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Archive for October, 2022

If you brought together six people with diverse traits and backgrounds, their answers to the title question would likely include six different types of spaces.

Some of us prefer cozy decor, surrounded with precious keepsakes.

Others prefer sleek, white spaces with lots of light.

Some like a rustic, log cabin aesthetic; others prefer the industrial look.

And more than a few gravitate toward the quirky.

But no matter our style preferences, research has confirmed that certain environmental factors impact our mood:

  • A warm, cozy home creates a sense of well-being for most people
  • Clutter can cause a person to feel overwhelmed and anxious; tidy, organized spaces tend to calm
  • Beauty in the form of pleasing colors, sounds, and smells as well as meaningful objects can elevate a person’s mood
  • A dark room can make a person feel lethargic; light energizes and exhilarates
  • Bringing nature indoors with plants and flowers contributes to serenity

But we can’t always control our physical environments. Home isn’t warm and cozy in the midst of ongoing conflict. Children (and maybe a few spouses or roommates out there!) make messes they’re loathe to clean up. And days on end of gray weather can sap energy and joy. What then?

We can shift our focus from what’s around us to what’s within–the spiritual surroundings of our souls. But how do we impact that invisible space, in order to experience equilibrium and calm?

Let’s begin by imagining the soul like a room, and consider the bullet points above.

First, it is God who creates a warm and cozy environment in the depths of our being—a sense of peace and contentment that no one or nothing else can accomplish. To access His peace we only need to ask. And as the atmosphere of our spirits change, we discover: “The very act of breathing in his presence is balm.”[1]

Second, clutter in the soul includes such unsightly messes as sin, negativity, and worry. God knows we can’t remove the muck on our own. But out of his love and mercy, he gladly helps get rid of the filth as we turn to him for forgiveness, help, and strength.[2]

We can enhance our soul-spaces with beauty—thoughts that center on all things lovely, excellent and praiseworthy. Imagine hanging on the walls of your spirit pictures of God’s faithfulness—remembrances of his provisions, guidance, and blessings. View with delightful awe his magnificent deeds.[3]   

A few well-placed lights of scripture[4] will certainly energize and elevate our mood—passages such as these:

  • “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long, they celebrate your righteousness for you are their glory and strength”.
  • “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”
  • “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.”[5]

Last, at least for this post, we can bring the delight of nature into our spirits, much as we enjoy bringing plants and flowers into our homes.

Have you noticed that when we take the time to marvel at the intricacies of a leaf or petal, our pleasure is expanded further?

Similarly, we can take time to marvel in God’s attributes and abilities gloriously displayed in creation:

  • his inventiveness and engineering—from insects designed to walk on water to whales that communicate underwater.
  • His attention to detail as he created a planet that sustains life.
  • His mind-boggling power to fill the universe with stars, planets, moons, galaxies, nebula, comets, and more—all governed by the scientific laws he established.

And as a result of such contemplations, our pleasure in him is expanded.

When all these elements are combined within our spirits—warmth and coziness with God, cleanliness, beauty and light from God, as well as delight in God, we discover true sanctuary, a place where we can enjoy intimate relationship with him and rest for our souls–a place of refuge and calm.[6]

Isn’t that a place where youd like to live?


[1] Philippians 4:6-7 and Jan Karon, A Common Life, 116.

[2] Psalm 51:7, Psalm 94:18-19, Philippians 4:13

[3] Philippians 4:8; Psalm 105:5a; Habakkuk 3:2b

[4] Psalm 119:105

[5] Psalm 89:15-17a; Isaiah 26:3; Nahum 1:7

[6] Matthew 11:28-29; Psalm 55:6; Isaiah 25:4; Psalm 16:11

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Long ago in Sunday School, our teachers taught us proper respect for God.  The rules of reverence included:

  • Be quiet and solemn in worship
  • Bow your head, close your eyes, and fold your hands to pray
  • Always treat God’s house with utmost respect

The first rule proved the most difficult to keep. I failed many a Sunday. My legs wanted to swing, my hands wished for crayons and paper, my eyes longed for a book. Would the sermon ever end?!

Years later I came across the Westminster Shorter Catechism, a collection of 107 questions and answers explaining the Christian faith. The list began with, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer shocked me.

The first part made perfect sense. Paul made it clear: “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).  But the second part caught me off guard.

Enjoy God?

His blessings and benefits certainly brought me joy. But God himself? How could I enjoy Someone who’s invisible?

Over time I’ve discovered that, although God deserves the utmost reverence and respect, we need not always be solemn. We can laugh and sing for joy in his presence (Psalm 68:3 MSG).

In fact, enthusiastic praise of God, especially in the company of others, is an invigorating way to enjoy him–reveling in who he is—our God of goodness, grace, and love.

We can also celebrate what he’s done—supplying our needs, guiding the way, and surprising us with gifts we didn’t even ask for.

While we’re worshiping, we can lift our hands toward God (Psalm 63:4), augmenting our connection to him. Even hands placed palms up on the lap can add to our enjoyment.

Steve and I learned this posture from one of his seminary professors. After a teaching session on prayer, Dr. Stanger instructed us to place our hands in our laps, palms up.

We sat in silence for a few moments, and suddenly I felt a tingling in my hands! Was the Spirit of God actually holding my hands as we prepared to pray?!

Dr. Stanger explained: the pressure on the backs of our hands caused the phenomenon.   But wasn’t it wonderful to imagine God gracing each of us with his personal touch in this way?

Yes, supremely delightful!

We can also take the celebration outside and enjoy God as Creator and King of the universe. For example, look to the sky and contemplate the galaxies of stars. Smile at him in wonder because of their incomprehensible magnitude and indescribable beauty. Consider too, they’re all under his control.

Another way to enjoy God is to delight in his scripture. We can proclaim appreciation to him for the strength, comfort, and peace his Word provides, as well as those passages that bring joy to our hearts (Psalm 119:111).

Those of us who like to write find great pleasure in composing journal entries, poetry, personal psalms, and more, addressed to God, as a way of expressing our delight in him.

Sarah Young, author of Jesus Calling, has inspired some of us to follow her example and go a step further: record thoughts or impressions we receive from God as we wait and listen in his presence (Psalm 25:5; 85:8).

In these ways and more God has made it possible for us to continually enjoy him.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Dare I say it?  Is it too irreverent? You are FUN, God! I love spending time with you, rejoicing in you, celebrating your works, reveling in your presence, taking delight in our mutual communication.

What a glorious privilege you’ve granted us, Father, to nestle close to you and experience fullness of joy forevermore!

(Psalm 100:1-2; John 10:27; Psalm 65:2; Isaiah 40:11; Psalm 16:11)

(Revised and reblogged from March 15, 2015, while I recover from Covid. My husband tested positive last Wednesday; I succumbed on Saturday. Symptoms have been uncomfortable but tolerable for both of us; we’re on the mend! ‘Will try to write a fresh post for next week.)

Photo credits: http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.wikimediacommons.org; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com.

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Mr. Ribeau studied young Michael’s work, checking for crooked stitches and traces of glue. But after just two years of training, the young book-binding apprentice was already quite proficient.

“You’ve done a fine job, my boy!” Mr. Ribeau praised.

A small smile curled on Michael’s face. “Thank you, sir. This is the last book for today. May I go work on my experiments, please?”

Mr. Ribeau chuckled. “Of course. Off with you!” 

Michael scurried to the back room where his master had given him space to investigate his favorite subject: electricity.

Interest had begun five years before in 1803 when Michael became an errand boy for Mr. Ribeau. Michael would read the books that came into the London shop for binding. Even though he attended school for just two years, Michael read with competence.

The volumes on science especially intrigued him, and he desired to conduct his own experiments. Kind Mr. Ribeau had made it possible. He also provided extra pennies now and then to attend scientific lectures.

Another book captured Michael’s attention: The Improvement of the Mind by the famous hymn-writer, Isaac Watts. Michael determined to follow Watts’ advice including: read worthwhile books, take thoughtful notes, and “ever maintain a virtuous and pious frame of spirit.”

No doubt Michael’s heart was primed for such a book, since he came from a Christian home. And as he grew into manhood, Michael embraced his faith in Jesus with ever-maturing dedication. 

One day Mr. Ribeau presented Michael with four passes to attend presentations by Sir Humphrey Davy, a renowned chemist. At each lecture, Michael took careful notes. Later he bound them into a beautiful book.

Sir Humphrey Davy

In 1811 at age nineteen, Michael completed his apprenticeship, but had no desire to become a bookbinder. Though just a tradesman with little schooling, he sought a position with one of the scientific institutions, including Sir Davy’s prestigious Royal Institution.

With that application, he sent his precious notebook from Davy’s lectures, hoping to convince the great chemist of his passion for the sciences. But no position was available.

In 1813 an invitation arrived for Michael to interview with Davy, and he was hired as a laboratory assistant. Michael quickly proved himself, assisting Sir Davy at his lectures. Six months later, Davy selected Michael to accompany him on a two-year lecture tour through Europe.

When they returned, Michael pursued his scientific studies with passion. He researched steel, hoping to make it stronger. He sought to improve lighthouse lamps, prevent corrosion of ships, clean up the pollution in the Thames, and preserve art works and sculptures.  

Young Michael Faraday

Michael was the first person to liquefy chlorine and discovered a new element, later named benzene, that’s used in dyes, nylon, and plastics. Further discoveries included the process that produced refrigeration and the potential use of ether as an anesthetic.

But he didn’t neglect his first love, electricity. Michael invented the transformer and the dynamo that created electricity without a battery. His discoveries also paved the way for the electric motor. In fact, Michael Faraday has been called “the scientific genius who gave electricity to the world” (1).

Such research propelled Michael into elite circles. He became director of the Royal Institution where he’d begun as an assistant to Sir Davy. Oxford University awarded him a doctorate, and he was invited to become a member—even president–of the prestigious Royal Society. He declined the position.

Michael Faraday lecturing at the Royal Institution: Prince Albert and his sons in the audience. Wood engraving, 1856, after A. Blaikley. Contributors: Alexander Blaikley. Work ID: xt5crqqq.

In spite of great success, Michael Faraday remained a humble man, uninterested in the fortune he could have amassed, manufacturing his inventions.

To Michael, the pursuit of scientific studies was a holy calling, and to understand even a fraction of nature’s workings was a gift from God (2) –much more valuable than money.

But not all his waking hours were devoted to science. Faraday was an active church member, serving as elder for more than 20 years, frequently leading in worship and even preaching.

Faraday also demonstrated faith-in-action. For example:

He proved himself a forgiving man on many occasions. One time the elders removed him from their circle—even church membership for awhile–because he accepted an invitation from Queen Victoria for Sunday lunch, which meant he couldn’t be at church. 

But Michael continued to attend services and remained cordial to all, including those who’d hurt him.

Michael demonstrated grace. He and Sir Davy differed in opinion more than several times, but the younger scientist always expressed admiration for his mentor.

Michael’s generosity was also well known. He supported charities and visited the poor. And when his mother became widowed, he also supported her.

Throughout his career Michael expressed gratitude to God that he, a poor, uneducated tradesman should be privileged to explore the beauty and synchronization of God’s physical laws of creation.  

In 1861, the aging Faraday wrote to a friend, “The contemplation of death [is] a comfort—not a fear. Such peace is alone in the gift of God. . . His unspeakable gift in His beloved Son is the ground of no doubtful hope” (3).

Michael Faraday proved himself a man of intelligence and integrity, but also of strong faith in God, and in the end, peace.

Michael Faraday. Photograph by W. Walker & Sons. Work ID: hjz8gkmw.

Isaac Watts would have been pleased, and no doubt so is God (Psalm 147:11).

Notes:

1. https://www.revshirelymurphy.co.uk/post/michael-faraday-and-his-christian-faith-which-influenced-his-science

2. https://crev.info/scientists/michael-faraday/

3. Ibid

Sources:

https://answersingenesis.org/creation-scientists/profiles/michael-faraday-gods-power-and-electric-power/

Heroes of the Faith: Michael Faraday

https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/drinking-from-a-fount-on-sundays

https://christiantoday.com.au/news/michael-faraday-his-christian-faith-influenced-his-science.html

https://creation.com/michael-faradaygods-power-and-electric-power

Michael Faraday

https://www.revshirleymurphy.co.uk/post/michael-faraday-and-his-christian-faith-which-influenced-his-science

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Perhaps you’ve also heard these definitions:

  • A pessimist is a person who is seasick during the entire voyage of life.
  • An optimist is a person who goes in a restaurant with no money, and fully expects to pay for his meal with the pearl he finds among the oysters that he plans to order.
  • A realist is a person who does precise guesswork based on unreliable data provided by those of questionable knowledge.

M-m-m. According to those tongue-in-cheek definitions, who would aspire to any of these three attitudes?

Truth be told, pessimists often do identify worst-case scenarios and sometimes think God doesn’t care or he’d intervene. Optimists can believe God will always make good things happen, if we just have enough faith. Realists might not focus on the negative, yet still be cautious about expecting God’s involvement in their circumstances.

But what if he desires that we expect great things–things like strength to endure, help to solve problems, provision for needs, and guidance for decisions? Nineteenth century pastor/author Andrew Murray suggested:

It occurred to me that we Jesus-followers might aim past pessimism, realism, or optimism, toward up-timism. No, you won’t find that word in Webster’s. But according to the Nancy Ruegg Dictionary of Words We Need the up-timist looks up toward God, trusting that out of his love, goodness, and wisdom, he will do what is right.

Up-timists also take to heart the promises of scripture, they remember God’s faithfulness in the past, and affirm who he is in all his glorious attributes.

This doesn’t mean up-timists are perpetually giddy with cheer. But even as tears of pain or grief course down their cheeks, they rest in their Heavenly Father with joy. They’ve learned how to be “sorrowful but always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10).

Consider these words from the great preacher Charles Spurgeon: “We ought to be glad and rejoice forever in that which God creates. Ours is a heritage of joy and peace. My dear brothers and sisters, if anybody in the world ought to be happy, we are the people. . . How boundless our privileges! How brilliant our hopes!”[1]

These words were penned when Spurgeon was deathly ill. Though he rallied for a time, the great theologian graduated to heaven six months later.

In the letter to his people excerpted above, he included a main characteristic of the up-timist: hope.

Hope is the confident expectation that God will use our painful circumstances for good . . . it’s what allows us to choose to rejoice amid hardships and to say to God, “I will rejoice in You.”[2]

By contrast, pessimists are often characterized by fatalism, realists by over-confidence in their own perceptions, and optimists by wishful thinking.

But up-timists affirm such confident expectations as these:

  • The Lord preserves those who are true to him . . . Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord (Psalm 31:23-24).
  • Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken (Psalm 62:5-6).
  • You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word (Psalm 119:114).

Hope isn’t an automatic response in times of hardship, even for up-timists. We have to exercise our determination. One way is to speak truth to ourselves–with conviction. The scriptures listed above offer a good place to start.

Other truths include:

  • I know God has a purpose in this circumstance (Proverbs 19:21).
  • I know God will bring me through (Isaiah 40:29-31).
  • I know God is a good and loving Father, and he’s working toward the eternal perfection of his kingdom, for the benefit of all who love him (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Note how God is at the center of the up-timist’s hope. She expects God to work in her life and in the world, anticipates the fulfillment of his promises, and looks forward to seeing his will unfold.

Note also that “hope doesn’t change what we see, like the lens of optimism or pessimism, hope changes us to withstand the journey this side of heaven with enduring joy, peace, and contentment.”[3]

So–would you describe yourself as an up-timist? How does that point of view impact your life? Please share in the comment section below!


[1] https://www.epm.org/blog/2019/Oct/23/godly-optimism.

[2] Jennifer Rothschild, Lessons I Learned in the Dark, 95.

[3] Kim Striver, https://www.coreradiate.com/blog/optimist

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