A Look at Beauty

Remember kaleidoscopes — those tubes you hold up to your eye and point toward the light to see colorful shapes? When the far end of the optical instrument is turned, fragments of material inside an “object cell” shift and mirrors set at angles reflect light through the pieces, forming ever-changing patterns. A multi-hued flower might become sunlight through a round stained-glass window or fireworks on a clear night.

kaleidoscopes

Various materials can be placed in the cell — tiny figures, twisted bits of metal, lace, viscous liquid — but often broken bits of glass are used, to beautiful effect! In fact, David Brewster, inventor of the kaleidoscope in 1817, named it after the Greek word kalos, for “beauty.”

Everyone feels broken, twisted or shattered at times. But when God’s perfect light shines in and through us, reflecting among the fragments of our imperfect lives, we, too, become beautiful. Out of our sinfulness and brokenness shines the beauty of compassion, kindness, perseverance, hope, love — delightful patterns to brighten this hurting world.

Labors of Love

two men holding two gray metal tools

Thomas Merton, an American monk, writer and social activist, said, “It is in the ordinary duties and labors of life that the Christian can and should develop his spiritual union with God.” As the United States observes Labor Day, may we find meaning not simply in marking summer’s end but in celebrating the ways nearly all “duties and labors of life” can empower ministry and faith.

Whether as a dentist, parent, artist, teacher, mechanic, gardener, city councilor, farmer, day laborer, attorney or anything else, a Christian can begin each workday or shift by praying for opportunities to serve whoever they’ll encounter. We also can pray for and seek ways to grow in “spiritual union with God”: cultivating spiritual fruits; actively loving God and neighbor; seeing Jesus in the vulnerable; practicing humility, gratitude and praise.

In Labor Day, may we find inspiration to make all our labors loving and faithful!

Weighed Down

sky earth space working

Many people dream of having the “right stuff” to fly to space. Recently, 18,300 people applied for just 12 astronaut spots at NASA! Fanfare over the moon landing’s 50th anniversary is sure to spark even more interest.

Leaving behind earthly troubles and floating in zero gravity must be amazing, right? Not, it turns out, for one’s body. Weightlessness takes a heavy physical toll in space. Without resistance, muscles waste away and bones weaken. Bodily systems we take for granted are disrupted, causing disorientation. To counteract these effects, astronauts wear resistance suits while exercising. Ironically, after escaping Earth’s gravity, they must replace it.

Similarly, we long for trouble-free days and pray for an end to earthly burdens, not recognizing that exertion, whether physical or spiritual, builds strength. “He who knows no hardships will know no hardihood,” said Harry Emerson Fosdick. “He who faces no calamity will need no courage. … The characteristics in human nature which we love best grow in a soil with a strong mixture of troubles.”

Every weighty challenge is a reason to “rejoice … knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4, ESV).

—Stephanie Martin

Harmful Hopping

orange and black frog
Photo by Thierry Fillieul on Pexels.com

A church is an imperfect mix of imperfect believers, so it’s easy for members to find faults or feel disappointed. That, in turn, may tempt us to shop around.

C.S. Lewis addresses that in The Screwtape Letters. “If a man can’t be cured of churchgoing,” Screwtape advises his demon protégé, “the next best thing is to send him all over the neighborhood looking for the church that ‘suits’ him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches.” How Satan must hate when Christians maintain long-term commitment to one church!

The urge to church-hop harms congregations as well as believers. “Spiritual depth isn’t fostered by satiating your sense of felt needs,” writes James Emery White. “It’s receiving a balanced diet of teaching and challenge, investing in service and mission, living in community and diversity that you probably would not select for yourself.”

The Magnitude of God’s Love

It would be spectacular and amazing … if some king’s son were to appear in a beggar’s home to nurse him in his illness, wash off his filth and do everything else the beggar would have to do. Would this not be a profound humility? Any spectator or any beneficiary of this honor would feel impelled to admit that he had seen or experienced something unusual and extraordinary, something magnificent.

And yet the love of the Son of God for us is of such magnitude that the greater the filth and stench of our sins, the more he befriends us, the more he cleanses us, relieving us of all our misery and of the burden of all our sins and placing them upon his own back.

Whenever the devil declares: “You are a sinner!” Christ interposes: “I will reverse the order; I will be a sinner, and you are to go scotfree.” Who can thank our God enough for this mercy?   —Martin Luther, Luther’s Works 22, 166-167

person spreading hands against sun

Easter

Dr. Gordon one Easter brought an old beat-up rusty bird cage and sat it next to the pulpit.  As he gave his sermon that Easter morning, he held up the cage and said, “You might be wondering why this is here.  As a matter of fact, that’s not the normal part of an Easter service, having a bird cage here.”

He said, “Let me tell you the story of it.  Several days ago I was noticing a little boy….whistling, walking down an alley, swinging this bird cage.  Clinging to the bottom of the cage were little field sparrows he had caught.  So I stopped him and asked, ‘Say, what do you have there?’ He said, ‘Oh, I’ve got some birds.’  ‘What are you gonna do with ’em?’ I asked. ‘Oh, mess around with ‘me, tease ’em, something like that.’  ‘Well,’ I asked, ‘when you get tired of ’em, what are you gonna do?’  He thought a moment and said, ‘Well, I’ve got a couple of cats at home, and they like birds.  I think I’ll just let them have at ’em.’

Dr. Gordon said his heart went out to the little birds so he made the little lad an offer. “How much do you want for the birds?”  Surprised, the boy said, “Mister, these birds ain’t no good.”

“Well,” Dr. Gordon said, “regardless, how much would you like for ’em?”

The little fellow said, “How about two bucks?”

He said, “Sold.” So he reached in his pocket and peeled off two dollar bills.  The little boy shoved the bird cage forward, pleased with his stroke of good fortune.  When the boy left, the pastor walked a good distance away, lifted open the little cage door and said, “Shoo, shoo,” and he shoved them out of the door and they flew free.

The empty bird cage was the perfect illustration of how Satan had the human race trapped and frightened.  Jesus Christ not only paid the price for our freedom; He has set us free.

animal avian beak biology

 

— from Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations