It’s a cold, rainy Saturday.

From my vantage point here in Barnes & Noble, I’m watching cars slowly stream by, barely slowing over the one speed bump in front of the store. A Hokie bird statue out in the flower bed stares hopefully through the drizzle at entering shoppers.

My Friday-Saturday morning routine has been adjusted today. I’m not sitting where I normally sit. There are two tall chairs next to the window. One of them belongs to me. I wrestled with shock when I discovered that someone had the gall to sit there. I get here right at opening for that purpose. Two women occupy both tables today. One has a “Bernie 2016” proudly displayed on her PC laptop. It makes it triply worse.

This isn’t my first coffee shop today. When I wake on these days, I initially head to Next Door Bake Shop or one of the scattered Starbucks across Blacksburg. I use my pre-B&N moments for reading, reflection and journaling. I time my departure from the coffee shop to be at the tall table upon the opening of B&N at 10:00. That may explain why I’m sitting here resisting the urge to glare at Bernie-lady. The fact that I come here to prep for my sermon reminds me of bigger issues than tall table theft.

What we do when our lives are disrupted says a lot about us. If we are stable and dependable during the routines we’ve carefully created (and protect) but crack in crisis, we are confronted with the uncomfortable possibility that we worship the predictable rather than the Creator.

Routines.

There are things I do without thought, that come easily for me. Once upon a time, I did these things for the first time, and then because they worked or felt “good,” I did them again and again. They work for me, and they help me to focus.

What routines have you implemented?

I run every other day, and work out in the evenings on the days I don’t run. I take Sundays off. I’m a creature of routine and habit.

I read. Often. Everywhere. My focused reading time is usually after supper – a book that feeds me – whether spiritual or leadership. I read again just before I go to bed – a fun, brain candy sort of book – fiction or biography.

In moments of waiting or needed distraction, I read the news, blogs and saved articles – mostly that I’ve collected from the web in my Pocket account.

My week is punctuated with a lot of regular meetings. Meetings with staff. Meetings with other church leaders. Get-to-know-you meetings with people I’ve met. Meetings with teams. Meetings with guys I’m discipling. I’ve found joy in all these, but I also have learned how to step out of meetings for needed planning or down time. I get “peopled out.” I call myself a learned extrovert. I enjoy people and crowds – to a point. Then I need to refuel.

Movies are a primary mental escape for me. The advent of MoviePass last year was like winning a lottery for me. Its demise was mourned. When Regal introduced its own version, I was back in my seat at least once a week, sometimes with a movie buddy but often alone.

How we refuel during times of stress, exhaustion and disappointment says a lot about what has kept us fueled during life’s routines. If I turn to spending, vacation, books, exercise or entertainment alone to refuel, I discover my soul shrinks.

Prayer

My brain never stops spinning. I am grateful for prayer as a primary way to slow my thoughts down and experience focus and submission through scripture and journaling.

One of my life verses is 1 Peter 5:7 – “..casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you.” The Psalmist captured this in the Old Testament as well:

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” (Psalms 55:22)

Prayer is not an exercise. It’s not a solution. “Prayer” describes my conversation, submission, complaining, receiving, listening, and enjoying God. Prayer is not just a phone call. Prayer is … joyful intimacy and simply dwelling with and in Jesus. You can say you are intimate with another when you thoroughly enjoy them.

“Prayer” in and of itself is not a solution, a preventative, or answer to anything. God is. I must not think I have “prayed” if I have not loved God and been completely me before Him. (That makes complete sense to me, but it may sound a touch mystical to you.) All I know is that.. I am invited near to God, and I draw near through prayer, informed by my knowledge and confidence in God through scripture.

What I do after I pray reveals if I’ve really prayed. If I am frenetic, worried, angry or shift into hasty problem-solving mode after prayer, it’s a good indication to me that I have not “cast” away my cares in prayer.

Barnes & Noble

When I was serving a church in Garland, Texas, I had a friend whose last name was Barnes. We always talked about strolling into a Dallas-area B&N, showing our IDs and claiming we are Mr. Barnes and Mr. Noble there for an inspection.

The line for coffee is six-deep now. Activity here has picked up, and Bernie-lady (and her friend) are still there at the tall tables.

It’s time to pack up and head out. I’m thankful for chilly, rainy Saturdays and for being bumped out of my routine a bit.

While you may not blog the next time you experience a life shift, I hope it will encourage you to reflect, examine, and ultimately to be reminded of a God who loves you and is Lord over life and routines. May that lead you to enjoyable, intimate prayer.

On this day...

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Jeff Noble

Jeff is the pastor of Northstar Church in Blacksburg, Virginia. He grew up in Arkansas, loves fantasy football and is an Apple fan boy. Follow him on Twitter or Instagram @journeyguy.
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