Friday, April 23, 2010


I don’t remember how old I was, only that I was very small.

I lived in Nevada City, in northern California with my parents. People who live very close to what is known as a tourist attraction seldom see them. We were getting ready to move to the southern part of the state, and my parents wanted to visit the Sequoia Forrest one more time.

We walked the forest of ancient trees. At some point, my parents stopped to admire a particularly large tree, and I kept walking. Suddenly I just stopped. There was no sound. I don’t mean that it was still or very quiet, but that there was no sound. No birds chirped, no leaves rustled, no car sounds; just absolute silence.

I was too little to say what I felt, but I remember. What I felt that was reverence. I felt awe. I felt what Moses must have felt at the Burning Bush. I felt the presence of God.

I remember my parents coming to me and asking what was wrong. Evidently I was just standing there sobbing. I could only tell them that I heard God.

Life happened. My parents divorced. My mom died. I was sent to live with relatives in Pennsylvania. I survived many troubled years. I married and had children. I divorced, and one day I stood beside a hospital bed as my youngest child died.

I entered a dark place; a place that I pray that those that I love never see. I came out of that place to a new life where there was and continues to be light and goodness.

For reasons that I have never even tried to understand, I was compelled to search the scriptures. As I have discovered my own quiet place, my own peace and healing, I am even more sure that as a tiny child, I stood in the presence of God.

In the Bible, in I Kings, chapters 18 and 19, Elijah had just stood and with the help of God, defeated 450 priests of Baal, but he was still afraid and confused. An angel sent him to a high place and told him to wait, that the Lord was about to pass by. He went and stood on the mountain in a cave and there a mighty wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and rocks, but the Lord wasn’t in the wind. Then there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. Then there was a fire, but the Lord wasn’t in the fire. Then The Bible says, “And after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?””(I Kings 19:11-12 - The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha-Augmented Third Edition)

Some time later, I read Habakkuk, and again, found the silence. Habakkuk was a Hebrew prophet who is believed to have lived in the late part of the seventh century, BC. The first two chapters of Habakkuk could have been copied from this morning’s newspaper. He talks about cities and nations who destroy without mercy. He talks about those who ‘load yourselves with goods taken in Pledge’, and “Will not your own creditors suddenly rise and those who make you tremble wake up?” After telling his people what they are bringing on themselves, he just stops and says, “But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him!”(Habakkuk 2:20)

No sermon here today, just a little comment on the first time I knew that there was truly a God, in the silence of an ancient forest. The real joy has been learning to bring that silent place of awe to my own soul.