Be Still, Know Peace, and Know God

I’m fond of stillness. I need a sweet slice of it every day. Without it, I feel empty and lost.

Sometimes I’ll sit in my home office and simply observe my thoughts and be present (though at times I listen and take notes). Sometimes I just quietly absorb the Infinite, trying to not put meaning on anything, letting negativity and judgment drift away. It’s like meditation, but not textbook. It’s a place where a scattered mind can regroup.

Be still, and know that I am God. —Psalms 46:10

It’s not easy to do nothing, but like nothing else, quiet heals. It reorders a disordered heart and mind.

Sometimes I find stillness in the car with the radio and smartphone off. The autonomic nervous system takes over the wheel and my mind is free to be.

Sometimes in the small hours, before my wife and the world are awake, I lie still on our bed, alone with God. He has a lot to say if we’ll listen.

I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches. —Psalms 63:6

I love time in nature too. Fortunately we are near miles of nature trails where I run in the warmer, snowless months. A recent study found that a 90-minute nature walk reduced rumination or “repetitive thought focused on negative aspects of the self,” a known mental health risk factor. I’ve experienced that reduced rumination and I’m sure you have as well. (A 90-minute walk in an urban setting, by the way, produced no such benefit.)

The key for me is to turn away from distraction, especially media via technology. Distraction is a modern blight that seems bent on suffocating the world. I have found that nothing unsettles me like modern media, including social media. I need quiet to sort the world out.

Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. —Psalms 107:30

If quiet seems foreign to you, dive in. For me, it’s a survival skill.

Find a quiet place in the house with a comfortable chair—it might have to be before anyone else is awake or after everyone is in bed—and leave your smartphone in the other room. Or find a path in a forest or an open field. Then take a swim in the quiet. Observe and feel.

Give yourself 10 or 15 minutes, at least. Be open and trusting. In time, if you’re patient, your peace can flow like a river (see Isaiah 48:18).

“Forgiveness Flour” by Marguerite Stewart

Today I heard for the first time Marguerite Stewart’s poem, “Forgiveness Flour,” over the stake conference pulpit.

When I went to the door, at the whisper of knocking,
I saw Simeon Gantner’s daughter, Kathleen, standing
There, in her shawl and her shame, sent to ask
“Forgiveness Flour” for her bread. “Forgiveness Flour,”
We call it in our corner. If one has erred, one
Is sent to ask for flour of his neighbors. If they loan it
To him, that means he can stay, but if they refuse, he had
Best take himself off. I looked at Kathleen . . .
What a jewel of a daughter, though not much like her
Father, more’s the pity. “I’ll give you flour,” I
Said, and went to measure it. Measuring was the rub.
If I gave too much, neighbors would think I made sin
Easy, but if I gave too little, they would label me
“Close.” While I stood measuring, Joel, my husband
Came in from the mill, a great bag of flour on his
Shoulder, and seeing her there, shrinking in the
Doorway, he tossed the bag at her feet. “Here, take
All of it.” And so she had flour for many loaves,
While I stood measuring.

Forgiveness mustn’t be a stingy business, though it’s usually painful to offer. It happens at our very core or it doesn’t happen at all. But it takes time, and we are often willing before we are able.

It’s self-liberating because, once you forgive, you can think clearly about something else. The more freely we give and forgive, the freer we become.

I am indebted to Madison U. Sowell who helped my find this poem as he cited it in his BYU Devotional, “On Measuring Flour and Forgiveness.” “Forgiveness Flour” by Marguerite Stewart was published in the Religious Studies Center Newsletter 7, no. 3 (May 1993).