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Tag Archives: Silence

Can You Hear the Bacon Sizzle?

bacon sizzleDiving or snorkling off the Florida Keys, this sound haunts you at all depths. You can’t see why, you can’t explain it, but there it is… always… the distinct sound of bacon sizzling right next to your ear.

It’s creepy.

When I asked around about this, I was told that it was a sound audible in the ocean anytime it is quiet enough. That it is the sound of “sand being made”, as Parrot Fish, from every quarter, rasp algae off hard surfaces… rocks… coral… ship hulls… anything… by scraping the hard wall with their beak-like raspy snouts, consume the mineral mouthful, and eventually eject sand from their gill slits or other orifice.

parrot fishI don’t know if it is true or not, for I’ve not dived or snorkeled in all the waters of the world, and I can’t be sure that all of them ever truly get “quiet”. But I can tell you that wherever I HAVE been, when I am still and silent underwater, and there seems no other sound… I have heard this buzz of sizzling bacon.

I was reminded of all this today when I read some bits and pieces on prayer by some very wise, grace-filled, experienced… um… authors from ages past. The who, what, when isn’t the point here. The topic was “Stillness”, “Silence”, and “Hearing God”. Or rather… “BEING in/with God” beyond hearing or any other sensation.

We tend to be such “people of action”. We want to DO FOR God. Or DO WITH God. Or GIVE TO God. Or GET FROM God. We like to ACT, to DO, to BEHAVE, to somehow perform something that is pleasing to God.

And that it, far and away, a good thing. Yes.


But when we slow down a bit, when we focus on the Him as Him, a bit more… and the Us and Him a bit less… we are sometimes moved simply to HEAR Him. Not to do, or talk, even pray, not even to “worship” (which is often for us another “act for Him”)… but when we just settle down to ATTEND to listening to Him, hear His words, hear Him speak. In such moments we enter into a different kind of prayer than our petitions and intercessions, or even our praises. We enter in to “meditation”. We allow the Holy Spirit directly to teach, in His own words, in our own personal language.

It is like “Sunday School” with the One Teacher we need. It is “Tutorial Time”, as God Himself makes sense of the written words of Scripture, and how the living and active Word of God (Jesus) imbues and exhales His Spirit into our being, our lives, our relationships (with Him and with others). This process challenges the mind, stretches the understanding, expands our boundaries… as we grow in our knowledge (and therefore love) of God in all Persons.

This too, this other form of prayer, is an assuredly good thing. Yes.


But from time to time, at first very much at HIS behest, as He teaches us to find stillness, but then as gradually we learn the path to silence, we become ever more welcome into this… this… “garden”… this “meadow”… this “pool” where all is silent, we can come to sense what I can only call God’s very “Pulse”. It seems to reverberate below all else, and when nothing but the resonance of His pulse fills all of our being, it is as if we (as separate) cease to be at all, and all there is is this pulse, this beating heart, which is both Him and us at the same time.

When I first tried to describe this to a friend… this odd “silence”… this “still place”… and the profound effect it seemed to have for me, where there were no words, no quotations, no lessons… just HIM… and that that very HIM-ness was so profound that it left me gasping and changed in ways I did not understand at all and could not describe… that friend responded with these words:

“There is a life and aliveness in silence and stillness that is ‘other than’ the best and richest of life that is sound and action.  While there will almost always be, in our waking hours, sound and action – at the center of life there is silence and stillness.  We do not ‘go to’ this silence and stillness, we live continually in it and our outward sounds and movements are profoundly informed and changed by it.  Outward sounds and movements are important but not essential to our aliveness.  It is the silence and complete stillness that houses the well spring of our aliveness, which is Jesus Himself.”

And this also, is a different form of prayer. It has many labels and descriptions, lots of books written about it. But I’m not going to go there because all that contains the implication that these labels denote something “superior”, “higher”, “more advanced”, or even… heaven forbid… “unattainable”.

Once upon a time, (please forgive me), I believed that. I was trained that way, and had not yet learned how corrupt and humanistic so much of my training was.


I have come to realize that all such thinking is rubbish. God IS… God expresses constantly ALL that truly IS.

Here is what seems to be the first and last “complete and true” statement to be made of God…

“God Alone is God in Whom All IS. All that is not God, simply is not.”

There can be nothing beyond God. There can be nothing without God. There is God… or nothing. And “nothing” is not. Nothing, cannot be.

Hence, when Moses asked God who he should say sent him to pharaoh, God accurately (and completely) named Himself… “I AM who AM.” There is no more, or less, that can be accurately said completely to denote God.

We can say many other truthful things, yes. But to be honest, we must always acknowledge that while these may be truthful, they are all partial and incomplete. They are “fragments”, “aspects” of Him. They do not come near to “describing” or “naming” Him in a meaningful way. He is just so much bigger, so much greater, so much more, than we can find any words or concepts to relate for Him.

Only one thing…

Only one way…

Only one means, that I have found, to get near enough to “touch” that One Alone…

Silence… to find the Point of Stillness… to “float” or “drift”… to simply “BE”…  in His Ever-Presence… and then halt the mind, the constant interior monologue of thought, question, ponder, wonder, worry, even praise or prayer. To stop the flow of all the words, even for a brief time.

Simply to “Hush”… and “Be”…

This is not an arcane mystical practice, or the effort of decades of monastic asceticism… (or it doesn’t have to be).

This is a simple… “hush”… “Be still, and know… the I AM… God.”


When we dare to seek and embrace the silence… when we seek out not even His words… when we utterly relax in the palm of His hand…

Wait… listen… trust… do you hear it?

Do you hear the Pulse of God? It is there. Just be still, and that Pulse, which is your life, will fill and transform…

That pulse is always there, in the silence, in the stillness, where you may rest and breathe!

 

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Shhh… The Cosmos Stills

WisdomOnly days to go and Advent ends. You know, Gentle Reader, that I often repost Richard Rohr’s meditations here. The amazing thing, to me, is that I will often write about something, even cross-blog with others here in WordPress on a topic, and see Fr. Richard post on the same topic days or weeks later. (I assure you that we have no contact, and his devotion posts are certainly scheduled well in advance of these.)

The past few weekends have been astonishing in my own life, for reasons very hard to express. I have been overcome with a sense of the “presence and relaxation” of God on these weekend days. It’s very hard to describe, but think about how you feel when you and a dear friend or family member gets away to some weekend retreat or resort, and have no phones to answer or chores to do. Imagine a day where all you “have” to do is nothing at all, besides waken, eat, refresh, and laugh, play, or rest. (These are the kind of days I try to provide when my kids get to come visit for (usually) a few days at a time.)

So, imagine sitting totally relaxed in your living room or study, sitting with someOne you utterly love and trust, just… comfortable. Maybe you’re both reading, or watching the telly, or listening to music, or just dozing off and on. But there’s no speech because, in this particular moment, there’s just no need for any. Know what I mean? There’s just that understanding between you, and in this moment nothing needs to be said.

Well, now imagine that it’s a Sunday, and here you are in the living room doing those things, and the Lord is there doing just that. And imagine that from this blessed restful state of just “being with” one another, this strange creeping sense that “you’re not doing this right” starts to steal over you. You become “concerned” because, well, you’re not being “reverent” enough. You’re not “worshiping”. You’re not “praying”. Somehow you’re getting it wrong. You should be acting and feeling… “reverenter” or something.

Well, this happened to me a couple weeks ago. And in the midst of my growing disquiet of heart, without even my saying anything, as if He knew exactly what I was thinking (fancy that), He seemed to turn to me and smilingly shake His head. There I was, enjoying an indescribable day… and my own doubts start to take over and rob me of this amazing joy.

Ever so gently and simply He helped me understand… I WAS fulfilling all of my own (and His) desires and expectations. It just didn’t LOOK LIKE the gloomy or sanctimonious images so often associated with worship or piety. This time together was intensely aware of His presence and filled with love. Attention could be given to whatever activity was happening, without ever diminishing attention and focus given to Him. What’s more, the experience of it, the sensation of it, lingered. This was not just a “Sunday activity” we were about. This was a “state of consciousness” that seemed quite capable of extending through much of the week.

The strange thing I realized was that the sense of being together was a silent joy. It was not imporant to talk, or even to interact. It was the simple presence, the love, and the joy of that presence that mattered.  As this awareness grew, it seemed to expand into lots of related thoughts. The most dramatic realization was about “prayer” and “silence”.

I learned to redefine “prayer”, at least for my own experience. (Needless to say, I share my definition only for the sharing, not because this is supposed to redefine prayer for you or anyone else.) Prayer has simply become: The willing opening of the consciousness to the presence and love of God in the moment.

Like most people, I’ve always thought of “prayer” in terms of “words”. But this is quite a different view. Not passive… but rather like “opening the self” not only to the “view” of God, but to “sharing the moment with” Him. (Lol. That may make no sense at all, but it’s the only words I can find for it.)

I’m constantly astonished at the sheer variety, the diversity, of “ways to pray”. The phrase almost doesn’t make sense, as it seems like there are as many ways as there are feelings, or needs, or ways to see and experience God. So this post must not be read as limiting true prayer by any means.

I have spent considerable time this day trying to find the words to say what I mean. The closest I can get, an experiment in prayer if you want to try it, and the place where this all ties into Advent is…

Have you ever fallen in love? True love? And do you recall the time(s) when you were in the same room with your beloved and right there and then, without saying or doing anything, all was right with the world? You didn’t even need or want to say anything, for fear of “breaking the spell”?

Imagine that as a form of prayer. It starts with quiet moments. Let quiet moments when your heart and mind drift to Him stretch out into that experience of presence and embrace. See if that awareness, that sense of presence, can extend outwards into more active moments and activities.

Have you ever wondered how… specifically how… anyone is supposed to “pray always”? I have. If we think of prayer as words, of attention paid exclusively to God Alone, then this injunction of Paul’s seems to leave us with a choice between a monastic life, and noncompliance.

But what if… just what if… praying always is moving through every moment, every place, every thought and feeling, conscious of the welcomed presence and companionship of God? Or, to turn that around a bit, what if this kind of prayer is simply no shutting Him OUT of the moment?

There is tremendous power of love in silence. We can both take some of that silence into any and every moment, even the busiest, and we can rest in and enjoy the silence when we have the chance. Right now, in these days just before Christmas, I wonder if the universe itself quiets and stills in preparation to commemorate this… the inconceivable… that God become man.

Silent prayer… love without words… I’m learning. Slowly, but I’m learning.

 

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2014 in Advent Devotions, Quiet Time, Uncategorized

 

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Man Push or God Pull — Pick One

WisdomThis Advent morning I’ve wakened in the early predawn hours with what I can only describe as a tremendous sense of joy and gratitude.

I often rise on Sundays and pray for ministers who today will lend their voices to the Lord, that He touch hearts, minds, and souls of His beloved children.  I will, in fact, have that privilege today as I serve in place of a friend who is a bit under the weather at the moment.

I have this overwhelming sense of this “Good News” I come to bring. To “lift Jesus up, that HE draw all men to Himself”. I need not draw or push them, they need not work or beg or force that to happen. Christians, with such frequency, tragedy, and futility try to “climb to the mountaintop of God”, or “purify themselves to warrant His grace”, and so on and so on. My heart breaks in the presence of such misunderstanding.

I have a friend who once lamented: “On my best days my highest thoughts of God are yet so poor as to be slanderous. He receives my thoughts of Him as a loving parent receives the rough crayon pictures drawn by their little boy.”

And that’s TRUE, Gentle Reader. I cannot gainsay that. It’s like setting a matchflame alongside the inferno of the Sun, and imagining that to be anything but pathetic. Yes, I agree.

But here’s this incredible thing… this ebullient joy I’m filled with this morning, that I almost feel as if welling up inside me…

Because GOD HIMSELF knows all that… Because He Himself yearns for our intimacy and closeness… HE has done ALL the “heavy lifting”:

  • He pulls… we need not push.
  • He lifts… we need not climb
  • He embraces… we need not thrash about to cling
  • He offers… we need not beg
  • He reveals… we need not dig

All He requires of us is trust and faith. The amazing thing about our matchflame, is that He Himself sucks it into the center of His heart, and melds us there… our limited little selves, utterly united with Him, and all that that means.

All that that means, though, is vastly more than our little selves can encompass, comprehend, understand, or express. Nonetheless, we certainly CAN “experience it”. We can live through it, know it, know that it is real, and be nourished by and grown from it.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Today many of us will go off to worship, to praise, to fellowship with God and one another. All our words, all our songs, all our expressions of love and adoration, will… assuredly… fall pitifully short of doing justice to the glory that is Him.

But watch this… “Ecce!”… “Behold!”… “Look at this!”

KNOWING that, God has done this incredible thing that it is very easy to lose sight of. WE DON’T WORSHIP of our own selves. We cannot. We cannot create “good” apart from Him. It is He Himself, within us, in His Infinite Self who is the Holy Spirit, who is responding to Him with worship in the first place. We merely “ride along on His coat tails” anyway.

So… do you want to praise, pray, worship Him “worthily” (whatever that truly means)? Then “hush”, listen and ride along with the wordless Holy Spirit as HE worships the Father this day. When you feel your heart soar or flutter at an unexpected moment… go with it… don’t look about or read the bulletin to “quit being distracted”. Should tears come unbidden or silence come to your lips during the music, don’t shake yourself, wipe your eyes, and clear your throat for fear of embarrassment before neighbors. Should the sermon prompt in you the need to affirm some incredible truth, and you feel moved to go to the front and share that affirmation in words before a witness, don’t staunch that grace for fear of what the deacons will think. You’re not there for them, you’re there for Him, and He is here for all His family.

This is a wondrous day, Gentle Reader… Beloved Brethren. He came to declare “Jubilee” and fulfill all the requirements of the Law because we cannot and could not. Go forth this day and Celebrate that… with all the joy in your heart!

Grace to thee — The Little Monk

 

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“May I have a word?”

home altarJust a really quick word… almost embarrassing, because it’s such an unexpected and simple thing. I just feel like sharing, for no good discernible reason.

A little while ago, quite unexpectedly in the middle of the night, I “felt like praying”. Don’t know how to describe that, wasn’t anything dramatic or deeply metaphysical, or mysterious… More than anything it was like an itch I needed to scratch.

So, I set my mind that direction, and realized…

I had/have no earthly idea what/who/why I was praying about.

Now, I have a prayer list, and many who have asked for prayer, and many who have not. I have sick friends I pray for muchly. I sin from time to time (I hear your shocked intake of breath there… but yes, yes I do)… and I pray on that once in a while. Or I praise. Or I ask to understand things.

I cannot count the “ways and means” by which I pray, or the number of times I’ve asked the Lord to teach me new ways, and how often He has marvelously answered that request.

But on this occasion, a little while ago, I went to the well… and there was nothing… nothing at all.

I waited for “something”, and it remained “nothing”.

Um, I don’t mean to be flippant or frivolous about anything sacred, but the moment was almost comical. Like, “all dressed up and nowhere to go.” I sat here, “ready and willing to pray”, and nothing at all would come. And I just kept waiting.

Finally, it was rather like… “Lord?” *poke* “Um,” *clear my throat* “Lord? ‘Scuse me… um… prayer? Is there a topic here? What am I to do?”

And it’s not that the answer had words, but just the realization… give Him the TIME, give Him the focus, give Him the breaths and the heartbeats, and let the Holy Spirit pray. I could focus on anything I chose, the local hospital 3 blocks from here, or missionaries and Christians under persecution right now, or sick friends… that was all good. But better, keep my mind clear and just focus on Him alone, as I open this conduit for the Holy Spirit between our time/space world here and now, and His Omnipotence on His Throne.

All He wanted from me was my time and attention, the Holy Spirit would provide the text.

And that was fine. And I did that. And now it is done, and here is an entirely new way to pray. So, just thought I’d share that because He is infinitely and constantly amazing.

Prayer can be such an adventure, no?

Grace to thee, Gentle Reader. — The Little Monk

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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True Prayer Leads to Compassion

Image: The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix) by Vincent Van Gogh, 1890

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

Compassion

True Prayer Leads to Compassion

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Although the universally available paths to unitive consciousness are great love and great suffering, conscious inner prayer will deepen and maintain what we momentarily learn in love and suffering. But the mere reciting of prayers can also be, as St. John Cassian (360-435) called it, a pax perniciosa, or a “dangerous peace.” This early Christian monk, who brought the ideas and practices of Egyptian monasticism to the early medieval West, saw that even the way of prayer can be dangerous if it never leads you to great love and allows you to avoid necessary suffering in the name of religion.

Those who fall into the safety net of silence find that it is not at all a fall into individualism. True prayer or contemplation is instead a leap into commonality and community. You know that what you are experiencing is held by the whole and that you are not alone anymore. You are a part, and now a forever-grateful part.

Real silence moves you from knowing things to perceiving a Presence that has a reality in itself. Could that be God? There is then a mutuality between you and all things. There is an I-thou relationship. Martin Buber said an I-it relationship is when we experience everything as commodity, useful, utilitarian. But the I-thou relationship is when you can simply respect a thing as it is without adjusting it, naming it, changing it, fixing it, controlling it, or trying to explain it. Is that the mind that can know God? I really think so.

Adapted from Silent Compassion: Finding God in Contemplation, pp. 15, 26‑27

Gateway to Silence:
May I see with eyes of compassion.

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Two Years in One Hour

This is an extraordinary talk by Richard Rohr from YouTube entitled “Finding God in the Depths of Silence”.

It expresses, with breathtaking clarity, Truths I have only come to realize in the past 18 months or so…

An hour and ten minutes or so is a considerable investment of time, life, heartbeats and breaths… but I would encourage you, Gentle Reader… to make this journey.

“Finding God in the Depths of Silence”

Please comment, as you feel led. Blessings and grace to thee — the Little Monk.

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2013 in Quiet Time, Uncategorized

 

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