Tag Archives: meditation

Holy Silence and Candy Crush

One of my New Year’s Not-Exactly-Resolutions this year was to work on building quiet into my daily schedule.  Focused quiet, where I’m meditating on a Scripture or inspiring thought, maybe praying, maybe listening, maybe all of the above, but definitely being quiet.  I still think that’s important, but I have a feeling I should expand my original goal a little.

As I write, my daughter is upstairs in her room writing another chapter of her modern twist on a fairy tale.  (The last time I checked in, the princess was rescuing the prince and wasn’t sure if she actually wanted to go out with him at all.)  My son is lying on the couch icing his knee from an injury he got at Boy Scouts this morning, and reading J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Two Towers.”  I’ve been drinking a cup of tea and enjoying a rare non-working Saturday afternoon at home.  I’ve been alternately catching up on a favorite blog and playing Candy Crush, which isn’t your standard Bible study fare.

It’s not thought-provoking Biblical exegesis or anything like it.  The blog I’m reading makes me laugh and think, but it’s not like I’m plowing through Spurgeon’s sermons or a commentary on the Petrine epistles.  I’m not praying (other than a quick word sent upward if something pops up in my news feed that I think God should have a little friendly reminder about).  I’m not searching my soul, but I really could use another one of those striped/wrapped candy combos, because this level is kicking my butt.

Is this what the Friends tradition would generally consider “holy silence”, that quiet stillness that centers on listening for the voice of God?  Nope.  Do I need it?  Heck yeah.

I can’t even remember the last non-midnight time that both children were quiet, I wasn’t answering work emails, and there was no music playing or Netflix running somewhere in the house.  Earlier this afternoon I sat at my kitchen table, looked out at the soft grey sky and occasional raindrops, wrapped both hands (both! the other hand wasn’t taking notes or clicking a mouse or pushing buttons on the washing machine!) around my mug of tea, and … did nothing.  NOTHING.  I looked out the window and noticed that there’s kind of a neat reflection of the porch railing across the wet boards of the porch floor, and heard my kitchen clock ticking, and enjoyed my warm tea, and that was it.

Maybe it’s not REAL study time, with notebooks and interlinear translations and highlighters.  But I think God lives in those quiet, domestic moments, and I’m going to see about finding a few more of them.

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Shhhh.

Silent.

Quiet.

Still.

Peaceful.

Not synonyms, although there is quite a bit of overlap to their meanings.  I am finding that not-talking is not the same as quiet, and that silence is no guarantee of stillness.

I come from a rich tradition of words – beautifully crafted, mentally stimulating, deeply expressive words.  Words to explain, to clarify, to enlighten, but also words to shape, to influence, to steer.  Sometimes words that obscure, words that camouflage, words that sanitize.  And when the evangelical movement is having a bad week, its strength is its weakness, and this facility with words becomes weaponized – barbs and rebuttals and shotgun blasts of language that leave gaping holes in targets and observers alike.

Let me be clear – I don’t want to cut myself off from this tradition.  As long as I have mental capacity and breath in my body, that breath will be voiced in words that make sense.  I simply am not wired for “God is good, God is great, Hallelujah (repeat 47 times)” – I am wired for words.

I think, though, that I might do well to take a cue from my musical life, where the rests are nearly as important as the notes.  If there is no silence, the notes quickly become a barrage of noise.  The quiet passages are necessary for the loud ones to be appreciated, and the softer melodies have beauty all their own.

I need this quiet.  I have come from so many years of noise – church services where I am cowed into unresponsiveness because of the deliberately constant noise.  (God forbid there be “dead air” on a Sunday morning.)  My “quiet times”, not too surprisingly, have come to reflect this constant motion, and my prayers and reading are so full of words that there is no space left for listening.

I want to find out what is in the silences, and perhaps more importantly, what is not.  I need stillness more than I need words sometimes.  Now if only I can get myself to stop talking…

Holy Scrub-brush, Batman!

When I first started looking into the Friends tradition, the concept of sacramental living made immediate sense to me.  Even as a child, I had a sense of lingering holiness about everyday things like trees and fields and books, although I couldn’t possibly have articulated what I felt.

Making laundry a prayer seems obvious, if I just remind myself.  The folding and sorting can be a quiet, domestic form of worship.  The feel of the cloth is soothing under my hands, and the rhythm of folding becomes a liturgy of socks and shirts.

Balancing the checkbook takes a little more thought, but I can find God there too.  The numbers and logic are satisfying, and it’s not a huge leap to imagine that God must find an exponentially greater satisfaction in the ordered rhythms of molecules and planetary systems.

Even driving can be its own meditation (as long as I pay attention to the road, of course).  I am learning the welcome discipline of shutting off the litany of work-related concerns, and replacing it with a conscious gratitude for the trees and fields and open sky on my way to work.

That said … if anybody figures out how to sacramentally scour burned rice out of the bottom of a pot, come on over to my house.  I will give you a scrub-brush and let you meditate the hell out of my pots and pans.

Practical Thoughts on Quietness

The Thumper Principle:  “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”

The Blogger Coming Down With a Bug Principle:  “If you can’t say anything coherent, don’t say anything at all.”

Looks like this is an evening in which to crawl in bed and dwell on the concept of “rest”, hopefully finding an immediate application for any insights I may have.  I’ll try not to snore too loudly while I meditate.

Go To Sleep, Brain!

Be still and cool
in thy own mind and spirit
from thy own thoughts,
and…thou mayest receive
God’s strength to allay
all blusterings, storms, and tempests.
                 — George Fox, 1658

At 9:30 on a Tuesday morning when the kids are at school, I don’t have to be at work for a couple more hours, and I’m savoring the quietness in my rocking chair with a cup of tea, I ROCK at being still and cool.  When it’s almost midnight and my brain’s keeping me awake, not so much.

The blusterings, storms and tempests are no joke.  Everybody’s got some version of them, and they come and go with distressing regularity.  But I think it’s telling that Fox starts out with the encouragement to be still and cool “from thy own mind.”  Not in thy mind, from thy mind. The worst noise comes from inside, not outside.

I can pretty much order anything else I want at midnight.  I can get pizza delivered.  I can order a Princess Leia costume on Ebay.  I can sit right in my own room and pick up a handheld battery-powered device and access THE ENTIRE INTERNET, including pulling up any episode of the original series of Star Trek to watch it in the middle of the night.  Google’s not helping me out here, though … I need stillness on demand!

At Peace With All Men

This year I rashly announced on Facebook that my New Year’s Resolution was as follows:  “So far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”

I wasn’t counting on getting nine days into the New Year and having a conversation that made twenty years’ worth of hurts (that were supposed to be just faint scars by now, dang it!) come slinking back in again. The Bad Bee part of me wants to list them all, along with all the pithy rejoinders and profound insights I wish I’d had the nerve to say when they all happened.  Rebuttal!  Unassailable logic!  Pow! Pow! Pow!

And then Good Bee (see Rom. 7:21-25 for a more official version of Good Bee and Bad Bee) waves her hand and says, “Um … hey?  Peace toward all men, and all that?”

Bad Bee says, “But, but, how can I be at peace with someone who’s WRONG?”

Good Bee says, “Er … do you remember that one story with the Roman soldiers and the Pharisees and that whole mess?”

Bad Bee says, “Well yes, but I’m not THE SON OF GOD, for Pete’s sake.  And I’m, y’know, RIGHT!”

Good Bee says, “Tea.  Hot tea.  Then Philippians.  And maybe that Quaker devotional book you won’t shut up about.  NOW.”

And I, good and bad both, sigh and make a pot of tea and open Philippians.  I haven’t even gotten to the good bit in chapter 2 about humility when I am pinned to my chair by this verse, written by a man who is in jail – not just heartachy, IN JAIL:  “Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel.”

This verse is still simmering as I read through my Quaker devotional book in the section on sorrow.  Hannah Whitall Smith wrote to her friend Priscilla Mounsey 130-some years ago:  “Thy circumstances are lonely, but thy loneliness of spirit does not come from these, it is the loneliness of humanity.  Therefore, nothing but God can satisfy it.”

I close my eyes and let these words shift around in my mind, and I’m surprised to discover that the hurt of my heart keeps my mind focused, almost completely free of its usual “oh look a chicken” tangents.  The thought that keeps surfacing from the angry, frustrated fog is that there are two kinds of loneliness, and both are very real but easily mistaken for each other.

We do need people.  Community is important, and there are times when it is somehow always just beyond our reach.  This is normal.  But there is a separate loneliness, where we are aching for community – communion, perhaps – with God.  We need a closeness that human words and bodies and thoughts simply can’t achieve, and we ache for Him.  This is normal too.

The problem arises when we confuse them.  Relying on people, burying our heads in noise and meetings and play dates, can result in a peculiarly surrounded loneliness, if that core spot reserved for God is not filled.  But relying only on God, when maybe we need to get out of our chairs and off our laptops and find a human with real ears, can leave us wondering why God isn’t enough – when He is probably sitting right beside us saying, “I AM enough! Now go call Jen!”

And now, in the midst of all these percolating thoughts, up bubbles my verse from before, and I realize that my quarrel isn’t really with the man who flippantly dismissed my pain by rebuking me for not having more friends.  Would I have liked more friends in my dark valley?  You bet.  Was it my fault for not having them?  Hard to say.  Do I want him to understand it from my perspective?  Well, Bad Bee does, which is why she’s not allowed to talk right now.

The real problem is not just with one man, or even one church.  It is with the idea that the best defense is to hit the person who is suffering, and this is everywhere.  I can’t fix this by myself, and I don’t intend to try.  What I do plan to do, though, is ask myself this question every time these old hurts float up again:  “Can this hurt, this pain, this memory be used for the greater progress of the gospel?”

And already, in the still small corners of my mind, I can hear a quiet maternal voice whispering, “Yes, My daughter.  I can use it.”

Timing Is Everything

So I’m thinking maybe holy silence and driving aren’t very compatible.  I know some people seem to be able to do it, but so far my experience is that warm sun, long easy drive, low-level road noise, and meditative thought add up to changing lanes by accident.

Practice makes perfect, but I think I’ll practice at home in my rocking chair instead of the front seat of my car!