“Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him.” Psalm 37:7
As I write I look out upon the serene snowy landscape outside my window. The snow appears gentle and light; the sunlight glistens off of the snowy surface; the winter wind moves tree branches and ornamental grasses. I know that it is bone-chilling cold out there, but, wow, is it beautiful! Such beauty helps to settle me, to quiet my soul.
The thesaurus lists the following synonyms for serenity—tranquility, calmness, peacefulness, quietness and stillness. It seems to me that these are the very things that many of us in our world today find lacking. We long for serenity, peace, claim and quiet. We long for a moment in which our minds and hearts are stilled and we can simply be—be at rest in God and in this world.
Serenity is both a moment that can unexpectedly come upon us—such as when I look out my window on a sunny winter’s day—and also a state of mind which we can create—such as when I reflect and pray. For me, I need a quiet space where I can read a short passage of Scripture or a devotional book. I need to be able to sit comfortably and breath slowly and deeply. I must deliberately center my mind on what I am reading and put away distractions. In short, I need to be fully present in the moment—aware of my own being and of the Eternal Being. I find that peace comes to me in such quiet spaces where and when I am open to both God’s presence and God’s word.
I invite you in the full mix of the chaos and craziness that is too often life in this world to stop; find a quiet space; and just be and listen. If you need a good recommendation of a book of the Bible or a devotional book to read let me know; I would be pleased to recommend. And when you pray let your heart speak to God. Do not overthink or worry about the words; instead, focus on the moment with God. Also, remain open to those marvelous, unexpected moments of serenity that will often simply show up. Be ready to see them and to fully experience them.
Remember that I pray for you—prayers for your peace.
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” Revelation 22:1-2
A couple nights ago I dreamed of walking in a garden of spring flowers. The time was not yet spring but still January. I recall myself surrounded by all sorts of blooming flowers but I particularly remember all the tulips and peonies. In the dream I felt the beauty and serenity of the garden while also feeling some concern over the flowers freezing in the remaining days of winter. There was a certain strangeness to a place where flowers bloomed in January yet also such wonder and delight. Maybe the Spirit knew I needed such a dream—an unexpected yet welcome vision.
In the depths of winter when the cold sets in, skies are grey and the ground barren, I need some sure reminder of what will come. I need to remember that not only will these days pass but that these days are a period of preparation for the life-giving, beautiful days just around the corner. I need to remember to focus my gaze beyond the bleakness of now and watch with intention for breaks in the ground and buds on the trees. The fullness of life is upon me if I can be patient.
As readers of the Bible, we often flee from the book of Revelation—what with its signs of doom and beasts of destruction. But when we do persist to the end of the book (and the end of the Bible) we find verses that sing with promise, hope, new beginnings and peace. The verses above are a part of the final vision of Revelation—the city of God nourished by the river of life and the tree of life that gives persistent, perennial fruit month after month. This city is a place where there will be no thirst or hunger; all be satisfied and well.
The first century Christians who received and heard the book of Revelation found themselves a persecuted minority in the vast, oftentimes repressive, world of the Roman Empire. Their situation appeared bleak. Revelation promised them that suffering would not be their end; rather, a regenerated world in harmony with God awaited them. The fullness of life was upon them if they could be patient.
What about you? Is the bleakness of winter and pandemic wearing you down? I invite you to lift your gaze above what is and see what will be. May the Spirit grant you renewed vision in these days of the beauty that is to come and the promises of God to be fulfilled.
I find it hard to pick a favorite season. Okay, winter is never a top choice, but the others all give me good reasons to be the best. I love spring for its vibrant greens and abounding new life. I love summer for its warm sandy beaches and cool mountain streams. And fall, how I love the awe-inspiring colors of autumn. Even winter, with the bright sun reflected off of freshly fallen snow, gives me such pleasure. So, in the end, all seasons gift me with joy, wonder and beauty.
Yesterday, Jadon, Ian and I went on a walk at Iron Horse Park not far from our home. Leaves of varied colors cascaded upon us and the path under our feet. The overcast skies allowed the vibrant colors of the surrounding trees to really pop. Even in the midst of all the kinetic energy of two boys I caught glimpses of the beauty around us.
These days we are in are hard, different and difficult. Yet, I still believe we can find beauty right where we are. Not only can we find beauty, we need to find beauty. Amidst the ugliness of disease and injustice, we need the joy and hope that beauty offers and inspires. Beauty cannot be beat, and neither can we.
The greatest beauty we can find and discover is found in encounters with God’s good grace. Sometimes that comes in nature; other times in human relationships; other times within our hearts when God’s Spirit draws near.
So, as you walk look for beauty. Expect beauty. It may not be where you first look but you will see it. And may the beauty you find give you hope and inspiration and a good, daily dose of God’s abundant grace.