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Archive for August, 2019

Everything Good

In a list of “minor impressions,” beloved columnist/author, Joe Bayly, wrote the following for Saturday, July 28, 1962:

“Rode the merry-go-round tonight with happy David and worried Nathan, while Mary Lou looked on and waved each time we passed. Timmy kept up with us, running, for three times around”(1).

 

 

And then Joe included this familiar scripture:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17–NIV, emphasis added).

Take note:  everything good in this world comes from God—even a ride on a merry-go-round.

Sometimes, however, the goodness of God’s gifts isn’t immediately recognizable.

Scripture offers a number of examples, including Paul’s thorn in the flesh. The exact nature of the problem was never revealed, but we do know it was chronic and debilitating. Who would call that a good and perfect gift?

Paul did.

“At first I didn’t think of it as a gift,” he said.

Then God told him, “My grace is enough; it’s all you need.”

 

 

“Once I heard that,” Paul explained, “I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift.” (vs. 7-10, The Message).

I, for one, have never had to deal with a long-term thorn in the flesh. But difficult, shorter-term circumstances have turned into tremendous blessings. For example:

  • A particularly exhausting week of teaching, family responsibilities, and other pressing matters was followed up by a weekend music retreat at church. How could I muster the energy to attend and complete a long must-do-by-Monday list? While visions of PJs and pillows danced in my head, I dragged myself to church. But through the funny and inspiring retreat leader, the uplifting music, and the invigorating camaraderie of music ministry friends, I left Friday evening highly rejuvenated, looking forward to more blessings come Saturday and Sunday.
  • Our son was not accepted into his first choices of graduate schools, and we wondered what God was doing. Was Eric proceeding in the right direction? Those trying days, however, turned into lessons of trust and spiritual maturity for him, which he humbly took to heart. As for the university that did accept him? That’s where Eric met his wife.
  • Into every life a few challenging people must fall, right? And with them often come discouragement, stress, and hurt. Where’s the blessing in all that? For starters, God uses such relationships to train us in turning our thoughts to the positive (Philippians 4:8), so we can experience renewal and peace. We also develop perseverance and maturity (James 1:2-4)—traits that lead to a calm and steady life anchored on Jesus.

 

 

God gives only good and perfect gifts. Sometimes they come as small but delightful surprises—like a perfect merry-go-round moment.

Sometimes they come wrapped inside trying circumstances.

But those are some of his best gifts–when negative is transformed into positive.

Because that’s downright miraculous.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Have you ever received a good and perfect gift out of difficult circumstances?  Tell us your story in the comments below!

 

*Joe Bayly, Out of My Mind:  The Best of Joe Bayly, Zondervan, 1993, p. 41.

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org.)

 

Revised and reblogged from February 29, 2016.

 

 

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“Be still and know that I am God (1).

Be still and know.

Be still.

Be.

It starts with ‘be.’

Just be, dear one.”

–Shauna Neiquist (2)

 

Moments of quiet, contemplative silence are rare for many people. We’ve been swept up in the cultural norms of productivity: use time wisely and stay on task. Better yet, multi-task.

But there is tremendous power and blessing in stillness.

Quietness of spirit:

  • creates space for us to hear God’s voice
  • builds bonds of trust between us and God
  • accelerates our understanding of God
  • revitalizes our spirits
  • brings the peace of God to our hearts

Surely these are desirable outcomes that warrant a few minutes each day to just be—in the presence of God.

 

 

The question becomes, how do we achieve such a goal when other responsibilities clamor loudly for our attention?

Like any priority, we must make time.   Begin with five minutes; you’ll soon be craving more.

Choose a secluded place. For years I sat at our kitchen table early in the morning, before anyone else in the house got up. Now I enjoy the luxury of a private home office. But when the weather allows, I revel in sitting on the deck with God, surrounded by his creation.

Not everyone has such options. I know one young mother who has chosen the bathroom as her place of stillness!

Put your God-given imagination to work. We considered the gift of imagination a couple of weeks ago, in a post titled: Oh, What We’re MissingYou can borrow my visualization if you like–the one I use if quiet time must take place indoors:

 

 

Picture a peaceful lake shrouded in morning mist.  On a dock are two Adirondack chairs, one for you and one for Jesus. He’s already sitting in his, because he loves to spend quality time with his children.  As you settle in your chair, reach out your hand for his. Just sit in companionable silence for a moment.

Another option: picture a place where you’ve experienced Jesus’ peace before, and imagine yourself there with him again.

Be physically still.  Relax.  The original Hebrew word translated “be still” can also be translated “cease striving.” Take several slow, deep breaths, and prayerfully set aside the to-list and concerns.

Focus on Jesus and contemplate his attributes. When distracting thoughts pop up (and they will!), add them to the to-do list or the prayer list as needed (keep them handy!), then turn back to Jesus.

Remember:  He understands how hard it is for us to sit quietly with him; he does not expect perfection. What he does treasure is our persistence to seek him (3).

 

 

Listen. “Deep within the center of the soul is a chamber of peace where God lives and where, if we will enter it and quiet all the other sounds, we can hear his gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12)” (4).

You may wish to keep a journal and pen nearby as God reveals impressions in your heart.  Perhaps it will just be one word or a single thought at first. Write it down. From that starting point you just might grow a paragraph, or even a page of God-thoughts.

But don’t worry if you hear no whisper. “In God’s presence is peace (Isaiah 26:3), joy (Psalm 16:11), and strength (Proverbs 18:10)—whether words are exchanged or not.

In A Quiet Place in a Crazy World, Joni Eareckson Tada wrote about her Uncle Vince, who had constructed a prayer room complete with fake paneling, some stained glass from an old church, and a couple of old, musty tapestries. The only furniture was a small prayer kneeler and a Bible stand.

 

 

Joni remembers thinking it was stuffy and tacky. Years later she realized how wise Uncle Vince was to have a special place where he met Jesus. That was undoubtedly the reason he prayed on the golf course and on his hikes with Joni and her family.

“Uncle Vince encountered God every place, because he had one place,” she wrote (5).

How we need such a place…

…to just be.

It starts with be.

 

 

Notes:

  1. Psalm 46:10
  2. Shauna Neiquist, Present over Perfect
  3. Sarah Young, Jesus Always
  4. L. B. Cowman, Streams in the Desert
  5. Joni Eareckson Tada, A Quiet Place in a Crazy World

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.pixabay.com.

 

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For some of us, seasonal weather changes produce dramatic contrast—from arctic blasts in January to tropical heat in July. For others, the seasonal shift is more subtle, marked by the dry season giving way to rain every day.

Our lives are characterized by seasons too. Sometimes we enjoy periods of joyful calm —when the household is running smoothly, the new job is a perfect fit and friendly coworkers help us learn the systems, the kids are settled in school and enjoying their friends and activities.

Other seasons provide uncomfortable challenge—when differences between family members or friends cause upheaval, a new boss makes too many uninformed changes, or a once-cooperative child becomes a surly teenager.

 

 

Such stresses can push us toward those irritating if-onlys and what-ifs. We may work overtime to try and fix the situation–try to fix ourselves too. If I just try harder, we think.

But when others are struggling through challenging seasons, we’re likely to offer them encouragement, hope, and grace. Why do we hesitate offering the same to ourselves?

The following graces offer a good place for us to start.

 

Gracious Waiting

 

 

Waiting for difficult circumstances to resolve is never easy. But we can relieve the discomfort by reminding ourselves:

  • “The stops of a good man are ordered by the Lord as well as his steps” (George Mueller). So let’s wait with expectation. Perhaps God is orchestrating change in preparation for a new work in our lives.
  • Embrace the positive aspects of this season—the growth of faith, the heightened awareness of God’s presence, the assurance that God’s plan will far exceed anything we could devise.
  • “To wait is not to sit with folded hands, but to learn to do what we are told” (Oswald Chambers). Perhaps our best course of action during a difficult season is just to do the next right thing in front of us, and leave the future in God’s capable hands.

 

Gracious Rest

 

 

Jesus provides the perfect example. Surely he felt the pressure of too much to do and not enough time to do it. There were always people clamoring for his attention—to heal an infirmity, solve a problem, or answer a question.

But Jesus took time to rest. He allowed himself the luxury of a nap on a boat, dinner with friends, and quiet hours in the Garden of Gethsemane. Once refreshed, he was able to minister all the more fervently.

Why should it be any different for us?

 

Gracious Affirmation

 

 

We can remind ourselves that: 1) God has brought us through tough times before; he will do it again, 2) no situation is without hope; no situation is without purpose, and 3) we are never left alone to fend for ourselves, because you and I are precious to him. Yes, we are.

Does that sound prideful? Consider this perspective:

Not long ago on Antiques Roadshow an appraiser analyzed a beautiful painting with all the characteristics of a famous master’s work. However, it turned out to be a near-perfect copy. Instead of being worth several million, it was only worth several thousand.

Paintings by the masters are highly valuable because of who created them. Similarly, each of us is a highly valuable, original masterpiece because of who made each of us (Ephesians 2:10 NLT, Galatians 5:26 MSG).

Let’s affirm his power and our worth every day—especially during seasons of challenge.

 

Gracious Contenting

 

 

That’s a new derivative of content for me, maybe for you too. It means to make content or satisfied. And what’s the best way to do that? By affirming our faith in God who “does all things well and makes all things work together for our ultimate good” (A. W. Pink).

Let’s content ourselves this moment that our Heavenly Father:

  • uses difficult situations to make us into better versions of ourselves (James 1:2-4)
  • takes us along the best and straightest paths (Proverbs 3:6)
  • carries us in his arms, close to his heart (Isaiah 40:11)
  • cares about the details of our lives (Matthew 10:29-31)
  • weaves blessing into every day—even the difficult ones (2 Corinthians 9:8)

Such statements usher in God’s graces of confidence, peace of mind, and joy of spirit.

The question now becomes: When seasons of challenge overtake us, will we invite God (with all his wisdom, compassion, understanding and more) to come alongside and make it a season of grace as well?

 

Photo credits:  http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.pixabay.com’ http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com.

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