Every sunday I have breakfast with a rugged ex-marine, whose heart is far softer than his blustery manner would suggest. He is a regular churchgoer and offers a ride to anyone who'll go along with him - after his breakfast.
The other day, I heard someone ask him how long his church service lasts. "About an hour," he said.
"Wow," said his questioner. "Ours is at least three hours!"
"I ain't givin' God no overtime," said my friend brusquely, yet with the faintest twinkle in his eye.
Then another voice chipped in: "But God takes care of you 24 hours a day. Should you be rationing your time with Him?"
That thought instantly brought a couple of Bible verses to mind: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might ... when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up" (Deut. 6:5, 7). And, "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17).
I realized with a smile that responding adequately to these calls would involve quite a bit of "overtime." Yet one could view this as a reciprocal 24-hour commitment. God is never off duty. As the Psalms confirm, "He that keepeth thee ... shall neither slumber nor sleep" (121:3, 4). He is totally committed to each one of His offspring, and the more we appreciate this, the more natural it is for us to give Him more of our time.
Life itself can be an act of worship, instead of just the hour or so that might be spent in church each week. We can worship God anywhere, anytime. I have worshiped with friends and family on mountaintops, deep in pine forests, beside gleaming lakes, and on the seashore, where Bible imagery comes readily to life. These are among the places where, trusting in God's predictable, loving care, we can ask God to take us and make us what He wants us to be every moment of the day.
Of course, there is much to be said for the discipline and order that come from attending worship services regularly. This can make it easier to silence the clamor and clutter of everyday life and truly "worship the Father in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23).
In or out of church, there is still nothing to stop you from cultivating and assiduously expressing the vital, spiritual essence that is the substance of true worship. We can be in no place where God's voice is not right at hand, a voice that is unprogrammed by materialism and that offers inspiration, joy, and healing.
Worshiping with your life gives a feeling of kinship with people throughout the ages who have been committed to the same mission - dispelling the darkness of human thinking and revealing the light of "God with us," in all its power and authority.
This enlightened mission involves striving to express qualities such as purity, obedience, love, and unselfishness, which are all spiritual. The way to lay hold of these qualities is to watch our thoughts and make prayer a natural, regular part of how we think and act. This inevitably revitalizes our days.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, wrote of this in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "Simply asking that we may love God will never make us love Him; but the longing to be better and holier, expressed in daily watchfulness and in striving to assimilate more of the divine character, will mould and fashion us anew, until we awake in His likeness" (pg. 4).
This striving includes "doing unto others as we would have them do unto us" - thinking of others as we would have them think of us, talking of others as we would have them talk of us. No unjust, uncaring thoughts will remain in our consciousness or life for long if we strive to see around us God's love and loveliness, truth and truthfulness, good and goodness, refreshment and healing.
"The longing to be better and holier" is part of the act of worship. It is a living prayer. And God's unerring response is worth any amount of overtime. The blessings are assured.
(I suspect that, in his heart, my marine friend already knows this!)
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