03/11/2013 06:24 pm ET Updated May 11, 2013

Being Quiet in a Clamoring World

The other day a friend told me he was like a man caught in a kitchen blender with someone pushing the pulse button. He was in a stew about it, but I told him not to worry; it was just a tempest in a teapot. I suggested a cup of tea would, in fact, do him a lot of good if accompanied by some self-imposed solitude and carefully selected Scriptures, especially if worked daily into his routines. He tried it and his pulse returned to normal.

If you're feeling pulverized, shredded, liquefied or crushed, remember the sign hanging in the school library: Sshhh! Quiet Please. While we can't keep the world from spinning, we can find tranquility in tough times. Our lives -- with all our electronic tethers, emotional entanglements, family obligations and financial pressures -- are demanding. We're not resting, not managing our clocks and calendars as we'd like, often anxious and angry. We're pulled in so many directions we feel like twistable toys in the hands of a toddler. The noises of life are drowning out the quietness necessary for the horticulture of the soul.

We have careers to establish, children to raise, bills to pay, deals to make, problems to solve and opinions to formulate. But if there's any truth to the teachings of the Bible, as there is, we also have souls to cultivate. Jesus warned about those who gain the world but lose their souls (Mark 8:36). As I say in my book about Psalm 23, "The Lord is My Shepherd":

"The anxious running to and fro, the harried pace, the frenzied pressure of chronic stress, the desire for more and more -- these are antithetical to green pastures and still waters."

We need to remember what Moses told the Israelites by the Red Sea: "The Lord will fight for you; you only need to be still" (Exodus 14:14).

Or consider Psalm 37:7: "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret...."

Or the timeless advice of Psalm 46:10: "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted on the earth."

Jesus often withdrew from the crowds and the commotion, retreating to still spots like mountain coves and urban gardens where he could think, pray, and replenish his energy. At the end of one harrowing day, he told his disciples, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest" (Mark 6:31). The apostle Paul advised us to "live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness" (1 Timothy 2:2). The apostle wasn't suggesting lessened energy or ambition; he himself was indefatigable. He was recommending a calmness of spirit that stays hushed amid the hurry.

For most people, stillness has gone the way of the Passenger Pigeon. Take people who run the airports, for example. They evidently believe tense travelers are becalmed by television sets bellowing at every gate like demented talkers who can't shut up. Similarly I dread visiting the doctor's office, not because I'll be stripped, poked, prodded, tested and diagnosed, but because I have to sit through "The Price is Right" before the process even begins. Maybe I'm out of the mainstream, but if I can't have the sound of silence, at least give me a little Simon and Garfunkel with the volume on low.

Other than a set of noise-cancelling headphones, I can't do much about the airports or waiting rooms, but I do have control over my own home and heart. I can create a daily routine with preplanned lulls in the storm. As an unabashed theist, I think it's reasonable to assume that the nature of the definition of the word "God" implies an intelligent being. If God is intelligent and possesses omniscience (a logical assumption for those of us with theistic presuppositions), He certainly has the ability to communicate. If He wants to communicate in a lasting way that can be retained, studied, and passed along to others, it's reasonable to assume He would inscribe His message in a book. So for me as a Christian, it's rational to begin and end my day with some respectful moments before an open Bible. I've been doing this since my sophomore year of college and it's the most important part of my day.

Almost every morning whether I'm home or traveling I take a cup of coffee or tea to a small table or chair. Opening my journal, I jot a few things down, start reading in my Bible where I left off the day before, notate an observation or two, isolate a verse that speaks to me, spend time in prayer, then jot down my agenda for the day. I remind myself of my blessings and share with the Lord my burdens. This is my quiet time, my lolling by still waters. I usually repeat the exercise at bedtime, having found the old saying true: Prayer is the key to the morning and the bolt of the evening. Or as the ancient prophet put it, "In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength" (Isaiah 30:15, NKJV).

Let's rethink our schedules and build some quiet zones into our daily dockets. Power down the clamor. Say no to noise, at least for a few minutes each morning. It may not pull the plug on the blender, but we'll undoubtedly go into each new day feeling juiced.