St Placid – Silent Notes from a Noisy Journal

The next few blog entries are taken from my journal notes of last week’s sojourn at a Benedictine monastery.

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Only the slightest whisper of a breeze caresses the ferns outside my window. Although barely 4:30 in the afternoon, the slanted, abstruse light lends a touch of whimsy to the failing day. Evening begins poking her nose around, making her presence known in a clear air, embroidered in light green leaves.

Here in this place I will spend the next three days in silence and contemplation. St Placid Priory in Lacey, Washington. My intentions are simple – complete silence, largely in preparation for a vocal procedure on Thursday morning. But, coincidentally, serendipitously, providentially, I avail myself of this calm serenity at a Benedictine place for prayer, discernment and listening.

To silence the tongue from speaking is in great measure to silence the mind from fretting, the heart from hunting, the brow from frowning, the soul from hungering. It is genuinely remarkable the amount of stress one accumulates through constant chatter. I use words in a thousand ways I never even consider until they’re removed from my agenda. Then, I see just how often words take their place among a virtual hierarchy of internal chaos. I use them to hide both from others and from myself. I use them to impress, to seek validation, to reveal my devastating charm, my stunning facility with any imaginable topic with which I am, of course, an expert. I use words to create pictures of how I want people to see me; how I choose to see myself and the world around me.

James, a New Testament writer of the letter that bears his name tells us how the tongue is a serpent and a raging fire, ever full of destruction. He suggests that it acts as a very small rudder to a very big ship. As is generally attributed to Abba Arsenius, “Oft have I been made the fool having spoken. Never have I been made a fool having remained silent.”

So, speak Lord, for your servant is listening.

St. Placid Priory.jpg
A great place for listening (food’s not bad, too!)

Jars of Clay – A Prayer

Lord, you have exalted your name above the heavens.

Your name means grace and peace and wonder to all who speak it in faith and love.  You have chosen to use weak and broken vessels to be your eyes and hands and feet in this world.  It seems, Lord, that you love to pour out your glory through

the ordinary, the fragile, the imperfect.

In this, Lord, we are honored – but humbled.

You ask us to mirror grace, love and faithfulness to the world – the very grace, love and faithfulness so eloquently portrayed in Jesus Christ.  Through him, you promise to give us all we need to live rich and holy lives in our communities, our families and in this world.

Mysterious God, so great a salvation!

We sinned, you forgave.

We turned away, you gave chase.

We rebelled, you paid for it.

We forgot, you remembered.

We are often faithless, you are ever faithful.

We complain, you are patient!

Lord, do not allow us to make excuses for ourselves, hiding as we do in the limits of our humanness.  Although we are perfectly aware of how inadequate we are to the task, help us to see ourselves as you do, as reconcilers, as peacemakers, as redeemed kingdom builders.  If we are dull, make us shine.

Lord, take these imperfect jars of clay and make them holy cups of pure grace, forged in your desires for us.

May it be so, Lord.

May it be so.