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Archive for November, 2008

SILENCE

SILENCE

I was seated out on the back deck of our home, early in the summer, having a real difficult time concentrating on things related to all the work that I needed to get done. I wasn’t being too successful.

I have learned over the years that for me to be most effective in getting prepared for each Sunday I need to get away from the hustle and bustle of life around home, and get away where it is quiet. I have found it beneficial to get out into God’s creation and kind of power down, allowing myself to turn away from the many distractions found at home where the phone seems to clamor for attention far too often and the doorbell rings with a regular frequency.

Where do I get away to? Sometimes I simply grab my baseball cap, a travel cup filled with coffee, and head out of town walking along the railroad tracks. Oh, an occasional car or pickup may go by on the gravel road across the tracks from me, but most the time I am alone, but for God and his creation around me. I am walking in country where the coyote thinks he’s king and where the deer have a fantastic time feeding in the farmer’s fields around me. It is normally quiet except for an occasional jet plane going overhead far above me or, sometimes, a train that passes by.

On other occasions I will jump into the car and drive about 30 minutes to a lake where I have a spot where I can sit and think and allow the pace of life to slow down. Again, I am in a place where there are few other people, it is quiet, and it becomes a time of reflection and restoration for me.

Sometimes I drive 6-7 miles out of town and out into the midst of the farming country around our community. There are several hilltops that I have found where I can see for miles in every direction. Again, I find myself surrounded by quietness and the beauty of God’s creation.

But there are other occasions I have learned when it is good to get away from people—at least most people. This can be during times of high stress or deep crisis. Sometimes it can be good to be with other folks during such a time—but usually only if everyone is keeping their mouths shut—keeping quiet.

One of my favorite portions of Scripture is the last chapter of the Book of John, in the New Testament. It is a story literally saturated with deep meaning and life lessons for us.

Jesus had died a horrible death on the cross and the lives of his disciples had been thrown into absolute chaos and confusion. Things simply had not gone according to their expectations. The disciples knew that Jesus had come back from death—they had each seen Him on at least a couple of occasions. But they must still have been filled with questions. What did their future hold? What was ahead for them?

In John 21 we find the a group of 7 men who had been followers of Jesus—men who had been the very closes of those who walked in His footsteps, and they are hanging out down at the beach, probably feeling just a bit sorry for themselves and wondering what their future held. It was getting on toward evening and suddenly Peter says, “I’m going fishing. Anyone wanna’ come with me?”

In moments the entire group of seven men gets their gear and climb into the boat and they are on their way, no doubt headed for a spot on the lake where they had caught fish before. They fished and fished, hour after long hour. Nothing. They were using nets and they did not even get a small one to throw back. They just flat were not catching anything.

I can’t help but think there must have been some grumbling at the outset as the night grew darker and the hours dragged by. It probably began to cool off quite a bit and those guys may have had to deal with a rain shower or two. But no fish. They no doubt cast the net off one side of the boat and then the other. Nothing seemed to work. Nothing.

I wonder what kind of thoughts must have been running through their heads as that night wore on. Maybe they became quieter. Maybe they began to take longer periods where they rested, not worrying so much about catching fish as they did just resting—and thinking. Thinking about all that had happened and what might lie ahead.

Yes, I would expect these men grew quieter as the night wore on. They were probably lost in their own thoughts with only the sound of an occasional fish jumping, or the cry of a bird, to interrupt their thoughts.

You know something? Many people find silence uncomfortable. We are so used to sound—to noise. Like the noise of the television. We cannot escape the incessant ringing of someone’s cell phone. We live in a world and a society where mechanical or electronic-generated sound is all around us. And when we suddenly find ourselves in a location where it has become quiet—really quiet—we often become uncomfortable. It is not unusual for us to want to hear noise, or even create or make noise, to fill such silence. We can find ourselves feeling a bit awkward and uneasy. Such silence may feel somewhat painful or even embarrassing. We just don’t know what to do with it.

And yet, it is in those times of quiet—those times of silence—when we often find that we are able to become quiet inside. It is during such times that God—our Heavenly Father—can begin to speak to us and we can actually hear Him!

Earlier this year I happened to be watching a movie—that in itself is unusual for me as I find it hard to sit still for so long. But this was a good movie and it held my attention. At one point during the movie a Navaho Indian woman made a statement to a relative—a relative accustomed to the business and the hustle and bustle of city life. She said, “Do not try to fill the silence.”

Hmm. Say, I have to tell you that her remark caught my attention. “Do not try to fill the silence.” I have thought of that statement many times over the recent weeks. It made me wonder how many times I might have missed the voice of God speaking to me because I tried to fill the silence. How many occasions have there been when I simply did not experience the joy of listening to my Heavenly Father because I was too uncomfortable with the silence around me? I have wondered—what have I missed that God wanted me to hear—but I was too concerned with filling the silence.

The Old Testament book of Lamentations is not one that we often turn to for encouragement and yet, every single book, chapter, verse and word in the Bible has value—real value. In Lamentations 3:28, in the paraphrase The Message, we find these words:

28When life is heavy and hard to take,

go off by yourself. Enter the silence.

29Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions:

Wait for hope to appear.

Don’t always try to fill the silence, but listen for the voice of God speaking to you. And I am convinced He will.


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