Sons and Daughters of Encouragement

Jess, Tom, and Lois

Barnabas: Son of Encouragement

Acts 4:36; 9:27; 15:36-39

You have just moved into a new community or are beginning to attend a new church. You are the stranger in the midst of others who have know each other for years. Your loneliness sometimes feels like a sharp pain that slices through your midsection. At other times you might feel like a social nerd in the presence of a room overflowing with social butterflies.

Some people have such an extrovert personality that they enter into new situations and new relationships with the tenacity and zeal of a bulldog or the skill and finesse of a ballerina. Others hang in the shadows and hope for someone else to make the first move, to rescue them from their loneliness. But most of us are somewhere in between those two extremes. We too want, and even look for someone who will be our lead blocker, our advance scout, our “son or daughter of encouragement” who will help us enter into the new community smoothly.

Barnabas, whose name means “Son of Encouragement,” was never the leading protagonist in the gospel story. He was not the “Star of the Show” or the one who gained fame, notoriety and recognition, but if it had not been for him, perhaps an infamous man named Saul would never have been received by the fledgling church which he had tried fiercely to destroy.

After Saul’s Damascus Road encounter with the One he had persecuted so righteously, Barnabas came to Saul whose name became Paul, took him into his welcoming arms and introduced him to his friends, the first apostles of our Lord Jesus.
Jess, Tom and Lois were my guides into their respective congregations in Volga, SD, Endicott, WA and Everson, WA. Each took me by the hand and we drove through the cornfields of South Dakota, the wheat and barley fields of the Palouse in Southeast Washington and the country roads of Whatcom County in Northwest Washington. They showed me, as their new pastor, where people lived and introduced me to them. They shared the histories of people, church and locality. They learned my history and got to know me.

Jess was the oldest of the three and, in spite of health challenges, he weekly helped me get to know people. Tom was the busiest with many responsibilities in the community and at his work and in the church and yet he became my “Father figure” and was always present to give me a helping hand. Lois was the most intuitive and one of the best listeners I had ever known. She was willing and able to ask important, penetrating questions that gave me the freedom to share myself deeply.

The Apostle Paul spoke of his spiritual son Timothy by saying, “I have no one like him…” (Philippians 2:20). I say the same of Lois. On numerous occasions during Sunday morning worship, I watched Lois leave the pew where she was comfortably sitting and locate herself next to a new visitor. This “Daughter of Encouragement” was always vigilant and available.

But something has happened since I left my last parish (Remember this was written while in Mexico in 2008-2009). In two congregations, both in Mexico, but I believe it would be no different in the United States (as I type this in 2018, I have found it to be true also in the U.S.), I have not had the personal guide to relationships, the “personal letter of reference” that has opened up new and inviting relationships. I have often said that people are not looking for friendly churches, but rather friends. The lack of friendliness will instantly drive visitors away, but friendliness alone will not keep new people consistently connected to a church. Friendships will!

Why is it that pastors are often given the privilege of having a Barnabas, a Son or a Daughter of Encouragement, who will help introduce the new pastor to others, but lay people, new visitors are expected to find their own way through the tangled web of congregational relationships? Why is it that established churches often think (or at least act) as if worship is the only thing for which people are searching?

People long for, are often starving for mutual, encouraging relationships and one would hope that people in the church could be the oasis for those life-giving friendships.

Blessed are the Ordinary for in Them I Have Seen God Chapter Two

Frank and Betza

Rahab: Joshua 2

(This is the second chapter of a book that I started while in Mexico in 2008 and 09, but never finished.)

Frank and Betza are well known, that is, they are well known in their little puebla of Aputzio de Juarez. Of course, if you travel twenty or thirty miles on the tope (Spanish for speed bump, pronounced toe-pay. Some of the topes I am sure are designed for one purpose only: to destroy car axles, thereby giving some backyard mechanic more work.) strewn backroads of the Mexican state of Michoacan, no one will probably have ever heard of them. Traveling a little further, maybe no one has even heard of Aputzio de Juarez.

Frank and Betza are definitely ordinary folk, living in the mountains of Michoacan. They are well known locally and in Frank’s home town of Zitacuarro, but they have no fame beyond those borders. Yet, I count this simple couple as one of the most grace-filled, hospitable couples I have ever met, but before I tell you their story, let me tell you another person’s story.

The oldest occupation in the world claimed a woman named Rahab, who lived over 3,300 years ago in the lower Jordan River town of Jericho, not far from the Dead Sea. If it had only been for her profession, Rahab would only have been known by her “clients” and by the gossiping wags of dusty Jericho, but Rehab is known, not for her profession, but for her hospitality and ultimately her ancestry.

She received into her home two spies from the invading Israelite “nation.” Upon receiving them and protecting them, she, in turn, received their promise of protection when Yahweh, the God of Israel, would give the invaders the land. A prostitute who offered her home as protection for foreigners, and even enemies, became part of the long line of progeny of King David of Israel and King Solomon and then years later the Servant-King Jesus. Rahab is in the “Faith Hall of Fame, (Hebrews chapter eleven in the New Testament), for a faith-filled act of hospitality.

Now back to Frank and Betza. They are both in my Faith Hall of Fame because of their lives of grace and hospitality. Speaking very limited English, they have consistently received non-Spanish speaking folk from the North and made them feel as family members. Having so little by American standards, they gave what they had and added to it all the love of their hearts, thus filling to the brim my sense of welcome.

On one of those visits to Aputzio de Juarez and Frank and Betza’s welcoming embrace, my eldest son Andrew accompanied me and another member of the congregation of which I was a pastor in Everson, Washington. When we left our “home away from home” I knew that Andrew had been touched by the warmth and hospitality of Frank and family, but I did not realize how deeply felt was the relationship for Andres, as he is called in Spanish.

Lately Andrew has experienced a great loss in his life and he commented, “I had never experienced loss before, except once.” My mind raced through his life wondering when he had experienced loss. It was when he left Aputzio, the family of welcome and love.

“Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you.” (Romans 15:7) Jesus said, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” (Matthew 25:35) Rahab and Frank and Betza are models for me of such welcoming embrace.

Blessed are the Ordinary Chapter One

blessed are the ordinary for in them i see
god

stan jacobson

(This is the first chapter of a book that I started while in Mexico in 2008 and 09, but never finished.)

Helen Susan Taittonen Jacobson

I Samuel 1: 28 Hannah

Among the ordinary Helen reigns supreme: quiet, unassuming and even timid. There was nothing about her physical appearance or personality or worldly achievements that would mark her as noteworthy or recognizable. Her eight years of public education in Northern Minnesota definitely was not significant on a resume. Helen’s friendships were limited as she perhaps lived much of her life, after moving with husband and children to the Evergreen State of Washington, with a heart aching for her relatives in her far-away home state. Sickness and near blindness stalked her life until the day she died on an operating table with only her husband in the waiting room.

And yet I saw and experienced the living God in her daily life and in her commitment to prayer. Helen was my mother, and she was the one who taught me to pray and to come to Jesus on my knees as my Savior and Friend.

My mother and father, Nestor, were in their middle forties when I was conceived as “a mistake.” A few years before she died, she told me that after I was conceived she was ashamed and hid from the public eye. My mom felt she was too old to have a child. She must have forgotten her pedigree in the long-line of elderly women in the Scriptures who conceived in their “golden years.”

Yet something happened. God gave my mother a gift, a gift that subsequently has become significant to me, her son by “mistake.” God’s word came to her. God “spoke” to my mother in her pregnancy and she was given the assurance that this child, kicking and punching in her womb, was to be a child of God, used as a servant of God in this world.

Hannah, in some ways, is my mother’s counter-part in the Hebrew Scriptures. Hannah’s life story was different from my mother who was a second-generation child of immigrant parents from Finland, but their source of strength was the same Rock from which we are all made. Hannah, according to the writer of I Samuel was barren and the object of scorn by the second, “successful” wife of her husband Elkanah. This ordinary woman, with a heart-aching with desire to be a mother, did what women (and men also) of faith have always done: she prayed…and prayed…and prayed. Then she too received the promise of the Lord through the priest Eli. When Hannah delivered her first-born son, she presented him to the LORD with these simple words which convey great depth of faith and a mother’s heart of passionate desire for her child: “Therefore I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he lives, he is given to the LORD,” (I Samuel 1:28) and thus Samuel, the prophet, was placed into the hands of God by his loving, praying, faith-filled mother.

It is an ordinary act and yet it is a mountain-moving, faith-filled act for a mother to “lend” her child to the Lord. Mothers want to hold their darlings tight. Cuddling and comforting, nursing and caring are all the heart actions of a loving mother, but “lending…to the LORD; as long as he lives” is an extra-ordinary act of faith.

Hannah modeled such faith and so did my mother, Helen Susan Taittonen Jacobson. My earliest memories include those of kneeling beside my bed with my mother as we shared with the Lord our hearts and the needs of others.

Helen was not a theologian. Though she read her well-used Bible daily, she did not have a trained, academic understanding of “Biblical criticism” or scholarship. She never preached a sermon; she lived them. She never thought of “giving her testimony” to anyone. She lived that also. Yet, I remember returning from worship one Sunday and Mom gave her critique of the sermon, something I remember her doing only this one time. She said, “Pastor preached today but he did not use the name Jesus once!” A sermon was to be centered in Jesus for my mother, centered in the grace and love of God in Jesus Christ. Jesus was to be “lifted up” and a sermon without Jesus was no sermon at all for her.

Helen was my mother. She taught me to pray as she modeled it daily with me. She died when I was about twenty-three years old, but decades later I sat beside her gravesite on a hill over-looking the Kelso-Longview, Washington area. I do not come from a religious tradition that believes the dead pray for us, but as I sat on the grass I “realized,” I “sensed,” I felt” the timeless, efficacious prayers that my ordinary mother prayed decades before but in God’s sight are timeless and ever before his throne.

The ordinary often are the quiet people of faith and prayer, but I picture Jesus, with a smile brimming across his face and his arms wide open as Helen Susan Taittonen Jacobson and Hannah of the Hebrew Scriptures lean into his love and grace.

Broken Heart

My heart broke the other day.  My sister, brother-in-law and I were walking along a marina on Sequim Bay and a “hunter” showed us an old squaw duck, now called a Long Tailed Duck.  He had “captured” and killed the duck that day so that he could have it stuffed and put on his wall to admire his handiwork.  My heart was broken and in grief I was also very angry.

The picture above is from the internet, for in the wild I have never seen one, except for one now being stuffed.  The Long Tailed Duck spends three to four times longer under water while foraging than on top of the water.  It can dive up to 200 feet.  In 2014 it was identified as a “Common Bird in Steep Decline,” and now there is one less in the wild.

At three a.m. the other morning I continued to lament the death of my sister Old Squaw or Long Tailed Duck.  When one’s life is only centered in one’s self and one’s own desire, there is no connection with the rest of creation.  “The wild” is only present for one’s pleasure, but if God is the Maker of my life and the Maker of the life of the old squaw duck, then we are connected in this same Creator God.  I am to be the steward and caretaker of all of God’s creation, all the created order.  All of creation is my sister and my brother.

St Francis understood our connection with all of creation through our Lord God.  May we all come to love both God and all that God has made.

The Canticle of Sister Moon and Brother Sun                                                                     St Francis

“Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord, All praise is Yours, all glory, all honour and all blessings.

To you alone, Most High, do they belong, and no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.

Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour,
Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
And fair and stormy, all weather’s moods,
by which You cherish all that You have made.

Praised be You my Lord through Sister Water,
So useful, humble, precious and pure.

Praised be You my Lord through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be You my Lord through our Sister,
Mother Earth
who sustains and governs us,
producing varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.
Praise be You my Lord through those who grant pardon for love of You and bear sickness and trial.

Blessed are those who endure in peace, By You Most High, they will be crowned.

Praised be You, my Lord through Sister Death,
from whom no-one living can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will.

No second death can do them harm. Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks,
And serve Him with great humility.”

An Aging Man’s Wonderings, Ponderings

Stan’s Journal  11/28/17  Fort Worden State Park  near Point Wilson Lighthouse

It is a rainy, miserable day and I am full of joy!  Rain is pouring down, a light wind buffets the car and the sound of waves drifts through a slightly, opened window.  Hanna and I are in the car-warm, dry, safe and full of life, although Hanna is sound of sleep.  I am so thankful for friend Michelle’s question to me this past summer:  “Stan, who are you now that you do not have a congregation to be a pastor of?”

Who am I?  In my aloneness-I did not say loneliness, abut aloneness although there are times of loneliness also- that question periodically echoes in my mind and heart.  Today, here at Fort Worden State Park as I read a few pages from Backpacking With the Saints-Wilderness Hiking As Spiritual Practice by Belden Lane I am reminded that I am constantly on a spiritual journey.  I am a spiritual vagabond as I was called by my teacher and later mentor and then friend and brother Doug Anderson.  Who am I?  I am a Learner.

Slowly I am learning that God’s voice can be heard by me when I spend time in stillness and quietness.  That voice is well known to me, for it is my thoughts, but thoughts that arise from quietness, not from the frantic impulses of my mind.  There is a difference, a qualitative difference.  My mind is always racing, running down this street and then the next ally, but in stillness, the intentional quietness of body and soul and mind, other thoughts surface, unexpected insights, words, directions.

Oh, often I do not trust these thoughts.  I discard them as only the rumination of an aging man so I need the help of my spiritual director to discern what is of me and only me, and what is of me through the window of God.  So I invite my spiritual director to help me in this journey.  I need to learn how to trust myself, that is trust the God who lives inside of me and who desires to “speak” to me.

Who am I?  I am a Learner, an aging man on a spiritual journey which includes a lot of listening.

Lesson One Taught to me through Grand Daughter Hazelle

When my granddaughter Hazelle was only hours old I was talking with her and I pondered, “Hazelle, what are all the lessons that you have for me to learn through you?”  Lesson One is described below.

There is no one more dependent, more vulnerable than a new born baby, especially a baby in the neonatal unit of a hospital.  “Truly I tell you, whoever does to receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:17)  Vulnerable?  Vulnerable…it is not a word that I relish to hear, nor to experience and yet it is Lesson One.

A week or two ago I met with my spiritual director and after sharing a number of personal things with her, she asked the perennial spiritual direction question: “What is God’s invitation to you in all of this?”  After silence, thought, prayer, listening,  I said that I think God is calling me to rest in him.  My director reframed the word rest by asking, “Might God be saying, ‘Let me take care of you?'”  Being taken care of by God sounded good, but then I pictured Hazelle…dependent, vulnerable.  Is that what I want?  I am the caregiver.  I always have been the caregiver, in my marriage, in relationships, in ministry.  Caregiver, that is my role, that is my identify, but now I was being invited to be cared for.  Wow, how absolutely hard is that?!

But the drama of vulnerability inches forward.  A few days ago I had group supervision for the spiritual direction, certification program in which I am participating and the word that surfaced continually for me was the word vulnerability.  But then the word carried with it more than simply being taken care of.  In supervision, vulnerability came to mean allowing myself to feel, to be angry, to be hurt, to feel grief and loss, to not have all the answers, to not have to fix things, fix people, fix problems, fix myself.  Vulnerable came to mean being known, being know at the deep levels of my being, not simply by others but even to be known to myself.  Can I allow myself to be vulnerable?

Why would I even want to know and be known in such vulnerable ways?  A hundred years ago in my confirmation class I learned that God is omniscient, all-knowing, but am I really willing to invite Jesus into all the deep` crevices of my heart and life?  It is one thing to have a doctrine about what God does or does not know, but it is another thing to be personally, intimately known by him.  If God in Christ intimately knows me, he also invites me to know myself at those levels and to know that even in the hidden areas of my life I am still his BELOVED.  Why do I want to “know and be known in such vulnerable ways?” Because I deeply desire the love of God to fill every corner of my life.  To be open to God is to be vulnerable to God and even to myself.  To be open to God is also to be open to others, for I am not on this spiritual journey alone.

Why do I want to “know and be known?”  Because if I can know and be known at such levels and be set free to also know the deep, deep love of God, then maybe others can also come to know that love while I am with them.  Maybe God’s love calling us his Beloved will also set others free through me. Can WE be set on fire TOGETHER by God’s love?

Such love is a non-judgmental love.  It is a freeing love.  It is a love that heals and forgives.  Such love at the deepest levels of our being is the only thing that can begin, one person at a time, to make a difference in this world that desperately needs love.

Hazelle, teach me how to be truly vulnerable.

Buffeted by the Winds

It is night time and the wind is blowing.  No, not simply a gentle breeze, but strong gusts rock the trailer which is my temporary home.  Noise, shaking are all part of the night’s buffeting.  No, it is not a hurricane nor a tornado, just a lot of wind buffeting my small home.

As the night wind continues to blow, I have been thinking of so many people, both know and unknown to me, whose lives are being buffeted by the winds of sickness, loneliness, financial difficulties, emptiness, a sense of fear and uncertainty, disasters, grief and loss and the list is legion.  Such buffeting comes from life itself, from choices that we have made, circumstances beyond our control, from the deep, deep “demons” within us, from our own insecurities and insufficiencies and perhaps from the Evil One himself.  Yes, the forces are legion.  The buffeting winds of life are often immobilizing and even terrifying.  So what are we to do?

Some times we go into our “problem-solving-mode” and try to figure out some remedy for the buffeting winds.  At other times we “go to work,” go to the office, or simply fill our time with business and try not to think about anything.  Isn’t there a saying “Idle hands are the devil’s work place,” or something like that?  At other times we pray and we pray and we pray, but it seems to me that often our prayers direct our thoughts more and more upon ourselves or upon the problem.  When the buffeting winds of life happen we try to take shelter from the storms in whatever way we are able.

The ways of God are often just the opposite our inclinations, our natural, intuitive actions.  The people of Israel were up against the Red or Reed Sea on one hand and the advancing Egyptian army to their rear.  What did Moses tell the people?  “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the  LORD will accomplish…. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.” (Exodus 14: 13,14)  And the Psalmist wrote, “Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for him…. .  Be still, and know that I am God!” (Ps. 37:7; 46:10)

Now I have hear all the arguments against being still:  God has given us minds to figure things out; we just can’t do nothing;  we have resources to use that God has given us; we can’t expect God to do “everything,” and the excuses for not “being still” drive us to frenzied activity.  And my word to all those who rely upon our own efforts is “If it is working for you, keep it up.  There will be a time when all you do will not be enough, and God’s invitation to you is to “Be still, and know that I am God,” rather than you.

 

 

Karla and Life Goals

Let me briefly tell you about Karla.  Karla is my physical therapist.  During the first week of this past June I spent eight hours in a kayak class.  The class was going to be sixteen hours, but I did not make the second day.  In addition to all I learned in that first day, I also received the bargain of a “tennis elbow!”  My general practitioner gave me a cordizon shot which did absolutely no good, thankfully.  I asked to see a specialist who gave me a prescription to see a physical therapist and that is where Karla comes in, nearly four months later.

Karla has a doctorate in physical therapy plus a three year residency and she,,, is… GOOD!  Karla also is a kayaker so my goal, with her direction, is not simply to heal my tennis elbow, but to deal with all the issues which created it in the first place.  My kayak instructor showed me what I might have done wrong in holding my paddle, but the reality is that my body is a very complicated, intricately, intertwined unit.  Karla is working with all the muscles, tendons, etc that need to work together so that I can kayak, not just tomorrow, but for years to come.

With all of this I have pondered and also prayed about goals.  My general practitioner and even the sports doctor had the goal of healing my elbow.  Karla helped me see that I could have a bigger goal of being able to kayak now and in the future with my body working effectively.   I am glad that kayaking is not the only goal in my life though.

I have the goal of building a home in Sequim, but I have a bigger goal than simply building a house.  I have a goal of having a home of hospitality, contemplative prayer and service to others.  That is a bigger goal than simply having a house.  The house is the shell, the outer trappings for what I want to see happen in the house.

Now here is the challenge, where my primary, my over-arching goal supersedes all my other goals.  If the goal of building my house and even the goal of the purpose of the house were my primary goals, then I would have cataclysmic problems.  See, I want my goals to be accomplished NOW and they are NOT!  The snail pace of accomplishing my goals surrounding the building of my house might  lead to frustration, to impatience, to anger, to anxiety, to ulcers, to a heart attack.  Who knows what a snail pace of goal accomplishment might lead to

But, and this word BUT is very important, I have another goal, a primary goal which over-rides all other goals.  I have a goal that God might create in me the person that he desires, my true self in Christ, my new being and God uses EVERYTHING in my life to accomplish that major goal.  Snail pace construction might be God’s hammer and chisel to smooth out my rough edges, to create within me a person of trust and serenity.  I believe that which happens in my daily life are the building blocks, the tools in the hands of my Master Craftsman to construct in me the person he desires, and I know that this primary goal is a life-long goal, not a quick, temporary achievement.  Therefore, I am able to say “Thank you” and to surrender the moment into the Master’s hands.

 

Flexibility

Don Fladland, one of the staff members at Lutheran Bible Institute in Seattle beginning in the 1960’s, was the first person to teach me the importance of flexibility.  I was a part of Impact Teams which travelled to churches throughout the Northwest and Don taught all of us the need to be flexible when we were to go to a church because we might not know what would be in store for us.  Flexibility.

My next teachers of flexibility were all the people I met in countries abroad. While traveling abroad, especially in developing countries, one learns, or had better learn, to adjust to what is, not expect what one wants.  Flexibility.

As I have become older, my flexibility teachers have become legion, including my physical therapist who is working with all my rigid muscles so that I can once again begin kayaking in these beautiful bays around Sequim.  But perhaps the One behind all my teachers is the Spirit of God, who is the Master of flexibility and the best teacher of all.  Life seems to be one series of changes, u-turns, detours, adjustments.  All these changes demand flexibility.

On October 9, 2017 my life was somewhat scheduled, than my cell phone range at 9:30 a.m. and by 9:50 a.m. I was headed from Sequim, WA across the state to Spokane and then back again that same night.  Flexibility.  As I drove I was so full of joy that God had given me this opportunity to be there for my son Peter and daughter-in-law Paulie.  When life changes, when God calls we are to flexibly adjust and joy was the by-product for me.

My guess is that Mary’s life was somewhat planned, that is until the angel Gabriel announced to her God’s new intentions for her life.  Her response “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word,” began a journey that demanded a great deal of flexibility.  Then there was the shepherd Moses whose life took a major detour back to Egypt after God spoke to him from a burning bush.   I could continue to name scores and scores of Biblical personalities who demonstrated the virtue of flexibility.

But life changes are not always manifested by such a direct encounter with God.  Ask anyone who has experienced the sudden death of a loved one.  Perhaps the living blame God for a while, but, hopefully, ever so slowly, one begins to understand that life happens and so does death.  Flexibility or the need for flexibility is suddenly thrust upon the living.  Flexibility.

As we get older it is often harder to change, especially quickly.  When we think that we are in control of our lives, unexpected change is an unwelcome reminder that we are not as much in control as we might think.  But our Life Teacher, the Spirit of God, is always at work within us seeking to exercise our heart muscles, our mind muscles so that we will be open and available to God’s movement in us, a movement that demands heart flexibility.

 

 

THE SPEECH OF SILENCE

Catherine de Hueck Doherty begins the book Poustinia by quoting another author: “Retreats are out…deserts are in!”  She then wrote, “I haven’t noticed too many other people on the North American continent writing about deserts or going to them….It seems strange to say, but what can help modern man find the answers to his own mystery and the mystery of him in whose image he is created is silence, solitude–in a word, the desert.” (p. 18 and 20) (The word Poustinia is Russian for desert.) Silence, or metaphorically the desert, is what we all need, though we might not know it and we definitely do not want it.

I abhor the vacuum of silence, emptiness.  I immediately seek to fill the empty time with activity, even good, positive and sometimes needed activity.  Oh, there are things that I have to do…work on getting permits for building and getting estimates, etc and the things that I have to do are, in fact, God’s will for me at the given moment.  No problem with those activities.

It is the emptiness that I immediately seek to fill, the silence.  Put on the TV or music, try to problem solve the struggles of daily decisions or even world dilemmas, go to a movie, go shopping, sweep the floor.  JUST DO SOMETHING.  Don’t allow myself to get bored, to have too much time to think, to be still, to be present with God.

I am always concerned for lovers who have to fill every moment of their time together with activities, for the depth of speech for lovers is found in the speech of silence together, where true intimacy is found.  It is this speech of silence that I desire with God, for it is in the silence that the fullness of God, the infinite love and fire of God can fill my very being.  That is what I desire.   So, Lord, help me not to run from the empty times, the silent times, the vastness of the void.