Grace in the Routine

gracePeople, trust God all the time. Tell him all your problems, because God is our protection.  (Psalm 62:8)

Ponder It.

  • What parts of your daily routine would you not want to do without?
  • What would you like to incorporate more into your routine?
  • What is God’s perspective of your routine?

Receive It. God’s grace is reliable. God is trustworthy and anything that is of God is trustworthy. God cannot be anything other than trustworthy because it is his character. Grace is God’s, and we can rely on it. Our trust in and reliance on God’s grace often waxes and wanes, but it’s not because grace itself shifts. It’s because we are unreliable. We bend. We move. We stand still. We run. We walk. We sit. We hide. We seek. But God’s is unfailing. God’s grace is unfailing and unchanging.

The most reliable parts of our lives turn into our routines. We brush our teeth at a certain time, we set aside certain times to sleep, we take medications throughout our routines, go to work, eat meals, and so on, all on a schedule. Yes, we’re usually flexible in our routines, but there are common threads that work throughout our days. We can quickly take our routines for granted, assuming we’ll be able to sleep at night, assuming we have a consistent job, assuming nothing major will come along to rock our world and disrupt our routine in overwhelming, long-lasting ways. But really, our routines can and will differ. Your routine of today is not the same as your routine of 10 years ago, 20 years ago, or 30 years ago.

God’s grace is unchanging. You can rely on the routine of God’s grace. God will not pull his grace out from under you. In fact, God wants you to not only stand firmly on his grace but also be wrapped in and covered by his grace. God wants his grace to permeate every area of your life so that you respond out of his grace.

Live It. Consider what constitutes your routine. How can you see God’s grace working throughout your routine? Acknowledge God’s grace and apply it throughout your routine. If you have trouble focusing on God’s grace throughout the day, consider humming or singing Amazing Grace throughout your “routine” moments.

Our Love/Hate of Daily Requirements

indexSo David left Asaph and his relatives there before the ark of the Lord’s covenant to minister regularly before the ark according to the daily requirements. (1 Chronicles 16:37)

What are our “daily requirements”?

We all have them. We might look at others’ daily requirements, including those we observe at different times, different cultures, or different beliefs, and we declare them silly, unimportant, oppressive, or irrational. But we all have them, even if we don’t listen to God and rely on Him to determine them for us.

Even if we do listen to God for our daily requirements, we don’t necessarily see them as a blessing or honor. At times, we still feel as if they are silly, unimportant, oppressive, or irrational, even as we choose to follow them. Of course, sometimes we reject them. Perhaps it’s simply the fact that they are consider as “requirements” that we don’t like. We rebel against what is expected of us, especially in our independent culture. We don’t want anyone to boss us, including God, even when He is determining something that grows and helps us.

Our feelings about daily requirements don’t determine their worth. What God says about them does. Perhaps it’s not really the daily requirements in and of themselves that are nearly as important as our faithful discipline and trust that God knows how to lead well, even when we don’t understand.

Of course, we need to discern whether God is determining daily requirements, we are following tradition that no longer applies, or we are following people who we might respect and to whom the requirements might have made sense for them personally at some point but doesn’t determine our own faithful obedience.

Discernment is always key. Following isn’t about an established pattern but a firm faithfulness, whether God keeps our routine the same but grows us through it or changes our routine but reveals His own and our faithfulness through the changes.

Discernment is a daily requirement.

Lesson from Nature: The Invitation to Savor

©PurePurpose.org
©PurePurpose.org

There’s always an empty chair, waiting for you, inviting you to savor God’s presence.

We often settle into our routines and drive right by, perhaps glancing at the view but not seeing the chair with our name on it for that moment. We miss out.

We long for time in that chair, a moment to breathe and look around at the beauty and feel the breeze. Yet, sometimes, we don’t get the time we need…the time God extends to us…because we rush by. We don’t accept the invitation. We either ignore it or reject it. And we miss out.

God misses us, too.

Sure, He is always present, so in a sense, He can’t miss us because He’s with us. But haven’t you ever missed someone while sitting beside or across from him or her? When someone isn’t fully present when you’re together, it’s as if you’re not really together. It’s that way with God. Just because He’s with us doesn’t mean we’re with Him.

Maybe you don’t believe God is calling you to sit and savor right now. But maybe you need to open your ears and eyes. Take a breath. Wait a moment. Listen. Watch. Pay attention. If you’ve gotten used to ignoring or refusing God’s invitation, it’s not quite as easy to hear.

I will listen to what God will say; surely the LORD will declare peace to His people, His godly ones, and not let them go back to foolish ways.  (Psalm 85:8)

 

Fit Faith: Interval: Lost Bridge Trail

I have a favorite trail. I don’t get to walk it very often, because it’s almost an hour from home. It was built on an old railroad route. It’s straight and flat, which might not seem appealing to many, but the foliage is beautiful. Trees gently bend over the trail to make a canopy in many places. People who maintain the trail do an exceptional job of keeping the side foliage trimmed, so it’s not obstructive, which also clears the way to notice birds, squirrels and chipmunks beside and skittering across the trail.

One of the reasons I enjoy the trail so much is the memories I associate with it. My oldest daughter and I have walked it many times together. Even now that she doesn’t live at home, we try to find time to revisit it every now and then. We enjoy the length of the walk, talking along the way, and taking a short detour to our favorite restaurant for a break.

Another reason I enjoy it is that it’s not my usual routine. If I walked it every day, I don’t think I’d notice as many details. I don’t think I’d appreciate the sunlight filtering through the tree tops or the variegated colored-leaves fluttering in the breeze. I might not notice the pattern of wood on the floor of the bridge or the small pools of water in the tunnel. I might not find as much thrill in the small chipmunks, which I don’t usually see on my regular walking route. And even when I walk the same distance, I don’t feel the same sense of accomplishment when I finish one of my regular routes.

Interval training usually has to do with short bursts of activity alternated with longer, more enduring work. For me, I consider my Lost Bridge Trail walks as interval training in a bigger picture sort of way. My regular walks are the longer, more enduring workouts. My Lost Bridge Trail walks include a different focus. I push myself in a different way along that long stretch of flat path. As much as I push myself, I intentionally look around and enjoy the sights and sounds. It gives me refreshment in my overall fitness. My body might be tired when I’m done, but I am rejuvenated.

Refresh my heart in Christ. (Philemon 1:20)

We must seek refreshment, not just physical but spiritual. In order to gain refreshment, we often feel exhausted through the process, but it’s an exhaustion due to pursuit and effort. It’s satisfying even with the sore and tired muscles, physical and spiritual.

What can you do today to differ your routine and invite refreshment?

Let’s not define refreshment selfishly. We don’t seek refreshment because we need things to go our way. We get tired of routine, and we think there should always be adventure and newness for us. That’s not the case. Commitment is important in our relationship with God. However, we can have variety within our commitment. You don’t read just one Scripture over and over day after day. You don’t say the exact same thing every time you pray. Every sermon you hear is not the same.

Appreciate the routine by putting a twist on your routine. If you have a committed place for your morning prayers or Bible study, take a break and go to a park or coffee shop. Visit another church to hear a different speaker and experience different music.

You don’t have to like every new thing you try. You also don’t have to compare it to what you’re used to. You can appreciate it for what it is. You can consider it in the larger picture of your spiritual growth and appreciate how God uses a variety to challenge and nourish you. Open your eyes, ears and heart and be attentive to what he wants to give you through varied experiences. He will always be present and never be silent.

In the process, you might find that special place, where you can visit occasionally and get rejuvenated, even if it takes effort to reach and complete.

Fit Faith: Flexibility: Location, Location, Location

There’s something to be said about consistency. However, the reality is things will never be exactly the same. It’s important to infuse some flexibility into consistency. Doing something the same every single time has limited benefits. Trying new stretches or exercises will quickly reveal weaknesses even if you’re strong in your areas of consistent workout. Trying something new gives you a fresh perspective. You never know when you’ll find something new you’ll enjoy. You never know when you won’t like something new but gain an appreciation for your routine.

I travel often, but not consistently. I enjoy the adventure of traveling and meeting new people in new places, but travel disrupts my fitness routine. I don’t travel regularly enough to have an established routine while travelling. The closest I come to an established fitness routine while travelling is a determination to work out in some way. The details of the workout differ.

If there’s a safe place to walk outside, and the weather is decent, it’s my preference. I get to enjoy being outside and exploring a new location. However, that option usually doesn’t exist. My second option is the treadmill in the hotel fitness room. Depending on my available hours and those of the fitness room, that doesn’t work all the time either. If I foresee a problem finding a time and location to work out, I put an exercise DVD in my laptop case to use in the hotel room.

I’ve been creative. I’ve worked out with friends in the hallway outside the main convention room late at night. I’ve circled the hotel, going up the stairs on one side of the building and down the escalator on the other. I bought a one-week pass to gym. There have been a few times I haven’t been able to find the time or opportunity to exercise, but it’s not for lack of trying! The flexibility has almost become a challenge. How can I creatively find a time and location to work out in an unfamiliar location?

It’s equally important to infuse flexibility into consistency in all things spiritual. There’s definitely something to be said for routine. When we consistently work prayer, study, and service into our lives, we grow, but we have to be authentic about it. Being consistent doesn’t presume spiritual growth. You can be consistently stubborn, self-centered, and wrong! What’s critical in consistency is the desire to seek and know God.

We can get into such regimented routines that we don’t stop to process and savor the journey. Infusing some flexibility can help.

Consider how flexible you are. If you have a designated time for prayer every day, what happens when your routine is interrupted, either predictably or unexpectedly? Do you excuse the change as a valid reason for shifting priorities? How much effort goes into rearranging your schedule to accommodate the change?

If you miss your prayer time, assess the remainder of your day as early as you can find the first possible time to shift your prayer time into. If you know your schedule will be altered ahead of time, you have time to plan.

When you miss a small group meeting, perhaps two, do you rationalize you’re too far behind and decide not to return? You don’t have to be perfect. No one is. We should strive to establish solid, healthy routines, so we can grow spiritually. However, we need to be realistic. Missing one or two studies, prayer times, or worship services doesn’t mean we can’t be consistent. We need to widen our perspective and see the larger picture.

We’re going to be consistent at something. Would you prefer to be consistent in your discipline or lack of it?

Vacation from God

We anticipate vacations. We plan for them, deciding where we want to go, where we can realistically go, how we’ll get there, how long we’ll be gone, what we’ll do when we’re there (even if it’s nothing), and when we’ll return home to real life (sigh).

How strategic are we about including God in our vacations?

If we’re not intentional about it, we’ll take a vacation from God. Well, that’s not exactly true. Of course, God is present no matter where we are, but we can easily ignore his presence. Perhaps you mainly run to God during the trials of life. When you take a vacation, you escape the daily reminders of those trials. Your need for God slips from your mind as well. Or perhaps you have solid habits of prayer and Bible study. When you take a vacation, you’re away from your daily routine, including the prompts to seek and trust God with the details of your life.

I’m not suggesting you spend your entire vacation holed in your resort with your nose in God’s Word (although I feel a sense of comfort and longing as I type the idea!). You can vacation in God’s presence while enjoying where you are and the people with whom you’re travelling. Try these simple ideas:

  • Get out of your routine. Replace your usual prayer time with a stroll or hike. Press pause on your current Bible study and pick up a new devotional.
  • Start a new routine. If you struggle with establishing a routine at home, resolve to begin one away from home. Get up a few minutes earlier than everyone else and steal away for a committed time between you and God. Keep it simple, so you’re more likely to continue the pattern once you return home, even if you have to make a few modifications.
  • Savor the wonder of your location. Intentionally look for God in whatever you’re doing every day of your vacation. Perhaps you’re in a beautiful location. Perhaps you see people enjoying themselves. Perhaps you meet new people. Perhaps you have moments of quiet when everything around you stills. Glorify God in all you do.

I’m sure you can come up with additional ideas. You know your routine. You know your spiritual needs (but not better than God knows them). Be intentional in planning a vacation with God. He can teach you some astounding lessons and give you clear insight when you seek his presence away from your routine.

And here’s one more challenge: Plan a vacation with God. Plan a time away from your routine with the sole purpose of connecting with God and savoring his presence. It doesn’t have to be an expensive, week-long vacation. It can be an afternoon at the park. You don’t have to physically be still. You can walk, boat, or bike. You can write. You can read and speak God’s Word. Be spiritually still. When you intentionally seek God, you will find him. He will rain peace on you. He will challenge you to action. He will give you just want you need. But you must run to him. He’s ready.

But as for me, God’s presence is my good. I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, so I can tell about all You do. (Psalm 73:28)

Life On Demand

We live in an on-demand society. We have a lot of options, so we can typically have what we want when we want it. I wonder how on-demand impacts our discovery.

I have favorites at various coffee shops. I usually choose hot chocolate or iced tea since I’m not a coffee drinker. I know what I like at my most frequented shops, Starbucks and Panera. While I was traveling recently, Coffee Bean was more convenient. I like Coffee Bean, but there are none around where I live. I decided to take advantage of the opportunity and try something I couldn’t get at one of my favorite places. I told the server I wanted some sort of iced tea and a muffin and asked what she recommended.

Done.

I didn’t demand; I discovered. And I liked it! I went again the next day and got a different muffin and a different iced tea. A group of people celebrated together later that night, and I tried yet another flavor of iced tea – and discovered Coffee Bean has frozen yogurt. Of the available flavors, I ordered the one different from my default setting.

How can I find out what I like if I don’t try new things?

It’s just as important to discover what we don’t like as it is to discover what we do. In fact, it’s often not about our likes and dislikes at all. That’s the end result, but the process is often equally, if not more, important. Discovery is the process.

We can’t demand discovery. We can only seek it.

Consider the “usuals” in your life. Walk through your routine.

  • What is your typical drink order? When and why did your current “on demand” begin?
  • Where do you take your car to be serviced? When and why did your current “on demand” begin?
  • Where do you shop for groceries? When and why did your current “on demand” begin?
  • Where do you attend worship services? When and why did your current “on demand” begin?
  • Where do you meet with friends? When and why did your current “on demand” begin?

At some point, you had to discover something new. Perhaps you accepted advice or began a routine by default. Making no decision is still making a decision.

What you demand tomorrow is today’s discovery.

Be intentional. Pay attention to the “whys” of your “whats.” God created you with purpose. He created you to think and interact with the world around you. Put the two together and intentionally discover his purpose, one adventure at a time.

Dear friend, listen well to my words;  tune your ears to my voice.  Keep my message in plain view at all times.  Concentrate! Learn it by heart!  Those who discover these words live, really live;  body and soul, they’re bursting with health. Proverbs 4:20-22 (The Message)

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