Going Through the Motions
I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre. (Psalms 43:4)
My mouth will speak wisdom, the meditation of my heart shall be understanding. I will incline my ear to a proverb; I will solve my riddle to the music of the lyre.(Psalms 49:3-40)
For years now I have been using the 365 One Word commitment instead of making New Year’s resolutions and this year I adopted the word mindful. I was led to mindful after spending 2018 trying to be bold. Bold led me to say yes to things I wouldn’t normally commit to and to step out of my comfort zone more often than I usually would. But, by the end of the year I was finding myself going through the motions in my relationships, worship, work, and life. I was doing things but I was checked out mentally and emotionally. I wasn’t truly present in the moment. It was as if I was driving a familiar road reaching my destination but not really knowing how I got there.
In late December, God began laying several words on my heart -balance, present, engaged and mindful. Like an ice cube at the bottom of a glass of water, mindful began rising to the top of my word list. It surfaced to the top partially because I could empower other words by putting mindful in front of them. Mindfully present. Mindful running. Mindful study. Mindful eating. Mindful worship.
Mindful worship. There are so many times I have sat in attendance at church but didn’t truly worship. I wish I could say it only happened once or twice a month, but I would be lying. Months, or maybe even years, have passed with me being physically present in worship but not mindfully engaged.
In our scripture passages today the Psalmist challenges us to be mindfully present in our worship. Tucked in these verses are some guidelines for how to have mindful worship with God.
First, we are to go (Psalms 43:4). Our modern day altar of God is church. Just as the Israelites had to go to the Temple to worship at the altar of God, we need to go to church.
Second, we are to praise God in song (Psalms 43:4, 49:4). Music is the highway to our souls. It is the access point that opens our heart to hear the Lord. Let the words of the songs and the sound of the music move your heart to mindful remembrance of God’s goodness to you this week (Psalms 43:4, 45:17).
Thirdly, we are to listen (Psalms 49:3). Listen to the wisdom of the scripture. Incline your heart to what God wants you to hear from the scripture. Worship is not about the one delivering the message, it is about the Message.
Lastly, we are to share (Psalms 49:3). Use the truths God teaches you to strengthen someone else. Speak up in a small group Bible study and share your insights. Too shy to share? Write a card and share a verse. Drop a note and offer a prayer. Give a hug and whisper a word of encouragement.
When we go the altar of God this week, let’s purpose in our hearts to engage in mindful worship
I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. You have tried by heart, you have visited me by night, you have tested me, and you will find nothing; I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress. Psalms 16:7-8, 17:3
I don’t know about you but I feel like one of the greatest sacrifices I have ever made was sleep. It was not chocolate, coffee, or Netflix, it was sleep. I have always been a sleep needy person. I routinely went to bed by 11:00 PM in college. I often slept late on Saturdays. Less than eight hours of sleep at night resulted in a miserable twelve hour day for me and anyone close to me. I thrived best on nine to ten hours of sleep a night.
Oh to be young and single again!
These days I am lucky to get seven fairly decent hours of sleep a night. Dating a night owl was the first dent in my sleep armor. Staying up late to be with my sweetheart became the new norm for me. Marriage brought the next chink in my armor of slumber with the ending of my quiet uninterrupted night of sleep. The third fissure in my weakening armor protected sleep was motherhood. The cries of hungry infants and sick children wreaked havoc on my sleep cycle. Gone were the days of long stretches of deep undisturbed dream-filled sleep. Shallow, light, always listening sleep took up residence instead. Middle age brought the final blow to my ability to sleep well at night. Between night sweats, bathroom breaks and insomnia, I have come to the conclusion that eight hours of sleep at night is no longer a necessity, but a luxury reserved for vacations and illness.
I have spent many nights fighting against the invasions on my sleep by pounding my pillow, tossing and turning, letting out deep sighs, staring at a dark ceiling wishing for sleep to magically appear, I have wept quietly in my pillow pleading for just enough sleep to make it through the next day. My sleep battles were usually focused on regaining the ground that was being lost to awakenings. I didn’t think of the interruptions as divine appointments with God.
Our verses today tell us that God often speaks to us at night. He whispers into our hearts through our dreams at night. He awakens us with sudden thoughts of inspiration or words of conviction. He arouses us to pray for those who need us to intercede for them. There is something special about the night. Our most intimate conversations happen in the dark. The darkness of night frees us to share what we hide from each other during the day. We are most vulnerable at night. Nighttime makes us still. Nighttime heightens our senses. Nighttime makes us receptive. Nighttime is often when God speaks.
The question is will we listen? Will we stop fighting the interruptions of our sleep at night and embrace them instead? Will we re-frame those middle of the night disruptions into divine encounters? Will we use those moments of insomnia to make ourselves available to God for inspiration, conviction or intercession? Will we let God interrupt our sleep?
Maybe the sacrifice of sleep is actually a gift of worship offered up to God in the wee hours of the night.
Between a husband, 2 sons, and teaching high school my sanity is found in running and Starbucks. I have a circle of running friends who inspire me to be authentic and real as I live a life of faith before them.