Today I was driving and couldn't figure out what I want to listen to. Typically I'll pop on a good podcast like On Being with Krista Tippet or NPR's Ted Radio Hour. Sometimes I'll venture over to Pandora and listen to some music. This morning I found myself not knowing what I want to listen to. It felt like my head was already full.
It got me thinking about the walk I took last night. I had a similar experience. Walking in the cool air without headphones I noticed the sound of my breath, the sound of the wind, the sound of the trees, the sound of my walking. It seemed odd for a semi-urban neighborhood to sound so still.
As I walked without headphones all the things that have been churning and spinning and processing in my head all day connected like links in a chain and spilled out of my steps. It felt cleansing.
So as I was driving today, and my thoughts began to clear and I began to feel better, I started to realize that this quiet is what facilitated that release for me. And it made me realize how important quiet is for my internal health, and yet how hard it is to make room for seeming nothingness. It feels good to have the busyness of sound around me. It at times gives me a sense of familiarity, which is comforting when when its not good for me.
I used to think silence meant hearing nothing so I could think nothing so that my mind would be completely clear. But I wonder now if quiet is more about opening a valve inside myself, and giving myself room to notice what is already taking place inside of me. And even more, allowing Jesus who's already loving me there to meet me in the quiet, in the connecting of all the swirling thoughts and emotions. Ultimately, even as scary as it can be to enter, in the quiet I am not alone.
How do you feel about quiet?
Share with me in the comments.
Church for me is a tender subject, so my reflection is perhaps more personal today. However, I will still try to follow the advice of Nadia Bolz Weber and speak from my scars and not my wounds. For me, church has represented a lifetime of hurt-filled and disappointing experiences, so while parts are still healing, others healed long ago. It is from this place I write today because I still love the church. And in the adapted words of Rachel Held Evans, I want to help keep the church weird in all its best, Jesus-following ways.
I've struggled to find a church where I feel at home, where I feel I fit, and honestly where I feel like people see me. Many times when visiting a new place I feel like the awkward 8th grader with braces and the wrong clothes.
When I saw the photo below from Arts Pastor blogger and author W. David O. Taylor I was reminded of something I knew deep down but hadn't yet formed into a clear thought: when there is aesthetic beauty inside a church it conveys a sense of awe, wonder, and reveals God's bigness to me. I suddenly forget if I'm wearing the right clothes or saying the right words on time. I feel settled. I feel calm. I sense God in, around, and through me.
I long for those experiences. And yet it wasn't that long ago I was able to name what had been missing for me in my church experiences for so many years: beauty.
Each time I see or step into a cathedral or stained glass chapel I find myself unconsciously responding to the reality of God, his love through Jesus, and that we're all in this life and world together. It (quite literally at times) draws my eyes up and drains the anxiety from my shoulders. God uses beauty to hold me in his truth.
"God uses beauty to hold me in his truth."
Not all churches can meet in frescoe-d spaces, but we can be mindful of the power of aesthetics in our gathering spaces. We can invest our attention, time, and resources into fertilizing the artists and opportunities around us so beauty can grow in our midst. Perhaps it's one of the best things we can do when our ears are tired of hearing, and our messages and advertising sound increasingly so similar.
Beauty is not a luxury - it is a life sustaining necessity. I forget that truth so often until I'm again caught up in its firm hold. Let us imitate our Creator and make our church, our communities, and our world beautiful again.
Christine Lee Smith
Founder of Epiphany:Visio
After a 3-day delay in Austin, Texas earlier this week due to 15" of rain in 7-hours, and some fried flight tower electronics, I (Christine) got home to get sick. All the stress, frustration, tension, and processing I did to hold it together spent me. My body quite literally gave up and said, "No more."
I hate landing on my back like that. It makes me feel weak and helpless, because it makes me weak and helpless. And I love my strength -- it's a great gift, and also a great defense mechanism to avoid tending to my own needs. I believe, in the moment, I have no needs. Which is utterly false, but I need to believe it when I'm in that mental state. Occasionally Jesus lets me get away with it, for a little while. This time my body tapped out, and I surrendered. It was painful.
And then as I started to feel better bit by bit I found the temptation to jump back in (I can be really stubborn), but this thought stopped me in my tracks: I may be healed, but there is the after affect of recovery. The siege on my nasal cavity has ended, but now is the phase after the party once all the guests are gone: the clean up. I'm still not operating at 100%, my body still needs rest.
I'm now being invited to recover, now that the healing is done. I'm being invited into a physical therapy of sorts -- both in my body, and in my soul. And it's odd to me, but so true, how my body leads me to see what Jesus may be inviting me to internally: recovery.
It's an oddly beautiful little miracle: Jesus used my weakness to show me his kindness. He's not the one demanding me to get back on the path. He's the one inviting me to linger a little while longer in stillness and rest.
Invitation to Reflect
Take a moment and settle into your seat. Breathe deeply.
Tonight we had our first Sacred Space: An Evening of Prayer and Quietness Together. It was simply that: a time filled with journaling, praying, sharing. It was utterly refreshing and filled with calm settling.
Crayons, markers, our photo cards, and a projected image filled the first part of our time together. Then we prayed through the Thursday Compline in the Celtic Daily Prayer book. At the end we shared a piece of where Jesus led us in our time.
And when I got home, to a surprise delivery of an order I'd forgotten was arriving today (All Desires Known by Janet Morley), I started flipping no through the book. I discovered a poem called Sacred Space. Seemed fitting. And I was surprised by how drawn in I was by this poem as it captured my heart for starting this event:
whose presence is known
in the structures we build,
and also in their collapse;
establish in us a community of hope,
not to contain your mystery,
but to be led beyond security
into your sacred space,
through Jesus Christ, Amen.
Like a kid who knows they're going to Disneyland, I can't wait till next weekend. It's the second Art & Prayer workshop. The first one in October was so much fun, powerful, and connecting we decided to do it all over again with a new group (and few returning) of amazing people.
One of my favorite parts is not that we learn a lot of amazing things about Jesus, how he connects with us in prayer, and how beauty is a very helpful tool in helping us go deeper in our faith journeys (and we do all that) but we get to experience together the power of praying in this new way. We meet together as we meet with Jesus. It's a communal experience I love to be a part of and witness at the same time.
Sat. Feburary 21