Okay, I’m going to be very transparent and honest about three of my favorite things to do. Besides using a Q-tip deeper than any Q-tip should ever go (which is probably my favorite silly thing to do), I also love getting my hair cut. I don’t know why, but it’s a very relaxing and fun part of my life that I look forward to. My third favorite thing to do happens at night when I’m lying in bed and just looking up at the ceiling and thinking. After a little amount of time, the pillow will become warm, uncomfortable and a little distracting. All I have to do to remedy the situation is flip my pillow over to the “cool side” and I experience terrific refreshment, a true AHHHHH moment. It’s crazy, really. All I do is turn the pillow over, but it brings me such joy and allows me to lie there a little longer: comfortable, happy and undistracted, to just think and pray.
Why do I bring this up? Because in our daily lives, I think we need to “flip the pillow” from time to time to shake things up, experience a new joy and see things in a different way. Here are a few thoughts on how to change things up in our everyday routines. Now, forgive me, these are random and I’m just going to spout them out…
Before you go to bed, put a bottle of water next to your bed. When you wake up, sit up on the side of your bed and take a big drink of your bottled water. I read an article on the many benefits of water a couple of years ago. One thing the article mentioned was the advantages (which I can’t remember all) of drinking water first thing in the morning. It refreshes, flushes, and replenishes your system and gets your body going bright and early. Another morning change would be to take a quick walk around your neighborhood before getting in the shower. So to rewind: sit up, drink water, put on your shoes and go out for an early morning walk (or jog, if you’re up for it). Then come back and shower before leaving for school or work.
Now, on the way to school or work, try taking an alternate or different route from time to time. If you drive the same way and see the same things each morning, your mind will resort back to a kind of blah mode and you can easily miss the beauty of God’s creation. Each day is a gift from God and an opportunity to pray, give thanks and talk with your Creator throughout your morning drive. Taking the back or side roads once in a while may just spur on a new appreciation of your surroundings and allow you to arrive at school or work in an unusually positive and peaceful mood. I’d also propose turning off the radio or i-Pod occasionally and just riding in silence – that’s when I find God speaks to me. It’s hard for me to hear Him when I’m listening to music or sports talk radio.
My next suggestion has to do with spending time with God. This includes private worship, prayer and time in God’s Word. I have a few thoughts on this. One is to try a different time of the day to do this daily discipline. If you always do this in the morning, try it one night before bed (or vice versa). Another suggestion is to connect with God during your lunch break, maybe even once in a while forego eating and spend that whole time in prayer and the Word.
Another thought on spending time with God is on the location. As often as you can, I’d encourage you to do this outside. There is something very special about connecting with the Creator while admiring His creation. Some of the best devotional times I’ve had were in scenic locations (like beaches, mountains and parks).
One final thought on this subject is a “praise break” sometime throughout your day. One thing that employees in other countries do well is take full advantage of breaks and times of rest and refreshment. If you stare at a screen from 9am to 5pm your life pretty much sucks. Did I say that out loud? I meant to say that though your day may be predominately sitting at a desk and typing on a computer, you can be intentional to stand up, stretch, take a walk down the hall or outside, take a break to pray, sing or just do nothing and listen. This will save your eyes, lessen headaches and allow you to “practice the presence of God” throughout the day as Brother Lawrence described in his book.
If you have the option, try going mobile for a day or an afternoon. I do this often. I will leave my office, tell my team I’m “going mobile” and go to a cool location with my laptop. Sometimes I find a local Wi-Fi hotspot so I can be online. Sometimes I just go “unplugged” and write or read for a while. Bring a journal with you. You never know when or where God may speak to you.
Besides when and where you have your quiet time with God, there are ways to change up how you spend that time. Here are a few thoughts on that. First, when reading Scripture, try a different translation. I highly recommend reading something from The Message at least once a week. God uses The Message to open my heart and eyes, so I can see His Word in a whole new way. Changing translations from time to time allows the Holy Spirit to breathe new life into passages that you may have read several times and tend to just glance over.
Here are a couple of thoughts on reading your Bible. First, read slowly. We’re all guilty of reading through Scripture too quickly. We let our eyes scan the pages and don’t give the Word time to soak and digest. For a change of pace, try reading one sentence at a time and reflect on that sentence before moving on. Secondly, read aloud. The Bible exhorts us to “shout unto God”. There is something powerful and supernatural that happens when you read Scripture aloud. I will sometimes hold the Bible in my hand, walk around my bedroom and read the Scripture out loud with boldness. I can’t quite describe how it resonates with my spirit, but I know it’s powerful and the atmosphere in my room changes.
Third, I’d very humbly suggest that you read Scripture simply to know God more intimately. This might appear obvious, but believe me it takes a lot of intentionality to do this. Most pastors admit that they wrestle with reading the Bible purely to know God more and not in preparation for a sermon. Youth pastors struggle with reading Scripture purely and not just to find a new illustration to use in teaching. Worship leaders and songwriters often find themselves reading the Bible looking for inspiration for new songs. None of these things are bad. Pastors need to prepare their messages from Scripture. Youth pastors should look for Biblical illustrations and musicians should be writing theologically correct songs. I just bring this up as something to keep present in your mind when you’re reading Scripture as part of your daily quiet time or devotional. Try as best you can to read simply for the joy of knowing Christ more.
In addition to private worship, prayer and reading the Bible, I’d encourage you to check your church’s library or a Christian book store for devotional material or Bible studies that you can use to supplement your time in Scripture. God uses the writings and devotional thoughts of others to speak to our hearts in new ways and give you a fresh perspective on various topics and Scripture passages.
When you come home, you can change up how you have dinner. My family and I like to do picnics from time to time. Eating on our patio, walking to our neighborhood park or driving to a remote place are all things that we’ve tried to “flip the pillow” as a family. Sometimes you can cut off the TV for the night and play cards, board games or just talk. Again, these aren’t routines I’m suggesting; these are occasional breaks from the norm that just might be a catalyst for an unexpected moment of joy.
Friends, life is tough. Pain is real. We all have areas of our life, family or finances that we worry or stress over. The truth is: life is short and life is precious. One of the saddest things we can do is to lose our focus and live frustrated. God’s Word says that His joy will be our strength. Christ has not promised an easy or pain-free life, but He has promised to be our peace, our Comforter, our strength, our hope and to never forsake us. God’s not abandoning us in our time of need. He’s not distant. His ear can hear our cry and His hand is quick to catch us, brush us off and pick us up when we stumble and/or fall (and we will).
I think turning the pillow over from time to time; or as some used to say, “Stopping and smelling the roses” may be a refreshing change of pace. I think things like I’ve suggested and other ideas that God may prompt and put on your heart are ways to snap out of the norm, break free from the ruts and routines that we all find ourselves in, and wake up to the wonderful life that God has given us and called us to walk in Him.
©2007 – Greg Atkinson (http://www.GregAtkinson.com)
Used by permission from author. All rights reserved by author. This article first appeared in LifeWay’s “Let’s Worship” magazine.
Greg Atkinson lives in Dallas with his wife and their three small children. Greg served previously as the Director of WorshipHouse Media, after having served as a worship pastor for 11 years. Greg is now the Director of Technical Arts at Bent Tree Church and continues to consult, teach and write about innovation, technology, leadership and social justice. You can connect with him through his daily blog at GregAtkinson.com.