Building Bridges

“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” – Romans 14:19

We recently visited Budapest, a city that seems to have two personalities, one on each side of the Danube River. Buda is hilly and has ancient churches and castles. Pest boasts a thriving commercial center. Two cities, varying emphases, united to form one amazing cultural capital in Europe.

It wasn’t always that way. Buda was set on one side of the Danube and Pest on the other. Two towns with common problems , but separated by a hard-to-cross river. Then someone had an idea – build a bridge! Engineers were hired and construction began. The first bridge between Buda and Pest opened in 1849 and the two towns became one. Pest was able to take advantage of the hills of Buda for defense and Buda was able to participate in the active commercial areas of Pest. Today there are many bridges connecting Buda to Pest, but it all started with one idea about uniting two communities.

Jesus is the ultimate bridge-builder, making a way for us to be connected with the Father. To do that, he had to set aside his own rights and leave heaven’s luxuries to come to earth, and live among humans. Maybe we can learn from Jesus something about how to build bridges. It may involve leaving our comfort zones, giving up some of our rights, and walking alongside others to understand their perspectives. If we are willing, God may use us to build bridges between ourselves and others, or within families, or across cultures. Do you see any bridges to be built in your world today?

“Got any rivers you think are uncrossable?
Got any mountains, you can not tunnel through?
God specializes in things thought impossible
He does the things others cannot do.” – Oscar C. Eliason

 

#peacemakers

A Handful of Quietness

“Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil. . .” Ecclesiastes 4:6

Busy. Sometimes that’s a too accurate picture of our lives. Even when we have opportunity to slow a bit, we choose to be busy. We can work later and make a little more money. We can buy the house that  needs help and end up working every evening to make it better. We can volunteer at too many places and be on the run serving others. The constant pressure is unsettling after awhile. That’s why the writer of Ecclesiastes says “Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil. . . “ (Ecclesiastes 4:6 ESV)

So, how do we find a little bit of quietness in the middle of a busy life? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Before you get out of bed in the morning, lie still for a few minutes, thinking about being in the presence of God. Feel the love he has for you. Be amazed at his majesty.
  • Take a 10-minute walk alone at lunchtime, paying particular attention to the wonders of creation around you. There is a double blessing in experiencing your quietness in the sunshine!
  • If you have a few minutes between appointments, sit in stillness, silently saying “thank you” to God for something specific. You’ll find that you  can create an internal quietness in spite of activity around you.

God’s plan is not for us just to be busy, but to have an abundant life – including a centered peace. A handful of quietness in our day today might move us toward that goal!

“It is precisely when life is at its most frantic, most frightening, that we each need a place to go to, a place that wraps us around in silence and calm.” – Joan Chittister

 

#contemplation

What do you want?

“It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.” – 2 Samuel 22:33

Are you satisfied with your life? Too often, we live with general discontent without stopping identify what its cause may be. One day, two men began to follow Jesus, when he turned around and asked, “What do you want?” (John 1:38). He was challenging them to think about what they were doing!

If life is not all you want it to be right now, maybe Jesus’ question is for you today. What do you want?  What  is your deepest need? Maybe you, too, need to think about what you’re doing day by day.

In a quiet place, evaluate how you spend your time, then ask: What kind of activities, interactions, or thoughts make me feel

  • happy?
  • anxious?
  • secure?
  • stressed?
  • confident?
  • loved?
  • that my life is making a difference?

Do your answers to these questions give you some hints as to your true needs? If your greatest desires are for wealth, fame, or influence, Jesus is not your answer. But, if you want love, peace, security, joy, or purpose, you’ll find it all in him. God is love. Jesus is the Prince of Peace, the Holy Spirit brings joy and contentment, and following God’s path gives meaning and purpose we cannot find without him.

As you gain insight into the greatest needs or wants in your life,  ask God to show you how those desires can be fulfilled. By striving, working harder, looking for approval from others? Or by resting in the love and mercy of our Father in Heaven? By following the teachings and example of Jesus? Once you know what you really want, he makes the way clear.

“I’m learning the importance of pressing God for more. I want all he has to give.” – Margaret Feinberg

A Safe Place

“When you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen.” – Matthew 6:6a

I read recently about hospitals that send home a “baby box” with each new mother. The sturdy cardboard box is just big enough to hold a newborn up to six months, is finished in baby-friendly designs, has a firm mattress on the bottom, and two built- in handles for easy transport from room to room. It is baby’s safe place. Safe from drafts, conversations, siblings, and pets. Baby boxes have been proven in Finland and Canada to significantly reduce infant mortality.

We never outgrow our need for a safe place: A room or a quiet corner can become a place of peace with no distractions. A place where we have only Jesus to look toward, talk to, and listen for.

We need some designated space where we can

  • feel His closeness,
  • be our true selves,
  • express our deepest needs,
  • reveal our most unacceptable thoughts, and
  • never fear attack.

Our safe place is a wall against the outside world – a physical space where we are nurtured, nourished, calmed, and strengthened. It is there we rest and grow. Then, when we are ready, we venture out into the bigger world – prepared to face what God has for us that day. But first we need time in our safe place with Him.

Where’s yours?

“There is a quiet place
far from the rapid pace
where God can soothe my troubled mind.
Sheltered by tree and flower
there in my quiet hour with him
my cares are left behind.
Whether a garden small,
or on a mountain tall
new strength and courage there I find,
and then from that quiet place
I go prepared to face a new day
with love for all mankind.“*

 

*https://www.hymnlyrics.org/requests/there_is_a_quiet_place.php

Feeling anxious?

 

“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.” – Psalm 94:19

Entering the stillness,
My folded hands
Remind me to slow.

Much to lay down.
Soiled garments of worry
one by one
worn too long.
Leave them.

Distractions of life
unwelcome intruders,
cluttering noise.
Turn them away.

A few deep breaths,
Air into the lungs, out of the mouth.
Refreshment coming in.
All that hinders going out.
The holy enters.
The mundane leaves.

The stillness begins to come.
Quieted mind,
Slowed body,
Ready just to be where He is.

After the stillness,
Cleaner, lighter, purer, quieter.

Distractions return one by one.
I recognize them for what they are and
Know I will need to return to the stillness;
To the One who meets me there.
Soon.

“Collect yourself in His presence with the one purpose and intent of loving Him. . . Rest in love and come to Him in . . . faith, coming for no specific claim, request, or desire.” – Molinos

“Real prayer is nothing more than loving God.” – Fenelon

A Slow Process

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” – Galatians 5:22

I want patience – now! Can you relate? We really would like to be kinder, less anxious, more self-controlled, but getting there is a slow process.

No wonder! When we look at spiritual characteristics we realize these are not gifts, but fruit. We don’t unwrap the package and try on love; instead, love develops over time and grows in seasons. Here’s how it’s been for me.

Love, joy, peace: It took the first 50-some years of my life to see these life-anchoring fruits take root. They happen only as we learn to abide in Him and, for some of us, that learning takes a long time.

Patience, kindness, goodness: Then for a decade, God gave me the job of caring for a good person with many needs – companionship, listening ear, errands, appointments, counsel. At some point in the middle of it all, I realized God, in His grace, was giving me a chance to practice patience, kindness, and goodness.  Apparently, I could learn these things in no other way. Maybe God has given you a person to practice on, too.

Gentleness, faithfulness, self-control: I am now in the mature phase of my life and the Spirit’s focus seems to be on my becoming more gentle; faithfully finishing well; and exercising self-control with my time, body, and speech.

God uses circumstances to grow us into fruitfulness. It’s OK if it’s slow – watching progress through the seasons is gift enough! He is cultivating something in you right now. Look for it!

“We need a new kind of relationship with the Father that drives out fear and mistrust and anxiety and guilt, that permits us to be hopeful and joyous, trusting and compassionate.” – Brennan Manning

 

Life-Changing Prayers

silverthorne-3

“God listens to those who are godly and who do His will.” – John 9:31

Prayer is a mystery to many of us. Why pray if God already knows what we need? Or, if we do pray, why don’t our prayers get answered? There’s no formula for effective praying, but today I will share some insights others have given me that may be helpful to you, too.

Sitting: Prayer is our response to God’s invitation to be with Him. He wants us to come confidently, joyfully, consistently, knowing we will always be welcomed. So let’s not barge into His presence brashly asking for things. First, we just sit for awhile, enjoying the pleasure of His company.

Confessing: We often will find thoughts coming into our minds during this time about things we do that hurt Him. We have to be willing to give up anything that blocks friendship with God. He knows we will never be perfect, but He requires that we acknowledge our sin and commit to being better. When we confess, He always forgives, makes us clean, and gives us strength.

Asking: Now we are ready to tell Him our troubles, pray for others who concern us, and ask Him to answer as He wishes.

Listening: Then we quietly wait for any message He may give. Sometimes it is a direction or an idea. At other times, a sense of peace, contentment, or joy. Listening, though, is the best part of prayer. Let’s not hurry away without hearing what He may have to say.

Now we are ready to face our day:  refreshed, clean, calm, energized, and prepared to serve Him and others. Let the adventure begin!

“God’s presence calms your spirit, gives you restful sleep, and quiets your mind. But you must give yourself completely to Him.” – Francois Fenelon