Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

February 21, 2010


Be fixed in a few things but flexible in most things


          Habits can help us or hurt us. Bad habits can destroy us. Good habits can deliver meaning and joy to our lives.  A haphazard approach to life leads to no good end.  

          The author and evangelist E. Stanley Jones insisted on a remarkable daily schedule. He was 76 and I was 26 when I met him. I was captivated by his personal discipline.  From him I learned the value of being fixed in a few things but flexible in most.

          Jones spoke 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. I was intrigued by his idea of beginning the day listening rather than speaking of his own needs to God.

          Over the years, he said, he learned the great value of being quiet and allowing God to speak to him. That became more important than “telling God” what he wanted. This made sense to me. After all, Jesus said God already knows our needs before we ask him.

          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 got to bed finally 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 said he heard God say to him, “Go back to bed, Stanley; you need more rest.” So, obediently, he 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 matters most, 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 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 give thanks that I am alive. At my age to awaken and realize I am still here is a gift in itself!  

          I enjoy cereal or oatmeal for breakfast. Right now, I am hooked on Special K with the red berries.  Raisin bread is good. Tiring of that, I may turn to bacon and scrambled eggs though my doctor advises me not to eat too many eggs.  

          After indulging my coffee habit I turn to my own version of the “Listening Post.” Presently I am using My Utmost for His Highest as my devotional guide. Outside of the Bible, this classic by Oswald Chambers has blessed me more than any other. Chambers drives me to my knees so quickly. He makes me realize repeatedly that I am still “a Christian in the making.”

          Going to my computer, I turn to my email. 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 beneficial habit for many years.  

          Each 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 nights also.  If you look closely you can see signs that, even in the dead of winter, God is preparing the earth for springtime.

          You may be reading this as the morning light is breaking. You have the gift of a new day. Perhaps you have your own helpful routine that includes listening to God. If so, you are wise. It is good to be “fixed” in a few things and “flexible” in most. + + +