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.

 

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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. 

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

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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.

SPANISH MOSS

Bellingrath Gardens, moss covered trees (C)
Moss covered trees in Bellingrath Gardens

One of the beautiful creations of our Lord, at least in my humble opinion, is the Spanish moss that covers trees in the Southeast United States.   I love to look at it, to walk beneath it, to savor the peace that it seems to bring to the trees from which it hangs.

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Garden and grounds outside Ulele Restaurant in Tampa, Florida

Actually, what we call Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) is really not a moss.  It is a bromeliad, from the same family as succulent house plants and pineapples. 

Also, it is not a parasite that takes nutrients away from the host tree.  Rather, the plant lives on rain and fog, sunlight and airborne or waterborne dust and debris.  (If that was my diet, well … I digress!)

The plant further has a name that is really irrelevant to its character since it is not from Spain.  It actually is native to Central and South America, as well as the Southeastern United States and the Caribbean.  It grows wherever there is a healthy tree in a tropical swampland. 

The fable of the origin of Spanish Moss tells the story like this:

Gorez Goz was a bearded brute who bought a beautiful Indian maiden for a yard of braid and a mere bar of soap. The mere sight of the Spaniard so frightened the girl that she ran away from him. Gorez Goz chased right behind her, until at last he climbed up after her to the top of a tree. The maiden dove into the water and escaped, but Gorez Goz’s beard got hopelessly entangled in the tree’s branches. There he died, but we can still see his “greybeard” on trees throughout the Lowcountry—as the Spanish moss out on the limbs.

[This information was found at http://mentalfloss.com/article/67807/10-things-you-should-know-about-spanish-moss  accessed October 9, 2017]

Spanish moss, to me, is beautiful in its silent adornment of the branches of the host trees.

Beauty is a characteristic that is hard to define.  What one person believes is beautiful, another person would pass by without even a notice.  So, not everyone would agree with my opinion that Spanish Moss is beautiful.  But, external beauty is not the paramount criterion for a finding of beauty. 

Scripture talks about beauty on multiple occasions, and, when speaking of mankind, it always involves not only physical beauty but spiritual beauty.  For example, Peter writes to the women in the church:

“Do not let your adorning be external–the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear — but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”

1 Peter 3:3-4 ESV

Appreciate beauty.  Be in awe of how God supplies the needs of even the insignificant Spanish moss as it grows without harming its host tree, decorating and adorning it with beauty.  Be thankful for the beauty of the earth, of music, of nature and its ways. 

Here is John Rudder’s beautiful version of “For the Beauty of the Earth” on the album Gloria, Sacred Music of John Rudder.  It is my prayer that it would speak to your spirit and brighten your day.

Now praise our God that He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things.  Let your soul swell and your spirit sing as you consider our Mighty, Loving and Saving God.

Father, Thank You for Your creation that speaks so eloquently of Your grace, might, provision and wonder.  I praise Your Holy Name for all your marvelous ways. 

PRAISE THE LORD

One of the things I love to do while we are camping is to sit outside in the evening/night and listen to the sounds of nature while gazing up into the heavens.   Viewing the stars, which are hidden by the city’s lights at home, is an incredible privilege.   Watching the sun set in the earth’s inexorable travel around it is mesmerizing to me.  Each second of descent below the horizon brings new colors and new beauty.

Sunset over Annandale VA 2
Sunset over Annandale, Virginia

Scripture exhorts us to praise the Lord, In fact, it further exhorts even creation to praise God.

Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars!” 

Psalm 148:3 ESV

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Sunrise at Sea

“The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises.”

Ecclesiastes 1:5 ESV

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Sunset along Redondo Beach, California

 “And God made the two great lights–the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night–and the stars.  And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.  And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.”

Genesis 1:16-19 ESV

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Super Moon in Mississippi.

Next time you are outside, whether at sunrise, daylight, sunset or night, look at the heavens and praise the Lord for His glorious graciousness in giving us our beautiful world.

Here is the song  “For the Beauty of the Earth” as composed by John Rutter and recorded on the album Gloria – the Sacred Music of John Rutter.  Let the beautiful tones of the hymn embrace you as you consider the glorious beauty of God’s creation.

 

 

The fear [reverence] of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.”

Psalm 111:10 NASB

 

Father, thank You for making Your creation so incredibly beautiful in its majesty as well as in its finite detail.   I pray that my life would reflect the love of my Savior as the moon reflects the sun.  And may I praise Your holy Name.   I ask this in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

GOD’S ARTISTRY – A TESTIMONY TO HIS CHARACTER

 

Throughout the Southeast United States we have been experiencing record-breaking heat at a time where the calendar would suggest that we should be having much cooler temperatures.  And we need rain!  

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Fall colors in the mountains of East Tennessee.

However, while the need for rain is certainly significant, there is a blessing side of the situation.  The leaf-bearing shrubs, trees and vegetation are so colorful that they create a scene that exceeds any picture that an artist’s pallet would create.  Because we have not had rain or wind, the leaves have remained on the trees and the colors have retained their brilliance much longer than in recent years.

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Fall colors along the roadway.

East Tennessee is always beautiful with the mountains and the gentle rolling hills … the majority of which are covered in a wide variety of trees.  Now, however, God’s pallet of colors is on vivid display in the hills and valleys of the area.

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Neighborhood trees on colorful display.

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Romans 1:20

Paul in Romans is noting that the human race has no excuse for denying God’s power because it is so clearly on display in His creation.  Simply put, creation evidences God’s attributes that are invisible to us, His eternal power and His divine nature, His goodness and His beauty. 

In fact, Scripture has much to say about the beauty of God and we find that beauty is one of His attributes, an attribute that is evidenced not only by His creation but also by His directives regarding worship due to Him.

When God’s people were in the wilderness, we read that God directed the design of the tabernacle, the place where He was going to be with His people.  It was to be made with gold, with purple cloth, with all assortments of gems, jewels and craftsmanship.  It would be dazzling in the sun and would reflect God’s beauty and glory to all who looked at it.  In fact, God directed that this beauty extended even to the clothing that the priests were to wear:

And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. …  “For Aaron’s sons you shall make coats and sashes and caps. You shall make them for glory and beauty.

Exodus 28:2, 40.

David, in the Psalms, speaks of the “beauty of the Lord” in a number of places, but here are two examples:

One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.

Psalm 27:4

Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

Psalm 96:6

But there is beauty in God’s creation not only on a panoramic scale but on a small scale as well, and not just when the leaves turn colors.  Think about the the beauty and variety of apples.

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A bushel of apples from the orchard.

Consider too the variety of winged gourds.

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Winged gourds directly from the farm!

We won’t even begin to think about the variety of flowers, trees, animals, fish … people!

 For how great is his goodness, and how great his beauty!

Zechariah 9:17a.

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love [goodness] endures forever! Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble … Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love [goodness], for his wondrous works to the children of man!

Psalm 107:1-2, 8

“Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!”   Tell others of your relationship with this wonderful, loving, God of creation Who is the very definition of goodness and Who has extended His unspeakable grace and love in sending Jesus Christ, His only Son, to be our Savior and Lord. 

When you look at the beauty of creation this autumn, let it remind you of the glory of our God and of our Lord Jesus. 

Let it remind you of the beauty of our omniscient and omnipresent God who love you and who sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to be the atoning sacrificial Lamb so we could have life eternal through His name.  John 20:31.

Let it speak to your heart and soul and mind, and let your mouth sing praise to Him for His goodness to the children of men.  

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!

Here is John Rutter’s beautiful arrangement of the hymn “For the Beauty of the Earth” as sung by The Cambridge Singers.  

 

 

 

Father, forgive me when I get so focused on the issues in the news, the distress of others, the materialistic culture around me … that I forget that You are my Father and I have no reason to quake.  Forgive me when I look at the beautiful colors in your creation and only see dead leaves on the walkway.  Forgive me when I see only sinful people when I should be looking at people with your eyes of love and compassion.  Forgive me when I fail to tell others of your steadfast love and wondrous works to the children of men.  Give me strength, dear Father, to following your commands through my Lord and Savior, your Son, Jesus Christ.