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Getting ready to be still: a short how-to

PHOTO: Ylanite Koppens

I was a senior at the University of Oregon, preparing for my final term-long teaching experience. That’s when I got this harebrained idea. What if I did my student teaching in Alaska? Crazy but it worked!

My sister moved there a year before and taught at Taku, a newly- built elementary school in Anchorage. It was modern for its time in the early 80’s. For example, the school of 400 students had no classroom doors. Oh, they had modular units; at 5’1” I couldn’t see over them. I couldn’t image teaching or learning in such an environment. But it happened.

Take reading, for example. At 12:45 each day, the school practiced SIR – “Shhhh, I’m Reading”. When the bell rang, all students, teachers and the principal opened their books – without exception, every single day and read quietly for 15 minutes.

Silence can be stunning!

“Be still and know that I am God,” Psalm 46:10 says. BE STILL comes first. But even before that is GETTING still. Sometimes this is the most challenging part!

When it comes to listening to God, we often undervalue the getting still part and become frustrated at our lack of ability to sit still. Can you imagine what would happen if other disciplines overlooked the preparation?

How about a brain surgeon who skipped medical school? A triathlon athlete who never swam laps? A concert pianist who neglected practicing scales?

The Lord gives us a guideline for successful “stillness.” It doesn’t sound exactly spiritual, but it can’t be more real.

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” (Luke 14:28)

Okay, our spiritual life may not be the same as building a tower. On the other hand… maybe it is, especially if your desire is to become more and more like Jesus, one step at a time.

I’d like to share some helpful strategies that might make your sitting still possible by first getting still.

First, plan for it by scheduling it

As much as possible, be consistent – whether it is daily, weekly – or some place in between. When are you least likely to be interrupted? Early morning? Lunchtime? Late night?

Then find a place

Your desk, favorite chair, parked in your car, hiding in the attic, nearby coffee shop…

Next, plan ahead.

For example, if you’ve decided on 5:45 each morning at your desk… you’ll also need to factor in going to bed early.

What if seeking God was your top priority and everything else flowed from that? As unique as that may sound, Matthew 6:33 says that’s God’s very best idea for you:

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,

and all these things will be added to you.”

If seeking God is more than a hope for our lives… it also needs to rise to the level of being our intentional choice and practice.

So, you have a time and a place. Is anything else needed? If you are like me, a small inconvenience can cause not a delay, but a total delete.

You roll over to turn off you alarm and remember your desktop is a mess, and your Bible and journal are out in the car where you left them after last night’s small group. The solution? Before slipping into bed at 10:00, have your place ready. If Motel 6 can “leave the light on” for us, can’t we grant ourselves the same warm welcome?

Bible in a comfy chair

Then, what will be waiting for you? Whatever invites you most easily into His Presence. Your Bible. Worship music. A journal, either hard copy or on your computer. Warm slippers. A cup of tea….

My final tip – and one that has changed my life. In the most amazing way, this one tool keeps me focused.


For every fleeting thought that comes (make an appointment, call my hurting friend, buy milk), I have a place to drop it. I write it on a Post-It. This is my greatest solution to wandering thoughts and to God’s idea to “capture every thought.” I quickly write a word or two and step right back into stillness.

I hope some of these simple suggestions will help you. Please take what fits and let the rest go. You will discover what works best for this season of your life – the time and place have both changed for me through the years.

Next week I’ll share how journaling became a part of my stillness and how writing a dialogue with God changes my life.

If your heart is to be still and know God… perhaps it’s time for some intentional SIR (Shhhh, I’m Reading) time.



Take a few minutes to imagine. Picture what will work for you – the time, the place and helpful tools on hand to enter the presence of God who graciously invites us to come. “Now set your heart and soul to seek the Lord your God.” (I Chronicles 22:19)

“Alone, without distractions, we put ourselves in a place where God can reveal things to us that we might not notice in the normal preoccupation of life.” Adele Ahlberg Calhoun


If you're hungry for more than just a taste of stillness,

please join us for our upcoming

“Dare to Be Still” retreat on October 20 - 21 in Florence!


Visit my website for more details.

Click Register when you feel His invitation to “Come away.”

Thanks for sitting still with me today.

Email me your thoughts or pop in to say "hi."  

I'd love to hear from you!

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