Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Being Quiet

July 20, 2016

There's an unusual quiet around here tonight. Most of our kids and grandkids are at Kingdom Bound, the Christian music festival that's been going on in Western NY for the past thirty years. No one on the phone, no grandkids popping in, no soccer games to attend; it's just Linda and me, the dog and cat on the back deck reading and writing (Linda and me, not the dog or cat).

Years ago, John Michael Talbot recorded his album "Come to the Quiet," a repertoire of meditative songs that still speak to me today. One of the songs on that album is taken from Psalm 131, which has been a great comfort and strength to me over the years. It's short, so I'll quote it in its entirety:

1 LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.
2 Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.
3 Let Israel hope in the LORD from henceforth and for ever.

This is the Psalm that guided me when I began my journey in daily gratitude nearly four years ago. It was an election year, as it is today, and I was getting caught up in all the rhetoric that threw off more heat than light. When I decided to back away from all the Facebook trash talk, it felt as if I were shirking my responsibility by not passing along clever comments or rebutting specious arguments. Until I read this Psalm. Turns out, it was rather prideful of me to think I was going to convert anyone from their political views, most of which are buttressed on both sides of the aisle more by emotion than reason. Anything I said was merely preaching to the choir, and served only to agitate my own soul. There are things (plenty of them, it turns out) that are just too high for me. God hasn't entrusted great influence and power to me, so it is best that I recognize that and live with it.

As an aside, the way I learned this was in a prayerful conversation I was having with God one day as I drove by a small United Methodist church in the middle of an urban neighborhood. It was surrounded by homes, yet remained a church of about fifty. Park church was growing by leaps and bounds at the time, and I wondered out loud what I might accomplish were I appointed to an urban or suburban congregation that was surrounded by people instead of a small village church limited by a location surrounded by fields and cows. God's response was immediate and crystal clear: "Jim, I couldn't do any more through you there than I am where you are. I'm doing the best I can with what I've got to work with." My friends, that is a direct quote of what I heard the Lord say to me in my heart. Sometimes it's best to not tempt God with foolish talk. He just might talk some smack to you.

So I learned to not concern myself with stuff beyond me. I have plenty of work to do handling the small stuff God has placed in my care. Tonight, that includes having as the Psalm says, a quiet soul. It's easy in the quietness of this evening. God usually just whispers, and it takes a quiet soul to hear him. The challenge will come when life is again busy and noisy, filled with people and needs. So tonight I am quiet so my soul can learn to be still and hear from God in the midst of the noise.

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