Tag Archive | Christian

GO MAKE DISCIPLES

Make Disciples
What is your job as a Christian? If God gave you a job description for the Christian life, what would he put on it?

At the core of the Christian’s job is the task of discipleship. We read this clearly in our Lord’s pre-ascension words:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18–20)

 

The following article was previously published as and originally titled “Disciple-Making is Ordinary Christianity” by Erik Raymond

What does it mean to make disciples? A disciple is a learner and a follower of Jesus. When we make disciples we are working to see people who do not follow Jesus come to follow him (conversion) and then teaching them to faithfully follow Jesus in every area of their lives (maturity).

Many Christians hear this and file it away in a cabinet of idealism. Sure, I’d like to disciple people but I really can’t. They feel like discipleship is above their pay grade. Is this true? Is discipleship something that only pastors, elders and the “mature” do? Or is it for everyone?

Here is my main point: disciple-making is ordinary Christianity. It is fundamental to it. Like learning to count and say your alphabet in the natural realm, there is scarcely any part of the Christian life where discipleship does not touch. In so far as Christianity is a community faith, it is a disciple-making faith.

There may be a dozen different paradigms flying around when you hear discipleship. Some people insist on reading a book, meeting for coffee, eating a meal, working out, etc. All of these may aid the work of discipleship but they are not a prerequisite for or the necessary substance of it. Jesus never gave us a program for discipleship but he gave us his example and a broad, far-reaching command to do it. As a result, we have great freedom and a great burden for discipleship.

What does it look like? When Jesus commands us to make disciples he intends for us to live our lives in obedience to him in the presence of other people (believers and unbelievers). This intentional living seeks to show others the worth and the power of Christ. In short, we let people in to see how we live out the Christian faith.

LET ME GIVE YOU SOME EXAMPLES:

Discipleship happens when a guy wants to be married but doesn’t have a game-plan for how to go about it. He asks another brother for guidance and help. This brother takes him out for lunch and talks through some biblical and practical principles. He then commits to pray for him, to be available for questions, and to meet occasionally to talk about his progress.
Discipleship happens when a mom with two toddlers drops something off that she borrowed from another sister at church. During the exchange they get to talking and the young mom expresses her feelings of fatigue and failure to measure up to her perceived standards of motherhood. The other woman listens to her, reminds her of Scripture, prays with her, and then continues to come alongside of her for encouragement in the gospel.
Discipleship happens when a dad points out a scantily dressed lady and tells his teenage sons that what they see is not beauty. He explains to them what beauty is as it relates to God’s character and will. He continues to tell, show, and emphasize the true beauty that God delights in (1 Peter 3:3–4).
Discipleship happens when a brother notices another brother is running hard after his job and neglecting his family and ministry. He comes alongside of his brother to remind him of the true and lasting treasure, and the proper perspective on work.
Discipleship happens when a mom is at the park with her children. At one point the kids become unruly and she patiently, graciously but faithfully, disciplines her children. There are many watching eyes around her. Both the believing and unbelieving women are intrigued. Conversations begin and soon the fruit of the Spirit points to the matchless worth of Christ.
Discipleship happens when a home-school mom breaks away with free time only to go to the same coffee house hoping to make new friends and open doors for sharing the gospel.
Discipleship happens when a single woman senses another single woman’s discontentment in being single. She makes it a point to come alongside of her for encouragement in the goodness of the gospel.
These are just everyday, ordinary occurrences. In fact, I picked them from the ordinary lives of people in our church family. It is this ordinary work that pushes the church ahead toward maturity while protecting her from spiritual shipwreck.

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. (Heb. 3:13–14)
Discipleship is the ordinary practice of believers. You could say that Christianity is more than discipleship, but it is not less. We are our brother’s keeper. It’s in the job description.

This article was previously published as and originally titled “Disciple-Making is Ordinary Christianity” by Erik Raymond

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IS CONTENTMENT POSSIBLE AT CHRISTMAS?

6 Secrets for Teaching Your Kids Contentment This Christmas

 6 Secrets for Teaching Your Kids Contentment This Christmas

If you think it’s tough to catch a glimpse of Santa at Christmas, try finding contentment.

Your kids want to add “just one more thing” to their wish lists. Nonstop commercials are trying to sell you more stuff. Your neighbours are in a full-on Christmas lights competition. It’s merry madness!

This re-posted article has some great insights. It was originally published on the ministry website of David Ramsay HERE.

We all want to focus more on gratitude and contentment during the holidays, but it’s hard putting that into practice. As a parent, it’s your job to set that tone for your kids. Begin by setting some realistic expectations for Christmas, and then teach them what contentment looks like. We know what you are thinking. That’s easier said than done. And you’re right. But let’s look at some practical ways to make it happen.

Set Expectations

Giving is a huge part of Christmas. As parents, we love to see the joy on our kids’ faces as they tear open their gifts. However, you have to consider where you are in your Baby Steps before you begin buying. If you are super-focused on getting out of debt, you may choose to scale back this year.

As tough as that decision might be for you, talk about it openly with your spouse and kids. Start by sitting down with your spouse, setting a budget, and agreeing to stick to it. Once you have your budget on paper, call a family meeting with your kids and begin setting the expectations for Christmas. There’s no need to tell your kids how much you plan to spend. Just let them know that things may look a little different this year while you are working toward your goals.

Here are some other ways to guide your kids to more realistic expectations:

1. Put it on paper. Have your kids create their wish lists. They can simply write their list on a sheet of paper or they could make a collage using pictures from toy catalogues, paper and glue.

2. Tell them what is doable. Look over the lists with your spouse. If there is something on the list that is too expensive, let your child know that it isn’t in the budget this year. The longer they anticipate a PlayStation or playground set, the more disappointed they’ll be if they don’t get it.

3. Make the big choice. If that big item is in your budget this year, explain to your child that choosing something more pricey may mean fewer presents under the tree. This is a good opportunity for them to consider their choices. If they’d rather have more presents under the tree, they might revise their list.

Teach Contentment

If you are scaling back this year on Christmas spending, then you have a great chance to teach your kids about contentment. “Stuff” is fun, but it won’t make you happy. When a child learns to give to others and not be attached to their stuff, they are filled with a spirit of gratitude. And gratitude leads to contentment. So how do you get there? Here are some ways to teach this to your child:

4. Volunteer. Spend a day with your kids at a homeless shelter, soup kitchen or other type of charity. Your kids will see the faces of people who have little. And hopefully they’ll be less likely to complain about the gifts that don’t show up under the tree on Christmas morning.

5. Pass it down. This works best with younger children. Odds are that clothes get passed down. So why not do that with toys? Have the older sibling select a couple of their old toys that they know the younger one likes, wrap them up, and place them under the tree. The younger child will love the presents. Even better, the older child will get to see their little brother or sister’s reaction. This will help them understand the power of giving.

6. Get one. Give one. Encourage contentment while reducing clutter. Tell your child that for every toy they receive, they’ll give one away. They’ll learn to not hold onto their stuff too tightly. But, more importantly, they’ll learn to share.

The most important key to setting expectations and teaching contentment is communication. Talk to your spouse and kids often throughout the holiday season. You might even choose to tell the grandparents, extended family and friends what Christmas is going to look like for your family this year. When everyone knows what to expect, you’ll all have a merrier holiday season.

This is a re-posted article that was originally published on the ministry website of David Ramsay HERE.

🙂

IS THERE ROOM FOR ANXIETY IN OUR LIVES?

“Letting go and letting God” isn’t always comfortable.

Dude
It is more than likely that if you have ever taken the risk to share your anxiety within the Christian community, you have heard some counsel in the form of the Apostle Paul’s exhortation in Philippians 4:6. Paul says to the “holy people” at Philippi, “Do not be anxious about anything.” It’s a very powerful verse, a favourite of mine, and one that Christians have turned to time and time again when they experience anxiety. But what if it’s just not that simple?

I believe that when we cite this as the cure-all to one’s anxiety, we mean very well. In fact, many find comfort with the recitation of these six simple words. But in our attempts to help others and perhaps deflect our own anxiety and feelings of helplessness, we can inadvertently communicate the wrong message.

This article was taken from the book “The Anxious Christian: Can God Use Your Anxiety for Good?” by Rhett Smith

Rhett Smith says; often in my counselling practice, a Christian will come in to tell me they have tried to follow the “biblical counsel” of others to not be anxious, but their anxiety doesn’t quite seem to dissipate.

“Is something wrong with me? Am I a bad Christian?” they desperately ask me. “No, nothing is wrong with you,” I tell them. “What if God is using your anxiety to speak to you? What might God be saying to you?”

When we discourage others from safely expressing their anxiety, then we are essentially saying to them that anxiety is a bad emotion and that it is something to be done away with. It communicates to them that perhaps something is wrong with their Christian faith, and they begin to internalize the message, “I’m a Christian. I’m not supposed to be anxious.”

ANXIETY RE-IMAGINED
Kierkegaard referred to anxiety as our best teacher because of its ability to keep us in a struggle that strives for a solution, rather than opting to forfeit the struggle and slide into a possible depression. It would be nice if our lives and our Christian faith did not involve any struggle. But to believe that—and to perpetuate the belief to others that somehow the struggle with anxiety is un-Christian—is a mistake.

We are not the first people to struggle with anxiety and the emotions that surround it. In fact, as Christians, we come from a long line of people who have struggled with anxiety and have gone into hiding, putting on masks, in the process becoming less of who God created them to be. In the opening pages of Scripture we see that when Adam and Eve ate of the fruit from the tree of knowledge, both of their eyes were opened. In that moment, their instinct was to fight or flee, which is what most of us do when we are faced with anxiety. In their anxiety, Adam and Eve chose to blame each other, flee from the scene, hide and cover themselves up. I can only imagine the anxiety that the two of them must have felt as they hid from the Lord, waiting to be found out. Every sound coming from the Lord as He made His way toward them must have filled them with a growing sense of dread. As Scripture records: Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” (Genesis 3:7-10)

When faced with anxiety, we feel exposed, naked and vulnerable. Hiding and covering up is typically how we respond when we feel those things.

God has not only created us, but He has created us as free beings, and in our freedom we are given possibility and choice. I would like for you, for a moment, to imagine God freely calling you toward His good purposes. And as you journey in that direction, you may find yourself caught between the present and the future. That in-between place of the present and the future can create all kinds of anxiety because of the freedom of choice God has given us in our life. Perhaps we are anxious because the experiences of our past have shaped us in such a way that we dread making a free and deliberate choice. Or perhaps the mere possibility of making a wrong choice has left you feeling anxious.

Anxiety is, therefore, both the cost and gift of our identity as free creatures in relationship to God. We have choices. Without freedom, and the anxiety it entails, we are just slaves—yearning for safety and security and grumbling at God rather than living the anxious journey through the wilderness toward freedom.

IT’S TIME TO GET UNSTUCK
Maybe during your life journey, you feel as if the plans and purposes that God has for your life are not congruent with the life you are leading. And no matter how many times someone quotes to you Jeremiah 29:11 (“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”), you just don’t feel at peace in your heart. What many people forget to tell you is that in verse 10 of that same chapter, the Lord says that Israel will go through 70 years of exile and slavery in Babylon. Talk about anxiety! But God would use their time of trouble to draw Israel closer to Him. It was during that time of exile that God continually reminded His people that He was their God and that when they sought Him with all their heart, He would listen and deliver them out of captivity.

Anxiety beckons us to not allow our lives to get stuck in a rut. If God gives us freedom and allows possibility, then just maybe God has hardwired anxiety into us as part of those choices. Perhaps anxiety is a paradoxical feeling offered up to us as a gift that propels us to seek after Him and to continually grow in the process.

Perhaps anxiety is an act of grace because it encourages us to face our fears so that we can then choose to freely follow God where He is calling us.

This article was taken from the book “The Anxious Christian: Can God Use Your Anxiety for Good?” by Rhett Smith

HALLOWEEN: 3 VIEWS & 1 OPINION

Pumpkins in a Row
OCTOBER 31ST APPROACHES (AGAIN)

Our city wants to become the “Haunt Capital of the World”. Each year local businesses award large prizes to the ‘best dressed home’ (or school) in keeping with haunted Halloween traditions. It’s impossible to not notice the darkened transformation of our town especially in the days leading up to end of the month. As ghoulishness and gore are amplified, sometimes literally, most shrug off the deathly horror scenes and say “Oh, well” yet a number respond with “Oh, hell”.

LET ME ILLUSTRATE
Most of the following article first appeared on Intoxicated Life by Luke Gilkerson. I edited  this piece for brevity and clarity.

Across the street, a mother dresses her kids for Trick-or-Treat. Her daughter is dressed like a pirate. Her son looks like Dracula, complete with blood stains on the sides of his mouth. Their house is highlighted with typical Halloween decor: grave stones, skeletons emerging from the earth, jack-o-lantern on the porch, and bed-sheet ghosts hanging from the trees. This family also regularly attends church and calls Jesus Lord.

Down the road a mother hides her kids inside a lightless home for the evening. She even forbids the use of any decorations, including pumpkins, in order to not associate with Halloween. Her children neither take-in nor hand-out candy. Every year she reminds her children about the demonic elements of Halloween and warns them that there is nothing ‘happy’ about ‘Happy Halloween’. She religiously rebukes any fellow Christian who would even attend a local “harvest party” or anything that remotely resembles a festival held on October 31. Her family also faithfully goes to church and calls Jesus Lord.

I believe neither of these views is the best way for Christian families to navigate the day called Halloween. I will expand that thought later but first…

3 VIEWS
When dealing with anything in human cultures, Christians have a number of choices. Here is a helpful way to discern cultural issues: receive, reject, or redeem.

• Receive — There are things in culture that are part of God’s common grace to all people. These are things Christians can freely receive. Paul and Silas could walk the same Roman roads and sail in Roman ships alongside any pagan without any tarnish on their consciences. Today, I can appreciate the electric lights in my home just like my neighbour and not feel guilty that the power company isn’t owned by Christian people. I can buy my produce from the grocery store without the concern that the farmers are heathens.

• Reject — There are some things in culture that are inherently sinful and cannot be transformed to be used for the Lord’s purposes. Paul might have eaten pagan meat sold in the marketplace, but he would not attend a pagan temple and drink the cup of demons. This is not a perfect example but nonetheless, today, a building that once was a gambling casino can be bought and turned into a Christian bookstore, but a casino can never become a “Christian casino.” The very nature of this kind of enterprise furthers sinful activity, and this must be rejected by Christians completely.

• Redeem — There are other elements of culture that are often used for sinful purposes but Christians can mine these elements for truths that can be celebrated, reclaimed, and redeemed for God’s purposes. During his speech in Athens, one of the most polytheistic cities in the world, Paul could quote from pagan poets and prophets and even make use of a pagan altar. Paul was redeeming—taking back—from paganism truths latent in their religious celebrations and cultural customs and using them for God’s glory.

This three-fold outline can help Christians navigate cultural events like Halloween.

A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF ALL HALLOWS EVE
The name “Halloween” comes from “Hallows’ Eve” or “All Saints’ Eve.”

As far as the Christian back-story of Halloween is concerned, the day has its origins in the earliest centuries of the church. As early as the mid-second century, the church celebrated and remembered its martyrs, at times dedicating special days to remember their deaths. As the number of special commemorations multiplied; the idea of having a common day for all martyrs gradually evolved.

The earliest known celebration of “the Feast of All Martyrs” was in Antioch in mid-fourth century, falling on the first Sunday after the feast of Pentecost (which is, by the way, the same day the Eastern Orthodox Church still celebrates All Saints’ Day). Similar festivals were celebrated in other locations on different days. Over time, this celebration started to embrace not just martyrs but all saints. It was a time when the church celebrated Jesus’ victory over death by remembering the faithful saints who had gone before them.

On May 13th, 610, Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon, the old pagan temple, to the Virgin Mary and “all Christian martyrs.” He removed all its Roman idols and hauled 28 cartloads the bones of various martyrs and saints from the catacombs to a huge basin beneath the altar of the building. As ghastly as that seems, he dedicated that day as “All Saints’ Day.”

Over a century later, Pope Gregory III (731-741) moved All Saints’ (Hallows) Day to November 1 to honour the saints of St. Peter’s church. In 835, Pope Gregory IV officially fixed the date for worldwide observance. Some believe this move was made to coincide with Samhain, a Gaelic harvest festival celebrated at the same time, though others doubt the Pope was even aware of this celebration. This pagan festival was held during this season as it was believed that the veil between our world and the spirit world was very thin, allowing the demonic spirits to easily move back and forth. Rituals and feasts were held and the souls of departed relatives were invited to come. Regardless of the Pope’s intentions, in time Samhain and All Hallows Eve eventually co-mingled, leading away from the original intent into the variety of Halloween traditions we have today.

IS IT POSSIBLE TO ‘REDEEM’ HALLOWEEN?
For some Christians, the notion of “redeeming” Halloween will sound ridiculous. How can something so rife with demonic symbolism be redeemed? Perhaps this is just one of those things that fits into the “reject” category. Is there anything positive to redeem? Bare with me and please keep reading.

Undoubtedly, Halloween’s pagan roots, Druid led pagan sacrifices, rituals to commune with the dead, Celtic deities, and the questionable origins of trick-or-treat and jack-o-lanterns are all ungodly and dark. I’m quite aware of all these facts and I’m not asking you to embrace any of these pagan practices.

IN MY OPINION
1. Almost all modern Halloween traditions are rooted in ungodliness. However, the mere fact that our modern Halloween practices are distant echoes of pagan traditions does not, therefore, mean Halloween as a cultural holiday is unredeemable. Remember, to “redeem” something in our culture means to admit it has been used for evil but to reclaim the truth within it, utilizing it for God’s purposes. Not all Halloween activities are redeemable, but in my opinion some possibly are.
2. Modern Halloween traditions are a far cry from their ancient or medieval origins. There are a few elements of Halloween that, in my opinion, have already been ripped away from paganism and redeemed as something wholesome. Let’s face it, the connection between Druids dressing as ghouls and our children dressing up as a character from Veggie Tales is tenuous, at best.
3. It’s important to note that this issue is a matter of conscience. If you read Romans 14-15 and 1 Corinthians 8-10, it seems clear to me that Halloween is a “disputable matter,” and it will probably continue to be so.
4. Do not become prideful about our approach on the subject. While we should feel free to discern ourselves and discuss these opinions, we should remember that looking down in a prideful way towards other Christians for differing views is just as sinful in my opinion as a child dressing up as a demonic vampire.

Many Christians reject Halloween outright for very good reasons; others attempt to redeem it, but do so in questionable ways; others have altered the holiday in ways that demonstrate the mindset of a missionary to our modern era.

Do you believe Halloween can be redeemed? Does your family do anything special on October 31st that honours the Lord and reaches out to others?

DEAR FEARFUL AND TEARFUL PARENT

With the shockingly tearful news from Ottawa yesterday, fear is making headlines again in Canada and whether or not the incidents today are related to the ISIS terrorists, it still was a terrifying day for our nation. My eldest son who is presently in Law School near the Ottawa core was in lock-down for a good part of his day. When I heard the breaking news a phone call and a number of texts brought assurance to this dad that he was both safe and sound. Take it from me it is easy for fear to rear it’s ugly head.

Fearful Tearful Parenting

I hope this following letter from Erik Raymond will be an encouragement to you in raising fearless children in an age of fearfulness.

Dear Fearful and Tearful Parent,
As Christian parents we are called to help our children to think about, interact with, and evaluate current issues from a biblical perspective. Cultivating a Christian worldview is one of the main components of child training.

Besides the news of late, in the last few months ISIS has been increasingly in the news, we have had a few discussions as a family about what has been happening. Our daughter like your child is aware and our children who range in age and maturity need us to appropriately address the concern. So there needs to be thoughtful care given to the details of our discussion. However, it is quite near impossible to tame down the atrocities of ISIS to a general discussion.

Our children have become quite concerned—and with good reason. The barbaric beheadings speak of ancient tribal savagery rather than modern military battles. Most of the conflicts they have heard of have involved airplanes, ships, and soldiers. Now these guys come along with a fearlessness that is only matched by their thirst for blood. Of course our kids are concerned—we are concerned.

In talking with our children who may or may not admit concern, they may even fear about them taking over the world, which my daughter did express. I gave her the following advice.

1. ISIS is a group of very evil and bad people. They don’t love God or want to honour him. This is why they are doing these things (Col. 1:21;Titus 3:3). Remember that this is what comes out of an unbelieving heart. All of us have sinful hearts and need to turn to and trust Jesus (Eph. 2:1-3). Not all of us do the same wicked things as ISIS but we all need a Saviour, we are all suffering from the same problem: sin.

2. The world has a lot of bad guys in it who love to do sinful things for the same reason (John 3:19-20). Even in Canada there are horrible, unspeakable things happening every day (murder, abortion, abuse, etc.). This is because we live in a fallen, broken world (Rom. 1:18-25, cf. #1).

3. This type of thing has been going on throughout history, and even throughout your young life. There have been lots of bad guys and terrorists doing evil things since even before you were a baby.

4. Our security does not ultimately come from Canada or even our ability to protect ourselves, but from God (Ps. 20:7Ps. 121:2).

5. God has given you a Daddy to protect you and I will do it with all of my strength and resolve.

6. The Bible tells us to pray for our leaders and all of those given charge over us that we may lead quiet peaceable lives (1 Tim. 2:1-4).

7. Pray that God would save some members of this terrorist group. Remember the Apostle Paul, he was basically a terrorist, like ISIS, who killed Christians. God saved him and used him very powerfully for the gospel.

8. Pray for the Christians being persecuted. Pray that they would be comforted by the Holy Spirit and that they would be faithful, even if it means unto death.

9. Remember that Jesus is coming back again. He will punish all evil and set up his kingdom and reign forever. He will make all things new and there will be no more tears, suffering or death. There will be no more bad guys there (Rev. 21:1-5).

10. Jesus told us to pray that God’s name would be honored, his kingdom would come, his will would be done (Mt. 6:9-13). Let’s pray for this with confidence and anticipation because we know this day is coming. Maybe even soon!
I hope this is helpful to you and encourages you and your family as you raise fearless world changers in a fearful and ever changing world.

___________________________________

 This edited article was originally posted by Erik Raymond. He is the author of a previous blog post called ‘What do you tell your children about ISIS?’ It can be found at Ordinary Pastor.

THE PRACTICE OF STILLNESS

 

Person Sitting Quietly on the Edge of a Dock - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/epicurean, Image #7706240

The Practice of Stillness by Michael Hyatt was first published here (michaelhyatt.com)
A
ccording to the popular StrengthsFinder assessment, my top strength is “Achiever.” The report that summarized my test results says,

People who are especially talented in the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.”

This strength has served me well, but it also has a dark side.

It means I have a difficult time turning off my mind and just being still. I seem to be more of a human doing than a human being.

Recently, my wife Gail recommended that I read The Joy Diet by Martha Beck. She said, “You won’t agree with everything in this book, but I think it will really challenge you—especially the first chapter.”

Intrigued, I decided to read the book on my recent vacation.

The first chapter is entitled, “Nothing.” In summarizing the chapter, Beck says, “to begin the Joy Diet, you must do nothing for at least fifteen minutes a day.”

I was so challenged by this chapter, that I haven’t gotten beyond it. I have now read it four times. I have also practiced this discipline for twenty-two days in a row.

Honestly, this has been one of the most transformational things I have ever done.

What Is Stillness?

Beck’s premise is that “doing nothing is the most productive activity you will ever undertake.” By doing nothing, she means literally doing nothing.

  • This is not prayer (at least not in the sense of talking to God)
  • It is not problem-solving.
  • It is not planning.

Doing nothing is being still, quieting your mind (and the cacophony of voices), and simply being.

All the ancient wisdom literature points to the importance of this practice. Psalm 46:10 is representative: “Be still and know that I am God.”

This is tremendously difficult in our media rich, always-on, over-communicated society. Noise crowds into every empty space, leaving us spiritually, mentally, and emotionally exhausted.

Mother Teresa expressed it this way,

We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… .We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

Abba Poeman, one of the ancient desert fathers, taught his disciples, “If you are silent, you will have peace wherever you live.”

Why You Need Stillness

I doubt you need convinced that you need some measure of what I am describing in your life. As I have shared about this topic with others, they inevitably say, “Oh, I so need that in my life! How do I start?”

Nevertheless, here are three of my own reasons for practicing the discipline of stillness:

  1. I want to maintain perspective. If I don’t make time to be still, then I find myself in reactive mode—influenced by hundreds of little voices with big demands.
  2. I want to stay connected to my true self. I don’t want to get confused, thinking that I am the image I present to the world. They are related, of course, but I want to live from the inside out.
  3. I want more internal margin in my life. While I have been pursing external margin in my calendar and finances, I also want internal margin—more room to notice what matters most and be thankful for it.

How to Practice Stillness

This is not something I have enough experience with to write. In fact, I feel pretentious for even attempting it.

But perhaps that is the value I can add to the conversation. I am not so experienced that I have forgotten what it is like to be a beginner.

So in that spirit, let me offer a few suggestions for how you can practice stillness in your own journey and reclaim some interior margin.

  1. Schedule a time. For me, I schedule stillness first thing in the morning. It has become so precious to me, that I won’t want to start the day without it. I practice this first—before prayer, before Bible reading, before journaling, and before exercise.
  2. Find a place. When I was on vacation, I sat on the dock by the lake. This was ideal. But it is not my real world. Now I simply go into my study and shut the door. The main thing is to find a place where you won’t be interrupted.
  3. Set a timer. I am following Beck’s admonition to set aside fifteen minutes a day. In my limited experience this seems about right. It is amazing how my perception of this time changes from day to day. Sometimes it seems like forever. Other times, it goes by very quickly. I use the timer on my iPhone.
  4. Relax your body. I simply sit in a soft chair with my eyes closed. I then systematically relax my body and get quiet. Beck says that if you can’t sit still, then engage in any mindless physical activity, like rocking in a chair or watching some natural motion like fire or running water. I also play a recording I have of the ocean.
  5. Quiet your mind. This is the biggest challenge for me. Just when I get still, I have some random thought or a whole flurry of thoughts. But I am getting better. Beck offers several techniques for practicing “nonjudgmental observation,” a discipline that keeps your allotted time from being hijacked by an overly-active mind.
  6. Be present. Don’t be regretting or celebrating the past. Don’t be worrying or dreaming about the future. Instead, collect your thoughts and be present—in this moment. It is the most important time you have. In fact, it is the only time you have.
  7. Learn to return. This has been the most helpful component. In involves recalling a “place of peace,” where you had a particularly vivid experience of peace and stillness. For me, I go back to a time I stood on the balcony of a monastery in Greece, looking out on the Aegean Sea. I wrote about it here.

Perhaps the most important thing is just to start. It’s easy to blow the discipline of stillness off as something you don’t have time for. Don’t. The busier you are the more important it is.

You need this in your life more than you know. Even if you can only set aside five minutes a day, do it. And if you miss a day or two, don’t beat yourself up. Just start again.

Questions: Have you ever practiced stillness? If so, what was your experience like? If not, what is keeping you from starting? You can leave a comment below.