Be Still, Listen, and Marvel at What You May Hear

A Boomer’s Journal

By Tom Anselm

A few weeks ago, I talked to my parents. Well, not in the real sense, since they are both ‘crossed over’ for some years now. But I visited their gravesite at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. And there, amidst the thousands of perfectly symmetrical monuments, I thanked them. Thanked them for my life. For being a good mom and dad. For passing on their strong faith.

I was on my way home from a retreat at The White House Retreat Center. It is located high upon the western bluffs of the Mississippi River.  The overlook is to the bottomlands of Illinois. A distant tree line is barely visible through the early morning mist. Paved walkways wander through the wooded grounds, leading to grottos and a Way of The Cross, illuminated at night in a way that conveys additional solemnity.

I spent three days away. Away from cell phones, emails, traffic, ESPN.  It was a time of prayer. Spiritual talks by the Jesuit leader. Reflection. Solitude.

Now, I’m not telling you this for you to think “wow, what a holy guy!” Far to the contrary. Way far.

I just wanted to share the gifts that taking time can yield.

My favorite spot is the chapel, after everyone else has gone.  Granite and limestone, built in 1928, vaulted arches, a recessed sanctuary.  With the lights low and the stones glowing, it wraps itself around your soul.

But all this, the beauty of the grounds, the mystical quality of the chapel, the skill of the presenter… these are just signs.  Physical signs, outward signs, if you will. As humans, we need signs, to point us in the right direction. But the real value of something like this is that as you follow those signs, you can stop, check signals, evaluate where you have been and pray for the grace to go where you need to go. It lets you take stock in the good things that are your life, and find ways to make the less good better. You get to listen for the voice of a power higher than your own. Now, the Good Lord didn’t actually come to me in a vision, or speak to me from the trees.  But I did hear a message.

I guess you could say it came in the silence.

“Be still, and know that I am here.”

Pretty basic. But a good thing to remember, because I would soon be hitting I-270 for that ride home. The bills would be waiting when I got there (for Jill to pay… she’s the numbers talent in this tandem).  The government and the world would still be in turmoil. People would still be killing each other in far-off and not so far-off places.  In short, life would be going on.

But that simple message would help me to move through it all for a while longer.

And I will hear that when I see our little Ruby Elizabeth in her christening gown this weekend. When I laugh at our other crazy grandkids performing their antics. When I swell with pride and marvel at what great people our children have become. When I see my wife’s smile.

These are all God’s gifts, gifts that keep on giving.

And I am the lucky recipient.

 



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