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.


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

Feb 16 2014

“The Species With a Call”

Otter Creek Park sunsetIn recent days I’ve been reading a new book authored by Drexel Rayford.  Drexel has been a dear friend for about thirty years.  You may recall that a few months ago I shared some things from one of his blogs with you on this site.  His new book is called The Species with a Call and I highly recommend it to you.  I recommend it not only because of my friendship with Drexel but due to the book’s subject matter.  It certainly dovetails with the themes of Seeing Creation.

Tioga FallsThe Species with a Call is primarily a book about vocation.  I can assure you that Drexel’s understanding of vocation is likely different than that espoused by most people today.  At the end of one chapter he writes, “All of Creation is a conversation between the Person and Creation, including humans spoken into existence.  That’s why vocation lies at the center of our being.  God’s voice, God’s call, God’s invitation to participate with God in the ongoing process of tending to and caring for Creation is woven into the very fabric of our humanity.  We share this vocation, all of us.”  Most people tend to equate their vocation with their job.  Using the Scriptures as a guide Drexel argues that the two are not necessarily the same thing.  He believes we all share a common vocation or “calling” even though there are multitudinous careers from which to choose.  These careers, whatever they happen to be, should help us fulfill our common vocation.

Otter Creek Park creek scenicI appreciate the book’s emphasis on the communal nature of vocation over and against an individualistic understanding.  As Drexel points out, “Our common humanity involves a larger purpose than a single human life, and when we make this truth our own, we become less self-centered, better self-defined, more courageous, creative, caring, peaceful, and purposeful. We share the same vocation for the sake of a huge and marvelous Creation.  When we grasp this truth, we move more resolutely toward authenticity in our individual lives.”

Otter Creek Park fog and treesDrexel sees our failure to understand our true vocation as a source of many of our societal ills and most certainly our environmental crisis.  He points back to the story of “the Fall” in Genesis 3 and says “the snake’s concept of the human’s purpose was to consume the fruit.  God’s concept for humans was to tend to, care for, and produce more fruit.  While God called Adam and Eve to be creative producers, the snake wanted to make Eve and Adam into consumers.  According to the snake, the creation was there for the humans to consume. On the other hand, God called humans to serve creation and be productive within certain constraints.”  He follows this up by adding, “We have the capacity to discern how we can be stewards of the resources creation offers us along with the ability to restrain our consumption so that it doesn’t become destructive.  Eve’s failure, aided and abetted by Adam, was to succumb to the snake’s clever marketing campaign to cast off all restraint.  When they cast off their restraint, forgetting their call to be stewards with the power to say ‘no’ to certain forms of consumption, they also cast aside their authentic vocation.”

There’s plenty more I could share with you from Drexel’s book but my main point in passing on what I have is to encourage you to give further thought to your own vocation.  Do you agree that we all share a common vocation and that this vocation includes partnering with God in caring for and tending to Creation?  As a long-time student of the Scriptures I cannot help but affirm that Drexel is on target and that many of our problems globally, societally and personally are due, at least in part, to our failure to accept and act on these elementary but profound truths.   But Drexel’s book doesn’t just point us to the problems, it also directs us to the solution.  The solution comes when “the species with a call” acts appropriately upon that call.  May God help us do just that!


(For a number of years Drexel and I served churches about five miles apart in Meade County, Kentucky.  The images I’ve used today are some I took in that area.  And just in case you may be interested, and I hope you will, Drexel’s book, The Species with a Call, can be purchased at Amazon.com.)