a new kind of listening on the last day of hush

The coffee is ready, I gather my books and duck out the back door into the dark of the morning. Staring into the early sky, a project from grade school comes to mind. Black construction paper stretches over a light source. Small hands take turns poking holes with a sharp yellow pencil.

I pause on my way to the small building behind our house, get lost for a moment in the black paper sky boasting a handful of poked out wonder, the tiniest dots of twinkling white made with a sharp point from the other side.

I imagine God holding a giant pencil. Number 2.

The screen door creeks as I open it and walk into our make-shift study, turn on the heat, light a candle. We call it The Man Room, but today it’s a sanctuary. Quietness sings praises and still hands are my sacrifice.

Today is the last day of hush.

But not really.

I’m only beginning to practice the fine art of listening, not just while I’m alone in the presence of God but while I sit among friends and family. I’ve always considered myself a fairly attentive listener. This month I haven’t been able to hide from my dysfunction.

As it turns out, my listening tends to center around me, my own needs, what I might have to gain in the hearing or what I am able to offer that will be helpful or well-received. Realizing this is uncomfortable.

But comfort is highly overrated.

Repentance is freedom. I’m turning from that kind of listening. It is a slow, painful turn but there is hope in this circling. Not just a hope for me, but for us, the community. The church.

These 31 days are left unfinished. I feel like we’ve only begun to turn the key. This morning, I’m at peace with that.

I’ll end this series without fanfare today, but come back tomorrow (or maybe the next day?) where I plan to host a giveaway of some of the books I’ve been sitting with during the series. I hope to see you then. Let’s continue the journey together.

Did you write your own 31 days series this year? Go tell our host The Nester what you thought of the experience!

This is day 31 of 31 Days to Hush. Visit the hush page to see all the posts in the series. If you would like to receive new posts in your email inbox, subscribe now.

glad hope from unpredictable hands

There is a stack of brochures in the little room I now type in. I keep staring over at them, re-reading their invitation to know more about you. If you would like to be informed of upcoming events . . . 

I reach over and turn the plastic holder to face the wall. I can’t keep reading that same brochure over and over again.

It’s easy to think when you make space for God that things will take a truly spiritual turn. Sometimes I suppose that’s the case. But mostly, it’s still just me in an empty room with a stack of brochures I’m trying not to read.

You know things are dire when you turn to retreat center brochures to avoid facing what’s really going on in your soul.

It’s a good thing this place has no TV.

“I’ve often done all I know to do to create space for God. I’ve spent time in prayer I thought was contemplative, I’ve said no to lesser desires to make room for rich fulfillment, I’ve knelt before God with the bread and wine . . . and for all my effort, I’ve felt only increased emptiness. Frustration. Silence. I created space for God and He didn’t fill it.

Or did He, in ways I failed to recognize because I was expecting something else? Or didn’t He, because I was arrogantly working hard, thinking He would be impressed and compelled to show up?”

- Dr. Larry Crabb, Shattered Dreams

Perhaps I have been arrogant.

I wanted to take a week, become quiet on purpose, and have God show up in a way I could not only understand but also explain and, if I’m honest, maybe even control.

I waited for a God I could manage. He reveals himself maddeningly unmanageable.

He kills my linear god. Again.

And I realize how much I hate the concept of God “showing up” anyway. As if there is a place where he isn’t and for reasons beyond my understanding, he decides to finally show up there.

God is I AM. He doesn’t show up, HE IS.

Silence and stillness are of great value, but only to the degree that I bring them with me as I enter into relationship. Empty rooms don’t give me much opportunity to love.

He may reveal Himself to me in the stillness and the hush, or he may not. Either way, I have to come out, rub shoulders with messy people and, in so doing, discover my own hidden mess is worse than I thought.

But in that rhythm of relating, if I am in touch with the deepest part of my soul that longs for nothing more than to reveal God, then that messy relating takes a slight turn, away from despair towards glad hope. Not the kind that comes from visible me, but the kind that pours out of Invisible God.

***

Home. I’ve been back for three days now, tucked into the walls of our house and the arms of family. Today represents a re-entering – a facing of email, of schedules, of life. This does not overwhelm me. Hushing has done its work.

Over time I expect to share more with you about my week away. For now, here are four small thoughts I can put into words:

Getting quiet reminds me that my sin is worse than I thought.

Grief, despair, and lament have a more important place in the life of believers than I once understood.

Broken dreams may sometimes be more useful than whole ones.

His provision of hope is better than I ever imagined.

This is day 29.

may your weekend be

May your weekend be filled with desire, not for the things you think you want but for the unseen things of God. May your best efforts fall flat and your small idea of success crumble in your hands if it means your weakness will pave the way for His unshakable strength. May you remember you were made for more and may you never be content to settle for less. Enjoy your weekend, friends.

This is day 27.

gather me to be with you

Gather me to be with you

a prayer for your weekend (by ted loder)

Oh God, gather me now to be with you as you are with me.

Soothe my tiredness;
quiet my fretfulness;
curb my aimlessness;
relieve my complusiveness;
let me be easy for a moment.

O Lord, release me
from the fears and guilts which grip me so tightly;
from the expectations and opinions which I so tightly grip,
that I may be open
to receiving what you give,
to risking something genuinely new,
to learning something refreshingly different.

Forgive me
for claiming so much for myself
that I leave no room for gratitude;
for confusing exercises in self-importance
with acceptance of self-worth;
for complaining so much of my burdens
that I become a burden;
for competing against others so insidiously
that I stifle celebrating them
and receiving your blessing through their gifts.

O God, gather me to be with you as you are with me.

Amen.

Ted Loder, Guerillas of Grace

This is day 26 in 31 Days to Hush.

the curious place of listening (days 21 – 25)

Two years ago when my sister started this whole let’s-write-everyday-in-October thing, several of us emailed back and forth ideas for topics.

We started out serious, but when we all heard how ridiculous our ideas were at the beginning, it became a common joke that maybe we should just write about silence and frame our laziness and inability to think of something to write about with the pretense of being profound. We could call it 31 Days of Quiet and take the month off.

Today, I laugh because this week is going to be just exactly that, minus the laziness and pretense. There is nothing lazy about taking intentional time off to listen, to become aware of the inner workings of the soul, and to honestly confront whatever comes to the surface.

In my flesh, I would rather do anything else.

But these twenty days of writing have been leading up to an invitation to quiet. And for the next several days, I’m entering in to the curious place of listening. Since I won’t be posting for several days, here are some posts I’ve written in the past that may encourage you as you enter in to your own week, whatever hush may look like for you.

4 Ways to Take a Walk Like a Believer

A Question for the Desperate

For When You Feel Behind

The Secret to Keeping the Wonder

5 Ways to Breathe in a Breathless World

Love in the Morning

This post serves as days 21 – 25 in a series, 31 Days to Hush. You can click here to see a list of all the posts. If you would like to receive these quiet thoughts in your email inbox, subscribe now.

 

31 days :: hush links

On Soul Care at A Life of Interest

In Which I Came Too Close to God by Sarah Bessey

My Drug and My Defense by Shauna Niequist

Savoring Stopping by Amanda at Pure & Simple

These links are from other writers learning how to listen and to see, gathered here to help point you a little closer to hush. This is day 20 in the series. You can click here to see a list of all the posts in the Hush series. If you would like to receive these quiet thoughts in your email inbox, subscribe now.

a weekend prelude to hush

May your weekend be filled with hope. If you need time, may you have the space to take it. If you need courage, may you have the heart to find it. If you need support, may you have a friend who sees you. If you need laughter, may you discover the funny where you least expect it.

But if time is full, courage hides, friends are distant and funny doesn’t share, may your loneliness escort your spirit to discover your deepest desire is God, and his fullness is available to you today.

Enjoy your weekend, friends.

This is a post in a series, 31 Days to Hush. You can click here to see a list of all the posts. If you would like to receive these quiet thoughts in your email inbox, subscribe now.

for when you need more than a soul breath

“Wait quietly in My presence while My thoughts form silently in the depths of your being. Do not try to rush this process, because hurry keeps your heart earthbound.

Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

Tomorrow morning, I leave before the sun comes up for a week away from home. This trip has been planned for a while now. It seems right that it falls in the middle of 31 hushed days.

As a whole, these days have not felt hushed. At least not in the way I expected.

Even though I’ve been more intentional about taking a little space for my soul to breathe, a funny thing happens when I stop on purpose.

I realize I need more than a soul breath.

I need an oxygen mask.

And also a tank filled with more that I can wheel around behind me.

Maybe a rain forest or two planted in my yard for extra.

And let’s just throw in a couple of fans to blow the air around nice and good.

I have every intention of continuing to post while I’m away, but I will tell you now if the posts simply stop some time next week, know they’ll start back up soon enough. I make no promises that this 31 days won’t possibly turn into 26.

The world will spin on and the internet will be a little more hushed for a week. No big.

But for now, from the bottom of my earthbound heart, I will tell you I’ll be back tomorrow. Unless I’m not.

Thanks for grace.

This is day 18.

This is a post in a series, 31 Days to Hush. You can click here to see a list of all the posts, updated daily. If you would like to receive these quiet thoughts in your email inbox, subscribe now.