Posted tagged ‘quiet’

Too Quiet To Think

October 13, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   October 13, 2018

                                         

   My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…”   (James 1:19, NIV)

Yesterday I substitute taught for a 7th Grade Language Arts teacher. The lesson plan for each class consisted of taking attendance and then taking the class to the school library (now called the LMC, which stands for Learning Media Center). The school librarian would then tell the students about a few new books the LMC has and they would spend the rest of the class period silently reading. 

Tough day! What did I do? Read some and did some rewriting on my book manuscript…plus, made sure the students were reading, not goofing around- a task that required considerable energy!

Libraries are not the same as they were…45 years ago. When I went to the Briggs Public Library in Ironton, Ohio you could hear a pin drop…and that pin better not drop again! It was quiet, studious, a fine place to locate one of the back wrenching volumes of the Encyclopedia Brittanica and do research on such interesting subjects as the Hoover Dam, mollusks, and the North Pole. 

Libraries today are gathering places, social settings in the midst of books and magazines, and gaming rooms. A place in Colorado Springs where I do much of my book writing is called Library 21C. It’s a great place…as long as you have earbuds! A few weeks ago I was sitting in one of the seats at the long window counter on the lower level. A man three seats away was doing a job interview on his cell phone. Good Lord! The librarian at Briggs Public would have grabbed him by his ear lobe and marched him to the door.

Things are different! Silence is no longer golden! It’s been devalued!

One of the 7th Grade girls, who is energized by the social aspect of life, didn’t seem to be reading the book in front of her yesterday. 

I’d scan the room and when my radar caught sight of her she would suddenly look down at her book. Thirty minutes into the class’s silent reading and she was on page 2. I walked over to her and said, “Hey! Let’s get busy!”

“What?”

I glanced at her book. “You’re on page 2!”

“No, page 3!”

“Okay! Page 3 and we’ve been here so long you should have read the book and written a book report on it already!”

Her eyes opened wide. “We have to do a book report!”

“No, no, no! I was exaggerating, but if you had really been reading you’d be further along than page 3.”

“I can’t think!”

“Why?”

“It’s too quiet in here!”

“What?”

“It’s too quiet! I can’t concentrate when it’s too quiet!”

“Are you serious?”

She nodded, and I realized that we were realizing- Okay, maybe I was realizing!- one of our generational differences. I read while I’m sitting in the swing on our back deck, or in my study, or at bedtime…all places where quiet and peace can follow me. This young lady operates in a world of chatter, instant communication that could better be named instant distraction, and noise. 

Noise has replaced silence as the new golden. Silence is now an indication that something’s wrong. Silence also indicates that we’re listening, and in a noisy world we no longer listen very well. 

And so what do I do in the midst of a culture that now values loudness and multiple mouths speaking at the same time? What do I do? I put my earbuds in and listen to the rhythmic noise of music to block out the noise of the other voices. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that it is my new silence.

The Last Stool On the Right

January 21, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                              January 21, 2018

                               

I sit on my stool this morning drinking my Pike Place medium roast and staring out at the snow flying past the window. The storm obscures my usual view of Pike’s Peak, but there is still a sense of peace in the scene in front of me. My earbuds bring soft music to my ears and I sip my morning brew with an attitude of gratitude about God’s hand of grace and abundant blessings.

The last stool on the right at the Starbucks on the corner of Union and Briargate Parkway is my sacred place, or perhaps better phrased, my sacred seat! Some spiritual pessimists may question my choice for where I sense the closeness of God, but I’m okay with that…as long as they stay off my stool! Strange as it may sound, it is from this perch that I have my deepest spiritual ponderings and quiet (with music in my ears) moments with God. Perhaps I should call it “Coffee With Jesus”!

Each one of us needs our space, but we too often neglect to look for some sacred space. We minimize the urgency of holy whisperings in the midst of the culture’s noise. As I sit here this morning God brings people to my mind even as I’m pecking out the words of my blog post.

Ray Stromenger, having a heart procedure tomorrow…my dad passing blood in his urine…one of the young ladies I used to coach in basketball, Autumn Boyles, who torn her ACL in her game last Thursday night…Diana Stucky, who I know will be dealing with a health condition she has in the midst of the change in weather we’re dealing with…my niece, Jennifer Graham, recovering from surgery…Henry McIntosh, in his journey of loss as he grieves his wife’s passing…our neighbor’s, the Nash’s, who lost their eighteen year old grandson back in late October…Nate and Alyssa Price, celebrating the birth of their son. The longer I sit here the more names and faces keep passing through my mind, many because of the down moments of life, but some because of the mountain top events they are shouting about.

Psalm 16:11 says “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence…”

 

That Psalm is referred to as a “miktam”, a term that many believe is unclear or untranslatable, but some believe it meant that the Psalm attached to it was of such importance that it needed to be engraved in the hearts and minds of the ones saying it.

I sit in his presence experiencing the quiet joy of the morning, and reciting those words once again…”You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.”

My sacred spot usually runs through three cups of coffee, one blog post, about fifteen recorded songs, and then it’s time to journey back to the rest of my day. It’s an intimate time, oddly enough, in the midst of a gathering crowd of coffee drinkers.

I’ve warmed the stool for the next journeyer as God has warmed my soul. Amen.

Desiring Quiet In A Noisy Culture

August 30, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          August 30, 2017

 

It has been a week of noise. There has been the noise of storms and floods, of roads crumbling and lives blasted. There has also been the usual political noise that seems to drown out the calm voice of reason. In my neighborhood, this morning was invaded by the noise of sirens, never a good sign in the forty-five minutes leading up to the beginning of a new school day. A noisy motorcycle sped by me this morning. Judging by the speed it was evidently on its way to a very important appointment.

In an hour I will be leading several classes of kindergarteners in physical education classes for the day. What do you think the noise level will be in those educational opportunities?

It’s ironic that we get frustrated with noise and yet many of us are uncomfortable without it. As I sit at Starbucks right now sipping my Pike Place brew while writing this I have my earbuds in listening to my song playlist from Spotify. I use noise to drown out noise! I desire quiet, but I’m not sure I’m ready for it!

My thoughts on a quiet place may have pushed their way to the front of my mind due to the fact that Carol and I hosted the three “energetic and talkative” grandkids this past weekend.

9, 6, and 2

And always needing something to do!

Noise is the subtle voice of a contemporary evil. In Mark 1:25 Jesus tells the demon that is speaking to be quiet and come out of the man he is residing in. A little while later he tells nature itself to be quiet.

Perhaps Jesus needs to speak to the noise in our lives that shouts over top of the calmness! I look at my day and I realize that quiet moments may only come in bathroom breaks, and I’m pretty sure that’s not a good thing!

The Silence of Sunday

August 7, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           August 7, 2016

                                    

When I was pastoring one of the favorite times of the week would come on Sunday morning for about an hour and a half before anyone else arrived at church. I’d be the only one in the building and the quiet of those moments would prepare me for the next few hours of preaching, teaching, and pastoring.

The quiet was nourishment for my soul.

The phrase in Psalm 23 that always seems to speak to me greatly is where the Psalmist says “He leads me beside quiet waters; he restores my soul.” Quiet waters…soothing rain…peaceful thunder storms…silent snow. For me it seems that I associate many of life’s most peaceful moments in the “quiet waters” of life.

This morning my physical body is still “feeling the noise” of spending yesterday with our three grandkids. Quiet moments kept their distance from us. Our grandkids seem to feel comfortable enough with us to use their loud voices…all the time! The two older grandkids frolicked in the turbulent waters of our hot tub. The youngest granddaughter, who is sixteen months old, delighted me with her actions and words, and yet her endless energy left me exhausted. This morning quiet waters sound very appealing. Therapeutic waters for an aching lower back sound pretty good, also!

It seems that we live in a world that doesn’t appreciate silence, a culture that doesn’t see value in quiet. We’re addicted to noise. We’ve fallen to the deception that noise means life.     Sometimes noise is used to block out noise. I’m writing this while sitting in Starbucks with ear buds firmly inserted listening to music, in order to block out the noise of Starbucks. Weird, huh?

Quiet is disturbing to many of us. Strange that “disturbing the peace” usually is the result of excessive noise. The silence of a moment is the probe into my soul.

If you look in scripture you’ll find that silence is usually a part of someone’s encounter with the holiness of God, or the judgment of God. It’s like the boot camp buck private standing before the drill sergeant. No words are needed; in fact, no words better even be said! It is the realization for the private of who he is.

The silent moments of scripture are deafening experiences.

Quiet waters and deafening silence.

“Lord, lead me today beside quiet waters. When my life is speaking too much and listening too little, silence my spirit to get my attention back on what you are saying! Amen.”

The Bonding of Silence

March 12, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                March 12, 2015

                                         

     A number of years ago Becky Pippert, author of the book Out of the Salt Shaker, spoke at a youth convention in Michigan. About seven hundred high school students were gathered in an auditorium to hear her messages during the two and a half days. As Pippert got to the weekend, however, she developed a solid case of laryngitis. She spoke in a voice softer than Marlon Brando’s in The Godfather. A strange thing happened! Seven hundred teenagers became quiet, straining to hear every word that Pippert spoke. Someone with a loud voice would not have gotten the crowd’s attention like she did. The challenges of her affliction caused her audience to listen.

It is an understatement to say that our world is noisy. It is so noisy that people have developed the habit of not being able to listen. Multi-tasking is a nice term we use to excuse the practice of granting someone half of our attention.

But silence can be a bonding instrument. Sometimes the silence of God can bring people together. 1 Kings 19 has the story of the prophet Elijah hiding in a cave. The story is interesting as it described a great and powerful wind tearing the mountain apart, and then an earthquake shaking the land, and then a fire happening. After each of these dramatic…dare I say loud and attention-seeking events…the scripture says that the Lord was not in any of those events, but then came a gentle whisper, and when Elijah heard it and pulled his cloak over his face and stood at the entrance of the cave.

In quiet moments he heard!

I tend more and more to believe that the church makes a lot of noise, but is hearing impaired. Silence disturbs us…invades our comfort zones…seeps into our troubled souls. It is silence, however, that draws the people of God together to listen.

In the viewing room of the deceased as family and friends gather to remember.

In the midst of holding a piece of bread and a small cup of communion wine.

In the holding of a newborn.

In the soft prayer of a child.

In the holding of hands of the gathered saints.

In the silence that follows the sharing of tragic news.

We use the phrase “silence is golden!” Silence is also revealing! Like a voice-impaired youth convention speaker, the lack of a fluent tongue often amplifies the words of the Spirit.

Painfully Alone In Our Thoughts

July 7, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       July 7, 2014

 

                                  

 

Recently released findings from a University of Virginia psychologist indicates that most people are extremely uncomfortable being alone with their thoughts. Tim Wilson recruited volunteers for the research- mostly college students-  from a church and a farmer’s market. Each person was placed in an undecorated room and asked to be alone with their thoughts for fifteen minutes. Many of the participants admitted afterwards that they had cheated during the time frame and checked their cell phones or listened to music.

After an initial fifteen minute period participants were asked to do another fifteen minutes, but this time they were given an out. They were hooked up to an electric shock. If at sometime during the fifteen minutes they wanted to be done with being alone with their thoughts they could self-administer the electric shock to themselves and they would be done. Of the participants “67%” of the men went for the electric shock rather than be alone with their thoughts. of the women 25% administered the shock.

Amazing, that so many would choose the pain of an electric shock over the uncomfortableness of being alone with their thoughts.

It also may say something about our reluctance to seek quiet. Quiet threatens, so we “self-medicate” ourselves with music, social connectedness, and cell phones. Think about it! A traumatic experience for many people is having their cell phone broken and having to go through a full day without it. As I’m writing this I’m listening to music on Pandora to help me focus.

How did our grandparents ever make it? They must have had to hum a lot!

For me as a Christ-follower there are other implications. How will I hear the whisper of the holy if it chooses to not come through my headphones? How will I see the burning bush if it doesn’t come through a lap top screen?

This is a quandry, a challenge, and an opportunity for me. I’m at the beginning of a month-long study leave. To call it quiet time would be too threatening, and, to be honest, not as productive-sounding. Not many people see a month of quiet reflection as being valuable.

Listen! I’m not necessarily comfortable with it either. If the button for the electric shock we close at hand I would might it numerous times.

I’ve come to believe, however, that I serve a God of quiet moments in a world of noise. It is often in the silence that he entertains and tames my thoughts, and reigns in my tendency to race forward like a wild pony.

A Room With A View

June 3, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    June 3, 2014

 

                                       

 

I sometimes enter it early in the morning to be saturated by its quiet. I take a seat in the third pew on the right and settle in. In my world of changing agendas the sanctuary offers me one constant agenda.

To be still.

It is a hard thing to learn, to incorporate. The rest of my day is not based on my stillness, but rather on my movement. I move from meeting preparation to hospital bedsides to answering emails. Movement can sometimes take over our lives and push the stillness out.

Towards the end of the forty-sixth Psalm God whispers his desire to David. “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Ps. 46:10a, NIV)

Perhaps people have a hard time finding God these days because we have “ants in the pants” of our lives. We have un-learned stillness.

I sit in my pew and take in the room. The cross hanging on the front wall…empty…steady…reminding me of the One who conquered death itself; the cross that blesses me with a hope deep within my soul of what my life is about.

The stained glass windows echo stories of people’s lives…the great cloud of witnesses that have gone before. As I take each one of them in I glimpse the glory of days gone by and lives that impacted future generations.

The pews are solid in their weighted wood. To move one is a recipe for back problems. Their weighted anchoring reminds me of a faith community that has a foundation that can not be shaken. Through tempests and turmoils our anchor has held.

And then my eyes settle on The Lord’s Table, the place where two days earlier each of the sinners had taken a piece of freshly-baked bread and a little cup of grape juice and been told that these two elements were to remind us of the price of our spiritual freedom. Some folks cried tears and others stared with stoic expressions on their faces, but each had been freed.

Sitting in my pew I recall the moments of blessing and forgiveness, repentance and testimony.

My room gives me a view for the rest of the day. It allows me to breathe in and breathe out…

…And be still!