I tried an experiment on my second visit of the evening to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. I set the timer on my phone for five minutes, and I spent five minutes in silence, not reading anything, not saying anything, not looking my phone. It was just me sitting in a pew in semi-darkness for five minutes.
Five long minutes.
It’s amazing how society has conditioned us to need almost constant stimuli from the radio, television, tablets, internet, and smart phones. Our attention span is so much shorter than it was even twenty years ago.
It’s good for the soul to be silent.
I think of it like rebooting a computer every so often. It helps it to run more smoothly and to reset the equilibrium when things get a bit off-kilter.
We need rebooting periodically. That’s what silence and meditation are for. That’s what prayer and fasting are for. That’s why God instituted the Sabbath as a day of rest, although historically His people haven’t been very good at using that day for the purpose of which it was intended.
I’m not very good at any kind of silence. That five minutes seemed a lot longer to me than five minutes. It definitely seemed a lot longer than five minutes spent on Pinterest or Instagram. I’ve been known to waste way more than five minutes scrolling through the posts on Facebook at the end of the day.
Silence takes discipline, something that the culture around us seems to treat with disdain. You don’t see or hear many advertisements extolling the virtues of discipline and self-denial. Usually, it’s quite the opposite.
So there I was in that quiet space for five whole minutes, not saying anything, not reading anything, praying as I felt led. It was refreshing and soul-cleansing. I felt more relaxed and less anxious. I felt at peace with myself and with God.
I should probably do that more often.
Once upon a time there was a good person. Or at least he thought so.
He determined in his own mind to set out on a quest to find inner peace and began the arduous journey toward his goal.
He chanted, he fasted, he burned incense, he meditated, and he prayed. He went on pilgrimages. He gave up red meat and gluten. Later, he became a vegan, even though he loved him some steak and potatoes.
He helped old ladies across the street and rescued kittens from trees and paid his taxes like a good citizen. He even volunteered at the library.
But no matter how much he did, it never felt like enough. He never could seem to fund that elusive peace he was so desperately seeking.
Then he had an epiphany. He realized he was not a good person. He understood that he was fundamentally flawed and broken person whose good intentions never hit their marks.
He discovered that there is only One who is good, One who once came down to live among people just like him. One who did everything right and lived the perfect life that this good person could not.
He grasped that this One, Jesus, had died for him not when he was a good person, but when he was at his worst, when he was against everything Jesus stood for.
He called out to this Jesus and asked Him to save him and do for him what he could never do for himself. He confessed that he was really and truly a not-good person.
Now he has peace. He still has bad days and even bad weeks. He still has good intentions that fall short. He can even be grumpy at times. But he also has Jesus.
And that is enough.
I may have mentioned it a time or two, but I love me some Historic Downtown Franklin. I could very easily see myself living there (or some place very nearby). In fact, I have offered my services as a (very) unofficial tour guide of all my favorite places. In case you can’t afford my exorbitant fees, here’s a list of some of the places I love to visit when I’m there.
1) McCreary’s Irish Pub: I list it first because it’s my favorite. It’s a small place, but I love the vibe. Also, the people who work there are fantastic and will make you feel like you’re at home. I recommend just about everything on the menu.
2) Frothy Monkey: It’s a hip and trendy place to hang out in your North Face jacket with your MacBook sipping on hip and trendy beverages. I almost feel hip and trendy myself when I’m there. When the weather’s good, the best place to be is outside on their upstairs patio or on their front porch.
3) St. Paul’s Episcopal Church: It’s open 24/7 and makes for a good place to go and pray or meditate or just be still for a few moments. If you’re quiet long enough, you can almost hear the ghosts of old parishioners walking up and down on the old creaky floorboards.
4) The Franklin Tea Room: I just discovered this little gem of a place. It’s a great place to have tea and read a good book. I chose cinnamon spice tea and The Great Gatsby. It does close early, so go there first thing.
5) Franklin Theatre: It’s a beautifully restored old movie theater where you can still catch a classic movie (or a more recent one), hear a concert, or see a live stage play. I always try to see at least one Christmas movie there during December.
There are lots more places to check out, like Grey’s on Main or Puckett’s. There’s even St. Philip’s Catholic Church that has a breath-taking old chapel that used to be the main sanctuary. I recommend walking up and down Main Street, taking in a few of the antique stores, satisfying your sweet tooth at Sweet CeCe’s, and (most importantly) bringing your camera to take lots of scenic pics.
There may or may not be a sequel to this blog. I haven’t decided yet. I think I’ll need to put in some more research first.
I love the part of Kairos where Uncle Mike (or Mike Glenn to the rest of you) tells us to get comfortable, to put both feet on the floor, and to take a couple of deep breaths. What follows is always some of the best prayer time I have all week.
Those physical postures like folding your hands, bowing your head, and closing your eyes may seem like meaningless religious rituals, but for me they have great benefit.
I shut out the rest of the world for the next few moments and don’t have to worry about my ADD getting kicked into high gear by the incidental activity and noise all around me. I can be still and silent.
To be still and silent during this Advent season seems odd and almost wrong. This is the time of year when you have parties to attend, gifts to buy, decorations to put up, and 1,001 church-related activities on the calendar.
But I think it’s more than a good idea. It’s necessary. You need to periodically reorient yourself so that you can once again find the Child in the manger amidst all the other gaudy ornaments beckoning for your attention. Like the Shepherds and Wise Men, it’s good to have that moment of silent worship and reverent awe.
So far, I’ve broken every promise I made to myself to really emphasize celebrating this Advent season. I’ve let so many other tasks and causes and distractions, some selfish and some good, get in the way. I haven’t been still and silent with the intention of letting God speak to me.
Maybe even with two weeks left until Christmas, it’s still not too late to start again on that path to Bethlehem and the lowly manger. I’m planning on it. I hope you are, too.
I was feeling burdened about some issues, so I stepped inside one of my favorite places on earth, St. Paul’s Espiscopal Church, a very old church building located in the heart of downtown Franklin. Being in that place always brings me peace and I can be still and silent and just be.
I pulled out one of the kneelers and got on my knees and unburdened myself before God. I let it all go. I don’t know if it will work out like I want it to or not, but I do know that I felt a peace about it for the first time in a while. Then I simply listened.
It may have been the creaky floorboards settling, but to my romanticized imagination, it sounded like echos of past worshippers. Ghosts of people who came to this place and found their own peace.
I felt that I was not alone. Not because of ghosts, but because I knew that God was there with me.
I know now that I have to let my situation go. I can’t fix it. As much as I try to “help” God out, I would only make things worse. So I have to back off and let God do what only God can do. It’s completely in his hands now.
I don’t know how long I knelt there, listening to the noises around me. I left my phone in my pocket the whole time.
I love the fact that God didn’t wait until I got my act together to come to me. He found me, broken as I was, and is loving me to wholeness. Even though I sometimes still live out of fear and doubt, he never once has abandoned me. In those times I felt most alone, he was closest of all.
That’s what I love about God. Every other religion is about how to get to God, but Christianity (not the religion, but the relationship with Jesus Christ) is about how God came to us and found us before we even thought about looking for him.
I’m so glad he found me.
Do you ever sometimes feel like your friends have forgotten that you exist? Does it seem that they can make time for other friends but not for you? Do you feel ignored?
First of all, know that you are not alone. Many people have felt this way from time to time (including me).
Second of all, remember that it’s probably not a good thing to overthink it, especially late at night, because when you’re tired, you don’t think as clearly and things seem worse than they really are. Innocent remarks can take on sinister undertones at 2 am.
Third of all, God has not forgotten you. When you seem most alone, God still knows who you are and where you are. He knows your name, your true name, that no one else but he and you know. You are still on his mind and there is not a moment that goes by where he doesn’t think of you and love you and root for you.
So, if you’re having trouble sleeping tonight (like me), try some warm milk. Meditate not on what feels like the abandonment of your friends, but on the promises of God for you which are as good as done.