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Archive for the ‘Outdoors’ Category

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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THE STORM

I was seated on a narrow walkway outside the small, 14 x 14 foot room that was the limited space inside the window enclosed fire lookout tower. The sun had finally descended below the horizon to the west and I was now staring into the distance to the east, watching the cloaks of darkness settle down upon the earth. This was our second night staying in the fire lookout. The appearance of the sky indicated that we would probably be unable to see the large moon during the coming night. Towering clouds surrounded us and as I watched I observed the first display of lightening, far to the south. In fact, it was at such a distance that I was unable to hear any thunder following the flash of light.

My thoughts were going a multitude of directions as I enjoyed the quiet, hearing only the occasional sound of a bird, the chatter of a squirrel, or the subdued conversation of my grandsons from inside the lookout. What an awesome scene of God’s creation all about me! I could see no man made light anywhere I was looking at the present. In the direction I was facing all I could see were the dark shapes of rugged mountains, the clouds and the increasing flashes of light to the south from the approaching thunder storm.

Suddenly, I heard a low, far off rumble. Aha! The storm clouds with their accompanying flashes of lightening must be moving closer. I could hear it now. When the next flash occurred I began counting the seconds until I heard the rumble that followed. It was still a long way off and now it was well past my bedtime.

I got out of my chair and walked to the other side of the lookout and stepped into the tiny living space. The three grandsons were already in their sleeping bags and my son was about to do the same. In minutes I had joined them and I lay looking out through the windows all around me. Flashes of lightening continued to move towards us from the south. I was unable to view the scene for long as sleep soon overcame me.

Crash! Wow! It seemed as if in the same instant I was wide awake, the inside of the lookout ablaze with bright light, and a crash and roar of thunder that was absolutely awesome! That storm had finally arrived. Within seconds there was another flash of light, a loud almost instantaneous crash and a long deep throaty rumble of thunder. Say, I can’t see how those grand kids could be sleeping though this. My son was awake and made a comment about the storm. I was thinking about our proximity to all the wild activity taking place outside the windows while hoping that this tiny building had an excellent system of lightening rods attached to it.

Over the course of the next several minutes there was one loud flash of light and crash of thunder after another. The storm seemed to be all around us. Sleep was gone. I felt as if I should cover my head with the sleeping bag but even then the bright light and thunder would make itself known. This display of nature’s power continued for several minutes and then I began to hear another sound. Oh, boy! Now we were going to catch it. Rain!

Did we ever, and did it ever! It rained, and hard. I began to wonder if the windows were tight enough to keep the deluge of water out as sheets of rain blasted the sides of the little cubicle we were in. And the rain continued as the storm seemed to enjoy leashing its power against our mountaintop bedroom. This was something else, let me tell you!

It seemed as if the storm battered us for a long period of time but, before I knew it, I was awakening again. This time it was not light and sound that awakened me. Morning was not far off. I peeked out of my sleeping bag and could see that it was beginning to get light in the east. Storm clouds still surrounded us but it appeared the lightning and thunder were far off to the north of us. The rain had stopped and we were still dry. I climbed out of the sleeping bag and realized that, even for late July, there was a real chill in the air. I stepped out onto the walkway of the lookout and breathed in air that was fresh, cleansed by the rain, and flavored with the scent of the trees and wildflowers growing at this high elevation. What a morning! And once more I marveled at all that God had created for me to enjoy.

I am reminded that, as Christians, we go through periods of time in our lives when we feel as if we are in the very midst of the wildest and harshest of “storms.” Most of the time we observe them from a distance, but there are those occasions when we are in the very midst of them. It also seems as if we are experiencing what some have called the “dark night of the soul.” We wish it would end. We want out of the storm. We want the night to end and the light of morning to bring us hope for a new day.

Well, hang on brother; don’t give up sister. Dawn will come. Sure! In Psalms 107, begining in verses 29 and 28, we are told that “He stilled the storm to a whisper; . . . . . They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.” (NIV)

So remember, night will end and the storm will pass. Dawn is just ahead!

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There is nothing, for me at least, that can match the experience of being out in the rugged mountains of the Pacific Northwest enjoying the utter and absolute magnificance of God’s created world all about me. Far away from nearly anything man-made, it provides me with the opportunity to remember how powerful and awesome, how mighty the Creator of the universe really is.

I was seated outside a tiny 14 foot square Forest Service fire lookout in a rugged area of the Boise National Forest, gazing far into the distance, the only sound the voices of my grandsons in the background, the sound of a chipmunk chattering, and the occasional cries and calls of birds around me. The sun had been dropping towards the horizon back of me and as it descended further towards the west the deep canyons below be became darker. Even though the mountain tops and high ridges were still bathed in a soft and muted sunlight, that brightness had long been gone from the canyon depths around me.

I then remembered that, not long after the sun had stolen its light from this corner of the earth I presently occupied, a nearly full moon would be chasing it up over the horizon to the east and this mountaintop sanctuary would once again be saturated in light–a subdued, yet beautiful light in its own right. And by the time the moon was descending towards the western horizon a scant few hours from now, it would already be getting light in the east as the sun prepared for one more day of blessing God’s Creation with its warmth and light.

Except for the depths of those canyons around me. The amount of direct sunlight they received was limited. The amount of light provided for the moon was even less. So much of a 24-hour period in the bottom of those canyons were times of little light.

You know something? It reminds me of our journey through life with God. I realize we can’t always be on the mountain top. There are those occasions where, as we move forward in our walk with Him, where we find we have to cross through some valleys that are pretty deep and dark. But, if we are always on the move, if we are always looking up, if we refuse to stop or to turn back, the mountain top will always be there ahead of us, beckoning us forward, urging us towards that Light.

Friends, let’s not loiter in the valley. Let’s keep moving towards the mountain top. We can live with the hope that God will walk with us through the deep canyons and valleys, but it is on the mountaintop where we can truly behold His Glory. Keep climbing!

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