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05
Dec

Time Out by Lorraine Montanari

Posted by on in Pastor's Blog
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How well I remember a European vacation that my husband, David and I took to Italy, around the turn of the century in 2000.  For the past 14 years, we routinely crossed the Atlantic, toured Europe in the summer, and mainly chose those countries to tour steeped in aesthetic history.

    

When we arrived in Rome, our first destination was the Vatican.   Along with hundreds of other sweaty, sticky, and sardine-packed tourists, we were corralled into the Sistine Chapel.  However, before we could even catch our breath, a guard barked at all of us with a stern command of “SILENCIO.”  In essence, we were ordered to disregard our discomfort and to realize that we were just about to enter the grandeur of a relatively small room, known around the world for its ceiling and frescos.

 

Silence is not only warranted in majestic, art-laden Italian chapels, but also woefully needed in our present society where noisy distraction is king of our lives and rules relentlessly.  For any spiritual marathon that we as believers are engaged in, whether it is running the Christian race or becoming involved in a 90-day church initiative, reflection, in unrivaled quiet, is needed particularly where other people are involved.   Sarah Young, in her devotional, Jesus Calling shares that when you are around other people, you tend to cater to their expectations-real or imagined. Your awareness of My presence grows dim.  You offer these people dry crumbs rather than the living water of my Spirit flowing through you...stay in touch with Me, even during your busiest moments.

 

In order to cultivate the desired results of increase in praying, giving, and doing, it is more than imperative that we turn down the volume and realize that contemplative silence is necessary.   Granted, our daily activities are justified: making a living, tending to our children, or running errands.  What has exacerbated the distraction level, however, is the guest of honor we have embraced into our lives.  We have been partying for decades now with technology and the gifts bestowed on humanity are indeed cause for celebration with each new reveal of a lap or hand-held gadget and toy.  Information at the touch of a key or connection with friends and family at the entry of a password, leaves us giddy and gratified, as we play almost nonstop with our toys, which have massively enhanced our lives.

 

 

But when our toys are played with to the point of numbing nonsense, king distraction has us shackled to his kingdom as the noise reverberates and grows louder wherever people gather.  Dizzying, technological development will hardly cease as we will always crave the newer, faster, and improved.  Much of western society has changed into the world of the Internet and the digitally connected but our God remains unchanged as He keeps the volume at a whisper or at a still small voice and thus deserves, now more than ever, our Utmost for His Highest.

 

Silence is hardly golden in our world drunk on intoxicating and addicting social medium outlets.  The gold of our lives, which silence can nurture, has evolved into a noisy tin-filled basal matter, soaring, for the most part, with mindless, unnecessary, and time-consuming distractions.  We still stagger around as a society, awash in a glut of knowledge and information,  but more often than not, are still barren in our souls,  or as the New Testament writer Timothy warned us: always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.

 

Bottom line: the sad reality for so many is that we are simply no match for the discomfort that silence creates since the noise of our world is far more alluring.   If, however, we are finally ready to rid ourselves of the unnecessary distractions, we will then eagerly obey, not just a guard’s, but another King’s order, who implores us to be still and know that I am [your] God. We will then be in a much better position to arrive at that truth which affirms, in part, that the quieter we become, the more we can hear from a God, who desperately wants us to know Him.

 

Just as fasting detoxifies the body, so probing into the reflective process of knowing God will cleanse our spiritual palate and further prepare us to run the race effectively and productively.  J. I. Packer, in his classic book, Knowing God, states that the process is meditation…its purpose is to clear one’s mental and spiritual vision of God and to let His truth make its full and proper impact on one’s mind and heart.  Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, magnify the whole soul of man as a devout, continued investigation of the great subject of God. 

 

To know our God then—that assuredly is the present challenge of our lives and will perhaps mandate an ongoing change and adjustment in our lifestyle to accomplish that reality.  For we are mainly accustomed to investing  countless hours in dissecting and delving into the minutia of our earthly relationships.  When we finally accept the fact that our relationship with our Lord will be the only substantive one which will survive into all of eternity, king distraction will be usurped and the King of the Ages will return to His rightful place in our hearts and schedules.    The apostle Paul encapsulates it well when he states that [he] considers everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things….and consider them rubbish.

 

To arrive at anywhere near the position that Paul had adopted, the discomforting foray into silence, solitude, and reflection must begin.   Once our attention has become so trained and undivided that we are acutely aware that we are interacting, not merely with a Facebook friend, but with the waiting, omnipresent, immutable God, whose face above all else’s we yearn to see, we will be transformed;  we will begin to take the time out to know and to experience His daily divine presence in our lives;  we will begin to know our God as we had never known Him before as the fruit to our commitment will begin to grow; we will hear those words of wisdom, which cannot be taught by human beings, but only by the Holy Spirit; we will be released from the hold of our toys; we will begin to make a life-changing impact on others by our natural desire to give, pray, and do more;  we will have been in a word----stilled.

 

Then no longer will we be content with just and only going through the motions of a weekly, Sunday-goin’-to-meetin’ routine, which unfathomably short-circuits and forfeits the richness and rewards that could be ours.  When we daily enclose ourselves in divine silence and wait before God, whose inner voice we most need to hear, discomfort will evolve into comfort and the drought of distraction will evolve into an oasis of communion.      We cannot purposely dig up the rotted and dry roots of our barren souls, by earnestly and actively pursuing a one-on-one relationship with our God, and not have it revolutionize our spirituality nor have it spring forth with much fruit and living water.    Isaiah describes it thus by stating that the fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever, or as Max Ehrmann, the American poet, wrote in his popular poem, “Desiderata,” go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence….

 

If Christ Himself took the time out from His palatial abode to connect with our earthly, sin-wearied lives, how could we do any less but give Him likewise the time of day and night.   The incarnate God also chose a most quiet setting to make His presence known--not in the stately grandeur of a Sistine Chapel, but in the squalor of a stable in a bustling, busy Bethlehem.  For only when we cease from our clamor, will we finally be capable to peer into the face of our Redeemer and in hushed reverence, will bow before our King and recognize that it was indeed a Silent Night, a Holy Night, where our knowledge of Him began and best can be restored…..Until we share again, a most blessed Christmas holiday season to you all……  

 

  • Guest
    Nathan Pereda Sunday, 12 January 2014

    Another consummate writing by the illustrious Lorraine Montanari, if I do say so myself.
    It is a pleasure to read writings of yours, as always.

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