Never Lose An Opportunity for Beauty

 

Contrary to current American culture, beauty is not a carefully photo-shopped image of an attractive young woman designed to sell a product or a concept. No, beauty is far more than mere image or presentation. And it certainly exceeds the boundaries of our print and electronic media.

I define beauty as that which delights, inspires, and enriches. Anything less is a shallow imitation or perverse contradiction of the honesty inherent in beauty, whatever form it takes.

For beauty does exist in many forms, such as:
Visual
Aural
Natural
Crafted
Movement
Stillness
Spontaneous
Arranged

We who live at today’s frenetic pace must allow ourselves to notice the beauty we walk in every day. It could be a picture, a musical selection, a memory, a person, an activity, or a location. If we stop to remember, there are thousands of those precious flashbacks that can still enrich our lives today.

When you read this blog, please take a couple of minutes to share a portion of beauty that you’ve encountered. Sharing will improve both of our lives and become a thing of beauty for all of us.

To get the ball rolling, I’ll start.

Because I wanted my four children to be adept at physical activities that could be part of their lives through out adulthood, I signed them up for swimming, tennis, and golf lessons. In the process, I signed myself up for getting them to swim practice before and after classes during the school year and hours of watching from a damp bleacher.

When my oldest was about 13, she developed beautiful strokes in the American crawl, back stroke and breast stroke. If cell phone video cameras had been available then, I would share with you an example of swim laps that resemble ballet. While the rest of the group splashed eagerly back and forth in their lanes, she glided as if she were created for the purpose of creating beauty out of daily swim practices.

She certainly didn’t inherit any athletic talent from either parent. In fact, we are amazed that she belongs to us. The coach did not give her extra instruction. But all who watched were delighted to observe such unpretentious beauty in action.

She still swims. And participates in the Low Country Splash! every spring which is either a 2.4 or 5.0 mile open water swim near Mt. Pleasant, SC.

 

 

Darkened Minds and Futile Thinking

“ . . . for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened.

Claiming to be wise, they became fools.” Romans 1:21-22

These verses grabbed my attention when I first encountered them as a high school senior in a New Testament class I took for extra credit. Back in the upbeat 1950’s when unlimited possibilities apparently lay before every American, the idea that sin could alter one’s ability to reason appeared implausible at best. I had never met, read about, or heard of anyone in that condition. As we now say, I just couldn’t wrap my head around the concept, despite the time I spent thinking about it.

But as my life has seemingly fast forwarded into the 21st century, the statements do now approach the realm of possibility. I still don’t understand the passage on an individual level, but culturally, we in the US apparently now qualify by claiming to be wise while being fools. For example, consider these recent headlines:

1. Florida University to Award Posthumous Degree to Trayvon Martin  (He never   even applied to go there, or any other college.)

2. Reed College Radicals Complain That Course in Greco-Roman Thinkers Needs More Non-White Authors (Have they not noticed that it’s supposed to be about only Greek and Roman authors?)

3. Rep. Waters to Hand Out MTV’s “Fight the System” Award, Has served 27 Years in Congress  (I consider 27 years in Congress as proof that you are, in fact, part of the system.)

4. UK Students: Ban Clapping and Whooping Because it Excludes the Deaf  (Should those who hear also quit talking to each other to avoid excluding anyone?)

5. Gender Bias Study by Women Researchers Suffers from Gender Bias
(Hard to avoid under the circumstances.)

6. BuzzFeed Employee Wishes for Trump Assassination, Company Declares No Bias
(Don’t you know that no news outlet suffers from any bias?)

One has to laugh at the absurdities involved, if only to keep from crying.

But Wait . . . There’s More

Easter  commemorates  the most significant event of Christianity – that Jesus willingly became the Passover Lamb for all mankind and then went beyond sacrifice to rise from the dead. He arose, not as a ghostly apparition of some sort, but as a living being with a real body. True, He appeared in rooms without the bother of opening the door, but His body retained the wounds and scars of crucifixion. Thomas could actually see and feel them. And He ate food with His astonished followers.

Best of all, our theology teaches us that His sacrifice and resurrection purchased admission to eternal happiness for each one of us, if we decide to accept our prize.

But wait, there’s even more . . . This incident also forms a pattern to comfort all believers through times of stress, persecution, and even martyrdom. Namely, that God’s plans are much, much bigger than we can even imagine. And He is omnipotent, no matter how impossible things may look to us at any given moment.

During those 40 days that Jesus walked the earth after being killed by the Roman government, He explained again many truths in the Old Testament that the disciples had studied all their lives, but had never truly understood.

The disciples had become followers partially because of His parables  about love and forgiveness. Then the miracles He performed proved to them that He was, indeed, the long promised Messiah. However, mentally and emotionally they were so bound up in their own unhappy situation that they couldn’t begin to grasp the totality of God’s glorious plans.

At least three times* Jesus had plainly told them He would die and rise from the dead, but the disciples could not understand His statements because they contradicted all the prophetic descriptions they had staked their faith in such as:

For thus says the Lord of hosts: Once again, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land; and I will shake all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendor, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of hosts. The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts; and in this place I will give prosperity, says the Lord of hosts. Haggai 2:6-9

Like all devout Jews, the disciples knew that Jews were given special knowledge of God and that someday, under the coming Messiah, they were to share those truths with people everywhere. They expected to accomplish these results politically after some type of conquest or dramatic change in their status under Roman rule.

But we know, with the advantage of hindsight, that the message of The Messiah spread like wildfire by the people who had absolutely no status, no power, no authority. Instead the ones who changed the world were actually outlaws who spoke of their faith under penalty of death.

Also it generally spread from the servants to their masters, from the prisoners to their guards, and from the beggars to those wealthy enough to give alms. It had nothing in common with our popular campaigns promoted by graduates of the finest business schools.

Yet by AD 313, when Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, the Easter message about a common man who had been executed by the Roman government as a criminal had spread across the entire Greco-Roman world and beyond, with ordained bishops, ordained priests, and churches in major cities.

The point is that God’s answers to prayer or prophecy never resemble what we expect with our lack of imagination. So take heart, no matter what’s going on in your life today. God really does love you. Whatever you hand over to Him, will be turned into a great benefit for you and many others. While it probably will take longer than you would like, the results will reach further than you can imagine.  Just consider the difference in both the plans and the results the disciples envisioned versus God’s plans for spreading the gospel of the Kingdom if you get the least bit discouraged.

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? Hewho did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or  sword? As it is written,       

““For your sake we are being killed all day long;
 we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:31-39

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*1 & 2) Jesus specifically told the disciples about a week before the Transfiguration. Then while at Mt. Tabor, he discussed his departure in Jerusalem with Moses and Elijah. Luke 18:21, 31
*3) After returning  from the mountain, they met other disciples and He again foretold His death and resurrection, but they were afraid to ask Him for an explanation. Luke 18:44-45

Creation Speaks; What Can Man Add?

Matthew 27:45-46, 50-52

45 From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 46 And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” . . . . .50 Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.

Mark 15:33, 37-38

33 When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” . . . . . 37 Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

Luke 23:44-45

44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two.