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  • Maggie Wallem Rowe

Listening to the Sound of SILENCE

Early of an ordinary Smoky Mountains morning, I know just where I’ll be.

Clad in sneakers and sweats, I haul my aging body up Wolfpen Ridge behind our home and back down again. It counts as exercise but thinking and praying time’s more like it.

The mountains were shrouded today as they often are. The Cherokee refer to this region as Shaconage (Sha-Kon-O-Hey), Land of Blue Smoke. The omnipresent mist lends an aura of mystery to the landscape, reflective of my thoughts of the future.

Three weeks from today I know where I’ll be, too - at a hospital in downtown Boston.

The why is not my story to tell. Not yet anyway. The journey taking members of our family to this place began months ago with an initially devastating diagnosis, baptized in prayer, that has given way to audacious hope as we’ve moved with God towards August 11.

“Two percent is not nothing. I wish people knew how amazing it is.” - Nightbirde

As I climb Wolfpen and pray for our loved ones, I’m asking God for a miracle for others we know.

Penny who survived four horrific months of hospitalization with COVID -19 only to be diagnosed with cancer.

Longtime friend L who is staring down the prospect of a particularly dreadful surgical procedure.

K and P whose teenage daughter and granddaughter are experimenting with alternate sexual identities.

I talk to God about each one, but mostly I listen.

Our pastor said on Sunday that there are different and deeper ways to hear than just with our ears. As he spoke, an interpreter translated his words into visual symbols so deaf members of our congregation could listen with their eyes.

“Deaf or hearing,” Pastor Chris commented, “we all listen to God with our hearts.”

Blessed are those who hear.

Sometimes we think we hear better than we do.

(Total aside: If you are a WOCA or MOCA – a woman or man of a certain age - who belongs to AARP, did you know you can take the National Hearing Test once a year for free to establish a baseline? Go to

Sometime we think we’re listening when we’re actually rehearsing what we’ll say in response.

Can you truly love someone, or Someone, when you talk to them aplenty but rarely stay silent long enough to truly listen?

“Are you listening to this? Really listening? Listen carefully to what I am saying—and be wary of the shrewd advice that tells you how to get ahead in the world on your own.” Mark 4:23-24 MSG

Back in January, I followed the examples of other students of our Rabbi when I chose a word for the year. It was LISTEN.

Listening has meant turning down some invitations I would have dearly loved to accept, while clearing the calendar to be where I’m most needed late this summer and fall.

“Every good opportunity is not God’s will for your life.” Carol Kent

Listening has meant experiencing the discomfort of stillness when I’m longing to hear his Voice, and not mistaking God’s silence for his absence.

Listening has meant knowing that hearing is the last sense that we possess, and may well be the very last thing we do on earth.

Four years before I began my undergraduate studies at Wheaton College in Illinois, then president Dr. V. Raymond Edman addressed the assembled faculty and students in a morning chapel service in the building named for him.

In a message titled, “In the Presence of the King,” Dr. Edman said: “Over these years I have learned the immense value of that deep inner silence as David, the king, sat in God’s presence to hear from Him.”

With those words, Dr. Edman collapsed and died. A stunned student body never forgot his final lesson.

How comfortable are you sitting in silence in the presence of the King?

How comfortable am I?

Copyright 2021, Maggie Wallem Rowe


Maggie's first book, This Life We Share, is available wherever books are sold. Her second, Life is Sweet, Y'all, will release from Tyndale House Publishers in March 2022.

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