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Remember the in-crowd at your high school–the cool kids who wore the latest fashions, knew the latest songs, and seemed more attractive, confident, and important than everyone else?

‘Truth is, research has established “those who cared most about their social standing [as teenagers] often grow up to have difficulties with their interpersonal relationships years later.” Their fixation on status stays with them, and they are the ones most likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, and problems with substance abuse (1).

Now I’m thankful to never have been a part of that group.

But another in-crowd beckons–one that everyone is invited to join–that offers satisfaction in life and purpose.

It’s God’s in-group.

 

 

And just what does he have to offer?

God’s in-crowd is in their right minds (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV).

They strive to focus on the positive, and turn their attention toward God himself—His attributes and works. People in their right minds are Presence-focused, remembering the almighty, all-wise God is with them. They’re also promise-fortified, affirming that God WILL keep their minds calm because they trust in him.

Such trust requires effort, since we often lean toward the negative. But like a wrangler who captures and subdues a wild horse, the in-crowd takes their problematic thoughts captive, and tames them with the bridle of God’s truth (2).

They also pray—perhaps like Selwyn Hughes: Lord, “I give You my mind—so that You can give me Yours” (3).

 

 

God’s in-crowd is in balance.

The Apostle John wrote to Gaius: “I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well” (3 John 2).

That’s quite a compliment. If John had written such a greeting to me, he may very well have reversed his statement, praying that my soul might prosper as well as my physical health.

Of course, both are necessary for overall well being. So just as proper diet, exercise, and sufficient rest are necessary for the body, the in-crowd keeps their souls healthy through a steady diet of God’s Word, the exercise of obedience, and rest in him.

 

 

God’s in-crowd is held in his hands.

King David wrote about the phenomenon in a prayer song to God: “My times are in your hands” (Psalm 31:15a). Those hands are powerful and mighty, open and generous, protective and secure—even when someone faces difficult challenges like the Apostle Paul.

While imprisoned in Rome and anticipating his execution, Paul affirmed the strength God provided him, the generosity of God to supply all needs, his contentment in spite of circumstances, and the security of knowing all would be well whether he lived or died (4).

The in-crowd faces their challenges with the same affirmations.

 

 

God’s in-crowd lives in God’s ways (Psalm 25:8-10).

Wisdom would have us know this: “Blessed are those who keep my ways. Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not ignore it. For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 8:32-33, 35).

Critics may say, “Oh, but the Bible is so out-of-date. Times change; morals shift. What was once considered wise has been replaced by post-modern sensibilities.”

They need to observe God’s in-crowd, who delight in his Word because they find instruction for a life of purpose and meaning, preservation of life in his encouragement, and peace of mind in his truth—things post-modern sensibilities do not offer (5).

 

 

God’s in-crowd is in unity with one another, just as he desires (Ephesians 4:3; Colossians 3:13-14).

They remember: all God’s people belong to each other (Romans 12:5). So they focus on common ground and find ways to support one another rather than fuss over non-essential differences.

And as a unified group, God’s in-crowd is a force to be reckoned with.

Like snowflakes:

 

 

“Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things.

But just look at what they can do when they stick together.”

–Vesta M. Kelly

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

I praise you, Heavenly Father, that as we trust in your Son Jesus for eternal life, you also provide in-crowd status with all its privileges and spiritual blessings—to every believer. You are the God of surpassing goodness to your people!

(John 3:16; Ephesians 1:3-8; Psalm 84:11)

 

Notes:

  1. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/cracking-the-popularity-code/
  2. Philippians 4:8; Romans 12:2; Deuteronomy 31:8; Isaiah 26:3; 2 Corinthians 10:5.
  3. Every Day Light, Broadman and Holman, 1997, p. 121.
  4. Psalm 118:15-16; 145:13b-21; John 10:29; Philippians 4:13,19, 11-12, and 1:21-24.
  5. Psalm 119:24, Philippians 2:13; John 10:10; Psalm 119:50 MSG, 93, 165.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pexels.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pxhere.com (2), http://www.dailyverses.net (2); http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pexels.com.

 

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Did you catch last week’s post, “There’s No Such Thing as a Christian Genius?”

That title came from a blog-responder some years ago who didn’t realize evidence refuted his opinion. Intelligence is to be found among believers in Jesus—in the sciences (as we discovered last week), and in the humanities, as presented below:

ART 

Albrecht Durer (1471-1528)—considered by many as the greatest Renaissance artist of northern Europe. His career began at the dawn of the Reformation under Martin Luther, whom Durer supported.

One of his prayers penned five hundred years ago is just as applicable today. Included here are excerpts:

 

O God in heaven, have mercy on us!

Preserve in us the true genuine Christian faith,

Help us recognize your voice,

Help us not to be allured by the madness of the world,

So that we may never fall away from you,

O Lord Jesus Christ (1).

 

Self-portrait of Durer

 

Casper David Friedrich (1774-1840) produced more than 500 works. He is best known for his landscapes, all of which possessed a spiritual quality and meaning.

Friedrich expressed his convictions in poetry as well:

 

Through the gloomy clouds break

Blue sky, sunshine,

On the heights and in the valley

Sing the lark and the nightingale.

God, I thank you that I live

Not forever in this world

Strengthen me that my soul rise

Upward toward your firmament (2).

 

Two Men Contemplating the Moon by Friedrich, ca. 1824

 

Thomas Cole (1801-1848) was one of several who led the Hudson River School, a group of painters known for their realistic landscapes.

They desired to portray the presence of God in his creation. One technique was to include small human figures surrounded by mammoth trees and vast meadows.

Cole saw “the mission of the artist as a spiritual one, to spread the Word of God through art devoted to nature” (3). To that end, Cole prayed before he painted.

 

Dream of Arcadia by Cole, ca. 1838

 

MUSIC

George Frideric Handel produced numerous works in at least seven genres. His most remarkable effort is perhaps his most famous composition, Messiah, which he accomplished in just twenty-four days.

In 1759, while receiving an ovation after his last performance, Handel cried out: “Not from me…but from Heaven…comes all” (4).

He hoped to die on Easter, hoping to “meet his good God, his sweet Lord and Savior, on the day of his Resurrection” (5). Handel arrived in heaven the day before, in 1759.

 

George Frideric Handel

 

Johann Sebastian Bach, another prolific composer, is considered one of the greatest Western composers of all time.

While serving as a church organist and teacher, he set an impossible goal: write a different cantata for every Sunday, for three years. Not only did Bach create the music, but made sure his singers and instrumentalists had copies, and time to rehearse with him before each Sunday’s service.

Even on his secular works, Bach often wrote “I.N.J.” for “in the name of Jesus.” Finished manuscripts were frequently initialed, “S.D.G.”—Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone, the glory) (6).

 

“Soli Deo Gloria” in Bach’s own hand, bottom right

 

Felix Mendelssohn excelled in numerous fields: philosophy, linguistics, watercolor painting, poetry, gymnastics, and of course, music. During his brief life of only thirty-eight years, Mendelssohn produced approximately 750 musical works in nearly every genre.

He gained great popularity and prestige as a musician, yet maintained a humble and devout faith in Christ.  In one of his letters, Mendelssohn wrote: “Pray to God that He may create in us a clean heart and renew a right spirit within us” (7).

 

 

LITERATURE 

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) had no equal in the literary history of any country, according to the Edinburg Review (8). Her literary works reflected keen intelligence and deep faith. As a teenager, she taught herself Hebrew so she could read the Old Testament with greater understanding.

Browning’s writings often explored Christian themes:

 

“Earth is crammed with heaven,

and every common bush is afire with God.

And only those who see take off their shoes;

the rest sit around and pluck blackberries” (9).

–from Aurora Leigh

 

And from the poem, “Comfort”:

 

“SPEAK low to me, my Saviour, low and sweet
From out the hallelujahs, sweet and low
Lest I should fear and fall, and miss Thee so
Who art not missed by any that entreat” (10).

 

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

 

G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) distinguished himself as an essayist, columnist, humorist, poet, and novelist. About him, one evangelical scholar wrote : “There has not been a more articulate champion of classic Christianity, virtue, and decency.”

Articulate, indeed:

“Just going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car”—original source unknown (11).

“These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own.”—from the Illustrated News, 8-11-1928 (12).

 

G. K. Chesterton

 

Clive Staples Lewis (1898–1963), professor at Oxford and then Cambridge, is considered one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century. He authored more than thirty books; many are popular to this day.

Lewis came to Christian faith out of atheism, through the reading of such authors as George MacDonald, G. K. Chesterton, and others. Also influential, other intellectuals of faith associated with Oxford, including J. R. R. Tolkien.

C. S. Lewis came to understand:

“Look for yourself and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you find Him, and with Him, everything else thrown in”from Mere Christianity (13).

 

C. S. Lewis, ca. 1940

______________________________

 

As noted last week, it is a fact many acclaimed geniuses have chosen not to become Christians.

But it cannot be said there is no such thing as a Christian genius.

Again, who would you add to the list?  Please share in the comment section below!

 

Notes:

  1. historyofpainters.com/durer/
  2. As quoted and translated by Linda Siegel in Caspar David Friedrich and the Age of German Romanticism, 1978, p. 48.
  3. https://www.equip.org/article/what-has-art-to-do-with-evangelism/
  4. christianheritageedinburgh.uk
  5. https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/musiciansartistsandwriters/george-frideric-handel.html
  6. christianheritageedinburgh.uk
  7. thirdmill.org/paul/impact_mendelssohn.asp
  8. poetryfoundation.org/poets/elizabeth-barrett-browning
  9. https://www.bartleby.com/236/86.html
  10. https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/comfort/
  11. http://famousquotefrom.com/g-k-chesterton/
  12. https://www.chesterton.org/quotations-of-g-k-chesterton/
  13. http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/cslewisonauthenticdiscipleshippage4

 

Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.picryl.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.wikimedia.org (2); http://www.flickr.com.

 

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At least that’s what an anonymous responder tried to persuade the readership on a blog some years ago. According to this person, the Bible is just “a bad book of poetry” that no intelligent person would believe. And he challenged other readers to name a Christian genius (1).

Okay.  Here are a few to begin the list:

MATHEMATICS

Blaise Pascal’s notable mathematical works included the development of the theory of probabilities. Later in life, he devoted himself to theological writings. “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus” (2).

 

Blaise Pascal (1623-1727)

 

Sir Isaac Newton, famous for his laws of physics, also paved the way for the subject of calculus. He too dedicated his later years to interpreting scripture. “Godliness consists in the knowledge, love, and worship of God, Humanity in love, righteousness & good offices towards man” (3), he wrote.

 

Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727)

 

Dr. John Lennox is Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the University of Oxford. He has published over seventy mathematical papers and co-authored two research level texts in algebra. But Lennox is also an astute Christian apologist, and has written such books as Can Science Explain Everything (4)?

 

Dr. John Lennox (1943- )

 

SCIENCE

Sir Francis Bacon, who established the scientific method, viewed science as a way to learn deeper truths about God. In his will, he included this final prayer: “When I thought most of peace and honor, thy hand [was] heavy on me, and hath humbled me, according to thy former loving kindness. … Just are thy judgments upon my sins. … Be merciful unto me for my Savior’s sake, and receive me into thy bosom” (5).

 

Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

 

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)–One of the most important and influential physicists, astronomers, inventors and scientists to ever live. He saw no conflict between science and faith in God. “God is known by nature in his works, and by doctrine in his revealed word” (6).

 

 

James Clerk Maxwell memorized the Bible by the age of 14.  Yes, the whole thing. His extensive scientific studies determined that light is an electromagnetic wave, and his kinetic theory established that temperature is entirely dependent on the speeds of particles. Upon his death, a colleague wrote: “We his contemporaries at college, have seen in him high powers of mind and great capacity and original views, conjoined with deep humility before his God, reverent submission to His will, and hearty belief in the love and atonement of that Divine Savior” (7).

 

James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879)

 

MEDICINE

Sir James Simpson, an outstanding obstetrician, pioneered many techniques in his field. He’s also credited for his discovery of the anesthetic qualities of chloroform. But when asked by a journalist about his greatest discovery, Dr. Simpson replied he was a sinner and Jesus Christ his Savior (8).

 

Sir James Simpson (1811-1870)

 

Dr. Joseph Lister, the father of modern surgery, determined as a medical student to not just practice medicine, but to also conduct research. Among the surgical techniques he developed, Lister proved the benefits of antiseptic surgery. A devout Quaker, Lister made it clear: “I am a believer in the fundamental doctrines of Christianity” (9).

 

Dr. Joseph Lister (1827-1912)

 

Alexander Fleming–biologist, physician, microbiologist, and pharmacologist—changed the world when he discovered penicillin, but he gave God the credit. “Discoveries of this magnitude are rare . . . God took care to hide that country till he judged his people ready; then, he chose me for his whisper and I found it and it’s yours.” Fleming also asserted: “My greatest discovery was that I needed God, and that I was nothing without him and that he loved me and showed his love by sending Jesus to save me” (10).

 

Alexander Fleming (1881-1955)

 

Still further evidence of genius is found among the humanities. In an effort to keep this post of reasonable length, I’ll save that topic for next week.   But perhaps you’ll enjoy uncovering evidence for yourself of the godly faith of these Christians and others. The websites listed below offer a beginning point.

It is a fact that many proclaimed geniuses have chosen not to become Christians. God has chosen to bestow brilliant minds among all mankind, just as he grants the rain on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45).

But it cannot be said there is no such thing as a Christian genius.

 

___________________________________________

 

What Christian geniuses would you add to the list?

Please share in the comment section below!

 

Notes:

1. http://www.rightnation.us/forums/index.php?autocom=blog&blogid=7&showentry=742

2. https://www.timetoast.com/timelines/contributions-of-famous-christian-mathematicians 

3.  same as above

4.  https://www.rzim.org/speakers/john-lennox

5.  https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/scholarsandscientists/francis-bacon.html

6.  https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/scholarsandscientists/galileo-galilei.html

7.  https://creation.com/great-creation-scientists-james-clerk-maxwell

8.  http://evangelicalfocus.com/blogs/3118/The_Reformation_and_Medicine_My_lecture_to_commemorate_the_500th_anniversary-

9.  https://answersingenesis.org/creation-scientists/joseph-lister-father-of-modern-surgery/

10.  http://www.staplefordresources.co.uk/files/files/Alexander_Fleming.pdf

 

Other Sources:

https://coldcasechristianity.com/writings/the-rich-historic-roll-call-of-great-christian-thinkers-and-scientists/

https://www.famousscientists.org/great-scientists-christians/

http://evangelicalfocus.com/blogs/3118/thereformationandmedicinemylecturetocommemoratethe500thanniversary_

https://relevantmagazine.com/god/9-groundbreaking-scientists-who-happened-be-christians/

https://answersingenesis.org/intelligent-design/signature-god-medicine-and-microbiology/

 

Art & Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org (2); http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.azquotes.com; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.wikimedia.org (2).

 

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Cinematographer Conrad Hall won three Academy Awards during his fifty-year career. His genius produced such classic films as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and more recently, The Road to Perdition.

When Hall died of cancer in 2003, his colleagues declared him “one of the great cinematographers and a master of light.”  Yet toward the end of his career, Hall stated, “You are always a student, never a master. You have to keep moving forward.”

Another cinematographer, John Bailey, affirmed the same truth: “A lifetime commitment to learning and studying…is real important.  It’s a constant process…you’re a student for your whole career.”

I wonder…

Might the dynamic of continual learning be important for us as believers in Jesus?

 

 

He seemed to think so.

During one of his last teaching sessions with the disciples (recorded in John 14-16), Jesus inferred they would always be students—even though these men had been under his tutelage for three years (the time it takes to earn a degree in ministry today).  Consider also, their Master was the Son of God.

But even they required more –a Helper to guide them into all the truth (16:13).

And so do we.

Now some might be discouraged by the reality we can never attain full understanding about God or achieve perfection of character this side of heaven.  Even the great Apostle Paul asserted he had not arrived:

 

 

But there is a positive side…

I can imagine that cinematographers Conrad Hall and John Bailey (mentioned above) enjoyed ever-increasing satisfaction in their work, as their knowledge expanded and their competence developed.

We too can enjoy ever-increasing satisfaction in working out our salvation (1), as we expand our knowledge of God and his Word, and develop the competence of a mature believer.

It’s a process that continues as long as we live on earth. The better acquainted we become with God, the more we want to live by his wisdom. The more we live by his wisdom, the sweeter and more satisfying life becomes.

 

 

Just as cinematographers cooperate with their directors to bring characters to life, we cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and he brings to life the character within each of us, developing a mature person–complete and not lacking anything (James 1:4).

His Word becomes the joy of our hearts, obedience becomes a delight, and peace rules in our minds (2).

 

 

 

So…

“Don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others.

“With these qualities active and growing in your lives…no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus (3).”

You know who wrote that? The Apostle Peter—one of the disciples at that last Passover meal with Jesus. And for several decades after that memorable dinner, Peter did allow the Helper to guide him through the maturing process. He knew the rewards.

Now it’s our turn to learn, study, and cooperate.

Together let’s keep moving forward–and revel in the process as we do.

 

 

This post is based on a mini-devotional written by our son, Pastor Jeremy Ruegg.

 

Notes:

  1. The clause, “working out our salvation” comes from Philippians 2:13: “Work hard to show the results of your salvation (NLT).” By no means can we earn a place in heaven by working hard (Ephesians 2:8-9).  We could never work hard enough to deserve its magnificent riches.
  2. Psalm 119:111, 35, 165
  3. 2 Peter 3:5-8 (MSG)

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.thebluediamondgallery.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pexels.com

 

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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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