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Archive for May, 2021

Eight-year old Jennifer Wiseman tagged along behind her parents down the road in front of their farm, just as she did every evening on their habitual walk.  No matter how many times the family of three and various pets set out under the dark sky, Jennifer always ended up trailing them, her head craned backward to study the stars.

With no city lights within miles, the countryside of her Ozark Mountain home offered a spectacular heavenly view.  Jennifer shuffled along, mesmerized. 

It seemed as if heaven’s glory itself shone through thousands of pinpricks in the black canopy of sky.  Jennifer knew about heaven from her parents and their church community where she saw lived out what was being taught.

Her interest in stars grew as she watched Carl Sagan’s television program, Cosmos.

(Carl Sagan)

 What would it be like to explore space, she wondered, to stand on a far-distant planet amidst its craters and mountains? To make new discoveries about the universe? Maybe one day I can be a part of space exploration.

That interest remained with Jennifer.  But whether to become an astronaut, astronomer, scientist or engineer building space probes—Jennifer didn’t know. So she majored in physics at MIT, since that basic science could be applied in many areas of study.

A few months before graduation in 1987, Jennifer traveled with other students to the Lowell Observatory in Arizona.  On photographic plates taken by astronomer Brian Skiff, she discovered a new comet that became known as the Wiseman/Skiff Comet.

(An unidentified comet)

Jennifer continued her education at Harvard, receiving a Ph. D. in astronomy in 1995.  From Massachusetts she moved to Virginia as a Jansky Fellow at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory to research star formation.  Her childhood dream had finally become reality [1].

(Galaxy Grand star forming, photo from Hubble Space Telescope)

Currently she is the Senior Project Scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope.

(Dr. Jennifer Wiseman)
(Jennifer teaching a seminar)

Dr. Wiseman is a sought after speaker because not only is she articulate and passionate about her subject of outer space, but as a believer in Christ she’s a strong defender of exploration as a divinely Christian activity.  She sees no conflict between science and her faith, sharing often a quote from John Calvin [2]:

As Jennifer considers the billions of galaxies, each with billions of stars, she recognizes God is responsible for it all, and has been supporting and sustaining this ever-changing universe over billions of years, long before life existed.

(a star forming, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope)

For some, that realization fosters a feeling of insignificance, but not for her.  Jennifer senses a reverent fear and gratefulness that God engineered the universe to mature over eons of time until at least one planet can support abundant life.

“And I get to be a part of that for just a little while,” she says. “So I’m grateful. It also makes me a little fearful:  am I using my time well [3]?”

Jennifer allows her awe to impact her worship as she contemplates her Savior, the one who sustains the universe (Hebrews 1:3).  “He’s the one responsible for galaxies, black holes, planets, oceans, and porcupines!” she says.

(NASA photo of a dwarf galaxy)

“When we say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ we must mean that Jesus is Lord of all time and space.  Who was the Lord at the Big Bang when Time began?  Jesus.

“Who was Lord when the first galaxies coalesced and the first stars turned on?  Jesus.

(Colliding galaxies. Photo credit: ESA, Hubble, & NASA)

“Who was Lord as our own solar system came into being?  Jesus.

“Who was Lord during all the epochs of life on Earth—the Cambrian, the Pleistocene, the era of [early humans]?  Jesus.

“And who will be Lord as long as time exists, and forever outside of time as well?  Jesus [4].”

(The Omega Nebula or Swan Nebula)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

We do praise you, O God, for the wonders of your universe. Thank you for giving us the capability to study and understand its marvels at least in part, providing opportunity to gain insight into your greatness.

(Planetary Nebula)

We also praise you for working at the infinitesimal level—in our individual lives. How glorious we can never come to the end of your attentive loving kindness any more than we can reach the end of your universe.

(Psalm 19:1; Genesis 1:27; 1 Chronicles 29:11;

Matthew 10:29-31; Psalm 57:10)

 Notes


(NASA’s Power Couple, Jennifer Wiseman and Mark Shelhamer)

[1] Meanwhile she married fellow NASA scientist Mark Shelhamer in 1997.  They met at MIT when she was an undergrad and he was pursuing his master’s degree.

[2] https://news.belmont.edu/dr-jennifer-wiseman-speaks

[3] https://blog.emergingscholars.org/2013/07/interview-with-jennifer-wiseman-part-2/

[4] www.letterstocreationists.wordpress.com/2010/11/20/how-science-can-inspire-can-inform-worship-jennifer-wiseman/

Other Sources:

www.technologyreview.com

www.testoffaith.com

https://biologos.org/podcast-episodes/jennifer-wiseman-light-in-space

Photo credits: http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pxhere.com;www.pixabay.com; http://www.stockvault.net; http://www.snappygoat.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.azquotes.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.picryl.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.wikimedia.org.

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I first heard that title-phrase–thin places–from a woman in my writers’ group. (Thank you, Colleen!) It refers to a location or moment in which we’re more aware of God’s presence, where the veil between heaven and earth seems particularly thin, and we experience a taste of how glorious heaven will be.

Someone might say, “But the Bible says so little about our eternal home.  How do we recognize those thin places?”

A few examples may help.  Think of a time when:

  • You encountered a breath-taking panorama of woodland flowers amid greening trees– on a day of sublime spring weather.  Did your heart fill with praise to the Creator for such beauty and perfection?
  • You found your skin tingling and your eyes stinging in response to music.  It may have been a moving classical piece like Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2, a rousing hymn such as Great Is Thy Faithfulness, or a soul-touching worship song like Christ Our Hope in Life and Death (Matt Papa/Keith and Kristyn Getty).  And during the moments those lovely notes lingered, were you carried on wings of splendor into the heavenlies?
  • You received an unexpected gift, a note of genuine appreciation, or a sincere affirmation.  Did a wave of bright euphoria sweep through your spirit in response to this delightful love-expression, and did your heart turn to God with overflowing gratitude as the One who inspired it (James 1:17)?
  • A prayer was answered—more perfectly than you imagined—or an over-the-top miracle unexpectedly materialized.  Were you rendered speechless by the glory and wonder of it all?

Just think: 

If we celebrate astonishing beauty in this world . . .

. . . if we’re carried on wings of splendor by events here on earth . . .

. . . and if we experience euphoric moments within imperfect relationships . . .

. . . what pleasures must await in heaven that Christ was willing to die, in order that we might enjoy them with him?

Let the thin places be a reminder:  Though the earth is full of God’s glory (Isaiah 6:3), heaven offers more—much more.

Let that thought lead to praise.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

I praise you, Father, for those times and places I’ve sensed your intimate presence, when my heart felt strangely warmed as if touched by your holy hand.

I praise you for the fullness of joy you provide here and now in spite of my sins and shortcomings.  How precious is your loving kindness, O Lord! 

With happy expectation (a delight of its own), I look forward to the day when you’ll walk me through the veil and I will dwell with you in your glorious realm forever!

(Psalm 23:4; 16:11; 36:7; 23:6)

When or where have you encountered a thin place? Please tell us about it in the comment section below!

Photo credits: http://www.flickr.com; http://www.snappygoat.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.snappygoat.com; http://www.heartlight.org; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.dailyverses.net.

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As you probably know, Dove chocolates come wrapped in foil with uplifting statements written inside. Not long ago I found this one:

“The more you praise and celebrate your life,

the more there is in life to celebrate.”

A positive attitude of praise and celebration, even for the little blessings, does contribute to a sense of well-being. But there’s an important omission in this quote—the cause of all those blessings.  Perhaps the sentiment should read:

“The more you praise and celebrate God in your life,

the more there is in life to celebrate.”

Now a pleasing sentiment has become solid truth, because with God in our lives, joy is our constant companion.

It requires such a small effort, really—to note the supreme pleasures in ordinary events or to choose a positive perspective.

Sometimes joy involves making a magnificent moment . . .

I’d been mall shopping for several hours, scouring the sales racks to no avail. Suddenly I noticed my sweater—one of my favorites–was no longer tied to my purse. 

Not only had I not purchased an addition for my wardrobe that afternoon, I’d subtracted a piece of clothing already owned.

Retracing my steps seemed daunting; I had browsed in so many stores.  Besides, it was time to meet Steve for dinner at one of the mall restaurants.  

After we ordered our meals, I told him what happened. “I’ll check the lost-and-found after we eat,” I said. “By then maybe someone will have found my sweater and turned it in.”

So that’s what we did.  No sweater.

Steve suggested we stop at the stores where I’d shopped as we made our way back to the car.

At the very first store the eyes of the young sales girl lit up when I asked about a lost sweater. “What color was it?” she asked.

“Cranberry red.”

“We did find it! It’s right back here!” she replied while heading to the rear of the store. Sure enough, the young woman returned with my sweater. Someone had even put it on a hanger.

Well! I thanked her and the manager behind the counter, not knowing which had found it and been so thoughtful.

One of them jokingly said something about doing good deeds for chocolate.

As it happened, just two doors down was the Godiva Chocolate Shop. Before leaving the mall, Steve and I popped in, bought two little boxes, and went back to the clothing store.

When those two girls saw the Godiva bag they whooped in surprise and started to laugh. We did too.

“God blessed me through you by returning my sweater; we wanted to bless you,” I told them.

“Oh! That remark about chocolate was just a joke!” the salesgirl cried. “But you have no idea how much I needed this. Today has been especially rough.” She started around the counter with her arms outstretched. “Come here! I need to give you a hug!”  Then she added, “Look!  I’m crying!”

I had tears in my eyes as well.

The level of endorphins in that shop soared so high the lights shone brighter and the atmosphere crackled with joy.  And all because Steve and I magnified the significance of a small moment and celebrated a God-orchestrated event.

Truly, “The more you praise and celebrate God in your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

What are you celebrating in life today?  Magnify the moment by sharing your joy in the comments below!

Art & photo credits: http://www.flickr.com; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.canva.com.

(Revised and reblogged from April 23, 2015.)

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We’re now six weeks and five days into spring, and evidence of the season abounds:

  • Greenery flourishes from ground cover to tree tops
  • Lilac, lily of the valley, and hyacinth scent the air
  • Birds perform arias of warbles and trills
  • Butterflies bob from flower to leaf
  • Warm breezes dance through the trees

Most of us revel in these signs of spring.  We find our senses highly engaged, taking in each stage of the transformation. Perhaps that explains why many people experience more joy this time of year. 

I wonder:  what if we engaged our five senses in worship and quiet time with God?  Might some of that springtime joy well up in our spirits—all year long?

Christian psychologist, author, and teacher David Benner would have us understand:

The senses are a doorway to the sacred.

The question becomes:  how might these organs help us connect with God more profoundly?

Here are a few sacred sensory activities to get us started.

Sight

Gaze upon the beauty of the Lord while meditating on his attributes, his works, and wonders (Psalm 27:4).  Record the resulting thoughts on a journal page and increase the impact of reflection.

Revel in the glories of nature and write a page of praise, acclaiming God for his creative genius and impeccable workmanship.

Sound

 Play or listen to worshipful music.

Where words fail, music speaks.

Hans Christian Anderson

Or, listen in silence.

Silence is not an absence of sound

but rather a shifting of attention

toward sounds that speak to the soul.

Thomas Moore

Again, keep a journal and pen at hand to write the thoughts and impressions God speaks into your heart as you listen.

Smell

Begin quiet time by lighting a scented candle.  Perhaps reserve a favorite fragrance for this sacred time of day.  As the aroma fills the air, remember that God is with you, surrounding you with his Presence.

Taste

For many of us a mug of coffee or tea sits alongside our Bibles and journals.  What if we recited Psalm 34:8 as we take that first sip?

Praise God for his goodness; thank him for his blessings. Record one or two of his gifts in a gratitude journal. 

The more we focus on him and his wonderful works, the better we can taste his goodness.  So delight in the sweetness of his unfailing love.  Savor the hearty flavor of his strength.  Satisfy the hunger of your heart with the joy and peace of his presence.*

Touch

Years ago in a class on prayer we participants were instructed to put our hands in our laps, palms up.  After a few silent moments I suddenly felt a tingling sensation.  Was the Spirit of God holding my hands as we prepared to pray?

The professor explained that the pressure on the backs of our hands was causing the phenomenon.  But wasn’t it wonderful to imagine God gracing each of us with his personal touch?  Oh yes!

That evening began a life-long habit of turning my palms upward to pray, to avail myself more fully to the nearness of God.  It’s a divine way to augment worship.

Harold Best believes:

“Of all people, Christians should have the best noses,

the best eyes and ears,

the most open joy, the widest sense of delight.”

As we engage our senses in worship, we will find ourselves ushered through the doorway to the sacred and into the presence of our magnificent and beautiful God.

Do you incorporate any sacred sensory activities into your quiet times with God? Please tell us about it in the comment section below!

*Sarah Young, Jesus Always, Thomas Nelson, 2004, p. 333.

Photo credits: http://www.pxhere.com; ww.flickr.com; http://www.decaturdaily.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.hippopx.com; http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.flickr.com.

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