Tag Archives: Quiet

Called to the Quiet

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Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.
Exodus 24:18 (NRSVCE)

A few weeks ago I made an impromptu road trip. It was a particularly stressful time, and I told a few friends that the road trip was my way of doing what Jesus did on occasion when He went up a mountain alone to pray. I chose to sequester myself in the car.

As I read today’s chapter I found a number of elements that foreshadowed Jesus’ story. Jesus, like Moses, spent a period of forty days and nights in the wilderness. In today’s chapter, Moses is the mediator between God and the people. Moses offers the blood sacrifice, the blood covers the people, and Moses then ascends to God. Jesus was the blood sacrifice which atones for sin before He rose and ascended. When Jesus went up on a mountain with Peter, James, and John and was transfigured in glory, Moses appeared there at Jesus’ side. The events of today’s chapter are an example of how the ancient Hebrew stories are linked to Jesus. It’s all part of the Great Story.

What my mind and heart came back to in the text, however, was the time that Moses spent with God on the mountain. Forty is also a theme beyond the link to Jesus time in the wilderness:

  • The rain in Noah’s flood lasted forty days and nights.
  • Joshua and Caleb spent forty days spying out the Promised Land.
  • Goliath taunted Israel’s army for 40 days before David stepped up with his sling.
  • God told Ezekiel to lay on his side for 40 days as part of a prophetic word picture.
  • Jonah prophesied to Nineveh that they had 40 days to repent.
  • The seasons of Advent (celebrating the birth of Christ) and Lent (celebrating the death and resurrection of Christ) are both 40 days.

I am reminded in the quiet this morning that this world is moving faster, and faster, and faster as the memory and processing speed of our technology and devices continues to advance more rapidly. According to Google, their quantum computer (known as “Sycamore”) recently completed a computation in 200 seconds which would take the next fastest supercomputer 10,000 years to complete. The speed of life and technology continues to increase and with it my expectations for results.

The irony is that God’s Kingdom runs opposite the world. Things of the Spirit require time, contemplation, meditation, experience, struggle, worship, and prayer. The 15-16 hours I spent alone in the car, along with a night alone in a hotel, were spent doing exactly those things. It was exactly what my soul needed to find some clarity, to get centered, and to experience a measure of peace amidst my acutely stressful circumstances.

Over the nearly 40 years (there’s another “40” for you, lol) I have been a follower of Jesus, I’ve experienced that my time of quiet with God each morning has an effect on the peace with which I handle the stress of each day. If I go a stretch without getting in my time of quiet with God, even Wendy notices an increase in my stress level and pessimistic attitude toward life and relationships.

And so, I try to carve out a little alone time with God each morning, and occasionally along the journey, I’ve needed more than that. I can feel the call to climb the mountain, take a road trip, or spend a week unplugged at the lake. I have a feeling that the faster this world gets, the more necessary the times of quiet will be spiritually required.

Hope you find a few minutes of quiet today, as well, my friend.

Want to Read More?

Simply click on the image above or click here to be taken to a page with a simple photo index to all posts from this series on Exodus.

About This Post

These chapter-a-day posts began in 2006. It’s a very simple concept. I endeavor each weekday to read one chapter from the Bible. I then blog about my thoughts, insights, and feelings about the content of that chapter. Everyone is welcome to share this post, like this post, or add your own thoughts in a comment. Thank you to those who have become faithful, regular or occasional readers along the journey along with your encouragement.

In 2019 I began creating posts for each book, with an indexed list of all the chapters for that book. You can find the indexed list by clicking on this link.

Prior to that, I kept a cataloged index of all posts on one page. You can access that page by clicking on this link.

You can also access my audio and video messages, as well.

tomvanderwell@gmail.com @tomvanderwell

The Wisdom of Silence

But the people remained silent and said nothing in reply….
2 Kings 18:36 (NIV)

Wendy’s and my morning routine begins each day meeting in our dining room for breakfast. Our dining room looks east over our back yard and the field of prairie grass behind it. If the sun isn’t too bright we get to watch the sun rise up over the tree line as we drink our respective tea and coffee and catch up on the news of the morning.

Of late Wendy and I have been reading a lot about the outbursts that are happening all over the States from college campuses to the streets and parks of various cities. As most of us know, it spills over into social media where it seems one cannot share a reasoned, personal opinion without getting pummeled, insulted and threatened by strangers or people you barely know. Just a few weeks ago my friend Dr. Bob shared with me a brief glance at the vitriolic string of threatening comments and emails he’d received after his editorial appeared in the New York Times. We are living in reactive times.

During our quiet morning conversations Wendy and I have mulled over a couple of thoughts about this entire trend. First, at least in some cases the screams and conflict are meant to create a reaction and the press coverage that goes along with it. National attention is exactly what some groups desire to recruit like minded individuals and financial support. Second, we live in an unprecedented age of 24/7 news coverage from endless outlets competing for ratings and advertising dollars. These news outlets have a need for news they can report and keep audience attention. I wonder, at times, how complicit the media is in creating or sustaining the conflicts with their coverage to the point that it gets blown out of proportion compared to the reality of the situation. Finally, it has come to light that another country had agents trolling American social media during our election year stirring up reactive anger between those of opposing political views. They believed that the conflict would be destabilizing. Mission accomplished. Welcome to a new era of cyber warfare: stimulating your enemies to destroy themselves from within.

This came to mind this morning as I read today’s chapter about a very ancient conflict. The Assyrian empire was blitzing its way through the region. They destroyed Israel and were now at the gates of the walled city of Jerusalem. The strategy for thousands of years of siege warfare was for the raiding army to send its best communicator to have a parley with the besieged city’s leaders. The city officials would stand on the wall and the besieging army’s mouthpiece would stand below and yell up at them. The goal was to threaten, cajole, and intimidate those in the city into giving up.

The Assyrian commander comes to wall of Jerusalem and does his best to smack talk the people of Judah into fear. He tells them not to listen to their king, not to trust their God, and to look at how things ended up for their other enemies. For added effect he throws in that a long siege would result in them being so starved for food and drink that they’d eat and drink their own excrement.

But then the scribes record that the people said nothing. They didn’t react in anger. They didn’t talk smack back. They didn’t take the bait. They remained silent.

This morning I’m reminded that the teacher of Ecclesiastes wisely reminds us “there is a time to speak, and a time to be silent.” I’m reminded that when brought before the kangaroo court of His accusers bent on state-sanctioned homicide, Jesus remained silent. There is a time for discussion and reasoned debate. There are times to raise our voices in protest. But there are also times like the people of Judah before the Assyrian parley when we need the wisdom to be silent and ignore the taunts of others.

God, grant me the wisdom to know when to speak, when to be silent, and the discernment to know the difference.

[Now, if you’ll excuse me I have a breakfast date with Wendy down in the dining room.] Have a great week everyone.]

Hush Up

Then Moses and the levitical priests spoke to all Israel, saying: Keep silence and hear, O Israel!
Deuteronomy 27:9 (NRSV)

We grow up being continuously hushed.

  • Be quiet. Your mom is sleeping.
  • Be quiet. Dad and I are trying to watch this.
  • I don’t want to hear another word out of you. Go to sleep.
  • Be quiet, class. Eyes up here.
  • Listen up, team!
  • Shhhhh!

The truth is that it’s difficult to hear amidst all the noise. Even Jesus said, “those who have ears to hear, listen to me.” But in order to listen we have to silence, or tune out, all the other noise around us.

I’m not sure that there has been another time in human history that is as noisy as the time we’re living in. We are deluged by noise. Noise from ever present phones that beep, buzz, and blare. Noise from televisions that are constantly on in the background. Noise from endlessly streaming playlists. Noise from planes, trains, and automobiles. The noise, at times, seems never ending.

So, how am I supposed to hear myself think?

How am I supposed to hear what my loved ones are really saying?

How am I supposed to hear God’s still, small voice in my spirit?

Today, as I switch off the satellite music channel playing in my office, I’m thinking about my need for quiet. I’m contemplating the reality of noise becoming an ever present distraction in my life. I wonder how much I miss because even when I try to listen I cannot hear myself, or God through the din.

Today, I’m consciously choosing to hush up, and listen.

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featured image: Nuno Martins via Flickr

A Gorgeous and Enjoyable Two Weeks

Wendy and I enjoyed our two weeks at the lake, though I admit that I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed as I enter back into the fray. We will have been home less than two days before we take off for a three day business trip to the Twin Cities. So much to do. So little time.

Nevertheless, we can look back at two gorgeous weeks punctuated by wonderful visits from dear friends. In all the years I’ve been going down to the Lake of the Ozarks, I can’t remember a more beautiful two week stretch in August. Usually the temps are above 100 degrees fahrenheit, the lake feels like tepid bath water, and you feel like stepping out of the house is similar to stepping out in an oven. The past two weeks the temps rarely got above the mid-eighties. Cool overnight temps created a sea of mist over the lake, and Wendy even wore a sweatshirt one night on the deck.

During the week Wendy and I did worked to keep projects moving along. The nice thing about working from the lake is that we can take a few hours off in the afternoon, get out on the water, and enjoy the sun. We enjoyed the quiet and togetherness on our week days alone.

The first weekend we enjoyed a visit by our friends, Kevin and Linda. On the second weekend it was our friend Matthew and his daughter, Olivia. As a hobbit might say, “It rained food and drink” until we were “filling up the corners.” There was sweet laughter and great conversation, warm sunshine and cool water.

It’s hard to believe that the summer is almost over. In just ten days we’ll be heading back down for Labor Day weekend and the official end of the high season. Where does the time go?

Solitude Loving Extravert

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Morning quiet at the lake (Photo credit: Tom Vander Well)

At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place.
Luke 4:42 (NIV)

When our daughters were in high school our family took the Myers-Briggs personality inventory together. We then spent a few hours with my friend, who is a marriage and family therapist, talking about the results. It was fascinating, not only to see each others results (I’m an ENFP), but also to understand our perceptions of one another. I remember that Madison was shocked to discover that I was an extrovert, and I was shocked that she would think I was an introvert.

“But every morning,” she explained, “you get up and spend time alone in quiet.” Based on that daily observation, she assumed that I was introverted. I’ve learned that extraversion and introversion are really about personal energy rather than being particularly social or shy. As an extrovert, I get energized by being around people and social situations. In fact, just the other week I shared with Wendy that being alone together at the lake for days on end had my personal energy tank on reserve. Spending a few hours at the pool around a crowd of people helped fill me up.

The truth is, my time of solitude each morning is not about recharging my personal batteries (in fact, it often causes me to miss out on much needed sleep) as much as it’s about keeping myself centered and finding balance. My entire day feels off-kilter when I miss my time of quiet to read, think, write, and have conversations of spirit with God. Sleeping in, for me, has always been accompanied with the grief of missing my time of solitude.

This morning’s chapter reminds me that Jesus liked his morning solitude, too. This morning, as I type this post in the early morning quiet of my hotel room, I am taking selfish pleasure in this trivial connection; Jesus and I have a mutual appreciation and understanding of morning solitude.

Letting Silence Do the Heavy Lifting

 

source: Sarith C via Flickr
source: Sarith C via Flickr

When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. Revelation 8:1 (NIV)

Silence is loud.

In my work as a Quality Assurance analyst (e.g. “your call may be monitored for quality assurance purposes…”) I’ve learned that a Customer Service Representative has roughly seven seconds of unexplained silence before the customer on the other end of the line begins to get nervous. We live in a world of noise and we are increasingly comfortable with the constancy of sound. So much so that silence gets uncomfortable. In fact, my friend who is a therapist has often talked to me about how silence can be an effective tool for motivating a person to reflect and respond. “I let silence to the heavy lifting,” he tells me.

It was silence that leapt off the page this morning. The first verse of today’s chapter is unique. Whenever heaven is described throughout God’s Message it’s a noisy place. God’s throne room is always described as being filled with sounds of music, prayers, praise, and thunder. Today, we read that that there was dead silence. Not just for seven seconds but for almost a half hour. There’s some seriously heavy spiritual lifting going on.

I like to start my mornings in quiet. It’s not perfectly silent, of course. Even with my hearing problems I can clearly hear traffic and all sorts of morning noises. Nevertheless, before the chaos and noise of the day begins to pollute my senses I like to have a short time of getting quiet and acknowledge God’s presence. I let the silence do the heavy lifting and unearth what I need to address or confess so that I can find a bit of spiritual alignment before things get really crazy.

Shhhhhhhh!

 

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A Guy’s Getaway

For the past four years I’ve talked about and desired to have a winter guy’s getaway to the lake. Even though there is relatively little to do on the lake, the opportunity to get out of Dodge and have a little of R&R with the boys is a good plan. This year I was finally able to pull the trigger and make it happen.

Matthew and I headed down late in the day on Thursday. The thermostat at the Playhouse is set on 40 degrees during the winter while we’re not there and I knew that it would take a while to warm up the house. In addition, there were beds that needed to be made, supplies to buy, and you never know what problems you might encounter after three months. The thermometer inside the house read 42 degrees when we arrived, but the thermostat’s LCD display was blank and wouldn’t come up. I hit the button that should kick on the furnace and the fan kicked in, but I couldn’t get the display to work.

Matthew and I headed to the grocery store to pick up our list and figured we’d see if things were warming up by the time we got back. It was still 42 degrees when we returned, so I pulled the thermostat apart, changed the batteries, tried to warm it up with a hair dryer in case the liquid crystal display was frozen, and prayed. After about 15 minutes of wrangling the display suddenly worked and we were able to get the furnace working. Even then, it was a chilly few hours waiting for the house to warm up.

Friday was spent in preparing for Paul and Chad’s arrival. We also went into Osage to get a new thermostat and caught a matinee showing of “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.” After returning to the Playhouse we threw two whole bbq rubbed chickens on the grill with some hickory smoke. By the time Paul and Chad arrived, we had a huge spread ready for them. The theme of the evening was “Who am I?” Dinner conversation around the table went until about 10:30-11:00 p.m. before we moved to the more comfortable living room. It was interesting as the conversation revolved around the men who were (or were not) mentors for us that shaped who we’ve become. It was almost 1:00 a.m. before we called it a night.

Saturday morning we had breakfast together and immediately the conversation from previous night launched into further give and take. About mid-morning we called a halt and went into a few hours of individual quiet time. I took my camera outside and walked down the shoreline, spending some time in prayer and taking a few pictures of the winter landscape. We reconnected for lunch and then sat down to watch “Captain Phillips” on DVD and ended up downstairs playing eight-ball on pool table Wendy’s grandpa made.

Dinner on Saturday evening was surf and turf. We had salmon and steak on the grill (mesquite smoke this time). The theme of conversation on Saturday was “Where am I?” and we each shared where we find ourselves in the journey and what are some of the questions, concerns, joys, and dreams with our current waypoint. Once again the conversation went into the late hours before we called it a night.

Sunday morning came early and we fixed one last big meal as we packed up. The conversation over breakfast was “Where am I going?” and we shared ways that we could pray for and encourage one another as we returned home. We switched things around for the return trip and Paul rode with me, allowing us the opportunity to connect during the drive.

Looking back, it was everything I wanted the weekend to be. Relaxing with a handful of men, eating well, having fun, watching good movies, and having great conversation as we share the journey together. I think this might be the beginning of a tradition.

Top Five Quiet Places

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Speaking of quiet, this week’s Top Five Friday are my Top Five quiet places. The places where I like to steal away:

1. My home office. I grew up having a room of my own and, as a child, I retreated there to play, imagine, create, and rest. Some days my room became the bridge of Star Trek’s Enterprise. Other days it was a courtroom, or a battlefield, or a football stadium. Now that I am grown, I still retreat to my room which is my home office. While the primary focus on the space is work, it is also the place for my quiet morning conversations with God. I still find myself playing, creating, and letting my imagination run free.

2. The Playhouse. We intentionally have not hooked up a television signal here. There is a television and DVD play for movies, but we’ve chosen to hold back the intrusion and constancy of the noise. Here at the lake the house, the deck, and the dock are places for quiet.

3. My car. I spend a fair amount of time on the road. The trip to Des Moines for work meetings is an hour each way. A trip to the Twin Cities for client meetings is roughly four hours each way. While I don’t always love the long drives, I’ll admit that I sometimes look forward to some windshield time. Sometimes it’s nice to turn off the radio, let the white noise of the road rumble on, and let my mind go.

4. The Des Moines Art Center. It’s always quiet. It’s free. There’s amazing artwork to inspire me no matter what my mood or mindset. What’s not to love?

5. Coffee shops. I don’t have a favorite, though I’m particularly fond of unique, out-of-the-way coffee shops which offer a one-of-a-kind ambiance and a slower, quiet neighborhood type of pace. There’s something I like about sitting alone in one place with my coffee and my journal, newspaper, or book and letting the rest of the world buzz in and out past me.

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Called to Quiet

IMG_1491But I have calmed and quieted myself….
Psalm 131:2 (NIV)

What a great verse for this morning as I awoke at the lake. I arrived late last night and will spend the weekend with three friends for an informal men’s retreat. Quiet is a big part of the plan for our time together, punctuated by intentional conversation and great meals. Here’s the loose itinerary:

Friday evening: “Who Am I?” Over a great dinner we will share our stories and learn about the respective paths on which God has led us. Depending on how the evening goes, a good action or war flick may be in the offering before bed.

Saturday morning: After breakfast each of us will spend some time alone in quiet and prayer. Walk down on the dock. Take a walk. Cloister yourself in your room. Whatever trips your trigger. Spend some extended time with God and let Him recharge your batteries.

Saturday afternoon/evening: “Where Am I?” The loose schedule for the afternoon and evening will include some intentional conversation about the place in life you find yourself today. What are the current challenges you face? How do you feel God working in your life at the moment? In what ways do you feel encouraged/satisfied/content? There will be plenty of time for conversation, more quiet time (if you want it), and enjoying a good movie or two.

Sunday morning: “Where am I going?” We will enjoy one last meal together as we share where we sense God leading us, and how we can pray for one another as we return to our routines. I plan to be cleaned up and take off after breakfast so that we might be home mid-day and still have some reconnect time with our families.

We all need a little calm and quiet from time to time.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 11

But the Lord is in his holy Temple;
    the Lord still rules from heaven.
He watches everyone closely,
    examining every person on earth.
Psalm 11:4 (NLT) 

It is early. I’d planned on taking this week off of my chapter-a-day posts, but this morning I woke before dawn and, after laying awake for a while, felt called to the quiet. Rarely these days am I around so much noise and activity. The Playhouse has been full of life and kinetic energy this week with five very busy young people and six weary adults trying desperately to keep up. So much fun. So much noise. So much laughter and screaming. So many tears. The surround sound of life abundant.

I’ve always found quiet in the mornings, even at home in our empty nest where things are pretty much quiet all day. “The Lord is in His holy Temple” today’s chapter tells us, and how interesting to have God’s Message remind those who follow Jesus that we ourselves are temples of God’s Spirit, who dwells in us (1 Corinthians 3:16). And so, as light slowly rises in the east I come to the quiet to center in, to seek the Lord in His holy Temple where He can be found, and to find peace at the start of my day. I come to the quiet even on days that will be filled with relative quiet, but I find this time with God especially rich on days that I know will be brimming over with life’s joyful noises.

I thought I would take the week off from my chapter-a-day posts, and yet here I am once again. I come back to the quiet. I rest on the page.