IS SILENCE MORE THAN THE ABSENCE OF WORDS?

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A friend told me how his sister talks a lot. She thinks people will judge her if there is a lull in the conversation. I don’t remember if he was serious, or joking, but the truth is that silence makes most of us feel uncomfortable.
Why do we constantly search for a shiny object to distract us? We can’t live without checking Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, or other social media apps.

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If we’re driving, we have to have some kind of noise coming out of our radio, iPod, or CD player (Does anyone even have a CD player in their car anymore?) Even while studying, we can’t stand the silence around us, so we stream music or shows to our iPad or laptops.

Do you want to make a group of people, especially in church, feel uncomfortable? All you need to do is say, “Let us be silent for a few moments.” And then watch them become restless and preoccupied with only one thought: “When will this be over?”

Do you know why?

The easy answer is silence often creates hostility, resentment, or feelings of loneliness. We experience boredom or anxiety stemming from having nothing to do.

To some silence is the absence of culture, which means every worldly distraction stops. It is a place without iPhones, iPads, laptops, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, WhatsApp, etc.

If this is so, then the deeper answer is silence forces us to face our mortality, weaknesses, and defects.

Please understand that by silence I don’t mean the absence of words. There are many introverts who are happy to take part in a gathering without having to say a word.

What I mean by silence is stopping the thoughts in our heads. Our chattering minds are our biggest noisemakers. Our greatest struggles take place there.

For example, I don’t know about you, but in my own life, I often fall into an old trap. Before I am aware of it, I find myself wondering why someone hurt me, rejected me, or didn’t pay attention to me. Or I find myself moping over someone else’s success or my loneliness. Or I often catch myself daydreaming about becoming rich, powerful, and famous. And all this takes place without me saying a word.

Thousands of years ago, God told his people to, “Be still and know that I am God!” What he was saying was something like “Hey guys, while leaving matters to me, I want you to be silent and wait for me.” To me, that silence also applies to the anxious chatter in our minds.

About 2000 years ago, a group of men and women moved to the desert to separate themselves from the world. Known as the Desert Fathers and Mothers they wanted to draw closer to God. They believed our chattering minds are the greatest barriers to becoming aware of God and being at peace.

These men and women came to realize that by silencing our thoughts they lose power over us. Over time we begin to find peace in freedom from our desires, restlessness, and anxiety.

It’s through the discipline of silencing our thoughts that we can achieve peace. It’s through silence that we fit every loose thought, emotion, and impulse into a life shaped by Christ.

It’s by controlling our thoughts that we can then achieve what God expects of us. He wants us thinking about what is true, moral, right, pure, lovely, and admirable.

But with all the noise and distractions around us, how’s silence achieved? Are you interested in learning how to reach that goal? Do you desire to quiet down your chattering mind, so you can hear the gentle voice the Creator?

Come join me for that journey. Go to: pilgrimsofcontemplation.com and drop me a note.

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This Is How WE Do Church!

Tonight I received the following email from one of my old college students from 10-12 years ago:

Hi Shah and Karen! 🙂

I just wanted to stop and say thank you.

Thank you for teaching me through opening your home to me, and thank you for living what you have been speaking about for years! Luke and I were just talking about the power of prayer and I was recalling that my eyes were opened regarding prayer when I came into your home on Thursday nights.

I have learned so much from the seeds that you both planted in my life and in my heart. When you showed me how to know, and experience the Living God, my life was forever changed; and now my children are learning about listening and obeying God’s voice in their early years. So, THANK YOU for choosing to follow Jesus and teaching me to do the same!

I always smile when I think about you guys 🙂

With love,

Karia

Karia was referring to something Karen and I have been doing at our home since 1998, a gathering of a handful of believers seeking to be Christ-like. Some are quick to say, “You mean a house-church?” No, I don’t like to call it a house-church because most house churches consist of regular church services with the hope of one day having their own buildings. I call these, “buildings wanna be house churches.” We don’t want a building.

  • It’s not an open meeting. You can only participate if you’re invited.

A while back I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen for several years. After the regular pleasantries, our conversation went something like this:

“So, where are you going to church these days?” To which I replied,

“I don’t. We have our own house meetings.” Without losing a breath he said,

“I’m gonna check it out one of these days!” To which I said,

“You’re not invited…”

You see, one of the main reasons for our gatherings is to establish a community where the believers can build relationships based on honesty, trust, and transparency, which will eventually lead to accountability. There’s no way one can build such a community with people who just want to, “check you out”. We have no desire to increase our numbers at the cost of shallow relationships. We have mega churches for that.

When I invite someone, I make sure that there are three expectations of him or her.

  • They have to attend every meeting regularly.

One can’t build a sustainable, trustworthy relationship with those whom he/she sees occasionally. Being in the business of community building, I want our meetings to consist of people who, short of an emergency, see each other every week. If this makes any invitee uncomfortable, they don’t have to accept my invitation. On the other hand, if one agrees to the terms, but doesn’t follow them, he’s asked to stop coming. I invite and un-invite people to my house.

  • They’re expected to come prepared.

The first hour of our meetings is filled with lively discussions about the chapter of a book we all are supposed to have read the week before. This is a book that the participants had all agreed upon. With new groups, I choose the book, but eventually it’s up to the group. It has never ceased to amaze me how differently each individual looks at the same paragraph of a book, and because of that, how much we can learn from each other. Finally,

  • Once they move on, they’re expected to strive to start a meeting based on the same principles.

This is a house gathering and not a cult. We have no desire to, by hooks and crooks, keep members from moving away. I know that eventually some people need to move on with their lives. Therefore, when that time comes, my hope is that they will start another meeting wherever they go built on the above principles. Again, the goal is not to have a network of small groups all over town with Shah overseeing them, but to see the same blessings people have received at our meetings being propagated everywhere.

Our meetings are built around the discipline of Lectio Divina. In Latin, it’s pronounced, lec-t-o divina, which means divine reading. It’s one of those Christian disciplines that has been with us since the Early Church. My purpose in this post is not to explain the practice of Lectio, but to show the focus of our meetings,

  • To enter into a deeper bond with God through silence and meditation on his word
  • To build godly relationships
  • To learn from one another—There’s no one-man-band show

To allow each individual to practice his/her spiritual gifts —This is the time when we recognize/discover and respect each other’s gifting.

  • To allow the Holy Spirit to guide and lead us into praying for one another

I challenge any Sunday service to offer any of the above with some measure of consistency.

Is it possible that today God-fearing, Christ-loving believers are walking away from the church because they want deeper relationships with their Creator and his created ones? They want a gathering where they’re allowed to use the gifts God has given them? That they long for a place where they aren’t afraid to be honest and transparent revealing their sins and weaknesses to those around them?