest well. These daily practices empower me and remind me I am a beautiful and treasured daughter of the King.

My motivation to keep daily practices at the forefront used to be approval. I wanted to please God and to do what he expected. Certainly he expects a daily quiet time with plenty of prayer, scripture reading and journaling. It reminds me of a story.

There once was a couple who loved deeply and were married. Every morning the husband prepared a TO DO list for his wife. At the end of the day he checked to see if it was finished. Too many days the list was only partially completed and some days nothing on the list was accomplished. With a face of disappointment and judgment, the husband reminded his wife that if she loved him then tomorrow the list would be done. Fearing disapproval and filled with shame, the wife worked harder to accomplish all he asked of her. But life seemed to get in the way, drawing her attention away from the TO DO list.

After many years, the husband died and the wife remarried. Certain that her new husband would also have a list for her, she asked timidly what he would like her to do? Her new husband beamed at her, told her how much he loved her and wrapped her in a firm embrace before leaving for work. This was new to her. She busied herself with her work, actually looking forward to dinner with her husband. When they sat down to eat they enjoyed fellowship over a simple meal, talked about their experiences during the day and spent a quiet evening together. After some time the happy couple decided to move to a different city and in preparation for moving the wife sorted through boxes stored away in the attic. Opening box after box filled with memories, the wife gasped as she came upon the TO DO lists from her first husband. She had forgotten she saved them but as she read, tears flowed down her cheeks and splashed onto her shirt. She remembered the shame she felt at never being able to finish the list. She remembered how hard she tried to do what he wanted. Then with sudden joy and a burst of overwhelming love for her present husband, she realized that without being asked, she was doing everything on the lists. Because he loved her so deeply, she responded in love as well and gladly served him.

You are the BRIDE of CHRIST – no matter if you are male or female. (I didn’t say that – scripture does.) What does your bridegroom, Jesus, expect of you?

Maybe you see God like the first husband with a TO DO list in hand. When we adopt daily practices because we think God is keeping track of our good deeds and will be disappointed if we don’t finish the list, our lives will be filled with shame. Hostility develops toward the one giving us the list. This may be ourselves or a well-meaning pastor, friend, spouse, etc. Intimacy does not develop when forced.

Maybe you know God’s deep unconditional love for you. When we adopt daily practices because we understand how deeply God loves us and wants to be in fellowship with us, we begin looking forward to moments of quiet over a cup of coffee reflecting on the possibilities of the day. Spending moments reading scripture has new meaning – it is God’s love letter to us.

Maybe you are somewhere between the two. I encourage you to keep taking steps toward Jesus. “He is gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For his yoke is easy to bear, and the burden he gives you is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)

I don’t know what your daily practices look like. I have a friend who feels closest to God when he is hiking in the mountains. For others, it might be sitting by a stream or in a special chair in your living room, walking on the beach or doing yoga or ballet. It might be listening to music or lighting a candle. Too many times we have been told that quiet time with God looks just one way. When I think about the ways God met with people in scripture I realize there isn’t just one place or one way. He met with Adam and Eve in the garden, with Joseph in prison, with Moses on a mountain, with Joshua on the plain outside of Jericho, with Jeremiah in a cistern, with Joseph and Mary at night through an angel, with Saul on the road, Peter on the rooftop and John on an island.

He is waiting to meet with you and has some exciting news for you to hear.

Isaiah 55:3 “Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life.”

Psalm 5:3 “Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.”

Psalm 63:6 “I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night.”

Be creative. Be spontaneous. Be genuine. Be YOU!

Until next time…

May the Lord bless you and protect you.

May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.

May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.

Numbers 6:24-26

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