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Monday, May 16, 2011

THE SOUND OF SILENCE

"Ultimate peace is silent through the density of life,"

-C. S. Lewis

 Two hands clap and there is a sound. What is the sound of one hand clapping? The “sound of silence” comes to mind—one answer to this ancient koan.

Silence, I've come to believe, is the answer to many of life's contradictions. I'm learning to say less these days. It was Jesus' way. In the face of severe provocation he was "silent (peacefully calm) and did not reply" (Mark 14:61). Jesus could have answered his critics, but, "like a sheep before its shearers is silent, He did not open his mouth.”

There is awesome power in silence, especially in those overwhelmingly bad situations in which we are subject to harsh words from those we greatly love. There, silence is most difficult for loved ones have the greatest power to wound us. But, there it is most essential, for we owe our own homes the greatest measure of gentleness and forbearance.

Silence forestalls angry reactions and bitter words that we may later regret and others may not forget. Silence gives us time to slow our thoughts and reorder them, perhaps to remind ourselves that the one who wounded us is weary, or worried and otherwise out of sorts. Or, we may quickly forgive for they may not know what they're doing. We should always forgive anything the moment there is anything to forgive for there is no better time.

Silence is a means by which we may help others see themselves, for their voices reverberate in the quietness we offer, and in it they may hear their unkind words and regret them. When we step aside and wait in stillness, we give God an opportunity to work through us. When we take up our own cause we may frustrate his ultimate intention to use us to bring spiritual healing and health to others.

Silence can be the gentle answer that turns away anger. Defensive reactions make things worse: they "stir up wrath"(Proverbs 15:1). Restraint and silence relieve tension and restore peace. When we thus "make peace," we "sow a seed whose fruit is righteousness"(James 3:18). Others begin to grow toward goodness through our example.

Finally, calm, unruffled silence is an eloquent and gracious reflection of God's unconditional love. Clement, a first century Christian, wrote, "Let (those who belong to Christ) demonstrate by silence the gentleness of their tongue; (thus) let them show His love" (1 Clement 21:7).

And so we pray for a silence that, "swallows up the waves of wrong and never throws them back to swell the commotion of the angry sea from whence they came" (George MacDonald).

Ah, for the grace to annihilate wrong in this way.

DHR

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Peacocks and Their Kin


“…God plays a game with the soul called ”the loser wins“; a game in which the one who holds the poorest cards does best.” —Evelyn Underhill

Male peacocks are resplendent creatures with iridescent blue-green plumage and elongated trains tipped with "eyes" colored in hues of gold, red, and blue. They are strikingly beautiful birds…

But they have the ugliest feet in the world!

To be honest, most of us have “ugly feet,” don’t we—some blemish, some disfigurement, some physical limitation or handicap, something that makes us feel “less than”? It may be a deformity we’ve borne all our lives, or it may be the disfigurements of old age—wrinkles, blotches, sun–spots, shriveled limbs—unsightliness that makes us self-conscious and reticent.

Paul described his deficiency (whatever it was) as a “thorn in the flesh” a defect that shamed and humiliated him (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). Three times he asked the Lord to remove it, thinking that he could then serve God better. But the Lord assured him: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Paul replied with great humility, “So then, most gladly I will boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

We may be too lovely for God to use, but we can never be too ugly. One of the ironies of faith is that he often chooses those who are less endowed with natural grace and beauty to accomplish his most important tasks. They are used in ways they could never imagine. Here is mystery: We are chosen because of our limitations, not in spite of them. How encouraging is that! “God was looking for someone weak enough to use and he found (you)” (Hudson Taylor).

So…whatever measure of “ugliness” we enjoy, it is ours lest we get carried away with ourselves, and fail to make the most of our lives. It is a blessing to make us better, stronger, wiser for it is “out of weakness” that we are “made strong” (Hebrews 11:34).

DHR