Tag Archives: beauty

Are we there yet?

topiary11

by Christine Berglund

Changes, changes, changes. The second herb garden is now a daylily bed with very few herbs in it. They have been moved farther north to get more sun.

Originally the herbs were in the front corner bed by the garage, but it proved too wet there, and besides, it was taken over by chocolate mint.

Don’t be alarmed, the mint is now contained in a ceramic pot near the patio. Oh, and the patio is rather new, it was a bare spot near the back porch a few years ago. We now have a nice place to sit and look over the new yellow bed in front of the willows. That spot used to be home to tomatoes and corn.

When it comes down to it, the whole backyard was completely bare when we bought the place. Friends keep telling me how much we have done with the yard in the last few weeks, or months, or years.

Once in a while, someone will ask me if I now have the yard arranged as I wanted it. It elicits the same reaction as do children in the back seat of a car asking the age-old question, “Are we there yet?”

Is the landscape, done on a tight budget mostly with bartered plants, the way we want it to remain? Well, even if it were, there would be natural changes that would occur.

Trees and shrubs don’t stay small. When they do mature, they don’t live indefinitely or stay healthy and attractive. (Oh, boy! I know how that works!) The prudent homeowner would be forced to replace old vegetation with something new as time goes by anyway.

The fact is that I am always learning about new types of plants that would be fun to grow. I might discover a plant that would do well in a problem area, or find a new heuchera that perfectly matches my ninebark. So, no, we are not there yet. We never will be!

In our Christian walk we must know that we will never “arrive.” We may get Bible degrees from a university or a school of preaching, or we may have read the Bible through a hundred times. But we will never in this life reach a complete knowledge or maturity.

In fact, the more we mature, the more we realize this!

We can improve dramatically, just as my herb garden has drastically changed for the better and provides me with plenty of rosemary, oregano, and thyme. It even looks much better than it did in the old corner garden.

But as we change and grow and improve, we are more acutely aware of other aspects that need spiritual attention.

Our associations with good Christian people make us see even more possibilities; just as visiting a new garden gives us more ideas for improvement of our own. Good people continue to inspire us. Reading and studying God’s word will always bring new light to corners of our lives that we may have neglected.

Even the apostle Paul stated that he had not attained perfection.

“Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-13Philippians 3:12-13
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12 Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect; but I press on, if it is so that I may take hold of that for which also I was taken hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brothers, I don’t regard myself as yet having taken hold, but one thing I do. Forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before,

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Nature speaks of God

by Stan Mitchell

  • Buttery yellow daffodils and dogwood, redbud (which seems to me to be pink), and azaleas, like a dreamy parade. Springtime in Tennessee is a wonder to behold.
  • Ridged bark on a trunk as wide as an eighteen wheeler, the leaves so high above that your neck becomes stiff looking upward. The California Sequoia is the largest living organism on the planet (their relative the California Redwood is taller, but not larger). These giants have received hardly a drop of rain for a thousand years. How do they survive? They slake their thirst in the winter, below twenty feet of snow in their high altitude fastness.
  • An elephant’s trunk is so powerful it can reach up the trunk (no pun intended) of a towering Zambezi teak tree and shake it so the sweet fruit falls to the earth. The same trunk, around eight feet in diameter near his mighty head tapers to the other end where the elephant can now pick this fruit, one by one like the deft hand of a pianist and bring the fruit to his mouth.

Everywhere we look, if we care to pay attention, there are signs of a powerful, intelligent, incomparable creator.

With typical English irony, C.S. Lewis explains: “A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere ‘Bibles laid open, millions of surprises … God is, if I may say so, very unscrupulous.” (The Essential C.S. Lewis, p. 47).

In other words you have to be blind, in order not to see evidence of God in creation.

“For what can be known of God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse,” Romans 1:19,20Romans 1:19,20
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19 because that which is known of God is revealed in them, for God revealed it to them. 20 For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse.

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Note that “what can be known of God” ought to be plain to us. We can see in creation God’s “invisible attributes.” So powerful are these evidences that in the end, those who remain unmoved will “be without excuse.”

Your mamma was right. There are none so blind, as those who will not look.

 

Cosmetic solution

by Stan Mitchell

Standards of modest clothing in our day have, please forgive the pun, plunged to new lows. From television to Walmart to the Internet, it seems, people are presenting themselves in various states of undress.

Don’t judge a book by its cover, we are told. Yet there are times the cover screams so loudly it’s hard to look beyond it. What should the Christian’s attitude to this be?

“Do not let your adornment be external – the braiding of hair and the putting on of jewelry, or the clothing you wear, but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:3,41 Peter 3:3,4
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3 Let your beauty be not just the outward adorning of braiding the hair, and of wearing jewels of gold, or of putting on fine clothing; 4 but in the hidden person of the heart, in the incorruptible adornment of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God very precious.

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The term “adornment” comes from the Greek word cosmos — hence “cosmetic.” We often say to someone, “The solution you’re proposing is cosmetic only,” meaning that we aren’t getting to the real cause of the problem. One who cares only for the cosmetic, or outer appearance, is applying Este Lauder to the face when the heart is what needs to be changed.

Yet Peter is not saying: “You should look like a bag lady.” He is saying, “Ensure that your beauty comes from the inside, the one part of you that you can actually change, and that will be beautiful even into old age.”

Does it really matter how beautiful a woman is if her heart is calloused, her mouth sharp and cruel and her attitude abrasive? On the other hand if a woman is warm and compassionate, her attitude selfless and classy, she will be beautiful all her life.

One thinks of Israelite women in Isaiah’s day:

“Because the daughters of Zion are haughty and walk with outstretched necks, glancing wantonly with their eyes, mincing along as they go, tinkling with their feet …” (Isaiah 3:16Isaiah 3:16
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16 Moreover Yahweh said, “Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, And walk with outstretched necks and flirting eyes, Walking to trip as they go, Jingling ornaments on their feet;

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Wow, the old prophet might have been walking down the streets of Hollywood or Madison Avenue by that description.  So with fear and trembling, I offer these principles for ensuring a Christian version of beauty, inside and out.

  • Deep Down, we Know: Men know what they “appreciate” and women know what gets the looks. It’s time to be honest: We know.
  • Men Should Learn to Value a Christian Woman for her Christian Character: Emphasize a woman’s Christian character, and let her know this is why you value her. Don’t be so shallow!
  • Women Should Develop Inner Beauty: There are some drop-dead beautiful celebrities who are ugly ducklings on the inside. Develop the characteristics that are subject to improvement, and will grow more beautiful over time.
  • We Should Adopt God’s Standards not the World’s: As Christians we cannot allow the world to dictate to us on this point.
  • Men and Women are Different: There is a difference between the way men are “wired” and women are “wired.” I don’t know if you noticed, but men and women are different.

I understand the desire to be loved and accepted. I understand the power and pull of loneliness. But young people, believe me when I tell you that external beauty does not generally survive middle age, while internal beauty can grow and sparkle deep into old age.

Christianity is predicated on the fact that we can make our character, make our personality more attractive, and Christ-like. We don’t need to be airbrushed; we need to be heart touched.

Let there be light

by John E. Werhan

As I sit in my stand enjoying the cold grayness of the morning, it seems that the world is silent waiting for something spectacular to occur. The only sound is the pre-dawn commuters as they hurry themselves to their daily destination.

It is truly a blessing to be just another part of nature quietly waiting for the coming day. Yet, as night turns to day you know that something spectacular is happening, even though it happens every day.

The glorious illumination comes over the eastern horizon, awaking nature itself. The old owl hoots its welcome and the birds nesting in the brush sing to its arrival. Another glorious day is coming into our part of the world.

One can wonder about the gloriousness that was seen by God when this daily occurrence first began. At the beginning all was “formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep…” (Genesis 1:2Genesis 1:2
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2 Now the earth was formless and empty. Darkness was on the surface of the deep. God’s Spirit was hovering over the surface of the waters.

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3 God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

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As I watch the sun rise on the earth’s daily journey I can understand why “God saw that the light was good,” (Genesis 1:4Genesis 1:4
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4 God saw the light, and saw that it was good. God divided the light from the darkness.

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5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. There was evening and there was morning, one day.

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). This was the first day and God has given us every morning since to reflect on the gloriousness of his creation.

Every dawn in one’s walk of life should be a blessing. It should give us strength as we face the difficulties of life and lift us up from the drudgery of society’s darkness.

The wise King Solomon wrote, “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day” (Proverbs 4:18Proverbs 4:18
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18 But the path of the righteous is like the dawning light, That shines more and more until the perfect day.

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). Rather than allowing our struggles to darken the day we should allow the rays of the sun to wash away the darkness.

If we will allow God to be with us, we can overcome whatever we face in our daily walk. The apostle Paul writes:

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:131 Corinthians 10:13
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13 No temptation has taken you except what is common to man. God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able, but will with the temptation also make the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

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As we face every dawn we should each fall to our knees in thanksgiving for the blessing and comfort that only comes from a loving God.

Sometimes I wish that I could begin every day in my deer stand. Out with God’s nature all around me but this is not a reality of this life.

Yet, we each can make it a point to step out from where we are and see the greatness of God as manifest in nature. God is always waiting to help and comfort us.  It is up to the individual to accept what God freely offers.

Praise God for every dawn.

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John preachers for the The Northeast church of Christ in Sentinel, Oklahoma.

You surpass them all

“Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all” (Proverbs 31:29Proverbs 31:29
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29 “Many women do noble things, But you excel them all.”

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Many newly married men have made the mistake, or been perceived to make the mistake of comparing their wives’ cooking with that of their mothers.

“My mom made really great fudge brownies” sounds to a new wife like a comparison, with her at a position of disadvantage.  Like jumping into the crocodile-infested Zambezi River. It’s best to just not go there.

But a wise husband could flip it the other way. Has he known great cooks (or talented women, or beautiful women, or charming women)? Why sure he has! But, and here’s the kicker: “You surpass them all.”

Of course when a husband says his wife is “the most beautiful” woman in the world,” that statement is not strictly true. Somewhere there is a woman more beautiful. But it is an understandable, even necessary hyperbole. She may (or may not) be the most beautiful woman in the world, but in his eyes, she should be.

To both husbands and wives: Squeaky door hinges need WD-40, brownies need ice cream, and spouses need to be complimented once in a while!