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Sometimes a week will pass and I don’t post anything of significance on social media.  I may share someone else’s Tweet or a joke on Facebook, but nothing personal makes it onto social media.

It isn’t that I’m not doing anything or that nothing is going on in my life, but I try to make it a habit not to post anything negative.  Unless I can make it funny.  If I can make someone laugh at my expense, I’m all in.  So I post about the soccer announcer that I can hear loud and clear from two blocks away.  Our my attempts to drive my husband’s jeep which is an automatic but mysteriously much trickier than my stick.

This doesn’t mean that my life is all sunshine and twittering birds.  But there are enough negatives tossed into the world every day.  So some days I don’t post.  I sign off, get a cup of coffee and read or weave or brush the cat.  Small positive things can light up a day.

–SueBE

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…that’s what my college roommate used to tell me every time I spoke without thinking — which was often. As SueBE discussed in her most recent post, oftentimes — especially when it comes to the newfangled media we use daily — we speak or write without fully thinking through the ramifications. I know I do. Mea culpa. Guilty as charged. My brain is only tenuously connected to my mouth in the best of circumstances. So what do I end up doing? Opening my mouth and inserting my foot, over and over again. I can issue all the blanket apologies in the world, but that won’t cut it; not when people are hurt. So, what to do? Short of a mystery illness robbing me of my ability to speak for all of time to come (something I’ve actually wished for), I can pray for change.

Struck dumb — I mean stupid,
startlingly so — and yet the words flow,
a curious experiment gone wrong,
incongruous fluids knocked from vials,
pooling into something strange:
Will I turn into a giant? Or a fly?
Will caustic chemicals rip through
flesh or will they coalesce, landing
with a thud — a rotten egg, an elephant
in the room, all heavy feet and gray
implacability? God, lift my tongue
or snip it. The wiring is bad or else
I’ve lost the remote control. Either way,
words are imperfect. Unfixable.
Sharp and irrevocable. I need a new
language, a learned vernacular:
with as many words for love
as the Sami have for “snow.”
White. Blanketing. Hushed.
Words that rise like prayers,
like steam from a hot bath,
like the susurrous sound
of a sigh. Or silence.
Silence will do.

Is it me, or does the world seem particularly noisy right now? Arguments abound — about who’s at fault in the government shut-down, about the kids from Covington, about how long a person ought to be able to last without a paycheck (“Just get a loan,” says one out-of-touch billionaire), about whether and how quickly political events are dragging Venezuela and England and the US and Zimbabwe (and a whole host of other countries) to hell in a hand-basket. It’s getting loud out there.

We cannot, of course, ignore current events. I mean, we can, but the minute we tentatively extend our ostrich heads out of the hole we’ve planted them in, the problems will still be there. Hiding won’t make the news go away. But being quiet and centering one’s self and getting away from social media (as Ruth has wisely done) can give us the space to get our heads together and form our own opinions. So —

Crawl into the smallest place in your mind,
the darkest, the most in-dwelling, and breathe.
Get entirely quiet with yourself.
Bring a book if you are uncomfortable with silence.
Turn inward on yourself until you are wrapped
securely in a sheet of inner tranquility.
Wait.
When you are ready, release yourself into the world.
You will be different —
one look at you and mouths will still.
This is a good thing.

Listen.

What do you hear?

The thermostat outside my office just came on.  Seconds later, the heating element in the furnace power up.  The blower just powered up.

I’m a big fan of quiet. The cat and I do quiet time on the sofa.  I generally have a book.

Yesterday my sister found my standing in her kitchen at the far corner, out of sight of the dining room.  She didn’t ask.  She was coming up from the basement where she was changing out the laundry.  My brother-in-law’s family sat around the dining room table shouting at each other about conservatives, progressivism, and a cow with gigantism.

One of the teens sat at the table on her tablet, playing a game.  The other two both had their phones out.  Soon the shouting conversation progressed to millennials.  Granted, only one of them is a millennial but the obnoxious part was that the two older kids, the ones with phones, had tried to participate.  Now they were texting friends, developing their own social networks and going where they could be heard.

Silence.  It can be a powerful thing.

–SueBE

Most of us figure you’ve got to be loud to make yourself heard. And who doesn’t want to be heard? I certainly do. It took a revisiting of 1 Kings 19: 9-13 to remind me that God chooses all sorts of ways to communicate. In Elijah’s case, it wasn’t a roaring wind, an earthquake or a fire that revealed God; it was a whisper: a small, still voice.

Lord, I said, I’d like to be a burning bush,
all rush and heat, threat and beacon,
righteous flame dancing from my fingertips
as words singe the page. But no, child,
God replied.

I give you stillness. Silence to sit in,
to dwell in like a stone in clear water.
Open your lips to speak: I will come from you
like a whisper, a breeze, a suggestion. You will have
to train your ears to hear me.

So I listen. I mouth words onto paper;
perhaps they are read. But I know them
to be living, airborne, ready
to join a chorus of whispers
singing one true thing.

It has been a hectic couple of weeks.  There have been two trips out of town this summer.  Several book rewrites.  My son is working at not one but two pools, one city and one college.  None of it has been bad but when my husband suggested that we do something fun as a family on Saturday, I suggested boy time.  Translation:  Why don’t you two go do something and leave me at home by myself.  Then we found out that the boy has to take someone else’s shift at the college pool or some event has to be cancelled.

Yes, that whimper you heard was me.  Quiet time, so close.

Around here stillness is really hard to come by.  I’m goal oriented so I tend to have an end in sight.  And when any of us do sit down, along comes the husband.  “If you aren’t busy why don’t you…”

Fortunately, I like those kinds of jobs that are more or less still and messy.  The kind that can’t be interrupted easily.  I polished silver.

Silver?  Who has silver?  You have to polish it.

Indeed.  I got out a pair of gloves and the polish.  I had polished the creamer and was working on the sugar bowl when I heard footsteps.  “If you aren’t busy, can you–”

“Sure.” I held out my grey, gunky gloves.  “Help me get these off.”

“No, no.  That’s okay.”

For forty minutes, I stood at the sink.  I applied gunk.  I wiped off gunk.  I buffed.  For forty minutes, I got to do something simple with no interruptions.  Things seemed a lot less hectic.

Do you need peace?  Find something tedious that will keep your hands busy but let your  mind roam.  And really, it helps if it is just a touch messy.  Polish silver.  Repot plants.  Bake bread.  Brush the cat.  That isn’t truly messy but when someone tries to interrupt she will shoot them down with that imperious stare.

During these kinds of tasks, your mind has time to open up and listen.

–SueBE

I’ll never claim to be a champion at meditation.  My mind is far too busy and loud for that.   But I truly understand the value of silence.  It is when I stand a small chance of hearing God.

And this time of year that is essential. As much as I love Christmas, I understand the people who don’t. There are just so many demands on your time and energy.  Every thing you accomplish is done at the expense of two other things you let slide.  And someone is going to speak up and tell you that you did it wrong.

 

This year, my emotional smack came in a Christmas card served up under a patina of holiday glitter. And I’ll admit that I’m still trying to sort myself out after that one.  Why?  Because I’ve got things to get done and people to see when what I need to do is retreat and recover.

Silence and peace.  They really do come hand in hand.

We can’t do everything for everyone. But we can spend some time connecting with God – our source of Light and Life and Love.

–SueBE

 

 

As much as I’m an advocate of meditative silence, silence in the face of injustice?  Um, no.  That was something I learned to hate growing up.

Whenever someone did something my mother didn’t like, she would purse her lips and turn away.  She had been raised to believe that a lady did not stir things up.  She didn’t do anything that might make someone else uncomfortable or upset.  She simply endured.

Was this why I chose to hang with the men in our family?  Maybe so.

However it came about, I’m glad I learned a thing of two from my grandad. In his liquid Mississippi drawl, he’d set about explainin’ why something just wasn’t right.  “Well, you know what my own daddy said to me…”

I’d love to say that I’m as smooth and self-assured as Grandad.  Maybe it would help if I borrowed one of his own lines and modified it a bit. “Well, you know what Our Father has to say …”

I might just give it a try.  Because, you know, silence really is not an option.

–SueBE

 

More and more often lately, I find that I just don’t want to participate in many of the conversations going on around me.

Sometimes it’s because a group of people just want to gripe.  Yes, your kid lost the race.  Someone will.  And your mad because that particular water feature in the pool wasn’t working correctly.  It probably has something to do with the storm we just had and the repairmen.  Yep, those guys right there.

But more often than not its just because there is nothing I can add.  When someone posts something on Facebook, I’ll click “like” or “frown” but it seem ridiculous to me to be one of 45 people saying “me, too!”

Other times its just because things are too overwhelming.  A friend just lost her husband and son.  In one weekend they went from being a family of four to a family of two.  I’m all the way across the country so it isn’t like I can take her food.  Besides, the fridge is full and so is the freezer.  And someone is with her pretty much constantly.  I’m very grateful for those friends who are near at hand.

Yet, I’ve signed up to be one of the herd of friends afar who make sure that she always has a positive message to greet her online.  This is going to be tough because really there is no upside to what happened.  And fool that I am, I volunteered for tomorrow.  I’m not good at idle chatter.  That should be pretty obvious.  After all, I call it idle chatter.

Fortunately, there is a message that I can send her.  God is there for you.  So are we, your friends.  Even when we don’t have something amazing to say.  We are here.  You are not alone.

–SueBE

 

Have you ever wanted to take a permanent vow of silence? You know, the kind preceded by a pursing of the lips, a twist of the wrist and the throwing away of an invisible key? I feel that way a lot. For all of my so-called proficiency with words on paper, I’m not a good speaker. Or even a good writer, a lot of the time. Sometimes my brain and my mouth aren’t exactly in sync. And other times I feel as if there is some secret code that everyone else knows but that has been withheld from me. In other words, for social, verbal creatures, we humans sure are good at offending one another. Often, we do not even mean to. There is simply no way to gauge how our words will affect another human being.

We can guess, of course. We know that certain words are hurtful or offensive. But what about the ones that seem to operate in secret — poisonous words that we thought were as bland as unbuttered popcorn, and just as lethal? And sometimes words aren’t even necessary. People have hated other people on sight since the beginning of time. There was a girl I knew in high school who confessed that she loathed me because the first time I opened my mouth in class, I used a polysyllabic word that raised her hackles. I was “a know-it-all.” A prig. Later, we became friends, but I never lost the sense that somehow this was against her better judgment — that I’d failed in some primal way, but had been forgiven for it. Only I still don’t know how I failed.

Haters gonna hate. Isn’t that what the kids are saying these days? Or maybe they used to say it and now it’s as dated as “groovy” and “right on, man.” How would I know? Clearly, words I see as peaceful doves can land like bombs without my consent or knowledge. No one can control how they are perceived by others. Even if they try really, really hard.

So I guess what I’m saying is: be kind. Remember that the person in front of you is as fragile and hurting as you are. We’re all just shivering piles of dust, flimsy and susceptible to blowing away in the lightest of gales. No one wants to be alone. No one wants to be hated. For better or worse, we’re stuck with one another. That’s going to necessitate a heap of compassion, a mound of forgiveness, a great mountain of understanding. It is the job of every one of us to add to the pile. If we claim to be good people, moral people, it is the job of a lifetime.

In the meantime, if I offend you, I’m sorry. I wish I could take that vow of silence and mean it, but I’m afraid I’m just not capable of it. It would mean hiding my light under a bushel basket for one thing, and I’m pretty sure God doesn’t support that kind of thing.

“The rest is silence,” says Hamlet as he breathes his last. Now there’s a guy I can relate to.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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