April 7

“Their strength is to sit still.” Isaiah 30:7

In order really to know God, inward stillness is absolutely necessary. I remember when I first learned this. A time of great emergency had risen in my life, when every part of my being seemed to throb with anxiety, and when the necessity for immediate and vigorous action seemed overpowering; and yet circumstances were such that I could do nothing, and the person who could, would not stir.

For a little while it seemed as if I must fly to pieces with the inward turmoil, when suddenly the still small voice whispered in the depths of my soul, “Be still, and know that I am God.” The word was with power, and I hearkened. I composed my body to perfect stillness, and I constrained my troubled spirit into quietness, and looked up and waited; and then I did “know” that it was God, God even in the very emergency and in my helplessness to meet it; and I rested in Him. It was an experience that I would not have missed for worlds; and I may add also, that out of this stillness seemed to arise a power to deal with the emergency, that very soon brought it to a successful issue. I learned then effectually that my “strength was to sit still.” (Streams in the Desert)

Stillness is a gift that requires a goodly measure of effort on my part. I find that that sacred space fuels the right frame of mind to be still and remember Who is God. My own sanctuary is a small wooden structure with metal roof and stained glass windows that I designed for house plants but find well suited for meditating and writing. I built the greenhouse for my wife, but sit here often, accompanied by a small assortment of Kimberly Queen ferns, a potato vine that insists on conquering its surroundings, a Bird’s Nest fern, a grapevine that yielded grapes last month and then needed an escape from the summer sun, and an understated begonia. It is an eclectic mix. Tonight I am able to see across the way to our neighbor’s fire pit. We have had enough rain this spring to lift the burn ban, so “Sparky” (my wife’s nickname for our neighbor) is making the most of his window of incendiary freedom. Life on a country lane is simple, especially after dark. Nights are a gift from God.

As a child the dark terrified me. I remember crouching in bed, pulling covers overhead like a cotton force field, and quoting mantra-like the first Bible verse I ever committed to memory—“What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee” (Psalm 56:3). The night no longer frightens me; in fact, I embrace it as solace for body and spirit. Insects exclaim the glory of their Creator while I do the same in mind and heart. Distant traffic sounds encourage me by virtue of the fact they remain in the distance. This space to be and the close of a day to consider what it means to be, are divine gifts, ones I guard jealously. When schedules become hectic and demands on my time exceed my ability to fulfill them, I experience the full grief cycle, albeit in a shortened span: denial, anger, acceptance. But tonight there is no grief, no anger, and nothing to accept apart from a peace so strong that it must be a sweet shadow of the greater peace that awaits beyond time and space. Author Barbara Brown Taylor encourages just such a transformed view of the night in “Learning to Walk in the Dark.”  Instead of avoiding the dark’s mystery or opposing it as some nocturnal enemy, try seeing it as a gift. Pause, remember, evaluate, meditate, dream, pray, and most of all, enjoy.

“I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.” Isaiah 45:3 KJV

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