Into the Silent Land (a book review)

A few days ago I included a reference to Into the Silent Land in a post. When I heard about this book, I thought it was going to be about the spiritual discipline of solitude. To my surprise, it turned out to be much more than that.

Laird shared in the introduction that his objective was to examine two contemplative practices: the practice of stillness (meditation or contemplative prayer) and the practice of watchfulness or awareness. He had my attention.

I won’t be able to compact his descriptions of these practices with justice. What I can do is relay that if you believe you’ve read or heard all there is to know about prayer, you might want to make sure by reading this book. What I thought I knew about contemplative prayer has been deepened. What I practice in meditation has been retooled.

The meat of the book is chapters four and six. Chapter four introduces and outlines what Laird calls the three doorways of the present moment. He describes a method of praying based on utilizing a prayer word. I found it familiar but not. He was putting words to my novice practices and revealing how to mature them. Then in chapter six-my favorite-he makes it real by sharing three overcomer’s stories. Their struggles include fear, pain, and compulsion. The victory in these three human stories support his label of their moving from victim to witness.

You may be wondering if this book is for you. Here are three descriptors to try on for size:

  • If you wonder if the practice of meditation carries value, this book is for you.
  • If you wish your prayer life to be more relational and not just petitionary, this book is for you.
  • If you are looking for a spiritual discipline challenge, this book is for you.

Laird doesn’t write to be quoted, but here are a few highlights worth sharing:

If we are going to speak of what a human being is, we have not said enough until we speak of God.

God does not know how to be absent.

There is a certain wisdom that settles into a life that does not attempt to control what everybody else ought to be thinking, saying, doing, or voting on. Wisdom, health, life, and love cannot be found in trying to control the wind, but rather in harnessing the wind in the sails of receptive engagement of the present moment.

It is very liberating to realize that what goes on in our head…does not have the final word on who we are.

If you want to make fear grow, run from it.

Fear, anger, envy-any afflictive thought or feeling-cannot withstand a direct gaze.

We commonly meet our wounds in temptation and failure.

Divine love doesn’t have to decide whether or not to forgive. Divine love is forgiving love.

Photo by Adam Rhodes on Unsplash

Words

I decided a few weeks ago this is a time to read through Proverbs. Many messages from many directions demands wisdom be supreme.

Written and spoken words are crucial. They can help or hurt, confuse or assist, push away or bring forward…

As reminders, here are some lines from Proverbs 15:

  • A gentle answer turns away anger
  • The tongue of the wise makes knowledge attractive
  • The tongue that heals is a tree of life
  • Pleasant words are pure
  • The mind of the righteous person thinks before answering

Words have power. May we use them well.

Photo credit: Unsplash/Brett Jordan

Henry Cloud’s Integrity

In 2006, Dr. Henry Cloud published what I believe to be his best book entitled Integrity

His objective is to connect the dots for how integrity and character work day to day. To do that, he outlines six character traits that enable talents and abilities to get their desired results:

  1. Creating and maintaining trust
  2. Seeing and facing reality
  3. Working in a way that brings results
  4. Embracing negative realities and solving them
  5. Causing growth and increase
  6. Achieving transcendence and meaning in life

It’s rich. I finished re-reading it last night. Yes, it’s one of those books. Here’s proof:

  • Underdevelopment leaves a gap between where we are at any given moment and where we need to be. That gap is our need and opportunity for growth.
  • Dysfunction is when an effort toward making something better makes it worse. That is when we are in trouble. And both a lack of integration and a lack of development can do that.
  • We trust people who we think hear us, understand us, and are able to empathize with our realities as well as their own.
  • Research has for decades proven that you can help desperate people immensely by giving them no answers at all, and only giving them empathy.
  • If you want to leave the best wake possible, leave behind a trail of people who have experienced your being “for them.”
  • Wise people are “cautious in friendship,” as the proverb says. They seek to get to know a person clearly, as a person truly is, before they hire him, marry him, become partners with him, or divorce him, fire him, or not go forward with him.
  • It behooves all of us to be working on whatever unresolved pain we are walking around with, lest some issue in “reality” tap into it and overcome our ability to make good decisions.
  • Secure identity is about who a person is, not what he does or what his results are.
  • People oriented toward growth want others to grow as well as themselves.
  • The immature character asks life to meet his demands. But the mature character meets the demands of life.
  • The one question that hovers above all others in importance for a person’s functioning in life is “Are you God, or not?”

The Wise’s Time

A couple of posts ago I mentioned Ben Sasse’s book Them. I’ll finish it before the sun goes down, but I’m taking a break to ask a question.

The question comes after reading chapter seven entitled “Buy a Cemetary Plot” (you should get your own copy to find out what that title’s about). That chapter contains thoughtful words from a 2017 commencement address by Josh Gibbs, a teacher and author in Richmond, Virginia. Address paraphrase: life is full of seasons in which we are tempted to look forward to the next season in order to find contentment. Sasse includes this quote by Gibbs:

Contentment is a condition of the soul, and it does not come with getting what you want, but in giving thanks to God for what you have been given.

Both writers lead their reader to the third chapter of Ecclesiastes where Solomon describes how everything has its time:

Birth, death; love, hate; gain, lose; weeping, laughing; breaking down, building up; silence, speaking; war, peace; gathering, discarding; mourning, dancing; planting, gleaning; embracing, distancing; tearing, sewing.

Then Sasse wrote this:

The wise man learns how to grow where he is planted. He chooses joy. He embraces the time and season.

And that’s what forms my question: What time is it?

  • What time is it in your season of life?
  • What time is it in your family?
  • What time is it in your community?
  • What time is it in your church?
  • What time is it in your country?

Solomon said every time has a purpose. To wring every ounce of purpose out of their time, the wise make these choices:

  • Choose to embrace this time and season
  • Choose joy
  • Choose to learn and grow
  • Choose to thank God for what He’s already given 

31 Proverbs Highlights: #15-The Tongue

(A simple series highlighting verses from each chapter of the book of Proverbs)

The tongue of the wise makes knowledge attractive, but the mouth of fools blurts out foolishness…The tongue that heals is a tree of life, but a devious tongue breaks the spirit…The mind of the righteous person thinks before answering, but the mouth of the wicked blurts out evil things. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭15‬:‭2‬,4,28 HCSB)

Tongue Principles from these verses:

  • Our words can attract people to knowledge and wisdom
  • Blurting is unattractive
  • Our words can bring healing, nourishment, purpose, rejuvenation
  • Breaking another’s spirit is destructive 
  • Righteous words are preceded by thought
  • Blurting eeks our wickedness

31 Proverbs Highlights: #9-Rebuking

(A simple series highlighting verses from each chapter of the book of Proverbs)

The one who corrects a mocker will bring abuse on himself; the one who rebukes the wicked will get hurt. Don’t rebuke a mocker, or he will hate you; rebuke the wise, and he will love you. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭9‬:‭7-8‬ CSB)

To be clear, rebuking means to reprove sharply. To be further clear, reproving means to express condemnation for a fault or offense.

The essence of these two verses is a challenge: how do you receive deserved correction?

A wise person loves it. Those who don’t love it, according to these verses, aren’t worth the hurt they will give to any well-meaning rebuker. 

Choose wisely.

31 Proverbs Highlights: #8-Wisdom

(A simple series highlighting verses from each chapter of the book of Proverbs)

Doesn’t wisdom call out? Doesn’t understanding make her voice heard?…”For the one who finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord, but the one who misses me harms himself; all who hate me love death.” (‭Proverbs‬ ‭8‬:‭1, 35-36 CSB)

5 Truths from these verses:

  1. The search for wisdom should never end.
  2. Our ear should be bent to her call, much like the sheep attentive to their shepherd.
  3. Life is found in making wise choices.
  4. Choosing to listen to wisdom rather than refusing is choosing to live rather than dying.
  5. To reject wisdom is to reject yourself.