FOR THE BEAUTY OF THE EARTH

When we were in England, we had the opportunity to visit the city of Bath.  It was a fascinating day as we saw the Roman baths, the wall around the city, and the Abbey.

 

Bath 6
Looking down a street in Bath, England

The town is quaint — who could resist this shop of Cornish delicacies!

Bath 5

The hot springs that existed there were known to people in the area for centuries prior to the Romans’ arrival.  According to the Victorian churchman Edward Churton, Bath was known as “Akemanchester” (translated “aching men’s cry”) during the Anglo-Saxon period, this name referencing the reputation the baths had for healing the sick.  

However, the city of Bath became a world-renowned spa in 60 A.D. when the Romans built public baths and a temple. 

Bath 13

Massive sculptures of Roman gods and soldiers line the colonnade around the baths, dwarfing the tourists visiting the area. 

Bath 19

In the Pump Room, the restaurant that is attached to the baths facility, there is this fountain which provides hot drinking water for those who desire it.  The thermal springs that made Bath famous thousands of years ago are still providing warm rejuvenation for people in the modern era. 

Fountain of hot spring water at Bath England
Fountain of hot spring water from the thermal spring that has provided hot water for millenia.

Of course, one of the most imposing structures in the city of Bath is Bath Abbey, founded in the 7th century.   An incredibly ornate, beautiful building complete with leaded stained glass windows and vaulted ceilings.  

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Bath Abbey

We were mesmerized by the town, its history and its beauty.  But we are not the only people who loved the place!

Folliott Pierpoint [1835-1917], a classical scholar who lived a rather leisurely life, loved his hometown of Bath, England.  It is thought that the loveliness of the area inspired Pierpoint to write this hymn in 1864 when he was 29 years of age.  While he wrote other hymns and poetry, this is his most remembered and cherished hymn.

It was originally written as a Eucharistic hymn with the title “The Sacrifice of Praise”.  The repeated refrain was :

Christ, our God, to thee we raise
This, our sacrifice of praise.

Later, the refrain’s text was changed to read:

Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.

And, it is these words, rather than the original words, that we find in most hymnals today.  The hymn praises God for a host of beauties, indeed, they are things that we encounter in everyday living, but which we often fail to appreciate:  the beauty of the earth and skies, the beauty of each hour, the joy of ear and eye, and the joy of human love.  Moreover, it includes thanksgiving for the church and for our Christ. 

Listen to this hymn that began in Bath, England and marched around the world in celebration of the great gifts from our God and our Savior Jesus Christ.  

In lifting your heart and your voice in thanksgiving, you are acting in accordance with both the Old and New Testaments of Scripture.  Consider these passages from Psalms and 2 Corinthians:

” To the choirmaster: according to Muth-labben. A Psalm of David. I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.”

Psalm 9:1

Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.

Psalm 30:4

I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.”

Psalm 57:9

“Praise the LORD!  Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!”

Psalm 106:1

All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you!”

Psalm 145:10

“You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.”

2 Corinthians 9:11-2

This Thanksgiving holiday, stop and thank God for the multitude of blessings that He has bestowed on us each and every moment of every day. 

Then, make it a priority to give thanks to our God each day, not just on the secular day of Thanksgiving.  Make gratitude your “default position” … putting thanksgiving at the top of your list daily.  You will be edifying our God and you will be encouraging your own heart in so doing.  And, the Holy Spirit will be able to work in you in ways that will surprise and excite you.

Be thankful in all things.  Bless His Holy Name!

Father, may we see Your blessings and gifts to us every day.  Open our eyes so that we can recognize the gifts that you so bountifully grant to us moment by moment and then may we give thanks in humble gratitude and recognition that we cannot do anything on our own, it is all through Your grace and love that we even exist, let alone thrive.  Thank You Father.

THANKSGIVING IS A HIGH HONOR!

I am doing a good bit of embroidery since last Christmas when my beloved husband gave me an embroidery sewing machine.  Although I am certainly not an expert in using the machine and all its features, I am enjoying my new-found hobby immensely. 

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We joke that the machine is the “gift that keeps on taking”!

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Because of the continuing costs of fabric, embroidery floss, stabilizers, and, of course, embroidery patterns there is some basis for this assertion. 

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I was looking at new designs and found many with Thanksgiving as the theme, understandably so since, in the United States, we will celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday on November 22.

There were innumerable designs, many with expressions such as:

“In Everything Give Thanks.”

“A Grateful Heart is a Thankful Heart”

“O Give Thanks Unto the Lord”

“There Is Always Something to be Thankful For”

“Grateful Hearts Gather Here”

While it seems that our celebration of Thanksgiving often is more focused on the meal including the turkey, dressing, potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin pie, the real foundation for our Thanksgiving is not food, not even a great harvest: it is in our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

In the book of Leviticus, we read:

“”And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings that one may offer to the LORD. If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the thanksgiving sacrifice unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of fine flour well mixed with oil.  With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving he shall bring his offering with loaves of leavened bread.”

Leviticus 7:11-13

Thanksgiving was a part of worship throughout the Old Testament.

“Then on that day David first appointed that thanksgiving be sung to the LORD by Asaph and his brothers.”

1 Chronicles 16:7

“And the Levites: Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah, who with his brothers was in charge of the songs of thanksgiving.”

Nehemiah 12:8.  These folks were specifically set apart to be in charge of the thanksgiving songs of the people in worship.

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”

Psalm 50:23

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!”

Psalm 100:4

Thanksgiving continues to be extolled in the New Testament as well.

“You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.”

2 Corinthians 9:11

“Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”

Ephesians 5:4

“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Philippians 4:6

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”

Colossians 4:2

Thanksgiving will continue even after the end of the age and we are in Heaven with God. 

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.””

Revelation 7:9-12

Can you hear it?  Can you see it in your mind’s eye? 

Thanksgiving is not just something that is imposed on people.  Rather it is from the heart and it is ranked in the same category as “blessing”, “glory”, “wisdom”, “honor”, “power”, and “might”.  Listen as these words are sung in the Chorus “Worthy is The Lamb That Was Slain” as presented in Handel’s The Messiah. 

Thanksgiving is due to God because of Who He is and what He has done for His people.  Thanksgiving is due to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb Who was slain, because of His atoning work on the cross that paid the price of our sin, satisfied the wrath of God against us because of our sin.  Thanksgiving is due to the Holy Spirit for His quickening of our hearts which had been dead because of sin, and for His leading and guiding us as we are being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ.

Make thanksgiving the norm, the modus operandi of your daily walk.  Look for opportunities to give our Lord thanks throughout the day, however murky and disappointing it may be.  At a minimum you could thank Him for life, grace, mercy, and His unconditional and unfailing love … that should provide sufficient fuel for you to lift your eyes and your heart to Him, even as the day is swirling around you.

Blessings to you as you journey along your walk of faith. 

Father forgive me for the multitude of times that I have accepted Your gifts with open hands without so much as a whispered prayer of thanks.  Forgive me for the myriad of days that have passed through my fingertips without any acknowledgment from me that the day is, in itself, a gift from You, a gift for which I should be profoundly thankful. Lord, forgive me for accepting the gift of mercy and grace, of salvation and of Your love without even humbling myself so as to bow at Your feet in adoration and thanksgiving for the great work that You did in securing my salvation from my sin.  Lord, have mercy and forgive.

IN CELEBRATION OF THE REFORMATION – part one

Sometimes important dates come and fly past us and we don’t even recognize that they are gone. You know, the anniversary that passes unnoticed until someone (wife?) looks at the calendar!

I dare say that the anniversary of the Reformation is not something that many in our society think about on a day-to-day basis. 

But whether we think about it or not, this year is an important one in the life of the Christian Church.  It is the 500th anniversary of the day in October, 1517 that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of the church in the German town of Wittenberg.  This act, so small and seemingly insignificant, lit the fuse that turned into the flame of the Protestant Reformation. And, that flame burns even today, 500 years later.

In thinking about transformation and reformation, one cannot help consider the example of the butterfly.  Its change from a caterpillar into the butterfly, a creature more beautiful and powerful, symbolizes the soul, reincarnation, and resurrection.

Beautiful butterfly
Beautiful butterfly found in Butterfly Farm in the Cayman Islands.

Butterflies are a type of insect.  They belong to the order of insects called Lepidoptera, which means “scaly wings”.  The butterfly’s life cycle is made up of four stages, each of which are unique and very different from each other.  This process is called metamorphosis which means “change of form.”  First, the butterfly starts as an egg.  After about a week, the egg hatches and a tiny caterpillar emerges. 

After 2 to 4 weeks, the full-grown caterpillar transforms itself into a chrysalis/ or pupa.  It hangs from a tree or bush, appearing to be doing nothing, but inside the caterpillar’s body becomes the adult structure of the butterfly.  This stage takes 10 to 15 days.

Then, the former caterpillar emerges as a beautiful butterfly.

Butterfly close up (C)
Butterfly having some strawberry lunch

But that emergence did not come easily … the insect has to struggle inside the cocoon, pushing against the sides before ultimately breaking through into the sunlight.  It is the struggle to emerge that strengthens the insect’s wings so that it will fly. 

In other words, it is in the struggle itself that strength is born!

So, think about your life.  When did you have a trial, a struggle?  Have you seen strength come from the struggle?

The writer of Hebrews talks about struggles during persecution of believers:

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated.

Hebrews 10:32-33 ESV. 

Then there are the struggles that come from sin:

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

Hebrews 12:3-4 ESV

In light of what Jesus did for us, we must persevere and not grow weary during our own struggle against sin.  We know that the struggles we have are strengthening us in our Christian life and that we can be strong in the Lord through the Grace that God grants liberally and freely to those who call on His Name.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”

2 Corinthians 9:8-9 ESV

Consider the butterfly and the struggle that it had to endure before it could soar over the fields.  Now, thank the Lord for giving you the ability to soar in spirit to your Heavenly Father, now and for all eternity.

Father, thank You for granting us salvation through Your Son, Jesus Christ.  I praise Your Name for putting me under the protection of the Good Shepherd.  Thank You, too, for the struggles that have come which serve to strengthen me and which allow me to grow through Your Grace and Mercy.