The Path of Silence in the Midst of Noise: Reflection on Lent 2017

When the word silence entered my conscious thought late last year as my One Word for 2017, I did not know nor even dream about where that word would lead me.

Correction, I had no idea where God would take me with this word.

But during the season of Lent, and really in the month before Lent began, God was already at work in requiring me

to be silent,

to live in silence in the midst of so much noise.

A hard, but necessary, even God directed conversation with my wife started the journey that took me into Lent and into the noisy wilderness

which in part, for me, required a going silent on social media.

silent as in, “no posting by me on any platform” (which I did except for a kuddos tweet and quirky photo on IG)

and a wrestling, as Jesus wrestled (well, like Jesus wrestled?), with anxiety, fear, resentment and a few other well-known (to me at least) travelers in my soul

Yet, the silence I encountered was golden

I would not, will not, trade for anything,  the insight, the peace, the clarity, even the healing pain, that I have experienced during this time.

I have begun to see with new eyes, hear with new ears, feel with a new heart, realize with a new soul…

And I cannot, WILL NOT, go back…

My One Word for 2017: Silence

For the past four years, I have participated in a focusing on one word for an entire year.

In 2013 that word was Empower

In 2014 it was Listen

In 2015 it was Fast

And last year, 2016 it was Simplify

This year’s word is SILENCE…

 

Silence?

Does this mean Jim that you are going to stop talking for an entire year?

Noooooo!

What it does mean is that I am going to be incorporating periods of silence each day and on a weekly basis for the purpose of listening to God…

It also means that I will be taking at least one 48 hour retreat where I will unplug from my phone, computer, social media, etc and spend time alone and with others.

As with the other words I have attempted to incorporate into my life during the past four years, this one is not for me to disengage from life but to re-engage with a clarity that I think is important and necessary.

Maybe there is a word that you have been thinking about this past year, I encourage you to consider focusing on that word.

Some helpful websites are:

http://oneword365.com/

Another one is

http://myoneword.org/

If you have questions about this, please post one in the space below and I will do my best to answer them!

Happy New Year!

 

 

A Review of My One Word for 2016: Simplify

As 2016 comes to an end this is what I have learned and experienced as I have focused on my One Word for this year: Simplify

… to simplify is a difficult thing- the pace and demands of life make it easy to add more complexity and that makes it harder to experience the peace of God in daily living and a quality of life with family, friends, and self.

… to simplify is scary- to simplify, to let go of, creates the very real feeling of being left behind as you let go of over commitments that crowd your calendar and your soul; of being left out of the latest news as you over post on social media or fail to stay up on what is going on; of being considered irrelevant as you stop being involved in so much

…to simplify is strange- the peace which comes as you begin to really simplify, by saying ‘no,’ by letting go and letting others, by slowing down and listening and watching for what is most important- faith, hope, and love- is at first very unsettling but then a joy and a necessity

…to simplify is to focus on what is important and let go of what is not, it is to center, to listen, to hear, God, others in a way that has never been experienced.

This is the fourth year I have done a One Word focus, it has been the most enriching experience so far.

My One Word: The Solitude and Silence of Simplify

 

This journey, which it has truly turned out to be, into simplify, has been unexpected in one way and expected in another.

The unexpected part has to do with encountering and then experiencing solitude and silence. Two practices that I thought simplify would NOT involve.

The expected part has to do with the beginning of the empty nest process that took place last month as my wife and I dropped off our youngest son at university.

I had the feeling, an inner sense, earlier this year that life would simplify for a while once the fall came and that would open up a whole host of possibilities for new things, and … the need to revisit and re-prioritize some current things by letting go of things that were no longer needed nor required.

So what did I need to do to discern what things needed to go, what things needed to stay, and what things in my life needed to be added?

This is when/where the unexpected showed up…

… be silent

…be still

…listen

The intersection of expected and unexpected created an awareness in me that I need to simply spend time alone with God in silence.  I needed to ‘go simple’ to simplify…

Seeking a guide in this journey to spend more time in silence and solitude, I found Ruth Haley Barton via a link in social media… which led me to her books…

3030221

Her first book I read was Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership. It was not just informational but also inspirational and encouraging.  I have long read and heard about the need for taking care of soul as a leader.  The time was now present as life had simplified to do just that… start taking better care of myself

This book became a good long drink of cold water for my soul…

“What would it look like for me to lead more consistently from my soul-the place of my own encounter with God-rather than leading primarily from my head, my unbridled activism, or my performance-oriented drivenness? What would it be like to find God in the context of my leadership rather that miss God in the context of my leadership?’

This is where I have been… and this is where I cannot stay.

Simplify…

delegate…

give away…

pray…

listen…

empower…

A process, a journey to be sure…

 

83000The second book Invitation to Solitude and Silence (which I am still reading as of this post) began to peel back layers of life and allowed me to start sitting quietly at a consistent time during the day  listen for and to God. It is not an easy thing to do.

But as I read this book the simplicity of sitting and being silent before the Lord has become something that I want to do.

 

We are starved for quiet, to hear the sound of sheer silence that is the presence of God himself.

Yes… that is me…

So my journey continues into this time of life called ‘the empty nest.’ I am on the front end of it.  How am I to handle it?

Simply…

Silently…

Expectantly…

listening for the Lord out of the abundance of silence and not the abundance of noise…

 

My One Word: The Disconcertedness of Simplify

It has been interesting that this word, simplify

has become disconcerting,

it has upset my soul

But that’s a good thing, right?

I am learning that to simplify is to

…leave the highway of busyness and journey on the road of necessary clarity

… requiring me to turn off the societal noises that make me want to do all sorts of

grandstanding that will attract attention with me shouting “Hear me!”

and force me to take off the “headphones” that pipe in the noise and start to listen

first to the silence, that is a needed, much needed, corrective to the noise…

… and then to listen to and for The Voice in the wilderness in which I find myself (and its seems like a wilderness off the big noisy highway) which says to me…

What are you doing here?

and so somewhat like Elijah I must acknowledge the intensity of my passionate pursuit and commitments which causes life to become complex as I try to keep all the balls in the air but instead

simply listen for that still, small, hope-filled voice…

as I hear all the hot air leaving my soul,  my ego

and I seek to humbly, very humbly became

simple

It feels like I am being left behind…

that is disconcerting

but oh how blessed it is!

 

My One Word: The Surprising Serendipitousness of Simplify

My One Word for this year – simplify – has taken me by surprise.

It has worked its way into my life, my thinking, my decision making with surprising speed.

Maybe it had been crouching at the door to my soul waiting for an entrance for quite some time. I don’t know.

Even as I write of this Surprising Serendipitousness  I cannot fully express what I have experienced so far.

But I can speak of a slowing down and being quiet…

of knowing when to say ‘stop and rest,  Jim you can do that later…’

of knowing enough is enough

of making more margin

of get acquainted with solitude

of having a greater clarity about direction and discerning God’s will

So as I continue this journey with simplify now almost five months in, I am grateful for the increasingly focused clarity that I am being granted and given…

Oh Dear Lord
Three things I pray
To see thee more clearly
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly
Day by day

 

Simplify – on the doorstep of Lent

Today I wrote my first journal entry about my One Word for 2016

simplify

 

 

 

2.9.16

 

Today is Fat Tuesday and tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. We are six weeks into 2016.

 

Simplify is the word for this year.

 

Simplify

 

Let Go

 

Let God

 

Life at 58 is different than 48, 38, 28, and 18….

 

maybe 20 to 25 years left?

 

I don’t know

 

But to live well I know that I must simplify my diet. Eat better. Eat wiser

 

Here comes Lent – simplify – stop eating this and that… to focus on what is best

 

Do I need all of the stuff I have been hanging onto for 30 or so years?

 

Books I will never read again…

 

Mugs I will never drink from again…

 

Get rid of them, sell them to someone else for them to enjoy on their journey as you have had Jim, on yours.

 

I cannot help but link simplify to focus and focus to simplify

 

on what?

 

for what?

 

maybe  Stephen Schwartz (and Richard the Bishop) says it best:

 

“To see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly day by day…”