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Finding Quiet Every Day

He says, "Be still, and know that I am God"

There are plenty of people in our lives who have some form of authority.  We pull over and yield to emergency vehicles on the road because, lights flashing, they have the authority to command the road.  We follow the standards at work or in school because those institutions have the authority to reward us--or not--with grades and paychecks.  We listen to our parents and spouses and good friends who have the authority in different seasons of our lives to set boundaries, help us make big decisions, and keep improving ourselves.  In some instances, we give the authority to others.  I some cases, the authority is imposed on us.  While God is the ultimate authority in our lives, he chooses not to impose his authority.  Instead, God invites us again and again to give him authority.  Psalm 46 holds one of those invitations, "Be still, and know that I am God."

When was the last time you gave God authority in this area; set time aside to be still, made an effort to seek and know and reverence our God?  It can feel selfish to take time away from loved ones and responsibilities, but the practice of solitude is not about isolating alone as much as it is choosing to be alone with God.  Alone with our Father in Heaven, the Good Shepherd, our Redeemer, the Lover of our Souls.

I often get caught up in how and when I will be able to engage in such practices.  Of course, a seaside retreat or mountain hideaway sound like amazing places to meet with the Lord.  But these picturesque retreat times are not realistic for most of us, and may have been nearly impossible during this year of shut-downs.  Getting any alone-time in a home you share with others has probably been a challenge this year, and conversely, if you live alone you are probably starved for quality time with others and aren't sure you want any more solitude.

Yet, I know--we know--these times away with God are so valuable.  Jesus invites us to come away with him, friends and partners bonding together. God longs for us, his beloved children, to spend time with him.  This quiet is where our character is formed, plans are made, and promises are fulfilled.  And it is where we are known and loved and accepted just as we are.  In our time with God, he will also do the humbling work of discipline in those he loves, bringing conviction and correction where necessary, covered by his grace.  That is worth finding the quiet every day!

So how do we realistically make time in our lives?  It takes planning!  And, if there are others in your home, it takes good communication as well.  A good guideline is to plan for a little time every day, a chunk of time every week, even more time once a month, and a whole day or two at least once per year.

For your daily routine, these tips may help:
  • set your alarm to wake you 30 minutes early in the morning for some silence and solitude or a reminder to go to bed 30 minutes early for silence and solitude at the end of the day
  • if it is best to schedule your time in the middle of your day, put it on your work agenda and set reminders like you would for other important meetings
  • choose a time that you can count on regularly
  • let your family or coworkers know that you really do not want to be disturbed during this time
  • eliminate distractions as much as possible by silencing phones, closing your eyes, and/or getting away
  • think outside the box to find a place where you can be quietly alone; maybe sitting in the car or taking a walk if your home is crowded
  • this is not time for a Bible study or to pray through your concerns for the day, so make an effort to come into your time without any agenda
  • try a very simple breath prayer to help you re-center if your mind is active: inhale saying "more of you God" and say "less of me" on the exhale
  • set a timer for the 30 minutes so you are not tempted to watch the clock

NOTE--God may speak in a variety of ways: a childhood memory or aspiration, bringing a passage of scripture or Biblical figure to mind, recalling something in your character (or in a relationship) that needs work, you may feel overwhelmed with emotion or simply find yourself feeling thankful, a thought from left field could be God inserting a new vision, solution or inspiration into your mind, or you may not be aware of work the Holy Spirit is doing quietly in your soul

For longer periods of time (60-90 minutes):
  • start with a short walk, some deep breathing, or even a little bit of yoga in order to work the kinks out of your body so that you can settle and be still
  • try setting the tone for your time with God by lighting a candle, playing some soft music, or positioning yourself so that you can see a view that is peaceful; do the same thing every week so that you (and those in your home) learn to respond to these cues
  • again, try not to have an agenda for this time, but do bring your Bible and a notebook or journal so that you can respond to thoughts and ideas that come up
  • you might consider meditating on a single passage of scripture, just a few lines that you can bring before the Lord and ask him to speak through
  • conclude your time with a response to God of worship or praise through song or prayer; confess your love for him even if you are not sure you heard or saw anything in your time together

For several hours or more:
  • include breaks to move around, perhaps even swimming, hiking or bike-riding so that your body can feel free
  • do not feel bad for closing your eyes and allowing your body physical rest as well; often a good retreat starts with a good nap
  • you may choose to add an element of fasting to your day, but it is not necessary
  • if you are not fasting, it is helpful to plan your main meals in advance or to have plenty of healthy snacks on hand so that food prep does not become a distraction
  • this retreat may also be a time of abstaining from speaking, if possible
  • I highly recommend unplugging from social media, email, and television for the duration, or at least some large portion, of your day(s)
  • for longer times of solitude, I also like to bring a short book related to spiritual growth, but keeping in mind that I may or may not read it or finish it based on how God is moving in our time
  • you may want to use some of your time engaging in a hobby like running, playing an instrument, crafting or creating art, gardening, or other activities that still allow room for God to move
  • if you have chosen to travel for your quiet day(s), don’t hesitate to enjoy the uniqueness of your new surroundings—remember that God can speak in a variety of ways
  • it is good to have some fun and laugh, or to let your grief take full expression, or to dream of the future, or to come to terms with the past, or any number of other ways you can be authentic before God during your time away with him

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