I looked up the other day, and the sun was a fiery red-orange ball in the sky. The sheer, blazing sight of it stopped me in my tracks. Quite Biblical. Wildfires in British Columbia have run rampant for the bulk of the summer, causing Alberta to hang in a haze of smoke. We’re grateful not to be ablaze, as currently, BC has over 500 uncontained fires. It’s a heartbreaking crisis with no weather relief in sight. Lord! Send the rains!
The smoke has created some interesting conditions, and not all of them negative. Of course, if you are someone who suffers respiratory conditions or allergies, it’s no laughing matter, as the air quality is significantly diminished. On the plus side, with the smoke hanging in the air, the full rays of the sun are considerably refracted. For all us fair-haired types, the haze is delicious. You can enjoy the heat and humidity literally ‘under cover’. It’s hot outside, but the sun doesn’t beat with unmerciful exhaustion on you. The glare doesn’t ferociously blind you even behind sunglasses, causing a pounding headache. The smoggy vapor even holds the temperature in a different way. The past two weeks have been deliciously balmy, and I'm able walk around and enjoy them. Frankly, I’ve quite enjoyed the up side of it all.
I swear the atmospheric conditions have diminished the wind as well. At night, my window is full open to catch the slightest whiff of a breeze, but it’s astonishingly, almost eerily, still. Residual warmth cuddles in the corners and I can hear every last word; the clanking of bats and balls going back into their bag as the action wraps up over on the ball-diamond. Dusk descends, loosing elusive midsummer scents on a sweet waft. There’s a whisper in the grass as the dogs and their walkers cross the field. Even the errant fly on it’s final run bobbles loudly. It’s magnificently mysterious in some subtle, indefinable way, and I’m listening, straining for the sound of…what? For a moment, I close my eyes to find the wavelength of this tranquil motionlessness and glide effortlessly on it. It’s just so still.
At the end of August, there’s a concentrated heaviness in the air, as if summer is trying to focus for our enjoyment and spin every luxurious moment out for savoring. September is looming, so we snatch the precious moments left before the madness descends and the season abruptly shifts, dissolving before our very eyes. It’s a moment to be passive and even a touch sedate; as plump with gratitude as ripened fruit. We’re gently coaxed to heed the still, small voice, both the Lord's and our own.
Modern life, especially in the last couple of years, has escalated in velocity and vociferousness, spawning red-line levels of anxiety. The Internet is a writhing mare’s nest of spectacle and speculation, rife with doomsday voices. Fear is on every side. It’s as if Satan Himself picked up the microphone and has had it on blast ever since. There’s hardly a moment to catch your breath from the latest assault before some new atrocity bursts on the scene. Intersperse terror with the latest adorable kitten viral video and you’ve just about captured the idiotic roller-coaster of information bombardment. We’re in overload, and we’re not handling it well. The 'fight or flight response’ serves us brilliantly, but without an actual, physical enemy in sight to target it’s just a pernicious toxin called stress. Unless we lift up our eyes to the Omnipotent, omniscient, immutable Alpha and Omega of the universe, life is going to steam-roll us, big time. Never has it been more critical to locate the eye of the storm and the calm center within ourselves.
David experienced such scarifying moments in his desperate flight through the wilderness. He learned the hard way how to handle elevated adrenaline levels when there was no respite in sight. Despite everything, he picked up his lyre, crooning in distress on a tentative hum, working his way up to full-blown exultation of worship. He poured out his heart before the Lord. As a shepherd himself, David chose to let the Lord “lead him beside still waters”. He chose the “peace of Christ which passes all understanding” to guard his heart and mind (Psalm 23:2, Philippians 4:7) even in the throes of panic. Like a child, running hard for the safe arms of a parent, it was just that simple.
Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty; Neither do I exercise myself in matters too great or in things too wonderful for me. Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with his mother, Like a weaned child is my soul within me [ceased from fretting]. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever. Psalm 131
Deep calls unto deep. The soul longs for hushed, quiet places to recalibrate. It scuttles back to the cool, dark of the primordial garden-forest, inhaling Eden’s lush. Much like the experience of peering into a placid pool, our inner man requires a calm, mirrored surface to find itself again. Psyche, spirit and body realign, molding back into conjunction in the cathedral of profound silence and calm. We can learn to mentally take ourselves by the hand and walk back into safe places, but self-discipline is not self-manufactured. It’s a fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It's a refuge, a fortress, a stronghold that will buttress us against any storming incursion, within or without. Spending time in the Word, prayer and worship is the way we enter the calm of God. We tabernacle in His greatness. He’s really trying to bestow on us complete, autonomous self-mastery; the kind that is absolutely immune to outside stimuli. Inside us, the stillness is waiting, but, as with everything, it's a choice.
Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10
it’s a choice.