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Food for Thought - Musings

Back to Normal

Getting Back to “Normal

Congratulations! You have once again made it through the busiest season of the year. It seems like the thirty five or so days between Thanksgiving and New Years are overloaded with things to do, meals to prepare, gifts to buy, gifts to wrap, gifts to unwrap, decorations that need to be put up, decorations that need to be taken down, gifts that need to be returned, and on and on it goes. With all that going on, we still seem to find some time for rest and relaxation, as well as being with family and other significant people in our lives. When the holidays are over, we embark on a new year and settle back into the normal routine of our lives. The problem with this scenario is that the normal routine of most of our lives is marked by ongoing busyness. The holiday season just adds to our accelerated and overloaded lifestyles.

There is no denying the fact that we live in a fast paced society. At one point it was thought that advances in technology would provide us with more and more leisure and down time. What most have found is that technology has allowed us to get more done in a shorter amount of time, but that just frees up more time to do more things. If anything, technology has made it possible for us to be busier than ever before. We not only live in a fast paced society, we live in a fast paced world. Excessive busyness is not just an American reality. Busyness is a global reality that impacts lives on every continent.

While a busy life is the norm for most, we need to realize that it takes a toll on us. One of the arenas where we see the negative impact of busyness is in our spiritual lives. When we live life at break-neck speed, rushing from one thing to the next, there is little time left to nurture our relationship with God. The results of studies show that while Christians want to deepen their relationship with God, most do not have a plan for doing so and are too busy to give the time that is required for deepening their life with God. One survey that solicited responses from around the globe found that six out of ten Christians from around the world said that the busyness of their lives gets in the way of developing their relationship with God.

In light of the negative impact of busyness on our lives, what measures can we take to help curb its impact? Is there any way out of this spin cycle in which we find ourselves? To begin with, we need to realize that our society and the planet are not going to slow down. Technology will continue to advance and the sense of overload will increase. At some point we need to take personal responsibility for stepping back from our frenzied pace of life and say, “This has got to stop or at least be adjusted.” No one will do this for us; it is something we must do ourselves. Most of us are not going to be able to make huge lifestyle changes to curb the busyness of our lives, but are there any simple and accessible steps we can take to get the process started?

I believe there are.

I have found that a helpful initial strategy for combating busyness is to begin by interrupting our hectic pace of life to make space for God. This can be done by entering into the practice of Fixed Hour Prayer.

Fixed Hour Prayer has a long history that goes back to the Old Testament and is also seen in the practice of the early church in the Book of Acts. Phyllis Tickle has been responsible for bringing the ancient practice of Fixed Hour Prayer back to our attention. She has produced three volumes entitled The Divine Hours (Doubleday, 2000), which lead the reader through the various seasons of the calendar year. At the beginning of each volume she provides an overview of the history of this practice. The Divine Hours are broken up into three times of prayer: the Morning Office, between 6 and 9 am; the Midday Office, between 11am and 2 pm; and the Vespers Office, between 5 and 8 pm. Each of these three offices provides various readings from Scripture, The Lord’s Prayer, the Gloria, a prayer appointed for the week, and a concluding prayer of the church. For those who have trouble getting to sleep or sleeping through the night, Tickle provides The Night Offices (Oxford Press, 2006), which provides three prayer times for the hours from sunset to sunrise.

There are a number of benefits to entering into this practice of Fixed Hour Prayer.

It provides opportunities to insert times of prayer into the relentless busyness of our lives.

It eliminates the need for us to come up with our own prayers to pray.

It reorients our heart and mind toward God, his kingdom, his goodness and his presence with us.

It connects us with the people of God around the earth who are entering into the rhythm of praying the Hours.

Praying the Divine Hours initiates our day in prayer, calls us to prayer in the middle of our day, and ends our day with prayer.

In these tight economic times it might not be possible for you to buy Tickle’s four volumes, and even if you did, you might not want to carry one with you back and forth to work during the week. Well, thanks to the internet you can access the Divine Hours online for no charge! I believe that you can also get them on your phone if you would like to (not all technology is bad!). This makes it possible to access the Hours on your computer or other devices, and what could be easier than that.

You can find the Hours at the following links:



For a Celtic Version of the Office go to:


In praying the Hours I would encourage you to intentionally read through the prayers slowly, as this will aide in quieting your busy heart and mind.

Busyness is here to stay, but there are ways that we can interrupt its onslaught upon our lives. Practicing Fixed Hour Prayer is one simple and accessible way for you to nurture your life in God in the midst of your busy schedule. As 2009 unfolds, may you find Fixed Hour Prayer being a part of your “normal” life routine!

Some thoughts for you to ponder:

As you reflect on your daily life, do you see it as characterized by busyness? What might you eliminate from your daily routine that will help you to build in some quiet space and find breathing room in your day?

What steps would you need to take to incorporate the Hours into your daily routine?

Besides the Hours, what other steps could you take to interrupt or begin to minimize busyness in your life?

The next time the thought that you are too busy crosses your mind, take a moment to notice what is happening within you. How are you feeling emotionally? Physically? What is your felt sense of God in that moment? Try to take a moment right then to talk about this with God…or if you cannot take the time then, make some time later that day to explore with God your feelings and your felt sense of God during your busyness. Ask God if what invitation he may have for you in this.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT). In this text Jesus invites us to come to him and he will give us rest. Take some time to sit with Jesus. In the midst of your busy life, what does it feel like to simply sit and rest with Jesus? Ask Jesus to help you in combating the busyness of your life.

This musing was written by Steve Summerell. He works with b leading retreats in the Los Angeles area, providing spiritual direction for pastors and writing thought provoking articles.

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