In the Quiet Place

Often when we speak of a quiet place we refer to serene scenes by a lake or a cozy nook next to a warm fire. Rarely would we describe wind or pouring rain or storms as being quiet places.

When we think of quiet moments we think of ourselves alone with a book or our Bible. We don’t usually associate huge crowds or the hustle and bustle of dredging out a life as quiet moments.

But I wonder if more people aren’t in their own private quiet place in the midst of swirling winds and expanding crowds.

Think about the last time you sat in an emergency room with a sick loved one or friend or your daily commute on mass transit. Didn’t you seclude yourself into your own quiet place even in the midst of the chaos around you? And wasn’t everyone else doing the same?

We are encouraged, even commanded to retreat to our closets and be quiet before the Lord (Matthew 6:6.) Jesus retreated often to a quiet place to pray and commune with His Father (Matthew 14:23). It is important for us to have the quiet place and to visit there often. It refreshes us. It shores us up. It renews heart, soul and mind.

The question is and the Love One Another Challenge this week is…

Do we actually retreat into various shapes and sizes of quiet places when we should not?

Are we supposed to be so self-absorbed and guarded that we do not see and do not care about the hurting and dying world around us? Jesus retreated to His quiet place after long hours of engaging and investing in peoples lives every day. I think modern day believers are much better at taking their quiet places with  them wherever they go so they won’t have to notice and impact lives.

Is it possible the modern believer has made an idol of his/her “personal space?”

I hold no claim to living outside my personal space. I confess I value it (translation; I idolize it) a great deal. The result is I miss so much.

I miss the check out clerk who looks weary and could use a kind word and a smile.

I miss the mom juggling three kids and a dozen shopping bags who could use a hand with the door.

I miss the lady sitting right next to me in church who dabs her eyes more than once during the closing hymn.

But, God has taken His two-edged sword and patiently clipped away my personal space. At first it was really…really scary and I kept scurrying back to my shrinking take-a-long personal space (quiet place.) And God would shoo my out again. This has been a long arduous process, but I am so thankful God remained (and remains) faithful in giving me courage to do away with this idol.

The result?

My days are more meaningful; full of smiles and laughter and, yes, some tears. But, my days matter! Isn’t that we all want? The legacy we want to leave; that our days mattered?

And my nights? Well, I sleep much more soundly. Why? Because after a full day outside of my own space, I retreat to the true quiet place with my Lord where I am calmed and restored.

The Challenge…
This week ask God to shrink your personal space and open your eyes to those around you. People trudging through wind and pouring rain and desperately wishing they weren’t alone in their portable quiet place.

photo credit: VinothChandar via photopin cc

September-The Other New Year

I love September!

September is my favorite month because the oppressive heat of summer is replaced with what I believe is the most perfect weather in the Midwest. There is lots of sunshine with lower humidity and temps in the perfect mid-70’s range. But finally some rain comes to refresh the earth like this past weekend with the Isaac remnants. In September you don’t sweat to death walking from your car to the front door, but you don’t have to where a sweater or jacket either.

September is also the perfect wardrobe month. Shorts are still okay. And according to the TV series “What Not to Wear,” white is still acceptable. But, if you don’t want to shave your legs for a few days, you can get be comfortable in jeans or slacks without passing out from heat exhaustion. You can wear sandals one day and your designer boots the next. No one cares because it’s September and the seasons are in transition. So they think you either just can’t let go of summer or you can’t wait for winter and both are okay in September.

Because of the aforementioned reasons to love September, it is also the perfect month to play golf! Golf, the game I love to hate. Sounds like an idea for another blog post. So for now, I’ll just say two of the reasons I love golf is the quality and quantity time I have with family and friends and the absolute beauty of creation I am privileged to enjoy while on the course.

September is also the start of college football and I do so enjoy college football. In stadiums all across this country thousands, even hundreds of thousands of fans pack the house to watch their favorite team pummel the other team because maybe this year will be their year. The rest of the millions who can’t get to the stadium (like me) pack their living rooms and media rooms with friend and foe alike to scream at the mega flat screen, jump up and down on the furniture and spill chips and dip all over the floor. It’s as much a social necessity as it is game and I enjoy every minute of it!

And I must just say, that even though the all powerful NCAA has declared this year doesn’t count for The Ohio State Buckeyes, I say…Go Bucks and prove the naysayers all wrong!

But, finally and most importantly September is my favorite month because it is the start to a new year. I know. January One is the start of a new calendar year. But September is the other new year; at least here in America, in part because of our summer break culture.

September is the start of new seasons of life!

It’s the start of a new school year. Yeah, some crazy schools start in August, but I don’t think teachers or students are ready to really get into it until after Labor Day Weekend. Wouldn’t you agree? Young adults start their freshman year in college and seniors start their celebrating way in advance of crossing the stage for the much coveted diploma.

It’s also the start of a new year in many church programs (AWANA, Women’s & Men’s Ministry, Youth Programs, Choir, etc…) After summer vacations and extended weekends, I’m pretty sure pastors and parishioners everywhere are glad to get people back in the pew and back into sweet fellowship.

September is the highest month for births in the U.S. I think it has something to do with the the frigid nights of January.

And I must say September is a wonderful month to be born. I should know. I have a September birth date. Tomorrow as a matter of fact. My son’s birthday is also in September and so was my dad’s. Several nephews and nieces celebrate their birth in this month and so do some in-laws. Lots of friends enjoy their birthday in September. A person could go broke trying to keep up with them all in September.

The ultimate new season; being born!

But here is the ultimate, ultimate new season; being born-again!

Have you been born twice? Do you know that you know that when you die you will liver forever with Jesus Christ in heaven?

There is no better month, no better season, no better day to be saved than right now!

Call out to God. Tell Him you agree with Him that you are a sinner and do not deserve this new life. Then tell Him you believe His Son, Jesus came and died on the cross, shed His blood to cleanse you from ALL your unrighteousness. Call upon the name of the Lord Jesus and you will be saved. This is the challenge. This is the only question that matters.

Have you been born-again in Jesus?

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. John 3:3 

The A, B, Cs of Loving One Another, “K”

By Elaine Baldwin| @elainehbaldwin

Kindness is love. I Corinthians 13:4 “…love is kind…” The Bible puts these two qualities together. Kindness is, in fact, tenderhearted love that forgives one another.

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32

Ouch! Is God really saying in order to be lovingly (tenderhearted) kind, I must forgive? Yep, that is exactly what God is saying!

But, don’t most of us associate kindness with familiar etiquette rules like saying “Please” and “Thank you?” Do you think like me, “If I mind my manners I am being kind and that’s good enough?”

And I would dare say that few of us consider ourselves to be an unkind, unloving person just because we haven’t forgiven the co-worker who stole our idea and gained the promotion we deserved. After all we have every right to be upset about that. And besides I would never let that soured relationship spill over into my other relationships and attitudes.

This “love one another puzzle” is getting more complex the more I study Jesus’ expectations and example and we move through the alphabet. And quite frankly, I don’t think I have put these particular puzzle pieces together in my life which explains the fragmentation in my relationships new and old.

According to Jesus there is no way I can harbor bitterness or resentment toward one person and expect to flourish in my other relationships, including my relationship with Him.

In fact Jesus felt so strongly about this He tells us to put our offering to Him down, go back to the someone who we are at odds with and make that connection right. Only then can we come to Jesus with our offering and have a fully restored and meaningful relationship with Him.

Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. Matthew 5:23-24

There is a famous line in the old 1970 movie, Love Story, which in an unintentional way very astutely elaborates on these verses. You’ll have to stay with me here.

Are you old enough to know the move and line I am speaking of?

Jennifer Cavilleri (Ali McGraw) is dying. Oliver Barrett IV (Ryan O’Neil) is at her bedside. He wants to make something right before she dies and tries to say he is sorry. She stops him and with an imploring gaze tells him…

“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

This obviously impacts the husband because after his wife dies, Oliver bumps into his estranged dad (Ray Miland) who also wants to clear the air and make things right. He tries to say he is sorry, but the son rebuffs him and repeats his late wife’s timeless words…

“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

As I recall the movie ends with the father and son embracing and the movie goer is left with a feeling of sadness yet hope that everything in the end will be alright because they will never have to say they are sorry again.

I am quite sure the writer’s intended meaning was if you really love someone you won’t expect them to apologize; in fact with true love apologies just aren’t necessary.

I concur. Are you surprised?

It isn’t that I don’t think apologies are necessary. I think apologies are not biblical! A mere apology has nothing to do with kindness or love. Telling someone, “I’m sorry” doesn’t come anywhere close to meeting God’s standard for “making things right.”

Now are you surprised?

Let’s look at the definition of apology.

“A written or spoken expression of one’s regret, remorse, or sorrow for having insulted, failed, injured, or wronged another.”

Do you see anything in this definition about seeking the forgiveness from the one who has been insulted, failed, injured or wronged? Is there anything in this definition that even remotely implies the intent to restore the relationship to a better position than where it is currently?

The answer to the above questions is a resounding, “No!” The only thing an apology does is admit that the one apologizing has regret, remorse or sorrow. It does not inherently mean the person seeks forgiveness or wants the relationship restored.

We all know this is true. Some of us still cuddle the bitterness toward a sibling that was told “Go tell your sister you’re sorry” or “You apologize to your brother right now.” She did what she was told. He said the words. He may even have meant them, but he never sought our forgiveness.

We may have said the obligatory, “It’s alright.” Our parents probably made us shake hands or hug to “make up.” But little if anything was restored. She was sorry she got caught. He may have even been sorry he made us cry. But whatever the core issue was that exploded into a sibling “fight” was never addressed.

So, decades later some of us still cringe, still cry or still pound our fist when we think about the jealousy or the gossip or the distrust that was at the heart of the “fight.”

How much better it would’ve been to follow Jesus’ example, even as children, to seek forgiveness and to extend forgiveness. This is true kindness. This is true love.

There is nothing easy or simple about it. If it were, everyone would be seeking and extending and the world really would be a better place. We all know it isn’t. The world is ugly and petty. That’s not God’s fault. The fault lies squarely on man’s and woman’s shoulders.

The kindest words we can utter, according to Jesus, are; “Please forgive me” and “Yes, I will forgive you.”

Have we uttered either of those phrases lately? If not, why not?

How we answer the second question will tell us a lot about ourselves. Are we courageous enough to listen?

Photo By: Margaret Richards | http://richardsandcompany.smugmug.com/