Monthly Archives: August 2013

A Quiet Place

A serene song calls me back to the necessity of having a secluded time focused on communion with God. The song was a staple for the youth ensemble, “The Varsity,” I had the remarkable blessing to sing with in my high school days. Many of the songs we sang continue to serve as vital foundation stones for my faith that is still under construction.

The song, A Quiet Place, is set to a tune that soothingly matches the title. Ralph Carmichael, a prolific gospel song writer in the 1960’s, who wrote numerous songs for Billy Graham films and meetings, wrote the song. A recording featuring the same arrangement we sang in the late ’60s can be heard at:

I strongly encourage you to listen to A Quiet Place now and to replay it later. The recording is by “Second Destiny,” a Salvation Army group based in the mid-west that performs for evangelistic services and youth gatherings. The website hosting their music is also a Salvation Army project. Note that the link will play A Quiet Place, followed by Second Destiny’s “theme song.” Aficionados of late ’60s Christian music will find links to several other familiar songs on the album web page.

The words of A Quiet Place are simple, but they offer profound reassurance of God’s sustaining presence, and his open invitation for us to spend time in intimate conversation with him. Here are the lyrics:

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,

then from that quiet place I go prepared to face a new day

With love for all mankind.

(A Quiet Place, Ralph Carmichael, 1967)

Most of the time we think that the harried pace we keep and the load of anxiety we carry are unlike stressors anyone has ever faced before. Often we think that way when we are excusing ourselves from having sequestered time with God, explaining why we don’t have time to pray or to meditate upon God’s lavish grace. The Bible won’t let us off the hook so easily, though. Mark’s gospel indicates how overwhelmed the disciples were, and Jesus’ concern for them: “The apostles rendezvoused with Jesus and reported on all that they had done and taught. Jesus said, ‘Come off by yourselves; let’s take a break and get a little rest.’ For there was constant coming and going. They didn’t even have time to eat.” (Mark 6:30-31 MSG) One of the disciples learned well the lesson that such time away with Jesus is a vital part of his care for us. Peter encouraged the readers of his letter to “give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you. (1 Peter 5:7 NLT)

The principle of A Quiet Place is consistent with Jesus’ instructions as he responded to the disciples’ request to teach them to pray. Jesus called their attention to self-important people who made a show of praying amid the hurried pace of the marketplace. He counseled a much quieter approach to find the most satisfying time with God in prayer: “Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.” (Matthew 6:6 MSG) Jesus did not give specific description of any location of the quiet place nor the time to go there. His emphasis was on seeking personal and intimate sharing with God. We know from our human relationships that such intimacy usually requires secluded time with the one we love, but the place doesn’t really matter. Having a designated get-away place can be helpful, but allocating the time to share is the crucial element.

David knew the stress of war, governing a nation, and dealing with family strife. His experiences of spending time with God “beside quiet waters” (Psalm 23) taught him the life changing forgiveness and strength God provided in those times. He, too, sang of the benefits he found in close communion with god:

When I kept things to myself, I felt weak deep inside me. I moaned all day long.. {5} Then I confessed my sins to you and didn’t hide my guilt. I said, “I will confess my sins to the LORD,” and you forgave my guilt. {6} For this reason, all who obey you should pray to you while they still can. When troubles rise like a flood, they will not reach them. {7} You are my hiding place. You protect me from my troubles and fill me with songs of salvation. (Psalm 32:3, 5-7 NCV)

I hope you have a quiet place for spending time with God. “A garden small. a mountain tall.,” or some other location may appeal to you. The location is secondary. The primary importance is centering your thoughts on God, attuning your spirit to the presence of the Holy Spirit, being honest with yourself and with God, and receiving his sure word of grace and his gift of energy to follow Jesus.

If you listen to A Quiet Place a number of times, maybe the simple words and tune will lodge themselves in your thoughts. When the mental replay begins, take time to breathe a quiet conversation of prayer with God. See if the calm spirit of the song refreshes and relaxes your spirit and prepares you to share God’s love more consistently with others. You can do that even while stalled in a snarl of traffic, or sitting through a cantankerous meeting, or dealing with another bad news report. Find your quiet place – anywhere, anytime – in communion with God.

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. (Philippians 4:6-7 MSG)

– J. Edward Culpepper

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