Every. single. beautiful. word.
Really good conversations are rare these days. In my life, anyway. I had them with my dad often when he was still here. I had them with my friend, Dale, when we were both single and had nothing to do but ride our bikes and talk.
When I was a kid, I might have told you this before, I often wandered away from the play of my fellow kids, preferring to sit and listen to the discussions of the adults.
My daughter and her young friends talk about God the way my friends and I talked about God, back when we were young and single.
But conversations change as life progresses. They become about wallpaper and curtains and upholstery swatches. The men talk about cars and sports. About things that grow boring after a second or two.
Perhaps old age will circle them back ’round to God.
I want to talk about God in all His glory, beauty, kindness and grace.
And then, when someone says something that scratches the surface of True and Deep, I want to be by myself.
So I can think.
So I can plumb the depths.
It’s kind of ironic, isn’t it? That the best conversations are the ones I can’t wait to leave.
Because I need to think.
Last week was lame. I was awakened at 3 am Tuesday with an am-I-dying? caliber stomach pain followed by nausea and violent vomiting at 4. The rest of Tuesday was spent on the sofa, dozing off and on, shivering under a pile of blankets.
100% out of commission.
I was about 60% useless on Wednesday. I didn’t even feel like reading.
But even though I felt varying degrees of punk all week, it was a good week. My study of Revelation has me in heaven, and heaven is going to be good.
People sometimes say, “I hope Jesus doesn’t come back quite yet because I want to experience this or that first.” And I’m perplexed.
Because no good thing will be absent from the new heaven/new earth. Scripture says everything is going to be restored back to the way God intended. And Eden lacked nothing good.
It was all good and very good.
One woman said she will miss the butterflies.
Why won’t there be butterflies? Butterflies are good.
When I started following Jesus, at age 21, my youngest sister asked, “Are you going to lose your sense of humor?” I thought about it for a second and then gave an inspired answer, “Not if there’s nothing wrong with it.”
Only the bad stuff will be absent: Sickness, deception, worrying about dying, conniving, manipulation, things that disturb my peace in various ways.
Nothing will disturb our peace.
Imagine your day with all the good elements and none of the bad. Imagine your work, your relationships, yourself without any of the things that cause you the slightest stress. Heaven.
In our crack-of-dawn leaders’ discussion yesterday, question #5 asked, “How would you describe the state of the world today? How does the Bible describe it, and how did it get this way.”
“Totally depraved…sinful…evil…,” were the popcorn answers that pinged around the circle for part a.
I looked down at what I had written on my answer sheet: “A mixture of dark and light, good and evil, beauty and blight.”
My answers agreed with the others on parts b and c of the question though:
Romans 8: frustrated, in bondage to decay, groaning for something better.
Genesis 3: deception, disobedience
But that first third of the question illustrated for me, once again, how indoctrinated we’ve become.
Our well-worn answer betrays our eyes – which see beauty amidst the blight, our hearts – which witness love and kindness amidst the violence and cruelty, and even our songs.
For the beauty of the earth,
For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.
We are evangelically taught, “the world is bad” and, therefore, it is. Totally.
The pastor called the children forward this morning, as always, before dismissing them to their classrooms. He reminded them that when they put a grape or a strawberry or a bite of peach into their mouths, and it tastes so good, that ability to taste is evidence of God’s love for them. “Go out today and smell as many flowers as you can. That sweet aroma in your nose is God’s love for you. The whole world is revealing the love of God to us.”
Kindness Blog posted this powerful video today. I’m posting it, too, so I can find it next time I go speak to students about those who would bully their beauty.
Last December my niece made known her objection to the fact that millions of dollars were donated to keep The Bay Lights lit: “MILLIONS were donated to keep the bridge lit when people are HOMELESS!”
Bless her young, socially conscious heart.
But I saw it differently:
We all need shelter for sure, but we all need beauty, too. It is not the rich who benefit most from the lights on that bridge, it’s the poor and the homeless. My niece crosses that bridge every evening on her way home from work, notices the lights – or not – and then forgets them as she closes herself off in her beautiful, well-lit home many miles away. But the homeless, huddled in the city, keeping warm around the fellowship of a trashcan bonfire, can enjoy them all night long. A cheerful light in the dreary winter darkness. A backdrop of beauty in a bleak existence. Lighting for their home, humble as it may be.
Inner city children – whose parents can’t afford to put up Christmas lights and/or are too occupied with their addictions or depressions to make Christmas special – can look out their bedroom windows and see something magical.
The lights aren’t for the rich.
They are for everyone who has eyes to see them.
Today’s exercise in gratitude bears witness to the blessings that are available to every heart at every age and stage of life, health, wholeness, wealth and faith:
Sun on skin, warming to the bone. We don’t even need sight or hearing to be blessed by this one. Just emerging from a long, cold, lonely winter I am especially grateful for the warmth of the sun.
The colors of the sky: Bright white, puffy clouds on a bright blue canvas, sometimes a soft blue canvas. Red, purple, orange and pink sunrises & sunsets. Spectacular swirls of colors and clouds.
Trees: flowering and budding in Spring, full bloom and glistening green in Summer, painted brand new colors in Autumn.
Awaking to the sounds of birds singing and whippoorwilling just out the window.
Some get to enjoy a walk on the beach: Cool, wet sand squishing up between bare toes, or warm, dry sand buffing bare heels to a soft, smooth, healthy pink; fresh salt air cleansing sinuses and lungs. Some get to fall asleep to the sound of the surf. All for free. You don’t even need a home.
Dogs, approaching with wagging tails, giving us a sniff and a kiss as we walk along, trying to shake off feeling down, discouraged or depressed. They like us even if no one else does.
We can all have an audience with God. For free. Any one of us can climb into His lap or humbly, confidently approach His throne and say, “Thank you” or “Help me” or “My heart is broken” or “Do You love me?”
I pray He opens the eyes of the downtrodden today to see the beauty He has bestowed upon them; to feel the warmth of His smile; to catch a glimpse of His face; to feel His love.”
I’m going to smile at somebody today.
I discovered something lovely about Jesus in the midst of preparing a talk last year. Jesus only used the word “beautiful” twice. Once with regard to the Pharisees:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.”
And once with regard to the woman who poured expensive perfume on His feet:
“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.”
Did you catch that it was her behavior that Jesus called beautiful?
“She has done a beautiful thing to me.” I hope you remember that, dear sister, the next time you look in the mirror and fret; the next time you get caught in the rain and your hairdo is ruined seconds before you have to stand before an audience and speak; the next time you are tempted to drop your entire paycheck at Ulta.
When my daughter was a teen, I used to remind her to spend at least as much time sitting before God as she did standing before her mirror. Today she is a lovely young woman both inside and out.
So get up, get dressed and go do something beautiful.