Guard your steps when you go to the house of God; to draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools.
It is vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil. Be still before [he Lord, and wait patiently for him. Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord... The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be still.
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power and love and a sound mind.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you... Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things.
Don't worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart.
Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
(Ecclesiastes 5:1, RSV; Psalm 37:7, RSV; Exodus 14:13,14, RSV; Isaiah 41:10, RSV; 2 Timothy 1:7, Phillips; John 14:27, NIV; Matthew 6:31-32, NIV; Philippians 4:6, TEV; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, RSV)
We in Western society are very much into doing and achieving, and as Christians we sometimes embrace in practice a kind of salvation by works despite what we claim in our theoretical theology. We seem to despise remaining, resting and abiding as being almost non-Christian. The protestant work ethic has still got us firmly by the throat. In the words of Psalm ].27 we still eat 'the bread of anxious toil' of our own efforts. Jesus invites us to consider the lilies, not just in order to examine their beauty, but to note how they grow. They grow spontaneously without conscious effort or concern, cared for by their Master and Creator. How far removed is this tranquil scene from the life of many of us, trying so hard to grow and be 'productive', spurring ourselves on to more and more frantic efforts 'for the Lord'. Many Christians are great workers for God's cause, volunteering for difficult jobs, out many nights in the week, attending church committees. However, when it comes to sitting still for a moment and relaxing in God's presence to receive his directions, empowering and resources, they are unable to do so. They become what has been described as 'rocking chair Christians', plenty of motion but little real progress, doing what they think God would have them do but not taking time to ask him for guidance and taking time to listen to him. The 'hyperactive' prophet Elijah had to go through the valley of depression, anger, bitterness and physical exhaustion before he was prepared to listen to the still, small voice of God for his direction. 'Be still and know...' (Psalm 46:10). The Hebrew term used here is rapah, which means relax! 'Relax and know that I am God.' 'But, but,' the Christian 'workaholics' protest, 'What about running the race, fighting the fight, subduing the body... aren't you just copping out?' No, I don't think so. I am just trying to re-discover that fine balance between action and contemplation, the inward journey and the outward journey. In my reading of the Old and New Testaments for every challenge to action there is at least one other command to rest, remain, wait or abide. Also in our 'busyness' we have lost a sense of praise and thanksgiving. We are so busy doing things for God that we do not have time to stop and comprehend what he has done and is willing to do for us, and so we have little that consciously we can praise him for. How long is it since you (or I) have stopped for a prolonged period of time to praise and thank God for his blessings? Life indeed has become very serious.
Slow me down Lord, Ease the pounding of my heart by the quietening of my mind; Steady my hurried pace with the vision of the eternal reach of time. Give me, amid the confusion of the day, the calmness of the everlasting hills. Break the tension of my nerves and muscles with the soothing music of the singing streams that live in my memory... Slow me down Lord, and inspire me to send my roots deep into the soil of life's enduring values, that I may grow towards my greater destiny. Remind me each day that the race is not always to the swift; that there is more to life than increasing its speed.
Orin L. Crain in Tim Hansel, When I Relax I Feel Guilty
Freedom from anxiety is characterised by three inner attitudes. If what we have we receive as a gift, and if what we have is being cared for by God, and if what we have is available to others, then we will possess freedom from anxiety.
Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline
If I had my life to live over again, I'd try to make more mistakes next time: I would relax, I would limber up, I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I know of very few things I would take seriously. I would take more trips, I would be crazier... I would eat more ice cream and less beans; I would have more actual troubles and fewer imaginary ones. You see I'm one of those people who lives life prophylactically and sensibly hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I've had my moments, and if I had to do it over again, I'd have more of them...
Anonymous monk, in Tim Hansel, When I Relax I Feel Guilty
Far and away, the most important benefit of celebration is that is saves us from taking ourselves too seriously... Our spirit can become weary with straining after God, as our body can become weary with overwork.
Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline
Do something unusual. Be an experimenter. Meet new people, try new experiences. Let people think you're loony. Wear a funny hat or put your shirt on backwards for a day...' Hug a tree, fly a kite, wear a button, jog in triangles. Go for a long walk in your bare feet. Poke some holes in your rigidity. This is not a time to be timid. Take a chance, it's worth it.
Tim Hansel, When I Relax I Feel Guilty
Oh Lord, I laugh aloud as I think of jogging in triangles; it's a long time since we laughed like that. Lord, I take myself too seriously. I think I'm mostly responsible for making things happen, not you. Please forgive me for such arrogance and pride. Lord, let me learn to rest, await, abide; to relax in you, enjoy you and the life you've given me. As I relax and slow down may I see what I have missed in my frenzied activities -- you -- and as l see you more may l praise you more.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things l can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.
From Rowland Croucher ed., Still Waters Deep Waters (Albatross/Lion) chapter 4