I was in the car a long time this weekend driving to and from New Jersey to speak at a dinner for The Atlantic Christian School. (Great school with a big vision.) My CD was playing worship songs and one had these words:
When I look into Your holiness
When I gaze into Your loveliness
When all things that surround become shadows
In the light of You
In the light of You
I began to think about “loveliness”. How do we define that? Can we define it? Is it ethereal?
Do we use the term “lovely” when it comes to a man? Not usually. I admit and I think most of us of Jesus as male since that is how He appeared in the Gospels. He was manifested in a male body – as a baby he was circumcised according to Jewish law for a male child. He hung around a group of fishermen and was addressed as a man by those He encountered.
In some circles, that may be a problem – it isn’t for me. I am not a feminist who cringes at masculine language in the scripture. Nor will I ague with those who want gender-neutral wording of scripture. I have bigger issues to think and argue about. I have had some wonderful, honorable men in my life who also showed tenderness and love. However, I wouldn’t describe them as “lovely”. I tried to think of a man I would describe as “lovely”.
Loveliness seems to be a feminine quality. What do we describe as lovely? A beautiful view. A dress. A meal. A room. An event. An experience. A dance. A car. A trip. So how is Jesus “lovely”?
The definition of lovely is, “having a beauty that appeals to the heart or mind as well as to the eye; charmingly or gracefully beautiful; highly pleasing; delightful; of a great moral or spiritual beauty.” So by that definition, “lovely” is much more than “beauty”. It is not just something that can be seen, it is something deeper that encompasses character. Nobility and honor are lovely.
Perhaps we can say someone/something is lovely when they are fulfilling God’s purpose for them/it – they are moving with the flow of God’s Spirit. They are not at odds with God’s purpose. They are not angry or pushy. They are comfortable in their own skin. I think we “know” when we are in the presence of loveliness.
I do not know him, but the Pope seems to be a lovely man. And I am sure he must be but perhaps if I really knew him I wouldn’t think that. Loveliness has to be consistent with one’s behavior and attitudes. The inside has to match the outside, and the outside has to match the inside. (And from all I can tell the Pope is exactly that way!) I knew a man once who was handsome to look at, talented, great personality, well-liked in the community, full of good deeds and loads of fun. But – and it is a critical “but” – he had a secret life and was rotten on the inside, rotten to the core. Eventually, he was unmasked. It was very sad.
One can have a beautiful form and face, a beautiful voice but if the character is mean-spirited, self-centered, you would not say they are lovely. One can be ugly in form and face but if their spirit is generous and kind you would say they are lovely. My mother used to have a friend whose face looked like that of a frog. She had a wonderful sense of humor, had a lively intellect, was caring, never self-centered and always generous with her time and affection. I saw her as lovely.
Remember God said He doesn’t look on the outward appearance but He looks at the heart. We tend to get it backward. How much time do we spend dressing up the outside to present to the public but not early the same time and discipline on the inside. We short-change the inner beauty routine of prayer and meditation.
May we all live as those who know our beauty lives on the inside and as we develop a lovely character it will manifest itself on the outside. My Mother used to say, “a woman cannot help it if she is not beautiful when she is 21 but if she is not beautiful by 40, it’s her fault.” That is true for all of us. I said I had a hard time thinking of a lovely man but actually I believe my Father is a lovely man. Many would agree with me. He has a gentle, gracious spirit reflecting the hours he spends in God’s Presence. Perfect? no. But lovely all the same.
I know I need to spend less time on the outward appearance and more time on my inner self – to become a better picture of Jesus’ loveliness. How ’bout you?
I have been away because my computer died. As in DEAD. NADA. GONE. So discouraging and so aggravating. Now I am trying to learn a new computer and the one program I used the most changed! I am frustrated with the changes! I don’t have time to “play” with it turn learn but if I don’t, it will only be more frustrating!
But I’ll get there – eventually.
I can get really discouraged when I try to lend something new and can’t seem to put all the necessary prices in the correct order. Or when I struggle to break a bad habit and fail more often than I succeed. Or when I am trying to establish a new, good habit and keep falling back into old ways! Or when I make the same mistake again! Or react in a way that caused more damage. I a sure you know the feeling!
I usually beat myself up with negative self-talk using words like “idiot”, “stupid”. Or have thoughts like “Why did you do it that way?”, “Look what you’ve done now.”, “You’ll never get it right.” Or compare myself to someone who is proficient – that just makes me want to quit!
Negative self-talk is self-destructive. But we all do it. We compare ourselves to others and it’s usually not in a favorable way. A couple of years ago my church group had dance lessons. I always wanted to dance but never had the opportunity – it was frowned upon. I thought this would be a great chance to learn with friends. Oh how I tried! Finally the dance instructor took over from my partner to see if he could help. After about 15 minutes of working with me he said,”Why don’t you just go and sit down!” It looks like such fun.The dictionary defines “perseverance” as, “steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, in spite of difficulties, obstacles or discouragement.” Tenacity comes to mind.
It reminds me of a silly song Frank Sinatra sang about the ant and a rubber tree plant. Maybe you remember it!
“Next time you’re found
With your chin on the ground
There’s a lot to be learned
So look around
Just what makes that little old ant
Think he’ll move that rubber tree plant
Anyone knows an ant, can’t
Move a rubber tree plant
But he’s got high hopes
He’s got high hopes
He’s got high apple pie
In the sky hopes
So any time you’re gettin’ low
‘Stead of lettin’ go, just remember that ant
Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant
Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant”
That is, indeed, silly but the point is made not to give up – even if the task seems impossible. I am still tempted to take private dance lessons… it looks like such fun! However, I have no sense of rhythm – none – zip! But scripture encourages us “not to be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall keep, if we faint not.” Keep on keeping on.
With the warm weather we are having here in Virginia, it makes me get itchy to get in the yard. Garden catalogues are arriving each day. Seeds are on sale in the store…The daffodils are peeking up – as is my hope. All hopeful signs of Spring!
I did not write this – I don’t know who did. It is so good I wanted to pass it on. It’s a bit long but well worth the time! Enjoy it! Ruth
Please take the time to read this. I wanted to hurry up and read it, but God slowed me down and I read the whole thing.
Guess what, God does what God always does, he blessed me and now it is your turn to be blessed .
Carl was a quiet man.. He didn’t talk much. He would always greet you with a big smile and a firm handshake.
Even after living in our neighborhood for over 50 years, No one could really say they knew him very well.
Before his retirement, he took the bus to work each morning. The lone sight of him walking down the street often worried us.
He had a slight limp from a bullet wound received in WWII.
Watching him, we worried that although he had survived WWII, He may not make it through our changing uptown neighborhood with its ever-increasing random violence, gangs, and drug activity.
When he saw the flyer at our local church asking for volunteers for caring for the gardens behind the minister’s residence, he responded in his characteristically unassuming manner. Without fanfare, he just signed up. He was well into his 87th year when the very thing we had always feared finally happened..
He was just finishing his watering for the day when three gang members approached him. Ignoring their attempt to intimidate him, he simply asked, “Would you like a drink from the hose?”
The tallest and toughest-looking of the three said, “Yeah, sure,” with a malevolent little smile. As Carl offered the hose to him, the other two grabbed Carl’s arm, throwing him down. As the hose snaked crazily over the ground, dousing everything in its way, Carl’s assailants stole his retirement watch and his wallet, and then fled. Carl tried to get himself up, but he had been thrown down on his bad leg. He lay there trying to gather himself as the minister came running to help him. Although the minister had witnessed the attack from his window, he couldn’t get there fast enough to stop it. “Carl, are you okay? Are you hurt?” the minister kept asking as he helped Carl to his feet.
Carl just passed a hand over his brow and sighed, shaking his head. “Just some punk kids. I hope they’ll wise-up someday.” His wet clothes clung to his slight frame as he bent to pick up the hose. He adjusted the nozzle again and started to water..
Confused and a little concerned, the minister asked, “Carl, what are you doing?” “I’ve got to finish my watering. It’s been very dry lately,” came the calm reply. Satisfying himself that Carl really was all right, the minister could only marvel. Carl was a man from a different time and place.
A few weeks later the three returned.. Just as before their threat was unchallenged. Carl again offered them a drink from his hose.
This time they didn’t rob him. They wrenched the hose from his hand and drenched him head to foot in the icy water. When they had finished their humiliation of him, they sauntered off down the street, throwing catcalls and curses, falling over one another laughing at the hilarity of what they had just done. Carl just watched them. Then he turned toward the warmth giving sun, picked up his hose, and went on with his watering.
The summer was quickly fading into fall Carl was doing some tilling when he was startled by the sudden approach of someone behind him. He stumbled and fell into some evergreen branches. As he struggled to regain his footing, he turned to see the tall leader of his summer tormentors reaching down for him. He braced himself for the expected attack. “Don’t worry old man, I’m not gonna hurt you this time.” The young man spoke softly, still offering the tattooed and scarred hand to Carl. As he helped Carl get up, the man pulled a crumpled bag from his pocket and handed it to Carl. “What’s this?” Carl asked. “It’s your stuff,” the man explained. “It’s your stuff back. Even the money in your wallet” “I don’t understand,” Carl said. “Why would you help me now?” The man shifted his feet, seeming embarrassed and ill at ease. “I learned something from you,” he said. “I ran with that gang and hurt people like you we picked you because you were old and we knew we could do it But every time we came and did something to you, instead of yelling and fighting back, you tried to give us a drink. You didn’t hate us for hating you. You kept showing love against our hate.” He stopped for a moment. “I couldn’t sleep after we stole your stuff, so here it is back.”
He paused for another awkward moment, not knowing what more there was to say. “That bag’s my way of saying thanks for straightening me out, I guess.” And with that, he walked off down the street. Carl looked down at the sack in his hands and gingerly opened it. He took out his retirement watch and put it back on his wrist. Opening his wallet, he checked for his wedding photo. He gazed for a moment at the young bride that still smiled back at him from all those years ago..
He died one cold day after Christmas that winter. Many people attended his funeral in spite of the weather. In particular the minister noticed a tall young man that he didn’t know sitting quietly in a distant corner of the church. The minister spoke of Carl’s garden as a lesson in life. In a voice made thick with unshed tears, he said, “Do your best and make your garden as beautiful as you can. We will never forget Carl and his garden.”
The following spring another flyer went up. It read: “Person needed to care for Carl’s garden.” The flyer went unnoticed by the busy parishioners until one day when a knock was heard at the minister’s office door. Opening the door, the minister saw a pair of scarred and tattooed hands holding the flyer. “I believe this is my job, if you’ll have me,” the young man said. The minister recognized him as the same young man who had returned the stolen watch and wallet to Carl. He knew that Carl’s kindness had turned this man’s life around. As the minister handed him the keys to the garden shed, he said, “Yes, go take care of Carl’s garden and honor him.” The man went to work and, over the next several years, he tended the flowers and vegetables just as Carl had done.
During that time, he went to college, got married, and became a prominent member of the community. But he never forgot his promise to Carl’s memory and kept the garden as beautiful as he thought Carl would have kept it. One day he approached the new minister and told him that he couldn’t care for the garden any longer. He explained with a shy and happy smile, “My wife just had a baby boy last night, and she’s bringing him home on Saturday.”
“Well, congratulations!” said the minister, as he was handed the garden shed keys. “That’s wonderful! What’s the baby’s name?
“Carl,” he replied.
That’s the whole gospel message simply stated. Take 60 seconds give this a shot! Let’s just see if Satan stops this one.
All you do is:
1. Simply say a small prayer for the person who sent you this.
God bless this person in whatever it is that You know he or she may be needing this day!
2. Then send it on to five other people. Within hours five people have prayed for you, and you caused a multitude of people to pray to God for other people.
Then sit back and watch the power of God work in your life for doing the thing that you know He loves.
Several things I heard last week are worth passing along. “Feelings are not facts.” That is so true but we act like feelings are facts. I may feel my friend was offended and nurse a hurt but later I found out she was not – she was just late to an appointment! But how often I let my feelings rule me. Often I don’t feel like I am making progress and I get discouraged. But just because I don’t feel it, doesn’t make it true. I have to trust others to tell me when I am using the wrong barometer.
Feelings are fickle. They can depend on the weather, my health, my tiredness, my diet, my children, the stock market, the daily news… Feelings are not a dependable measure of anything except how I am feeling at that moment. It could all change within the hour! I have to look to truth. And the only reliable source is God’s Word.
I also heard last week: “Prayerlessness is an unconscious sense of self-sufficiency. Pride.
Prayer is a daily expression of humble dependance on God. Humility.”
Adam and Eve, the very first people created, were given an ideal world. A perfect life with all things in unity and harmony. Satan came to tempt Eve by making her doubt the truth of God’s Word. She did. She then lead Adam astray and we humans have suffered the consequences ever since.
How did Adam respond to his sin? 1.) He tried to hide from God. 2.) Then he tried to cover his nakedness. 3.) Then Adam tried to shift the blame.
Human nature has not changed. We do the same. It is interesting that the way we deal with sin is exactly the way Adam did.
First, we try to hide it from God. We won’t admit it to God which is silly since He knows all about what we have done. He asked Adam, “Where art thou?” not because He didn’t know, He asked because He wanted Adam to admit where he was.
2.) We try to cover our sin so no one will know. We dress it up. Change the language of it. Rationalize. Gather folks around us that have done the same things so we won’t feel badly about ourselves. We become inauthentic, pretend it isn’t there.
3.) We shift the blame. Adam told God that it was the woman God gave to him – so it was God’s fault! That seems silly but we do the same thing. We don’t like to take responsibility for our actions. It’s our parent’s fault. It’s our horrible childhood. It’s our spouse…children…economy…
If we take responsibility we have to admit something is wrong with us. Yeah, there is. It’s called sin. We have to admit it, confess. And go to God to ask for forgiveness. He stands ready and eager to forgive. Forgiveness is His habit – all we have to do is ask. There is such freedom in that.
Speaking of freedom – go vote tomorrow!!