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  • Shanley McConnell

Devotion: 6 Ways to Embrace Stillness

Come to me with all prayer and supplication, that words may be given and boldly proclaimed for the revelation and mystery of the gospel, for which you are an ambassador

--- Ephesians 6: 16 - 20


A sneak peek into the life of something curious engages us in its gorgeous, transformative process. A mystery that moves gently, and with great force. The Holy Spirit.


Curious natures find their livingness in the Spirit's presence. For even as earth waits in eager expectation for the day of Christ's return, all of creation waits to be liberated from its bondage and brought into the glory of God. Romans 8: 19 - 21. Be patient, in tribulation. Constant in prayer. Romans 12: 2. And rejoice in hope.


God's beloved and chosen disciples------multitudes of men, women and children-----cry aloud; their hope made manifest in praise: "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest." In Luke 19, while hope was being formed, voweled in syllables of humble size, naysayers crowded around and commanded the people to be silent. "Teacher, rebuke your disciples," the naysayers cried. The distress of their inner selves wrestled with a greater tension: the sight of God's son who had spoken to them in the beloved temple many, many years ago. His words of wisdom, stature and might convicted them once again. Do the pharisees recognise the spirit of a child in this man?


Moving with the radiance of a ministry, the son of God replied: "I tell you. Truly, even if these men, women and children were to remain silent, the very stones beneath your feet would cry out." Wondrously varied and idiomatic, the voices of creation: drowned voices, dreaming voices, quieted seas, olive branches and those of greater trees. Servants and masters. Wealthy men whose backs crack at the bending of money, make more money. The fisherman, forester, mythic. The woman at the well. All of these, rise with sound.


Listening closely, as one who knows what He is listening for, the son of God hears them. Approaching Jerusalem, he wept. His compassion and grief poured over the Hallelujahs like a prayer. "Father, open their ears to hear." Soon, the final, broken intercession would come from the cross: "Forgive them." Luke 23: 24. A sign of great devotion, promise, power and love. Spoken in whom all things were made, these words moved with spirited force. John 1: 3.


And when the son of God arose, he walked with his disciples on the road to Emmaus. Revealed himself in human form. "But a time is coming," he told them, "when I will no longer be with you in bodily form. There is a time coming when men and women believe having only seen me in the work of my spirit near and above."


"They will recognise and know my spirit, for it is He who abides with you. For I will not leave you. For a little while the world will no longer see me in flesh, but you will continue to see. Because I live, my spirit will be the hope in you." Luke 24.


The spirit of God's son intercedes for you as an advocate. It will teach you to see invisible things, and remind you of everything God has promised to bring. Find peace in this. For peace he leaves with us, gifted not as the world gives, but in the fullness of salvation and grace. John 14: 26.


Learn to trust that the Spirit is interceding for you. Listen for the movement of his ways, and hear the calm exuberance of his voice in the livingness of things around you: the chirp of a little bird in the dark of dawning morn, the tsk of a metal fork tapping, softly, on the plate as it collects strawberries, the creak of a chair as it moves to your weight. Listen to the faucet tap as it gives a start and lowers itself to the sink, the car driving into the garage, quietly, with its headlights dimmed so as not to wake two of the three people in the beautiful, sleeping house. The vision of a friend with her own footsteps measured as she knocks on the door. Listen to the life of things that bring us back to the mirror. Listen, and see the reflection of God's spirit. Maybe still, in the refractory glass, is the portrait of a man, or woman, who feels vulnerable, convicted and afraid? Do you hear the God's comfort and confidence in the presence of what is deeply felt and unseen? When we listen and begin to recognise the God around us, our hearts, even in their small worlds, open to behold the transformative nature of his compassion and grace.


Acclaimed English poet of the eighteen century, William Wordsworth (1770 - 1850) wrote these words: "With an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things." We see into the life of things when we quiet our eye to the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy.


One of the reasons I find comfort in the promise of a spirit-advocate is because many times I do not know what to pray. In Romans 8: 26, Paul writes to this sentiment. "In our weakness when we do not know what to pray the spirit himself intercedes for us with groans too deep for words." We see this intercession when we quiet ourselves before the Lord and listen for the harmonious relationship of his spirit at work in the world. How How can we quiet ourselves and "be still" when the world deafens against us? Psalm 46: 10. Below are my six methods:



1. Choose a soft instrumental melody and close your eyes (maybe a track from your favourite TV programme or film). Listen to the music as the instruments sing, slowly, and without expecting an end. Concentrate on the harmony. What does the music sound like "vertically?" Does it move linearly? What do you hear? One melodious line, or conjoined voices woven into chorale and direction?


2. Listen again, with your imagination. Where are you? Are you alone?


At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in Heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who rested there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne.

--- Revelation 4: 2 - 3.


Dream of this. How the vision becomes even more wild and beautiful from where you sit. Imagine yourself singing, Holy, Holy, Holy. Holy, Holy, Holy. If there are no other words, Holy, Holy, Holy. When you feel emptied and alone, Holy, Holy, Holy. Where you are in the crowd, in the desert, in the distance, Holy, Holy, Holy. Let the holiness of God bring you near.


3. Pray, or praise God with a verse. Many mobile apps and online journals publish bible verses weekly, even daily. This is a wonderful way to begin if you're unsure where to find scripture for meditation. The one from this morning, on the Holy Bible app (available across mobile-types) was:


Cast your burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain you: He will never suffer the righteous to be moved.

--- Psalm 55: 22


4. Read scripture and rewrite it. Or memorise a single line and recite it, quietly aloud. Focus on one word at a time, letting your mind linger on that one word for a few seconds before moving on to the next word. Gradually increase the time frame between each word until you’ve reached the end and your mind is at rest.


In God alone my soul finds rest and salvation. He alone is my rock and my defense, and in Him, I will never be shaken.

----- Psalm 62: 2


6. Recite a prayer of stillness. God's heart draws near to us, and his Spirit too. When ours are oceanlike, his words command them to calm. His compassion beholds the chaos of our ebb, flow and tide. Writing and reading prayers of stillness can guide our minds and refocus them on the horizon line. Maybe look online or print out a beloved hymn? Maybe write one of your own? Keep this prayer in your journal or somewhere within reach. Let it remind you that the comforter is near. Here is mine:


Gracious God,


We ask that you move us into quiet mountain clefts, as you did for your servant Moses. Exodus 33: 12 - 16. When the lockdown and current, global pandemic reshape our routines, may our minds refocus on you. The sloweddownness of our moments move unsteadily, and with great speed, into uncertainty, isolation and fear as we try to fit into a time that is already brimming with unknown. Son of God, we ask that you give us the desire to breathe in wonder and see the livingness of your guiding spirit.


Amen.



For American poet laureate Louise Bogan (1897 - 1970) wrote:


I cannot believe that the inscrutable universe turns on an axis of suffering; surely the strange beauty of the world must somewhere rest on pure joy.
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