Archive for the ‘Silence’ Category

Take a Walk

September 28, 2022

Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake. — Wallace Stevens

Wallace Stevens is one of my favorite poets. He was both insurance executive and poet. I tend toward people who exhibit both sides of the brain.

Perhaps you have experienced this truth. Many people whom I’ve read recently discuss how they come to insight after taking a walk in nature. I’ve done that. Many times. 

You walk for a while. Your mind is churning over your latest problem or setback. Gradually nature takes over. You hear a bird calling its mate. Or perhaps geese flying overhead squawking directions of flight to each other. You begin to notice the pond or trees or grasslands. Nature settles in pushing the churning aside. Now you are able, if you listen, to hear the whisper of God. Perhaps the answer is stillness. Or a more specific answer penetrates your awareness. You now have a direction and the calm to pursue it.

Yes, sometimes a walk around the lake provides healing medicine.


June 28, 2022

Silence is one of the spiritual disciplines.

The second year of university I had changed schools. I lived at home to save much money. I knew no one. It was a silent year. I don’t think that is a discipline.

I can attend a reception or gathering, stand aside, and say nothing. I don’t think that is the discipline. [Although if someone asks a question of a topic with which I’m knowledgeable, I can talk for a long time.]

I come to my chair, cushion, or walking path intending silence in order to hear God. And I do this with a degree of regularity—that is the discipline.

If I’m on social media or at a gathering and someone spouts strong political or social views and I restrain my fingers or tongue from responding, that is a discipline.

Intention. Strength. Listening.

The Discipline of Solitude

February 26, 2021

“Solitude well practiced will break the power of busyness, haste, isolation, and loneliness. You will see that the world is not on your shoulders after all. Your will find yourself, and God will find you in new ways.”

Dallas Willard

Solitude will break isolation and loneliness? Is one of my favorite philosophers off his rocker?

Note the “well practiced” part.

Isolation and loneliness are a state of mind. I have been lonely in the midst of many people. There is a special feeling when you travel alone and go to a restaurant to eat. You see couples and parties, yet you are alone–or if, like me, you bring a book along for companionship.

Solitude is intentional. I decide to take a break and spend half-a-day or a full day somewhere alone. Perhaps on a bench in the woods. Or along a stream or at a pond. I’ve known people who rent a hotel room for a day–no, not for that–just to be able to be intentionally alone with themselves.

In the solitude, we can leave all distractions and call on God to visit. Kind of like Mork calling Orson, making contact with something distant, and yet close.

We’re closing out a year of Covid. Most likely we all have had feelings of isolation and loneliness. Others still are busy with work, writing, zoom conferences, whatever. It is a crazy, juxtaposed time.

Perhaps a weekly dose of solitude is just what we need to reconnect with God–and then with each other.

On Being Content

January 5, 2021

Part of my career was devoted to the magazine business. Now I write blogs and other words call CON-tent. Appropriate filtering of all the CONtent that is shoved our way is one way to assist our being conTENT.

Thinking of the latter meaning of content, I began to wonder if we are living in an age of discontent. Everywhere I read, I see signs of this malaise. Then I turn in my chair and scan my bookshelves. Literature, history, philosophy–all point to times of discontent.

No wonder. We are inundated with content intentionally designed to feed discontent. If our emotions get aroused, we are more prone to longer engagement with the platform whether TV or social media. It’s a business proposition for them. More engagement leads to higher prices for advertising and thus to more profits and higher salaries.

We have the power to change that equation if we but chose to limit the flow.

Another practice includes pausing. I thought of the image from the Psalms (23) about lying by a cool, clear pond on a warm day. Wildlife, and flowers, maybe my favorite pet. The sun from the blue sky warms my body. My needs are cared for.

Many of us could only do that for so long before going crazy. Getting up and doing something which provides a service for others is another path to contentment.

I discussed generosity and kindness last week. I would add contentment to those as words to describe what I’d like to be this year.


September 3, 2020

On the patio at 6 am. Under the huge observant eye of a full moon. With Venus bright on my left.

In the silence where my mind can wander there is still sound. I can hear the traffic on Interstate 90 several miles away. The occasional car in the neighborhood. The morning birds soothing until the Sandhill Cranes begin flying toward their favorite bird feeder by the golf course across the road.

Out of silence comes creativity, love, wholeness.

Silence is a gift to be cultivated with the regularity of the sun and moon.

Quiet the mind periodically with the rhythm of the week or the day.

Find peace.

What or Whom Do You Know

August 10, 2018

“Do you know the Bible?” asks the billboard I passed in southern Ohio yesterday.

I thought, not a bad question, but probably the wrong one.

In Lean methodology, there is a practice called “5 Whys”. If you ask why about a situation five times, by the fourth or fifth time your thinking is getting deeper and you’ll get to the right question.

If you wish to help someone change their life, perhaps a better message would be, “Do you know God?”

The Bible is a great guide to living a better life. But we need to go deeper to the root cause (as they say in Lean Thinking).

If we are beginners, then we need a guide, a friend. Not to be hit over the head with requirements, memorization. It’s about someone helping us to know what to do when we get up and get moving in the morning. What to do when we go out and meet people. How to sit quietly in the day and let God speak in the stillness.

I’m all for learning and study, but more important is spiritual relationship.

[Update: Got home from a couple of vacation days and caught up on three days of news. I saw that the executive pastor and entire board of elders at Willow Creek resigned. Hybels, meanwhile, according to The New York Times, is still living in denial. A leader can build up. But when a leader is not self-aware of sins and weaknesses, that leader can bring down many. Take a lesson, leaders. Cure yourself before you cure others.]

Strength For the Outer Life of Service

April 11, 2018

Thomas à Kempis

Why is it that we are so ready to chatter and gossip with others, when we so seldom return to silence without some injury to our conscience? Perhaps the reason we are so fond of talking is that we think to find consolation in this manner; to refresh a spirit wearied with many cares. And so we speak of what we like and dislike, and of the things we desire or despise. But in the end this outward attempt to find consolation is only an obstacle to our inner life.

Let us watch and pray that our time is not spent fruitlessly. Let us not busy ourselves with idle conversation, or with what other people say and do.…Blessed are the single-hearted, for they enjoy true peace.

Jesus’ last commandment was an action verb. Love. It’s not an emotion. It’s a way of living.

If you go back and read the parts of the gospel that talk about how Jesus lived as a story of a person, you will see that he lived that action verb–the very personification of love in action.

Yet, if you are writing the biography of a person with a deep inner life, what can you say? Only what you observe–he went off alone to pray. Oh, and he went off alone to pray.

We know that our example is to go off alone to pray.

Where do we get the strength for service? Following the example of Thomas quoted above, we pay attention to our inner life that it is not spent fruitlessly.

When I began meditation practice in my late teens, I never had a thought that it would become mainstream psychological therapy. Now, we have one of my students talking after Yoga class about a mindfulness meditation “class” his employer has during lunch time. He says, “That’s sort of what you teach at the end of class, right.”

He wondered how you could go from a stressful morning filled with meetings to a lunch time of calm and quiet.

Well, it’s called practice. It is not only possible, but necessary. Meditation literally rewires the brain. Your very personality changes over time. And you get strength for the long haul.

Silence Is A Spiritual Discipline

January 11, 2018

Sometimes we say something with more meaning than we intended.

Sometimes we walk away from an encounter with others muttering to ourselves, “That’s what I should have said…”

Such is the state of today’s chapter of Proverbs–Chapter 11.

Traditionally attributed to Solomon, the wisest person to have walked the face of the earth, so they said, it says in the 11th chapter, “Where there is no guidance, a nation falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”

Solomon died. His son became king. He was faced with an important decision about the direction of his rule almost immediately. His father’s advisors, who had served faithfully and well for many years, offered advice. He rejected that advice in favor of his friends who, like him, had grown up in the wealth and abundance of Solomon’s castle.

The people rebelled. The kingdom split.

Solomon’s son. Who should have grown up listening to the sayings of his wise father. The kingdom didn’t even make it through the first generation. Of course, a remnant of the kingdom lasted for a long time. But it was never the same.

I thought that this offered an ideal opportunity to comment on today’s political situation in America.

But then I considered a saying just above.

“Whoever belittles another lacks sense, but an intelligent person remains silent.”

Many are the times I said something and regretted it. Rare are the times when I kept my mouth quiet and regretted it.

There is a time to speak up, #MeToo. Mostly not.

Life In The Fast Lane

August 21, 2017

Life in the fast lane, surely makes you lose your mind.

Following a quick visit to Houston on business last week, I was on vacation in Michigan combined with a wedding in Grand Rapids on Saturday. I ran out of time, so no post Friday.

Watching people’s clothing choices (including mine) at a resort is always interesting.

I see a guy wearing a tee shirt that proclaims “Fast Lane.” No further explanation. Like restaurant or bar or something.

The first thing I think of is the Eagles. He was a hard-headed man, he was brutally handsome. She was terminally pretty.

What a way with words.

What a thing to proclaim on a shirt.

If this was a proclaimation of life in the fast lane, did the wearer know that the song is sarcastic? Or prophetic?

But we all can get caught up in a version of the fast lane–hopefully without drugs, alcohol, and a death wish.

Suddenly we look at the week ahead, or weeks ahead, and everything is filled. We are going to be running here, meeting there, classes, visits, vacation, business. 

When are we going to breathe.

That’s when we need to recall “Be still and know that I am God” from Psalm 46. Another translation says “stop your striving” in place of “be still”. 

What I need is a reminder to stop and take a few deep breaths.

Only then can I refocus and remember to just tackle one thing at a time. Or as the first self-help guru/management consultant I heard some 40 years ago said, “Try…easy.”

And maybe take care about the message you proclaim to others.

How Do You Use Social Media

April 19, 2017

“All it takes is a tweet from one angry mom.” Overheard on a sports talk show.

One of the best services we can perform is to get involved with youth sports. Coach, referee, manager.

Working with kids at all ages can be satisfying if done with the right end in mind. And that end is human development. Kids are taught responsibility, team work, to perform when people are watching. They get to run and jump and learn a skill.

I’ve devoted 30 years to refereeing soccer and teaching and mentoring new referees. I’ve seen kids at 13 grow into 16s who can make decisions, control their emotions (tough at that age), manage people situations. I keep hoping one will eventually be refereeing on TV, but even so, they’ve become better people because of it.

But I’ve seen the worst beginning when I was about 16 and umpiring baseball and softball in my hometown.

And I thought–why would someone want to coach these days. Or even referee. After all, it only takes one tweet from an angry mom. Or one Facebook post from that angry mom. And your reputation goes down the toilet. People pile on whether they know anything or not.

Social psychologists, I suppose, study why people sitting alone somewhere with Internet access just spout off with any emotion that crosses their awareness. Face-to-face is harder. Online is easy.

I remember when TV came along and the pundits were talking about how this new communications medium can lift the collective intelligence and knowledge of the population. And we just keep sinking to new lows with every new way of communicating.

We could do things that are motivating in a positive way. We could build people up. We could be sympathetic to the plight of people.

Or, we can just bask in raw emotion and “let it all hang out.”