Sounds of Silence




In the mid-1960’s Paul Simon wrote a song that became popular entitled “The Sound of Silence”. If you are old enough, you may recall it being played on pop radio stations back then. The lyrics paint a dim view of silence and perhaps reflect what causes us to feel uncomfortable with silence many times.


Before you dispute experiencing discomfort in the midst of silence, consider times when you are with a friend or small group and it suddenly gets silent. Most often someone (or you) feel compelled to fill the silence with words. Only in the most intimate relationships do we tend to relax with periods of silence. It is in those relationships that we feel safe, secure, relaxed, and assured of the love of those persons.


How do we respond to silence in our spiritual life?


When we very much need or want to hear from the Lord about something and He appears to remain silent, we all can struggle with His delayed response. We want the reassurance of His presence even if He is not giving us the solution we desire.




But what does it feel like when you sit with the Lord? Are you at ease being silent or does it feel more comfortable to keep speaking to Him whether in prayer or a journal? For many of us, silence when we are with the Lord can feel awkward or even frightening. We are wired to doing in our relational connections with people and also with God.


When we are sitting in silence with the Lord we can have two competing fears assail us. One…He will not speak to us. Two…He may speak to us.


But there is also something else that sitting in silence awakens in us. We begin to get in touch with the noise inside that our busyness drowns out much of the time. Silence can shock and overwhelm us with the amount of cacophony happening within us; then again we can begin to discover more about ourselves. We might learn what is making us so irritable or feeling so isolated and disconnected.


Sitting in silence means discovering how tired we truly are. It means setting aside our agendas for a bit to allow ourselves to experience a deep breath and consider what would nourish us again.


I love the quote I ended my recent post with by Gunilla Norris in Sharing Silence:


 “When we make room for silence we make room for ourselves…Silence invites the unknown, the untamed, the wild, the shy, the unfathomable – that rarely has a chance to surface within us.”


 When we sit with the Lord in silence, we allow Him to lead.


Perhaps we fear that more than we realize because it means letting go of what we think our relationship ought to be and letting Him make it into that level of intimacy that can only happen when we allow Him to lead.


Be assured to choose to sit for even ten minutes in silence with the Lord will be a battle. Depending on how tired we are and what season we are in, we may find it harder to do than we expect. Even so, I think He is often waiting for us to do just that…sit with Him without praising, petitioning or pleading.



After all, if we are His, we are betrothed to Him as a part of the Bride of Christ. If you have known intimate human love, it was not hard to sit in deep contentment with that person and have no need to fill the space with words. Should it not be true when we are with Him? He is the lover of our soul and companion as well as Savior, Lord, King of Kings, Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and Son of Man.


In her book Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God’s Transforming Presence Ruth Barton says it best:


“Solitude, then, is all about desire. It is about lovers desiring each other enough to finally take the leap into trust, uninhibited expression. It is about friends saying, ‘I want to be with you so badly that I’ll rearrange everything so that we can see each other.”




Quiet Beginning


Christmas Morning Backyard 2004 002


January…how quickly it is fleeing from us!


January is considered a month of beginnings.


I recall when I was younger that I did not really appreciate this month of the year very much at all. The beauty and excitement of the holidays from late November to the end of December were passed. The weather often interfered with plans or opportunities. Days were shorter and nights were longer. Many days in the Midwest were gray and cloudy and I was eager to move into February and the fun of Valentine’s Day and President’s Day.


My view of January has gone through a metamorphosis over time. I think it happened gradually when our children were still at home and we would unexpectedly enjoy an IMG_0651unexpected “snow day.” Since it wasn’t a planned day off from school, it felt like a gift of freedom, a day for staying in pajamas, sipping hot chocolate, and lighting a fire in the fireplace while the snow piled up in drifts outside and the biting cold winds swirled around the corners of the house.


As time passed I developed a rich regard for January and began to look forward to it before the holidays had even passed. I anticipated the quieter days, the more open calendar, and greater opportunities for reflection, solitude, and silence. It was easier to linger over coffee, tea, or hot chocolate and value the release from the crush of busyness. IMG_3122It was easier to leave the Christmas tree up a bit longer to enjoy the warmth of its lights in unhurried hours at the end of the day.


January is a time when we can often more easily let go of the human expectations upon us as we recuperate from the holidays and reflect on the year ahead and plan for what we would like to see happen perhaps. In this part of the Midwest it feels as if the Lord arranges creation to step off the merry-go-round that keeps us exhausted and out of touch with ourselves. Temperatures, precipitation, and driving conditions offer excuses to opt out of many things we would readily accept in October, May, or July.


We live in a world that tends to be noisy and full of distractions. We adapt and endure them. Sometimes they even become addictive so that being quiet or unplugged causes us to feel uneasy, but if we allow ourselves to stay with that discomfort for just a few minutes longer we may well discover the peaceful calm that sweeps over us and breaks up the noise on the inside of us.


That noise on the inside uses energy at an incredible pace. It adds stress that is frequently unrelenting as we consider the demands of others as well as ourselves. The IMG_1546 (1)noise on the inside keeps us from falling asleep, staying asleep, and resting deeply. The noise ties our digestive system in knots and causes us to be impatient and irritable.


January may be very different in places in the world where the weather does not impact life a great deal. For those of us where it does, I think it is God’s sweet gift to us. He knows we need to have more open space in our days, weeks, and months. He knows we need to turn down the volume of the noise. He knows what we need.


The Lord also knows of the many things we neglect in our spiritual lives; the disciplines of solitude and silence are likely at the top of the list. But these are absolutely necessary and especially so for those of us who are immersed in ministry of any kind, caught up in a performance-oriented life, or hooked on needing control.


No matter how tired we may be, we often resist solitude and silence. Sometimes it may be frightening to consider because we are no longer sure of who we are when we are unplugged. January nudges us to take a risk to discover the gifts of these disciplines.


“When we make room for silence we make room for ourselves…Silence invites the unknown, the untamed, the wild, the unfathomable – that which rarely has a chance to surface within us.” Gunilla Norris










The Ultimate Delay




(A Second Look at The Discipline of Delay)


As I finished writing the last lines of my most recent post, The Discipline of Delay, I felt there was another area related to delay and the discipline it brings that I needed to write about.


Delays are not all created equal though we are not prone to fondness for any of them. The delays that tend to be the hardest involve those whom we love the most.


As a result, waiting on critical medical tests can be agonizing and waiting for someone to come out of surgery can stretch us to our natural limits. Waiting on someone to come home causes us to nearly stand on tiptoes, especially when they have been gone for some extended period of time.


Our hearts can be weighed down in grief when we must say goodbye to such a loved one on this earth when death parts us. Waiting to hear their voice, see their face, and be with them feels like a delay we cannot endure until Christ returns. Though we know they are with Him, our joy in their presence is deferred until we join them.


There is One who died and lives we also wait for. Perhaps awaiting His return is the ultimate delay.


Those who are called by His name have been anticipating and waiting on His return ever since He ascended into heaven after being raised from the dead. When someone has been gone for so long, it can be easy for some to wonder if He will ever return again or why it has not happened yet.


Scripture plainly tells us only the Father knows the day and hour of His return. If we look at the mess the world appears to be in from any angle or any place, it can be easy to wonder why He has not come yet.


It’s also true that over the hundreds and thousands of years His disciples around the world have been waiting, some have focused solely on the hope of His return and ceased anything else.


If I look at John 11 and the delay Jesus chose before coming to the aid of Lazarus and his sisters after Lazarus died, I gain a better perspective. The delay had purpose and meaning. John 11 points to how the delay allowed God to be glorified through the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead. That sign (His last) appeared to be most significant for the Jews who had not yet believed, but it was also important to clarify to those already following Him that this was more than raising a physical body to life. This was demonstrating Jesus had the power and authority to give eternal life as well…something even more important than physical life. It meant He had conquered death, Satan’s tool to create fear and keep us bound.


Jesus delayed for a purpose in the story, but while He delayed He did not cease His work here on earth. He impacted others with the healing of the blind man from Jericho and had that incredible conversation with the little man who climbed the tree to get a better look at Jesus…Zachaeus.


So many things in 2018 seem to point to His return being nearer than ever. Even though we do not know the hour, a study of scripture heightens our anticipation as so many things appear to be lining up that He told us would happen. There are the natural disasters everywhere around the globe, turmoil in every corner of the world, unrest in the Middle East, and evidences of evil getting darker and darker in every sector. There is also the growing evidence of the apostasy of the church that writers such as Mark Hitchcock have written about.


The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 19:12-18 gives a clear picture of the dilemma we can face if we cease to consider that He will indeed return. These passages and the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins in Matthew 25: 1-13 instruct us in what the risks are if we either forget He is returning or that His return is and always has been imminent.


Over and over again scripture points to Christ’s return as “near” or “soon.” As I heard in a sermon this week, this is the edge we live on in our lives. How are we living? Do our lives reflect an awareness of what His Word has clearly said? Are we about His business?


Each of our callings is unique. He has strategically placed us in places, with people, in circumstances, and facing issues that are meant to glorify Him. He did that with Lazarus, Mary, and Martha in John 11 and so many others from Genesis to Revelation. He also reminded His disciples not to fear.


Christ’s return may well be the ultimate delay in our lives, but let us not forget that His return is imminent!


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The Discipline of Delay




Delay. The word itself doesn’t have a positive connotation. The word means things like late, slow, defer, or postpone. I am not sure any of us are born with a genetic makeup that tends to respond well to delay. That is especially true when the delay relates to something we are eager for or need, but in truth we don’t like the word for most anything. Life gives us many opportunities to experience delay and often we chalk the delay up to the dailyness of living.


Flights are delayed and so are trains. It happens so often that anyone using these modes of transportation plan for them routinely. Traffic on the highway or in the city can be delayed as well by construction, accidents, malfunctioning traffic signals, and sometimes by things we cannot see at all while we tap our fingers on the steering wheel waiting for the vehicle in front of us to move.


Results of tests and interviews can be delayed. Hoped for pay raises or bonuses can be delayed as well. A longed-for relationship is delayed. The list can extend farther and farther in most areas of our lives.


I recall so well waiting for my husband to return from a deployment with his battalion. They had been away for five months and every wife on base was waiting expectantly. On that day I watched as other men arrived home, but my husband did not arrive until later that evening. He was delayed because his responsibility of overseeing the offloading of vehicles from the ship required him to stay longer at the port where they arrived. I counted every hour as all other husbands had arrived.


I am in the midst of a Bible study on the Gospel of John with some other women. Chapter 11 includes the story of the death of Lazarus. Anyone who knows the story recalls how Lazarus’s sisters, Mary and Martha, had sent for their friend, Jesus, as soon as their brother became ill. They already believed in Him and knew that if He were there that He could heal Lazarus. The problem is that Jesus wasn’t there and the story goes on to point out that He delayed two days after receiving their message. I’m sure if I had been one of his sisters, I would have been disappointed Jesus was not there and my brother died.


There in my Bible in the commentary on the chapter are those words: the discipline of delay. I had not put those two words together previously. Discipline means training. Was the commentator suggesting that we experience delay as part of our training? If so, was that only related to this scripture passage or is it true for all the other times that we experience it in our lives?


I knew the story of Lazarus well enough to know that the delay related in part so that God could be glorified through the miracle of Jesus bringing Lazarus back to life. But I had not looked at the delay as discipline (i.e. training).


The commentary says this about the discipline of delay:


“The discipline of delay is one of the hardest lessons we must learn, as followers of Jesus, especially when it is God who does the delaying. Only grace can enable us to accept God’s rich vocabulary of answers to our earnest prayers – ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ ‘not yet,’ or even ‘yes, but it’s going to feel like no’- because we trust that He ‘is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.’


The more deeply we know and walk with Jesus, the more readily we accept God’s glory as our greatest good, even when it feels like such a momentary bad. ‘As the resurrection and the life,’ Jesus is always writing better stories than we could ever pen.”


 Wow! He’s still writing stories today in my life and in yours.


 The truth is that scripture points to other stories where a petition was made and a delay, a discipline of delay, occurred. One that comes to mind easily is in Daniel 10:12-13. Daniel sought the Lord, but the response was delayed 21 days. David experienced delays and so did Paul and other heroes of the faith.


I don’t believe every delay I experience is ordained of the Lord such as those examples I shared, but I think He still uses them in my life.


How do delays discipline or train us?


Delays train us to trust the Lord more fully. It means I/we set aside the agenda I/we have. It means we need to rise above our situation or circumstances and lean into Him to accomplish what we need or thought we had to do.


Delays train us to submit to Christ’s lordship more. We need to accept that He is God and we are not and do so without grumbling about His timing. That sort of grumbling didn’t work very well for the Israelites after they left Egypt and headed into the wilderness. I don’t think it will work any better in 2018.


We also need to recognize that the delay doesn’t necessarily mean we are just to be passive during that time. There may be a reason for the delay because there is something He wants us to see or do, something He wants to use us for.


A careful study of the passage in John about Jesus’s delay to come to the aid of Lazarus shows us He wasn’t just hanging out having coffee with folks. During that delay is when He healed the blind man of Jericho and had the conversation with Zachaeus.


Maybe in the midst of the delay we should be asking the Lord what He wants us to see or hear or know.


Berries in Canadian Rockies




Under A Cloudless Sky


Independence meant everything to Ruby Handley Freeman. Living on her own in Biding, Kentucky, and driving herself to the store and her hair appointments were things she knew she was capable of doing despite her eighty some years. Baking cakes for folks, listening to gospel music, and good preachers made her heart happy despite the death of her husband a few years ago. She especially loved to listen to one preacher named Franklin Brown, but his recent message about forgiveness had caused her mind to start replaying some things from her childhood in Beulah Mountain, West Virginia, things she had never told a soul.


When her son and daughter decided she needed to stop driving and take her keys, Ruby resolved she needed to take a stand for her independence. Maybe it was also time to face up to some things she had tried to ignore for most of her life. She wasn’t sure she could do it, but she knew she ought to try. It would mean driving back to Beulah Mountain if she could manage it on her own.


Beulah Mountain was so full of memories. Her best ones included her closest friend, Bean, but Bean was all tangled up in her worst memories as well. It was an unlikely friendship between two little girls from the opposite side of the tracks. Ruby had learned so much from Bean. She didn’t think it was fair that Bean’s family had so little. Miners in the coal-mining town of Beulah Mountain could barely eek out a living.


When Ruby talked with Bean about how unfair her situation was, Bean responded with wisdom beyond her years:


“Some things in life are good and some are bad and they all get thrown into the stew and you try to eat around the gristle. God doesn’t give us the option of a Sunday potluck where you pick what you want and leave the rest. He gives the whole kit and caboodle and we have to deal with what we get.”


Now that was what Ruby was trying to do…deal with what she got.


Chris Fabry’s latest book, Under A Cloudless Sky, will capture your heart and imagination from the very beginning of the story as you get to know Ruby as she is in 2004 in Biding, Kentucky, and looks back on those days in Beulah Mountain, West Virginia, in 1933 when her world got turned upside down.


Ruby’s decision to set off for Beulah Mountain on her own will bring the reader more than one or two surprises, but the intrigue and twists and turns in the story will not stop until the very last page. Ruby’s return to Beulah Mountain to sort out what’s been tugging on her for her whole life will also mean she discovers a part of her story she didn’t know existed.


This is a story you won’t want to miss. Chris Fabry’s writing will bring the reader right into the story as Ruby makes her cakes, faces her children, and takes off in her old Town Car for the trip to Beulah Mountain.


To comply with new regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my review.