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Sunshine Stillness

“Shhh. Close your eyes. Listen to the house creeeeeaaaaaakk.”

– My grandmother, Norene Moore

Between a morning of work in the garden and an afternoon of watching our “stories” until my mother came to pick me up, my grandmother and I would go to the sunroom for a nap. Curled up together on the little cushioned bench, we would feel the sun pouring in on us and let the rays lull us into drowsiness. As my grandfather was usually out working on the farm or in the factory, the quiet stillness crept throughout the house. My grandmother would enhance our meditation by whispering into my ear, “Shhh. Close your eyes. Listen to the house creeeeeaaaaaakk.” We’d listen to the wind blow across the roof, which not unlike the roof of our dear church, would give way to the gentlest breeze and make that creaking sound. A house so quiet you could the hear the roof creak and my granny’s soft whispers were the white noise of my childhood dreamland. In no other time during my adolescence do I recall feeling so safe, so comfortable, and so loved.

All week, I’ve been virtually attending the Festival of Homiletics. During Tuesday’s worship service Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Illinois, preached about the certainty of having God’s presence in our lives during uncertain times. Having recorded his sermon for this online platform, Rev. Dr. Moss was able to make a visual statement with his message. For the bulk of his sermon, the camera is focused on the pastor, standing in the aisle of an empty sanctuary as he preached about the chaos of the current situation. At his conclusion, the camera backs away to show that the pastor was not alone. His wife was sitting in the pew right next to him. As it is in life, the silent support has been just out of frame the whole time. When we feel alone, he says, God is there just out of frame.

Hearing this, I thought back to the naptime at Granny’s house and wonder where we have lost that stillness and the assurance of that close connection to all of God’s kin-dom. Person and nature and God all wrapped up in a warm, comforting embrace of innocence. Have we pushed God out of the frame? When we push aside the stillness for busyness and quiet for constant surround sound, are we losing that focus of God? Have we loosened the bonds of that silent support that God provides in the presence of nature, whose very existence allows our own?

At some point on the journey to adulthood, the world drives into that quiet stillness of body, mind, and soul of a sleeping child. The world is loud and busy and fast-moving. It feels like there is no time for stillness and naps are frowned upon in this establishment. After years of being encouraged to sit still and be quiet as children, enjoying quiet and still as an adult becomes countercultural and being quiet and still must mean there is something wrong with you. Once so eager to listen to the house creak, I now find myself struggling to settle comfortably into even ten minutes of quiet or stillness. It feels like the world won’t let us sit still.

When I say “world” here, I mean people; people with demands and deadlines and heavy expectations and judging eyes. The people of the world have drowned out that world I heard on my grandmother’s sunroom bench. Over the cacophony of complaints and demands, it’s hard to hear the wind that blows the roof that makes the house creak. The sight of angry people shaking their fists at each other blinds us from the sunshine and the skittering of squirrels as they run around tree trunks. As the chaos comes into focus, everything else in God’s kin-dom is pushed aside and ignored. In an urgency to fill space -physical and emotional- with things we create to remind us of God’s presence, perhaps we’re drowning out the God that is already here, shuffling our Creator just out of our frame.

As the church, though, we remember that God is present in the sounds of joyful singing and laughter, in the sights of a fully-packed sanctuary, and in the feeling of dancing in celebration. The feeling is palpable. So too is God present in the steady breath of a sleeping child, the near-invisible creeping of a bug on the forest floor, and the smell of clean air. God is here and the quiet stillness can open our hearts to every piece of God’s kin-dom, illuminating the love that flows throughout our world. Shhhhh. Close your eyes. Listen to the house creeeeeaaaaaakk.

For thought:

1. How do you feel when you try to be still? What are the daily noises that are pushing God aside for you? When was the last time you felt connected to the natural world? What can you do to strengthen your bond with more of God’s kin-dom?

For next week:

1. So much of our emotions are held in our physical body. How is your body doing these days? What are you doing to care for your emotional and physical self?

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