Sunday, May 23, 2010

THE GIFT OF SILENCE--by Guest Blogger Rachel Phifer

My guest today is my dear friend and writing partner, Rachel Phifer from Texas. Rachel grew up in Africa as the child of missionaries. She is one of the Lord's greatest blessings to me in my writing. She's my # 1 critique and editing help on everything I write, but I am leaning heavily on her as I write the Children's Camps International story. When that book is finished, there will be an acknowlegement tucked away at the back to thank this wonderful friend and writer.

THE GIFT OF SILENCE--by Rachel Phifer

I was sitting at my window earlier this week. I’d taken a day off from work, and sent the kids to school, so it was quiet. The only sound was the tweeting of sparrows. It was perfect. Sane. I’d even say holy. For some reason, I sense God more when it’s quiet.

Silence is one of the spiritual disciplines, and in one sense it comes to me easily. Easily because I enjoy it and feel my need for it. In another sense, it’s all but impossible. Normally when I’m home, there’s the sound of TV and music and kids’ squabbles. At work, there’s cell phones going off and voices raised in business conversations. But the biggest barrier is the voice in my head. When there’s a lot going on in my day, the internal chatter is non-stop.

In silence it is so much easier to hear God. I notice this big time when my life gets harried. I’m trying to get this done and that done. My brain fills any space with noise, in between conversations and TV. But I’ll hit a wall and I’ll begin to feel as if God has forgotten me. Or that he’s not there at all. The world gets very dark.

It’s only when there’s silence and time that I sense him filling the world. That I have the space to think about his ways and what he might be doing around me or wanting from me. After a quiet time, I open the Bible and it’s rich with poetry and wisdom and full of God’s spirit running through the words like a river. Too often in a noisy day, the Bible is just another book and another thing I have to do. I’ll get nothing from it. If I can make it happen, just spending two minutes in silence before I open the Bible makes a difference in what happens when I start reading.

It’s been in the quietest times of my life – childhood and the two years I was a stay-at-home mother - that my prayer life ran rich and constant. I felt God in the empty spaces.

“The Lord is in his holy temple; let the earth keep silent before him,” Habukkuk says.

But it’s not easy to keep silent, is it? Every once in a while, I’ll be in a worship service and a preacher will say he’s going to give us a moment of silence to pray or reflect, but in thirty seconds or so, he’s talking again. He’s afraid worship can’t continue without his voice. It’s to be expected. We Americans are afraid of silence.

When I was a student teacher, my advisor told me to wait seven seconds after I asked a question. “Count it out,” she said, “It will feel way too long, but most students can’t come up with a good answer in less time.” She was right. Seven seconds felt like an eternity. And I did get better answers by waiting. It makes me wonder what else might happen in our lives if we waited in silence, even for just a few seconds.

When I lived in Africa it wasn’t uncommon for there to be long lapses of silence in a conversation. The conversation would be picked up again, but only after the person had time to think seriously over what was being said and how to best answer. There was time to hear people out, time to hear yourself out. Would it be a stretch to say there was time to hear God out too?

As Mother Theresa said, “God cannot fill a heart that is already full.” Neither can he be heard by ears that are filled with other sounds and minds full of other voices. If you want to hear God’s voice, leave some silence in the air. He might just speak into it.

Christine here again: Thank you Rachel for such beautiful meditation and writing.

I hope you'll read more of Rachel's clear and gifted prose on her blogsite by clicking here on Rachel Phifer. Below is a picture of my friend, Rachel.

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