Encouragement From The Word

The Sound of Silence

The sound of silence.

For some, it is a reference to Simon and Garfunkel.

For others, it is the noise made by the refrigerator or the HVAC system.

For some, it is deafening.

For others, it is the most beautiful sound on earth.

Whatever it may mean to us, the sound of silence is a gift, whether we acknowledge it or not.  For it is in silence that we are most clearly able to commune with God as friend to Friend, as servant to Master, as disciple to Lord.  Think about it:  when you are having an intentional conversation with a close friend, you’re probably not having to shout over a loud racket, right?  When it’s a serious conversation, there’s probably no discernible noise in the background.

So why not do this with the Lord?

At times, we may wonder why we don’t hear from God; it’s less likely that God is silent, and more likely that we are not making space to listen.

As you read the Bible, as you pray – whatever shape that takes – consider doing it accompanied by the sound of silence.  You may be surprised how much you hear.

For God alone my soul waits in silence,
    for my hope is from him.
 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be shaken” (Psalm 62.5-6, NRSV).

Encouragement From The Word, Uncategorized

Picture This

“Picture this.”  Can you imagine yourself in a Bible story?

There’s an ancient spiritual practice called “Gospel Contemplation”, in which we pray, asking the Lord to sanctify our imagination, and read a story from one of the Gospels several times, each time paying more attention to the details in the story.  We use all five of our senses to place ourselves in the story.  It can be a way that the Lord speaks to us through his Word.

For example, consider the story of Bartimaeus in Mark 10.46-52 (NLT):

46 Then they reached Jericho, and as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road. 47 When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 

48 “Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him.

But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

49 When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.”

So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!”50 Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.

51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked.

“My Rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!”

52 And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road.

Read this several times over, paying more attention to the details each time.  Toward the end, ask the Lord, “Who am I in this story?”  And ask, “What do you want me to learn from my role in this story?”

It’s possible that the Lord Jesus might be asking you, “What do you want me to do for you?”  Sit with that question in the presence of the Lord.  Seek the boldness to ask it.

There’s nothing formulaic about this; we can’t command God’s presence.  But we can seek to broaden our experience of his Spirit in our lives as we read his Word.  Why not try using your holy, sanctified, God-given imagination as you do?

Book Reviews

BOOK REVIEW: LIVING INTO FOCUS: Choosing What Matters in an Age of Distractions by Arthur Boers

Arthur Boers is a pastor, seminary professor, author, and Benedictine oblate who has seen his own spiritual journey take a number of turns over the many years of his faithful devotion to Jesus Christ.  In his most recent book, Living Into Focus, he writes about how easily we are distracted from what matters most.

Arthur emailed me some time ago when the book was being released, and I was pleased to have obtained a copy for review, thanks to David C. Cook Distribution, which oversees Canadian distribution for the publisher, Brazos.  I found the book easy to read, well-written, and structured in a helpful way, such that I did not want to put the book down until I had completed reading a chapter.

In the Foreword, Eugene Peterson says that the book “is not a book of condescending advice or a blueprint for imposing suggestions or ‘plans’ for a wholesale renovation of a life that is out of control.  Rather, it is a personal working through and reflection on the difficulties of swimming against the stream of contemporary culture” (x).  This was a helpful prelude to the book, since at times, it did read as if it were just what Peterson describes it not being.

Boers helps the reader find the focal points of life and understand what they mean, including various practices that draw us into focus, such as hobbies and even rituals (if we pay attention to them).  Recognizing the role that technology plays in contemporary society, he offers some suggestions on how to relate to technology, using the acronym ALERTS: Attention, Limits, Engagement, Relationships, Time, Space.  While he admits to using technology himself, Boers writes so glowingly of the Amish that one wonders if he paints a somewhat too radiant picture of older order Mennonite people.

That said, we do well to heed the warning that those things which receive much of our focus today – mostly based in technology – are drawing us away from each other.  While we are more ‘connected’ than ever, and our world is getting smaller because of communication technology, personal relationships are getting fewer and shallower.

Boers offers as alternatives “more fulfilling lifestyles – cooking, offering hospitality, engaging in conversation, exercising, learning arts and crafts” (187).  These are decidedly good habits, good foci; yet in our sinfulness, I think even these can be controlling, like technology.  I think it was C.S. Lewis, in The Screwtape Letters, who wrote that the best way to discourage a person from the value of walking was to make it into exercise, instead of a journey into the enjoyment of creation.  Even good practices can be mis-practised, or overdone.  Technology, in that sense, is no different.  If we live disciplined spiritual lives, nothing except our desire to glorify and enjoy God forever will be overdone (at least in a perfect world).  That said, Boers cites a young acquaintance of his who observed that spiritual disciplines are decidedly not addictive.

It is altogether too easy to be addicted to those things which may not, except in moderation, aid our cause of being and making disciples.  If we first set our priorities – our key foci in life – then, according to Boers, we can use technology as our servant in making those priorities realities.

This book is worth your time to read.  It will challenge you, and make you reflect on your life as it is now.  We all can stand to experience growth, and this book will help you do just that.

LIVING INTO FOCUS:  Choosing What Matters in an Age of Distractions by Arthur Boers, published by Brazos in 2012.  ISBN #978-1-58743-314-6.