The charcoal clouds still hang heavy in the skies outside my window. We just experienced what we in the south call a Gully-washer: an extremely heavy rain fall that turns driveways into ponds and ditches into rushing rivers. It is something I have not experienced often since moving to this semi-desert town in West Texas. Here rain is a precious commodity when compared to the abundant waters that regularly pour out on the lush hills of my central Arkansas hometown. So today was a gift to the desert, indeed, and certainly a gift to me.
After many scattered storms this afternoon, I stepped outside on my porch to watch that strange concoction that often follows a storm - that lovely mixture of lavender-grey rain-filled cumulus' that still remain but that are now dappled with traces of whispy white cirrus' that delicately accompany the blue skies peeking through. It's one of my favorite things to watch: the traces of the dark storm passing by while the hope of the light breaks through. It always brings wonder to my eyes. But today as I stepped out to look at this phenomenon, another one of my senses was struck. My ears could hear a very distinct and unusual sound coming from somewhere in the neighborhood. I craned my ears to listen, but try as I may, I could not distinguish its origin. So, I did what any curious person would do: I set out to discover the source of this unusual noise. I ignored the fussy skies to my east that were still rumbling a few complaints and smiled at the more favorable ones to my west and I followed my ears down the street.
My mind was analyzing the sound: It was constant but sort of whirring. Was it a machine? A diesel engine? A tractor perhaps that the farmer in the adjoining field was working on while the skies cleared? I crossed one street, two streets, then a third and fourth, until I finally rounded the corner to my communities little park. It was here that all at once the sound became much louder. It seemed the sound was coming from the fields or the dirt road beyond the park. Sloshing my way through the flooded street, I passed two teenage girls hanging out on the basketball court to my right who had brought along a radio for their listening pleasure. It was playing some song that I did not recognize, but I knew this much: it was not the source of the sound I was seeking. So I focused my eyes on the flooded fields that abutted the park - one plot was usually filled with cows grazing; the other, with a variety of wild grasses. But today, after the downpour of rain, the fields looked like glassy ponds with Mallard ducks swimming happily atop the waters. I approached the fenced boundary line of the field and stopped to stare and listen as a smile spread across my face. I had found what I had been looking for and it was not what I expected. I chuckled as the deafening sound of croaking frogs resounded all around me. Frogs. It was frogs. I had to laugh and wonder to myself: I had heard croaking frogs all my life growing up in Arkansas, yet these frogs sounded a bit different. Why hadn't I recognized it? Do frogs sound different in West Texas? And where had they all come from? I had not seen any frogs here in months. Yet there were so many frogs singing in these oversized puddles that their song had led me 4 streets over- the-river-and-through-the-fields to hear their orchestrations.
As the thunder rumbled in the distance, I listened in wonder to the veritable roar of these toads. I had never heard such a sound in all my life. It was amazing. I was truly stunned. I kept looking around at the houses near by wondering why others weren't coming out on their porches to listen to such a performance. But none came. I would turn towards the sound and listen a bit longer, then once again, turn with mouth agape to the neighboring homes. Surely someone else could hear this! Yet still - none came. And then there was the radio. The two young ladies I had passed earlier had moved from the basketball court to the swing set and taken their boombox with them. It was such a contrast. The beautiful sounds of nature were giving it their all and yet these young ladies preferred the creaking of iron chained swing-sets and the beating of fabricated instruments and computer-generated rhythms. I shook my head at the irony of it all, turned for one more enjoyable measure of the frogs symphony, and then sloshed my way back home, pondering these words all the way.
As I walked the muddy streets, the sound of toads songs echoing behind me, I asked the Lord what he wanted to teach me. I admitted to myself that it seemed quite obvious, but still I heard Him whisper tenderly, "Not everyone has ears to hear and not everyone cares to hear." I sensed a melancholy tone on his words and felt his longing to be known by so many more and my heart was drawn to the many times in scripture that Jesus said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear" (Matt. 11:15; 13:9; 13:43; Mark 4:9; Luke 8:8; 14:35; Rev 2:7, 11). His melancholy longing hung on my heart for I knew that I, too, had been like my neighbors so many times; I had been like those young ladies with the radio - I had failed to notice His voice too often before. It wasn't a rebuke as much as a reminder. My journey to discover what my ears barely noticed tonight was the perfect school room to remind me again of this important lesson: God desires to speak to me but I must continually tune my ear to the whisper of God's voice - to the intimate sound that can only be heard when I still my heart and give my full attention to it. It's not that God is muffling His voice to be mean or to confuse me - it's that He is wanting to speak to me in the most intimate way possible: the whisper - that form of speech that causes me to lean in to him, to get closer to him as a bride would her groom. It's a precious gift for those who will heed it.
Ecclesiastes 5 says, "For God is in heaven, and you on earth; Therefore let your words be few.
3 For a [foolish] dream comes through much activity,And a fool’s voice is known by his many words." Much activity is the marker of our day. Many words defines this generation. We are all guilty of bringing our own 'radios' with us into the sacred places where God can be found. We bring our opinions, our business, our preferences, our to-do lists with us everywhere we go and in so doing, drown out the still small voice of our Father who is heard best in the gentle whisper. This is why, like Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, James encourages us to be, "quick to listen and slow to speak (1:19)." Quick to listen. That's quite a challenge in our day and age. In this world of competing noises, of manufactured sounds and rhythms that can even mimic His voice, of grumbling and complaining stormy voices that cloud the skies of life, how often do we silence ourselves and step out to find the source of that one sound that is unique to them all? That one sound that gives life to our hearts in a way no other sound can? The sound of Father's intimate whisper in our ear. If tonight's lesson reminded me of anything, it's that I want to be quick to listen. I want to be listening for what I do not understand, for what I do not recognize. I want to be found listening whenever and however He is speaking. And tonight I was reminded of this: He will be heard by the ones who choose to step out on the porch of stillness and tune their ears to the unusual or even unfamiliar. Yes, even in the croaking of frogs in a flooded field they will find the Teacher teaching them in his unusual way if they will but start the journey of discovering His voice, one sloshy footstep at a time.