Early Morning Dilemma
For years I’ve been in the habit of getting up early before my family wakes so I can have some focused time alone in the peace and quiet of the breaking dawn. I’m definitely a morning person and this is my favorite part of the day, time for prayer and reading and journaling. Time for listening to God.
But sometimes I notice that I’m more excited to hear from my blogging friends than I am to hear from God! And often the demands of my work seem more pressing and I’m tempted to go straight to the computer and begin answering emails, instead of to my cozy spot on the couch with my Bible and my buddy Reagan.
I’m sensing a problem here.
I do my best to resist the computer urge and make myself sit down with my Bible (and my coffee) as planned. Today, for awhile I just sat there, trying to talk with the Lord about this conflict. Every few seconds my mind would wander completely away from Him as I thought about a blog post, or an email that I needed to compose, or the stacks and stacks of work waiting to be done. I pondered what was so compelling about working as opposed to reading God’s word or talking to him. I realized I was allowing myself to be overwhelmed by the demands of my schedule, not trusting that God would provide the way for me to accomplish HIS purposes… if I would trust him with my time and my heart.
And aren’t there numerous times in life when we’re tempted to opt for what the “world” has to offer rather than what God wants to give us?
This has been a good reminder for me – it’s not just about working and blogging, it’s about life. It’s about the daily asking and answering of the question, “Am I going to seek first His kingdom, or not?” It’s not always our first choice – but will we do it anyway?
I wish I could end this post with some sort of uplifting denouement… “So I sat down and read my Bible and God spoke to me in amazing and powerful ways!”
I did spend some time in prayer and in the Word this morning. and I even enjoyed my reading. But I was distracted. I kept wanting to go to the computer. I felt guilty about my wandering mind.
And so I got up from the couch and started the day, vowing to pray without ceasing as I went through my tasks for the morning. And in the before-school madness of making breakfast, packing lunches, brushing hair and driving the carpool, my mind was cluttered and my thoughts drifted away from Him once again.
Rachelle Gardner is a Christian literary agent affiliated with WordServe Literary Group in Colorado.
>You are not alone in this struggle. I relate.
>Been there, done that, doing it…How about iPod Bible? Maybe I could move and listen if I can’t sit and read. . .
>Thanks, Rachelle. I'm so glad to know I'm not the only one. I thought I had an attention disorder or something.
Actually, I'm a "if you can't beat em, join em" kind of problem solver—I've been using Bible Gateway's online bible & one year knowing I'm going to be drawn to the computer anyway. A cool plus—us old people can blow the page up and see the words really good.
But distractability is a huge problem for me – it seems to have gotten much worse since the internet. I think our epidemic of distractability actually comes from being accustomed to everything being so instant. It affects everything we do, our lives have become dependent on the instant. Not only do we have less patience, but tasks constantly beckon to us because "instant" everything freed up more time, which we filled with more tasks.
Vicious cycle, eh?
>What a lovely and honest post. Thanks for sharing. I do the same. I get up earlier than the rest of the family looking for quiet time, only to often fill that time with thoughts of the daily tasks ahead. Thanks for the reminder that we need to trust that God will provide us with sufficient time and resources to do his will. A quiet morning is the best time to focus on God. Love your blog!
>I overslept this morning (actually, I just fell back asleep). I had an early commitment and thus missed my time with the Word. I didn’t feel guilty as much as I felt sad. I’d missed out on whatever the Lord might have shared with me. There will be something else tomorrow, of course, but today’s intimacy cannot be recaptured.
One morning I was struggling to get out of bed, and I heard the Word speak softly to me:
‘Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’
I remember leaping out of bed for a wonderful time with the Lord.
He is the Lover of our souls. Many of us write romance. It’s always a shame when we miss out on the most exquisite and romantic moments with Him.
>Well, I didn’t pick up on any idea that you were feeling guilty, Rachelle. Did I misread your post? I thought you were just that you want time alone with God but find yourself distracted.
I liked what NG said. I was going to suggest jotting down distracting topics that pop into your mind simply because that works for me. Once it’s on paper, it’s like my mind can then let it go.
The other thing that helps me with distractions is to start my prayer time with praise. Not thanks, praise to God for who He is, what He’s done, what He plans. When I start taking apart what it means that God is merciful, for example, it centers my thoughts on Him, and it puts my relationship with Him in perspective (in this case, how much I need His mercy).
>I think Kerry makes a good point. The Bible is not your only source for God’s Word. And if you spend too much time buried between the pages of the Bible, you might miss out on the multi-dimensional experience God provides. How do you know God’s not calling you out from your spiritual reflection?
Sure, we all need time alone to reflect and reconnect, but it’s possible to overdo it. We also need to embrace opportunities to act out God’s Love for and with others. You do this by taking loving care of your family, and you do this by connecting Christian writers with the reading public. These are very good acts indeed, whether or not a clear idea of God is constantly in the forefront of your mind as you are doing them.
Please cut yourself some slack. The Bible is best read as a guide to living a loving life in communion with others. Prayer should be to keep you spiritually whole. Neither one should become an instrument of guilt to isolate you from the rest of God’s Creation. They exist to strengthen your foundation as an instrument of Good in God’s world, a world you are meant to be a part of.
>I think you struck a nerve. Wow. Thanks for writing this today. You have no idea…
>Through time, God has always desired to have intimate times with us. And it is usually in the desert areas (quiet places where we can avoid the million other voices calling out to us) where God speaks. God spoke to Moses at Mt. Sinai, a true desert!
In those quiet places, we get into the posture of listening to God. Whether we hear Him or not, we want Him to find us there listening when He speaks. One word from God (eg. a scripture passage becoming rhema word)is better than a thousand days ambling aimlessly.
Take a piece of paper with you in that quiet place. Write down all the things that you have to do (which pops up in your mind)in that quiet place. Then put the paper down and give it back to God. Now that your mind is finally at rest, practice listening. For His sheep know His voice…
For when we speak, nothing much happens but when God speaks, the universe is formed.
>I fight the same battle every day. But I heard something yesterday that, if I can really absorb it, I think might help.
When asked why he worked so hard in his garden, a monk replied: “I work to eat. I eat to live. And I live to serve God.”
That kind of perspective on our work can keep us focused on the Kingdom.
>You said it well. Unfortunately, I know of what you speak.
>Thanks for that, Rachelle! I’m a morning person, but my hubby is a night owl, and he works long hours, so if I ever want to spend time with him, I end up night-owling it, so I don’t get up early even though I like to. When I do get up, it’s usually because my kids are up, and as I’m sure you know, it is impossible to have a QUIET time with kids awake! Usually I get them breakfast and let them watch Dora the Explorer so I have half an hour or so of alone-time for my Bible reading and memorizing and prayer before the insanity begins.
>Stop the guilt! God loves you and He knows you want to fellowship with Him, otherwise the lure of the computer/mail/newspapers/whatever, would not disturb you in the least. A wonderful book by Flora Slosson Wuellner: Prayer, Stress and our Inner Wounds (I don’t get commission on this!) teaches prayer and meditation methodologies that have helped free me from “supposed to do things a certain way” guilt.
Some of my best devotional times come from reading/praying through a set of Bible verses on cards tucked into my desk. Side note– they also come in handy when my A.D.D. nature kicks in and I need to re-focus on the tedious.
Lunch hour over, back to Corporate-ville, U.S.A.
>Kudos to you for even getting up early!
btw, the awesome thing is that He’s in us and with us throughout the whole day. I know it’s important to have quiet time fellowshipping with God, but then again, He doesn’t live in time.
The fifteen minutes (or whatever) probably means nothing to him.
But I think it’s awesome that you feel a sensitivity toward your priorities. I loved your post and it’s convicted me about my own mindsets. We must be willing to lay down our lives to follow him. In more ways than one. So, INCREDIBLE post. Raw and true. Thanks!
One of the things I appreciate about you and the blog is your honesty.
I’m soooo not a morning person, but my alarm goes off at 5:10 so I can arrive at my day job before 7:00. There’s no way I could sit upright any earlier in order read my Bible.
My solution has been to use my 45 minute commute to think, pray, and listen to the quiet or praise music.
I think it can be a struggle for not only morning people, but night owls, like myself, to be still and have time with God.
I know I “should” read my Bible and spend time in prayer in the evening before I go to bed, but it’s easy to get distracted by email, blogs, writing projects, family, and yes-even favorite TV shows. Before I know it, it’s almost midnight and the whole crazy schedule starts all over.
>I’m so not a morning person! My brain is too fuzzy to focus on important things then. I sit with my coffee and browse favourite blogs and check e-mail to gently gear up for the day. It’s in the late evenings when everything has wound down and the house is peaceful that I have my devotional time. There is nothing rushing me then and I’m free to bring the day’s happenings before God without distractions interfering.
I often go on to write for a couple more hours because nighttime seems to be my most creative time.
What I do won’t work for everyone, especially not those who reach the end of the day feeling bone weary and worn out. But it works for me.
Maybe there is a better time in your day’s schedule, too — perhaps a mid-morning coffee break quiet time, or the hour before your youngsters return home??? Whenever you choose to come to him he will be waiting.
Blessings to you,
>I’m always distracted with my quiet time at home. But I noticed that when I’m at a conference or a friend’s house, I can get in that much needed time without a wandering mind. Just this weekend, I spent time with a writing friend and had no problem with my Bible devotions. Then on the 5 hour ride home, I listened to an old conference tape. The speaker said she had her quiet time after taking the children to school. She sat in the driveway and read her Bible and prayed. It kept the home distractions away.
I’m wondering if a similar thing would work for all our distracted minds?
>It is so easy to let the world crowd God out of our lives. We have to make a conscious effort to stay focused on Him. And that’s not always easy.
>You’ve pegged something that haunts us all, I think. The pull of everything outside of God. Satan does his best to distract…he revels in it.
I have to literally put my computer in a different room so I can do my devotions in the morning. Or I have to go onto the patio alone.
So, presss on, Rachelle, I’ll be praying for you.
>Rachelle-I’ve never seen a post more spot on. I can relate to every word, and have exactly the same struggles. I came across a great CS Lewis quote on this very topic. “If we lay all the cards on the table, God will help us to moderate the excesses. But the pressure of things we are trying to keep out of our mind is a hopeless distraction. As someone said, ‘No noise is so emphatic as one you are trying to not to listen to.'” (Letters of Malcolm).
Thanks for laying all your cards on the table and God Bless!
>A picture paints a thousand words … it’s a dogs life. I wish I was a dog …
PS. That’s my sister Lydia posting a blog comment up there.
>You echoed my morning dilemma exactly. I have the same conflict each day with the same resolve that seems to disappear the moment I walk into my study. We can all pray for each other to sit and listen to the One who knows our day better than we do. Thank you for the reminder.
>Rachelle, thanks for the transparency. It sounds like we’re all (me included) in a time of real searching for God’s presence these days. But, isn’t it wonderful that we are children of a gracious, good, and loving Father who doesn’t judge His kids or condemn us for our own lack of “focus”?
He loves it when we take the opportunity to acknowledge Him during our day, including Him in our lives because we love Him and want Him to be involved. God isn’t looking for our works of devotion. They’re great for our growth, yes. But He wants relationship with us, and He doesn’t make us feel guilty in order to get it. We do that on our own.
In everything you do, just acknowledge Him and watch how He’ll guide your steps. And let your praying without ceasing be like a constant flow rather than a perpetual effort.
He’s good, He likes you, and He’s already made the way. 🙂
>Ouch…that touched a tender spot! Thanks for showing yourself as being just a normal person with imperfect areas, too.
I know that it’s a battle of my mind too. I find my mind ‘writing’ while sitting in church.
Thank you for reminding us to keep our priorities straight.
>Finding time to be alone with God is tough. My best times are also in the morning when I go walking at 5:00 a.m. It hasn’t gotten too cold yet to go outside in West Texas, perhaps Colorado is different this late in the year, but I find that if I physically remove myself from the source of the distractions, it is easier to focus on prayer. The quiet of the morning, the stars and moon glowing in the dark, pre-dawn sky – these draw my attention to God and help me focus on him.
My worst time of distraction is when I’m trying to put the kids down at bedtime. I find myself rushing through prayers and even occasionally telling them that we don’t have time for a Bible story. Sometimes it is because we are late and I know they need to get to sleep. But I must confess, more often it is because I know there’s a TV show on that I want to see. How skewed are those priorities?
I have found, though, that when I have an awareness of what I’m doing, it is the first step toward improving things. Now that I know I have a tendency to rush through bedtime, I plan ahead and remind myself of what is important. When I look at it away from the heat of the moment – it is clear that the spiritual development of my children hugely outweighs missing the first 15 minutes of CSI.
The Lord has brought this struggle to your awareness, Rachelle. And though you and I both will undoubtedly slip back into old habits on occasion, having this awareness will help us form new habits that will lead us to greater relationship with Him.
Blessings to you.
>Slinking away to do my Bible study…
>Although… I think that God speaks to us most often through people. So maybe as you’re trying to talk to him, he’s trying to talk back by directing you where to go to hear?
>Thank you for your honesty!
I think all of us struggle with the fact that the world gives us instant, sensory gratification in a way that God (usually) does not. I know that I too struggle with these same temptations and distractions, and it’s always nice to know I’m not alone. Thanks for the post!
>I’m definitely guilty of this. I think only the most highly disciplined individuals can get away with not being distracted by day to day living. I haven’t found the solution yet. I need to. Your thoughts have inspired me to dig out a new bible study and get started on it.
Thanks for being an encourager just by sharing your heart.
>I am so with you on this. I start out with good intentions to read God’s Word before I begin my day, but inevitably I end up rushing headlong into the day with merely a whispered “please keep me today, Lord” prayer. And I feel guilty as I am rushing that I am not really starting my day with the Lord as I should; instead, I am trying to wake myself up enough to drive the 45 minutes to work so I can “minister” to the young people I will see that day. I am needing the discipline to spend time with God instead of worrying about the time it will take for me to get to work. I have to admit that I am not a morning person but I am hoping God will help me with this too.
>I got your link from my sister, and she said please go and look at her blog ………. well what can I say, it was like ready my own mind and hearing my own thoughts! You are not alone in this struggle of trying to spend time with the Lord and find yourself in front of the computer or thoughts flying all over the place. I long so to get to the point where I can really just rest in Him in perfect peace. Blessings to you Rachel for reminding me what is important and far above what we imagine!
Lydia – South Africa
>I could have written this post, Rachelle.
I get up at the hour of a dairy farmer (and go to bed at the hour of a six-year-old) in order to write. Previously I’d skim through some devotionals before turning to my email, blog or writing. Oops.
So just this past week, I made it my goal to open Bible Gateway, my Max Lucado devotional, my own Bible, and the devotional site of a writer friend before I start my writing—to spend time meditating on God’s Word before turning to my own lowly ones.
It’s not easy and it’s not my best prayer time, for all my love of early morning. So I pray while driving, but mostly in my storage closet at work on my lunch break, a room bigger than it sounds but cluttered with xylophones and music stands. Who says there’s no prayer in public schools? 😉
>Great post Rachelle! Especially since it’s 5:00 a.m., and I’m in front of a computer screen instead of my Bible. I hate to admit it, but work is the first thing I think about when I wake up, and my prayer time comes second. Thanks for reminding me that I have my priorities a little backwards! Guess it times for a break…
Would you please clarify something for me? Regarding fantasy, aside from other-world oriented settings such as Lion, Witch, Wardrobe and Lord of the Rings, how would you classify a Christian World View Novel which includes supernatural powers in this world? For example, if within a relevant setting of the story, someone acquired supernatural powers by way of putting on a pair of glasses or a pair of gloves which gave them a corresponding power such as seeing the future or using their hands to heal instead of harm, and if these powers coincided with Biblical truths,revealing these truths to the character and leading him to acknowledge God, would this kind of a novel be considered as fantasy genre? Accordingly, would this kind of writing be something you are or or are not looking for?