Sounds of Silence

Sunday we held our second contemplative service on Orcas Island. We describe it this way. With an emphasis on meditative readings, silence, reflective music and simple prayers, the service is designed to tap into the deep roots of a rich, historic, Christian mystical tradition that is often lost in today’s contemporary worship.

The Apostle Paul said that “we humans are God’s workmanship” and the Greek word for workmanship is actually poeme, from which we get our word poem. I love to think of us as God’s poems and so as part of the service I read Wendell Berry’s classic “How to be a poet.”


(to remind myself)


Make a place to sit down.

Sit down. Be quiet.

You must depend upon

affection, reading, knowledge,

skill—more of each

than you have—inspiration,

work, growing older, patience,

for patience joins time

to eternity. Any readers

who like your poems,

doubt their judgment.


Breathe with unconditional breath

the unconditioned air.

Shun electric wire.

Communicate slowly. Live

a three-dimensioned life;

stay away from screens.

Stay away from anything

that obscures the place it is in.

There are no unsacred places;

there are only sacred places

and desecrated places.


Accept what comes from silence.

Make the best you can of it.

Of the little words that come

out of the silence, like prayers

prayed back to the one who prays,

make a poem that does not disturb

the silence from which it came.]

Berry’s emphasis on silence always haunts me and as we entered a 10- minute stretch for silent prayers I sense God’s spirit speak to me. I was praying my little heart out for all that is on my heart, when I sensed I was being told to “shut up and listen to ME.”

So I stopped telling God what was on my heart and listened.

After long silence I sense another message. “Go to the Ohlman’s tomorrow, be silent and listen for me.”

Jim and Bev Ohlman’s property is 50 acres on the north shore of the island. It is a beautiful, peaceful place and on it there is a cabana overlooking the sea but set by a waterfall cascading towards the beach. There is a big stone fireplace and dry wood just waiting for a match.

I went there for a few hours yesterday and the silence and listening was rich. There is nothing I should share with you of what transpired, but I encountered God’s presence, a reminder of God’s availability.

Today I read my daily readings and two were perfect compliments to what happened with me over the past two days.

First affirming words from that old Christian Mystic A.W. Tozer.

“Retire from the world each day to some private spot, even if it be only the bedroom (for a while I retreated to the furnace room for want of a better place). Stay in the secret place till the surrounding noises begin to fade out of your heart and a sense of God’s presence envelops you. Deliberately tune out the unpleasant sounds and come out of your closet determined not to hear them. Listen for the inward Voice till you learn to recognize it. Stop trying to compete with others. Give yourself to God and then be what and who you are without regard to what others think. Reduce your interests to a few.… Learn to pray inwardly every moment. After a while you can do this even while you work. Practice candor, childlike honesty, humility. Pray for a single eye. Read less, but read more of what is important to your inner life. Never let your mind remain scattered for very long. Call home your roving thoughts. Gaze on Christ with the eyes of your soul. Practice spiritual concentration. ([i]Of God and Men[/i], p. 106)”

Then a haunting thought from Song of Songs (The Message Chapter 2: 2-6) about a lover who doesn’t open the door quickly enough when her lover knocks on the door. (Imagine God is the lover wanting time together and finding us to slow in opening the door).

[I was sound asleep, but in my dreams I was wide awake. Oh, listen! It’s the sound of my lover knocking, calling! “Let me in, dear companion, dearest friend, my dove, consummate lover! I’m soaked with the dampness of the night, drenched with dew, shivering and cold.”

“But I’m in my nightgown – do you expect me to get dressed? I’m bathed and in bed – do you want me to get dirty?”

But my lover wouldn’t take no for an answer, and the longer he knocked, the more excited I became.

I got up to open the door to my lover, sweetly ready to receive him, Desiring and expectant as I turned the door handle.

But when I opened the door he was gone. My loved one had tired of waiting and left. And I died inside – oh, I felt so bad! I ran out looking for him, But he was nowhere to be found. I called into the darkness – but no answer.]

God help me hear you in the sounds of silence. Let me fling open wide the door of my heart to receive you always, so you might continuously write my life’s thoughtful, rich, useful, loving poem. 




Posted in Staublog in February 12, 2013 by | 2 Comments »

2 Responses to Sounds of Silence

  1. ST021213 | Dick Staub on February 12, 2013 at 11:42 am

    […] God help me hear you in the sounds of silence. Let me fling open wide the door of my heart to receive you always, so you might continuously write my life’s thoughtful, rich, useful, loving poem.  Read More […]

  2. Christal Snelling on April 13, 2013 at 8:40 am

    The sound of silence, how God’s words are very powerful to strengthen us especially when we are weak and need help. Praying is the best way to communicate and let God help us in His way.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

25 + = 32

More from Staublog