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The Saturday Stoke #3

The Saturday Stoke #3

The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists in shoving it all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.
— C.S. Lewis, The Joyful Christian

I’m often asked, “How can I participate in the daily fullness God gives us through beauty?”

My reply is simple: the morning.

Can it be so simple?

The morning offers me a rebirth; a chance to begin fresh in my spirit and in my work and in my relationships.

“Take a chance on the morning,” the whisper comes. “Change your habit.”

So, I change.

Instead of filling the morning with the pace of my work day, I slow it down by rising earlier than I’d like to.

“That’s okay, it’ll be worth it,” I tell myself, through my grumbling mouth and groggy eyes.

And it is.

Let Prayer Come First

First, I let the morning breathe. I allow it to be a reverent time of conversation and thought. I find the day goes as the morning goes. If I begin with noise, I will inherit noise throughout the day.

I let prayer enter my mind first. And I can pray even while I exercise or find a quiet morning trail on my bike. I let my prayer go out like conversation. I don’t overthink it. I talk to God as if he were a friend joining me for a walk or breakfast.

As we talk, I thank him. I find the act of thanksgiving to be an act of life-giving-ness. In the same way that my friend’s eyes brighten when I thank him for letting me borrow his tool. The same way my wife’s shoulders ease when I thank her for her help.

When I thank God it’s like turning the key to a magical safe. And once opened the safe releases new discoveries. The magic of spiritual thanksgiving unleashes reminders of God’s faithfulness, his blessing, and provision.

Specific instances come to my mind: the next project I did not think I would get, a house to buy when none seemed available, the timely and unsuspecting gift of a friend as a direct answer to prayer.

These morning moments extend beyond some perfunctory ritual. The act of giving thanks to God eases my anxiety. It does the opposite of what moments on a device do to my mind and spirit.

How to Pray

Paul, I recall, does not simply tell me to stop being anxious (Ephesians 2:8-9). He tells me how: pray, ask God for help, and thank him for the little things, the big things, the things you forgot to thank him for.

How quickly I forget that God delights in me. And that he loves when I thank him.

Simple words whispered in the gathering space of the morning. 

“Thank you, Lord.”

And strangely, I hear the voice of God reply.

“I want you to know something,” he says, reminding me like an old father reminding his son of important news. 

“What is it that you want to tell me?” I say. 

“When you go outside, and you walk about. And when you look over your yard, and when you see the sky coming through the gangly limbs of the trees that surround your property, and when you walk on through the trees at the back of your yard, and when you come back to your house, I want you to know that I made all of it for you.

“I placed you within all of it. You, the man who almost forgot me, I put you there.”

“Thank you,” I reply. “It’s quite something.”

“Yes, it is,” he says. “And something else,” he continues. “When you’re walking around your yard, and you whisper thanks. And when you let your mind settle on things in heaven; tt fills my heart with the warmest joy you can imagine. To see you there, in the garden, welcoming my invitation? It makes me feel every inch of eternity.”

“Thank you, Lord,” I reply. “What I hear you telling me, is that you love me.”

“Yes, that’s correct. I do,” he says. “And I can’t wait to find you again, in the morning.”

Keep Your Devices Quiet

With my new and reverent morning established, I make sure to keep off digital devices. I’ve found that once on, devices transport my day into their world and all it holds—its constant pull on my attention, its invitation to fill my mind and time with noise and distractions.

“Keep it at bay!” I tell myself.

Give yourself permission to see for a moment.

I do my best to see the day from the solitude of my favorite chair, or on the back deck or front porch or a walk in the yard. When I say “see” I am referring to my inner sight, and this vision lives off of my prayerful embrace of the day through thanksgiving.

If I can keep the devices off, even just an extra half hour more than usual, I feel the cumulative difference over time.

The quiet reverent mornings stack up, free of distraction, focused on thanksgiving, talking with God, and nourishing my soul with all the beauty the morning offers; that of solitude, quiet, the invitation of nature, the delight of the waking sky.

Almost without knowing it, I’m training my mind and heart to thirst for a different rhythm. How quickly I forget that I form habits through conscious choices I make every day.

The morning presents a perfect opportunity to turn my focus away from noise and distraction and toward the voice of God—toward a pace that invites reflection, prayer, and conversation with others, a pace that invites me to truly see the world in all its nuance, uniqueness, and splendor.

The stoke doesn’t always come from whooping and hollering. Sometimes, the best stoke comes from the quiet.

Stay stoked my friends.

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