Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Discipline of Beauty

We must hunger after the Beautiful and good.
~ George Eliot

My friend, Sarah, has the above quotation emblazoned across her blog. As I am want to ponder Beauty often, it is no surprise that it is the centre of my current thoughts.

Shall I be bold? Yes. I will assert that Beauty is a tutor, leading us to think higher thoughts. She compels us to ponder that which is above, beyond, outside of our selves. When Scripture counsels us to 'worship the LORD in the Beauty of Holiness' what is it saying? I am persuaded that the Psalmist believes Beauty is a discipline that leads us to Holiness. In fact, Beauty is the Discipler whose being delights her students, imbuing them with God's Holiness. (Alluding to Sir Philip Sidney's idea that poetry teaches [truth] by delighting.)

Sometimes it is the Beauty of nature that raises our thoughts: a snow capped mountain range, a blazing sunset, the seaside cry of gulls, savoury woodsmoke on a crisp afternoon, or the sight and scent of rich earth, freshly ploughed. Nature's Beauty kindles our inner being, imparting to us the depth and riches of God's own Beauty and creativity.

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wilderness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

~ Gerard Manley Hopkins

Various facets of God are glimpsed by other Beauties. A piece of music can transport our souls to the very courts of Heaven. Evensong in the gloaming settles our hearts and minds. Birdsong commences the morning with verve. A scrap of writing, or a whole book, moves our very selves closer to God. Story and truth lift us out of ourselves, making us more than we were. A journey to a new country awakens our imaginations. Returning to a belovéd place rekindles joy-filled memories.

Recently I have come to delight in one particular Beauty. Rarely did I consider it when making mental lists of Beautiful things. It is the most exquisite of all Beauties, and extremely precious. It is what I have termed the Beautiful Soul. Such Beautiful Souls serve God faithfully without announcing themselves. They are eager beings. They long for more of God. They do not rush stillness and Beauty. They worship God with a depth that only sorrow and loss can cultivate. Their passions stem from an eagerness for God. The things that break their hearts are due to the Fall of man. They nourish their inner self, without neglecting the world of souls (in various states) around them. They are attended by an air of grace and humility.

Just writing about these Beautiful Souls brings joy to my heart. I have been extremely privileged to not only meet some of these persons, but they are some of my closest friends.

Blesséd, blesséd, blesséd be He!

~ Johanna

If you seek Beauty and goodness, read Sarah's blog: Thoroughly Alive. You will see that your soul is impoverished, but it shall be enriched by her thoughts, both fun and reflective.

Reading some of Sarah's
reflections upon Beauty, painted in a tranquil, watercolour wash, my own musings soared up to meet the stars dappling the heavens - the above post is the result.

Friday, March 2, 2012

You Are My Hiding Place

Some days one is so frazzled that they need more than a pot of tea to soothe their soul.

Today was one of those days. From work projects taking longer than planned, to miscommunication about work, to not sitting down until about 6.15pm (missing lunch entirely), to cancelling last minute on a friend, and bursting into tears over the phone to another friend... It was a very long day. At one point the LORD graciously reminded me that our light and transitory trials are preparing us for an eternal weight of glory. I did not deal with things admirably, but this reminder helped me to see that in light of eternity one frustrating day is fleeting.

Rather than brooding over a pot of tea this evening, I was delighted instead to have dinner with the director of our Summit Oxford Programme, Kevin Bywater. The dinner was delicious (beef tips with Swiss cheese), the conversation was excellent, and all in all, it was truly a good day. Much work was done, the LORD reminded me of this morning's Psalm (32) throughout the day, conversations were encouraging, and now I am working on that pot of tea along with some Nutella and evensong music (which I did not give up for Lent).

[LORD,] You are my hiding place;
You shall preserve me from trouble;
You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.
~ Psalm 32.7 ~

~ Johanna