“Pause and Be Still (PBS),” by Lisa Steele-Maley

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, September 24, 2023

Psalm 46 verse 10: “Be still and know that I am God.”

This morning, I’d like to spend a little time celebrating PBS – not Public Broadcasting Service but the invitation to Pause and Be Still. Like Public Broadcasting Service, Pause and Be Still (this morning’s PBS)  is free and available to all. Tuning into PBS offers access to the most important stories of any day. It is here whether you use it or not. There will never be a pledge drive.

When I truly settle into a moment to pause and be still, the chatter in my mind quiets and the seeking in my heart rests. I sense a clearing opening; I have made myself ready to be more fully present to God in that moment. I have taken a step toward the divine and the divine has sensed my readiness and stepped closer to me. In the stillness, we may dance or cry or laugh or embrace. There is awe. In the stillness, we know each other and are known by each other. And I am reminded that the divine is always here, in me and around me. I just need to pause and be still to remember.

This summer, I began paying close attention to invitations to Pause and Be Still and I have found my connection to the life of Spirit within me deepening and stretching. Granted, my practice of paying attention and embracing invitations to pause was likely supported by the fecundity of the summer season, but even that was a bonus, not the doorway. The doorway is this intention to pay attention to the invitations to PBS.

The doorway has stayed wide open as we enter this season of transition and all the fullness that it holds. The fall equinox invites us to let go of all that summer abundance and to prepare to receive in the fullness of the emptiness of the darker months. Each releasing and receiving is an invitation to pause and be still.

My curiosity about PBS began on the acupuncture table. I have been receiving acupuncture for over a decade and, each time, after I have been poked full of needles, the practitioner asks “music or silence?”. I don’t even have to think about it. Silence is the obvious answer. An hour of silence sounds like heaven ~ but of course it is not silent. As soon as she leaves the room, I hear her receding footsteps, the bird song, the tumble of the dryer downstairs, the neighbor’s car door opening and closing…Laying there immobilized, I tune in to my surroundings. Arriving more fully in the moment, I become aware of the temperature in the room, the heat on my feet, the gentle breeze from the window. The thoughts that have been occupying my mind fall away. A silence of sorts arrives in my being.

Finally after one appointment, I realized that it is not external silence that I am choosing, it is inner silence. Her question “music or silence?” is an invitation that my body has come to recognize as an invitation to pause and be still. PBS.

You may have recognized a similar process of arrival as you settle into Meeting each week.

“Thomas Merton advised, “May we not neglect the silence printed in the center of our being. It will not fail us.”

Seeking to tend the silence in the center of my being on a more consistent basis, I have begun to look for and step towards invitations to pause and be still. I don’t need to wait for a weekly gathering at Meeting or a monthly acupuncture appointment, or even a daily meditation practice. Invitations to PBS are happening everywhere all the time! I will share a few of the invitations that I have accepted over the last few months in the hopes that they may help you begin to notice invitations to pause and be still when they arrive in your life:

One morning, I raced out to get a few groceries. Knowing that I had to make two stops before getting back to a work commitment, I raced through the first store only to find myself arriving at the second store 7 minutes before they opened. As I put my timepiece away, I realized I had been granted 7 minutes to pause and be still. PBS! I sat down on the stoop and felt my shoulders relax. Feeling the sun on my face, watching the cars, people and pets pass, and listening to the seagulls overhead, the urgency and self-importance of my task melted away. I was reminded that I am one of many, a single part of the whole in this glorious dance of humanity and divinity. Pause and Be Still.

As I sat, working on this message one evening, I looked up from my computer and was startled to see a young deer standing 15 feet from the house. Calm and unafraid, browsing on the tall grass, I recognized her presence as a gift – an invitation to PBS. I watched her for what felt like a long time, but maybe it was only 3-4 minutes. Over the course of the next hour, we had two more encounters – one outside standing only 10-15 feet from one another. Curiosity, gratitude, wonder, and something that felt like yearning exchanged between us. Pause and Be Still.

The more attention I paid, the more frequently and persistently the invitations arrived. Anything that caught my eye or ear and caused me to do a double take or to catch my breath became an invitation to PBS.

Over the summer, it was:

Microfilaments of spider web suspended from tree to tree

The hummingbird at the feeder, appearing to hover effortlessly while his wings beat rapidly

Strawberry leaves ringed with dew drops

Early morning mists descending on the field

Rain that penetrates every pore

Pause and Be still

The smell of the roses and peonies

The memory of a loved one

The newborn loon baby in the lake

The deer, killed by a passing car

The haunting, far-away look in that gentleman’s eyes

Pause and Be Still

As autumn arrives, I see invitations to PBS in:

The oak leaf falling ever so slowly, held aloft by a breeze so light I can’t feel it

A perfectly whole and beautiful monarch butterfly lying dead among the garden’s tangle

My neighbor singing to herself as she works in the yard

The three-day old chick laying lifeless face-down on the floor of the coop

The little bird’s slow breaths of air and movement of body as I held her in my palm

Pause and Be still.

Accepting these invitations, truly pausing and being still to let wonder and gratitude sink in is a simple and profound way to honor Creation and my place in its web. For me, this is worship in its most humble and profound form.

May you find and accept many invitations to pause and be still this fall season. And, in those PBS moments, may you remember that the divine is always present, always here to be welcomed and known and always waiting to welcome and know you.


Lisa Steele-Maley is the Dean of the Chaplaincy Institute of Maine (ChIME)

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