“Be still…”  (KJV, NIV, NLT, ESV)

“Cease striving…”  (NASB)

“Calm down…”  (CEV)

“Step out of the traffic…”  (The Message)

“… and know that I am God”

(Psalms 46:10)

Tuesday, September 18

I am learning that silence is not “soundlessness.” 

On Tuesday, I sat in the garden in the cool morning air.  The ground, trees, and shrubs were heavy with moisture from the rain that fell during the night.  I heard a car or truck traveling down the nearby highway, a sound that was greatly amplified by the tires on the wet surface of the road.  My first reaction was one of being slightly annoyed by what I considered to be an intrusion upon my solitude.  But, my own silence was beginning to foster a new level of attentiveness that allowed me to reinterpret this “annoyance.”  I began to ponder some questions?  How many people were in the car?  Where were they going?  To work?  Taking children to school?  Traveling to the funeral of a family member or friend?  Visiting a relative in the hospital?  A sound that I was tempted to write off as an annoyance actually represented lives… souls… people created in the image of God… people loved by God… people for whom Jesus Christ died.

My “morning lesson” was multiplied exponentially a short time later when I heard a passenger jet passing overhead, hidden from sight far above the gray clouds.  This plane was likely filled with dozens of people, each with a story, each with inherent value as a precious creation of God.

In the quietness of silence, we clearly hear things that otherwise would be indistinguishable within the normal background noise of our lives.  In the slowness of solitude, we see things that otherwise would pass unnoticed beyond the range of our fleeting glances and frenetic movements.  As I walked the garden path that morning, I heard the beautiful melodies of songbirds, along with the intermittent cacophony of passing crows.  I saw tiny wildflowers, some of them brilliant blue in color, nestled among the wet grass.  I began to recite the words of Jesus, “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not worth much more than they?  And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?  And why are you worried about clothing?  Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you?  You of little faith!”

On Tuesday afternoon, the sun came out, and I sat in the garden and read for a couple of hours.  As I read, I noticed a tiny black bug crawling across my open Bible.  It was about 1/3 to 1/4 the size of an ant.  The brightness of page’s white space in the sunlight contrasted sharply with the dark bug, allowing me to see it very clearly with my reading glasses.  I have no idea what it was.  Soon afterward, I noticed an even smaller red bug, barely visible on the leg of my jeans.  As I was straining to identify any distinguishing features, it flew away on wings too small for me to even see.  I am certain that I had never seen this type of bug before – one of God’s marvelous creatures, probably among hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of species of tiny, living things.  My lack of any knowledge about it or prior experience with it did not negate its existence or reality.  What was its “function” in the scheme of things?  I haven’t the slightest idea, other than the fact that it is undoubtedly both a feeder and food – a miniscule, vital link in the chain of life – part of the order, balance, and wonder of God’s creation.

Then, it was hummingbirds that kept distracting me from my reading; or was my reading the distraction from what God intended to be the main attraction?  The divine engineering of hummingbirds is incredible!  I had as many as four in view at one time as they took turns at the feeder.  One of them would drink the red nectar and then fly away to the same branch on a massive fir about 30 feet away, doing this repeatedly and landing at almost the same exact spot on the tree.  Was this a routine?  A rut?  Was there a reason?  Again, I didn’t know.

(A brief aside about the hummingbird feeder for the benefit of my relatives in Tennessee and Indiana who know their horses and mules…  The feeder was suspended from a decorative piece of iron, crooked at the top, and crowned with the image of a horse.  It took me a long time, but I finally noticed that, despite being right in the heart of Thoroughbred country, it was a Tennessee Walking Horse that adorned the feeder frame.  Just a bit of “irony” (pun intended) and further evidence that all were welcome at this Kentucky Abbey!)

Occasionally, a hummingbird would fly close to the feeder while another was imbibing and would summarily be chased away.  I wasn’t sure if this was playfulness or micro-agression at work, but the two would dip, dive, and bank in an aerial ballet and then rocket out of sight.  Though normally silent in flight (at least to my ears), they emitted a distinct hum (thus their name, I suppose) as they shifted into warp drive on these high-speed chases.  Ornithologists and bird enthusiasts can correct me on this if I’m mistaken, but on two occasions I heard what amounted to a “chirpy” sound from them during their pas de deux.  It was brief, but definitely audible.

Speaking of chirping, a mockingbird was providing the backing track to the entire hummingbird show.  The songs of the other birds earlier in the day had been mere warm-up acts in this outdoor music festival.  The mockingbird, sitting in a nearby cedar, was the headliner and the showstopper!  It went through every tune in its repertoire, never wavering or waning in strength and clarity of voice.

All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.

The birds their carols raise; the morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise.”

This is my Father’s world!