Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

March 16, 2003


A flexible routine can be quite valuable in daily living


            Habits can be helpful or harmful. Good habits help us get more out of life. A haphazard approach to life, on the other hand, can be unhealthy, perhaps even dangerous.

            The famous evangelist E. Stanley Jones insisted on a remarkable daily schedule. He was 76 and I was 26 when I met him. I was immediately captivated by his personal discipline.

            Jones was the featured speaker at a retreat, called an Ashram, which my wife and I attended near Silver Springs, Florida. What got my attention first was his habit of going to bed by ten o’clock each night. No matter what was going on, as the time neared ten each evening, Jones would quietly excuse himself and retire to his room.

            He explained one day that his routine was one of the secrets of his good health. He lived well into his eighties.

            “I rise every morning at 5 o’clock,” he said. “After dressing, the first thing on my agenda is my prayer time.” He called this quiet time his “Listening Post,” an hour devoted mainly to listening to what God wanted to say to him.

            Over the years, he said, he learned the great value of being quiet and allowing God to speak to him. That became far more important than “telling God” what he wanted.

            On occasion, Jones admitted, his schedule was interrupted. He could not control airline schedules, for instance. One night, because his plane was several hours late arriving at his destination, he finally got to bed at 2 a.m.

            Determined to resume his daily discipline, he rose at 5 a.m., dressed and began “listening” to God. With a twinkle in his eye, Brother Stanley, as he insisted on being called, said that he heard God say to him, “Go back to bed, Stanley; you need some more rest.” Brother Stanley went back to bed!

            This humorous incident illustrates the wisdom of having a flexible routine, one that makes sense, and allows for changing circumstances. What is important, after all, are our “inner stances,” not our circumstances. Our inner stances allow us to resume a helpful routine when our outward circumstances permit.

            My own life works better when I follow pretty much the same daily routine. Morning is my best time, so I enjoy rising early. As I am dressing, I thank the Lord for my life. To see the morning light is a precious, daily gift from God. I tell him I am grateful.

            I like cereal or oatmeal for breakfast. Right now, I am hooked on Special K with the red berries. Tiring of that, I will probably return to my longtime favorite, Raisin Bran.

            After a brief time of drinking coffee and looking at the newspaper, I turn to my own version of the “Listening Post.” Presently, I am reading the Psalms, unhurriedly, and meditating upon them.

            My wife and I are reading the New Testament through this year, following a plan offered in a prayer journal that we began using on January first. We are now into the 13th chapter of the Gospel of Mark. In the journal, we write down our prayer requests and our praise for answered prayer. I read the assigned scripture passage aloud.

            When I get to my computer, I turn first to my e-mail. The first message I read is the day’s devotional from The Upper Room. It is available without charge, and without fail, it appears in my inbox every day. This has been a new habit for me but one I am finding most beneficial.

            Every morning, as I remember that God’s mercies are “fresh every morning,” I look out my study window to see what God has been doing. Since he never sleeps, he works through the night too.

            This week I have been blessed to see all the beautiful “green” things the Lord is doing as he ushers in the springtime. My rosebush is flourishing, with lush green leaves popping out everywhere. Other flowers, and the trees, are coming alive. God is at work!

            When I get to heaven, I plan to look up Eleanor Farjeon, and thank her for writing that lovely hymn which comes so often to my mind each morning, “Morning Has Broken.”

            Enjoy her words with me: “Morning has broken like the first morning; blackbird has spoken like the first bird. Praise for the singing! Praise for the morning! God’s re-creation of the new day!”

            I hope you are reading this, dear reader, as the morning is breaking and as you are beginning a helpful routine that includes listening to God. + + +