Friday, March 16, 2018

Be Still

Psalm 46:10
He says, "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

Solitude and silence are not self-indulgent exercises for times when an overcrowded soul needs a little time to itself.  Rather, they are concrete ways of opening to the presence of God beyond human effort and beyond the human constructs that cannot fully contain the Divine. ~Ruth Haley Barton, Invitation to Solitude and Silence

We are more than half way through this year's Lenten journey.  If you chose a particular practice to maintain during this time, is it still working for you?  Have you made any discoveries along the way?  Do you plan to continue a discipline or a new spiritual habit through Easter and beyond?

The one practice I find that I intend to foster daily is contemplative prayer.  When I begin Lent, this concept is nowhere on my radar.  But the influence of Ruth Haley Barton's Invitation to Solitude and Silence, not a book I initially intend to read during Lent, and the planned study of Whispers of Rest by Bonnie Grey, encourage compel me to give it a go.  These two guiding lights, coupled with my need to practice intentional breathing ('breathe' being my word for the year), and there you have it!

For those of you not acquainted with contemplative prayer, Bonnie Grey describes it as a time when:  We use our hearts to enter into silence, to listen and experience the presence of God.  It's like leaning into a quiet embrace.  Words aren't needed.  But she also suggests the use of one word during this time of prayer, especially if you are someone like me who tends to have difficulty quieting the mind.  When your thoughts wander, gently return to your One Word.  You may or may not hear God speak, or feel anything.  That's okay.  Just be with God.

In my case, however, I need more than one word to accompany my measured breathing, in and out from the diaphragm.  Examples of this are:  "Jesus" (inhale), "thank You" (exhale); or "Lord" (inhale), "I love You" (exhale).  When I feel my mind spiraling away into thought land, the repetitive phrases bring me back to focusing on the silence, open to hear God's still small voice instead of my own internal chatter.

How is this working out so far, you ask?  Honestly, with the clearing of the mind aspect, I have a long way to go.  But the breathing part?  Stellar!  It is training me to breathe this way naturally.  I catch myself multiple times a day engaged in diaphragm breathing instead of the shallow lung breaths I used to take.

But the biggest takeaway to date is the overwhelming peace and serenity I experience whenever I engage in this process.  I feel refreshed, re-energized, and prepared to face the demands of the day before me.  That's what intentionally basking in the Lord's presence does for me.

And can for you.

So be still.

Know.

He is God.

Amen!

26 comments:

  1. Good post, Martha. Meditation and quiet time to pray is something I try sometimes. Not often enough in this busy world we live in. One suggestion I could make, is to go to a church, (any church), in quiet times and sit there alone in silence. Luckily, there is a church near us that is open all the time. Sadly, these days churches are being locked because of vandalism and theft. It is the devil's greatest hour when a church is closed!

    God bless.

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    1. That is a wonderful suggestion, Victor! Our church is open during the week, and there is a lovely prayer chapel there; I'll have to try it for some of my quiet times.
      Love and blessings!

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  2. Oh I love this, Martha. I began this same focus and practice last year in my Secret Garden...and I must admit that I've gotten away from that this year, due to too many distractions. Your words here are helping me to re-focus on what is most important in my life...breathing in Jesus and yes, to "Be still, and Know that He is God..." I know when I do this intentionally, I feel so much better and am at peace within...Thank you for this reminder to get back to that place again.

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    1. Pamela, I'm so glad to know this post urged you to refocus on simply spending quiet moments with the Lord. Yes, your Secret Garden is the perfect place to enjoy silence and solitude with Him. Hope you do get back to it soon!
      Love and blessings!

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  3. Being still and knowing He is God is a challenge. At least for me. I don't do contemplative prayer but I do have a set time where I try to quiet my spirit and listen to God speaking through His Word. My New Morning Mercies and journaling have brought this discipline front and center for me.

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    1. I thought about you when I penned this post, Bill - Cycleguy with that spinning, spinning, spinning mind. :) That's how I feel, too! I'm so glad, though, that you are able to center yourself and listen to God speaking during your quiet time. And if your blog reflections are any indication, I'd say He's speaking to you loud and clear!
      Love and blessings!

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  4. Martha, this sounds like a wonderful and peaceful process. Love this line from the book, "when an overcrowded soul needs a little time to itself." I think we could all use an invitation to solitude and silence. Thanks for the reminder.

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    1. The more I practice this, Karen, the more I begin to wonder how I ever functioned without it. This is a busy, busy world, and we do need to retreat from it, often and intentionally, to become aware of God's presence.
      Love and blessings!

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  5. Wow, Martha! Your article is a blessing to read, and so are the above responses from your readers. Thanks for the timely suggestions from you and your followers.

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    1. Thank you, Mary, for your kind words here. That's what I always pray for in blogging - that my words would bless others.
      Love and blessings!

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  6. Love this, Martha! God's currently working on this "be still" thing in my life. He used your post as more confirmation.
    Thank you, my friend for sharing.

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    1. Beckie, it never ceases to amaze me that I will write something, and inevitably, God uses it to confirm something others are seeking or considering. What joy that gives me! So happy these words touched your heart today.
      Love and blessings!

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    2. Indeed, Martha. They touched me so much that I wrote a new blog post. Thanks, dear friend and sister!

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    3. You are so welcome, sister! We are here for each other. No doubt about it!

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  7. Martha, being still in God's presence is important, as you note. Learning to be still, to be quiet is a learning process for sure. I know that in those times of quiet, the white spaces (margin) is when God is free to work in our lives.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences here.

    Love and blessings!

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    1. Yes, Kim, those white spaces . . . This afternoon, as I was practicing this prayer form, I found myself breathing in "Jesus" and exhaling "I'm here." Unexpectedly, but most movingly, the words "I'm here," meaning me, were transformed into my hearing Jesus tell me, "I'm here." Oh, I can't begin to describe the joy I felt in that moment! He is with us, always and everywhere. Trust and believe.
      Love and blessings!

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  8. Amen! I have my quiet contemplative time in the mornings and it always gets my day started just right.

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    1. Terri, I wish I could always get my day started in the morning with concentrated prayer, but as my MIL is living with us,(she is an early riser) and I need coffee before I come to grips with the dawn, I usually postpone these quiet times until the afternoon. Let's just say it's the "pick-me-up" I need just at the right time. God is oh, so good!
      Love and blessings!

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  9. I like to start my day with contemplative prayer and meditation, usually 30 minutes to an hour. I try to end it that way, too, but I am often too tired and I just fall into bed with my book. But when I do end the day that way, it brings a peace to my rest.

    I've found that the length of time doesn't matter as much as trying to make it a regular habit. There was a time in my life when five minutes in the morning was all I could manage. And that was good too.

    Your advice about bringing ourselves back when our minds wander, reminds me of a great story about Father Thomas Keating, well known for his practice and instruction of centering prayer. When someone came up to him after a session very discouraged, saying that she had to repeat her centering word 1,000 times, he replied, "That's great! That's 1,000 times you were connected to God."

    And yay on the belly breathing! Do you know that physically, breathing into our bellies tells our brains that everything is safe? As opposed to shallow upper chest breathing that tells our brains that we are in danger and releases stress hormones! Belly breathing is our natural breathing process -- watch babies and animals breathe. We can absolutely train ourselves to return to this natural way of breathing. It's so good for you!

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  10. I love that story about Father Thomas, Galen! You don't know how much better that makes me feel when again and again I go back to my words in order to focus. The neatest thing happened yesterday - My inhale was "Jesus" and my exhale "I'm yours." All of a sudden, the second phrase changed to "I'm here." Although that began as me declaring that I am here, before I knew it, I had the vision of Jesus being the one saying, "I'm here." WOW!!!
    And yes, the belly breathing was recommended by my chiropractor; it's one of the reasons "breathe" is my word for the year. It is an amazing stress reliever, that's for sure.
    Love and blessings!

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  11. Thanks for the reminder to slow down. It's so easy to get in the way of ourselves.

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    1. We do an amazing job at getting ourselves tumbled and jumbled up in the ways of our own doing, Floyd. May we all simply turn to God and focus on Him.
      Love and blessings!

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  12. I LOVE the breathing exercise! A former LaMaze student, I have used those breathing techniques to endure pain for over 40 years. I will definitely be trying your technique when focusing on His presence.
    Blessings!

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    1. Oh, Lulu, I cannot recommend this enough, and as a LaMaze student, you know exactly the blessing this can be when dealing with pain, be it physical, emotional or spiritual. I've endured pain in my upper right shoulder since Thanksgiving. It is so much better due to visits to the chiropractor who also encouraged me to redevelop the "belly breath." So yes, do try the contemplative prayer which incorporates both. I'm up to 20 minutes a day!
      Love and blessings!

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  13. "Be still an know!" It's so hard in this crazy busy life to take time for stillness but I've learned that it is essential! Just sitting in His presence and resting in His love! Great word, Martha!

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    1. Deb, adopting this practice has been absolutely life-changing for me, especially now as we are taking care of my MIL and there are so many more pressures we could never have anticipated. If you can just set aside ten minutes per day to find a quiet place, where you can relax and allow your body/mind to be silent and simply breathe, I guarantee it will renew and refresh you in ways you never thought possible. God is good, and He knows what we need before we ask.
      Love and blessings!

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