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Posts Tagged ‘God’s Presence’

 

“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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(The view from my deck chair)

 

As spring approaches I look forward to spending my morning quiet time on our deck—taking in the new foliage-finery of the trees, the happy chatter of birds, the whispering breezes, and the sweet aroma of alyssum from the deck planter.

There’s something about sitting with God in his Living Room* that opens our eyes to his glory and draws our spirits closer to his heart.

Saturday was just such a day. And as I sat in His presence, God seemed to say:

I’m so glad you’re here, Nancy! I’ve planned several discoveries for you this morning.

 

From the Trees

 

 

First, lift your eyes to the trees. Rejoice in the reminders of:

  • My strength (Psalm 93:1)–in the stalwart trunks
  • My refuge (Psalm 25:4)–in their far-reaching limbs, offering shelter from the heat
  • My provision (Philippians 4:19)–as they produce oxygen, give shelter to birds and animals, even provide food

Note the evidence of competence in their design–for purpose, beauty, and sustainability.   I am your God of Competence as well, and have designed you to fulfill an individualized purpose, provide the beauty of Christlikeness to those around you, and spend eternity with Me. 

 

From the Birds

 

(white-breasted nuthatch)

 

You can also revel in the birds—symbols of reliance on Me, and again, My provision (Matthew 6:26). Note the variety of color, pattern, song, and habit. Let the joy you experience watching birds remind you how I value your uniqueness.

Choose to celebrate who you are: the colors of your personality, the pattern of your life, the song of gifts and talents I’ve given you to share with the world, the habits of goodness I continue to form in you so you can impact others.

 

From the Squirrels

 

 

Together we can enjoy the antics of the squirrels! They too provide reminders for the life of faith:

 

  • Even when they walk upside down on a branch, they do not fall. Similarly, I make firm your steps and keep you from falling (Psalm 37:24).

 

  • With great confidence squirrels jump from limb to limb. You can live in great confidence also, because I’ve equipped you for what I ask you to do. (Ephesians 4:12; Hebrews 13:20-21).

 

  • Every time they return to their nesting tree, they follow the same pathway through the branches. They remember well which branches offer the best proximity to the next tree.

I have provided a sure pathway for you to navigate through life. You can run in the path of my wise commands; my ways will bring you home safely (Psalm 119:32a; 139:24b).

 

  • Squirrels can sit quite contentedly, even take a nap, on the very end of a branch—never concerning themselves they might fall or the branch might give way. They provide an example of perfect trust (Isaiah 26:3).

I am your security (Psalm 112:8). Out of My love and faithfulness, I will always protect you (Psalm 40:11)—even as I bring you home to heaven one day.

So when you find yourself at the end of a branch, and fear starts to creep in, send it scurrying away with My Word—verses like Psalm 27:1:

 

(Another view from our deck)

 

The Lord is my Light—

[My Joy, Peace, and Guide]

The Lord is my Salvation—

[My Protection, Provision, and Security]

Whom shall I fear?

The Lord is my Stronghold—

[The Treasury of all good things]

Of whom shall I be afraid?

 

*      *      *

 

*a creative expression originated by Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing

 

Photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pxhere.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.maxpixel.net; Nancy Ruegg

 

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“Here comes another one!” little Jim cried to his dad, as they stood atop the small airport terminal not far from their house. Father and son spent occasional afternoons watching the planes take off and land, much to Jim’s delight.

His sharp ears would pick up a plane’s droning buzz before his eyes could make out the small dot in the sky. He hardly breathed as the plane slowly descended, then lightly touched down on the landing field.

The wonder never grew old. And Jim wished more than anything to be in the cockpit, participating in the miracle of flight, not just observing.

That dream stayed with Jim all through school. Upon graduation he attended the U.S. Naval Academy, and then entered the Air Force. His plan was to become a commercial pilot after his term of service.

 

(The P-51 Mustang)

 

And then Jim chanced to fly a P-51, the fastest jet of the time and capable of flying almost vertically. After that experience, commercial piloting seemed much too tame.

Jim went back to school to earn his master’s degree in aeronautical and instrumentation engineering and graduated in 1957.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was established the following year and Jim Irwin set his sites on becoming an astronaut. To achieve that goal he needed to become a test pilot.

 

 

Jim entered that program in 1960. Once qualified he was assigned to a top-secret mission: testing a plane that flew higher and faster than any previous aircraft.

Three times he applied for the astronaut program; twice he was rejected. Finally in 1966 his acceptance letter arrived. Jim’s first assignment was to direct the testing of a lunar landing module that engineers were designing.

 

 

Then came the moment he’d been waiting for. He and fellow astronauts David Scott and Alfred Worden were chosen for the Apollo 15 mission, scheduled to take place the summer of 1971.

Eighteen months of intense training were required to prepare the men for the twelve-day expedition, three of which would be spent on the moon.

The boy who wanted to fly would soar where only a dozen men had traveled before him.

 

 

Their mission included collecting rock samples and conducting experiments in an unexplored region of the moon. They would also be the first astronauts to drive a Lunar Rover that allowed investigation of a larger area than that of previous missions.

Jim was the eighth person to walk on the moon—certainly a thrill-of-a-lifetime. But later he would insist, those moments on the moon weren’t exciting because he was there, but because God was there. Jim profoundly sensed his presence.

 

 

He’d been a Christian for over twenty years by 1971, but “I was…[a] silent Christian,” he would explain.

On the moon, as Jim looked up at Planet Earth against the black backdrop of the universe, he marveled at its fragile appearance—so delicate that if someone reached out to touch it, the world would surely crumble and fall apart, he said. Jim experienced overwhelming awe for the creation of God and his love for the entire human race—love that sent his Son Jesus earthward to die in their place.

 

 

One of Jim’s responsibilities on the mission was to set up the mechanism for lunar experiments. Not all steps proceeded successfully. But instead of inquiring the NASA engineers, Jim prayed, because waiting for a reply from Houston would take too long.

Each time he sensed God telling him what to do, and he felt the supernatural presence of God with him as he worked. That sensation was so strong, Jim felt sure if he turned around, Jesus would be standing right there at his shoulder.

As complicated as the moon landings were, Apollo 15 proceeded without major problems. The three astronauts landed safely in the Pacific Ocean on August 7, even though one parachute (out of three) didn’t deploy.

 

 

A little more than two weeks later Irwin, Scott, and Worden were honored by a ticker tape parade in New York City. As Jim waved to the thousands gathered along the street, his heart ached for those who did not know Jesus as a personal Friend, and he felt God wanted him to tell others about his Son.

A year later Jim resigned from NASA and formed the High Flight Foundation to share about Jesus from his experiences as an astronaut, and to encourage archaeological research, confirming the accuracy of the Bible.

Jim even participated in exploration of Mt. Ararat in Turkey, where other adventurers claimed to have seen what looked like ship remains, high up on the slopes. Conjecturers proposed that perhaps Noah’s ark had been found.

 

(Mount Ararat, nearly 17,000 ft. in elevation)

 

Jim’s astronaut-status provided opportunities that other exploratory teams had not been able to achieve. Government officials allowed the High Flight Foundation access to sites that had been refused to others. Yet in spite of these privileges, Jim and his crew never found the ancient ark.

For twenty years after his moon-landing adventure, Jim Irwin told others that “Jesus walking on earth was much more important than man walking on the moon, that Jesus was the way to know God and receive eternal life.”*

 

 

The day before the twentieth anniversary of his homecoming from the moon, the boy who wanted to fly flew further still. Jim experienced his homecoming in heaven, due to a massive heart attack. He was survived by his wife Mary and their five children.

No doubt, James Benson Irwin heard those beautiful words, “Well done, good and faithful servant (Matthew 25:21)!” Only this time, Jim didn’t just feel Jesus’ presence. This time, Jim was able to see his Savior and Friend face to face.

 

 

* https://godreports.com/2100/03/encounter-with-jesus-on-the-moon-left-astronaut-changed/

 

Sources:

  1. https://biography.yourdictionary.com/james-benson-irwin
  2. https://crev.info/scientists/james-irwin/
  3. https://defendingthechristianfaith.org/others-who-testify-of-faith-in-christ.html
  4. https://godreports.com/2011/03/encounter-with-jesus-on-the-moon-left-astronaut-changed/
  5. https://ramsheadpress.com/messiah/ch17.html
  6. https://www.rocketstem.org/2015/07/07/rovering-across-the-moon-during-apollo-15/

 

Photo credits:  http://www.ebay.com; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil; http://www.nasa.gov; http://www.jsc.nasa.gov; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.picryl.com; http://www.wikimedia.com (3); http://www.canva.com.

 

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Jesus made it perfectly clear: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b, emphasis added).

 

 

And in our minds we affirm that truth. Yes, he’s invisible, but we know God is involved in our lives. We look back over our personal histories and see evidence of his work, as he engineered circumstances for our good.

But sometimes our emotions long to feel his bodily presence.   Wouldn’t it be wonderful, we daydream, if he literally took us by the hand, put his arm around our shoulders, or pulled us toward him in a close embrace?

Sometimes our ears long to hear his voice, telling us loud and clear exactly what step to take next, encouraging us we’re headed in the right direction, or offering perfect words of comfort that assuage our pain.

And sometimes our spirits long for assurance of his love in spite of our frailty, that progress in maturity is occurring, and the trials we face today will have meaning tomorrow.

There have been close encounters. Every now and then we’ve come within an angel hair of his touch—he felt that close. We’ve received impressions so strong they’ve almost been audible. And we’ve sensed his affirmation in our spirits that immediately settled our uncertainty for the moment.

 

 

But in between those intermittent occasions, our Heavenly Father would have us exercise a bit of faith (1) and take to heart what he’s already told us—truths such as these:

God isn’t even the width of an angel hair away from us. Remember the passage where Jesus declares he is the vine and we are the branches (John 15:5)? Just how far is the branch from the vine?

Exactly.

And because he’s right there, we can face uncertainty. God is no cheerleader, standing on the sidelines and shouting encouragement. He’s promised to be deeply involved, to strengthen, help, and support (Isaiah 41:10).

 

 

God hasn’t lost his voice. He most often chooses to communicate with us through his written Word. But sometimes he speaks to us through other Christians—their writings or spoken words. And he still implants impressions into the quietness of our souls—if we sit still long enough to listen.

Writer and theologian, Mike Yaconelli was probably right:  “The problem isn’t that God has stopped speaking; it’s that our lives have become louder.”

God wastes nothing.  Every event, every relationship, every circumstance has potential for meaning and  benefit somewhere down the road—including mistakes, disappointments, our own poor choices and those of others.

They become transformational moments to develop our maturity and prepare us for opportunities to come.

Consider:

  • Moses, once prince of Egypt, reduced to tending sheep for forty years. Yet God chose him to lead his people out of slavery.
  • Young Daniel, taken captive to live faraway in a strange culture. Yet God’s plan included his rise to provincial ruler in that land.
  • The man born blind, in order to one day display the work of God in his life (John 9, especially v. 3).

 

 

God doesn’t require hoop-jumping. We don’t have to conjure up articulate prayers to access his presence or follow a prescribed set of steps to avail ourselves of his guidance, comfort, and power.

Even the simple act of speaking Jesus’ name invokes all that he is and all that he can do (John 16:24). How reassuring to know: “When there are no words, when there is no strength, there is always his Name” (1). God intends for us to use it.

Finally, and most encouraging:

God is on our side.  We.  Cannot.  Lose (Romans 8:31-37).

 

 

Now the question becomes: Will we move forward on what we know, or stagnate because we cannot see, hear or touch?

 

Notes:

(1) Faith is a quality God greatly values. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). But all it takes is the equivalent of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20), and our God can move mountains of insurmountable difficulty!

(2) Marilyn Meberg, Boundless Love

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com (Salvatore Gerace Tuscan); http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.photolib.noaa.gov; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.canva.com.

 

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Our son was telling me about the church he and his wife attended at the time.

“You should hear this mother and daughter play their violins together.  The girl is only ten or eleven, but she’s good. I think the mom is teaching her.”

Several months later, I happened to be visiting when the mother and daughter were scheduled to play.  My heart was filled with delicious anticipation that Sunday morning as they approached the piano with their violins.

Soon soft, mellow notes of melody and harmony resonated through the broad, high-ceilinged sanctuary.  My son had not been exaggerating. They were both gifted violinists.

 

 

I had to hold back the tears.

Yes, the sweet music touched my spirit. However, my response arose from more than that.

The music was greatly enhanced by the mystical bond between mother and daughter.

One evidence of that bond was the subtle means by which the two remained in sync. The mother would nod her head or sway slightly as she directed the music.

However, the girl didn’t actually watch. Just every now and then she would make eye contact over her violin–and smile at her mother with angelic innocence, tenderness, and purity.

Her eyes seemed to say, “I love doing this with you.”  Mother smiled her love and pleasure in return.

In fact, the very atmosphere seemed to be permeated with love during those moments. But the affection of parent and child was only a part.

The Spirit of God and his love flowed in wondrous waves through the music and that mother and daughter. God’s love—the width, length, height, and depth that Paul spoke of– filled every nook of that sanctuary.

 

 

Surely I was not the only one who felt wrapped in God’s warm embrace during those moments.

And to be loved by God is no small matter.

He is the Master of the universe and the King of glory. Angels sing his praises continually. And yet he delights in us, who reverence him and put our hope in his unfailing love (Psalm 147:11).

 

 

Isn’t that knowledge alone enough to astound the intellect and overwhelm the heart with joy?

The only possible response is worship, from a heart overflowing with gratitude. An overflow that often becomes tears, as praise intertwines with the invisible but palpable touch of God.

And I can almost hear him say, “I love doing this with you.”

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

When has the overflow of love for God and gratitude to him brought you to tears?  Please share your story in the Comment section below!

 

(Revised and reblogged from August 11, 2014.  Photo credits:  www.visualphotos.com, http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pixabay.com.)

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Eons ago when I was in seventh or eighth grade, Mom, Dad, and I made our way one evening to the shoe store downtown. As we trudged up the slight incline toward the entrance, I ended up walking behind them, in order to leave room on the sidewalk for pedestrians coming from the other way.

Imagine my mortification when my parents clasped hands.

“Please! Not in public!” I begged.

After all, they were old—in their mid-thirties. And at age thirteen, I was embarrassed enough to be seen in public with them. But to be in the company of parents showing affection? That was too much.

As adults we smile at the immature and almost comical responses of most young teenagers toward their parents. They like to pretend Mom and Dad don’t exist, in support of their burgeoning, highly exaggerated independence. They conveniently forget who pays the bills, helps with homework, does the chauffeuring, and provides care in countless other ways.

Some of those teens never lose that sense of highly exaggerated independence, even as they grow into adulthood. They conveniently forget who still provides care for them in countless ways: God. To ignore him as if he doesn’t exist is to behave like a middle schooler.

God deserves not only our attention but our worship. Think of it this way: If an Olympic gymnast out-performs the competition with a nearly flawless performance, she deserves applause from the crowd and that shiny gold medallion. We do not scorn the adoration and accolades she receives; she’s earned it.

 

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Hasn’t God earned the same, only more so?

“OK,” we say. “So God deserves to be worshiped. But does he really need it? After all, he is completely sufficient within himself. Doesn’t it seem rather self-serving for God to want our worship?”

Far from.

God knows: if our worship is not centered on him, we easily fall into the worship of other things: career, material goods, leisure, adventure—any number of pursuits that can consume our attention. Not that it’s wrong to enjoy these things, but they will never provide deep down soul-satisfaction.

God made us with that deep-down place; it’s reserved for him. That’s why the first of the Ten Commandments is about worship (Exodus 20:3).

 

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In addition:

Worship determines what we become.

 

“What we worship determines what we become.”

— Harvey F. Ammerman

 

Ammerman further explains: “If we worship material possessions, we become more materialistic. If we worship self, we become more selfish still” (1). If we worship the adrenalin rush of exciting pursuits, we’ll continually look for more exhilarating thrills.

God wants us to worship him so we’ll become more like him—gracious, good, compassionate, and kind (Exodus 34:6).

 

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Worship communicates God’s presence to men.

 

“It is in the process of being worshiped

that God communicates his presence to men.”

–C. S. Lewis

 

Adoration, praise, and gratitude create an atmosphere in which we can meet with God almighty (Psalm 89:15-17). And such encounters always result in joy (Psalm 16:11). Sometimes that occurs in a glorious, public celebration with other worshipers; sometimes it occurs in sweet, private communion.

Worship is a necessary outlet of the spirit.

C. S. Lewis also wrote: “Enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise.”

When we hear superbly good news, our natural inclination is to tell others about it. We’re social beings, after all. Research has suggested that when we share a positive experience with someone else, we are essentially enjoying it again as we relive the moment in the retelling and savor the experience once more (2).

It’s the way God made us – not only to expand our enjoyment with family and friends, but with him, our Heavenly Father.

 

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We need to worship.

To know him and be known by him, to experience him is a God-given pleasure that nothing else can satisfy.

 

*    *     *     *     *   *     *     *     *     *

 

Notes:

(1) from Quote, Unquote, compiled by Lloyd Cory, Victor Books, 1977.

(2) http://www.psycnet.apa.org

 

Photo & art credits:  www.pinterest.com (5).

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on worship.  Please leave a comment below!

 

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(reblogged from 10-24-13)

“Mail’s here early today!” called Lorna, as she entered the kitchen.

Oh, that was good news. Living far from home in Quito, Ecuador made letters a very precious commodity.

“Terrific!” I responded, and dashed upstairs to get my keys.

Lorna and her husband, Elbert, served as missionaries with HCJB. I was a short-termer, living with them for the four months of my assignment as a preschool and kindergarten teacher.

 

250px-Hcjbquito

 

The compound was only a brief walk from the house. Once there, it was just a matter of unlocking the gate, heading down the main walkway a short distance, up a few steps, and into the post office alcove where all our mailboxes were located.

I jogged the whole way there and back, excited to read my mail. But no sooner did I return home than my head started to pound, nausea engulfed me, and all I wanted to do was lie down. Never mind those coveted letters!

My problem was not a sudden onset of the flu, but mild hypoxia–oxygen deprivation. Quito is located 10,000 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains.

My experience (as well as those of countless others) proves: we humans require oxygen—lots of it.

Even folks who live near sea level can suffer from lack of oxygen, because they’ve become accustomed to shallow breathing. Their bodies never receive enough oxygenated air, causing them to feel short of breath and anxious.

On the other hand, research has proven that deep breathing helps us manage stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure and heart rate, and even spark brain growth. By not taking slow, deep breaths now and again, we deprive ourselves of these benefits.

M-m-m. Reminds me of Ecclesiastes 2:10-11, where King Solomon lamented the results of shallow living: chasing after wealth, accomplishments, and pleasure. In the end, nothing gave him lasting satisfaction and fulfillment.

Shallow living brings on symptoms in the spirit, similar to oxygen deprivation in the mind and body: heartache, fatigue with life, nausea from repetitive, meaningless activity, and shortness of temper.

In contrast to Solomon’s lament in Ecclesiastes is Paul’s praise to God for the power and strength of deep living:

“Oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength” (Ephesians 1:19, MSG)!

Deep living happens when we breathe in God’s strength with a prayer, his wisdom and encouragement with a scripture, his joy with a song.

Deep living happens when we practice his presence as automatically as we breathe.

And how do we do that, “practice his presence?”

By pausing frequently throughout each day, to turn our attention to God.

I might say such things as:

  • Thank You, Lord, for this new day. Work through me to accomplish your purpose.
  • I love you, Heavenly Father. Thank you for filling my heart with peace and joy every time I turn my attention to you.
  • Thank you for your power at work in me as I complete this task.
  • The wonders of your creation–graceful tree branches dancing in the breeze, lyrical songs of the mockingbirds, delicious aromas of pine and orange blossoms–They make my heart sing with praise!
  • Oh, Lord, I shouldn’t have spoken to Mary like that. Forgive me, I pray. Help me to think before I speak. And yes, I will apologize to her.

Refreshing. Energizing. Purifying. Like a deep breath of oxygen.

Shallow breathing causes a lesser quality of life. So does shallow living.

Deep breathing fosters strength of mind and body. Deep living does that and more.

Deep living radically transforms the spirit.

Let’s breathe/live deep!

* * * * * * * * * *

What deep living habits help you practice the presence of God?

(photo credit: http://www.wikipedia.com)

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