Oct 31 2020

Walk in Beauty

I have a friend who in all his correspondence with me concludes with the words “walk in beauty.”  I’ve read enough Tony Hillerman novels to know that this is an important phrase in Navajo life.  The words come from a Navajo ceremony called Beautyway.  To walk in beauty means to walk in harmony with all living things, to live in harmony with God, with nature, with others and with self.  There is a lovely Navajo prayer that includes these words: “With beauty before me, may I walk.  With beauty behind me, may I walk.  With beauty below me, may I walk.  With beauty above me, may I walk.  With beauty all around me, may I walk.”  I find these words to be both powerful and instructive.  I happen to believe that we are all challenged to walk in beauty.  It is, however, easier said than done.

Why is living in harmony with all living things so difficult?  Perhaps the Scriptures give us some clues.  If you go back to the story of the Fall in Genesis 3 you see that the introduction of sin in Eden destroyed the harmony God intended for Creation.  That sin was basically humanity’s decision to put the will of self before the will of God.  In one word that sin was pride.  That same pride displayed in the Garden of Eden continues to be manifested in each of our lives.  We all have a tendency to put our will above that of God or that of others.  That pride results in discord.  Where pride raises its ugly head beauty and harmony are always found lacking.

Today many see nature as something to be used, not cherished and preserved.  Sad to say, the same thing can be said for our relationships with others.  Far worse, the same thing can be said for our relationship with our Creator.

I am convinced that until we find harmony with God we will not find harmony with self, others, or nature.  There must be peace in the center before there can be peace beyond.  Unfortunately, a lot of people leave God out of the equation.  To walk in beauty surely we should start with our Maker.

In Psalm 27:4 David says “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…”   When we focus on the beauty of the Lord everything else falls into place.  We begin to see the true beauty in ourselves.  We begin to see the true beauty in others.  We begin to see the true beauty in nature.  This vision is what enables us to “walk in beauty” and to live our lives in peace and harmony.

I realize that I may not be doing justice to the Navajo concept of walking in beauty but this is how I understand the concept.   It is my prayer that I and everyone else may come to walk in beauty.  If we did, what a wonderful world it would be.

–Chuck

I took the images shown above on a trip earlier this week to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Blue Ridge Parkway.


Sep 2 2012

Nature’s Humbling Power

Nature certainly has a way of keeping us humble.  I suspect God meant for it to be this way knowing that we humans have a tendency to be cocky and think that we are in control.  He also knows that such an attitude can get us into all kinds of trouble.  The Scriptures warn of the dangers of pride for good reason.  When we are prideful we tend not to give God His proper place in our lives.  Perhaps this is why many have suggested that pride is the deadliest of the Seven Deadly Sins. It is such a danger that God uses nature, and a number of other means, to keep us humble.

 

God uses nature in a lot of different ways to humble us.  In Sunday School this morning we looked at some of the writings of Martin Luther on prayer.  Luther was moved to become a monk when a bolt of lightning barely missed him.  This close call with nature’s fury definitely got his attention and humbled him.

Sometimes we are humbled by nature in less dramatic ways.  Perhaps we start to feel small after looking at the Milky Way on a clear cold night.  At other times we may be humbled by looking up at majestic mountains or beholding a beautiful sunset.   Both the vastness and beauty of Creation have a way of challenging our pride and humbling us.

On other occasions it can be the risks or dangers inherent in nature that humble us.  When hiking in grizzly bear country or while standing next to a raging torrent I rarely feel prideful.  Last night my wife found another copperhead on our driveway.  Just knowing that there are poisonous snakes living nearby humbles me and makes me think differently of myself.

No doubt those who have recently experienced the power of hurricanes, tornados, floods, drought and fires could, likewise, speak of nature’s ability to humble us.  As painful and frightening as nature’s humbling power can be it is also most beneficial.  The wise writer of Proverbs declared, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”  (16:18)  By reminding us from time to time that we are not in control and that there are forces far more powerful than us nature can keep us humble and perhaps even help prevent “a fall.”  Nature has a way of reminding us to stay close to the God of Creation and to put our trust in Him.  If nature did nothing more than this, it would be an awesome thing!

–Chuck

(I photographed the coastal brown bear at Katmai National Park, the sunset in Glacier National Park, and the lightning strike at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.)

 


Apr 1 2012

The Biggest Fool

Today is both Palm Sunday and April Fool’s Day.  There is a sermon I have in mind that draws the two together.  I don’t remember exactly where I heard or read it but it concerns what has come to be known as Jesus’ “triumphant entry” on the first Palm Sunday long ago.  The question eventually gets asked, “Do you think the donkey that carried Jesus up to Jerusalem that day thought all the cheering and excitement was about him?”  The conclusion drawn in the sermon was how incredibly foolish the donkey would have been to think the praise and adoration was for him instead of the one who rode upon his back.   The point made concerned the dangers of pride and our need for humility.

When Rob and I were at Red Rock Canyon in Nevada a few days ago we saw and photographed the three wild burros you see here.  I told him that day about the sermon I had heard.  We discussed how we humans often get ourselves in trouble because of our pride and how we should practice humility.  A donkey would never think it was all about him but we humans often do.  This flaw usually proves to be our downfall, confirming the biblical admonition, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)

One area where I see much human pride these days concerns Creation.  It seems like so many people think the earth belongs to us and it is ours to do with as we please.  They may think this but the Bible clearly states, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”  (Psalm 24:1)   How arrogant, how foolish, for us to think the world exists for us!  The apostle Paul echoed the Psalmist’s thoughts when he wrote concerning Jesus, “all things were created by him and for him.” (Colossians 1:16)  Creation exists for God’s glory, not ours.  To think otherwise would be just like the donkey Jesus rode believing the cheers were all for him.

Psalm 14:1 declares, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”   According to statistics there are not a very high percentage of people who actually deny the existence of God.  There are, however, a large percentage of people who live as though there is no God or who get confused and think they are Him.  In the end, the biggest fool is the person who refuses to give God the glory He deserves.  Unfortunately, I have been that person more times than I can count.  Perhaps you are guilty too.  Both the Bible and God’s “other book” (Creation) teach us that God deserves all the praise and honor and glory we can give Him.  At the beginning of this Holy Week I encourage you to join me in striving to give God the glory He is due.  If we fail to do so, what fools we will be!

–Chuck