Here’s the thing . . .
You are about to witness the juxtaposition of evil and beautiful. I have done this on purpose—to press a point.
There is gross darkness in this world.
Orange jumpsuits filled with men, caged like animals but handcuffed like no animal. Submerged slowly. Methodically. Into a drowning pool. With underwater cameras documenting. I saw the still photo and shuddered.
O Lord, how long?
Another line of men in orange, explosive ropes around their necks, one man attached to another on their knees. Black masked head with bare fingers secured the last man. Then, with a button push, their heads flew off.
Because of “wrong” religion? Or some other agenda?
O Lord, how long?
Young man with a bowl-cut hairstyle steps into an historic church. Listens. For an hour. Then pulls a gun and opens fire.
Because of skin color?
O Lord, how long?
Then prejudicial comments from both skin colors fuel the flames of hate.
Political parties greedy for power divide to conquer.
O Lord, how long?
But one thing I DON’T do is this . . .
I don’t give up.
And one thing I don’t FEEL is this . . .
Because I’m not.
I’m not hope-LESS.
I’m full of HOPE.
Even as this world’s light becomes eclipsed by dark.
Because my hope is not in Man but in God.
Because I believe in a God who is GOOD. I believe in a God who will work ALL things for GOOD in HIS perfect time, even evil.
Because he says so.
Because he has proved that he DOES so in my life and in the lives of others.
And I believe God wants us to rejoice, even in the midst of evil. Because He says so in His word.
Because here’s the thing . . .
Evil has been with us from the first fall. Always will be until Jesus comes again and finishes what he started on that cross.
Don’t throw up hands in despair. Throw up hands in prayer.
For others. For me. Because I know just some of my own capability—my own dark. I ask forgiveness, again and again and again.
The only path to glory is on the HIGH way of humility.
So listen Little One, I tell myself . . .
Pray. And do the next right thing. Step out in faith. Then rest in the Beautiful Beyond Description—our Lord and God—Jesus Christ—the Almighty One, coming again, here now in spirit. He’s coming back, Little One! He’s moving His perfect plan forward to the day where He will reign and there will be no more terror, no more tears. And the bits of beauty we see all around us and in us? Well, the Beautiful One Beyond Description will consume the darkness with His light. Because He has overcome the grave for every—single—one—of—us!
As we wait and we moan and we call for Him . . .
He hears the slightest whisper of the longing heart and says . . .
I am with you.
Even to the end of the age.
I will not leave you or forsake you.
The unbelieving cannot fathom such a plan—such a LOVE—because the unbelieving believe this life is all there is. Or, they believe brutality is the path to their god. But it’s an upside-down, mixed up vision. It’s not reality at all.
Reality is this . . .
Holy beauty transcends and transforms evil ugly.
Forgiveness transcends and transforms hate.
Love overcomes all.
We need to pray for the salvation of our enemies. Always.
Pray for light and beauty to invade every dark and ugly crack in our world and in our souls.
Then let that light shine.
Be a light-bearer, a light-sharer.
Pray for beauty to expand and take over profane. Then BE the beautiful. Spread the beauty.
Pray for God’s kingdom to come. Then act like it’s already here. Because it is.
Because Jesus IS.
Because Jesus overcame the apple . . .
INTERMISSION: (Are you a bit hurried? Perhaps stop now, and read Part 2 another time?)
So here’s what I did last night to fight fear and temptation to despair . . .
I invited her over, my neighbor—my friend—my horse riding buddy—my perennial sharer.
She and I sat on our “Tuscan terrace”—the spot I transformed from weeds on a whim after visiting some Italian terraces in 2007.
We watched the sun setting in the west, summer evening near perfect in our slice of the world. No sweaters needed. No shoes. We absorbed beauty all around.
Burlap runner lines the slatted wood table. Rough cloth. Rough lives. There is beauty in both. Always.
Fresh cuts of shrubs and perennials arch over the edge of an amethyst vase. How often have I arched over the edge of myself, calling O, LORD—save now! A perennial heart-call.
We sipped white wine in Waterford crystal and felt the weight of it all in our hands, all balanced and cut just right so light dances on every—single—edge.
We feasted on a wild-caught Alaskan sockeye marinated in soy sauce, seared, and oven-finished with a honey, garlic, and ginger glaze. Fresh steamed sugar snap peas and a vegetable studded, stir-fried rice hugged the sea gems staged on floral rimmed plates I bought on clearance long, long ago.
I could feel guilty.
You’re nothing but a Marie Antoinette telling the hurting, the starving to eat cake. You hypocrite!
I heard it, there in my head as I sat on my chair before prayer and, for a moment, my stomach turned sour.
But I recognized that dark masked evil one’s voice wanting to cut me down, to snuff me out. I told that liar, that joy-stealer, that murderer to stop the mock. I told him to leave because he’s not welcome here. I told him in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. And he left. Because He must. He has no power here in the one Jesus Christ has saved, other than the power I give him. And I will—not—give.
My mind rests.
I looked at my friend and smiled.
Just last week I was at her place next door. We sat by her blooming peonies, all bold magenta and sweet with scent. I brought the cheese and baguette. She brought the wine and glasses. We sat and watched her horses in the paddock. And we sipped sauvignon blanc and savored that French brie and Irish white cheddar. I gave thanks for beauty all around and the ability to see and hear and smell and taste and touch.
Why did she and I sit and dare to take in and talk beauty, two nights in one week? Why did we dare indulge in wine and cheese and wild-caught salmon and horses when the world seems to be headed for hell?
Because beauty is of God. Because God is beautiful.
Every peony. Every horse. Every tree. Every bird in the air. Every crystal goblet formed by the creative gift given by the Creator. Every batch of grapes turned into wine. Every bit of yeast raised into bread.
When we immerse ourselves in beauty, we immerse ourselves in hope.
Beauty reminds us that not all is ugly.
Beauty reminds us that in the midst of raw evil there is still a supreme God, higher than any supreme court.
Beauty reminds us that there is a Kingdom coming and a foretaste of the Kingdom already here.
Beauty raises us up when dark drags us down.
There is one who wants to steal our joy by suppressing beauty anywhere it sprouts—by making us feel guilty for basking in God’s glory when the world all around us suffers.
We’re not to be those ostrich people, heads down in denial about the evil in the world. But we’re not to be people who won’t allow ourselves to rejoice over the smallest gifts given even amidst the grossest sin.
I will not surrender my soul to ugly—to downcast—to helpless—to hopeless.
I may fight with tears. But I will fight for beauty.
No matter what, I will seek beauty in the smallest, most unlikely places. And I will rejoice and give thanks to my God who creates all things beautiful and causes me to SEE—to experience—to rejoice in all things GOOD—to give thanks to Him—the Beautiful Beyond Description.
I lift one heavy head and fill my lungs with the sweet fragrance of one single peony.
Thank you, my beautiful God and Savior!
Beauty will never be defeated, even in the darkest, dank cell of hell on earth. Because beauty resides in the heart and soul of every believer. We see God in a sliver of his splendor when we look for beauty everywhere, in everyone. And when we don’t see it in someone, we can pray it in. We can pray for an infusion—a transfusion of the Beautiful One.
This vision of Beauty is our hope—our sustenance—our reliance—our resilience.
Christ’s kingdom is here and spreading. And He will reign forever and ever.
Beautiful One. Beautiful Savior.
God surrounds us with Himself, embracing and assuring He is WITH us—even to the end of the world.
God is WITH us! God is here! God is coming! Our God reigns!
His fingerprints, beautiful beyond description, will never be washed away.
Evil may kill my body. But evil cannot touch my soul.
For I have been saved by the Beautiful Beyond Description—Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Evil may blow off my head. Evil may drown me chained in a cage. Evil may blow me to bits with a gun. But my whole body WILL BE RAISED again—whole—to reign with Him, my Lord and Savior, forever and ever.
One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling. He will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted about the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD. Psalm 27: 4-6