Simple Enough

Read 2 Kings 5:1-19

One of my employment opportunities in the past was in insurance sales. I was not very successful in this profession but I did acquire some beneficial training and skills. Early in my training, a colleague passed on some advice to me which I first attributed to him but later learned that the United States Navy noted it in the 1960s. My colleague shared an acronym to follow… K.I.S.S., keep it simple stupid. The principle points to how often we want to make something more grandiose or extended than it really needs to be. While I do not like the last word choice in the acronym, I have found the principle very applicable in many situations.

The reading for today is a Biblical story which applies the KISS acronym. We are introduced to a beloved Aramian commander who suffered from a skin disorder which was given the common name, leprosy. Naaman, the commander, learned of a Samarian prophet who may be able to cure his skin disorder. The king of Aram sends him to Samaria with his blessing and a request to the king of Israel to be sure Naaman is cured. When Naaman comes to the prophet  Elisha, he receives a message from Elisha to go and wash in the Jordan seven times (or completely). Naaman is angered by this because Elisha did not even come to see him. The commander expected some great action to take place for him to be healed. His servants convince him to at least give it a try and when he does, he is healed. Naaman then wants to reward Elisha but Elisha refuses to accept anything so Naaman vows to only worship God from now on. Naaman expected something elaborate but Elisha knew it only needed to be simple.

For us, it is easy to relate with Naaman. We often view events in life as the old adage which says… Go big or go home! In some ways it seems logical to us that the Creator of the universe and all that is in it would choose to use a powerful and noticeable action to get things accomplished. However, we quickly discover that God acts in quiet and simple ways much more often than in loud and attention-getting ways. Our God does not need a flashy show to establish a presence and affect change. God’s power and authority is best experienced in the quiet surprises and subtle changes. Seems like a pretty good example for us to follow.

The Wait

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Psalm 130:5-6 (NIV)

Waiting can be a challenging aspect of life.  Children wait for birthday celebrations, Christmas, Easter and Halloween when they receive gifts and special treats.  When a woman is pregnant, there is approximately eight months of waiting (usually the first month the person is unaware). Family, friends, and her partner eagerly look forward to the arrival of new life along with the one carrying the child. In the midst of winter we must wait for the warmth and new life of spring. All of this waiting can result in impatient people.

On this day when we await the sunrise of Easter morning, we sit in silence. The events of Thursday and Friday, filled with activity and emotions, are over. Jesus died on the cross and it now stands empty. His body has been sealed away in a tomb where death holds the power. All there is for us to do is wait. The darkness of yesterday afternoon and last night lingers around our spirits. There is an unsettling quiet about today. As the words from the psalm portray, our whole being waits for the Lord. Tomorrow will bring a new beginning with new life but today we wait.

In The Quiet

In a world where there is constant noise around us, sometimes the loudest voice is found in the quiet.

Recently, I was sitting in my office and considering what I might wish to share next with those who read my posts. As I sat at my desk, I heard the ticking of a clock which hangs over my desk. Outside the window I could hear a bird calling. Then I became aware of the sound of my own breathing. I just sat for a while and listened. It created a calm that allowed my mind to open to possibilities. At one point, I realized that the inspiration I was searching for was found in the quiet surrounding me.

The concept of hearing the big things in the midst of the quiet is one which we find in Scripture. When we hear the story of Elijah and his fears and frustrations as a prophet of God, we hear of God being present in the quiet:

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. (1 Kings 19:11-13a, NIV)

The psalmist reminds us the importance of finding God in the quiet when we see these words:

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10, NIV)

I have to admit that I have not always been very good at sitting in the quiet. I have had to train myself to sit and listen. My nature is to be going, doing, actively engaging. In order to achieve any ability to just sit and listen, I have had to work on deliberately creating a quiet environment and forcing myself to resist the urge to break the surrounding silence with activity. When other individuals would tell me what a rewarding exercise it is to be in a more contemplative and listening state of silence, I thought they were crazy or at the very least I would become crazy trying to participate in such an exercise.

Over time, and with the forced guidance of others, I began to become more comfortable being in the quiet. Early on I had to learn to forgive myself when my mind would race on and I would not be able to sit for any amount of extended time. As I engaged more frequently in taking deliberate quiet time, I found myself feeling much more comfortable with the quiet. Continued engagement in periods of time like these, let me to begin embracing these times more and more. I also was pleasantly surprised that I was able to “hear” more each time. The ideas which began to fill my mind were inspired thoughts by the Lord. While there was no audible voice, there was a sense that the Lord was speaking to me.

All of this brings me back to the two passages from Scripture which I shared with you earlier. I find the Lord more often in the gentle whispers of the world around me. I experience the presence of the almighty God more intensely when I am still.

You may be skeptical like I was. You may say that you are too busy to take time for quiet. Your fear may be just like mine in the sense that you are afraid you would go stir crazy if you just sat in silence. Let me tell you that I understand all of those thoughts and feelings because I had them all. Yet, if you will deliberately, and maybe even force yourself, to make time to be in the quiet, a whole new world of possibilities will open to you.