Value in Stillness

Think with me about being still. If someone asks you to be still, what is your response? Is it stop moving? Still is opposite of move. Does still include speech? Are we still if we talking? Stillness is opposite motion. We’ve established two qualities of stillness. First, still is ending physical movement and second, closing our mouths. This is not an attempt to be unpleasant. We need the plain uncluttered truth about being still. There is a third quality of stillness. To be still is to quiet our thoughts. Our minds are full of thousands of thoughts. What we’ll do next, unfinished tasks, appointments, meetings, kids activities, sports, things we want. You understand. Still our minds, but not empty them. Stillness permits our minds to become focused.

Why be still? Someone asked me recently, why are there animals on earth? One reason, we can learn from them. We have an Eastern Cottontail rabbit in our backyard. It has perfected physical stillness.DSC_0026_1895sig

The Eastern Cottontail teaches us about physical stillness. Being still for a cottontail is essential to life. When most other living things eat you, being invisible in full view equals life. Biologists have discovered that only 20% of eastern cottontail survive their first year of life, that’s 8 in 10. Few cottontails live beyond their first year. Yet being a “freezer” enables a cottontail to live longer. Stillness brings life. 

Another favorite group of “freezers” are woodpeckers. All species are shy. Wary is a superior word. Even the largest, the pileated woodpecker is constantly alert for danger. Birds and mammals model the benefit of being still, without motion. It means life for them.DSC_0056_1864sigDSC_0031_1900sig

In contrast, most humans are constantly on the move. Personal calendars are full. We tell each other we multi-task. Who are we trying to dupe? Our physical bodies are not still. With physical motion our mouths and minds are engaged. Everything is moving. Why is this a problem? Life in our culture is “on the go.” Isn’t this the way to live?

These ideas are not mine. A shepherd, who spent 24/7 with sheep, wrote these words, “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.” Psalm 37:7 A shepherd’s work was watching, being still. When the shepherd was still, there was time to think. Perhaps shepherds talk to sheep, not regularly. Body still, mind still, mouth closed, what happens?

God speaks. God has put each of us on a life journey. God. I am not the director of my life journey. Debate with me, but respectfully, truthfully, you are not either. Being still in body, mouth and mind brings us to a place where we can listen. It is not mental illness. When we are still God speaks. Invisible, all-powerful, everlasting, all-knowing God can easily speak to the human soul. It is simple, a shepherd directed by God gave us the way to hear God speak. Be still. Sit down, put your lips together, ask God to speak. You’ll be surprised.  You’ll discover where the absolute power is. There is real life in stillness. Need a model? Watch a cottontail.DSC_0007_1886sig


He Sees

What does it mean to see something? We could say we understand or comprehend. Perhaps we might say, “I get it.” When we “see” something we realize it. To see is to perceive or grasp an idea. But the most basic meaning of to see could be expressed in the words observe and notice. To see means both to understand in our minds and observe with our eyes.

DSC_0002_1640sigA photographer must be able to “see.” A photo worthy subject might appeal because it’s rarely seen. Great nature photographers are able to position themselves in places to obtain unusual photos of wildlife. This requires not only ability to use a sophisticated camera, but knowledge of wildlife behavior. It also requires exceptional patience. Some nature photographers learn to see the beauty found everywhere in nature.

DSC_0013_1647sigOne of my favorite things to do with a camera comes while sitting down outside in a wild place. My objective is to find photo worthy subjects while sitting in one place. This takes time. Our minds and eyes need to begin to work in tandem. Using our mind and our perceived sense of the beautiful does not happen instantly. This takes concentration. Sitting in one place allows mind and eyes to work together. Our normal practice is to use our eyes to enable us to move from place to place while outside. Sitting still allows our minds to process the beauty around us. In a wild place there are thousands of beautiful things. We are accustomed to only seeing the big obvious things. The bright color of a Rooster Pheasant on snowy ground is an instant eye catcher.

DSC_0040_1663sigBut beauty is also found in nature details. A single leaf contrasted by white snow. The green of lichen on a background of white. Shadows on a bright winter’s day and a winding track of a deer mouse are beautiful. So are the convoluted chunks of ice thrown up by the river current beneath them. Sunlight on the bark of aspen trees on a bright winter day draws the eye. Dark limbs frosted with white snow are beautiful. To see these things requires stillness. It requires a mind actively seeking the silent beauty found in nature details. It takes time for nature photographers who capture the beauty of nature details to develop the skills to see.DSC_0064_1686sig.jpg

Our subject has been seeing, to observe and understand. What does it mean to you to know that God sees us? What does it mean to know God understands our minds and hearts? How wonderful, he not only sees us, he comprehends who we are. No human can understand you as God does.  He has seen you since before you were born. He saw you in your mother’s womb. He not only saw you, he formed you. He “knit” you together. All of your days were written in his book before you were born. God sees you. He knows when you rise and when you sit. His mind actively seeks you, but he does not need the practice to see you like a photographer. He sees you perfectly every moment of your existence.

Is God’s intent for harm or good? Relax, he sees you because he loves you. The Psalmist wrote from experience. He said, “The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me.” Psalm 116:6

It is delightful to see the work of a photographer who sees the beauty of nature. It is life changing to know eternal, everywhere present, all-knowing God not only sees us, he knows all about us. Every problem, every hurt, each fear and every sad moment God sees it all. The one who made all beauty in nature protects and saves us. True beauty lies in this.DSC_0030_1658sig

Striving, Stillness, Peace

Yesterday a wordless reminder was impressed upon me. In words, it is for you today.

Three words focus our attention: striving, still, peace.

The order is important.

First striving. Synonyms for striving are struggling, trying, going all out, and my favorite: pulling out all the stops. When thinking of striving the word struggle seems most appropriate for our lives today. If circumstances and events in life do not cause struggle for us, we are adept at making life a struggle. Another description for striving comes from the term “multi-tasking.” Truthfully, no one can do two things at once. Multi-tasking is striving in disguise. Perhaps we live in the most advanced civilization in world history but we are overwhelmed with striving.

Does it matter?

In our hearts, we all know it does.

The wordless reminder was impressed upon me during a walk in a wild place yesterday. My goal: photograph something wild, exciting, something to cause you to say, “Wow!” Instead, my eyes and ears were met with stillness. Instead of “wow”, peace and quiet were given me. This place was so quiet. It was so still. It was deeply peaceful. The Psalmist reminds us of God’s instructions in Psalm 46:10 these words are written, “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”DSC_0012_1536sig

Still. The opposite of striving. What if multi-tasking keeps us from living life well? What if all our striving is misdirected? The wisest man in the world once wrote these words, “What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun?” Ecclesiastes 2:22

There is a by-product of stillness. Something good and desirable happens when we stop striving. Peace comes. Isaiah the prophet of God wrote these words many centuries ago, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” Isaiah 26:3 We strive and struggle to live life, seldom allowing even a spare moment of quietness or stillness. We become focused on earthly life. In stillness we can remember the Creator of all life.

Here are those three words again. Striving, stillness and peace. Consider these words a life course adjustment. These words are for me too.

Enjoy the photos. Take some quiet deep breaths. As you view these pictures from a quiet place, stop rushing, striving. In the stillness know that God loves you. Jesus died for you. You are in the eternal hands of God.