On Being Quiet

I like to fill my bird feeders at first light on Saturdays. After morning readings, I sit at the kitchen table with my coffee and watch winged poetry through the bay. I am always rewarded with the vibrant reds of the cardinals, the spritely black caps of chickadees, and serenading sparrow song. Sometimes the shy flicker stops by, clinging to the feeder with grasping toes, red mustache jauntily twitching under curved bill.

I never tire of their antics and often grieve to leave my window–reluctant to begin the noise of the day. Their light-filled movements are music to me; in the watching my mind finds rest.

Matthew Kelty, in his book Flute Solo: Reflections of a Trappist Hermit, says that quiet moments such as these are the substance of an intimate relationship with God.

We all need contact with our hearts. Without that contact we are isolated from truth, divorced from reality. Quiet is certainly one of the ways to that contact. And peace. I suspect seriously that the single most effective weapon of Satan in our times is noise. I cannot think of a better way to alienation and loss of religion. Fill a man day and night with noise, even beautiful noise. Allow him no time to think, to muse, to ponder, to wonder. Fill his air with sound, his ears with din. His heart will die soon enough. Now you have broken him. He can no longer love.

I know not one who has not felt that brokenness.

Busy-ness is an idol in our culture. This is the way of multi-tasking, batch projects–of stretching our umbrella, extending our reach.

Not a bad way in and of itself. In fact, it can be quite a good way.

But I must not lose the quiet moment in each task; I must not miss the heart connection.

And that is the tricky part, no? To hear His voice above the din…to see beauty in the ordinary.

There is something to the Muslim practice of salat–the obligatory rite of their religion that requires prayer five times a day, at specified times. In this way, the mind is trained to quiet–to focus on God.

As a Christian I wonder at such measures. I know that Christ’s death on the cross eliminated the need for ritual and ceremony when I approach God. The veil was torn. Yet, my human condition makes me susceptible to caressing this skin…forgetting the divine and leaning on flesh.

And so I make my own reminders.

A stone in my pocket. A jewel around my neck. A scripture scribbled on a sticky note.

Not incredibly inventive. Certainly not iconic. But each, when touched by a finger or held in the palm, ushers me into His presence.

And I am reminded that my flesh has been cleansed. The string that ties my heart to Him becomes tangible.  I am strengthened.

The quiet is restored. I hear his voice above the din.


And the day becomes holy.

Comments

  1. says

    Quite a lovely post, Laura.

    Though I’m usually a fast walker, when I’m out in the afternoon, I enjoy walking at a slow pace, for the time it gives to look and see, to discover, to think. Sometimes the looking prompts poems. When I walk the Westies, there is noise, their noise at nature and for discovery; and to walk them is to walk at their pace, which is often stubbornly slow, a pace to explore, to look around. When their pace steps up, they face into the wind, not against it. They, too, seem to understand the value of being quiet sometimes, particularly when they focus on a particular object.

    The stone in the pocket is a great reminder, I think. There is something very soothing about fingering a stone till it becomes polished with the wearing.

  2. says

    Our girls are grown and gone…but when they were VERY little God whispered to me that as mom it was my job to create a peaceful home…and I so believe that we need to teach our children how to be quiet…one of the most important “doings” of being His follower is knowing how to be still and soak in His presence. Whatever it takes….we’re all so different it’s wonderful to have posts like this to encourage.

  3. says

    Oh Laura, you have such a precious gift. I have, for a long time, heard the Lord whispering just those things to me. I must take the time to be quiet – even if it’s just a few minutes, as you’ve said.
    I know that Ann has made a practice of stopping at certain times during the day to pray. It is that stilling of the heart and giving Him our full attention.
    For a long time, I felt as though I couldn’t write – and it was because there were never those times of quiet where I could just “ponder.” And it is a loss.
    I’m going to print this out and use it as a reminder. Surely the “noise” that fills my life cannot be of more importance than having a listening heart.

  4. says

    Greetings. I found you via This Restless Heart. What a beautiful post (and picture). I’ve been reading books by Brennan Manning latey, including The Signature of Jesus. He talks of “centering down,” being in God’s presence throughout our day, not unlike having a simple reminder as you talk about; only, instead of a reminder, repeating a certain phrase like “Abba, I belong to you” until our heart and mind are resting in Him, quiet even in the midst of our activities.

  5. says

    Experiencing a Holy hush is required daily. I need to clear the background noise, sit at the Lord’s feet and gaze at Him. Thanks for reminding me of what the pull in my heart is saying. ‘come away with me’

  6. says

    He does come to us in the still, small voice, doesn’t He … and only quietness hears

    Thank you for telling me about HCB … I thought it was only for writers so will spend some time pondering there … I hardly feel adequate to make much of a contribution …

  7. says

    Your post helps us crave this, desire it more. Want to receive the gift of it. Thank you. Lovely.
    I was thinking similar things this morning as I was out on the river at my favorite place for solitude. I wish people knew how much they could give, if only they allowed themselves and made time for the receiving part. Giving happens from the full dripping over this way, instead of the burned, charred dregs from the bottom.

  8. says

    Really enjoyed reading this, Laura. I am doing on Overview of the Bible right now in a ladies’ group. We are currently on Zephaniah. The verse that spoke to my heart, just this morning, was being “quieted by His love”.

  9. says

    Laura, this is beautiful. God is calling me back to a place of quiet and I hear His whisper’s through this post.

    Being still and listening,
    Joy

  10. says

    I just sighed. This was lovely. I treasure quietness. It restores me. And the stones, too. They remind me of the constant presence of an unchanging God who tells me He is the rock on which I should build…

  11. says

    Laura: Great post! I am a huge believer in times of quiet. In 2003, silence and solitude brought me out of burnout. Thankfully my ministry board was alert and watching out for me. Jesus is so sweet when we simply get alone and quiet with Him.

  12. says

    “To hear His voice above the din…to see beauty in the ordinary.”
    I think the idea of reminders is a wonderful idea! Reminders to stop and look and listen. Great post Laura!

  13. says

    Ahhh.. Quiet.. That’s why I get up at 5 am almost every morning to take some time for quiet meditation. But what I really love is hours and hours at a time out in the mountain wilderness.
    Oh well, time for work!

  14. says

    Sweet Laura~
    Thank you for this beautiful gift! One of my favorite quotes is “Let us be still that we might hear the whisper of God.” There is something beautiful about waiting for that whisper. Our busyness creates an environment in which He must shout for us to heed His voice. I would much rather listen for His whisper.

    Much love to you, my friend!

    Cheri

  15. says

    We are so busy, aren’t we. Go, go, go. And we do need to be intentional about our pause. I, for one, could have gotten lost in the picture on your post. Seeing, in my mind’s eye, the winged guests stopping in for a bite of food. We have bird feeders but have gotten out of the habit of feeding them. You’ve inspired me to start them up again.

    Thanks for the beautiful reminder to take a moment and enjoy the quiet.

  16. says

    This post really spoke to my heart today. I was immediately taken in with the photo, as birdwatching was a favorite pastime before our move. I was always reminded, in those quiet early morning hours watching my friends at the feeders, that “His eye is on the sparrow…”

    Now we live in L.A. and it is much more difficult to find the quiet, the peace. And the birds are all plain and drab here. So I find myself fighting to find the joy, the awe, the quiet.

    Thanks for stirring me to continue the fight. It is so worth it.

  17. says

    I love the quote you excerpted and the way you pondered it. Oh, how I crave the quiet and need contact with my heart…and I need to interact with the Lord throughout the day. Instead of Muslims, I instantly think of the divine hours that monks observe…praying throughout the day. I think there is something to providing rhythm and habit in our days (perhaps because I’m such a random, spontaneous person I crave a rut to run in).

    Thanks for making us think…and slowing us down.

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