Tuesday, November 24, 2015

For the Beauty of the Earth

I’ve been mindlessly humming this old hymn quite a bit lately. I am awed by the variety and surprising qualities of beauty all around us. Suddenly I’m noticing what I haven’t noticed before. With Thanksgiving days away, this has become my theme—to recognize and thank God for the beauty I see each day.

I thank God for the beauty of the sky:

A sunrise that bursts through gray autumn skies
Sunset hues of purple, pink, and orange that paint swaths of color across the horizon
The moon, clear and bright white in a midnight sky

I thank God for the beauty of food:

A multi-colored selection of fresh fruits and vegetables
Beautifully prepared desserts and platters of savory meat

 I thank God for the beauty of life:

A welcoming smile meant just for me
Laughter, free and unsullied by sarcasm or innuendo
Babies and children with silky soft skin, dimples, and the scent of newness
New believers in Christ, full of faith and enthusiasm, undaunted by the challenges of the day, because they trust in the Sovereign God 

I thank God for the beauty of words:
Of appreciation or praise, affirming my wounded soul
Descriptive words that paint pictures my heart can see
The Word of God – comforting, challenging, poetic, hilarious, empowering

I thank God for the beauty of love:

The look that says, “I’m glad you’re mine” despite my flaws and failures
Invitations to chat or adventure, because we are friends
The Body of Christ—a  diverse and motley group, fraught with failures and opinions, bound together by God’s forgiving, abounding love 

I could go on and on about: candlelight; music that makes me cry, dance, and sing; the green of the forest; the ever-changing ocean; eyes so deep and tender they pull me in; childlike trust, exquisite compassion, graceful joy. All this and more surrounds us and I am consciously trying to focus on these evidences of God.
These things Satan cannot take away—despite devastating world news, illness or injury, job loss, cutting words, computer problems, current circumstances, or the weather. God gives us beauty to delight our souls and remind us of the Creator’s great love for us. It’s a free gift no one can steal away. Beauty lifts our spirits, even on the darkest days, and gives us hope for tomorrow. It helps us look ahead to eternity in heaven, where beauty is unsullied by sin and hatred—set free from the limitations of this earthly life.
I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, and eyes to see and appreciate the beauty of these simple yet profound evidences of our Savior’s love. Look for it in nature, in family and friends, and in Jesus, who has given himself for us. We have so much to be thankful for!

Here are my favorite verses of this Thanksgiving hymn. I hope it makes you want to sing and begin spotting the beauty around you. 

“For the Beauty of the Earth” by Folliot S. Pierpoint, 1864
1. For the beauty of the earth,
for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

4. For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

5. For thy church, that evermore
lifteth holy hands above,
offering up on every shore
her pure sacrifice of love;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

6. For thyself, best Gift Divine,
to the world so freely given,
for that great, great love of thine,
peace on earth, and joy in heaven:
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Identify Your Enemies

Trish knows about our ongoing battle with slugs and snails. She’s heard of our exploits in the dark of night, armed with flashlights and salt. She laughs at Kelly’s search and destroy missions when he proudly announces the “death count” from his morning hunt. For my birthday she gave me a humorous, but enlightening book--50 Ways to Kill a Slug, by Sarah Ford.

When one goes to war, the most important strategy is getting to know your enemy. What does he look like? Where does he hide? What are his habits? What are his strengths? And most importantly, what are his weaknesses? From there, you can plan an attack and successfully defeat your foe.

Here’s a few slug facts we’ve learned:

They are hermaphrodites—both male and female. So they don’t need a mate in order to reproduce. And they’re prolific, laying more than 100 eggs a year.

They hide in the daytime, their natural camouflage helping them blend with their surroundings, and come out at night to do their damage.

They have 27,000 teeth. No wonder my hosta plants look like lace doilies after their nighttime ravages.

But here’s the good news. Salt kills them on contact. Spraying plants with vinegar, or soap and water mixtures, deters them. They have soft bellies and don’t like to cross jagged pieces of egg or sea shells. Carpet scraps will dry their slime and stop them before they can reach your plants. Beer and grapefruit, two of their weaknesses, can be used as bait. They also love bran, which swells after they eat it, and sometimes makes them explode. (Did I hear a war whoop?)

What does this have to do with our daily walk with Christ? As you know, those who love Jesus have an enemy. He comes to steal our JOY, kill our bodies and will to serve, and destroy our marriages, families, resources, and more. In one passage identifying our enemy, Apostle Peter warns us to, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). Worse than a slug with 27,000 teeth.

There are other nameless enemies who want to take us down. We need to identify them, and arm ourselves against their tactics. The enemies you battle may differ from mine depending on your background, time of life, and personal weaknesses. But our tactic is the same.

Psalm fifty-nine says, “Deliver me from my enemies, O God; protect me from those who rise up against me” (Psa. 59:1). Today, I arm myself against LIES that shake my trust in the goodness of God. Also FEAR—of failure, rejection, and not being good enough. I name them, and others, and speak scripture in my counterattack—salting the demon hoard.

Who are your enemies today—self pity, lust, pride, addiction, grief? What enemy rises up to pull you off course, discourage, or cause you to doubt? What is eating at your faith, your confidence, your JOY in Jesus Christ?

Identify each one by name. Find a verse that repels it, stops it in its tracks, drowns it, blows it up, or dissolves its power to defeat you. Speak scripture out loud. Write it on a 3x5 card and carry it with you. Tape it to your mirror, or keep it in your car, and continue to offensively pound the enemy.

You can be sure you’re not alone in this war. Your brothers and sisters everywhere are fighting also. And God gives us the energy to fight; a safe place to rest and recoup in between skirmishes; and He goes ahead of us into battle. “O my strength, I watch for you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God. God will go before me” (Psa. 51:9). With God, we will not be defeated.