God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress (Psalm 46:1-11, New International Version).
I know I have told this story, both in written and verbal forms, several times in the past. So, it is entirely possible some of you have heard or read it before. I make no apologies for that. If you are bored with it, skip down a couple of paragraphs (lol).
I was fifteen years old and on a canoe trip with Explorer Scouts in Canada. It was a great trip. We drove up to Ely Minnesota from Texas. Once in Ely we flew (my first time to fly) on pontoon planes 110 miles into the Canadian Wilderness and we canoed back. It was a wonderful trip. I loved it. I still count it as one of the great experiences of my life.
It had been about two weeks since we flew out of Ely and it was the night before we would cross the border back into the U.S. and start our journey home. While I loved the trip and the guys on it, I was a bit tired of them. After we had set up camp for the night and I had finished my camp responsibilities for the night, I got in a canoe by myself and paddled out to the middle of the lake (Kids don’t try this. My advisors gave me a lot of grief as doing this was not without some risk). I just had to get away. When I got out to the middle of the lake I just sat there, still, watching the sunset. It was a beautiful evening. If we had been in town it might have been called a “Chamber of Commerce” evening. I remember, I could hear the noise of the camp in the distance (approximately 25 teenage boys can make a lot of noise) but I hardly noticed. All I was really aware of was the beauty of the colors of the forest and the sunset and the stillness of the water. And, there was one other thing. I am not sure how I knew, but I knew, at that moment, I was in the presence of God. I can’t remember having experienced anything like it before. But, I knew, in the beauty and the stillness, I was surrounded by God. It obviously had an impact on me. Over forty years later I still remember it like it was yesterday. I still count it as one of the great experiences of my life. I also remember the name of the lake, “Silence.” (The pic above was taken on Lake Silence).
I am by nature a noisy guy. I am also not one prone to sit “still” for very long. I want action. I want entertainment. In Psalm 46 the psalmist reminds us of the importance of that stillness. The psalmist uses the chaos of the world to remind us that God speaks to us through the silence and stillness. As I think back on my life, the times where I knew beyond question, God was there and making a difference in me, it was the times I let the world around me be quiet and still.
In October of 1978 it was another time of quiet and beauty on the water. This time I was in the Navy. Two days before, my ship, the U.S.S. Mt. Whitney had gotten underway from Dublin, Ireland. It was overcast and rainy when we left Dublin but now we were in the gulf stream and it was gorgeous. We were at radio silence and things had been pretty busy on the signal bridge. But for about an hour to an hour and a half things were at a lull. I stood up on the bridge, and for the first time in a couple of days I looked out on the ocean, I mean I REALLY looked. It was near sunset and my mind actually went back to that sunset on Lake Silence in Canada. Mostly it went back because I had never seen the ocean like this. It really looked more like a lake than the ocean. It was like a sheet of glass. Just a couple of weeks before we had been in the North Sea steaming through fifteen foot seas. Now the water was like glass (and stayed that way for almost a week). Once again it was the beauty of a sunset, the fabulous colors and the still waters. This time, however, unlike my canoe session on “Silence” five years before, when the sun dipped below the horizon I wasn’t forced to leave because of the darkness. The sunset gave way to a moonless night and the sky filled with more stars than I had ever seen before. I sat in a signalman’s light stand in awe of what I was seeing. It seemed as though I heard a voice say, “In the still of the night there is beauty too.” Was it God? I would like to think so. And it happened when I gave way to being quiet and still.
I have said God can speak in more than just the stillness and I really believe that to be true. But, I have also become keenly aware, if we really want to feel the presence of God in a powerful way. Be quiet. Be still.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Grace and Peace,
Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved