Choose the Quiet

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

…aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands…

– 1 Thessalonians 4:11b (NKJV)

In 2002, Gary Jules covered the Tears for Fears song “Mad World” for the movie Donnie Darko. While I have never seen the film, the soft piano notes at the beginning of the song are instantly recognizable. I know that a quiet, breathy male voice will soon tell his story, a story that doesn’t quite make sense. Of course, with a title like “Mad World,” it’s probably not supposed to make sense.

I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad…

Repeated throughout the song, these phrases could be my anthem. I find it funny, as in odd, how the art of reasonable conversation has been lost. I find it sad, too. I find it odd how impossible it is to turn off the noise. Sad, too. Blame social media, blame news organizations, blame whoever and whatever you’d like to blame, but there is no denying the tension that hangs in the air, thick and oppressive.

No denying that our world is, perhaps, a mad place.

And so my verse for the year.

We have to live here. No jumping on a ship bound for Mars. Nothing would be different on Mars, anyway, because we’d be there. The problem is us. We’re stuck with that fact, stuck with each other. Yet we don’t have to live as though this is all there is. We don’t have to maneuver for the best position, the greatest influence, the largest pile of stuff. We don’t have to scrabble and scrape and step on each other. There is a different way.

That way is hēsycházō.

…to keep quiet; to rest, cease from labor; to lead a quiet life, said of those who are not running hither and thither, but stay at home and mind their business; to be silent, i.e. to say nothing, hold one’s peace…

Old / New Testament Greek Lexical Dictionary

Did you know that you can rest? Did you know that it’s okay to have empty spaces on your calendar? Did you know that you don’t have to speak to or about every single issue? Did you know that it’s okay to unplug and unwind?

Did you know that quietness is a command?

God knows more and better than we ever can. How easily we forget this truth. Our minds can’t handle the 24-hours news cycle, which seems to have shrunk to 8 or less. Our hearts can’t handle the constant stress that comparison brings, an inevitability in the age of Facebook and Twitter. Our spirits can’t handle screaming and straining every moment of every day. We are finite. Fragile. Made from the dust that I am constantly working to banish from my home.

Yes, it is true that burying our heads in the sands of denial and ignorance does no good. We are commanded to be quiet, but we are also commanded to be watchful (see Matthew 24:42-44, 25:13). Knowing what is going on is necessary. Making time to engage with the issues of the day is important. This life of faith does not equal mush-brain and hiding. We have to think. We have to learn. We have to grow.

What we don’t have to do is deny our fragility.

Before God made people, He made a garden. He stepped back and looked at everything – mighty trees, dainty flowers, cascading waterfalls. He heard the snuffling of furry creatures and the fluttering of bird’s wings. He paused, took it all in and declared it good.

If God, who has no need for rest, took the time to enjoy the simple beauty of a garden, then who are we to think we can cope with incessant noise?

There is business. There is work. Bills have to be paid and food has to be on the table. Homes must be cared for and jobs must be done well.

There is also the silence of snow falling at midnight. The rise and fall of a dog’s chest as he naps. The feel of a clean pair of socks.

We need space. We need to turn off the computer and tune out the ping of smartphone notifications. For an hour or two. Just long enough to sip coffee and gaze out the front window. Just long enough to gain control over raging emotions and lashing tongues. Just long enough to keep from gossiping. Just long enough to keep from committing to too many things out of guilt or fear. Just long enough to remember that God carries the weight of the world, not us.

We need to choose the quiet.

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Blown Out

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Gentle Reader,

I have been so tired.

It’s been building for a few months.

I had not been able to figure out why.

Then, in a rush, I remembered –

Finished writing a non-fiction book about…you don’t need to know yet. Crafted a book proposal. Self-published a book of poetry. Ran a launch team. Became vegetarian. Took up (mostly) daily exercise. Had a partial hysterectomy. Led a small group. Helped run a women’s retreat. Spoke at a conference. Spent half the year blogging through Zephaniah. 

All of that on top of normal things like work and taking care of a home and being a wife, daughter, sister, friend.

No wonder.

Some people thrive on busy. I do not.

I’m taking a sabbatical.

Be back in the spring.

I’m sure this a blogging sin of some sort. No doubt I’ll see a big dip in stats. May even lose some of you, dear readers. I can’t care about that. My writing voice is roughly equivalent to the first day of strep throat, when you can hardly breathe, let alone speak. I need space and silence.

So Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and all that. May God bless you.

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Five Minute Friday: Park

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Gentle Reader,

Heavy eyes tonight.

Kate says: park.

Go.

Pull into the driveway. Put the car in park. Turn off the ignition.

A moment of silence.

Go inside. Drop lunch box, purse, keys on the table. Look out the back window, beyond the rain. See the trees, blurred like a Monet painting. Colors blend and shift and fade.

I forget, sometimes, that I’m sick. A string of good days, good weeks even, come and I push myself. Beyond what I should. Beyond what I can. Like the car, I must turn my engine off. Let myself park.

Sink into the rest that the world says must not be.

Stress lurks around every corner. Pulses on every screen. Unplug. Turn off. Watch the trees. Slip underneath blanket and sigh, knowing that tomorrow will come with all its pressing concerns, yet in this right now, content.

Stop. 

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Five Minute Friday: Break

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Gentle Reader,

The Five Minute Friday ladies offered to take up a bail money collection for me tonight.

That’s friendship right there.

Kate and all of us. We: break.

Go.

Honestly? I just want a break. From the demands. From the worries. From the illness. From cataloging DVDs. (Yes, really). From laundry and the noise of the dishwasher and the dogs barking and the planning and the grocery lists and ALL THE THINGS.

I want to go into Super Introvert Mode. Able to morph into a blanket burrito in a single roll.

There are things that make me want to poke my eyes out. (That’s a bit graphic). If some people would just step up… If others would just calm down… If my hair would do the same thing two days in a row… If I just had this, could just do that, had the opportunity for…

I look up to the mountains;
    does my strength come from mountains?
No, my strength comes from God,
    who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.

He won’t let you stumble,
    your Guardian God won’t fall asleep.
Not on your life! Israel’s
    Guardian will never doze or sleep.

God’s your Guardian,
    right at your side to protect you—
Shielding you from sunstroke,
    sheltering you from moonstroke.

God guards you from every evil,
    He guards your very life.
He guards you when you leave and when you return,
    He guards you now, He guards you always. – Psalm 121 (MSG)

I lean my head back against the couch and close my eyes as the dishwasher drones on and Chris blows his nose. (Poor guy’s been hit with a nasty cold). And I wonder: Are there breaks to be found even in the chaos? Am I looking at this all wrong, thinking that rest is something that must be scheduled, must take up a whole day (or five) on the calendar?

God protects me. Uplifts me. Guides me. Shades me from sun and from moon. Never sleeps.

He is active in my chaos, smoothing the way when best, giving me strength to make it over the lumps when best. He knows. And I think, in the middle of it all, He invites me to take little breaks. Little pauses. To breathe deeply.

To be with Him.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)