18 Aug

Another Lesson from a Quiet Creation

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(Here’s the link to last week’s post about this topic.)

To listen to creation, we have to quiet ourselves. As Larry King says, “I never learned anything while I was talking.” During my camping trip in the Catskills with the Boy Scouts, I discovered how silence allows for the life around us to emerge.

When we’re still, we can hear a quiet creation. But what does it want to tell us? What can we learn from its silent voice?

“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! 7It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, 8yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” – Proverbs 6:6-8

We pore over books about motivation, productivity, goals, and plans, but ants can reveal many of the same insights. For free! Watching them work inspires diligence and determination. It’s humbling to admit that insignificant creatures can serve as role models.

Nothing is too mundane for the Lord to use for our education.

“Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; 8or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. 9Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? 10In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” – Job 12:7-10

Quiet creation teaches us that God is in control. Life is in His hands.

Now we can dare to live without fear or worry. The poet William Wordsworth opens his magnum opus, “The Prelude,” with a paean of appreciation for the voice of creation:

OH there is a blessing in this gentle breeze,

A visitant that while it fans my cheek

Doth seem half-conscious of the joy it brings

From the green fields, and from yon azure sky.

Whate’er its mission, the soft breeze can come

To none more grateful than to me; escaped

From the vast city, where I long had pined

A discontented sojourner: now free,

Free as a bird to settle where I will.

What dwelling shall receive me? in what vale

Shall be my harbour? underneath what grove

Shall I take up my home? and what clear stream

Shall with its murmur lull me into rest?

The earth is all before me. With a heart

Joyous, nor scared at its own liberty,

I look about; and should the chosen guide

Be nothing better than a wandering cloud,

I cannot miss my way. I breathe again!

Wordsworth expresses reckless confidence in a simple cloud to mentor him. But what seems dangerous and irresponsible succeeds in the kingdom of God.

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 28And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you–you of little faith?” – Matthew 6:26-30

Jesus challenges His disciples to trust the Father completely.

Birds, flowers, clouds, ants–all these can teach us about living under God’s rule and authority. If we follow Christ, we shouldn’t be surprised if He uses silent creatures to reveal the will and heart of God.

Are we quiet?

And are we listening?

 

11 Aug

A Lesson from a Quiet Creation

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“Shut up and maybe you’ll learn something!”

How many times have you heard that command at school or home? Has it  become a daily utterance you bark to your family?

Too harsh, but there’s something to the notion of keeping silent. The expression intends to do some good, to create the right conditions for education. Quiet frees us to observe and learn. It succeeds in the classroom and, as I discovered, it also works in the great outdoors.

When I was a kid, I was part of a Boy Scout troop and each year at the start of summer vacation we’d take off to a week-long summer camp. My first trip was in the Catskills, a mountain range located in upstate New York. I had a blast being out in the woods, but two events taught me something valuable.

Early in the week, I was one of the few boys up for breakfast. Seated at a picnic table eating some toast with jelly, I looked down and saw a chipmunk nearby. I suppose he was more hungry than scared because when I spotted him, he didn’t bolt. Instead, he inched a little closer. So I dabbed some jelly on the tip of my knife and lowered it to him. Instead of backing away, he strolled up to the gift and began eating it. I didn’t utter a word so as not to frighten him; I was curious to see how long this could last. When he licked up most of the jelly, I gradually lifted up the knife, dipped it into the jelly container, and offered him a second sample. This took place a few times before the chipmunk called it quits and waddled off.

Back home, animals don’t approach people like that. Had he never seen a human being before?

A couple of days later, we conducted a 20 mile hike–10 miles up and down three mountains, a break for lunch, then 10 miles back. That morning, about 20 or 30 of us embarked after breakfast, full of food and energy.

And noise!

Everyone had something to say about the walk or life or each other. I suppose our racket kept the wildlife away because the only creature we detected was a porcupine who, when he saw us, scurried into a hole near some rocks and a cliff wall. One of the Scouts took off his t-shirt, wrapped it around the end of a stick, and poked at the poor thing, hoping to nab some quills. He managed to get a couple!

When we reached the halfway point, we dropped to the ground. Happy talk yielded to complaining, and then chowing down our meal. After a brief rest, we had to head back so we’d arrive at camp before sunset.

But the hike was taking its toll. Our morning vitality spent, we walked on willpower alone. And we quit talking. Had to save our strength!

We also broke into small groups. Some kids had trouble keeping up, so they banded together and lagged behind. I stayed with one of the groups up front, but again, we hardly spoke.

In the quiet, animals emerged.

We were walking along when one of the Scouts froze and screamed. I couldn’t see what freaked him out, but it turned out to be a copperhead snake sunning itself across the trail! We don’t have many snakes where I grew up, so this was interesting! We circled around it and pressed on.

We took a few breaks on the way back and on one of them, I noticed a mother deer and her fawn standing about 20 feet away. Curious to see how close I could get to them, I took one step, then another slow one, then another. At about 10 feet or so, she decided I’d come close enough and backed up. Then the pair disappeared into the thicket.

The deer and the snake were out in the wilderness the whole time, but we saw them only when we were quiet.

In Listening Below the Noise (135-136), Anne LeClaire quotes her husband: “‘If you can sit still,’ he said, ‘so much comes to you.’ If we can sit still. That is the trick. Animals know this. And hunters and naturalists. And artists. All recognize the importance of holding quiet, of observing.”

To learn from a quiet creation, we must first quiet ourselves. It opens possibilities of experiential learning. The path of discipleship.

But do we want wisdom from Jesus?

“A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind.” – Proverbs 18:2 (NASB)

Which do we prefer, our ideas or God’s thoughts?

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” – Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV)

Stilling ourselves before the Lord gives us the breakthroughs we long for.

“The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.” – Exodus 14:14 (NASB)

We cannot afford to neglect silence.

“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.’” – Isaiah 30:15 (NIV)

The choice is ours.