My youngest son, Jacob, for several years was the “frontman” for the house band at Tootsie’s, an iconic honky-tonk in Nashville. The frontman is not necessarily the lead singer. He may not even be the most musical in the band. (Though of course, Jacob was.) The frontman is the guy that has a gift for connecting with the audience, keeping them engaged, drawing them into a relationship with the band, and then, if we’re being honest, getting the most tips from them that he can. Jacob was a master.
One of my favorite bits was a nightly conversation he had with the crowd. “Man, welcome to Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. We are here to play some great music for you. If you have a particular song you would like to hear, write the name of it on a $20 bill and hand it to us. We want to play that song just for you. Or, if you would rather, just make a request and let us know what your favorite tune is. And oh, by the way, WE DON’T DO REQUESTS.”
The crowd would laugh and reach for their wallets. Jacob has the gift.
A few days ago, a good friend of mine sent me a message and made a request. She said, “I’d like for you to blog about the “stillness” of God, those times that He quiets the storms around us and brings peace to our troubled lives. Well, that’s pretty neat. I’ve never really had a blog request before but there’s a first time for everything. So….
We are obviously in one of the most tumultuous seasons that most of us have ever seen. At the beginning of this year I naively wrote a blog about 2020 Vision, this was going to be the year we saw God do great things, we accomplished more, we impacted our world. Boy, did 2020 fool us! COVID-19 put us on our heels. The death of George Floyd and the ensuing protests/riots have us reeling. And it looks like the upheaval around the presidential election has about delivered the knock-out punch. If this is not a storm, I’ve never seen one. Like me, many have just given up on watching the nightly news, and we scroll quickly through FaceBook, skimming over the political diatribes and focusing only on the personal stuff. The picture of the meal you fixed for lunch today never looked so good and I have become especially interested in the portraits of your froo-froo little dog.
If we ever desired the “stillness” that God offers it is now. And yet…and yet we pray and wait and God is, well, still. Maybe there is something there, the stillness in the stillness of God. Remember the most famous story of the “stillness.” Mark tells it best in chapter 4, starting at verse 35. “That day when evening came, He said to His disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took Him along, just as He was, in the boat. There were also other boats with Him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke Him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
We’ve all seen the flannelgraph. (Well, all of us over 60.) Little boat, big waves, scared disciples, and Jesus curled up in the front of the boat, sleeping like a baby. They needed Jesus to get up and give them stillness and all they were getting from Him was stillness. Been there? I have.
In fact, it’s a pretty common story. Elijah is in a cave on Mt. Horeb, depressed and discouraged. There is wind, and earthquake, and fire. And God is not in any of that. He has to wait for the “still,” small voice. Daniel prays for 40 days in the middle of a terrible, national persecution and ends up in the lion’s den. Job endures the attacks and accusations of his so-called friends for almost 40 chapters before God breaks His silence. So many examples of the silence, the stillness of God, when we think what we need is for God to show up and show out, to roar on our behalf and silence the storms.
Maybe that is not the case. Maybe we are looking at this all wrong. Maybe the great miracle of Jesus in the boat was not Him calming the storm. (Which He does, by the way.) Maybe the miracle is that He is asleep in the first place, in the middle of this roaring, raging, ridiculously dangerous storm. Maybe the lesson for us is not the stillness but the stillness. Not the quieting of the noise on the outside but the quiet spirit on the inside that allowed Him to sleep.
More often than not, the most powerful encounters I have with God are not “after” He has done some marvelous thing and stilled the messes in my life. No, the great lessons have come while the storm was still full force, head on, blowing to beat the drum. Almost always in the storms of my life, and there have been more than a few, there is a moment, right before God brings the stillness that He brings a stillness in me. Something happens, my soul gets quiet and I begin to trust like I haven’t before.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego said to the King, “Our God, whom we serve, will deliver us from the fiery furnace, BUT IF NOT, we still will not bow to the idol.” (Daniel 3:18) Job said, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21) And Jesus said, “Nevertheless, not My will but Your will be done.” (Luke 22:42) It seems that so many times, just before God shows up outwardly, there is an inward something that happens and “stillness” arrives. Does that make sense?
So here are two observations about THAT kind of stillness:
- It only happens when we accept God for who He is. There is an interesting phrase in the NIV story in Mark. “Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus, JUST AS HE WAS…” (Mark 4:36) He is not a good luck charm or a magic genie that gives us a get out of jail card whenever we need it. He is the Creator of the Universe that is far more interested in changing our hearts and perfecting our character than in making us comfortable.
- It only happens when we begin to think of others instead of ourselves. The next phrase says, “There were also other boats with Him.” (vs 36 again) There was a little flotilla going on apparently. The calming of the outward storm was for all of them. If it had only been Jesus and His little crew, my guess is, He could have slept right on and the disciples would still have been okay.
In this crazy, COVID centered, chaos creating, contentious culture we find ourselves, perhaps the greatest demonstration of power that the people of God can offer is not some spectacular, supernatural, “outside” stillness, but the quiet, confident inner-peace stillness of a group of believers that knows God is in control. Maybe the world needs to hear us say, “Oh, just let Him sleep. We know we are going to be alright.” That is a stillness that speaks far louder to the “other boats” than our frantic, frenzied, fighting with one another about whether or not God is pleased with masks. It sounds kind of like, “Be still and know that I am God,” doesn’t it?
Well, this has been fun. Thank you, Becky for the request. Now, for the rest of you, if you have something you would like for me to write about just put in on a $20 bill and send it to…..:)
Blessings on you today. May you know the “stillness.”