Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Astounding Loudness of Silence

"Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!" Psalm 46:10

Challenging indeed. You are never sure what my wife will come up with when she returns from a women's conference. However, after attending an event in Atlanta with some ladies from our church that featured Kay Arthur, Beth Moore and Priscilla Shirer, it was evident the depth of God's moving among those ladies and my wife. Kathy and I sat up late that Saturday evening upon her return. She was particularly challenged by the teaching of Kay Arthur. How could she not be. Kay Arthur has spent several decades teaching people to study God's word through Precept Ministries ( http://www.precept.org/ ). I was introduced to her inductive study method in the early 90's while serving as a youth pastor in Cherryville, NC. I will always be grateful to Linda Goode for it!

It is clear that Kay Arthur--a lady now in her 70's and wisened by the Word--impressed on those women the reality of our spiritual landscape. That teaching led my bride to ask if I would be willing to engage in a "noise" fast in our home. A full seven days of no television, radio, or computer. "Don't think Rodney, just answer," I said to myself. "Yes. Let's do that." Instead of feasting on the "noise," the intention was to feast on the Bible during those times.

It was fun and exciting to explain this concept to our four children that love their doses of Scooby Doo and Sesame Street and whatever it is that Emma--becoming a young lady--is interested in watching. (She wanted to watch "Pride and Prejudice" a few weeks ago!) Did they like it? Not at first. Later? Well, let's just say that Kathy and I saw the immeasurable benefit to ourselves and to our children.

As a man who is fortunate and blessed to serve as a pastor and able to engage in a great time of studying Scripture, I was amazed to find out how little of the Bible I actually read. During the week of our "Noise" fast, I spent a great deal of time reading Scripture before breakfast. I focused my reading in the minor prophets. As I was on the road, driving here and there, instead of listening to the "noise," time was available for truly reflecting and meditating on what I read during the morning and lunch times. It is truly amazing how relevant the prophet's words are for this day! It took turning off the noise in order to discover it again.

The evening time was filled with reading a biography about Martyred missionary Chet Bitterman in a book called Called to Die by Steve Estes. Bitterman served in Colombia with Wycliffe Bible translators ( http://www.wycliffe.org/ ). He was killed in 1981 by a rebel group that was demanding that Wycliffe stop all their work with the indigenous tribes in the country. The book reminded me that there is often a high price to be paid for getting the Gospel to people who are without it. I was challenged by the simple faith of an ordinary man. I was convicted of how little a sacrifice I must pay. I never went to bed feeling as if I would have been better off watching David Letterman.

Granted. It was a little disconcerting during the first day or two of our "noise" fast. How addicted we become to needing to know what the weather is going to do or checking our email. A car ride to Atlanta can seem very long in the silence. However, a different sound began to take place. It was a blessing to hear Kathy reading Scripture with the kids in the morning. She reminds them that as we open the Bible and read it, we do so attentively with "our eyes, our ears and our heart." A good thing to be remembered as you read the Word.

I can also say that I felt more in tune with the Holy Spirit. Perhaps, even more discerning and more sensitive to what was really going on around me.

We have always regularly read Scripture with our kids at night before bedtime. Yet I tell you, God met with us in a profound way as we read about the life of David. It is a holy thing when you talk over God looking at a man's heart and not his appearance (1 Samuel 16:7), sending a tormenting spirit on a rebellious king (1 Samuel 16:14) and a man after God's own heart arranging for the death of a man so he can have his wife (2 Samuel 11:14-17). Teaching and training our children in the holiness of God took on a different meaning when we shut out the "noise" of everything else.

Also, instead of desiring to fill their time with television, we heard the joyful "noise" of our kids creatively playing together in a way I am not sure they had before. By day three, not even Evan was asking if he could watch t.v.!

Christians throughout the centuries have fasted in order to come closer to God. The "noise" can rob us of what we truly desire and want. It was in the silence that I was reminded again that our true freedom is in Christ (Romans 8). I believe that when our family declared independence from the "noise" during the forth of July week of 2008, we rediscovered what simple freedom is all over again.

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