Friday, June 10, 2011

Be Still

Psalm 46:10 Be Still and Know that I Am God
Imagine your life is a blank piece of paper. Now think of the things that make up or fill up your life right now. Write or draw the things that take up your time and energy in size proportion to how much time you spend doing them. If you spend most of your time working, then the word “work” (or a picture for it) would be the largest thing on your paper. Then fill in the other things you spend your days doing. When you are finished your picture might look something like this:

What do I notice? Not very much whitespace. What do I know? I need to create opportunities for whitespace in my life. What is the danger for me? Being full of resolve to clear some whitespace in my life, and before I know it, I have filled the vacancy with some other activity! Glynn Young wrote in his community blog, “The whitespace in our lives is like that. We have it, but we usually try to fill it up with activities and stuff. Yet that whitespace is the rest time, the thinking time, the quiet time that we need to let ourselves be quiet. It’s the time when God speaks most clearly, or when we’ve pushed away all the distractions that invade our lives so that we can hear God speaking clearly.” I know that I have to be very intentional about carving out time to be still. What are some strategies you use?  My pastor says she intentionally builds extra time into her day, between appointments, so that after arriving at her destination, she can turn off the car, breathe, and have time to be still. One friend uses her car time to pray on the way, chatting with God like an old friend in the passenger seat. Another friend takes a little extra time in…*gasp* the bathroom stall at work for a few moments of stillness. While I sometimes wish I could wipe my paper clean of many of the activities that take up my waking hours, the reality is that we do have these activities to juggle as a family and they do bring me great joy.

Let me be honest. Being still is not my strong suit. In fact, it takes a great deal of effort for me to be still. But God is exceedingly patient with me. When I take the time to be still and listen for God I am always amazed at what God has to say. I believe that God had Ryan in mind for me as a life partner. This laid-back Caribbean man will call me over to him in the evenings and say, "Honey, you haven’t stopped since you came home. Come sit down with me and relax." The truth is, I don’t even realize I am still going at such a high speed until he mentions it. He doesn't have any trouble taking time to chill out. More often, I need to follow his example in the relaxing department!
Recently, in my weekly Bible study group Sisters of the Spirit, we decided to try an experiment from The Joy Diet by Martha Beck. Her first exercise for a more joy-filled life is to practice 15 minutes of nothing each day. We were already doing a study called Contagious Joy by Christa Kinde. What a perfect experiment, right? I mean, how hard can it be to do nothing for 15 minutes? Well, it was very hard. One of my days of 15 minutes of nothing included a nap on a hammock, which I was happy about, but may not really count as nothing. I also cheated a little by having a notebook handy to joy down things on my to-do list, so they could stop swirling around my head and move on by. When we met the following week to discuss our experiences, I was surprised that everyone found it challenging. Some group members found that they fell asleep as soon as they stopped moving. That is an indicator of our exhaustion level, I think. While our goal was not to stop our thoughts, we were amazed at the non-stop-stream- of-random-and-sometimes-related-thoughts-and-subsequent-rabbit-trails constantly moving through our minds. When we are always moving, we don't realize that our minds, our thoughts, are always moving, too.  When I committed to the week-long exercise, I scheduled intentional time to do it (plus, as the group leader, I need to be setting an example, right?) But even after recognizing that there was value in the discipline and indeed greater joy, as Martha Beck suggests, once the week was over I was back to my same routine, minus the 15 minutes of silence. Perhaps it helped me to be open to any opportunities for stillness that arise. If I have five extra minutes before a class starts, I can check status updates on my friends’ Facebook pages or I can close my eyes and listen to the birds singing.  I just have to remember that I need to take time to be still. Every time I do, even for a brief moment, God is there waiting for me, not with a disappointed expression, but with open arms.

Questions to ponder
·        How do you carve out time to be still?
·        Think of a time when God surprised you during your quiet time
·        What other ways do you hear God speaking in your life?
·        What do you gain after a time of being still? Does this motivate you?
·        What other scriptures come to mind when thinking of being still?


  1. You've come a long way from the teenager I first met sweetie! :>) I'm so glad you've see the wisdom of slowing down and even more glad you're doing it! I like the way you posted "BE STILL" These words work well as a virtual mask for me. When I lay awake worrying - I keep coming back to those words physically masking my worries, over and over again until I can calm my brain down and just listen. Those words work well the same way when I see a beautiful flower, clouds, people around me... I allow myself to keep on enjoying whatever it is through a window in the shape of "BE STILL"... without feeling the urge to 'do' something. I just have to remember to do it :>) Awesome post Lin!!! Thanks for giving me a chance to do some ponderin' :>)

  2. Chris, Beautiful idea: using 'Be Still' as the mantra to be still! Love ya!

  3. You are such a great teacher! And you are a busy bee. You amaze me with all you accomplish. But Ryan (and God) are right. Be still and relax some each day! Sometimes it blows me away to hear how much God wants to tell me when I stop to listen. Sometimes it's volumes, sometimes just one word fills the space.