Noise and Silence

We were talking about the value of silence over at El’s before she took her Lenten break from the blogging world, and how our current world is set up to deliver noise constantly.

Some of the noise comes from what we – or our audible neighbors – consider entertainment.   Music, talk, television, movies, youtube – the sound fills whatever might be a silent moment.

Some of the noise comes from the modern world – the sound of cars is constant in my neighborhood.  Trains, sirens, foghorns, the hum of electricity, the rumble of the dryer.

Some of the noise comes from the natural world – the cackling of my neighbor’s chickens, the sound of the wind in the trees, the sound of breakers on the beach, the crashing of thunder.

I am someone who values silence.   I uncoil in the stillness of an empty house, a darkened bedroom, a winter beach.   There are parts of myself that will not come out for the examining when the world is noisy and busy and full.

We sort noises into noises that we need to pay attention to, and noises that we don’t.   I don’t need to pay attention to the sound of the rain.  I might love to, but I don’t need to.   Even though the sound of traffic on I-5 sounds very much like a roaring river, traffic noise is car noise, and car noise I need to pay attention to – well, at least I’ve trained myself to do so when I’m driving, and that extends to the hours when I am not.

Noises that start & stop take more of our attention than noises that are constant.

But yet – I find myself choosing noise more often than silence.   Why?

I find myself erecting walls of noise-of-my-choice to protect my psyche from the assault of noise-not-of-my-choice.   If there must be noise, let me choose my own input.   Let me make for myself a safe place, a barrier.  When I drive and the person next to me has their noise-machine cranked up, my own noise-machine gives me continuity.  I can pretend that though we sit 10 feet away from one another, we are truly in separate countries, totally strangers to one another in our cells of steel and glass.    Noise provides an illusion.

I choose outer noise when my inner self is discombobulated or wound up.    I’m much more likely to turn the radio on on the way home from work than on the way to work!   Somehow listening to external noise-of-choice helps me ignore the internal noise.  Similarly, I’ll change the radio station to change my line of thought if I’m stuck in a mental place that I don’t like.

Why do I keep calling the radio “noise-of-choice” and not music?   Well, because I’m not listening to it as music.   I am neither participating as a singer, nor am I fully savoring it as an appreciator of art.   It is pleasant companionship, not transformative.  I am capable of appreciating good music, but good music makes poor walls.   When I want to appreciate music (or any other kind of art), I want to have had time in silence, time to quiet myself so that I can bring my full attention to what is on offer.   My pleasant companion can come along with me as I navigate busy streets without forcing me to choose where to place my attention – on a note that breaks the heart, or a nearby driver intent on breaking the law.

That’s one of the things that CS Lewis touched on in a few of his books.   Silence, music, and the sounds of nature allow one to relax, expand, to take a breath, to see God’s handiwork and interact with it.    In our modern world, will we or nil we, we are often prevented from that interaction.

I would like to sit and listen to the birds in the tree outside.  I keep sending my attention to their song.   But we are interrupted by the sound of cars passing.  I find this wearying.   It breaks my attention.   It breaks my thoughts.  It’s hard to enter into Deep Work when I’m constantly dragged back to step one.

I could go on – and might.  But not today.  For my thoughts are fractured by the noises.  Since I cannot be at peace, I may well put on my headphones, and choose my own noise for a few minutes before I go to work and have it chosen for me.


It’s not always about you

I need to spend some time contemplating the bits of wisdom that have floated my way of late, really digest them and put them into my life.   But step one is to write them down and muse a bit so I don’t lose them.   Please feel free to chat about this stuff, it helps me think.

It’s not always about you.

Yes, circumstances in your life are very frequently used to discipline you away from entrenched sin or prepare/equip you for greater service.  It is wisdom to examine what’s going on carefully so that you can get adjusted if necessary.  Prompt obedience saves many an extra spanking.

But not EVERYTHING is about *you*.  Of course you can gain wisdom in every circumstance.  Of course you can grow closer to God every moment of your life.   But that isn’t to say that everything you’re going through right now has to do with sin in your life, a duty upon which you’re procrastinating, or a lesson you need to learn to do the next thing.

Sometimes you’re in a situation for someone else.  You’re their lesson, encouragement, burden, example.

I think about the last years of my grandfather’s life in this context.  His mind had long since departed.  He didn’t know who any of us were.  I’m not too sure he knew who he was – he certainly did not know who he was in that present moment.  So why was he still breathing?  (He was a Christian, so he could have been released to go Home).  He was here for other folks.

I think we get to know about this stuff in Heaven.  I hope we do.  God’s tapestry is beautiful.


God is in control of everything, including the timing.  You’re not missing out on anything He wants for you if you’re in His will.

I want to push forward.   You can just put a period there and leave it in any blog I ever write, ever.  That’s a character statement, not a comment on life.  Except at the moment, it’s both.

I tend to think of the things in the Next Stage as rewards, and I need to adjust my thinking to consider them Next Duties.   It’s not that these are not wanted changes, but just like the stage of life I am exiting, they are not going to be without work.   I’ve *loved* my years as a housewife and a mom.   I prayed for them, and I consider myself very deeply blessed to have enjoyed them.   A lot of tapestry weaving was involved to give me this opportunity.

But they weren’t always easy or fun or the way I thought they’d be.   Yes, there was definitely apple-pie and apron wearing.  There was also school stress, a full house, and the constant sense that I was doing it wrong somehow.

I didn’t miss out on anything because things didn’t go according to my plans.

Change is coming, but it will get here when it gets here.   When it does, God already has my ducks in a row.  I don’t have to organize them, I don’t have to do work He’s not asking me to do.  I just have to obey, one day at a time.


The place I’m in is a place full of opportunities to learn.  I have things to do for me and mine – personal goals to work on.  (I’m so grateful for personal goals, they keep me sane).

But I’m not in control of the Next Thing or the transition.  Doing my stuff faster, pushing harder, isn’t going to get me out of the bits of my life I’m not enjoying any faster.   I’m here for a reason – and that reason isn’t necessarily me.

God’s got this.


PS things that I am enjoying lately include changes in perspective on things I thought were written in stone.  That’s fun.  I like it when God changes my viewpoint to align more closely with His plans for me.

The Novel Reader’s Error

You know a few things… you know that the end will be good.

You can see how things are being put in place – just exactly so – so that SOMETHING is going to be reaped.   Stones in the river ahead of you that you’re crossing.   A step, then another… but you can’t see very far.  What lies ahead?  How far is the other side?

The temptation is to see those bits as pieces of a puzzle, and to try to figure out what is missing.  What is to be seen.   To figure out the next thing that will happen, the next step, so as to prepare oneself.

You want.  Oh, you want.  You want the things you tell everyone about, and the things that you don’t.  (The things that you tell, less so).

And you forget.

You’re not just piecing your puzzle.  In fact, you’re not just crossing your river a stone at a time.

You’re in a dance.  A dance with every other person in the universe, and you’re not the star of the show.  Or the not-star, for that matter.

You want to know, so that you can see where to put your foot next – but you’re not competent to have that information.  You would stop before you performed the grande’ jete’ – not thinking yourself able to leap so far.   Only your Creator knows your abilities and your limitations, how the wind of someone else’s passing will lift you higher or when to bow your head so that you will slip out of the way.

It’s not just that faith is a virtue, it’s that you can’t give yourself fully to the dance without it… and don’t you want to dance?

Being Out as a Christian

Are you out as a Christian?

We’re in a weird, weird place in America.   We have total freedom of religion, most of the people in our country are nominally Christian – and yet we feel uncomfortable being out as serious in our faith.

There are reasons for that.   There’s a public relations campaign going on to cast serious Christians of whatever stripe as ugly, bigoted, ignorant, or all of the above.   I mean, I get you.  Who wants to be tarred with that mess?  Who wants to have to explain the actions of someone you don’t actually agree with?   Who wants to be held accountable for some member of the family who was a total doof?  It’s not fun.

But if we hide quietly in the corners, then the only Christians that the world will know are ones who put their feet in their mouths.  (And let’s not even talk about the intentional way this is being manipulated, it gives me sadness).

If we want our neighbors to think of Christianity as good, we have to be good.  We have to be on our A game – and we have to be OUT.  We have to be representing.   We have to take a little of that flak, and be ready to explain our beliefs in a calm and rational manner.

Social media re-posts won’t do.  Memes?  No.   You have to live it.   No yelling, folks.

1 Peter 2:12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.

You have to live it, so that when your friends and neighbors hear about “those ugly Christians” they’re challenged by the fact that they know you.   And you’re not ugly.   In fact, you’re loving.   You love the brethren, you love outsiders.   Yeah, you have weird rules, but you actually live them out.   And if they ask you about those weird rules, you can explain the why.  Politely.

1 Peter 3:14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 16 and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.

Probably it’s getting to be lions time again.   Okay.  Whatever.  If so, we’ve fought and won that battle before.   How?   By standing firm.   By identifying ourselves with Jesus, and not letting anyone or anything take us away from Him.

Don’t be afraid for others to know who you are.


New Pastor, New Emphasis

It was prophetic that the last book that Pastor Mike lead us through was Joshua.   Even as we got well into the book, his Caleb and Joshua (pastors Dan and Abel) had to hold up his arms by preaching for him as his health began to fail.   Pastor Mike was a Moses.  Not someone you could believe was up to leading a flock – but he did, and brought it health and increase.

It’s been a month since he died.   A good man.  A good life.   But … the sheep need a shepherd.

And now we have Pastor Dan as our new head pastor.

And things will change.   And people will leave.  And people will come in.  And the church will change.

And that’s okay.

Our city is blessed with several excellent churches.  I don’t begrudge them a few congregants as things settle out.   When you get a new pastor, you get new priorities, new ways of doing things.  And that annoys folks.  Whatever.  As long as you’re in a Bible believing, Bible living church that pushes you to grow in the faith?  I don’t care where you go.

Pastor Ralph (before Mike) had an emphasis on Loving the Lost – we had numerous  recovery ministries when he was the pastor, and we brought in a lot of folks that “didn’t look like” they’d be your typical Christians.    You want sold out for Christ?  “She was forgiven much, so she loves much” is applicable to those folks.

Pastor Mike worked hard to equip the saints.   We were trained up right.  And the love in our church?  Seriously.  I think you can get a love high by touching the walls.  He was steeped in the love of God, and he taught us how that was done, in action.

Pastor Dan is in love with the gospel, and with evangelism.  I can feel the altar calls getting more frequent as I sit here… and HOORAY.  I was raised with regular altar calls.   And yelling.  He exhorts pretty hard.  So?  I was raised Baptist.  If you don’t yell, do you even care?

I was rooting for Pastor Dan just as hard as I was rooting for Pastor Mike back in the day.   He’s going to be an amazing pastor, and I’m so happy that we have a good man to lead us as we take territory for our Lord.

Oh, and YES.  I know how much I’m blessed with my church.   😉

Boundaries, a book review

Raise your hand if you’ve heard of this book… “Boundaries” by Henry Cloud.

Now raise your hand if you’ve not been bothered to read it, because you figured it was the standard bit of Christian self-help puff.

Yeah.  Okay, the latter was me.  And then after the third person I knew talked about how awesome it was, I figured, well… let’s have a read.

Will it change my life?  No.  Because I’m already all about boundaries.  It helped me with my ongoing project of communicating more clearly, so that’s good.  But OY.  I want to get this book in the hands of as many people as possible.

Why?  Because the lack of boundaries is a major problem for about 70% of the people I know, in one direction or the other.  I have *been* that person, and it took some nastiness to get that rooted out of my psyche.   Now I’m more “let your yes be yes and your no be no” even while I inwardly writhe because I’d really rather say “yes” all the time.

What it is:  300 pages of dissection of problem/instructions on change.  Brutally honest.

What it is not:  Fluffy and short and easy.

If you want guilt to stop working on you?  Get this book.

If you want to know why people in your life act the way they do?  Get this book.

It’s a good read.  Very Christian, but useful for non-Christians too.


Gone to Glory

As of this writing, Pastor Mike has gone to his reward.  Well deserved rest, no more pain, a body that works properly for the first time since he was 10yo… but I wanted to let you know, as some of you had offered prayers on his behalf.

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Dearest Church, It is with heavy hearts that we share with you that our Sr. Pastor Mike Reed has gone home to be with Jesus. 1 These 4:13-18 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. Please keep his wife Hannah and their daughters in your prayers. Please respect their privacy at this time.

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