Archive for the ‘Silence’ Category

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.”

Wanna Get Away?

February 16, 2017

“Wanna get away?” –Airline commercial, when you’ve done something embarrassing 

We’ve done it. All of us. Yes, you, too.

Said something stupid. Walked into a door. Walked around with the zipper on our pants down.

Or, maybe deeper. Alienated people who were close to us. Or we feel alienated by others. We’re alone.

Yes, we want to get away. Let’s just hop on that big ol’ jet liner. Carry me so far away.

Maybe we’ve gotten ourselves into some sort of gerbil wheel of busyness. We go harder, faster, longer and can’t get out of the cage.

We want to get away.

Monasteries and convents around the world have programs, brochures even, for people who want to escape for a spiritual retreat.

Do you think that seven days of silence will fix that ache inside?

Not if you return to the same old scene.

Religious communities from the time when they began have known that there are two types of people who seek to enter:

  1. Those who have a spiritual life and wish to deepen it; and
  2. Those who want to get away from something or someone.

Tip: that second type doesn’t make it.

First, take steps to get your life in order. Like Jesus told us, if we’re on our way to church and remembe we have a grudge against someone we know, stop, turn around, go to the person, make things right, then go to church.

Quit that job. Soon. Quickly.

Sit quietly with just yourself. No distractions. Fifteen minutes a day. Then thirty. How about an hour a day? Meditate.

If you can do that, then one of those retreats will deepen your spirit.

Prepare your heart before all else. Begin now.

Waiting In Silence

January 11, 2017

For God alone, my soul waits in silence. — Psalm 62:1 and 62:5

Two things are difficult–waiting and silence.

Try doing them at the same time. It’s enough to drive the modern person to drink.

Hermann Hesse was called the first modern writer. His characters might have lived alone, but they needed noise. For example, the first thing the main character of Steppenwolf did when he entered his apartment was turn on the radio. He needed noise as a distraction.

Imagine Hesse writing today. Constant distraction. Does that smart phone ever leave your hand? Some people wear their Apple Watch or FitBit to bed. I wonder if the alerts wake them constantly.

We end a Yoga class lying on our backs on our mats in meditation usually called “Final Relaxation.” I’ve been teaching for years. I’ve seen many people who can settle into deep relaxation for those six precious minutes. Others fidget so much I fear they will wear out their mats.

A psychologist instructed a patient to go home, find a quiet place where he could be alone, and just spend an hour a day quietly by himself.

At the next session, the psychologist asked how it went. “Oh, I played around with my violin some. Picked up a book and read.”

“No,” the psychologist said, “I want you to sit quietly by yourself. Doing nothing. Not planning tomorrow. Just waiting quietly.” The man could not bear to be with himself. No wonder the family couldn’t bear to be with him either.

Waiting?

How will you hear God’s whispers or feel his nudges if you are noisy, distracted, and busy? 

Your soul needs to be fed. It likes silently waiting for God.

The Art and Rhetoric of Silence

March 15, 2016

Politicians have to talk. That’s what they do. (To borrow from the current Geico commercials.)

Today’s newspaper carried what journalists like to call an analysis–that things presidential front runners (newspapers also love that term-they turn political contests into long term horse races to maintain our interest and readership) have said in the past are coming back to bite them.

I could make that analysis with a “Well, duh…”

Yesterday I pondered the phenomenon where you can talk, and the more you talk the more you work yourself up, until you reach some sort of height of anger.

The thoughts came because of some study and thinking on the spiritual discipline of silence.

Scientists have pointed out that children learn more from how we act than from what we tell them.

Dallas Willard wrote, “In witnessing, the role of talking is frequently overemphasized.”

Sometimes how we act screams “Liar” as we try to tell people something–especially about things such as love, joy, peace.

Sometimes just being with someone in silence is better than talking.

Being of service to others is a stronger witness than telling people to be servants.

People watch us talk about others and wonder, “Gee, I wonder what they say about me when I’m not around.”

When I was an adolescent, I was quiet. People thought I was smart. I never opened my mouth enough to prove them wrong.

Sitting in silence for an hour or spending a day in silence is a challenge greater than public speaking for most. Try it sometime. Maybe regularly. Let your actions speak. See what happens both in your soul and in others.