Archive for the ‘beautiful’ Category

Yesterday as we drove into the Rocky Mountains, I was particularly struck by the yellow fire.

It lit up the tops of the Aspens as they flamed above the dark green pines and blue-green furs. Gorgeous fall-infused yellow, lovely golden-yellow, perfect round leafed-yellow, pale-yellow, sunshine-yellow.

Some of the Aspens were light green at the base, that flowing up into pale-yellow, that transforming here or there at the tops of the trees into sunset yellow and faded-orange.

By way of contrast, we see.

One thing juxtaposed beside another, nature’s palate, a wonderland of extremes, one thing not another, one thing becoming another.

Colorado in the fall is blue sky, turning grey; green forest, turning yellow.

The Aspens seem to thrive on contrasts, their trunks soft bark-white, with back splotches and thin black horizontal lines marking them up. It’s an artist’s dab and artisan’s fine-brush stroke.

Black, white; forest, framed; free, bound; poor, less poor; lovey, more-so; faithful, not-so-much — one world, many contrasts.

I’m getting okay with this.

I am like you, but not like you, and more-and-more I like you. It’s mind expanding. I am able, we are able — by means of acute social ambling and oblique relational bumbling to get on down the path of experience and begin to see better.

We are able — aided by the brand of specialized humility that comes by being cracked wide open like a nut by brutal-beautiful life — to accept different, to like different, to thrill to different, to honor different, to see better by means of different.

This is good, this is better, this is best.

By means of contrast, we thrill.

Finally it was my turn.

I knelt down on the concrete, balanced on one knee, and put my eye up to the glass lens.

There it was!

The refulgent sun was being eclipsed by a revenant moon.

Beautiful.

And in that moment —  that perfectly rare and gorgeous moment of looking at a great sphere, the sun, 400 times bigger than the other sphere, the moon, but also 400 times further away — I was transfixed.

It was a moment of profound seeing, and of profound forgetting, because to focus on the moon crossing the sun, to concentrate, to see the thing, I was at that time relentlessly forgetting a million other things, massively and momentarily forgetting most of my life.

And this is the thing, this is the wonder within the wonder. To be in the present, we must forget the past. To see with all our might, we must not be anticipating the future.

To see is to be, present.

We tend to think of forgetting as a negative. I forgot my wallet when I drove away from the house today, and I had to go back. But forgetting is the sensory virtue that allows us to escape the thunderous cascade of memory that crowds our minds each and every day.

Looking at the sun eclipsing, I forgot about bushing my teeth earlier today, forgot about driving to the park, forgot about walking to the science center, forgot about every little and big detail that has previously filled up my life.

What a relief.

To lose oneself in the moment is to have respite from the exhausting mountain of sensory impression that we pile up everyday, and relief from all the failures and hurts and losses of life too.

To wonder, at a marvel, in a  moment  — it marvelously hinges on forgetting!

Thank God for forgetting!

What?

I rounded the corner and stopped — tuffs of building insulation were blowing throughout the Refinery Church’s beautiful new wedding venue courtyard like little bits of yellow cotton candy, or maybe baby’s breath blown off the blushing bride’s veil.

My mind couldn’t make sense of it for a moment — as always happens when reality goes sideways — and I found myself looking at what I never expected to be looking at.

There is that pause —the stunned sentience before the implacable incomprehensible — the blank brain, then the neurons go to work, chug, chug, chug, and “Ahhhh! — I know what happened.”

Only a week before we had pulled a whole truck load of roof insulation out of the youth center, piled it alongside of the classroom building, and the coming rain storm — with its sweet, gusty, moist breath — had blown it around the corner, blown it into pieces along the backside of the building and was now coating our beautiful green lawn with it.

Yikes! Building insulation everywhere — you don’t want it!

I spent the next hour — as the wind picked up even more — chasing down insulation, stuffing it in the trash dumpsters, running back for more, and pining the rest of the pile down with some mobile fences. Little pieces covered my coat. I could feel my skin begin to itch. It wasn’t clear who was winning. A brawl with a crazed mob of building insulation in a winter storm — I was King Lear on the heath, all was lost, or not. Who would have thought?

But, that is how it has been. Over the last seven years we have brawled with the REFINERY Church buildings — all fifty plus rooms, in our effort to restore the site. The place has been blown apart by the winds of change, by the winds of the Holy Spirit of God himself, and we have put it back together again — better!

Bang, bang, bang — we have pounded the littered, dirty, broken, neglected status out of the church. We have beaten the ugly out of God’s house! Everything used to be blue, dirty blue carpet, filthy dirty blue pews, dirty blue walls, dirty gray tile floors, dirty blue dirt. Blue was once good. Then it wasn’t. Everything has it’s time. We banished blue — just in time.

With a divine passion for the gorgeous exquisite, with a burning and holy love for the consecrated excellent, with an adoration of the holy appealing, with a incurable addiction to the sacrosanct handsome, with beauty burning down our brains we have run down the supernatural good.

Our new courtyard, our new children’s play yard, our new landscaping (flowers and more flowers!), our new attractive name, our new sign, our new canopies, our new offices, new youth center, our new lights (everywhere — decorative lights and LED lights!), our new stucco, our new pavers, our new paint (fresh color, color, color), our new pews (not blue), our old-new oak floors, our new artwork, our new curtains, our new couches, even our new water-saving toilets.

Our new staff, our new leadership team, our new finance team, our new decor team, our new counseling ministry, our new Lifegroup team, our new children’s team, our new youth group team, our new food ministry, our new support group ministry, our new community outreach programs and then this — our new beautiful and generous and diverse congregation with its upcoming weddings and its on-the-way new babies!

New — for God — it’s good!

Zeal for your house has consumed me!

May zeal for God’s house consume you too!

I urge you — coming alongside of us — to brawl for God’s house to be beautiful! Chase down the good. Do whatever it takes.

God wants it, and in truth, it is God who does it.

How fun is that?

Really fun!

Up close I could see dirt, some cracks and the cobwebs  — yuck!

Stepping back — beautiful!

It was our super attractive stone pavered outdoor stage at the REFINERY Church. Only a few months old, it already had the ubiquitous outdoor hodgepodge of collectivia, but if you stepped back only a few few — wow! The gorgeous parabolas, the symmetried tiers, the country manor brown stone and grey stone  — lovely.

It’s a simple approach to life, and it works, to keep us feeling better, moving forward, doing well, staying in touch with what is within but without the beauteous is.

It works — the step back —  on houses, gardens, organizations, communities, countries, the world — our brains.

A friend called me last night. She was traumatized  by  comparisons. I reminded her, “Yeah they this, but you — that!  Look at you, you gorgeous, much-accomplished, on-the-way mess!” Look how you have outstripped them all in this and maybe that. She stepped back, looked, laughed, and felt better.

Up close we see the flaws, the lack, the missing element — a man, a woman, a job, money, status, beauty, lunch  —  a little bit back and we set the overall shape, the puzzle pieces placed, the patchy, pitchy perfect panorama of the present.

Back off!

Your’ll feel better.

 

 

God is a fabulous interior designer.

His color palate beauties the red dragonfly, decorates the yellow lantana, covers the blue sky and decks out your lovely freckled, tanish cheeks.

His scale is grand, yet intimate — the sun, a perfectly fine-tuned distance for life to thrive; the stars  beyond our grasp yet in our sight; your fingers, just the right length to hold in mine.

God sets the gold standard for art.

His rhythms are found in a billion blades of green grass, a billion blue waves on the shore, a thousand glowing, self-organizing sand dunes, the even measure of your ever-present breath.

His transitions — take sea, shore, sand and rocky cliff —  the sky! Your toes, you ankles, your knees and curving, lovely hips.

He is the master of the focal point — bright white moon, gold sun on clouds, tip of sugar pine, your gorgeous green eyes.

His balance is perfect, whorl of red rose, the even length of your tapered, tanned legs, the sparkling river, the white rapids, the black round-rocked shore.

He is great at line and form — the jut of your cute nose, the majestic summit of Everest, the rolling velds of South Africa, an Okapi’s hind legs.

Everyday we step out into an art circle tour.

Reality is the Louvre — times a billion.

We live and move and have our being within the ambit of his every morphing craft, his living, breathing, changing oeuvre.

I see it; I’m grateful.

We are all arks. We all carry something through the desert, up the mountain, to the summit, back down into the behavioral ditch.

We carry pain, we carry healing, we carry anger, we carry love, and the people around us feel it, it effects them, they can tell.  The arctic chill — or apricity.

The manna, Aaron’s budding staff, a universal morality   — precious cargo rides in every ark.

Last week I told the clerk who sells me paint, “I love you.”  All the women around her exclaimed, “He said he loves you!” I told my teller at the bank that she was “my favorite.”I told my neighbor I missed him when he was gone.

What do we carry along with us, and what are we giving away? These are choices, what we put in our arks, things of remembrance, things of refinement. These are choices,  what we hand out on the streets, in offices, at home — kinditudes,  affirmisms, gentlements.

Such powerful ark gifts, our sacred haut monde — they are lovely copies and gorgeous shadows of things above.

There are fewer flaneur days when you are on a mission that’s when you’re not. When you are ramped up and on the approach march to the big mountain, you should expect a few days marked by holy exhaustion. Yesterday was one of those for me — lots of holy, a bit of exhaustion.

That is because yesterday my team and I hosted around 325 people at the REFINERY Church for the opening of our new courtyard venue. We celebrated together with some rocking worship music, told stories of mighty deeds of generosity, then ate — carne asada, beans, rice, toasted peppers, green onions and radishes. That was some fun and tasty work.

Afterwards I was exhausted, so I went home and took a nap — in extremis; in excelsis; requiescat in pace. 

I’ve been noticing largely that not much good is accomplished by a group without a big effort  — and lots of good will. At the REFINERY we have had the good will, and we always do the necessary work, then it seems that we get more good will.  A few weeks ago, just when we were in need of some wood chips for a large area of landscape, just when I was about to order them from a local nursery for a good bit of money — 23 cubic yards! — a tree trimming company called me.

“Do you want some wood chips,” the voice on the phone asked. I was confused. Who was this and why were they calling me. Then it came out. Six months ago I had registered online for chips from this company and today they were in the area —  which they seldom were —  and they wanted to get rid of about 30 cubic yards of chips, “very clean, not many leaves or branches.”

I got my head around it, then said, “Yeah, bring  ’em over!” They were free! Then the work began, to wheel barrow them into place and rake them out. And it was like that, right up to the opening of the courtyard — favor and flavor, work and more work — no shirk. We worked hard and made final preparations: wood chips, white roses, green passion vines, jasmine, orange marmalade bushes, blue lobelia. It was our inspired effort at a garden of Eden pastiche.  We splashed on the color, then we added the chairs, the shade canopies, then the most beautiful thing of all — the people! And ah, how they graced the holy courtyard.

Toward the end of the preparation process, when I was running on fumes, a friend in the church approached me and said, ” I saw you didn’t get all the chips in the yard; would you like for me to come finish that?” I love people like that! The hardy ones, the willing grunts,  the glad-to-be-exhausted ones — they shine!

I’ve sometimes thought of how much work it takes to put on a play at a theater — writing the play, rewriting it , memorizing the lines, practicing, building the set, props, costumes, putting together the  music, the lighting. And yet, people do it, they put on plays, they overwork, push themselves, and produce amazing and inspiring performances.

I like that. I’m not good with sitting around. I want to put on the play, turn on the lights, set out the signs and celebrate the beauty and the goodness of life.

Monday morning, the day after our event, post-worn out, I received a text from someone who was at the REFINERY celebration but doesn’t usually go to church. It said, “My wife and I left feeling lighthearted and optimistic. When is your usual weekend celebration?”

Cool!

One person’s holy exhaustion —  it can give another person a light heart.

That makes it all worth it!

 

 

Deeds of gallantry were accomplished in an “age of lace, logic, blood and bigotry;” thus Tyler Whittle gets at the English contribution to botany in the 17th Century in his delightful tale of botanist-explorers, Plant Hunters.

While botanist Young John was working on his catalogue as the King’s Garderner, Charles the First was losing his head outside the garden wall.

So knowledge may be filched from a season of chaos, and beauty from violence.

We see this in the arts. Frida Kahlo began painting after she was severely injured in a bus accident. Van Gogh painted “Starry Night,” lonely and crazed. And there is Jacques-Louis David painting through the French Revolution.

People do stuff — gorgeous, gentle, life-giving stuff — even during times of chaos and pain. They garden, paint, write, sing, hum, invent, cook and give care during difficulty, sickness and war.

Within the vagaries of difficulty lie the armamentarium of aesthetics. Pain paints, and it plants a garden too.

Because of this, we should never wait to start finding and making new things. Procrastination — waiting to begin beautiful things until life is post-trauma or post-messy — it’s a fool’s business. Life is never post-messy.

Wisdom will futz through the mud to find a Fragaria muricata, the lovely Plymouth strawberry plant English botanist Old John found in a rubbish dump.

Deeds of gallantry in times of difficulty — these are at the core of every laborious science, craft and art.

“Renoir is perhaps the only great painter who never painted a sad picture.”

                                                                                                        Octave MirbeauI

I love painting.

I don’t love painting the bathroom or the kitchen, but I love painting,  as in the stuff hanging in the Musée d’Orsay, the National Gallery, the Vatican — like that.

When I travel, I go to museums. When I read, I sometimes choose  the biographies of great artists or I select art histories.

Lately, I’ve noticed that the sadness and the mental angst in some of the great artists stands out, and yet not with all of them — not with Renoir.

I love Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

For me, art and happiness, art and family, art and community, art and the good life merge in Renoir. This is personal. It’s been an epiphany for me. When I have encountered Renoir, at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, at the National Gallery in London, at home through Francesca Castellani’s Renoir: His Life and Works, I have found myself quite wonderfully smitten with his work.

In Renoir there is no dark societal evil such as we find in Pieter Bruegel. There are no horrible family feuds lurking, as with Vincent Van Gogh. There is no drunken self-destruction as in Jackson Pollock. Pillaging, evil, raging, darkness, addiction, mental illness – we don’t find this in Renoir. What a relief!

Sane life; sane art.

Renior at home, with his wife Aline, in the fields, with his children, with his friends, his community, nature all around — this inspired his art.

It isn’t that life was perfect for the Renoirs: There were Renoir’s early rejections by the Salon juries, there was Aline’s suffering with diabetes, there was the progressive deformity of Renoir’s hands from arthritis. This severely limited his mobility during the last twenty years of his life.

But despite these hardships, life was good for him, Renoir kept painting, and he reveled in the good he saw around him.

Renoir made the everyday gorgeous — a skiff, flowers, a child dancer, girls at the piano, a woman bathing, a couple dancing, a boating party.

He was gentle with reality, painting it softly, graciously. When we take in his oeuvre, we are invited into his comprehensive tactility, delicacy, intimacy, his charming domesticity — all in sumptuous living color.

This is helpful to me and to all of us who aspire to write, to develop craft, to do music, to paint, to do art. We can be artistic, and mentally sound. It’s a revelation. We can be highly creative — and also stable.

We can love, and craft art out of love, and give the world something needed when it is a bit crazy as it is always want to be. We can show life off in all its gorgeous sanity.

Renoir did. Velvety bodies, pearly flesh, flushed cheeks, dark eyes, soft hair — Renoir loved us.

And for this and all the good he enjoyed — I love him back.

I love planned spaces — rooms, gardens, arches, windows, wood floors, trellises, pavers, ceilings, all forms of sheltered light.

But developed spaces cost money, to create, to beautify, to maintain, to reimagine. That being reality, one must be sure to have a stash of cash when buying land, houses and investment properties or when taking charge of a business or a nonprofit.

Is it worth it — the stuggle to scratch from the dirt some small portion of civilized domesticity?  It’s worth it. Beautiful things happen in safe, beautiful and functional spaces. Space creates opportunity. Design creates possibility. The vertical-horizontal construct, with people inside, this is the good future.

Last week at the church I am tasked to reimagine, the HVAC system died. Warm and cool — gone. Gas furnaces, condensers, compressors,  coils, supply lines — done. So, I got a bid, then three more, to replace the units. I found out that HVAC systems for large buidings are expensive.

A day after I received the first bid  for a new HVAC system, a church member told me he wanted to give a large finanical gift to the church. The next day another member said that some money she had decided to give earlier in the year was now available and she too would be depositing a large check with us. Neither one knew of the costs the church was facing. They just knew they wanted to give large gifts. The total of the two gifts exceeded the bid for the new heating and air conditioning system.

Go figure.

Each one of us have a read on life, a take on reality, and we may draw different conclusions from the same evidence.

For me, I’ll make the following observations out of this experience.

Beautiful spaces are worth investing in.

Anxiety over resources may be short-lived.

Reality sometimes contains beautiful surprises.

People — they can be very generous.

And finally, God — I believe that God is very good.