Friday, May 17, 2013

Be still

I bet I heard that a lot as a kid. "Be still!"

I still have a hard time with it some days. Not so much physically (Lord knows I like those "be still" moments on a Sunday afternoon!) but more mentally and spiritually.

The stillness of the mind. And of the soul.

David Allen is my "getting things done" hero. He talks about having a mind like still water, where there's no latent thoughts poking their way into your consciousness, worried that they will be forgotten. He's got a great system for recording and tracking those tasks that pop into our brains and demand our attention. I like his system and have now used it for years, and highly recommend it (you can check it out at

But really this post is more about about the spiritual stillness that we all need, but many of us don't even know how badly. And even if we do know we need it, we have a tough time getting there. Bonhoeffer said "the mark of solitude is silence, as speech is the mark of community" (Life Together). Charles Ringma, in expanding on Bonhoeffer's thoughts, says this: "Silence is not busily talking inside one's own head. It is being open and empty, but expectant of God's light and consolation" (Seize the Day).

Patient expectation. Dallas Willard makes that point in both Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God and in Spirit of the Disciplines. Richard Foster goes even deeper in Celebration of Discipline in his chapter on Solitude. All of these acknowledge the sheer struggle of silence for today's follower of Jesus.

But we must learn to be still.

"Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him..." Ps 37.7

Take some time starting today--30 minutes or 3 minutes--and begin to teach yourself the habit of silence. Yes, it's a habit. It requires repetition, over and over and over (redundant?). It takes time to cultivate silence-muscles just like it takes time to develop my body into a distance runner. But we need it. We need a "couch-2-5K" app for our silence times.

Only have a couple of things for your time. One of them should not be your phone, tablet or computer. Stay away from anything that will distract you. Right now as I type this my little Facebook tab above says I have 3 new notifications, and my email tab says I have 2 unread emails. I don't need that kind of distraction in silence! 

Have a pen and journal or paper. When a thought distracts you, write it down, then give it to God. Let it go. Be silent again in your head. And when another thought distracts you (and it will), repeat.

Do not get discouraged. Wait patiently. Who knows what God may do?