Thin and Quiet

I Kings 19:1-15a – The 5th Sunday after Pentecost – for Sunday, June 19, 2016

“And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice . . .” (I Kings 19:12)

Cradled in granite formed before human history was written . . .
Cradled in granite formed before human history was written . . .

As a baby boomer raised in the burgeoning California suburbs, I first heard about the “still small voice of God” at the Baptist church we attended.

It didn’t matter to me that the Revised Standard Version (RSV) tucked in the pews and clutched in the hands of the Sunday school teachers mirrored—word for word—the renowned King James Version’s (KJV) translation of I Kings 19:12. Both read . . .

And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

Why should I care what God muttered or what old Elijah heard?

I cared more about the crack of the bat and the ball plopping on a leather glove during the thousands of baseball games I played.

I cared about Mom’s voice announcing dinner.

I cared—and trembled—when hearing, “Lawrence George Patten, please come here.” Whenever the benevolent dictators known as my parents spoke all my names, the future was bleak. Sometimes I knew what I’d done wrong and sometimes not, but there was misery in every one of my steps to judgment.

I cared about the theme from Bonanza since it meant I was allowed to stay up an hour later, even though the next day was a school day.

A little older, and I started caring about how a girl giggled. What if she liked me? What if she, with her sweet voice, might someday want to—gulp—hold my hand? Continue reading →

Can I Escape The Noise Anymore?

I Kings 19:1-15a  – The 5th Sunday of Ordinary time – for Sunday, June 23, 2013

“…I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” (I Kings 19:10)

10-Theme_Logo-ColorI rarely claim this, but I prefer the King James Version (KJV) to the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) passage for reading, praying and thinking about I Kings 19. Here, the Bible described Elijah’s encounter on Mt. Horeb with the Lord in verse 12 . . .

The KJV—and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

The RVSV—and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.

I know why. It’s for the same reason I prefer the KJV’s Psalm 23 to other translations or interpretations:  a singular phrase. For the ubiquitous Psalm verse, the KJV’s, “I walk through the valley of the shadow of death . . .” inspires me more than the NRSV’s, “I walk through the darkest valley . . .” Why? Have I heard “the shadow of death” spoken in films or books that swept me away? Did the eager ears of my childhood first hear “shadow of death” and tucked the phrase into a central, accessible memory?

Or is it as simple as liking one phrase over another?

For me there’s a wide emotional gap between surviving a dark valley versus death’s shadow. In the hundreds of graveside services I’ve done, I believe the living sensed death’s long shadow covering every part of their being. My Dad’s devil’s dance with dementia seemed like life in a frightening, deathly shadow world far more than a trudge through a gloomy valley.

The feeling’s the same with Elijah when comparing “a still small voice” to “sheer silence.” Both describe what I long for in my relationship with the Holy . . . but while I may want the NRSV’s “sheer silence” in my life, I crave the KJV’s “still small voice.”

The world is raucous. There’s 24/7 news and the clattering chatter of email, text, Skype, Facebook, Google plus, Instagram, phones at home and work (and in our pocket or purse). There are a score more whiz-bang ways of communicating I didn’t list and more ways of sharing-declaring-blaring not yet invented that will inevitably add to the thunder that undermines any “sheer silence” in our lives.

Oh, I can avoid all the fizzle and frazzle of the modern world by discarding or muting the electronic devices that own me, but I can’t avoid the rasp of everyone else’s talking, texting and opining.

Can I escape the noise anymore? Continue reading →