Intentional Worship

I have some observations about how the mind works from both experience and based on many things I have learned from others over the years. This directly affects my daily relationship with others and largely shapes how my intimate relationship with God progresses and deepens.

At night when we are sleeping, the brain goes through a sorting and editing process. This idea is generally accepted by many experts and has been observed through laboratory experiments. Certain chemicals go through the brain and trim away nerve endings that were started the previous day but are considered unnecessary for long-term use. Additionally, memories created or awakened during recent experiences are stored away with other more long-term memories, all while we are sleeping. All these are stored primarily in groupings based on the type of emotional content of the memories. One of the main reasons and uses for dreams is the linking together of new and old memories during this sorting and filing process.

After all of this has been accomplished to the degree that it can be by the time we finish sleeping, the early morning period of each person's day immediately upon waking up is often the most critical and influential time determining the direction the life will take that day and possibly for much longer. There is an extreme sensitivity of the mind and heart in the first few moments of the morning, but many do not realize they could use this time to leverage real change in their lives if they only knew how vital the first inputs of the day effect the direction their life will take the rest of the day. Depending on how rushed one becomes upon getting up or how intentional one is about carving out personal time during this period, the thoughts and inputs and surrounding influences of the early morning have a dramatic shaping effect on the whole life.

When outside distractions fill the first moments of the day, those factors will largely determine the mood, the attitudes and the pace that will be reflected in one's spirit throughout that day. But the same is true if one chooses to make their time in the morning more planned and intentional and purposeful for what they want to see happen in their life. Particularly if a person is seeking to cultivate a deeper relationship with God and come to reflect Him more intentionally, it is vital to capture and protect the early morning moments and invest them in filling the mind, the imagination and the heart with communications and fresh revelations about the truth of who God really is and how He wants to transform us to be more like Him.

I have become more aware of how much these moments can be leveraged or lost many times over the years. As a result I have become much more sensitive to paying attention to the inner voice of the Spirit when it sometimes awakens me with some thought, some conviction, some delight or often simply an invitation to join with Him to meditate and become better acquainted. But I am always free to indulge in the ever-present craving to sleep a little longer (or even just to lay in bed thinking I won't fall asleep but will have the conversation laying there in comfort rather than getting up). But usually when I choose that option I miss out on a wonderful opportunity to be led to some place in my heart that God wants to explore with me in order to bring new insight or healing or understanding.

Even when I take the time to protect and guard these moments in the Word, listening with my heart and seeking to maintain an open spirit to whatever the Spirit of God may bring to my attention which is always rewarding and profitable for me, I still find temptations ever present to abbreviate this time or to jump in and take over the time by chasing after some idea or maybe doing all the talking rather than waiting a little longer in silence of soul to give God opportunity to share something new or important with me. Like an unhurried, wise old sage who will cannot be pushed to share wisdom with the rushed, I find that there is very often far more wisdom and insight and truth available that is more profound than what first appears for those who are willing to keep the channels of the senses and heart unobstructed from either outside interferences or internal gabbling that prevents one from listening to God and allowing Him to grow us.

Clearly there must come a time when one decides to move on with the day and bring some closure to the time set aside to communicate intensely with God. But I have learned that if I allow Him more time, either by choosing to get up earlier (which may necessarily involve going to bed earlier) or by refusing to allow pressures of the day to dictate my priorities and values and push God into the margins, these times of spiritual and intentional communion with Jesus become the most vital source for infusions to nurture the very existence of my relationship with Him. Without these intentional, protected quiet moments listening for the voice of God to my soul both in the Word of God and from any other sources that He may choose to get my attention, my spiritual life would become a sham, a pretentious charade that might look good to others but would bring me no real life to transform the internal shape of my soul.

There certainly are necessary physical things that must be attended to when one first wakes up in the morning that usually cannot be neglected. But I have observed that many times it is easy even to allow these mundane things to consume more time than necessary which in turn steals from the time my heart needs to marinate in the presence of God. My own fears, anxieties or plans for the day may also become competition for my heart's attention and if not carefully herded into an internal holding pen and brought under the authority of Jesus Christ they can easily dominate my imagination and usurp my attention rather than focusing on the divine input that will give me totally different perspectives.

What I am looking for each morning is to remind myself through divine encounters with God how heaven views things rather than how I normally view things. If I allow my heart sufficient time to dwell in the presence of Jesus, not just going through a routine or a religious performance but intentionally opening my heart and mind and soul to allow God to surprise or convict or inspire me as He chooses each morning, I find that my mindset for the rest of the day can be very different and it is far easier to maintain an open connection with heaven all throughout the day. I find that during the day it is not unusual for God to unexpectedly bring back to my attention some word, some insight, some meditation from that morning and to revisit that idea to connect it to something else that He may bring to my attention at that moment.

The main point I wanted to convey here is that the way our brains and bodies were created by God, it appears that whomever is given access to our hearts in the first moments of the day will have the greatest influence in determining the direction our life will move for the rest of the day and much longer. If I wake up to the blaring of a radio station and fill my senses with stimulating surroundings and chemicals, the likelihood that I am going to nurture an intimate and life-changing relationship with God and have His peace in my life is going to be far less likely. If I think that all I need is a couple minutes each day reading a bit of religious material and saying a quick prayer, I am fooling myself into thinking that will somehow make me 'good enough' for God; I am indeed living in an illusion.

Eternal life, according to Jesus, is not defined by how long I live in time but is an intimate relationship of knowing Him and His Father. Just as we cannot cultivate an intimate soul-bonding love and appreciation for another person if we fail to spend intentional quality time getting to know them personally through interactive communication with them, neither will we ever come to experience the life transformation and heart connection necessary to allow God to bring us to His home to live with Him for eternity. If we neglect to spend intentional quality time getting to know Him and His Word we will not know His voice and be willing to follow wherever He goes. And in a world totally filled with myriads of misleading ideas about what God is like and how He thinks about us, this is even more vitally important in order to escape the miasma of confusion about His true feelings towards us.

I don't want to convey the idea that there is any inherent virtue in spending a certain length of time with God or practicing particular religious routines. God is not looking to be impressed but to interact with our hearts and minds. I believe it is helpful to regularly challenge our habits that are formed even in our seeking of God and to change them up when they start to become more important than allowing God the freedom and access He needs to keep drawing us closer to Him. When our perceptions of God become too predictable that is when it may be time to question the methods and routines that shape how we think about and relate to Him. Whether it be corporate religious services or personal times of devotion, I believe it is all too easy to allow the forms and routines to become so familiar and cherished that we are in danger of making them the object of our attention and worship more than the true transcendent God Himself.

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