The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Cor 13:14
To speak of the true self, of personality at all—that is of man as fully human—is to speak of man’s fellowship with God and with others. Even before the Fall, with its catastrophic disruption of all relationships, God said: It is not good for the man to be alone . .” (Gen. 2:18). The poet Milton, commenting on this word, said: “Loneliness is the first thing which God’s eye nam’d not good.” We know ourselves only in relation to God and others. 
The effects of the fall threaten to push us away from God and from one another, but God’s grace, love, and fellowship are stronger. In these days of pandemic-prompted distance and societal strife, we need to drink deeply from the fountains of His grace. He has not left us alone or lonely, and there is no disease or difficulty that can separate us from His love. Let us reach out to Him and to one another and engage in the spiritual fellowship that is ever-present and ever-good.
Gracious Father, we thank You for the immensity of Your love that holds us all. Lord Jesus, we thank you for Your grace that brings us into fullness of life. Holy Spirit, we thank You for the very real fellowship by which You knit us together. Brighten our spiritual eyes and energize our hearts that we might live this day in our full humanity, in relationship with You and with one another.
 Leanne Payne, The Healing Presence (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 1995), 58. Stained glass: Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1660, Dove of the Holy Spirit, St. Peter’s Basilica [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Meditation prepared by Sarah Colyn, drawing on the writings and ministry of Leanne Payne.
“Get wisdom, get understanding;
do not forget my words or turn away from them.
Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;
love her, and she will watch over you.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
Cherish her, and she will exalt you;
embrace her, and she will honor you.
She will give you a garland to grace your head
and present you with a glorious crown.”
We live in a time, unlike any other, with unlimited access to information. During my childhood, if I had a question, I was directed to our treasured stack of World Book Encyclopedias. If I wanted to find a book at the library, I had to search through index cards to find its location. Each morning, at the break of dawn, a rolled up newspaper was hurled at our front door. Today, it is a challenge to turn off all of the information coming at us through our smartphones, computer screens, cable television, 24-hour news channels, and social media. Suddenly our Facebook friends aren’t so friendly. We are bombarded with conflicting messages, even amongst Christian brothers and sisters. It is easy to get caught up in our emotions to the point that we lose the ability to listen to one another and, much worse, we lose the ability to listen to God. We become wise in our own eyes, and we lose the good of reason (Is. 5:21; Prov. 3:7). Now, more than ever, we are in desperate need of our Holy Father’s wisdom.
How can we discern between godly wisdom and the deceptive messages of the world? James 3:17 gives us a litmus test: “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” These good fruits are contrasted with the self-serving, proud, and contentious messages that regularly assault us. Our hearts long for mere kindness.
Persuasive arguments accomplish very little if we do not turn knowledge into action. As Charles Spurgeon explained:
Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom. 
Accumulation of knowledge is quite different from godly wisdom. Mere human reasoning does not lead to the freedom that the Lord’s wisdom brings. Instead, pride motivates a frenzied struggle to make sense of things or to develop persuasive arguments. This calls to mind the deadly snare of quicksand. As we set out to find wisdom, our restless activism only causes us to sink further into despair. In order to escape quicksand, one must simply be still, allowing the body to float to the surface, and reach upward for a lifeline. Similarly, godly wisdom is given when we are still, quiet, and focused upward to God.
Sometimes we take a more passive stance. We expect others to share their wisdom and we will blindly trust their words. We are easily “blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming,” (Eph. 4:14). If lies were obvious falsehoods, we might not be so foolish to believe them. But lies sound good to our itching ears (2 Tim. 4:3), and we want them to be true. Unfortunately, deceived people will deceive people. It is sobering to recognize that when we allow ourselves to be deceived, we will inevitably deceive others. A passive stance is not an option for the mature Christian.
Proverbs 4:6-9 warns that growing in wisdom is costly. In fact, it may cost us everything. We must give up our pride, for wisdom requires humility (Prov. 26:12; 11:2). We must be teachable, for wisdom is received through the Lord’s correction (Prov. 12:1). We cannot have our own way, for we grow in wisdom through obedience (Matt. 7:24). We must be truthful about sin, for in order to receive wisdom, we must hate evil and fear the Lord (Psa. 111:10; Prov. 1:7). When we pay for something, we understand its value. Wisdom is costly because it is a rare and worthwhile commodity.
Since wisdom is an attribute of the mature Christian, we can rest assured that we are not alone in our pursuit of wisdom. Leanne Payne exhorts that our petition to God for wisdom is of utmost importance, and she confessed that most of her own petitions to the Lord were pleas for wisdom. 
Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? At the highest point along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; beside the gate leading into the city, at the entrance, she cries aloud: “To you, O people, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind.
Leanne notes that this passage personalizes wisdom as feminine. We are feminine in relation to God as we open our hearts and minds to receive from Him. The wisdom of the Lord, she explains, is contrasted with the seductive worldly wisdom of the harlot, which brings death. Wisdom comes in our response to God. We need more than human reasoning and must enter into the Real Presence of the Lord. It is through our meditation upon Scripture and quietly listening to God that we receive our creative capacity.
The essence of the true feminine is response to God, other, and all that is. A quality in God, we all—men and women alike—are to participate in her and receive her capacity to say, with Mary, “Be it unto me according to Thy will.” We then conceive within the womb of our spirits more of God and more of all that is true, beautiful, and good. 
Though our encyclopedias are obsolete, a few keystrokes can easily overwhelm our finite brains with infinite information. Let us set aside information and instead, actively pursue wisdom. The Lord is eager to give wisdom to His children if we will simply ask. As we grow in our capacity to listen to God and respond with humility and obedience, we will also grow in wisdom. We will grow in our capacity to love. Equipped with godly wisdom, we will respond to humankind with mercy, giving glory to our Heavenly Father. Leanne encourages us, “If anyone has not yet seriously petitioned the Lord for wisdom, now is certainly the time to do so.” Now is the time to get wisdom.
 Charles Spurgeon, The Fourfold Treasure (1871).
 Leanne Payne, Listening Prayer: Learning to Hear God’s Voice and Keep a Prayer Journal, (Baker Books, 2002) chapter 5.
 Ibid., p. 85
Artwork: Icon of Divine Wisdom from St George Church in Vologda (16th century), from Wikimedia Commons.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)
This, it seems to me, illustrates the power to persevere that is given us along with the unique and greatChristian virtue of hope. Surely, it would be difficult to find a truer picture of the sheer grace God gives us not only to survive but also to overcome the impossible. It depicts the very way this grace is experienced as we inch a straight and steady line through a fallen, hostile, world to our true home.
I’m sure some who read these lines have faced or are even now facing the impossible in terms of what God has called them to do and to be. Perhaps calamity, in the form of circumstances so irrational and dark they could only have been engineered by the powers of darkness, is even now on their horizon, barreling toward them. The enemy’s blow is calculated to maim or to crush – to stop them right in their tracks. But God’s message to His own is ever the same: “My power and strength that I give you are sufficient. Call upon it,ask for it, see if I will not cause all grace to abound toward you!”
It is no small thing to abound in every good work when boulders the size of mountains hit us, but that is exactly what we can do when we place our trust, not in ourselves, or in other created things but wholly in God We learn to cry out with the psalmist, “You are a faithful God!” 
Our present reality may be full of“boulders.” Many are walking with the good shepherd through the corona virus crisis which has many challenges. We face the impossible undergirded by God’s grace and hope. God’s message to us is to trust in His power and grace in the midst of overwhelming difficulties. We place our trust in God Who created the heavens and the earth and Who gives us the power and grace to persevere.We partake of His divine strength and fortitude as we cry out to Him in our difficulties and we overcome.
Lord Jesus thank you for the grace and power to persevere through what can be impossible difficulties. We know that You walk beside us every step of the way infusing us with your grace and power. Help us to look to You in these difficulties so that we may persevere and not lose our hope. Strengthen us with your divine strength and fortitude as we cry out to you. We are afraid but we pray for Your courage to persevere and pierce through our difficulties. For you are a faithful and gracious God.
 Leanne Payne, Restoring the Christian Soul through Healing Prayer (Wheaton, Crossway Books, 1991), 219.
Meditation prepared by Mary Carrington, drawing on the writings and ministry of Leanne Payne. Image credit: Kraft, Carol, in Leanne Payne, Restoring the Christian Soul through Healing Prayer (Wheaton, Crossway Books, 1991), p. 218