Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Be Still and Know

Today’s readings:  2 Kings 17, 2 Chronicles 28, Psalm 46, James 3

“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)
This is one of my favorite verses and probably my very favorite prayer.  This is my centering prayer – breathe in “Be still,” breathe out “and know”, breathe in “that I,” breathe out “am God.”  Repeat until the mind calms and the chaos around gives way to the knowledge that God IS.

I started using this verse as a prayer one day when I was running errands.  I was on a tight schedule, trying to finish before I needed to pick up the kids.  Things took longer than expected, and I was flustered.
Then I happened to pass a church with a sign out front.  Instead of one of those humorous, cutesy sayings, it had this verse, “Be still and know that I am God.”  It hit me right between the eyes.  I took a deep breath, exhaled and thought: how wonderful to be still!

There’s something about the call to ‘be still.”  Like most everyone I know, my life can at time be hectic.  Sometimes it’s easy to get carried away with the overwhelming activity of our 24/7 world.  It’s easy to hit the floor running and not stop until I drop into bed at night.  It’s easy to forget to take time to be still.  It’s easy to give God a quick nod and bounce off without really spending time just ‘knowing that I AM God.”
It’s funny.  It’s exactly those times when I am most tempted to say a quick, “Hey there!” to God and get on with the day’s overflowing schedule – those are the days when I most benefit from some time spent focusing on God.  Those are the days that I need to be still.  Those are the days I need to know that even though I am not, God IS – everything I need, enough for the day, peace and grace.

In the reading in 2 Kings is a story I’ve never noticed before.  When the king of Assyria removed the 10 tribes of Israel from the northern Kingdom, he sent conquered people from other places to live there (a standard tactic of Assyria to keep conquered people in line).  Apparently, lions came an attacked those new settlers until the king send a Levite priest to teach them how to worship God.  After that the lion attacks ended.
But the settlers did not just worship God – they continued to worship the gods they grew up worshipping.  They just added a new God to their pantheon.  “So they worshipped the Lord, but also served their own gods, after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried away (2 Kings 17:33).”   They gave God a quick nod – “Hey there, God of Israel.” – and hurried on to life as usual.  Israel and Judah were also doing the same thing – giving God the nod and engaging in the practices of the nations around them.

It’s hard to worship just one God.  It’s too easy to get wrapped up in the culture around us.  Even in our allegedly Christian nation, there are things that distract us and pull us away from God.  Maybe I should say especially in our nation, where there is infinite entertainment, abundant material items, and over-packed schedules, it’s easy to get distracted.  To have other things creep in and fill that place that belongs solely to God.
Those things drain us of life, steal our joy, and rob us of peace.

And that’s why we need to be reminded to “be still and know that I AM God.”
God of peace, you call me to be still, to sit with you, to know that YOU ARE.  Help me to pull my eyes away from the bright lights, and my thoughts away from the shiny things of this world, so that I can focus on you alone.  Amen.

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