Experiencing Beauty

I woke up to the close feeling of darkness. Not middle-of-the-night darkness, but something-is-going-to-happen darkness. As the morning progressed the sky has pressed closer and closer, until it finally pressed out the rain within it. The sky is trembling now as the rain sheets down, catches a breath, sheets down again.

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I’m stuck here in half wonder, wishing I could experience this sweet summer rain more fully without getting my clothes dirty. Wishing I could pull back the curtain and the window and the wall and allow the rich smell of earthy steam to penetrate my senses, without getting a ton of bugs and water on my wood floor.

You’d laugh, but you’re probably wishing right along with me. Some part of you would love to dance in the rain, even as another part recoils in horror at the clean-up you’d have to do. Some part of you wishes you could experience that beauty fully without all the mess that inevitably comes with it.

I think this happens in every area of our lives. You don’t want to deal with the crush of rejection, so you say no to that potential first date. You want to see the mountains of Switzerland, but that pile of bills seems too high to even consider it. You’d love to start a family, but you’re too scared from all the pregnancy horror stories you’ve heard.  You share in your husband’s dream of starting a farm, but you’re too skeptical to start making it become a reality.

But don’t you see? When you refuse these opportunities because you’re focused on the mess they’ll make, you miss seeing the beauty they create as well. You miss out on an opportunity to experience beauty – the rush of new love, the jaw-dropping glory of a far-off land, the closeness of a baby in your arms, the pride of living off your own land. Even just the warm summer rain splashing on your face.

I, for one, don’t want to miss any chance I have at experiencing beauty. Why? Because each glimpse of beauty is more than just a great experience or a wonderful feeling; it is a glimpse into the face of God. And that is worth all the stains and pains and tears that stand in the way of my pursuit.

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Spring

Spring always surprises me. Despite its slow advance, there’s always a point, a day, a moment, when I look around and think, “Where did this lushness come from?”

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Suddenly the world seems more full and thick and green with life. Bare patches break forth in blossoms, trees feel huge and hovering, the ground carpeted and inviting. That weedy dead vine sprouts beautiful leaves overnight, the bush I thought was just a nuisance turns out to be a lilac. What looked like little shoots of weeds actually becomes a garden, with hostas and ferns and daffodils and other flowers I haven’t even uncovered yet.

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None of this I expected. None of it I could have known, having moved here in the late fall last year when all this beauty was faded or dead. It’s like I’m experiencing spring with fresh eyes, a new expectation I never had.

Too long I had been used to seeing the lilies pop up here, vinca over there, hyacinths and tulips in that corner of my childhood home. Even then I loved the anticipation, but it was always set, always planned. My delight was in finding what I already knew to be there. And now my delight is in finding what I never could have expected or imagined.

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Isn’t God like that? There’s a subtleness about His presence that shows he’s always been there with us, even under the coldness of our winter. Every time we see Him show up, it’s really just the veil fluttering off our face for a moment. His presence is truly the most constant thing in our lives. Though sometimes we don’t feel his nearness, even with the evidence in our lives that he is there.

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As we grow older and see winter fade into glorious spring time and time again, our certainty of him grows stronger and stronger. ‘Til even when we don’t see Him and we feel stuck in an eternal winter, we can hold on to the promise that Aslan is on the move. And we can grasp the hope of spring firmly with both hands.

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Not a failure

Oh Dear One,

Don’t ever believe that you are a failure. Oh, you may fall or fumble or goof things up, but it is the thing that has failed, not you.

That lie that attacks your very identity is Satan’s own lie. Actually, it is his own downfall, for he fails every day at taking over power from God. All his plans have been failures, even when he thought he succeeded. Even when he convinced Eve to eat the apple and be separated from God forever, God provided His Seed who would bring her back into even fuller communion. Even when he crushed God’s Son, this “victory” was actually Jesus’ own sacrifice as a ransom for many. Even when he worked to destroy the church with persecution and deception, God’s bride came out even stronger. Every time he’s tried to ruin God’s plans, he has come out the loser. Every single time.

So when you feel those accusing words creep in: you’re such a failure… you really screwed everything up this time… you can’t do anything right… remember who it is who’s speaking. It’s not the voice of Truth; it’s the voice of the Liar. And you don’t have to listen to his lies. Tell him, “No, you’re the failure, and you will never thwart God’s plan – for eternity, and for my life.”

Then go out and live like you mean it. Repent of your sin if you need, make things right with those you may have wronged, fix your mistakes if you can. But never walk in failure. Walk in Grace.

Snow Dance

There’s a dance in their madness:
in their scattering I see
a scurrying of tiny paws
A scuffling to be free,

A rush to fall into place
Among their brethren far
To dance or dive or drift
To hurl madly downward.

And then hang, suspended
From an invisible parachute
Suddenly indecisive,
Their incessant whisperings mute.

Before the next caprice of wind
Bends them where it wills –
Their search is neverending
Like the heart is never still.

Faith vs Apathy

Fault lines tremble underneath my glass house

But I put it out of my mind

Long enough to call it courage

To live without a life-line.

I bend the definition of faith to exonerate my blind eye.

“Till the sirens sound, I’m safe.”

~Sleeping at Last, Earth

These lyrics caught in my mind and stuck there, like a rock in the crook of a stream.

Do I do this in my own life?

Do I tell God that I will trust Him and then go on my own way?

Do I think “having faith” means turning my mind off of the problem?

Do I ignore Him until He sounds the sirens that will finally wake me to His leading?


I think that too often, when we say we will trust God we really mean that we will put the problem out of our minds and continue on our own way. We think if we don’t deal with it, the problem will eventually go away or work itself out. That’s trust, right?

No, that’s apathy. As Sleeping at Last sings in the song above, that mindset bends what faith really is into something much more unstable and shallow. An apathetic view tries to ignore the problem, even when it’s something as obvious as a glass house standing on a fault line of an earthquake. An apathetic view believes that everything is fine and will work out somehow – until the sirens sound and it is too late to change.

This kind of mindset can seem only shades different than faith. After all, you’re not holding on to try to control the situation. You’re not focusing on the problem anymore; you’re just “letting God work.” But it is a sinister subtlety.

True faith does not just let go of control and forget about things, true faith focuses on God and sees the problem in His light, which causes you to relinquish control over the situation into God’s hands. It allows you to focus on God instead of your problems, and realize His power and sovereignty in your life. It actually enables you to handle the problems of life instead of pretending they’re not there.

Faith is a life-line, a steadfast gaze on Jesus, a deep root that anchors you no matter what shatters and collapses around you.

Apathy is a pretense that you have a life-line, a blind eye to the chaos around, a castle built on sand that will wash away.

What do you want to base your life on?

“Therefore, everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Matthew 7:24-27 ESV

Thank you for this day…

It’s so easy to start out a prayer with “Dear Lord, thank-you for this day…” and then continue on without much thought about what you’ve just said. Recently I decided to examine that little phrase more closely, and I realized there’s a whole lot of depth there that we routinely miss out on. It can mean so much more than the perfunctory opening it has come to be.

As I was mulling over this one morning, I decided to explore some of the reasons why I would thank God for the day. I decided to turn it around and see what I would not have if God had not given me a new day. Here is what I wrote:

Oh Lord, thank-you for this day, for if you had not given it,

…I would not have had the opportunities that presented themselves for proclaiming you.

…I would not have known the joy of fellowship with You and other believers.

…I would not have had another sunrise to praise You for.

…I would not have another time to soak in Your presence and love for me.

…I would not have been able to open that treasure trove of Your holy Word and glean its riches.

…I would not have to face the challenges of my day – which are really opportunities for Your power to shine forth in my life.

…I would not be able to continue to grow in the talents You’ve given me.

…I would not be able to glorify You.

When I was done, I looked at my list in surprise. Hidden in the depths of a simple praise to God for my day was a wealth of spiritual riches and joys that I could thank God for. Makes me wonder – how much of our existence do we take for granted? Or even are ungrateful about? How much do we acknowledge God’s hand in even giving us a new day? We ought to ponder and pray about such things.

What are you taking for granted?