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Posts Tagged ‘serenity’

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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Ask a group of young adults to name three of their life goals, and many of them will mention: success in their careers, loving families, and good friends.

Few if any will say, “to lead a quiet life.”

Yet God inspired Paul to write:

 

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.”

–1 Thessalonians 4:11a

(emphasis added)

 

First, I suppose we ought to establish what a quiet life might include—qualities such as:

  • Composure
  • Humility
  • Kindness
  • Gentleness
  • Peacefulness

 

 

Equally valuable?   An understanding of what the quiet life would not include:

  • Boasting
  • Being easily-ruffled or offended
  • Whining and Complaining
  • Bossiness
  • Being argumentative

 

 

It’s easy to see: those who lead calm, kind, gentle lives are the ones we like to be around.  The second group of boasters, whiners, and arguers–not so much.

But there are many more benefits to the quiet life than offering pleasant company for others, honorable as that is. Consider the following:

 

A quiet life produces inner strength.

 

“Strength is found not in busyness and noise but in quietness.

For a lake to reflect the heavens on its surface, it must be calm.”

–L. B. Cowman (1)

 

Have you noticed that those with great inner strength and tranquility are most often grounded in faith?

 

(Grandma Rachel, circa 1910)

 

My grandmother(2) was just such a person.  Her strength through tragedy and challenge came from calm confidence in God and complete dependence upon him (Isaiah 30:15).  As a result, serenity and peace radiated from her life.

She was a 1 Corinthians 13 sort of woman—quietly patient, loving, and kind–not boastful, proud, or easily-angered.  I never heard her raise her voice, gossip, or complain. And she consistently thought of others before herself.

Those qualities of the quiet life Grandma exhibited, still radiate in my heart today.

And that leads us to the next benefit:

 

A quiet life provides resounding impact.

 

 

Sunbeams silently rest on plant and tree, generating photosynthesis and growth. Dewdrops silently form in the night, refreshing the ground. Gravity silently presses all matter to the earth.

Similarly, a life of tranquility provides a quiet, positive influence on others through calm demeanor and gentle speech.

Limited speech is also impactful. We’d never think to apply the adjective quiet to a nonstop talker, would we? Thinking-before-speaking includes this advice:

 

“Don’t speak unless you can improve on the silence.”

–Spanish Proverb

 

Columnist Robert Brault seeks to accomplish that feat this way:

 

“I like to think of myself as a finely aged wine,

and one thing that keeps a wine finely aged

is to put a cork in it” (3).

 

A quiet life wins respect (1 Thessalonians 4:11a, 12a).

 

 

Tirades and obnoxious behavior may garner rapt attention, but composure and self-restraint earn high regard.

We’d do well to remember:

 

“The only way to demonstrate

that Christianity is the best of all faiths

is to prove that it produces

the best of all men [and women].”

–William Barclay (4).

 

A quiet life is blessing.

 

1) Composure and contentment result as we grow in tranquility—highly desirable qualities in this world of unrest, discontent, and anger.

 

2)  A quiet life also steers us toward the blessing of maturity, where trivial annoyances no longer infuriate, giving is more fun than receiving, and building up someone else is more satisfying then bragging about ourselves.

 

https://quotefancy.com/quote/1557578/

 

3) The best blessing of all for humble, gentle, and peaceable individuals? The commendation of God himself (Matthew 5:3-9).

 

“How slow many are to learn

that quietness is a blessing,

that quietness is strength,

that quietness is the source

of the highest activity—

the secret of all true abiding in Christ!

Let us try to learn it

and watch for whatever interferes with it.

The dangers that threaten the soul’s rest are many.”

–Andrew Murray (1828-1917)

 

“Abide in me and I will abide in you” (John 15:4 ISV).

 

Notes:

  1. Streams in the Desert, p. 450
  2. I’ve written about her before: https://nancyaruegg.com/2013/02/18/1106/
  3. http://www.quotegarden.com/speaking.html
  4. The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, p. 234.

 

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Saturday afternoon provided the perfect circumstances for a cozy sit by the fire.   The calendar was clear for the day and we could burrow into the quiet. Snow showers added to the tranquility as they gently outlined backyard trees in white.

 

 

The serenity of our sitting area is enhanced by the beloved hand-me-down decor: the clock, oil lamp and child-size rocker from my grandmother, lanterns that belonged to Steve’s Dad and grandfather, books of our parents’ youth, and a painting that once hung in the home of Steve’s parents.

 

 

Altogether, the golden firelight, familiar furnishings, and cozy comfort engender peace and contentment.

But as delightful as these moments are, this kind of tranquility is fleeting. At any moment the phone might ring and the caller share distressing news. Then we’ll hardly notice our snug surroundings as concerns and questions begin to demand our attention.

When that phone call comes, circumstantial peace will not be enough. But that’s the only kind this world can offer. What we really need at such times is a stillness of spirit that originates outside this world from the Master of Peace.

My peace I give you,” Jesus told his disciples. “I do not give you as the world gives.”

 

 

Remember when he spoke those words? The night before he died.  He well knew what was to come (1). The next day would be a maelstrom of suffering, climaxed by tortuous pain on a cross.

How could he speak of peace on the eve of such horror?

Because his heart was always directed Godward, resulting in radiant peace. Jesus faced rejection, false accusations, hateful treatment (from religious leaders no less), and even attempted stoning. And yet he remained unruffled.

“Christ’s life outwardly was one of the most troubled lives that was ever lived…But the inner life was a sea of glass. The great calm was always there” (2).

 

 

And this is the peace he offers us—a peace that includes tranquility, security, and prosperity of spirit in spite of circumstances. It is “a rare treasure, dazzling in delicate beauty yet strong enough to withstand all onslaughts” (3).

How do we avail ourselves of this treasure?

By reviewing the attributes and promises of our Prince of Peace–all day long.

“Great thoughts of Christ will pilot you into the haven of peace,” said Charles Spurgeon.

 

 

Perhaps we could word our great thoughts of Christ as a prayer:

You, Lord Jesus, are our Good Shepherd, always leading in the way we should go. You tenderly watch over us, meeting every need and protecting us from evil—including wild, fearful thoughts and emotions (4).  

You are full of love for us. Out of your kindness and compassion you see us through every dark valley of life. Though we may not always be aware, you are ever-present, ready to offer strength and support (5).

 

 

You have said, “Everything is possible for those who believe” (6). And we know that’s true because we’ve seen your miracles. You’ve healed incurable diseases; you’ve protected and provided in hopeless situations. You’ve enabled others to transition to heaven with impossible grace and joy.

For these reasons and many others, we place ourselves in your attentive, all-wise, all-powerful care.

You are our Mighty One, our Rock, our Haven of Peace.

 

 

______________________________

 

P.S. I started rough drafting this post last Saturday afternoon, while sitting by that fire. Uncertainty had already moved into our hearts after Steve’s blood work last week turned up questionable results. The doctor immediately called for a cat scan that took place on Friday. Monday he shared the results with us: liver cancer.

Steve is now on an obstacle-ridden road toward a liver transplant, and the future holds much greater uncertainty than we faced last week.

Do you suppose it’s just coincidence that I’ve been reading, thinking, and writing about peace for the last six days?

I don’t think so either.

 

Notes:

(1) Luke 22:15-16

(2) Henry Drummond

(3) Sarah Young

(4) John 10:3-4; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; John 10:11

(5) Ephesians 5:1-2; Luke 6:35; Matthew 28:20

(6) Mark 9:23

 

Photo credits:  http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.canva.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.wikimedia.org.

 

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