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 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.
I wish I’d written this. But I didn’t. This is from “The World of Silence” by French philosopher, Max Picard.
“In Christ.” Some folks have difficulty with that phase. I find great peace in it. “In Christ.” It’s where I’ve always longed to be. I just didn’t know it. It’s where I find the legitimacy I’ve always yearned for.
In Christ. It’s not always an easy place because it demands of me a kind of honesty and transparency that is most times uncomfortable. It’s not always an easy place because it relieves me of the mask I wear in many places. It’s also uncomfortable because when I’m really drawn, I can’t pull myself away.
Actually I don’t want to pull myself away. I find myself enjoying heaven in a way that sometimes threatens to hold me. In Christ. That place I’ve yearned for. In Christ I find identity.
Ever been “churtched?” The word is in quotes because it’s not mine. It was coined by the Rev. Lenora Howze when she created a blog and now a podcast of the same name to help the healing process of people who have been wounded in their church. If it hasn’t happened to you, be grateful. If it has happened to you, ask God to heal you in whatever way is best. If you have to take a break from church, take one. If you have to find a new church, find one. If you need to find a listening heart, find one. Do what you need to so you can be healed. There’s no hurt like that experienced in the place that’s supposed to provide love and safety.
Many years ago when I was churtched, my heart was so wounded I couldn’t hear a sermon, or maybe it was the loudness of it. I’m not sure. I only know I couldn’t bear it. It was as if my heart had become an open wound and words were like razor blades. Preached words. I was led by the Holy Spirit to listen to the scripture on tape. That’s what I did. I bought tapes. Didn’t have the Bible app like we do now. And every moment that I could think of it, I had those earphones in my ears. Every moment. When I wasn’t engaged in conversation or a meeting at work, my ears were filled with the word of God. That’s how he restored order to my belly. I didn’t fight. I had no fight in me. I knew the source of the pain but had no idea what to do about it. That’s why I’m offended when people say a churtched person who leaves the church wasn’t serving God in the first place. Seriously. It’s the worst pain one can experience. It comes from an unexpected place with unexpected accuracy at an unexpected time and wields unexpected power to destroy. But God knew exactly what I needed. And if I’d ignored it because it didn’t sound spiritual enough, I might have been destroyed.
If it has happened to you, take care of yourself and let the Lord heal you. If it has happened to someone you know, be kind and assist them in getting the healing they need.
If we could interview the donkey on which Jesus took his triumphal ride into Jerusalem, we might ask questions such as:
How did you feel? Dumbest question in journalism. But not in this case. How did you feel?
Why were you chosen?
How did your master treat you?
What was it like carrying Jesus?
Were you returned to your master?
The donkey belonged to this certain man to whom Jesus sent his disciples.
A certain man.
This certain man didn’t need a name or a public reputation. Jesus knew he was just the right person to let such a precious piece of property go without stipulations or regrets. But cheerfully and without hesitation.
Jesus didn’t need any negatives surrounding his ride, nothing selfish, nothing doubtful…
And he could only have gotten that thing from that certain man at that time.
Sometimes we’re raising our hands like we did in third grade…ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh…call on me over here. And we’re volunteering for something that looks like something we want to do, not realizing that we are not the person for the task in that moment.
God is so good, so smart, so genius in fact that he knows in every second who is ordained to fulfill whatever task is needed in the moment. Imagine that.
No other donkey would have sufficed. No other donkey from any other owner could have sufficed. That donkey had been fed the exact feed that strengthened his muscles to the exact degree that allowed him to carry the Savior with the exact gait producing the exact triumphal stance that exacted the perfect amount of attention from the waiting crowd to signal to them that the rider on this donkey was different from riders on other donkeys, to signal to them that the rider on this donkey was indeed the king they’d been waiting for to push their praise buttons to let go with the hosannas and the waving of the palm leaves.
No other donkey. No other donkey owner.
When you operate in your gifting, it should be as if you’re the only donkey in the world at that moment and no other donkey could suffice.
Wouldn’t you rather …rather than toot your own horn, build your own kingdom, create your own press buzz, assemble your own entourage…
Wouldn’t you rather be the unnamed person Jesus can depend on?
The first soldier I remember was my uncle, Melvin Scott, who went into the army when he was 16. The next was Bobby Johnson, my friend Elsie’s brother. They were both men short in physical stature. But they both looked like giants when they put on those official uniforms. To me they even stood taller and grander. I think I didn’t learn much about honoring these guys when I was younger, but when I think of what they and their families, and millions like them, have had to endure while keeping our country safe, I want to find ways to help them. And celebrate them. Especially now that I have Sam, my son-in-love and Arlen, my grandson-in-love.
Merchants apparently have the same idea. There’s almost no place a veteran can’t go for a free meal on Veterans Day. There are food discounts and clothing discounts. Neighbors fly flags. Little people salute if they see a uniform. Wreaths are laid at selective graves to honor those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice. But what about the other days? The 364 other day veterans have to live in this country? What about the rest of the year?
The sacrifices they’ve made are unbelievable. For some, physical injury or lack of mobility. For others, loss of relationships because of the lack of re-entry counseling and care. Still others are suffering from the ongoing shock of the trauma they encountering during service. And some are homeless!!! In this country!!!
It is ungracious of us to forget the sacrifices they’ve made on our behalf. God is not unrighteous to forget our work and labor of love that we have shown in his name, in that we have ministered to his saints. My paraphrase of Hebrews 6:10. Seems forgetfulness is unrighteous and unjust when it leads us to be neglectful of the very ones who have kept us safe.
Look around in the community and see if adequate medical and social care is available for the veterans. Whether or not there is affordable, suitable housing in the area. Whether or not there are veterans on the street begging for bread.
Veterans should have the best quality of life available. Just. Because.
I’ll bet there is something in your life that constitutes the “one” thing or person that made all the difference. It’s important to pause and remember…remembering enlarges our space for receiving and fuels the gratitude bug that keeps us alive.
The flat tire that caused you to miss the beginning of the party that erupted in gun fire before you arrived.
The impetus to try out for the job that seemed a little beyond your credentials. Nevertheless you got it.
The teacher who saw you hanging with the wrong crowd and took you aside to remind you of your own good stuff.
The counselor who saw in you some talent you couldn’t even see and urged you to go a different way than you’d planned.
The friend’s parent who explained to you the wisdom of following your own choices rather than deferring to crowd mentality.
The police officer who lectured you strongly, but let you go because she felt you deserved another chance.
The boss who saw a spark in you and exposed you to every opportunity for expanding your horizons.
And each of these people and each of their singular acts made all the difference in your life. Made all the difference in my life.
I love to remember Mrs. Charlotte Flowers, a retired teacher who nurtured me grandly, but also paid for my books when I was in college. They were no where near as expensive as books today, but they would have been a gigantic expenditure for my family.
I love to remember Mrs. Hattie Childs, also retired, who made her way to every, and I do mean every, little program and project we put on as young people in our church.
I love to remember Mrs. Barbara Powell who never turned me away when I came to her with my teenage worries and woes. She never minimized them or me, and she always loved me through them. And she still does.
I could go on and on. And I know you have your own.
On a day like today, it’s a good time to take a minute and remember the “one thing,” the one person in your life who made it happen.
And to thank God that they made all the difference in your life.
And then there’s the ultimate one thing…the One Thing that made the ultimate difference.
Not on one day, but on many, I was introduced to Jesus, the Son of God, who gave his life on Calvary’s cross so that I could have a right to eternal life on earth and in the hereafter. His supreme sacrifice made me his little sister and dressed me in his righteous clothes, so I can stand with authority before the throne of God as joint heir to the kingdom.
And it has made all the difference in my life. Every day I’m privy to fresh mercies as a reminder of the amazing grace he poured into my life before the foundation of the world.
Through the Lord’s mercies we’re not consumed, because his compassions fail not, they are new every morning; Great is your faithfulness.Lamentation 3:22-23
The faithfulness of God is incomparable to anything we experience in our human relationships. God does exactly what he says he will do. No exceptions. Having the courage to allow God to demonstrate that to us affords us the pure delight of seeing him fulfill his promises on every hand. Have doubts?
Watch the little old ladies, like myself, when the hymn is sung…Great is thy faithfulness. Great is thy faithfulness. Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed thy hands have provided. Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me. The eyes water almost immediately, before the first verse is completed. By the time the above refrain is reached, many tears are already flowing down many cheeks, marking the memories of moments God has come through and done exactly what he said he would do. Anyone who has trusted in the faithfulness of the Lord has never been disappointed or left hanging. He’s as good as his word. We were taught to be people whose word could be depended upon. Your word is be your bond, our grandparents would say. It should be as good as gold.
We can say of the Lord, his word never fails…he never fails to send his word and it accomplishes everything he sends it to do.
Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for our brethren
I John 3:16
Some days God’s love just bubbles over in my soul. And the joy flows out in tears of gratitude. My life is more wonderful today than I could ever have imagined. His love is not cryptic. Not something you have to figure out. It feels just like love. It feels just like kindness. It feels just like the greatest being we can never understand has our backs in ways we can never understand. But we feel covered. We feel light. We feel like we’re floating and we don’t know why.
Circumstances haven’t changed.
Sometimes they’re downright drastic.
Sometimes they seem unconquerable
God’s love gives us a feeling of victory in spite of the battle
God’s love gives us a sense of security in spite of the imbalance
God’s love gives us a knowing of completion in spite of the incompleteness
I know it sounds silly, but sometimes there’s love in the bread pudding. When I was in kindergarten and first grade I lived with my grandmother, Myrtle, my mother’s stepmother. She doted on this grandchild and there was nothing that exceeded her grasp when it came to demonstrating that love. At four years old I had my own bedroom with bed linens I’d chosen; shelves stacked with books and encyclopedia because she’d taught me to read at an early age. And a small television. In my room. Yes I thought I was all that. Not really. I’d known nothing else.
And her husband, my grandfather, my mother’s father was no slack in the love department either. I could see the love in his eyes when I was perched on his lap in the evenings when he dropped exhaustedly into his favorite chair after hoisting me into the air as soon as he cleared the doorpost.
Love in those deep blue eyes.
Love in those strong arms that propelled me from the floor.
Love in the way he spoke my name and responded to my yell of delight when I saw him.
Love in the television, in the books, in the privacy of my own little kingdom.
Love in the bed linens.
And love in the bread pudding. Two to three days a week when I bounded into the door from school, there was freshly baked, too-hot-to-eat, butter smothered bread pudding – no sauce, always a purist – just for me.
Prayer is the ongoing transaction between us and God, mediated or spurred on by the Holy Spirit, with Jesus at the right hand of the Father interceding on our behalf. The Holy Spirit is the cutter. He makes sure the ball gets into the basket. Jesus is our elder brother who puts his seal of approval on us.
Satisfaction should come from the richness of the relationship, the fact that we share time and interchange thought, the fact that I can bask in his presence and he can complete whatever work he desires in and through me. Or just maybe make me smile from deep down in my soul as he assures me I’m his daughter.
In prayer I acknowledge his grace of which I am a joyous recipient; celebrate his greatness, submit to his majesty, surrender my will, accept my call for the season or for the day. And there’s no perfect time of day except the time we spend together. And there’s no perfect length of time except that it should be difficult to turn my attention away. And there’s no perfect way to spend the time except whatever God ordains for those moments.
And we are right to be daunted by the whole process of prayer with its mystery and its majesty.
Experiments conducted years ago on the power of prayer reveal that even when doctors and patients were unaware that they were being prayed for, patients experienced more successful outcomes than those in the control group who were not being prayed for. Prayer accomplishes feats our minds can’t even imagine, can’t even fathom although we ask for them. People we pray for with the expectation that they live, die. People we pray for with submission to their transition, live.
In the midst of life’s contradictions, we continue to wonder why bad things happen to good people and vice versa. We continue to wonder why babies are born only to die soon after. So many of our questions go unanswered regardless of our prayer. We’re mere humans and God’s ways are not our ways. And often we attribute to God’s hand those things our own evil rebellion hath wrought through systems that perpetuate injustice and cruelty without measure.
I believe if we can think of prayer as relationship transaction rather than requests submitted, answers received, yes or no; if we can embrace that prayer begins with the Lord and pulls us in, then we can relax and let God do his own thing in his own way according to his own timeline.