DEEPER HOPE

Deeper Hope:

An Abiding Virtue

This book explores the meaning -- and application -- of Christian Hope. It takes the fuzzy concept of Hope and reveals it in everyday settings

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Entries in Quiet (6)

The Ancient Secret of Dialing It Down

I keep a dreadful secret from my friends at church. You see, where I worship, if you think the music’s too loud, you are definitely too old. The drugged-out neighbors near our building call the police to complain about the noise. The Kentucky Academy of Pediatrics has labeled our church the number one threat to children’s hearing in the state. Baby Boomers bring earplugs to church. All the guitar amps go to 11.

But deep in the recesses of my iPhone, where no one can see my music collection, I have a playlist of gentle music. At my desk, I put in the ear buds and secretly dial it down. Because God lives in the still small sounds, too.

We’ve manufactured noise to a breathtaking level. One reason pipe organs and symphony orchestras were the rage during Bach and Mozart’s day was no one had ever heard such sound before—sound so full that patrons' hearts would burst at the fullness. Now, in the 21st century Bach, the Beatles, and Beyoncé all live inside my ear-buds.

Even more radical: sometimes I like no sound at all. 
Laptops, iPhones, iPads, and Satellite TV are just fine. But their use comes with a price. The price is silence, and in the silence God is speaking: “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." (Zephaniah 3: 17) Can you imagine? Peace, quietness, confidence, and the chance to hear God Himself singing over you. Have you ever heard His song?

I used to think the silence meant God wasn’t speaking. Now, in the silence, he’s all I hear.
 As a young man I would look to the stars, overwhelmed by the beauty of the night sky. I knew from Psalm 19 that the heavens declared the glory of God. I could see his greatness, but could not hear his voice. Even in their majesty I would wonder why God was so silent. My prayers, especially at night, were filled with requests and concerns. I would list my needs one by one, unaware that my greatest need was stillness.

Of the many needs of North American believers, silence is among the greatest. Silence is the blank page on which God writes his word. Our noisy world scribbles on the page continually, overlaying sound and word on top of word and sound until the page becomes black. Unless the page is clean we cannot read what God has written.

The pathway of modern life has been hardened, trampled by words. Back in the day you had to visit Times Square; now Times Square visits you. The sower sows the seed but it falls on the path and is carried away by Sports Center, YouTube, NPR, Fox News, and of course our ubiquitous ear buds. Quiet is an aberration Drop any comedian into a monastery and he’ll have the monks doing hip-hop before it’s over. Even our Bibles are cluttered with sidebars and graphics, pictures and celebrity interpretations—Bible apps will read to us out loud.

But what if God is in the silence? He wasn’t in the whirlwind or earthquake for Elijah. The “still, small voice” is still a whisper. Perhaps the Father has his reasons for not raising is voice. I suspect it’s for our good that we find him in the secret place, well away from Times Square.

Why not create a secret place each day and give him just three minutes of blank slate? The Father doesn’t need a podcast to reach our hearts. If we find his presence in the silence it will be enough.

By the way, I’ve noticed that for many North American believers total silence may be too radical for starters. So if you promise to keep my secret from my loud church friends, I’d like to recommend quiet music for quiet times:

§ Chant, The Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos. These guys have been rockin’ it old-school for 1500 hundred years.

§ Chants of the Russian Orthodox Church. Still quiet music, until the chimes and bells go nuts. These guys get a little rowdy—the Benedictines to the south think of this music as punk.

§ Love Came Down, Brian Johnson. A thousand years and a ten thousand miles from the monks comes an album from the Jesus Culture rockers. Don’t even call it unplugged. It’s sweet and gentle, and a pathway to His presence

For today, I’ll whisper the benediction: “Grace to you, and peace.”

Pump Down the Jam

Back in the days when DJ’s were still on the radio and spun vinyl 45’s, I turned up the volume in my car—loud.

When one teenager tells another to turn the radio down, you know it’s loud. My best friend tried to get the point across: “Ray, if you can hear the static from the needle in the groove, it’s too loud.” These days, ear buds do the trick: I still get the volume I crave. When it comes to music I still believe the 60’s mantra, if it’s too loud you’re too old.

This was my attitude about following Jesus, too. Crank it up, Lord. Gimme all you got. Christianity was for in-your-face linebackers. Thumpin’ bass or heavy metal, there was no question about the mission. I loved power verses and no-questions-asked Holy Ghost direction. In short, I may have been born again, but I was a child of my times as well.

Every advertiser in America screams for our attention. TV commercials boost the volume; our cars have become half transportation, half nightclub—and we like it that way. We wake up to music and go to sleep with Jimmy Fallon and The Roots. If something’s important, we roll it out with flash and dazzle. Every announcement is accompanied by shouting. It’s the way of our world.

There is, however, another world, where the greatest news is whispered. The Kingdom of God speaks the language of the still small voice. Deep joy is in the quiet. The heavens may declare the glory of God, but they never make a sound. As his Kingdom is worked into me, I discover the true music is in the rests, not the downbeat.

There was a time when the silence meant God wasn’t speaking. Now, in the quiet, he’s all I hear. Elijah was the prophet of shock and awe, but perhaps it was a way to ignore his own depression. Eventually his fears drove him into seclusion. There he discovered the presence of God not in fire, nor earthquake, nor the whirling of the wind. He heard the whisper of God. It strengthened him and nudged him forward.

Stillness and peace are signs of the Spirit’s presence. For every Pentecost there are fifty days in the prayer closet. The prayer closet is not meant to be a place to hide from the world, but a place where we hide the world from ourselves. An anchorman once asked Mother Teresa what she said during prayer. She answered, “I listen.” The interviewer followed-up, “Well then, what does God say?” Mother Teresa smiled. “He listens.”

It turns out the Father is a pretty good listener. “You know me when I sit and when I rise,” said David. “You perceive my thoughts from afar.” Imagine the mutual quiet. Imagine the joy unspeakable.

My friend Heather Kraus observed, “Jesus’ promise of ‘I will give you rest’ is not the same as ‘I will give you answers.” I suspect some of his best answers do not come with words. My friend Adam Russell says, "Any fool can hear it when God shouts, only the lover can hear him whisper."

Waiting on God is not passive, it’s the mark of an active soul alive to the ways of God. Isaiah tried to slow people down in his day:

In repentance and rest you will be saved,
In quietness and trust is your strength
.

But his gentleness was lost on a noisy people:

But you were not willing,
And you said, “No, for we will flee on horses,”
Therefore you shall flee!
“And we will ride on swift horses,”
(Isaiah 30:15-16)

In Isaiah’s day the movers and shakers took the bull by the horns until the bull ran them over. Even vigorous young men stumble and fall. Strength is overrated. Stillness is missed altogether. But those who power down, log out, and disconnect will renew their strength.

Monday's Meditation: The Depth of Stillness

I used to think the silence meant God wasn’t speaking. Now, in the silence, he’s all I hear.
As a young man I would look to the stars, overwhelmed by the beauty of the night sky. I knew from Psalm 19 that the heavens declared the glory of God. I could see his greatness, but could not hear his voice. Even in their majesty I would wonder why God was so silent. My prayers, especially at night, were filled with requests and concerns. I would list my needs one by one, unaware that my greatest need was stillness.
Of the many needs of North American believers, silence is among the greatest. Silence is the blank page on which God writes his word. Our noisy world scribbles on the page continually, overlaying sound and word on top of word and sound until the page becomes black. Unless the page is clean we cannot read what God has written. 
The pathway of modern life has been hardened, trampled by words. Back in the day you had to visit Times Square; now Times Square visits you. The sower sows the seed but it falls on the path and is carried away by SportsCenter, YouTube, NPR, FoxNews, and our ubiquitous earbuds. Quiet is an aberration. When Maxwell Smart uses the Cone of Silence, the point is that everyone simply has to shout louder. Drop any comedian into a monastery and he’ll have the monks doing hip-hop before it’s over. Even our Bibles are cluttered with sidebars and graphics, pictures and celebrity interpretations. 
But what if God is in the silence? He wasn’t in the whirlwind or earthquake for Elijah. The “still, small voice” is still a whisper. Perhaps the Father has his reasons for not raising is voice. I suspect it’s for our good that we find him in the secret place, well away from Times Square. This week’s meditation is actually quite, well, meditative: why not create a secret place each day and give him just three minutes of blank slate? The Father doesn’t need a podcast to reach our hearts. If we find his presence in the silence it will be enough.

Everyone's Entitled to My Opinion: About Dialing it Down

I keep a dreadful secret from my friends at church. You see, where I worship, if you think the music’s too loud, you are definitely too old. The drugged-out neighbors near our building call the police to complain about the volume. The Kentucky Academy of Pediatrics has labeled the Vineyard the number one threat to children’s hearing in the state. Baby Boomers bring ear plugs to church. All the guitar amps go to 11.

But deep in the recesses of my iPhone, where no one can see my music collection, I have a playlist of gentle music. At my desk, I put in the ear buds and secretly dial it down. The fools--they think I'm still rocking it out! But God lives in the still small sounds, too.

So if you promise not to let this get back to the hometown gang, I’d like to recommend quiet music for quiet times:

Perhaps my opinion today is not for everyone. On Saturdays I recommend books, movies, even porches. In my opinion everyone oughta dial it dial down from time to time.

Matters Too Wonderful for Me

In just a year and a half of blogging I’ve noticed a disturbing trend: we would much rather talk about the church than about ourselves. When I post something about the church at large, the number of visitors to this site soars and comments pour in. Everyone rushes to the table where the state of the church is sliced, diced, and analyzed in detail. With the mere mention of a Christian celebrity I can purchase hundreds more visitors to my site.
If, however, I post something about our individual need to wait for God in silence, or our personal destiny to become conformed to his image, I get the internet equivalence of chirping crickets. Nothing. Like busking in the Metro, everyone hurries by. And why not? Christianity is way more fun when we’re talking about other people. Following Jesus isn’t such a joyride if he wants to talk to me.
I’m sure today’s snarky tone doesn’t help--no one likes a scold. And it’s true, I am one of us as well. I would much rather pontificate on the issues facing Christendom across the continent than listen to the still small voice addressing the secrets of my heart. I would rather do significant things. I want to be a part of important conversations.
Image my surprise when I found the private notes of a world leader who longed to hear the whisper spoken to him alone. A man who held a position of national significance, no, wait--historical importance. Yet he was a man who positioned himself in the quiet place and waited for his best friend to come and sit with him.
My heart is not proud, O LORD, 
       my eyes are not haughty; 
       I do not concern myself with great matters 
       or things too wonderful for me.
But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
       like a weaned child with its mother,
       like a weaned child is my soul within me.
 O Israel, put your hope in the LORD
       both now and forevermore. (~ Psalm 131, a psalm of David)
God took the boy out of the shepherd’s field and put him in the palace, but not before embedding the hillside, the breeze, the night sky and the quiet times into his heart. The Biblical histories of Samuel and Chronicles will tell you the palace was a place filled with intrigue, politics, war and power--and it was. The Psalms and Proverbs will tell you that David took time to climb the stairs, shut the door, and pick up the harp.
Our greatest need--my greatest need--is the daily presence of the Holy Spirit. When David knew he had stepped over the line, claiming power and privilege as some sort of birth right, he repented before the Lord and begged that the presence would remain:
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
       and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
       or take your Holy Spirit from me. (Psalm 51: 10-11)
At the end of each day, literally, as I lay me down to sleep, my Father won’t be impressed with my intellect or insight. He’ll be concerned with the beat of my heart. In the quiet (if there is quiet) he will want to know if I lived a whole-hearted life that day. Did my actions spring from the well of the Spirit or the treadmill of importance? He will be concerned with these questions because he knows that spiritual formation happens each day. The only question is: what have we formed?