Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Quiet Center

Come and find the quiet center in the crowded life we lead,
Find the room for hope to enter, find the frame where we are freed:
Clear the chaos and the clutter, clear our eyes, that we can see
All the things that really matter, be at peace, and simply be.

I love these words from the hymn "Come and Find the Quiet Center" by Shirley Erena Murray. They remind me of my constant need to center myself in God before I engage the busyness and the business of the day. It is so easy to get caught up with the demands of our to-do lists and our chores, places to go to, people to meet and schedules to keep. With the continuing advancement of information technology, the temptation is stronger than ever to dive into our work first thing in the morning. And that just dictates how the rest of our day would go, doesn't it? It doesn't slow down from there. We continue on that dizzying pace until we are ready for bed. And even from bed, we find ourselves checking that last email, that last text message, that last post.

When I said yes to taking this new role, one of the first things I did was contact people I knew who were either former or current Superintendents. I asked them for tips, pointers and general words of wisdom. There was a variety of responses, ranging from the technical, the practical, to the spiritual. Yet one common piece of advice I got that resonated among all their messages was this: Pay attention to your soul. Do not neglect your spiritual life. Be disciplined in your spiritual practices.

I am thankful for those words of advice and have taken them seriously. I begin my day with God in scripture and prayer. Some days are easier than others. But I try. Sometimes I falter and I reap the consequences of an "un-centered" start throughout the day. And so I try my best to take time for God daily. My devotions today reminded me of how God provided manna daily to the Israelites in the wilderness and everyday they had to go out and gather this flaky substance from the ground for their food. In a practical sense, it was for food to satisfy their hunger. But in a deeper sense, it cultivated a habit of depending on God daily. It was meant to center them daily on the wonderful truth of God's grace. "Give us this day our daily bread."

Running is another practice that takes care of not only my body but also my soul. It has become, for me, a spiritual discipline. I do not use headphones and listen to music when I run and so I am able to listen to my breathing, my heartbeat and the pounding of my feet on the ground. I find it soothing when those three seem to be in sync, following a certain rhythm. Running allows me to process things, to think through a difficult situation or marinate on a sermon. It also relieves stress. When I am not able to run, I am cranky and out of sync.

Friend, I know that you, too, lead a very busy life. Amidst the busyness, may you find time to take care of your soul. I pray the words of this hymn as a blessing for you: May you find the quiet center in the crowded life you lead. May you find room for hope to enter and the frame where you are freed. May you find time and space to clear the chaos and the clutter. May your eyes be cleared to see the things that really matter. May you find peace and simply be. Amen.

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