Space for Silence

“I need peace and silence to give free play to this quickening flame of prayer.”

– The Way of the Pilgrim

Do you avoid or resist silence? Do you fill silence with noise and activities?

There have been times in my life when I have struggled with silence. It can make me feel uncomfortable and unproductive. But over the past months, as the world turned upside-down, and fear and uncertainty threatened to steal away peace. When “normal life” became virtually different, and cancellations, social distancing, and masks became the new norms. When divisions and disagreements, plots, and politics further isolated and alienated people. When mental fatigue and frustration infiltrated an already fragile world, I needed and craved silence more than ever. 

During these months, I have taken some time to create space and have been working to bring more silence into my life. In one sense, this has been one of the busiest seasons of my life and in ministry. And yet in another way, this season is becoming one of the most peaceful and quiet seasons I have yet to experience in a heart and spiritual sense. 

Learning how to quiet down has been work. The Holy Spirit has helped through the many trials and errors, failures, and restarts. Creating silence has come with imperfect efforts, growing through uncomfortable challenges, avoiding distractions, practicing self-discipline, relying on faith, and learning to relinquish control. Yet, each attempt at silence has been fruitful and faithful to lead me to prayer- a life-line of peace, strength, and truth, which guards and strengthen my heart and mind. 

Silence can make us aware of the things we would rather avoid or not feel. It requires us to listen more than speak. It helps us evaluate our motives (which can often be eye-opening and unpleasant) and take inventory of our activities to reevaluate what is important. 

Silence also highlights the value of time that is too precious to waste on the world’s worries and woes. It offers a proactive place of positioning and purpose- a place of freedom and rest. Silence is a sacred space to take refuge in uncertainty, and most definitely worth the time and effort of creating it in our lives. 

Exercises to Create Silence in Your Life: 

(from Adele Calhoun’s book, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook)

1.) If silence is new for you, begin with ten minutes. Setting a timer can help a novice who watches the clock. The timer lets you forget the time and settle into the quiet. Intentionally place yourself in the presence of God and become quiet. -As you become quiet, what do you hear- voices, traffic, your breath, wind, your heart, distracting thoughts? Let the nose go. Continue to let the quiet deepen. Be with God. -After ten minutes, reflect on what it was like for you to simply be still enough to hear the background. – Try several times a day. What happens to you? The benefits of being silent are often seen in the fruit it bears than the experience of silence. 

2.) While doing a task, turn off any background noise and continue the task by offering it to God. Be in the present, doing what you are doing with a listening heart. -What is it like for you? -What distracts you? 

(Shanna’s note: If you are a mom with young kids, this might be difficult to do. I would suggest trying this during nap time, or including your children in a set quiet time for your whole family. We have also tried silent lunches- where there is no talking while we ate. I was surprised by how much better the food tasted. PB& J was never more delicious!) 

3.) If you struggle with silent time, bring a timer with you to prayer. Sit in a quiet and comfortable place where you can attend to the Lord. Take some deep breaths, relaxing your body, and quieting your mind. -Put the timer on for one minute. Become still before the Lord. When a distracting thought comes to mind, count it, but drop it into the river of God’s peace. Let it float down the river. Count each thought that comes up and let it float down the river. After one minute, how many thoughts have gone through your mind? – Set the timer for another minute. Repeat the same exercise. How many thoughts went through your mind this time? -What do you find out about quieting your soul? What was it like for you to do this? 


One Word for 2017: INSTRUMENT

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There are too many good words to chose from and I went back and forth before deciding on THE word. The one word which will serve as a lens to view life through and a word to focus on in 2017. It’s a word I will explore and ask God to use to help me to grow in character and in faith. My word for 2017 is INSTRUMENT.

It wasn’t a word I had considered. I could have missed it. I discovered the word while watching a scene from a TV show aired on the Hallmark Channel. I know, I wish I could say I was led to the word in prayer or while studying my Bible or reading classical literature written by some famous, great author, or even heard the word from a motivational speaker or pastor. No, it was through a TV show.

In this one particular scene, a character held a worn Bible in his hand (at least it was a wholesome TV show) and carefully turned to the inside of the cover. Holding his breath in anticipation, he found what he had hoped would be there and thoughtfully read the inscription (the following prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.) The words sparked new resolve in him, renewed his faith in himself and his mission. In classic dramatic action, he took off running with his Bible in his hand, sprinting to bring healing to a situation and leaving me to think about St. Francis’s prayer. The word INSTRUMENT lingered in my head all night and the following day.

stfrancisblackwhite

The next night, I was watching another television show. This one about a group of nuns and midwives from London who traveled to a struggling mission hospital in Africa. I know it is just a TV show but I was inspired by the characters and story lines. Each character using their gifts and INSTRUMENTS, whether faith-based or science-based, to bring hope and healing to lives. By the end of the special, I was ready to buy plane tickets to Africa, move my family, and join some mission field hospital!

Granted these shows are fictional, the settings staged, the characters imagined, but the story lines are not all that different from the true stories and realities of our world. There are lost people. People who have lost their faith and faith in themselves. Hurting people who need light and hope. People with physical needs- food, clothes, a roof over their head and emotional needs. People who need to be heard and loved. People who need someone to come alongside of them and need to know they are not alone or forgotten. And I want to get in there, in the middle of it as an INSTRUMENT, as a tool in God’s hand.

Whether that means working in the little things, everyday life with everyday people or building something big, with new people, outside of my comfort zone, I am praying that God will use me for his glory. A tool by itself is useless. It is only effective in the hand of one who knows how to use it. For me to be an effective tool, I need to know the One who is using me and for what purpose. Part of my 2017 plan is to read through the Bible and focus on the gospel. Particularly, I am feeling led to the gospel of Luke. Some of my blogging, writing, and speaking engagements over the next months will be on my study of Luke.

I hope your new year is off to a great start! I am looking forward to studying, learning, and trying new things in 2017. If you have a word or goals for the new year, I would love to hear and pray about them for you.

Until next time,

xoxo

Shanna