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Rise and Shine
by Cara Hanson

Mark 1:35
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

John 8:2
At dawn he (Jesus) appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them.

If I had to guess, I would say that Jesus never hit SNOOZE. Okay, even if they had alarm clocks back then, he still wouldn’t have done it. Scripture tells us that Jesus got up before the sun to pray by himself. Jesus also said that he came to do God’s will and that he always did what pleased God (John 6:38 & 8:29). Logically speaking, it cannot be God’s will for us to fritter away our days by lounging around in bed or even to start out our day without prayer.

Many people live in a perpetual state of zombiehood. They “burn the candles at both ends,” and when it is time to get up in the morning, there is little energy or time left for God and our Lord. Henry David Thoreau got it right when he wrote, “The morning wind forever blows, the poem of creation is uninterrupted; but few are the ears that hear it.” He believed morning to be a sacred time when we should “awake to a higher life than we fell asleep from. Morning is when I am awake and there is dawn in me.” Too many people awake to a “higher” life induced by the fact that morning is “when I am exhausted and there is coffee in me.”

Jesus knew the secret about early morning that I never discovered until I had babies. When newborns are breastfeeding, they need to eat every two hours, and each session lasts about an hour, including time to burp and change the baby, well…you can do the math. When I was nursing each of our three children, I had to endure many sleepless nights. Just when my head hit the pillow, it would be nursing time again. Even though my eyes felt like someone had poured sand in them, what else could I do but take care of my babies who were depending on me? Those days were also the best prayer times of my life. All night long, I was praying and speaking in tongues. I am so thankful that babies get up at the crack of dawn, because they helped develop my love for the sacred time of morning.

The Bible has many references to the dawn, including:

Psalm 119:147
I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word.

Psalm 57:8
Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn.

Psalm 65:8
Those living far away fear your wonders; where morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy.

Not only is daybreak the most peaceful and beautiful time to view God’s creation, it is also a great time to meditate on His Word and talk to Him. Everyone needs to depart to a solitary place and pray, so do not let yourself get talked out of this valuable one-on-one time with our Father. He is the one who made the day to begin with, so it makes sense to begin the day in thankfulness and prayer. It energizes us for the day, and puts us in a God-focused frame of mind to face the challenges of the day ahead.

Psalm 118:24
This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

My three year old asked me why the lettuce is happy (lettuce rejoice and be glad in it), and I figure he has a point. When you start your morning off the right way, everything seems to be filled with joy.

Back in the days before electricity, people kept sensible hours by going to bed when it got dark and then rising with the sun. Thomas Jefferson once bragged that in his entire lifetime, the sun never once caught him in bed. No wonder he was an architect, scientist, musician, politician, and more. Just think how much more productive we could all be if we started our days off the right way.

God is such a gracious father to give us night and day. There is a tremendous comfort and peace in the fact that no matter how much we may mess things up during one day, there is always a new dawn to try it again. Kids are a great example of this principle. By the time morning comes, they have completely let go of the previous day’s sins. I have had nights where my children woke me up several times for ridiculous reasons. Even when there has been crying and frustration, they greet the next morning with a bright smile and no mention of the previous night. By God’s mercy and grace, He does the same thing for us.

Psalm 30:5
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

I am certain that Jesus never greeted his apostles in the morning with a grunt and “Don’t speak to me until I’ve had my coffee.” When you begin your day acknowledging God with sincere prayer, He will direct your paths. You can give Him the glory just by the way in which you choose to start your day. If our kids come out of their rooms in a funk, I send them back to start over and try again. I tell them to remember the words of a great song, “Rise and shine and give God the glory, children of the Lord.”

Believe me, I am well acquainted with the SNOOZE button, but I have since trained my brain to resist the temptation. You can challenge yourself to open the day with praise. When you immediately start talking to God, you resist the urge to fall back asleep. After all, when we are talking to Him, you can bet He’s not dozing off. When we say, “Amen,” He doesn’t suddenly snap to attention. He’s hanging on our every word, and since this is a relationship, we should give Him the same consideration.

How frustrating it must have been for Jesus when he was about to die and his closest friends were sleeping. Rather than blasting them with a foghorn, he lovingly responds with, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Mark 14:38). I know that when he needs me, I don’t want to be caught asleep on the job. The words of our Savior ring loud and clear–we need to watch, pray, and train our flesh to be strong.

The planet Venus is called the “Morning Star” because it is the dominant object in the morning sky, exceeded only by the brightness of the moon. Clearly our Lord knew the beauty of the light of dawn; he even referred to himself as the “bright morning star” (Rev. 22:16). You can bet he and God are ready and willing to fellowship with us at this sacred time of day. Be sure to show up early like children, forgetting the previous day and reaching out toward the day ahead with a cheerful heart, ready to give God the glory.

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