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too quiet

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My life has been pretty quiet the past few months. Don't get me wrong, it is busy. It has been one of those terms when I am teaching, traveling, going to conferences, trying to move forward on my thesis, grading assignments, and meeting with professors and students and people in my spiritual community. But in the midst of the busyness it has felt pretty quiet. Quiet in my spirit. No fireworks. No great excitement, No awesome revelations. No getting caught up in a whirlwind and taken to heaven. No pillar of fire by night. No guiding cloud by day. No burning bush. Just the humdrum of reading and writing, lecturing, going to the gym, praying, reading the Bible, gathering with followers of Jesus, and doing the dishes. Pretty quiet inside.

At times I ask my spirit - hey, are you alive and well? I hope so, I respond. I wonder to myself - is God with me? I guess so, I say, but I can't always tell. And maybe, on a particularly quiet and busy day, I allow myself to wonder if this whole faith thing is a figment of my imagination because nothing much seems to be happening.

And then, on a quiet Monday night when four of us are sitting around a table, reading a chapter in a rather innocuous book, I feel the tiniest shudder, a movement inside me. And I know it is the Spirit of God breathing on me. I don't remember exactly what we were reading about, maybe something about not complaining, or perhaps something about Pentecost, but I feel my spirit fluttering, a subtle breeze wafting across it. It is so gentle that I almost disregard it, dismiss it as too small a thing, mostly a nothing.

And then we come to a directive in the book: Share a story about a time you experienced the Holy Spirit in a special way. And when everyone sits there mute, I speak up. I confess that my life in the Spirit has been very quiet lately, and that I might even have complained about that a bit, the mediocrity of it, the lack of excitement. But if things had not been so quiet, I never would have felt the subtle movement, the tiny breeze, the breath of the Spirit wafting over me just a moment ago. And I almost tear up at the realization that God is very close to me indeed.

Being in a quiet place allows us to catch the subtle movements of the Spirit. It encourages us to be attentive to the smallest of changes in the spiritual atmosphere. We are, in some ways, more wholly alive than when we are bracing ourselves against a whirlwind or shielding our eyes from a burning bush. In quietness, we can hear the drop of a pin. In the calm, we can feel the slightest change in the wind. In stillness, we notice the smallest movements.

Quietness cultivates attentiveness, awareness, sensitivity, stillness (not prone to agitation), contentment (not needing constant stimulation), and stability (not easily distracted or discouraged). The Spirit of God's presence is all the more lovely and beautiful and breathtaking for its restraint. May I never complain about the quiet because in it I hear and see and feel and taste and smell that God is good in ways which the whirlwind could never teach me.

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The Quiet World by Jeffrey McDaniel 1998

In an effort to get people to look
into each other's eyes more,
and also to appease the mutes,
the government has decided
to allot each person exactly one hundred
and sixty-seven words, per day.

When the phone rings, I put it to my ear
without saying hello. In the restaurant
I point at chicken noodle soup.
I am adjusting well to the new way.

Late at night, I call my long distance lover,
proudly say I only used fifty-nine today.
I saved the rest for you.

When she doesn't respond,
I know she's used up all her words,
so I slowly whisper I love you
thirty-two and a third times.
After that, we just sit on the line
and listen to each other breathe.

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