By christon | November 14, 2013
Of all the things our modern, electrically-powered society has destroyed, none is so easily overlooked as “silence.” A century ago, a world without radios, televisions, CD players, pagers, and cell phones provided numerous opportunities to be alone with one’s thoughts. Today, we seem to fear silence, afraid of what we might hear if we were forced to stop and listen.
Five weeks ago I began an experiment: I turned off the radio in my truck for the entire month. No music, no news, no talk. Just silence. And in that month of silence I came to love those twenty or thirty minutes a day without noise.
At first it was hard. In fact for the first few days I felt so unnerved by the silence that I found myself talking out loud, even though I was the only one there. But even those one-sided discussions usually focused on something I was worried about or some idea I was trying to develop, so while I may have looked strange talking to myself, the time was productive.
As the days passed, I came to enjoy the silence, since it provided my one chance all day to simply sit and think. I have never had much success praying while driving, but during these days of stillness I definitely received insights I would not have found otherwise. I think maybe I heard what Richard Foster describes as “the divine Whisper” once or twice.
Despite His hectic schedule, Jesus often sought out solitude and silence. His forty days in the wilderness … just before choosing the twelve … after the feeding of the 5000 … following the healing of the leper … before he faced the cross; in each case, Jesus intentionally withdrew to spend time alone in prayer, solitude, and silence.
Your car may be the one sanctuary on earth where you can regularly experience silence. But even there, you must choose silence over noise. It might be worth a month for you to give it a try – I got so much out of it that I’m going to continue it.
There’s a lot to hear in silence. Are you willing to listen?
By christon | January 15, 2015
COMMON QUESTION IN SEMINARS:
Why do some churches grow?
Simplest answer: more people who come once come back again!
A pet food manufacturer’s business was going bad, so he sacked all his staff.
The new staff didn’t do any better, so he sacked them too.
In a conference with the third lot, a 19-year-old said: ‘I think the dogs don’t like our product!’
By christon | January 14, 2015
“O Lord, open my eyes that I may see the needs of others; open my ears that I may hear their cries; open my heart so that they need not be without succor; let me not be afraid to defend the weak because of the anger of the strong, nor afraid to defend the poor because of the anger of the rich … And so open my eyes and my ears that I may this coming day be able to do some work of peace for thee.”
By christon | June 11, 2014
Just for today, I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle my whole life problem at once. I can do something for twelve hours that would appall me if I felt that I had to keep it up for a lifetime.
Just for today, I will be happy. This assumes to be true what Abraham Lincoln said, that “most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
Just for today, I will try to strengthen my mind. I will study. I will learn something useful. I will not be a mental loafer. I will read something that requires effort, thought and concentration.
Just for today, I will adjust myself to what is, and not try to adjust everything to my own desires. I will take my “luck” as it comes, and fit myself to it.
Just for today, I will exercise my soul in three ways: I will do somebody a good turn, and not get found out. I will do at least two things I don’t want to–just for exercise. I will not show anyone that my feelings are hurt; they may be hurt, but today I will not show it.
Just for today, I will be agreeable. I will look as well as I can, dress becomingly, talk low, act courteously, criticize not one bit, not find fault with anything and not try to improve or regulate anybody except myself.
Just for today, I will have a program. I may not follow it exactly, but I will have it. I will save myself from two pests: hurry and indecision.
Just for today, I will have a quiet half hour all by myself, and relax. During this half hour, sometime, I will try to get a better perspective of my life.
Just for today, I will be unafraid. Especially I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful, and to believe that as I give to the world, so the world will give to me.
By christon | June 10, 2014
My wife and I recently returned from a holiday to the south island of New Zealand. As we were travelling around that beautiful country, I started to see how much we always seem to have to ‘fill in’ time, how we always have to be ‘doing’ something.
The first question we often ask someone we haven’t seen for a while is ‘Are you busy?’ as if busyness is a virtue, and that if you’re not busy you’re not contributing to society.
On our holiday we were always thinking of the next thing to do. But when we stopped off at a little place called Lake Paringa, on the west coast of the south island, it looked as though it was a place where time could stand still. It was like the place that time forgot. It was the place where you could camp for a few weeks and your day would consist of getting up when you were ready, maybe doing a bit of trout fishing, reading a book, having a long chat, eating some dinner, and then doing it all again the next day. It’s very hard to imagine being that still, to be actually ‘doing’ nothing.
We live in a society that causes stress. Being time-bound, we always feel rushed. The pace of life seems to be getting faster and faster. So it is of little surprise that the rate of depression is increasing in our hyper-paced world. American psychologist Martin Seligman has done research which says that, since the end of World War 2, the rate of depression in western, industrialised countries, has risen tenfold. That is, the rate of depression today is 10 times what it was 60 years ago. I used to equate that with the fact that, despite the current economic downturn, we have never been richer. But now I think that’s only part of the reason. I also think it’s because of our whole way of life. My dad sometimes says to me, “we’re living all wrong”. I agree with him. In our drive for freedom, the apparent freedom that we strive for looks like too many choices.
We’re always looking for ways to save time. The irony is that the very act of our rushing all over the place so we can have more time causes us to become more stressed. What we think is going to help us actually tightens the noose around our neck even more. So we rush even faster and so the cycle continues. In the words of U2, we’re running to stand still.
In the 1970s we were told that in the 21st century, with the rapid advancement of technology, we would all have much more time to spare and we would only need to work part-time. How wrong we were. No wonder more and more people are downshifting. This idea is nothing new. Back in 2004, the New Economics Foundation published some work on what they called a ‘wellbeing manifesto’. Similarly, the 23rd Psalm, a psalm that I grew up with, still has as much relevance today as it ever has. Consider the words:
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Sometimes when I meditate on words like these, I have a sense that I just want to be in the same room as God, just be in his presence, me in my chair and him sitting in the chair over in the other corner of the room. And that’s ok. God wants that too. Too often I let the things of life distract me from what is important, from what really matters. I do what feels good, but I don’t always do what will make me feel good about myself. But as I sit and be still, I realise how fast-paced my life is, how much of a hurry I’m always in, and how much I feel I need to fit in. In an earlier article of mine about the clutches of time, I stated that Jesus never seemed to be rushed, despite the enormous demands on him by people of all persuasions. He realised that life was about doing what was right, and not being enslaved to the demands of the world around him.
There is a scene in the excellent film, “I am Legend’ in which Will Smith’s character, Robert Neville, finds another survivor, Anna. Anna tells Robert that it was God’s will that they meet. She says that, now that there is no one left on the planet and the distracting noise of life no longer drowns out the voice of God, we can God’s plan if we listen. It’s a poignant moment in what is an amazing movie. And it brings home once again the contradiction of a life in which we seek happiness and contentment in that which brings us the opposite.
On that last day when we will all face our Maker, he is not going to ask, “so did you get all that stuff done?”. The question he will ask is “how did you love? How did you treat the least of these my brothers and sisters?”. The God who is not bound by space and time would long for that same lack of bondage to be characteristic of us.
by Nils von Kalm
By christon | March 13, 2014
If the Bible is the Word of God, and if I come to it with and open mind, it will be all I need to bring assurance to my soul.
I cried to God for help, I cried out to God to hear me.
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