The earlybird almost gets eaten by a cat

February 25, 2010

I know it’s now nearly the end of week 4, but as I didn’t update you last week I will cast my mind back to give you a full progress report.

I think I prayed more during week 3 than I’ve done for a long time. Every day I was confronted with the news that a friend was suffering in some way; a sudden heart attack, a death in the family, the loss of a little baby. Such tragedies leave us feeling helpless, our words of comfort sound like empty platitudes, our gestures fall dismally short of the love needed to heal broken hearts. It was such a relief to be able to use my quiet times to bring these dear friends before the LORD, and to know that though I couldn’t help them, they were in the hands of One who could. As I read a psalm each morning the LORD brought me to verses I could text to my friends to offer encouragement and comfort. It’s also been a privilege to see God answering my prayers and upholding those folks in their sadness.  I experienced that sweet peace that we can feel when we cast our cares (and the cares of others) on Him.

I also faced a dilemma in the last week. I went away over the weekend to visit Simeon and his family, which meant a change to my routine. I found myself worrying about how I would keep my quiet times up if I was getting up at different times and if there were more people in the house. Thankfully I was reminded of Carolyn Mahaney’s wise words about our faith being in a Saviour not in a system! I had a quiet time in the morning on days when it was convenient, and enjoyed a time of prayer with Simeon on the other days.

The last morning of my visit, I had company for my quiet time. The household cat decided to join me, curling up in my lap on the bed, purring fervently as I read Psalm 18 aloud. It was lovely to stroke the cat and listen to her responding to the sound of her Creator’s words. However, a problem occurred when I came to the end of my quiet time. Rasta (the cat) had made her way down to sit on my feet whilst I prayed, so when I attempted to get out of bed, Rasta felt the sheets moving beneath her and took it to be an attack upon her person, and responded with claws and spitting! Needless to say I kept my distance for the rest of the day, though perhaps she was trying to tell me I hadn’t prayed enough!     

Only a few more days to go until the 28 day challenge is over! Will I be able to keep up the habit? We’ll have to wait and see, but one thing is for sure, I know “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:13


Pray on

February 12, 2010

“Mighty to Save” Isaiah 63:1

“Christ is not only ‘mighty to save’ those who repent, but He is able to make men repent. He will carry those to heaven who believe; but He is, moreover, mighty to give men new hearts and to work faith in them. He is mighty to make the man who hates holiness love it, and to constrain the despiser of His name to bend the knee before Him….Believer, here is encouragement. Art thou praying for some beloved one? Oh, give not up thy prayers, for Christ is ‘mighty to save.’ You are powerless to reclaim the rebel, but your Lord is Almighty. Lay hold on that mighty arm and rouse it to put forth its strength…Whether to begin with others, or to carry on the work in you, Jesus is ‘mighty to save;’ the best proof of which lies in the fact that He has saved you.” Charles Spurgeon


The earlybird closes in on the worm

February 12, 2010

So I’ve made it to the end of my second week as part of the 5 o’clock club, there’s our first miracle right there! It’s certainly been a week of ups and downs! First, let me take you back to last Saturday – which sadly is the low point in this post.

 As it was my first Saturday on a new quiet time plan, I hadn’t really considered how it would work on my day off when I didn’t have a structure to my morning. I had found that getting up an hour earlier was taking its toll and I was in need of a lie-in by Saturday. So I didn’t set my alarm, and spent a pleasant extra two hours in bed (I didn’t want my duvet to feel neglected did I?). When I got up, I thought I’d try a different routine for my weekend and decided to have a relaxed morning and have my quiet time in the evening.

Any of you who are morning quiet time regulars will be having an experience right about now similar to when you watch a horror film and you find yourself shouting “Don’t go in there!” at the TV. In hindsight, I can now see that this was my first mistake.

That evening, I flopped into bed and was about to snuggle down, when I remembered that I had planned to have my quiet time before going to bed. I thought to myself “I’ve got church tomorrow, I’ll just spend some time praying for the preacher and then I’ll go to sleep”. This was my second mistake. I then swiftly proceeded to my third mistake, which was to stay in my bed under the covers and close my eyes. My prayer went something like this “Dear Lord, I pray…..I pray that…. that you would, erm, ………………zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz”. Oh dear! I woke up after dosing for about 15 minutes, and was sufficiently cross with myself for failing to stay awake for a few minutes to speak to my Father. I clearly wasn’t going to win this battle with tiredness, so I said a hasty prayer of repentance for my foolish decisions, and allowed my heavy eyelids to close.

I’m glad to say that I learnt an important lesson from this episode. The lesson is that I am lazy and am very good at tricking myself into thinking I’m not!  I understnad what Jeremiah meant when he wrote “The heart is deceitful above all things”.

With my lesson learned, I entered a new week determined not to make the same mistake again, and knowing that only by God’s grace could I avoid it.

With the LORD’s help I’ve stuck to my normal routine, and managed to get up every day at 6:45am, and have a very beneficial quiet time. Joni Eareckson Tada’s book has been really helpful and I’ve been really encouraged by the posts of the Girl Talk blog. I’m also really thankful for Rhian, my co-worker and co-club member who has text me every morning with encouragements and who I’ve been able to share my experiences with as the week’s gone on.

I must confess that I am struggling a little with tiredness. I’ve not been getting to bed as early as I should this week, and as the week’s gone on I’ve needed more strength from the LORD to get out of bed when the alarm rings. But it’s all part of the adjustment, and my continuing left eyelid twitch serves as a reminder to get myself tucked up at a reasonable hour each night.

One of the great benefit of getting up earlier and having a properly structured quiet time is I am seeing more and more things to thank God for. I’m able to pray consistently for friends and family, and I can enter each day knowing that I’ve sought the LORD’s forgiveness and that I’ve left my burdens at His feet. It is TOTALLY worth the discomfort of a changed routine.

So as we enter week three, and I aim to extend my quiet time to getting up at 6:30am, I’m praying that the LORD will help me to keep savouring our time together like He does.

I’ll end with an exhortation from Rhian: “Praise his wonderful name!”


Earlybird week 1

February 5, 2010

For the first week I’ve set myself the target time of 7am. Now, you may think that I should be disqualified from a club that has 5am in the title, but the idea is just to go for a time that is early for you, and 7am is early for me! I tried 6:45am today and managed it….baby steps!

I’ve gotten into the habit of rolling out of bed with just enough time to shower, dress, grab my belongings and fall out the door. I work at an office 5 minutes walk from my front door so it’s easy for me to sleep in until 8:15am and still make it to work with a little time to spare.

Since Monday I’ve been setting my alarm for 7am. I pray the night before that God would give me the strength to throw off the covers, and I read a chapter of Acts before going to sleep so that my last thoughts are ones of how the early church served God with all they had.

When 7am arrives, my alarm goes off loud and clear. I open my eyes and turn on my bedside lamp, then I snooze my alarm. Don’t panic, it’s part of the plan! I’ve set it to snooze for just one minute and to only snooze once, and that minute gives me time to get used to the light and to being awake. When that minute is over, my alarm sounds again and I get out of bed.

My first act is to wash my face, before heading downstairs to my early morning friend, the kettle. Whilst the kettle is boiling I try to perform some small household duty like putting away dried dishes or hanging out laundry, instead of standing there listening to the kettle bubbling like a zombie. I make a cup of tea, then head back upstairs to my bedroom where I settle myself for some quality Father-Daughter time with the LORD.

I begin with a short prayer that I’ll stay awake, before turning to a Psalm to focus my mind. I’ve been reading a book by Joni Eareckson Tada called ‘31 days towards Passionate Faith’; the chapters are short and to the point, giving one helpful thought for the day. I try to carry that thought through into my prayer time as I write my list of things to bring before God. I know that if I just prayed without a structure to follow my mind would soon wander off and start planning to clean the fridge or to take swing dance lessons!  I keep a prayer journal, and split my prayer into four categories; Sorry, Thanks, Others, Please. I also try to jot down the point from Joni’s book and a verse from my Psalm each morning to help me remember. I bring it all before my Heavenly Father and when I’m done, my normal morning routine begins.

This first week has not been without it’s problems; a few late nights and fitful sleeps resulted in a somewhat sleepier Lowri arriving at work each day. On Tuesday I opened my Bible at Nahum and had to spend several minutes trying to engage my brain before working out which way to turn the pages to find Psalms!  On Wednesday I spent the whole day trying to stop my left eyelid twitching, and Thursday morning was a battle with the bed-sheets, but other than that it’s been a completely joy.

I’m enjoying it even more now that I have someone to share it with! My friend and colleague Rhian has taken up the challenge too, so hopefully we can check on each other and help one another to stick with it with some encouraging early morning texting.  

I hope and pray that the LORD will continue to get me out of my bed each morning so I can spend time with him, it certainly isn’t my doing!


He is risen!

February 3, 2010

 

Just before Christmas, I was on a long train journey. To pass the time, I picked up a copy of the Metro and came across a review of the decade. As I scanned the double page spread, I expected to see events like the 9/11 terrorist attack in 2001, Hurricane Katrina from 2005 and the Invasion of Iraq in 2003 taking centre stage. But the stories given the most column inches were the deaths of celebrities. The reviewer recalled Heath Ledger’s accidental overdose, Brittany Murphy’s sudden heart attack, and, not surprisingly, Michael Jackson’s death amongst the events that rocked the world over the last ten years.

We all saw the news reports showing distraught fans crying on each other shoulders, the thousands of bouquets laid in memory, the candlelit vigil held at Jacko’s star on the Hollywood walk of fame. It’s easy to see why those events stick in people’s minds.

It’s often the case with those who live their lives in the limelight that when the light goes out their glittering achievements are eclipsed by a morbid fascination with the way their lives ended. I recently saw a programme marking 75 years since Elvis was born; much of the programme focused on the circumstances surrounding his death. The death of Diana Princess of Wales sparked a similar reaction, with scores of television programmes, newspaper articles, books and websites dedicated to the details of the car accident that took her life.

We can all be suitably appalled at this distasteful fixation with death, but I wonder if we are sometimes guilty of the same thing?

Easter is a time when we remember the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. We remember how he suffered on the cross for us. It’s a message we hear all year round, and it’s crucial to preaching the gospel. Then on Easter Sunday we hear how, after three days in the tomb, Jesus rose from the dead never again to die. How many times a year do we think about that I wonder?

Without the resurrection, the cross is senseless. And so is Jesus’ life, all his claims, all his miracles, all his teaching; if he didn’t rise from the dead why should we put our trust in any of it?

Paul knew the importance of teaching the Resurrection. In Acts 17 it was Paul’s teaching on Jesus and the Resurrection that got the attention of the idolatrous Athenians:

 ‘…Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.”’  Acts 17v18-20

Paul’s epistles are full of teaching on the resurrection. It’s clear that to Paul it was essential that the early church knew they were followers of a living God. So why is it so vital?

The Resurrection gives us proof – “The proof of the pudding is in the eating”, so they say. And that is what the resurrection is – the proof. The resurrection is the proof that Jesus was the Son of God, and therefore the only one who could take away the sin of the world. It is ludicrous to believe Jesus really was God, but that he didn’t really rise from the dead. If he didn’t, then he was a liar, conning people into following him, but if he did he is to be worshipped as LORD over all.

The Resurrection gives us hope – Because Jesus lives we can know that death really has been defeated and our sin really has been dealt with. Death exists because of sin (there was no death in the Garden), and for Christ to die meant that he carried the consequence of our sin. But his resurrection is the proof that death was no longer a punishment for those he came to save, but that death was now merely a doorway to Glory! Had Jesus not risen from the dead, we would never know for sure that we would, as Paul explains “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15v20). Because of the resurrection we can be comforted when a Christian loved one dies, or we can rejoice when we read of martyrs who died for the faith, for we know that we will one day worship God together.  

 The resurrection gives us something no other religion has – We spend so much time telling non-Christians how they can be saved through the death of Christ. But every other major religious leader is dead too. His resurrection on the other hand is a stark contrast to everything else the world is offering. No other religion claims to follow a man who was God, who died and rose again. Why? Because to make such a claim if it’s false is very foolish and can easily be proved wrong. No other religion can claim such a thing because no such thing is true of any other religious leader. But for Christians, God is not a remote being disconnected from our lives, but a living and loving Saviour who knows our struggles and feels our pain.  

We often talk about living our lives at the foot of the cross, but what about living at the door of the empty tomb? Christ is risen! Hallelujah!


The Earlybird

February 3, 2010

I have a confession to make: I am lousy at quiet times. Always have been.

It’s not through lack of good intention; I’ve made several attempts to get into a routine and spend time with the LORD in the morning or in the evening, but it just never seems to stick, I always end up back in the same old rut.

This week I have joined the 5 o’clock club on the girltalk blog here http://www.girltalkhome.com/resources#clubs/5oclock.

The idea is you sign up and join with your sisters in Christ by setting yourself a target time to get up each morning and spend time with the LORD, through his Word and through prayer. You can share testimonies, tips and struggles you might be facing with other women all over the world who are trying to do the same thing.

It’s only week 1, but this has been great for me; for the first time I’ve realised why I always seem to fall at the first hurdle – it’s because of guilt.

Usually my spurts of morning quiet time attempts follow the reading of a book or the hearing of a quote that chastises me for not spending more time on my knees. I feel guilty for neglecting my time with the LORD, so I set myself a goal of getting up super early and spending lots of time in prayer before I start my day. Obviously I fail because come the next morning when my alarm goes off my duvet says “don’t leave me, stay here in the warmth”, and my bed says “just a few more minutes”, and my body says “Uuuuuurrrrggh!”, and before I know it my hand is reaching for the snooze button, and I am on my way back to the land of Nod. Occasionally I manage it for a day of two, but eventually it always ends with me feeling like a complete failure, thus adding to the guilt that made me decide to have a quiet time in the first place.  I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels that way.

But , thanks to an intervention from the girltalkers, I’m hoping to do better this time. With some handy hints on how to actually get out of bed, they’ve helped me see that quiet times with the LORD needn’t be a chore we guiltily perform to appease God’s wrath, but that they are like little glimpses of heaven before starting your day.

I’m taking the 28 day challenge to see if I can keep up my quiet times for the month of February, and I’ll be posting some updates on my progress as I go along. To get us started, here are the handy tips I’ve been trying to follow.

  1. Place your alarm clock in a strategic location, preferably on the other side of the room from your bed.
  2. Set your alarm for the same time every day.
  3. Never, never, never hit the snooze button or lie back down to catch a few more winks. The second your alarm goes off is the most critical moment in getting up early.
  4. Proceed directly to the coffee pot or caffeinated drink of choice.
  5. Be prepared to feel absolutely miserable for about ten to fifteen minutes. But the misery soon turns into pure gladness as you experience the delight of meeting with God and reap the benefits the rest of the day. Fifteen minutes of misery is certainly worth fifteen-plus hours of peace and productivity.
  6. Keep in mind that our bodies eventually respond to a standard wake-up time. In other words, it gets easier.
  7. Remember: our hope is not in a strategy but in our Savior.

Stay tuned to see how I’m doing, so long as you don’t comment on the bags under my eyes!