I love my routines. I am tied to them. If I miss something, especially with the morning routine, my whole day feels off. Forget my watch – ok, so now it’s Fitbit – I can’t seem to stick to my schedule for the day, even if it is written in my planner and there are clocks of one sort or another all around me whether I am at home, at work, in a shop or public space, or in the car. Leave my wedding ring on the sink and I feel naked, exposed, untethered, and like a piece of me is missing. Misplace my cell phone, even if just for a few minutes, I am lost. Sleep through the alarm or spill something on my clothes and have to change, then I run late the rest of the day and never can catch up. It doesn’t seem like it should be so discombobulating that something so small should make such a big difference, but for some reason it does. When my routine is off I just can never seem to get it all together. How many of you are like this? I would venture to guess that it affects more of us than would like to admit it. So many of us live by our daily routines. This, in itself, is not a bad thing. Quite often they help us to remember what we are supposed to do. But what happens if we have to change them?
I have had to change my routines a lot over the last year. Some of them because of medical reasons. I have found that a cancer diagnosis is a good motivator for change. Some of them were forced upon me by the seasonal changes and the weather. And some I changed by choice. Whatever the reason though, I have found it to be difficult, but doable. I have also experienced some unexpected results when I have been able to stick with them. For example, this week I changed my walking routine. I have been trying to walk my dogs five or six days a week since late last summer. I started out only being able to do about 1/4 mile walking all three of them together. By the time I acquired a fourth dog last fall I was up to two miles a day and walked two of them together for a mile and then swapped them out for the other two and the last mile. Now I am up to four miles a day and walk each one of them one of the four miles. But I digress. It has been my routine for the last several months to walk after work. I changed this routine this week because it has just been too hot to walk outside until after the sun has gone down. So this week I started setting my alarm a little earlier and walking before breakfast. It is hard to get up before I am used to. It is hard adjusting to taking my shower at night before I go to bed rather than in the morning (but that is the way I have been able to make the morning walk doable). It is hard changing period. But the benefits have been worth it. I have my step count in before I go to work, so when I get home in the evenings I have more time to relax and enjoy spending time with my husband and with my hobbies, rather than trying to find time to work a walk in. I have been able to greet my neighbors who are also out walking in the morning. I have been able to listen to birds singing, enjoy the cool morning breeze and the stillness as the world wake up. I have found that I don’t get hungry as quickly, I am not so prone to wanting snacks later in the day, and that I still have room left in my calorie budget when dinner time comes around. I have only had this new routine for four days, but I like it. I think I will stick with it for a while, at least until the seasons and the weather make me change once again.
This change in my walking routine got me thinking about other routines, specifically about how or how not God is a part of our routines. In my short seven years as a pastor and my lifetime of being a practicing Christian, I have seen a whole lot of different routines when it comes to our faith. Some of us go to church every Sunday because we want and need to be filled with the Holy Spirit and with our faith community. Some go in order to check off the “church appearance” box so we can look good in the eyes of others. Some read Scripture and pray every day. Others have to blow the dust off the cover of their Bibles when the pastor comes for a visit. For some of us faith is a part of who we are. For some of us it is something we put on to make ourselves look good, much like makeup or a favorite outfit. For some of us it is the last thing we would ever think about.
Several years ago I made a comment to no one in particular that I wanted to have a relationship with Jesus like a friend of mine had. I wanted Jesus to be my best friend. I got a response that I now know was from God. It said if you want to have that relationship, then you need to do something to make it happen. Then I read these words from 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” I have found that this, in addition to reading and studying Scripture, is what it takes on my part to have that kind of relationship. I have since committed to have a God routine as part of my life. It required a big change. I wasn’t used to reading Scripture or saying prayers outside of meal time. It was not easy, but I tried. And every day it got a little bit easier.
There are still days I struggle with making time for my God routine, but there are so many benefits to it. I know my Savior’s love and grace. I greet him routinely, much like I do with my neighbors on my walk. I go to sleep holding God’s hand and keeping God’s word in my heart. And I know what it means to have the love of Jesus down in my heart to stay. Now I am no longer as spiritually hungry. My God meal lasts longer. God keeps me full until the next quiet time and the next Sunday roll around. And most of all I have a best friend whose name is Jesus.
Today I challenge you to look at all of your routines. Seriously look at them. Which ones are giving you life and which ones are not? What do you need to change to make things better? What do you need to get rid of completely? And if you really want to change routines for the better, look to see what you can change about your God routine to bring you closer to Jesus. John 10:10 tells us that Jesus came so we could have life and have it more abundantly. Without Him in our lives we have a hole that cannot be filled. We were created to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in everything. We were created to be filled with God’s Word. We were created to have a best friend named Jesus. We were created to have abundant and eternal life. We were created to have a God routine. Period. And that, friends, is what I have to say today.