Tag Archives: Beauty

The True Beauty of Ugly

Photo Credit: Debbie Courson, "Boise Daily Photo"

Growing up in Boise, Idaho, the foothills were a familiar fixture of my every day life.  In the same way you wake up in the morning and stare at the wall, they were just “there.”  I appreciated them during winter for ski season.  I liked knowing the “real mountains” were just beyond them. But that was all.

Photo taken from Bogus Basin Ski Resort, just north of Boise. (c) Duwe 2011

Every Spring, the foothills turn green for about one month. The arrival of June signals it’s time for the arid high-desert climate to take over and dry it all out again. As a child I’m not sure I ever paid attention long enough to notice. My mind holds only memories of…brown.

Green foothills. Photo taken just outside Boise. (c) Duwe 2011

Brown.

I remember thinking the hills weren’t just brown…but rather ugly. During family outings to the mountains, on more than one occasion, my Mother asked me to “please stop talking and just enjoy ‘the scenery’ out the window.”

What scenery?

All I saw were rocks, dirt, and sagebrush or pine trees!

Years later, I happily moved to the Midwest and, later, to the Southeastern corner of the country.  I say “happily” because of the lush green – it was like a rich lotion on the cracked dry skin of my soul.  Something about the year-round green of the Southeast, especially, made me feel  “clothed.”   It wasn’t until I traveled back to Boise with my husband  for the first time I realized just how comfortable I’d become living in color.

Photo Credit: Debbie Courson, "Boise Daily Photo."

As we flew into Boise for this December visit, the airplane circled the city on its approach.  Of course I’d talked up the city and all its wonderful attributes, but as I looked out the window I’d never felt so exposed!  Minus a little snow on the mountains, everything was brown and barren. I wanted to hide under my seat and go back to Georgia!  This was certainly no way to introduce a new-comer to my hometown!

*****

In an odd twist of God’s perfect provision in our life, today you’ll find us living squarely in the middle of those “ugly hills” from whence I once wanted to run.   Only today, I see them through a much different lens.

When did all the birds arrive?  There are so many different species I never saw when I lived out in the middle of the Boise valley.

Oh, and the cougars, bears, deer, badgers, whistle pigs, turkey vulchers, coyotes, jack rabbits, and foxes?  Where did they come from?  Certainly they couldn’t have been here before…could they?

But there’s more! Streams hidden in lush green shrubbery, wetlands that change in color almost daily, and more wildflowers than I could ever gather for my kitchen table are all tucked away in these ugly brown hills.

(c) Duwe 2011

Like the foothills, God is sometimes so much a part of the daily fabric of my life that He blends into the landscape a little too much. Like the foothills, it’s nice to know He’s there when it’s convenient or I need Him.

When I slow down, I certainly can appreciate “moments.” But we aren’t called to live in mere moments with our Creator on our terms – He wants us to seek him constantly.

Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.   Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, O descendants of Israel his servant, O sons of Jacob, his chosen ones.” 1 Chronicles 16:10-13

A distant perspective yields a view that should draw us in to learn more.  When I’m up close and personal, I am able to see with clarity His beauty, His majesty, His power, His love, and His plan for my life.

Sometimes all it takes is a little change in perspective to see the true beauty of ugly.

Let’s pray:

Father, who am I? I don’t want to live in the moments, visiting you when it is convenient like some ski trip.  I want to seek your face and see the beauty of every moment you have gifted to me.  Help me to make seeking you a conscious decision of each day.  I want to know you.  I want to seek your face. Please don’t let me be distracted today. Amen.

Taking it deeper:

What is your perspective of God today?  Is he in the background, bringing color to the walls?  Or is he coloring your life? What changes can you make to live in color?

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Filed under Contentedness, Personal Reflection, Seeking God

What lies beneath

Suggested Reading: Genesis 3:1-6 and Jeremiah 29:11-14

There is a beautiful park not far from where I live.  Its massive old trees, wetlands and nearby river provide habitat to countless birds and animals.  Walking paths, picnic shelters, an expansive children’s play area, and fishing holes beckon visitors to stay awhile and drink in the rich color palette and melodies of nature.

Ironically, I deliberately never go there – certainly not alone, and definitely not with my children.  Located in an area known for having the largest population of sexual predators in the state, I’ve never considered it a “safe” park.

Beauty is not always safe. 

A friend of mine was mercilessly  raped by a man she refused to have a drink with after a business meeting. I can’t repeat here what horrors she endured.  But what might surprise you is that she described her attacker as “well-dressed” and “clean-cut.”  Not exactly the picture you’d expect of a person so vile and full of evil.

Beauty is not always honorable.

I live in a beautiful community teeming with wildlife and I marvel at God’s stunning creation every day.  Many of the people who live here are beautiful by the world’s standards or have beautiful things.  Yet daily, I hear of brokenness and dissatisfaction and wonder how much more pain is hidden behind closed doors.

Beauty is not always satisfying.

We are so self-assured in the way we trust our ability to make “good judgments” about people, things and circumstances – often based on nothing more than APPEARANCE!

The story of Adam and Eve serves as an important reminder that even in the midst of the most beautiful places on earth, darkness seeks an audience.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made.  And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden?'”

Genesis 3:1

Eve gave the audience…and darkness entered in.  In fact, it was her eye for beauty that the serpent targeted.

When the woman saw the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it…

Genesis 3:6a

The word translated there as “pleasing” is ta’avah.  

ta’avah: desire

a) desire, wish, longings of one’s heart

1) lust, appetite, covetousness (bad sense)

b) thing desired, object of desire

Beauty is not always true.

No, beauty does not always equal safety, honor, satisfaction or truth. In order to discover what truly lies beneath, we must be careful and diligent to compare what we see with what we know to be true.

At our first home, we had quite a battle with a pretty little flower called, Morning Glory (aka “Bindweed”). Not knowing any better, we initially let it go, but soon the flowering vine was everywhere.  It over-ran all our flowerbeds and was choking out our garden. Worse yet, every time we pulled it, the remaining roots started new plants.   Impossible to eradicate, the “pretty little weed” was not so pretty any more.

Beautiful weeds choke out life. 

I have to wonder – after God evicted Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, did they have a similar experience with bindweeds choking out their harvest?  Did it cause them to remembered those fleeting moments of significance at the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” when Eve was first betrayed by beauty?

Let’s pray:

Heavenly Father, in a culture where such emphasis is placed on what is pleasing to the eye, it can be hard remember the importance of testing everything to see if it is truly good – or a counterfeit.  In all my decisions, help me to seek your truth – even when something looks good or right by all appearances. Your plan is perfect. Amen.

Taking it deeper:  Beauty certainly is not evil in and of itself.  God created beauty and surrounds Himself with it.  Yet, since the beginning of time it’s been one of Satan’s greatest tools against us because we erroneously equate beauty with goodness.  Whether it’s physical beauty, or simply “pleasant circumstances,” it’s easy to be beguiled by beauty.  In what ways has beauty fooled you?    What “beautiful weeds” are you living with that need to be eradicated?

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Filed under Betrayal, Deception, Trust