Saturday, April 29, 2006

We Need To Listen!

Psalm 46:10: Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

The city was roaring with noise. Car horns blasted, construction noise filled the air, radios blared, people shouted. As the day wore on, the noise steadily increased. After a while, you adjusted.

It wasn't until you were able to move into a quiet place that you realized how loud the noise had been. In the silence, everything seemed to change. Waves of calm and quiet rolled in. The silence was a little alarming and unsettling. In the silence, thoughts could creep out and be heard.

God comes to us in silence. We have lost the art of being still. Everything is rush, rush, rush, and few people take time to be still.

Noise provides us with a place to hide, where we don't have to face ourselves. Heavy schedules block honest reflection and renewal. Only through the still times in our lives can we hope for God to break through to help us make sense of our lives. Be still, and know that God is there.

Prayer: The day closes in on me, Lord, and I feel myself buried beneath a heavy layer of noise and activity. Break me free of the bondage of commotion. Bless me with quiet and peace. Amen.

'Wisdom from the Psalms'

Reflective Thoughts:

* "True silence is rest for the mind. It is to the spirit what sleep is to the body - nourishment and refreshment." (William Penn)

* "If you want to live life free, Take your time, go slowly, do few things, but do them well, Heart-felt joys are Holy. (Francis of Assisi)

* "The word is the instrument of the present world, and silence is the mystery of the future world." (Henri Nouwen) 'From The Way of the Heart'

* The first sign of intimacy with the Lord - is silence - There is a saying that goes: "You don't have to love in words, because even through the silences, love is always heard." (Author Unknown)

A Reason To Pray For Others: To Hear His Voice!

"SILENCE is BANISHED - We No Longer Listen" - 'The Watchman

'Sitting in traffic at a red light one day I was struck with the surreal image of almost every driver around my vehicle having a cell phone attached to the side of their head. The sight of these people reminded me of an Andy Warhol art display in which the miniscule parts of life are exaggerated to become the unavoidable focus of our attention. Each of the phone users was unaware of their surroundings, least of all the people and automobiles next to them.

Their thoughts were projected to distant places at the other end of the phone conversation. As I watched this almost comic scene in amusement, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the thought that even God could not get their attention. Along with this thought came a lesson in life from the throne of God. In Genesis 3:8 we are introduced to another scene which reveals the human reaction to sin. Adam had sinned against God and when he heard God's voice, he hid himself among the trees of the garden. He was ashamed of his sin and guilt drove him to attempt to block out that voice. This verse should cause us to ask questions about what was taking place. Jeremiah 23:24 opens a window that tells us much about ourselves today; "Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord."

There is no place God cannot see us and yet in Genesis 3 we read that God asked Adam where he was. Did God not know? Or could we ask, "Was God only trying to get Adam's attention?" God has not changed since the fall of man. According to Malachi He changes not. God knew exactly where Adam was but it was Adam who had attempted to lose himself. We can see this today if we will but slow down our lives and watch through the eyes of our Lord. I believe Adam did exactly what we do today when we experience guilt or shame. We hide among the trees; only those trees are radios, TV sets, parties, shopping and phone calls.

I once worked with a young lady who was, as it can only be described, addicted to the phone. She spent all her time with a telephone attached to her ear. She was late to work because she sat in the parking lot until she finished her phone call. As soon as she came through the door she made a phone call. She walked around trying to wait on customers with a phone against her head. When she took her lunch break she was constantly on the phone. One day I asked if she had a telephone problem and her reply was, "No."

I told her she was afraid of the quiet and challenged her to go home and spend 2 hours with no noise; no phone, no TV, no radio, no people. The next day she returned and said she only lasted 15 minutes.

Adam did what we do today and hid among the trees to avoid hearing God's voice because he knew he had sinned. Today our trees are cell phones and any other "tree" that will shelter our hearts from hearing God's voice. Sin is running loose in the Body of Christ and we don't want to hear God nag us because it harms our self esteem. That still small voice in the heart of man can be silenced by hiding among the trees. We race home from work with cell phones at our ears and turn on Dr. Phil to assuage our troubled spirit. We fill our hearts and minds with the voice of the world to block out the voice of God. The heart of Christians has been so corrupted by the voices of the world we no longer know sin when it stands at our door and knocks. We hear the whispering voice that Eve heeded and open the door to an enemy who only brings death and pain. Jesus warned us that the only purpose Satan has is to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10) but we find new and convenient reasonings to avoid conflicts between right and wrong. Abraham had sin in his house that was destroying the child of promise and God said to drive Ishmael out. Abraham had resisted the voice of his wife because it made him feel bad. The Church has waxed its ears and turned away from the voice of God. We have hidden among the trees but God sees us and knows the 'thoughts and intents of the heart." The Church listens to the voice of the serpent but celebrates the cell phones as we block out that still small voice vying for our attention.

He still calls out to His Church, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches."

The light changed at the intersection that day and all those people drove away with cell phones still held against their heads. I was broken in spirit because I knew they could not hear my Savior's voice.

What Can We Do?

Exercising the Spirit: Silence by Anthony de Mellow -

When a man whose marriage was in trouble sought his advice, the Master said, "You must learn to listen to your wife."

The man took his advice to heart and returned after a month to say that he had learned to listen to every word his wife was saying.

Said the Master with a smile, "Now go home and listen to every word she isn't saying."

We live in a society that does not value or encourage silence. When is the last time you heard someone say, "Let's share some silence?" This kind of statement is rarely heard today, even in church settings or among the most intimate of friends or family.

There are a host of reasons why most Americans avoid silence at all costs. As the story above by Anthony de Mello indicates, most of us fail to realize how important listening and silence are until conflict or malaise surfaces in a relationship.

If we are attentive, we can sense "things aren't just right" and get back to the important discipline of deep listening -- not only to what others say, but also to the resounding silence that exists between the words. Of course, we can easily "turn up the noise" -- watching more TV, keeping the iPod going while exercising, and staying ever busier at work -- doing anything to avoid being still and silent.

What is true in our relationship with others is even truer in our friendship with God. If we do not make time to respond to God's invitation to "be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10), then our relationship with him will drift; we'll become like two ships passing in the night.

Being silent is likely one of the most difficult spiritual exercises we can attempt, at least initially. However, those who are trained in the discipline and grace of silence will testify that not only does silence serve as a balm to wounded relationships, the practicing of silence does wonders to prevent spiritual sluggishness or apathy."For God alone my soul waits in silence ...." (Psalm 62:1 & Psalm 62:7)

In Psalm 62, David addresses the how's and why's of this important, but seldom practiced discipline. He actually addresses it twice, first in verse 1 and than again in verse 7. Let's take a look at these passages in reverse order.

"Wait in Silence"

One of the reasons why silence is often avoided is because we do not like to wait for anything! We value instant gratification and do everything we can to avoid or speed up waiting. We consider waiting time to actually be wasted time! How easily we can become frustrated, antsy, or downright angry if we must wait in traffic, in the grocery line, or, heaven forbid, for a church activity to finish! David at prayer, however, paints another picture. During seasons, or even moments, of waiting, we can be drawn to silence; and when drawn to silence, we just may be able hear the "still, small voice of God."

"My Soul"

Most developed cultures of today live increasingly more compartmentalized lives. We have our business life, church life, home life, exercise life, hobby life, and so on. And while each of these dimensions can be good, the norm is to live compartmentally and busily in each of these arenas, often with very little overlap between them.
The result is our soul -- that central core of our being -- gets frazzled, dazed, and torn as we are pulled to the point of weariness in different directions. The Holy Spirit who longs to dwell within us points us through his servant David's words to another, albeitcounter-cultural way of living and integrating our lives. This is the way of silence.

The Spirit calls to our spirit to enter this silence so that we might live holistic, holy, and centred lives. As we practice this important discipline, slowly and gradually, we become increasingly aware of God's presence and grace. This presence and grace then calls us to love others."For God Alone"

Israel's most repeated sin was idolatry. (If I am honest with myself, I recognize this is my most repeated sin as well!) It's not that the people of God, then or now, stopped worshiping Yahweh. Rather, they worshipped him AND the other gods -- just to hedge their bets you might say. Before you discount this as primitive, consider how you may betempted to do the same -- following Christ, no doubt, but also depending on mutual funds, family, and military might to provide peace, security, and happiness.

Again, silence is invaluable in exposing our secret sins and lack of trust. As our soul waits in silence for God alone, many distracting thoughts, images, memories, and secret desires will surface to our conscious mind. However, if we will stay with the silence, allowing the Holy Spirit within us and our own impatient spirit to raise "our stuff" into our consciousness, it will eventually pass on by, like debris flowing down a river. As our soul waits on God alone, he will provide not only peace and joy and rest, but also theever-increasing awareness of his presence.

A few "silent" exercises:

* Five minute "sit" before (and/or after) reading Scripture. In this exercise, we are consciously stilling our soul so that we might hear the Word of God. If the silence is too distracting or "noisy," some have found it helpful to silently repeat one of the many names for God.

* Silent walk. Whether during the day or at night, by oneself or with a friend, a silent walk can be a wonderful time of centring oneself on God an his presence with us. As a suggestion, if you walk with someone else, you could agree to walk for the first 30minutes in complete silence, followed by a time of sharing what each "heard."

* Fasting from noise -- no radio, TV, movie. What would it be like to take one day off from external noise for the sake of listening to God?

* Sharing silence in community. Many have found sharing silence some what easier and enhanced with others. What if worship leaders, preachers, teachers, small group leaders, pray-ers, prefaced or ended their words with the phrase, "Let's share a few minutes of silence together with each other and God"?

* Weekend retreat for those who might want to explore being silent for an extended time for silence, meditation, and prayer.

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)

Used by permission. (c) 2006 Scott Owings.