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Thursday, August 21, 2014

MINI-SLICES OF SILENCE

(Part Two: "Silence" excerpt from Leona's forthcoming book, Chapter: "Summit Meetings with God")

Peace is not the same as quiet. I could find relative quiet and still not have peace. It is demonstrated by a famous painting of a secure, protected birds' nest built by the parent birds for their helpless young underneath a roaring waterfall.  

In the midst of high decibel noise, I can still have peace. Peace is an inward sense of harmony, rest, and stillness. Peace is a God-thing. Jesus promised, “My peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you” (John 14:27). It is a tranquil calmness of the soul, of one’s inner spirit. Peace is obedience to the will of God and union with His Holy Spirit. It can be achieved without absolute silence, although some measure of silence can enhance the possibility of peace. Cistercian monk and priest, Thomas Keating, declared that “silence is the language God speaks, and everything else is a bad translation.” God leads me “beside still waters” so that my soul can be restored.

The saints, the holy men and women of God throughout the ages, knew the value of silence in relation to God’s peace. They were able to confront themselves in silence and also hear the voice of God. Nothing less should be my desire. 

I may claim that in the clamor of my daily life and busy household or pursuit of career I can't find big chunks of silence in which to seek God. If that is the case, with some careful planning and earnest spiritual desire, I can still carve out some mini-slices of silence in my daily life. They are essential for my spiritual welfare and progress in holiness.

In the book of Ecclesiastes I read, “There is an appointed time for everything…there is a time to be silent” (3:1,7). King David declared in the Psalms, “My soul waits in silence for God alone.” Silent spiritual retreats are becoming popular again. Contemplation as a deep communion with God draws the soul into silence. 

The rewards of waiting in silence upon God are far out of proportion to my feeble efforts. If I have ears to hear, as Jesus expressed it, God wants to speak to me. The question is not whether God speaks, or to whom God speaks, but who listens? Scripture tells us that the voice of God is heard as a still, small voice, not in the rumble of an earthquake or the roar of the whirlwind. “Be still, my soul.” To become still is easier said than done given the incessant noise around me. Nevertheless, it is possible if I capture and savor even small patches of silence which lead me into God's peace.

SILENT GRACE

The cacophony of the TV-shaped world
distracts my soul, muffles important thoughts
threatens my spirit with perpetual commotion.

Buzzes, drones, babbles and jabber
of nine-to-five dins and distractions
keep me from hearing myself think.
The high decibel level of external racket
injures my sensitive inner spirit.

I long for the silent slots
between the roaring, roiling surf
and the cry of gliding gulls
away from blaring boom boxes
nerve-jangling clamor
and raucous background bedlam.
I yearn to bask in the selected silence
of my treasured space within
tune into its buoyant joy
revel in its simple serenity.

I need a still-point at my center
to sense what is happening
in the inner chamber of my heart
a place where I can freely retreat
be at home with my tender spirit
and in touch with the Spirit of God.

I learn from silence:
Silence is a patient teacher
nourishing me to become wise.
Silence is a welcoming harbor
beckoning me to anchor my soul.
In silence I feel quickened and alive
bathed in its tranquil quality
a strange and beautiful dimension.
In silence I am alert to the voice of God
unheard by ears near-deaf to peace.

The cosmic rhythm of God
alternates between sound and silence
majestic words and universal hush:
The Creator broke the interstellar silence
with His thundering, creative word
or was His whisper enough?
then rested in serene satisfaction
declaring—to whom? “It is good!”

The unfathomable silences of God
are mysterious and frustrating
consoling, yet withholding understanding
filled with hidden meaning
requiring my full trust and respect
even when I can’t hear God.

The One Who is called The Word
does not always speak aloud
and I do not always listen.
But if my ears are open to hear
His silence is as eloquent
as when Jesus stood before Pilate
quiet, answering not, but distinctly heard.

I protect my patches of silence
snatches between the press and stress
of the mandatory and obligatory.
I guard them jealously
run eagerly to my times of silence.
I find them in the ordinary—
when dawn breaks quietly
as I watch in hushed wonder—
when evening shadows steal in
and I lay tasks and burdens aside—
when I’m wrapped in the blanket of darkness.
I stand in awe and lift my mortal eyes
gazing beyond the starry skies.
It is then I hear in the pregnant stillness
the unmistakable voice of God.
****

“Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest....” Hebrews 4:11
“Be still and know that I am God” [cease striving] Psalm 46:10
[Jesus said to His disciples in the midst of busy ministry] “Come apart and rest awhile.”
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest....” Matthew 11:28
“You are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary,
really only one....” Luke 10:41,42