Jul 11 2010

Lessons in Clay Balls

rattlesnake-249“He has made everything beautiful in its time.”  Ecclesiastes 3:11

A friend of mine recently sent me an e-mail that contained the following story:

A man was exploring caves by the Seashore.  In one of the caves he found a canvas bag with a bunch of hardened clay balls.  It was like someone had rolled clay balls and left them out in the sun to bake.   They didn’t look like much, but they intrigued the man, so he took the bag out of the cave with him.  As he strolled along the beach, he would throw the clay balls one at a time out into the ocean as far as he could.   He thought little about it, until he dropped one of the clay balls and it cracked open on a rock.  Inside was a beautiful, precious stone! 

Excited, the man started breaking open the remaining clay balls.  Each contained a similar treasure.  He found thousands of dollars worth of jewels in the 20 or so clay balls he had left.    Then it struck him.  He had been on the beach a long time. He had thrown maybe 50 or 60 of the clay balls with their hidden treasure into the ocean waves.  Instead of thousands of dollars in treasure, he could have taken home tens of thousands, but he had just thrown it away!  

 In the original e-mail the message went on to say that this is something we do from time to time with people.  If someone is unappealing to us we discount them and do not give them the time of the day.  We fail to see the treasure within them.  If, however, we take the time to get to know them we may very well discover there is a jewel inside of them.

 I have no doubt that this happens with people.  I also believe, however, that it happens in the world of nature as well.  There are many things we see in Creation that do not appeal to us.  As a result we may dismiss their importance and not take the time to discover their real beauty or God’s purpose in creating them.   

 The original e-mail concluded by saying, “May we not come to the end of our lives and find out that we have thrown away a fortune in friendships because the gems were hidden in bits of clay. May we see the people in our world as God sees them.”  I would add the same petition to the world of nature.  God forbid that we come to the end of our lives and discover that we sat idly by while genuine treasures were destroyed and eliminated from existence.  Yes, may we come to see all things in Creation as God sees them!


(The rattlesnake pictured above is one example of a creature many hate.  It too, however, serves a very useful purpose in God’s Creation.)

Oct 7 2009

Just Because?

UP near Twin Lakes 481Yesterday I arrived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  I was welcomed with a riot of color.  This is my first trip to the U.P.  Friends had told me that the fall colors here rival anything else in the United States.  They were right.  As you can see from the picture above, the foliage here is awesome!

I have indicated before that I love autumn and that it is mostly because of the incredible display put on by the hardwood trees.  A number of years ago, while doing some research on my first book, I discovered that although scientists know how the leaves change each fall, they cannot explain why.  The “how” is pretty simple.  Each fall as the days grow shorter, the nights cooler and the summer rains diminish, there is a dramatic reduction in the production of chlorophyll.  This allows the pigments that were there all along to show their true colors.

The “why” is the tricky part.  In nature colors are typically there for a purpose.  For example, bright colors in a bird will help attract a mate. The colors of flowers, likewise, draw in pollinators.  The beautiful colors of fall, however, don’t appear to serve a purpose.  They’re just beautiful.

Someone might reply to the question, “why do leaves turn beautiful colors in fall?” with the answer, “Just because.”  I don’t buy that.  I’m convinced that the beauty of fall is simply God’s gift to us.  Ecclesiastes 3:11 says “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”    Autumn is the time God makes the leaves extra beautiful (they’re still beautiful in spring and summer).  So my answer to the question, “why do leaves turn beautiful colors in fall?” is “just because—just because God loves us.”  The colors of autumn are a gift of His grace, and a wonderful gift at that!


Jul 22 2009

Some Thoughts on Beauty

AZ Barber Pole Paria Wilderness“He has made everything beautiful in its time…” Ecclesiastes 3:11

My younger sister, Betty, is a regular reader of our blog.  Earlier today she sent me a couple of quotes she thought I might find interesting.  One is a Turkish proverb that says “A heart in love with beauty never grows old.” The other quotation comes from the pen of D. H. Lawrence: “The human soul needs actual beauty more than bread.” The common denominator in these two sayings is, of course, beauty.  My sister’s e-mail got me to thinking about what others have said about beauty.

In words similar to Lawrence’s, John Muir wrote “Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.” Elsewhere Muir said, “No synonym for God is so perfect as Beauty.  Whether as seen carving the lines of the mountains with glaciers, or gathering matter into stars, or planning the movements of water, or gardening—still all is Beauty!”

Apparently Muir and Ralph Waldo Emerson concurred on this connection between God and beauty for Emerson wrote, “Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God’s handwriting—a wayside sacrament.  Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing.”

No matter where we live there is much beauty to behold.  If we will take time to notice it and contemplate it we truly will find food for our soul.  And in ways I cannot fully explain, we will also find God.

–Chuck Summers