Happy New Year!!! At the stroke of midnight friends and strangers gathered together and ushered in a new calendar year in beautiful unity with loud exclamations full of hope and promise. It made me contemplate the whole concept of raising our voices. 2017 had a whole bunch of people yelling –and not in a good way. What and when do we shout?
Growing up we didn’t yell much around our house. Mom shouted “CAR!” when we rode bikes on the winding one lane so we knew to pull over and wait safely on the brim. And in the hayfield “WOAH!” prevented the driver from running over a bale she couldn’t see from her perspective inside the truck.
Sometimes we’d shout for fun. There is a favorite outdoor game called Annie-Over where two teams stand on either side of the house and the team with the ball yells, “Annie!”. When the other team responds with “OVER!” the ball gets thrown across the roof line and is attempted to be caught. If it’s caught, a game of tag ensues and if someone is tagged with the ball, they have to join that team. Oh yes, if the ball doesn’t make it over the roofline when attempted, because it ricochets off the chimney or the thrower doesn’t have the necessary strength, that team humbly shouts, “PIG’S TAIL!”
And there was yelling that communicated with the farm animals. While each farmer has their own version, at Red Gate it was usually “Sooooy-Sooooy-Pig-Pig-Pig-Pig” to bring in the hogs and “Sook (suck)! Sook! Sook! Sook-Calf!” to let the cows know dinner and their calves were waiting in the barn.
So, while situations do occur where it’s appropriate to yell, sometimes it’s better to “be still” (Psalm 46:10) The first time I encountered the strange idea of purposefully not talking was on a childhood trip to Cass Scenic Railroad. We toured the cafeteria car where a sign hung over the table prohibiting talking during the meal, thus getting more loggers fed quickly. I remember saying if I had to choose words or food, I would surly starve, and several of my family agreed with me…
As a young adult, cousin Carol went on a women’s retreat where you were encouraged to choose a vow of silence. Imagine an exotic island full of women –and NO TALKING! It didn’t sound like something I’d want to pay for but the director of the retreat was a smart and rich man I’m sure.
There are times when God Himself seems silent, and while we wait for prayers to be answered we must remember there is hope in the stillness. It’s often in the quiet we begin to hear His voice loud and clear (or as a small still voice). He is never absent (Hebrews 13:5) -- and that’s something worth shouting about.
The presence of God (in the form of the Ark) went with the Israelites when they marched around the Wall of Jericho. At first, they were commanded to be silent, “Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices. Do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then Shout!” (Joshua 6:10) When they did shout, the wall crumbled and the city was overtaken and devoted to God.
The trick is knowing when to shout and when to be still. Perhaps examining our motivation is worthwhile. In the 70’s and 80’s, with the wind blowing our hair in the back of the old pick-up truck, we sang at the top of our lungs a folk/worship song by Kurt Kaiser called Pass It On. “I’ll shout it from the mountain top, I want my world to know, the Lord of Love has come to me and I want to pass it on.” That’s what the presence of God makes me want to do—tell the world—and if I get really wound up, maybe even twist and shout! Hallelujah and Happy New Year everyone!
Janet Cowger- Fliegel