Be Still

Be still and know I am God.” Psalm 46:10

Do you have trouble sitting still?

Better yet — do you have trouble keeping your mind totally and completely clear for more than 10 seconds?  Can you manage 5 seconds, or do thoughts and worries and your “To Do” list dart in like uninvited fruit flies vying for your attention?

Being completely still, both physically and mentally, is an act of will and practice.  Just as you would practice an exercise until it’s comfortable, you can practice “stillness” until it is also.  For example, maybe you enjoy running and you practice running until you are going the distance you wish and at the pace you wish.

Practice takes time — this is the element of “practice” that bothers most of us and causes us to give up. We want to try something and be great at it in the first few attempts.  Believe me, when I tell you, Friend, that most things in life worth doing take TIME to learn and perfect.  Or better still, it’s a life-long journey towards growing in perfection…you may never actually get there (perfection) but the journey and the progress are certainly worth celebrating!

So try sitting still for 3 minutes the first time.  See if you can manage to not wiggle around.  Maybe you need to prepare by finding a comfortable place and position on something soft first.  Experiment.  Once you’ve managed to find a comfortable position, try stretching it to 5 minutes.

Now for the mind-stilling element: If you’re like me, my mind is programmed to think, think, think.  I process foreground and background thoughts and even process thoughts I’m unaware of.  My mind is constantly in motion, and it is a REAL STRUGGLE for me to focus on something with all of my attention.  Now imagine that my attention is focused on NOT THINKING!  (Are you laughing yet?)  It’s not easy, but it’s really worth it.

I have tried a couple of exercises that helped over the years, and maybe you’ll find something here that works for you.

The first was in a book I read by Deepak Chopra where he suggested lying on your back (or imagining yourself doing so) and see the sky as the canvas of your mind.  The clouds that go by are your thoughts, but the clear places in between are the emptiness of thoughtlessness — focus on these empty places.

The second exercise, which I actively employ today, involves “capturing thoughts” as they enter my mind and gently directing them back out the door again.  So I imagine my mind is a dark and peaceful room and my thoughts wander in to intrude upon my peace…I gently take them by the elbow and lead them to the right or left and out.  Then I focus back into the dark and peace again.  I find that the more I lead the thoughts out, the less and less they keep insisting on intruding.

You know, someone pointed out to me a while ago that you can’t really HEAR others if your own mouth is talking.  And quite honestly, prayer works the same way.  If we are continually going to God with our big bag of worries and “to do” list of things and people to fix, where and when are we actually pausing to hear what HE might have to say about it all?

Do you stop during prayer and ask God what He thinks about you and all that you’ve laid out in front of Him? 

Try it!  The listening is where the rubber really meets the proverbial road for me.  THIS is precisely where I know that I leave off and God picks up.  The ideas and thoughts that come into my mind then are not my own (and I know this because they’re way more loving and compassionate and practical than my own!), and I am finally making room for God within me.

In these moments I am at peace.

In these moments, I am calm and quiet and listening.

In these moments I receive life-giving wisdom.

In these moments I receive the love, unending and unconditional, that the deepest parts of my heart and soul so desperately thirst for.

In these moments, I am empty of myself and I am filled by God.

Oh how I wish I could just linger there forever!  But the fact is that I can’t sit still that long.  And that’s what Heaven’s for…

Heavenly Father, I thank you for the souls who wander here today and pray that they find and hear what You need to tell them today.  Thank you, God, for speaking truths to us and continually growing us to be more like Jesus.  For when we live our lives tucked away in Your love, we are living more peacefully and confidently.  Speak to us with Your voice that is not of this world, and show us Your path.  In Jesus’ name…Amen.

Psalm 25: 4-5 “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.  Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”

Less Is More (And important life-truth lessons come in the most unlikely places…)

I have too many zombies to feed.  Yes, you read that right.  One of my little guilty pleasures is gaming.  For as long as I can remember, I
have loved games.  The little girl inside of me who delights in playing is alive and thriving, as each day, I tend to my Zombie Cafe.  It’s an app on my phone…and like millions of other folks out there, I feed my zombies.

This morning, I realized a very valuable life lesson as I was tending my zombie cafe.  Less is more.

The point of Zombie Cafe is to cook food on your stoves and have your waiters put it out on the tables so that when the zombies walk through the door, there is something for them to eat.  If you fail to feed them, they feed on your staff — and that’s not good.  You see, you buy more stoves and more wait staff as you progress because the zombies pay you for their meals (I know, don’t think too much about all of this — where do dead, walking zombies get their money from anyway?).  So having the zombies feed on your waiters is a bad thing — they are an essential piece of the puzzle for it all to work correctly.

Well, last week the support crew for Zombie Cafe released a software update.  In doing so, the timer that controls how fast the zombies burn through the food you’ve cooked has accelerated.  In short, I am struggling suddenly to make enough food and turn it around so that there’s something for my zombies to eat.  Of course I considered the obvious — do I have enough stoves and servers and wait staff?  Well, I’m maxed out, so the answer has to be yes.

And then it occurred to me, something simple yet profound.  Less is more.  If I have fewer tables, I will be able to manage this better.  The waiters will have no problem keeping up with cleaning dirty dishes and serving fresh food because there will be less to manage.  And I will
be able to keep up with turning out dishes to feed the zombies because I will be accommodating less of them over time.

For those of you who are business-minded, you’re probably also thinking that I will now be making less money.  Well, that’s partly true.  I say “partly” because I will finally be able to balance cooking higher-revenue dishes against the demand.  I will be making more money on what is served in the end.

Less is more.

I can apply this important truth to just about every single facet of my life!

Do you feel utterly overwhelmed by how much you try to do in a day?

Are you deeply tired and in need of a vacation or extended sleep because of how run-down you feel?

Do you make lists and cross things off and worry about how you’re going to cram it all in?

I do.  Boy, do I!  Everyone in my family will attest to it, too!

Friends, we’re doing too much.  Less is more. We were never meant to “do everything for everyone and be everything to everyone” in our lives!  God never intended for us to take on the world each and every day.  He created us with a beautiful and unique blend of gifts, talents and passions which we are to use and enjoy in service each day.  That which is splendidly “me” is where I should be focusing my energies — my “natural talents” and let the other things fall by the wayside.  Trying to do everything — or especially things that we’re not called to do — makes us miserable and stressed-out.

I’ve been miserable, and over-burdened a lot in my life.  And it’s mostly self-imposed, I am now realizing.  I take on way too much.  I can feel better about the quality of what I contribute and the things I take care of when there is less of it to do.  So, starting today, I am going to be much more judicious about what I am choosing to spend my time and energy on.  And yes, I’ll still make a little time for my zombies…but just maybe I’ll be able to make some time to start painting again.  Now that’s something I can get excited about!

Heavenly Father, I thank you that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and that You crafted each of us with special gifts and a purpose for our uniqueness.  Please give us the understanding to embrace this truth in our lives.  For when we discover and embrace who You created us to be, we can truly find peace and freedom…there can be no comparison to any others, for no one was made to be exactly alike.  And this is so good!  You are so good!  In Jesus’ name….Amen.

The Sweet Peace of God

Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

We often think of peace as a lack of conflict, or a time of contentment and “when all is well” with us, or maybe we’re not wrestling with anything major or particularly difficult.  These, by human standards, are peaceful times in our lives.

But this peace is not the priceless gift of peace that God offers us — it’s merely the absence of struggle.

The peace of God is that miraculous shard of light that pierces through our darkest moments.  When we’ve been sitting in the dark places with our grief, sorrows and regrets, God’s white light of love and hope for us cuts through the pitch black and illuminates.  Our eyes adjust, and we
can see that what He has planned for us is not about sitting in the darkness, but walking with Him in the light.

We have a choice.  We always have a choice.  God will never demand that we walk with Him or that we follow the gentle prodding of
correction He whispers to our souls.

Choosing to turn towards the light of truth God shines in our hearts, and choosing to heed the whispers of the Spirit in our hearts…these are all actions that lead to a deeper way of living — a life abundantly full of love and peace from God.

The world cannot give you peace.  It can temporarily appease a desire, but you will desire again in time.  Only God gives true peace.

And so you may be wondering, how do you move from where you are to the place of resting in God’s peace?

This is what works for me…and maybe it will for you, too.

I close my eyes and allow my thoughts to quiet.  I make sure there is room to hear God’s voice if He speaks.  And then I imagine myself going to the foot of the cross…

I lay my worries, my anxieties, my cares and my troubles at the foot of the cross.  I pray about each and every little thing that takes up space in my mind and keeps my thoughts from the Lord and from others who might need me today.  I give these things to God to care for them — for He knows already what I need before a word is on my tongue.  One by one, I pour them out and lay them down, and I trust that He hears me and will provide…I have faith that these things are no longer in my hands, but in the hands of the One who can truly see what is best for us all.  I trust that His ways are greater than my own, and I surrender my own plans for my life.

And in surrendering, His peace takes up residence where all that I have now layed down once was…

Heavenly Father, I pray that each soul who comes here today will find what they need in You.  You fearfully and wonderfully created each and every one of us, and nothing that troubles our hearts is too small for You.  We might believe that our troubles don’t matter or that we shouldn’t bother You with them, but You have told us that You provide for the birds of the air and all of their needs, and that we are of much greater value…and so we must trust that You will provide for us, too.  You alone can sustain us, and You provide perfect peace for our souls…even in the fury of storms and strife, we can not be shaken if we are resting in Your arms.  In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give  you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30