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Caution: Stillness May Be Dangerous

11121569_10206412824384869_2911994817518297219_oSometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits.*

Except I hide my sitting in moving. But trust me, I’m sitting on the inside. Oh, not lounging-on-the-couch-with-a-soda-and-popcorn-in-front-of-a-movie kind of sitting. No, I mean myself, the part of me who knows she is me, is seated and stilled. I must disguise this as moving because, were I to ACTUALLY sit, I’d be accused of sitting around which is wasting my time which is NOT allowed.

So, while I move, I sit.

And while I sit, I whir. The cogs turn and the wheels spin and holy smoke probably rises from my brain factory. Gone totally rogue, my ideas bump into each other, introduce themselves, recognize old friends, and sit and chat. So now THEY’RE sitting, too! The sound of a million voices is deafening, silent to the passerby, of course, but not to me.

I don’t mind it, though. It’s not distracting. In fact, it’s engaging to host a multitude of delightful thoughts, all with a chance to do more than gather, more than collect, more than mill around waiting for instructions. Here, in my very head which is bobbing along the roadway looking like it’s DOing something, these thoughts are churning. They are comparing notes, discovering, unearthing, creating. It’s quite a process. Never know what might turn up, or who.

Perhaps I will jot a few notes when I get home if there’s a particularly juicy tidbit. Or maybe if l let things mull and age and ruminate they will make themselves available for my next opportunity to sit, I mean, move.

Please don’t tell anyone. It’s really quite subversive, this stilling. In fact, it could be dangerous.

*phrase borrowed from a favorite greeting card.


Think Time

“Now put on your thinking caps,” the teacher said to the first graders. Each one gripped an imaginary cap and settled it upon his head in preparation for the task set before him. It would be hard. The brain would be stressed and strained. Probably soon there would be steam puffing from the caps’ edges while it whistled or rattled or forced its way down upon the head. Hard work was ahead. The think-cap made ready.

What was the magic of that cap? It was imaginary, after all. No one could see it or feel it, yet every first grader had one. Nary a one hesitated to don it. With glee, we pulled them out and settled them on our heads. To ready ourselves for the task ahead, the question to be posed, the answer to be searched. And this was not scary for us. We did not dread that we might not get the right answer or be slower than our classmates at arriving there. Our thinking cap would transport us…through thinking time.

First graders have this magic, naturally. When instructed to put on their cap, they do. Their hands grasp what they don’t see and wrap around what they don’t feel and lift it to balance on top of their heads. The magic isn’t in the cap; it’s in them. And in the ritual of “putting on the thinking cap.”

Just think. What if we, before our day, our tough conversation, our monumental task, put on our thinking cap? Simply. Not supposing an outcome or force-fitting a solution, simply the putting on. Oh, now don’t look around to see if everyone else is doing it or what their hats look like or how they fit. Just put yours on. Feel it. Lift it. Settle it. Balance it. Check out how it feels to have a thinking cap on. How do you look?

So much of my normal, adult, after first grade life falls prey to the just-get-me-to-the-top/answer/end-ness. Let’s take the elevator and get this over with. Transport me to “right” as quickly as possible. Extract me from here and land me right there.

Ah, but when I take the stairs, especially the shallow stairs…step by step, climbing, slowly, regularly, rhythmically, I lose myself in the upward. The marble rises before me but does not overwhelm or tire me. It receives and turns me up and around, up and over, up and up and… The stairs are my think time. Time to carry myself toward the above.

window view Perhaps this is why God doesn’t say Let me lift you over the tough stuff. Because in the climb we have time to put on our thinking. And even to take in the views on the way up. So when we arrive at the top, we know how we got there and know just what to do. He doesn’t leave us and He doesn’t leave us unprepared.

Rituals and rhythms, given their time, offer resonance that silences what surrounds so we can focus on what centers. In that place, all else falls away. Flight after flight after flight.

Imagine. At six we just needed to hear: It’s think time. Everyone put on your thinking caps! And, without thinking, we did. My hat today is pointy and turquoise, sparkling, with tassel a-top. I have fastened the elastic strap below my chin. This may be a wild ride.



What if Order is Essential and Distraction Denies?

My mind works differently now and I think it’s technology’s fault. I don’t think I’m alone. Everybody’s doing it. Flitting from one screen to the  next, one conversation to the next, one opportunity to the next. All without taking a breath. And we have to, right? I mean how otherwise could we Black Friday shop and follow the football play by play at the same time? Don’t get me started on texting and driving.

But now that I’ve mentioned it…adults, especially older or middle-aged adults are the worst. We think we can be on our screens and drive, deftly diving from one to the next without compromising either. No. Young people are more adept at this. They can actually accomplish texting and driving, giving little to no dedicated thought to either. Their brains are agile, jumping from one to the other. It’s when a “really good conversation” captures them that the driving takes a back seat. This is unfortunate when you are in the driver’s seat.

Okay, I’m back now. How I process information is surely changing. I scan instead of reading in depth. I look for bold print or bullet points so I can get the main idea without investing too much attention. I have multiple sources in front of me as I consider the latest topic. I scroll through multiple posts or links or articles, and my mind knows this. In fact, it expects it, and I feel like modifications have taken place so it can dabble instead of diving. Occasionally I stop to consider or to comment, but rarely.

Undivided attention, focus, deep reflection – these have gone missing. I watch my kids working on projects or papers. They have multiple tabs open, the tv on, the radio blaring, their phone receiving texts or emails or a words-with-friends prompt…and I am astounded. I wonder at the competition between the senses. How do they know which to attend to? Whatever happened to order? To first things first? To one thing at a time? How indeed can we know what should come first?

I have this on the brain as I read Matthew 9:1-8. Jesus heals the paralyzed man whom the friends brought, saying your sins are forgiven. Then, as if to drive the point home, Jesus tells the man to stand up and walk. True confession, this story has always confused me. Perhaps my modern day understanding is lacking the historical relating sins to sickness, but which one gives better evidence of Jesus’ authority, forgiving sins or physical healing? And in what order?

In a brief moment of deep reflection (with thanks to Robert Stephens, the author of the Upper Room meditation on November 30) I realized that order makes all the difference. Once Jesus healed the spirit, walking came easily to the man. The latter, testifying to the former.

Of course! First things first! Restoring order is what Christ is about on this earth. From the first thing, all the other things come.

Otherwise, everything either becomes:

  1. Me first – now lead yourself  OR
  2. Everything at once so no one goes first. Then you have mobs like Herald Square on Black Friday (and even Thanksgiving Thursday) where $300 purses have zippers torn open as they are flung aside for the next shiny item.

Personally, I prefer order. Stand in line and wait your turn. Or go online at a time of your choosing. But first, adopt the mind of Christ. Then, it may not make sense to waste all that time in line or online. There may be something much more important to tend to. One thing, from which all the others follow, naturally.

In fact, focus on that one thing may be exactly what is needed to solidify that pathway. To actually learn, commit it to memory and make it available for retrieval. A firm foundation rather than a flimsy stalk of an idea. Otherwise, in our rush to build here… no now over here…oops, now back this way… our brain may begin to resemble a graveyard of unfinished pathways waiting to be rattled, tipped or concussed by the next strong force that comes our way.

In a society where attention is on the decline and ADD and concussions are on the rise, could it perhaps be wise to spend some dedicated time focusing on what comes first? Call it prayer or meditation or the great cloud of knowing, but can we focus on One thing?

Order, it may be just the cure our society’s ills dearly need.

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