The Purpose of Being Still and Silent with God

In selecting a devotion for today, I was at first going to select something about thankfulness. Over the trip we have said how thankful we are that we are able to be on this trip learning about the world in Europe. I obviously wanted to add to this long list of thanks with a devotion on thankfulness. However, being thankful is not the only thing that comes out of a trip like this. We can become different people through our experiences in culture, business, and personal interaction. God brought us to this point for a reason, and He has a plan for our lives. He wants us to take something from this interim, but we may not necessarily know what. It could be that we have found a renewed sense of thankfulness for what God has given. Perhaps God has opened our minds to different cultures that would enable us to better serve our neighbors near and far. Maybe we have learned how to live in a community better or to care for one another. This list could go on Far too long, and it would take extensive time if it even could be completed.

One of the most refreshing things about this trip was the freedom from the urge to get out my phone. When we got to hotels, or places with free WiFi, we were able to check in with family and friends. The devotion asked us today to put away our phones and to turn off TVs. Additionally, it said to find a place free from business and busyness. This way we can find a space in the room for God. We can reflect on what God has done for us, and we can talk with Him. We can ask what it is in our lives that we should be doing differently. We can ask what about Europe has changed me for life. We can ask God to help us remember our experiences so that they will help us in the future. In keeping away from technology for a while, we can find ourselves free. It was nice being at meals and actually talking without myself, or anyone else, being on their phones.

Today we went to a museum dedicated to Operation Market Garden which you can find a post about on this blog. The devotion applies to this experience not because we are still with God, but we have a chance to see what was wrong with this world in the 1940s. We have seen the sacrifices of men and women, civilian and military, so that freedom can come back to Europe. In our moments of silence with God, we ought to give thanks and praise that we, personally, are mostly free of war. Silence with God can bring peace to a troubled heart. Maybe some of us had troubled hearts from some of the experiences we had today or in the past few weeks.

This devotion called me to have silence with God, and our hotel is currently ideal for it. It’s in the woods somewhere in the Netherlands. It’s not just for here and now, it’s for all times and places. Find a place to be silent with God, ask and listen for what God is communicating to you about your life.

The devotion below is based on Romans 12:1-2.

Be Still. Be Quiet.

Silence is a stranger to most of us. To discover silence, we have to be like Jesus and go off to find a place where we can turn off the cell phone and the TV, a place with no bustling businesses or chattering people to deal with. The Lord calls us to this silence as much as He calls us to be with one another. What should our times of silence and being alone before the Lord consist of? This is where the prayer life of Jesus is such a profound example for us. Jesus shows us that these times of intimacy must first center on being quiet and listening.

We cannot put God in a box and make our relationship with Him a formula. But if we are going to follow the example of Jesus, we must get alone with God and silence ourselves. The silence that He invites us into is a silence of listening, a respectful stillness before our God. This kind of silence brings great joy, clarity, and purity to our lives.

Finding stillness may be one of the greatest challenges in our relationships with Christ and our prayer lives. There are two great hindrances we face every day in our search for stillness: our busy lifestyles and the constant noise of our culture. Are you busy? Where are you on the Facebook addiction scale? Enough said.

As simple as it may seem, we find stillness by making a choice, deciding to sit down away from all the clamor of our life and technology. God bestowed on us free will; it is not an illusion. We are not victims of our culture. We have control over the way we respond to everything that comes our way.

The science of neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to reorganize itself by developing new neural connections) makes it very clear that when we make a decision, we change the matter in our brain. It is the scientific confirmation of God’s Word: “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23: 7). Every time we steal away with the Lord in quiet retreat, we transform and renew our minds and conform to the communication pathways of the kingdom (Romans 12: 1-2). And it is in the stillness that our zeal for the Lord and His ways is given the chance to grow.

Gentex and Dynajet Reflections

Today we went to Gentex and Dynajet. Gentex is the world’s leading supplier of automatically dimming rear view mirrors. It was a very interesting facility that we visited. It was mostly a distribution center for the European clients, but there was also a fair bit of engineering involved. Something interesting, which one may not think of, is that the European customers demand well integrated designs to the car. That means the implementation of cameras and other sensors in potentially a very small area. To overcome this, they made use of the engineers that they have in their European office, though all the manufacturing happens in Zeeland.

I thought it was smart of Gentex to be vertically integrated so that the quality of parts can be ensured. I thought their technologies were very interesting especially since I still have some interest in chemistry and electrical engineering.

What was also interesting about Gentex is that they seemed to believe their future was in cameras and sensors because of the future for autonomous vehicles. They need these so that if the car is a ride share, they can ensure that nothing “against the rules” were to happen in their vehicles. Otherwise the owner could charge a fee for a broken rule. They were optimistic in their business plan for autonomous vehicles.

Dynajet was a completely different feel from Gentex. Dynajet is a very small company that produces commercial grade power washers. This is an understatement because their machines can produce up to 40,000 psi of pressure. This is enough to cut through concrete without damaging the inside rebar. I thought this was very cool because less resources are needed to repair structures in the traditional way which is by jackhammer. Jackhammers damage the rebar. The company basically assembles their equipment from parts ordered from 200 suppliers. The manufacturing floor was small but was fairly well organized. I was impressed with their technology and how compact it was. That is a cross-industry idea. I thought it was cool that I was able to see this on a small scale instead of a scale the likes of VW or anything similar.

Professor Brouwer pointed out an interesting belt on one of the machines. This belt was segmented in to small 1 inch to 1.5 inch pieces. These individual pieces were held together with metal and formed a jagged belt. I had never seen anything like it. Carsten, a manager at the company, said that it didn’t need to be a regular belt because it takes only a low power of about 0.5 kW off the engine. He also said that they have never had a failure of that belt which I thought was amazing.

Overall, both companies were interesting to visit, and each gives a good example of a well run business.

French Cultural Reflections and Worship in Reims

I had a very interesting time in Paris. It was rather frightening initially because of the language barrier. I happily found out that the Parisians readily speak English after saying “Parlez-vous Anglais?”. Thankfully, that was overcome. It was a cultural experience being in Paris because I really did not know what to expect. Everybody was fairly nice, and I did not feel as though they were angry with me, unless I was being slow in the Metro. There is a sense of a laidback culture with the many restaurants not pushing you out the door. We were able to relax and take time. This was nice. At one creperie, we we got unexpected free water. Being in Europe, that doesn’t happen often. I was a little nervous that they were going to charge us, but they didn’t. The food was excellent at this Creperie. I have a feeling that there may be some cultural aspects on water working its way to Europe from America.

Before entering the Louvre later in Paris, a group of tourists were being quite loud. It wasn’t our group, but I was thinking to myself that they shouldn’t be shouting. To my surprise shortly later, there was what I believe to be a French man telling them to quiet down. In this way, I am at least similar to the French about not making a huge scene and remaining relatively quiet in conversation. Though I’m not sure I would tell a group of tourists to quiet down, but that’s probably the “satisfy all” American in me. I haven’t found deep cultural differences yet.

Worshipping in a cathedral is always very cool. This church was literally cool as it was about 40 degrees Fahrenheit inside. Furthermore, as opposed to churches in the United States there is always a sense of majesty of God. It always amazes me that these buildings were built, and to me it shows the reverence of God’s power and grace. I know anywhere there is a gathering of more than one in the name of Christ, it is a gathering with Christ, as it says in Matthew, so there isn’t a huge need for cathedrals.

In any case, today’s worship was interesting. I have been to Catholic mass before, but it was either in German, English, or Latin. Since we worshipped in Reims, France, the service was obviously in French. It was not easy to follow along, but I felt I could still worship because God is not in any one language. Even if you do not understand the language of the worship, you can get the physical cues from other worshippers and still have a reverence for worship. I noticed that a few worshippers were very reverent in their worship by the way they knelt and bowed, with their face nearly touching the floor, to confess their unworthiness and sinfulness. I had never really seen this before in a worship service. Most often in my experience people just follow and don’t act according to what they feel. They may feel that the way they pray is enough. This worshipper I saw believed something else about God. God probably does not differentiate one prayer stance from another, but one’s heart must be in the right place. That is a place of trusting in the Lord. Though there was a language barrier, we were worshipping fully with our hearts. We were being intentional in the praising of our God with thanksgiving for what he has allowed us to experience. We have discovered something new about worship. This experience helped me specifically to remind myself that worship is about God. It isn’t about what you get out of worshipping, though there can be saving grace out of communion. Rather, worship is about giving praise to God for all his great works in us, for His blessings to us, and for promising eternal life with Him for us. Without God we are condemned, so it is right to give Him thanks and praise in all languages and ways.

The two images below are from the Reims Cathedral.