about God’s beauty as a person who lived in natural surroundings.
Many of us
connect with God through natural beauty. My dad was such a person. We never
went to church as a family; we hunted on Sundays. When I became a Christian, I
asked him one day if he believed in God. His response was, “The closest I come
is when I am out in the woods or walking along an ocean shore. I feel like that
is God.” His closest connection to the creator came through nature. He would be
on a mountaintop looking out at the vastness and be overwhelmed by something
greater than himself.
It was a
mysterious experience that he never tried to figure out. He connected with that
force through hunting, fishing or just walking. But it was an important part of
his life. It renewed him, gave him strength to go on working in high-pressure
We get this and
that is part of the reason people choose to live here and in other places in
the west. That’s why real estate prices for homes with mountain views run
higher than those that don’t have them. People want to look out at something
beautiful. It renews them.
We have friends
who moved to Denver from Tulsa. They bought a house that looked out over
Stanley Lake and to the Rocky Mountains. They were thrilled to get it because
of the view. It brings them great joy to sit and look out at natural beauty.
street artist named Theaster Gates gave a Ted talk on
reviving inner city neighborhoods. Gates asked a basic question of his
audience, “What are the basic things you need every day?” Your thoughts are
probably – [let them answer] food, shelter, basics, health these are common answers.
Then Gates suggested that we add another item to that list. Beauty.
Gates lives in
a rough neighborhood in Chicago with run down buildings, a world of concrete
and steel. He observed that when people are confined to spaces where there is
no beauty, they close up. They are more fearful. They are more
unhappy. This is an environment of poverty, of ghettos, of slums:
Concrete and steel and the bad odor that goes with inner city living. There is
little in the way of beauty.
Gates set out
to bring beauty to this world, through graffiti, through painting, through art
because beauty provides something necessary in their lives. He argues that
humans thirst for beauty and when they have beauty in their daily lives, they
are able to find contentment, joy, and happiness. It changes how we interact
with places and people.
something to his point. We understand what he is talking about. We need beauty
in our lives. We associate beauty with certain experiences and places as you
that experiencing beauty first has to do with a state of mind and how we look
at the world. In other words, we project beauty out onto the world from the inside.
We agree that what we are viewing is beautiful, but it is our inner
construction of beauty that actually gives us the warm, awesome experience, not
the mountains themselves. In other words, the beauty is inside of us and what
we see out here is a reflection of what’s going on the inside.
God gives us
the ability to identify beauty as his creation. As a way to recognize God in
the world in the same way David recognizes God when he wrote his psalms.
When I get on
my motorcycle and head up into the mountains, I feel like I am riding into a
painting that is ever changing, and moving around me. I feel a deep connection
with beauty, God’s beauty. It is a feeling that fills my senses and awareness
that I would sometimes like to disappear into.
One day when
Claire and I were driving through the mountains of Idaho, we were looking at
the blond, grassy hillside that was so familiar from my childhood. And I once
again entered into that ecstasy of beauty.
And as I felt it,
I wished I could have that feeling with me always, and then God spoke to me and
said I can. I can because the source of what I was experiencing was inside of
me, not in what I was looking at.
It was a
powerful realization for me to know that the beauty I was looking at came from
inside of me and it could be there any time I felt a need to call it up. I
found that to be very calming, very hopeful because I didn’t have to go to the
natural location to have the experience. It was right here inside of me.
wrote about God’s beauty in Psalms, he was calling up his experience, bringing
it back into his consciousness in poetry and music. People love the Psalms
because if this, they draw on a part of God we do not experience in other areas
of the Bible. We do find this poetic exchange in other areas, such as Job and
in Proverbs as well.
And when we
come to those places it’s like we shift into a different mode of experiencing
faith. We enter into the beautiful. We see poetic form in the New Testament as
well, an example is the Magnificat. These scriptures
remind us of something very important – that God is an artist! He created. He
imagined! God played with color and light. God modeled form and mass. God was
artistic. God is the original artist. God has an imagination beyond what we can
Our problem is
that we spend too little time experiencing and creating art. The world presses
in on us and tells us our value is found only in what we produce, our work,
commerce, things we can measure. We get caught up in daily life and become
robots, measuring everything in terms of productivity. We forget about what it means to be in the
moment, enjoying beauty.
In the verses from Psalm 23:2-3, we are given a powerful way to
enter the beautiful. “He
makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He
restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.”
In this reading we are led
into the beautiful and it brings us stillness, peace, calm, renewal and hope.
God gives us
beauty because God understands our need for the exalted in this world. God
understands that we need inspiration that is fed through art and the arts. We
need the murals that appear around us as we drive through town. We need the
colorful flowers that imprint our hearts with joy. We need beauty.
This week stop
and think about the importance of beauty in your life. Stop and think about
where you find it. Stop and think about the images and sounds you consume and
whether or not they present beauty.
The market most
often presents us with a form of commercial beauty, a form of beauty that is
exploitive. It plays to the senses and their appetites. When you recognize
those messages that do not bring beauty into your life but rather ghettoize
your soul, consider not consuming them any more.
Choose to return
to that true beauty that is inside and outside of you. Do something creative. Encourage
others to pursue the beautiful.
you looked in the mirror in the morning, see more than wrinkles. See more than
flaws. See more than a retired person. See more than the person you have
defined yourself to be. See your beauty and what makes you that way. See