Worship in a Quiet Place (Sept-Oct 1993)

By Matt Dabbs

by Jeff Nelson
September – October, 1993

Pine Lake — Middle of Nowhere, Tennessee. After having surgery on my vocal cords I have been able to talk and sing for some time now, but I came here to be quiet. I didn’t speak a word for some time this morning, but I heard a symphony. Pine Lake is just about my favorite spot to “withdraw to a quiet place.” This A-frame cabin with a wall of glass facing the lake writes the definition of serenity deep in my soul. I have been here in the winter and the summer but never in the fall. It is the middle of October and I am amazed by the array of fall colors surrounding the lake. I slept till 8 o’clock this morning (which was wonderful), and noticed the sounds of silence as I pondered getting out of bed. The temperature was about 60 degrees. The windows were open and I heard the wind blowing through the tall oaks and pines. I heard two sounds hitting the ground. One was the falling leaves and the other was soft drops of rain falling on the leaves. There were no phones, televisions, radios, cars, etc. No reminder of city noise, just a sweet symphony of silence, save that of God’s voice whispered through nature.

I had a cup of coffee from a real coffee pot, perked on a stove (no instant or auto drip at Pine Lake) and sat down with a stack of books to begin a journey of reading, writing, and listening – a much-needed break from the past few months’ hectic activities.

My schedule recently has been a lot of leading and giving. I am blessed whenever I lead worship or help in some kind of seminar because I believe God is honored, people’s lives are transformed, and the body of Christ is awakened to a renewal of worship unparalleled by any period of my spiritual journey. It takes a lot of physical, emotional, and spiritual energy to go from one energizing yet draining event to the next. Most of you know what I’m talking about because you’re in the same arena. I’ve been told by a mentor (and I believe a Mentor even greater than mine said the same thing), “You must retreat to a quiet place on a regular basis and renew your spirit.” I know this wonderful advice but we all face the frustration of finding the time and protecting it. I’ve had these dates on my calendar for months and have guarded them like a watch-dog. Funny I should be away on the Sunday Lynn is preaching on “Busyness, Muchness, and Manyness.” I found people to give their testimonies dealing with these issues and then I left town as if I didn’t need to hear this one (I will get the tape as soon as I get back). Next Sunday the theme is “Spiritual Dryness” and I will probably be giving my own testimony after this experience. I have been making a lot of noise lately (some Godly) but now it’s time to worship in a different way, listening and absorbing.

I began my time with God this morning with a devotional book titled just that, Time With God. It is a wonderful book. As I dove into its contents I began jotting down thoughts of worship. (I asked our worship planning team to each begin a journal of worship, and I’m probably the last one to start.) I was reading in Psalm 34, “I will praise the Lord at all times. Your praise will continually be on my lips.” I noted that verse and then wrote:

Remind me Lord to always praise You!
Nothing in life is more fulfilling.
I want to sing Your praises.
I want to shout Your praises.
I want to breathe Your praises.
I want to dance Your praises.
I want to share Your praises.

I kind of smiled when I wrote “dance” but I shrugged my shoulders and thought if David could do it maybe I should too. I’m reading the book Prayer – Finding the Heart’s True Home by Richard Foster, which I wholeheartedly recommend. I was reading the chapter on Covenant Prayer concerning Holy Obedience. I was convicted by what I was reading about the disappointment that follows a broken commitment to disciplined prayer. Foster encourages the reader to continue in the privilege of the duty of prayer because “Freedom is the product of discipline and commitment.” True freedom comes from disciplined prayer. Foster mentions Peter and John going to the temple at the regularly appointed hour of prayer, not because they had to, but because it was a joy. And the lame man whom they healed certainly didn’t go about the temple “walking and leaping and praising God” with clenched teeth.

Now, there’s the word “leaping.” I just got stuck on dancing. What is it with these words describing physical activity in communicating with God? I wrote in the margin of the book, “Has God not done enough for us to have the same response?” “Food for thought,” I thought, and went on with my study.

As I read further in this revealing chapter I underlined “We can cultivate the habit of a Godward-directed mind and heart. As we carry on the business of the day, inwardly we keep pressing toward the Divine Center. At every opportunity we place our mind before God with inward confessions and petitions. Even more, we descend with the mind into the heart and live in quiet wonder and adoration and praise.” I thought, “I am descending with my mind into the heart now to live these few days in quiet wonder and adoration and praise.” Then I noted in the margin that this is exactly why I’ve been tempted to live in a monastery.

Another confirmation of the need for this quietness was the quote: “One way we make the heart ready to enter the awesome Presence is by disciplining the tongue. How much more fitting to come in absolute silence before the Holy One of eternity than to rush into his presence with hearts and minds askew and tongues full of words.” Yes, I need to take this quiet approach but I’m one that normally feels like I’m wasting time when I’m quiet and doing nothing. Ready for the next paragraph? “The trysting prayer is our special date with God. Our Eternal Lover lures us back regularly into his presence with anticipation and delight. It is not hard to honor this regular time of meeting, for the language of lovers is the language of waste. We are glad to waste time with God; for we are pleased with the company.” Wow! What a thought! I can waste this time with God because he’s the best company I could have. “So, God, what’s in store for us?”

I spent some specific time in prayer and then decided to go for a run. It had stopped raining but just as I began running it started again. I wasn’t worried about getting wet, so I set my watch and down the lane I ran. Remember, I wondered what was in store? I had no idea, but God did. I’ve become enamored by Zephaniah 3:17 which says that God will rejoice over me with singing. Many days I begin by asking God what he’s going to sing to me today. Well, today he had lots of songs for me. The raindrops hitting my face and eventually soaking my whole body sang the song of cleansing forgiveness, all sin washed away. I ran past a horse farm with the friendliest animals. They ran over to the fence as if to say hello and followed me with their gaze as I ran past them. On the other side of the road was a beautiful rolling meadow with cows grazing on the hills. This was the song of nature and life in its simplicity.

All along the run I noticed the beautiful colors of turning leaves. As I ran through an area of tall oak trees a little wind came up and the leaves began to fall. What a beautiful sight! It was like a ticker tape parade; all those beautiful leaves falling from the sky. I broke into a grin realizing this was my parade. God planned a parade just for me. What a God! What a parade! I ran with my hands stretched to him while the leaves and rain fell all around me. Guess what thought came to my mind? The dancing and leaping! Now I know why they did it. God rejoiced over them with singing and they rejoiced back. No longer was I running for exercise. I was running because I was loving God’s singing. He didn’t have to sing one word as we know words. I heard his words in every sight, sound, breath, and step I took. Needless to say, I smiled all the way back to the cabin.

What’s in this for you? I’m not sure except I know God has songs he’s wanting to sing over you. But he may be waiting or you to get still and quiet enough to hear them.

I came to Pine Lake to let my body relax. My voice teacher says my voice will work like it’s supposed to if I can keep my body relaxed. I’ve noticed something at Pine Lake: When my spirit is relaxed my physical body seems to follow suit.

Take a deep breath, sit down in a quiet place with a real cup of coffee, and wait for the songs God has in store for you, his special one. And ponder these scriptures about listening to the voice of God:

”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).

“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” (1 Kings 19:11,12).

“The watchman opens the gate for him, and sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:3,27).

“Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (Deuteronomy 30:19,20).

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).Wineskins Magazine

Jeff Nelson

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1581 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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