Making a joyful noise to the Lord sounds good and right, doesn’t it? It’s a no-brainer—so much so that it’s easy not to engage our brains all that actively over a praise passage. We’re inspired and uplifted when we read such words. Our gait may even be livelier and our gaze focused higher for a while afterward.
The trouble is, our days are often characterized by an operative word other than praise. Despite our best intentions, that word too easily morphs into busyness. Author Cynthia Heald reflects on this issue:
One day when I was reading Oswald Chamber’s My Utmost for His Highest, I was struck by his insight about a rather obscure and easily overlooked verse in Genesis: “[From there he (Abram) went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD.]” Chambers writes, “Bethel is the symbol of communion with God; Ai is the symbol of the world. Abraham pitched his tent between the two. The measure of the worth of our public activity for God is the private profound communion we have with him. Rush is wrong every time; there is always plenty of time to worship God. Quiet days with God may be a snare. We have to pitch our tents where we shall always have quiet times with God, however noisy our times with the world may be.”
As I meditated on these thoughts, I concluded that I needed a tent! Since my journey usually takes me into Ai (the world) or to Bethel (which literally means “house of God”), I realized that I needed to pitch my tent (spend time with God) between the world and my times in church. Because I was in church only once or twice a week, I knew that if I wanted to keep my hand in God’s, I needed to spend time alone with him, one-on-one, every day. In order to do this, I found a “tent” and put my “altar” in it. My tent is a cloth bag in which I have placed my altar: my Bible, a journal, and a devotional book. I usually include a Bible study book or a current book that I am reading. A tent can be a cloth bag, a backpack, or a briefcase—anything that is portable and can be taken with you whenever you leave your home.
My tent stays near my chair in my study, and it’s ready to be pitched early in the morning. But if circumstances keep me from spending time with the Lord at the beginning of the day, I pick up my tent and take it with me when I leave the house. (In fact, I take it with me even if I already have had time with the Lord.) Then throughout the day, I look for pockets of time when I can pitch my tent—unplanned times of waiting or having a few extra minutes before a commitment. I can set up my tent in an airport, a doctor’s waiting room, a coffee shop, a library, a park … I have found that I am much more consistent in spending time with the Lord because I always have my tent with me.
Lord, let me rejoice before you! Let me praise you and worship you!