Unsaid

The Sound of SilenceScripture Passage: Psalm 62: 1a

For God alone my soul waits in silence.

We are not generally a silent people.  Even in the quietness of our homes, there is noise–lots and lots and lots of noise.  (Because a few minutes ago, Maynard the Black Lab was noisily demanding something–still not sure what!) Silence seems to elude us.  On some level, it takes a lot of time and that is a hard thing to come by. And, to be honest, in my world, I’m not even sure it exists.  There is always something making noise.  So how does my soul wait in silence?  How does my soul find that rhythm that it so desperately needs, the natural rhythm of noise and silence.  Maybe we could employ some of that white noise that is supposed to drown out other noises.  Would that work?  But isn’t that just more noise–a special noise designed to drown out other noise?  We work hard at honing our communication skills.  And yet, communication is not just about talking; it’s about that rhythm of expression and listening, of noise and silence.  We need silence sometimes.  It is part of the rhythm of life.  Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said that “we need to find God, and [God] cannot be found in noise and restlessness.  God is the friend of silence.  See how nature–trees, flowers, grass–grows in silence; see the stars, the moon, and the sun, how they move in silence…we need silence to be able to touch souls.”

So, why is silence so hard to find?  Are we unsure of ourselves, a little reticent about what we might hear, perhaps a little fearful of what we might be asked to do? So, we try to fill the emptiness with noise.  Now, to be honest, I’m not sure that “pure” silence really exists.  There’s always something making noise.  Perhaps “keeping silence” is more about returning to a natural level of noise than it is stopping all noise itself.  In her book, When God is Silent, Barbara Brown Taylor talks about an experience by composer John Cage’s time in an anechoic chamber (a room without echoes).  With his perfect hearing, he picked up two distinct sounds–one high and one low.  When he described them to the engineer in charge, he was told that the high sound was his nervous sytem in operation, and the low one was his blood in circulation.  Noise is part of life.  Keeping silence is not about existing in pure silence; it is about living in pure life, in Creation.  And yet, most of us live most of our lives in noise–artificial noise, the noise of the world, rather than the noise of Creation.

If you go back and read the story of Creation, it began in silence.  I think it probably began in “pure” silence, in a void (implying that perhaps “pure” silence is not meant to exist at all).  And then God spoke us (along with everything else) into being.  In her book, Taylor says, “in his poetic eulogy “The World of Silence”, the French philosopher Max Picard says that silence is the central place of faith, where we give the Word back to the God from whom we first received it.  Surrendering the Word, we surrender the medium of our creation.  We unsay ourselves, voluntarily returning to the source of our being, where we must trust God to say us once again.”

In this Lenten journey, we talk about journeying, about surrendering. We talk about re-aligning our lives with what God envisions for us, and we talk about change.  But maybe the part we’re missing is where we don’t talk–I mean, INTENTIONALLY, enter into silence.  Shhhhh!  Let God say you into being again. (And now I’m going to quit talking!)

There is nothing so much like God in all the universe as silence. (Meister Eckhart)

At this point in your Lenten journey, just be silent.  Just listen.  Just wait to be unsaid.

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

Silencing the Frenzy

dreamstimefree_2009266120But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him! (Habakkuk 2:20)

Well, tis the season!  THIRTEEN MORE DAYS!!! 20% OFF ONE DAY ONLY!!!  FREE SHIPPING TODAY ONLY!  FIRST 100 CUSTOMERS RECEIVE A FREE ______________ [I don’t know, just fill in the blank!]  The truth is, we are frenzied!  We live at a frenzied pace with which, truth be known, none of us can keep up.  I think about my last couple of days.  I haven’t even been able to breathe. Today I decorated five Christmas trees (one big one, four small ones), straightened my house, decorated all over the house, made a cheesecake, and now I’m writing this really late blog. Oh yeah…I wrote a sermon too! I think it’s just a conspiracy to keep us from dancing!  (Sorry this is so late in the day!)

But, think about it–we’re probably not the first people on the planet to live frenzied.  Think back–”Joseph, you’ll need to spend the next few days and take off from your carpenter’s job (unpaid, I’m guessing) and pop over to Bethlehem to pay this new tax that we’ve concocted.  We hope that works for you. Oh?  Your wife is about to go into labor?  And, really, she is birthing the salvation of the world, the Son of the God, the Messiah?  Well, that’s great, but you still need to pay your taxes on time or we can garnish your wages or take your house or throw you into one of those new Roman prisons.”  And so they went–Mary and Joseph, supposedly on a donkey or a mule or something of the like.  They arrived in Bethlehem.  But apparently everyone had gotten the same notice.  Do you believe all this traffic?  Why didn’t we make a reservation?  (Oh, really, Joseph?  What were you thinking?) Where is that first century Groupon when you need it?  Mary, I know this is hard.  I PROMISE that I will find a place for us to spend the night.  You’re WHAT?  NOW?  Are you kidding me?

We all know the story.  There would be no room.  There would be frenzy.  And so we made do.  We took what we could get–a sort of back room filled with hay and cast-off blankets.  It was filled with animals cowering from the cold.  And there Jesus was born into the frenzy of the world.  Truth be known–there was never calm but there was always peace.  But the point is that God still came–came into the frenzy of the world.  God does not wait until everything is calm and together.  God does not come because you have all the decorations up; God does not come because you finally have all the gifts wrapped; and God does not come because the world is ready, because the world is at peace. God just comes, frenzy and all.  And all we have to do is put on our dancing shoes!

So, THIS Advent, let go of the frenzy and remember…the Lord is already in the temple…the Lord has already come…God is just waiting for us to notice.
There is nothing so much like God in all the universe as silence. (Meister Eckhart)

 

Grace and Peace,

 

Shelli

 

Unsaid

The Sound of SilenceScripture Passage: Psalm 62: 1a

For God alone my soul waits in silence.

We are not generally a silent people.  Even in the quietness of our homes, there is noise–lots and lots and lots of noise.  (Because there is a somewhat demanding Black Lab barking at me right now!) Silence seems to elude us.  On some level, it takes a lot of time and that is a hard thing to come by. And, to be honest, in my world, I’m not even sure it exists.  There is always something making noise.  So how does my soul wait in silence?  How does my soul find that rhythm that it so desperately needs, the natural rhythm of noise and silence.  Maybe we could employ some of that white noise that is supposed to drown out other noises.  Would that work?  But isn’t that just more noise?  We work hard at honing our communication skills.  And yet, communication is not just about talking; it’s about that rhythm of expression and listening, of noise and silence.  We need silence sometimes.  It is part of the rhythm of life.  Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said that “we need to find God, and [God] cannot be found in noise and restlessness.  God is the friend of silence.  See how nature–trees, flowers, grass–grows in silence; see the stars, the moon, and the sun, how they move in silence…we need silence to be able to touch souls.”

So, why is silence so hard to find?  Are we unsure of ourselves, a little reticent about what we might hear, perhaps a little fearful of what we might be asked to do? So, we try to fill the emptiness with noise.  Now, to be honest, I’m not sure that “pure” silence really exists.  There’s always something making noise.  Perhaps “keeping silence” is more about returning to a natural level of noise than it is stopping all noise itself.  In her book, When God is Silent, Barbara Brown Taylor talks about an experience by composer John Cage’s time in an anechoic chamber (a room without echoes).  With his perfect hearing, he picked up two distinct sounds–one high and one low.  When he described them to the engineer in charge, he was told that the high sound was his nervous sytem in operation, and the low one was his blood in circulation.  Noise is part of life.  Keeping silence is not about existing in pure silence; it is about living in pure life, in Creation.  And yet, most of us live most of our lives in noise–artificial noise, the noise of the world, rather than the noise of Creation.

If you go back and read the story of Creation, it began in silence.  I think it probably began in “pure” silence, in a void (implying that perhaps “pure” silence is not meant to exist at all).  And then God spoke us (along with everything else) into being.  In her book, Taylor says, “in his poetic eulogy “The World of Silence”, the French philosopher Max Picard says that silence is the central place of faith, where we give the Word back to the God from whom we first received it.  Surrendering the Word, we surrender the medium of our creation.  We unsay ourselves, voluntarily returning to the source of our being, where we must trust God to say us once again.”

In this Lenten journey, we talk about journeying, about surrendering. We talk about re-aligning our lives with what God envisions for us, and we talk about change.  But maybe the part we’re missing is where we don’t talk–I mean, INTENTIONALLY, enter into silence.  Shhhhh!  Let God say you into being again. (And now I’m going to quit talking!)

There is nothing so much like God in all the universe as silence. (Meister Eckhart)

At this point in your Lenten journey, just be silent.  Just listen.  Just wait to be unsaid.

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

A Time to Keep Silence

Silence of DaybreakPassage for Reflection:  Ecclesiastes 3: 1-7

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 2a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 3a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; 7a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to keep silence…So, this is it.  This is the time to which we are called during this Season of Advent.  Maybe the silence is what makes waiting so hard. And so we try to fill the silence with something we know, speaking words into the darkness until we are more comfortable with this time of waiting.  Have you ever thought that Silence itself is a powerful Presence?  Meister Eckhart said that “nothing is so like God as silence.” But silence, for us, is often uncomfortably deafening, and we respond with sometimes meaningless words and thoughts, desperately
attempting to fill a space that does not need filled at all.   In her book, When God is Silent, Barbara Brown Taylor makes the point that “sometimes we may do all the talking because we are afraid God won’t.”  Perhaps we are just trying to cover up the uncomfortable feeling that God is not with us.

Maybe Advent is trying to teach us to hear the silence, to breathe in God’s Presence, and to hear something that is totally foreign to our worldly ears yet vaguely familiar to our God-centered heart. Taylor speaks of it as the most eloquent word of all.  As she says, “In the moments before a word is spoken, anything is possible.  The empty air is formless void waiting to be addressed…anything is possible until God exhales…[making] something out of nothing by saying that it is so.  She goes on to say that “in silence, we travel back in time to the day before the first day of creation, when all being was still part of God’s body.  It had not yet been said, and silence was the womb in which it slept.”

This notion of silence as the womb in which something that is about to be sleeps might help us with this waiting game.  After all, one cannot rush a womb.  There has to be time.  Advent is that time, that time right before daybreak, before the world starts speaking, that moment when everything is as it should be.  And to live this mystery of Advent, we wait, just wait, until God says the world (and us) into being once again.  Shhhh!  The baby is coming.

Reflection:  Sit in silence and let it speak to you.

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

Where Were You As Jesus Stood Accused?

“Christ Accused by the Pharisees”
Duccio de Buoninsegna, (1308-11)

Today’s Scripture Passage: Mark 14: 53-72
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To read today’s portion of the account of the Passion, click on the below link:
http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=200505621

Most of us don’t read this portion of The Passion a whole lot.  We like the image of Jesus’ Anointing and we love the notion of The Garden of Gethsemane but this…this is not to our liking.  This is the story of Jesus as The Accused.  And we all know that doesn’t make sense.  What did Jesus ever do wrong?  And yet, here he is, before the court.  But this man who had spent his ministry welcoming others in was alone.  Oh, wait a minute…there’s Peter behind that sleeping elderly Scribe with the bad complexion.  Peter, his friend, his confidante, his disciple (Peter, as in Saint!) is there, but keeping a safe distance.  Well, I suppose he has too.  After all, the future of the Christian church rests with him, right?  He has to keep up appearances, do the right thing.  The important thing is that he is here, that Jesus knows he is here.  The important thing is that, deep down, Jesus knows how much he loves him and supports him.

Oh, we’re good at this, aren’t we?  We’re good at figuring out how to keep up appearances, at figuring out how to offer love and support while still maintaining our own place in life.  It’s difficult to associate ourselves with certain people or certain issues, even though we agree.  You see, we have to maintain our position so, please, understand, I support you, but I can’t speak out just now.  I know you understand how much I love you.

COCK A DOODLE DOOOOOOO!

What was that?  That was a lot of noise!  But, seriously, it’s hard to associate with certain people.  I love them; I support them; you know, I even think that they’re treated badly by both the society and, sadly, the church, but I just can’t.  What good would it do for me to forego my position just to make a statement on their behalf?

COCK A DOODLE DOOOOOOO!

Geez!  What IS that noise?  This man is my friend.  I love him.  But I can’t.  I can’t be seen with him right now.  I know he understands.

COCK A DOODLE DOOOOOOO!

And so Jesus stood alone. And Peter wept.  Peter wept for his friend but probably more than that he wept for what he was not.

I have to say that I am not a “rabble rouser”.  I tend to live my life with as little drama as I can muster.  In fact, I have to admit that I would be often standing in the back of the courtroom silently supporting the accused but not wanting to put my own self in jeopardy.  We’re all like that.  Isn’t that interesting that we talk so much, cannot put our cell phones or our emails aside and, yet, we are silent?  It is a dangerous and destructive silence.  It is like standing in the back of the courtroom and watching the innocent of all innocents accused and not speaking out.  Because you see, it is silence that crucified Jesus; it is silence that allowed the religious Crusades of the Middles Ages exist; it is silence that created slavery as the blotch on our nation’s history; it is silence that closed its eyes to Auschwitz hoping against hope that it would go away; it is silence that allowed segregation to exist in this country until late in the 20th century; and it is silence that continues to allow our church and our nation to limit who is part of us, who is part of the Kingdom of God.

And so Jesus stood accused.  Peter was in the background, safely hidden away.  Where were you? 

So, on this Wednesday of Holy Week, how would you answer? Were you there as Jesus stood accused?  Were you in the back of the courtroom?  What things do you know are wrong but about which you are silent?  Where do you voice your passions?  Where do you voice your Passion?

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

A Return to Silence

Being the church is about being in community, about being together and working together to spread the Gospel for the transformation of all the world.  Most of our church seasons reflect that–Advent draws us together around the manger, Epiphany is our time of manifestation as a people of God, and Pentecost (that l-o-n-g Pentecost season) is the season in which we as a people are called out to BE the church, to BE the Body of Christ in the world.  But so much of this season of Lent is depicted alone, in the wilderness, struggling as we spend 40 days in penitence and renewal as we approach the Cross.  So much of Lent is depicted in solitude and silence, an intentional time with God as we retreat and prepare ourselves for who we are called to be and what we are called to become.

But how can you serve the world in solitude?  How can you help all those that need help when you are alone?  Think about planting things in your garden.  You do not just take them out of the temporary pot and place them on top of the earth and then wait to see what happens.  You have to dig first.  You have to clear away the loose top soil that easily gets strewn about with the winds and the rains and you have to dig deep down into the firm, nutrient-rich undersoil.  It is there that the roots can be nurtured and fed.  It is there that the water can be held long enough to quench thirst.  And it is there that the plant can root itself, becoming strong enough to hold for what is to come.

Lent is like that rich soil underneath.  We have to dig down to find who we really are, to find those gifts and those graces that God has placed deep within us.  We have to dig down that we might tap into that sacred center that exists in each of us.  That cannot be done in a flurry of activity.  It must be done alone, in solitude.  And I think, particularly, in this world in which we live that is often filled with frenzy and busyness, it is important, once in awhile, to give yourself the chance to dig deep, to give yourself some solitude that you might find yourself once again.

But solitude is not solitary confinement.  It must be intentional.  And there, in the midst of the solitude, you will see the community that way it is meant to be known.  Those in monastic orders that feel called to live in solitude and silence are never completely alone.  They see themselves as a part of the community and they see the community the way it is meant to be.  And when they go into their room to pray, they pray for us all.  The community is there with them–in silence.  13th century German mystic, Meister Eckhart said that “nothing is so like God as silence”.  It’s like that rich soil that exists deep underneath what we see.  But we have to dig.

Creation began in silence.  THAT was the beginning.  Before God spoke Creation into being, God was in silence.  Let us return.

So, on this twenty-eighth day of Lenten observance, go into a room and close the door and, if only for awhile, sit in silence.  Do not worry about needing to connect with God or find God.  (Remember God is not lost!)  Just dig…and let God show you what you are meant to find.

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

Keeping Silence

I read the other day that scientists have determined that noise has a definite effect on work efficiency.  Noise quickens the pulse, increases the blood pressure, and upsets the normal rhythms of the heart.  That’s actually pretty scary.  Because every single one of us live and exist in noise.  And if noise affects our work that way, what, exactly, does it do to our spiritual life?  We need silence sometimes.  It is part of the rhythm of life.  Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said that “we need to find God, and [God] cannot be found in noise and restlessness.  God is the friend of silence.  See how nature–trees, flowers, grass–grows in silence; see the stars, the moon, and the sun, how they move in silence…we need silence to be able to touch souls.”

So, why is silence so hard to find?  And why, then, is it so hard to take?  We’re not really programmed that way.  Our world is not programmed that way.  Most of us are used to at the very least a little “background” noise.  In fact, we now employ the use of benign “white noise” to drown out other noise, to bring us closer to silence.   For some of us, that is as close as we get to silence.  What is wrong with us?  Are we so unsure of ourselves and our faith that we cannot just be silent?  Is the honing of our communications skills of higher importance than the contemplation of our faith?

Now, to be honest, I’m not sure that “pure” silence really exists.  There’s always something making noise.  Perhaps “keeping silence” is more about returning to a natural level of noise than it is stopping all noise itself.  In her book, When God is Silent, Barbara Brown Taylor talks about an experience by composer John Cage’s time in an anechoic chamber (a room without echoes).  With his perfect hearing, he picked up two distinct sounds–one high and one low.  When he described them to the engineer in charge, he was told that the high sound was his nervous sytem in operation, and the low one was his blood in circulation.  Noise is part of life.  Keeping silence is not about existing in pure silence; it is about living in pure life, in Creation.  And yet, most of us live most of our lives in noise–artificial noise, the noise of the world, rather than the noise of Creation.

If you go back and read the story of Creation, it began in silence.  I think it probably began in “pure” silence, in a void.  And then God spoke us into being.  In her book, Taylor says, “in his poetic eulogy “The World of Silence”, the French philosopher Max Picard says that silence is the central place of faith, where we give the Word back to the God from whom we first received it.  Surrendering the Word, we surrender the medium of our creation.  We unsay ourselves, voluntarily returning to the source of our being, where we must trust God to say us once again.”

In this Lenten journey, we talk about giving up, we talk about re-aligning our lives with what God envisions for us, and we talk about change.  But maybe the part we’re missing is where we don’t talk.  Shhhhh!  Let God say you into being again.

On this third Sunday of Lenten, just be quiet.  What do you hear?  What does the silence teach you?
Grace and Peace on this Lenten Journey,

Shelli