19. Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius. ~Pietro Aretino

We need a renaissance of wonder.
We need to renew, in our hearts and in our souls,
the deathless dream, the eternal poetry, the perennial sense
that life is miracle and magic.
~E. Merrill Root

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Since it is year’s end, we have entered the season of somber gardens, short days, low temperatures, and more-gray-than-blue skies.  The reckless abandon of the growing seasons has yielded to deepening winter’s, unadventurous restraint.  But, while looking out a window brings into view only the barrenness of winter, an actual venture out into its domain can expose wondrous sights like the seed pod in the photograph.  What a treat to see wondrous silken filaments that look like angel hair releasing seeds that are proof of a continuously running thread in Creation’s tapestry.  Such finds are tangible fragments of God’s imagination buried deep in the mystery of nature, and the aura of holiness that surrounds them often leaves onlookers amazed and awestruck.  These miraculous strands are the same kind of threads that govern the ceaseless ebbing and flowing of oceanic waves, the waxing and waning of the moon, the rising and setting of the sun, the birth and death of life forms, and the endless repetition of the seasons.

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.
It is the source of all true art and all science.
He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder
and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.
~Albert Einstein

Rediscovering awe helps us appreciate the vast wonders of what the Creator’s mind imagined, what His words spoke, and what His hands created.  It bring us closer to God and restores our childlike joy and zeal for life.  The unfathomable mysteries of life are sacred benedictions; their blessings encourage us to stay in the Lord’s keeping and continue searching for His intent for our lives.

Who among the gods is like you, LORD?  Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?  ~Exodus 15:11   ✝

**”if an object or expression can bring about, within us, a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing, then that object could be said to be wabi-sabi.” “Wabi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.”  The photo of the seed pod is a excellent example of Wabi Sabi.

18. The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. ~J. B. Priestley

Out of the bosom of the Air,
Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
Silent, and soft, and slow
Descends the snow.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Our area, that had been desperately in need of rain, was the beneficiary of fortuitous events on Christmas Eve.  Could it be that the celebration of the Messiah’s coming the night before was what prompted the blessing of rain as well as the magical, miracle of snow.  So many voices were lifted up in praise and worship of Him that our petitions for rain might have been heard as well. Occasionally on cold, crisp wintry days or nights layers of snow blanket God’s creation even here in north central Texas, but this time we received a strange mixture of “wet” goodness.  At eventide sparkling stars punctuated the ancient moon in heaven’s blackened dome, but during the course of the Messiah’s birthday, clouds laden with moistures moved in, flashes of lightning lit up the sky, a good amount of rain was garnered, hail fell, and finally snow covered the landscape.  If this is not an assortment of  Divine providence mixed with earthly “enchantment,” then as Priestley says, “where is such to be found?”

Praise His Holy Name!

17. God is closest to those with broken hearts. ~Jewish Saying

Loving God, help us remember the birth of Jesus
that we may share in the song of the angels,
and the gladness of the shepherds,
and the worship of the wise men.
Close the door of hate and
open the door of love all over the world.
~Robert Louis Stevenson

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More than likely the man in this photo has no address, no phone number, no car, no money in his pocket, and certainly no credit cards.  He probably doesn’t know from whence his next meal is coming, if it comes at all, nor does he know where he’ll lay his head to sleep tonight.  I’d like to help in some way, but I know not his name nor where he’s from nor where he is now.  What trials lead this man to the harsh realities of the streets where he currently exists are a disturbing mystery, at least to me, and yet in spite of all he doesn’t have and all the things I don’t know about him, I do know in whose image he was made and by whose hands he was created.  I also know that if there is to be joy in his world and peace in his silent nights and ours, it will happen only with help from those of us who are part of Christ’s body.  I know that in the Father’s eyes this man’s worth is no less than that of any man, and the story of desperation in his eyes is deserving of compassionate hearing from those able to to lend a helping, healing hand.  But then given what I don’t know about this man, or where he is, or what he needs, how can I help.

 “. . . if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”  ~Matthew 18:19-20   ✝

Please help me pray for this man, the well being of all God’s children, and for peace on earth and good will towards men.

**The photograph of this homeless man was taken from an enews bulletin at the First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth.

16. The trees reflected in the river– they are unconscious of a spiritual world so near to them. So are we. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

A Ming vase can be well-designed
and well-made and is beautiful for that reason alone.
I don’t think this can be true for photography.
Unless there’s is something a little
incomplete and a little strange,
it will simply look like a copy of something pretty.
~John Loengard

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The annual beauty in a garden once spent is gone forever, except in memory, if not captured in some way.  A camera is one of the ways we who love nature’s fleeting glory take it captive.  Unlike Loengard, I believe photos can be more than just an uninteresting copy of a beautiful thing.  For example part of what you see in the photograph above started out as that of a single rose.  However, as an experiment with some computer technology, I turned the image into something “a little strange,” as Leongard suggests, and it added another level of interest.  If one looks carefully at the altered image, fragmented pieces of what used to be negative spaces in the original photograph now have merged into engaging patterns, and so what can be seen raises questions about how much one really sees.  “While there is perhaps a province in which the photograph can tell us nothing more than what we see with our own eyes, there is another in which it proves to us how little our eyes permit us to see,” claimed documentary photographer and photojournalist, Dorothea Lange. So it is that Hawthorne’s idea could be applied to my rose or his trees or to the reflection of anything, and it would speak a profound truth. We often don’t see what is right under our proverbial noses.  The eternal underlies everything mankind sees, tastes, hears, touches, and smells, so much so that all things seem to quiver from the Divine energy emitted from them.  But it’s only when the Lord’s demure presence is acknowledged that it becomes more and more keenly perceptible.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  ~2 Corinthians 4:18   ✝

15. The feeling remains that God is on the journey too. ~Teresa of Avila

God is always with you.
Simply turn your face to Him.
~Kirpal Singh

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When I feel out of sorts, I’ve learned to get up and go outside even if I have to bundle up under layers of clothes or suffer the misery of triple digit heat.  After wandering about my yard, its “shy presences” and silences begin to soothe me until eventually my inner compass restores the balance of my sanity.  The simple truth is that the rhythm of earth’s heartbeat has a way of drowning out the rabid mongrels in a world too often torn by senseless tragedies and horrific madness. When that happens I find that being close to the land is as comforting and reassuring as was slipping my hand into the safety of my parents strong hands when I was a child.  Now that they are gone and I am grown, I find the same kind of comfort when I draw near the Lord and His ever-present occupancy her on earth.

J. Philip Newell asks, “Where do we look, therefore, to learn of God?   It’s not away from ourselves and away from Creation, but deep within all that has life.”  What better place then to do that than a garden?  Newell goes on to say that “in looking for the life of God by listening within we will hear falseness and confusion, selfishness and violence of heart, but deeper still is the Love that utters all things into being.”  I heard such a silent utterance when I felt my child first move in my womb; the sensation felt like that of a butterfly’s wings barely grazing my flesh, but more than than it felt like the gentle touch of the Holy One Himself inviting me to walk in with Him in Eden.

“See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him.  See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.  He tends His flocks like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”  ~Isaiah 40:10-11   ✝

14. In every man’s heart there is a secret nerve that answers to the vibrations of beauty. ~Christopher Morley

A man should hear a little music,
read a little poetry, and
see a fine picture every day of his life,
in order that worldly cares
may not obliterate the sense of the
beautiful implanted in the human soul.
~Johann Wolfgang Goethe

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In her novel, THE COLOR PURPLE, Alice Walker says she thinks God gets angry if a person walks by the color purple and doesn’t notice it.  At one point in her story the main character, Celie is told to look at the purple flowers and to embrace their beauty in spite of all the pain and suffering in her world.  She is urged to see the good in them because it was God who placed them on earth.  As she comes to this realization for herself, she begins to understands the magnitude of God’s grace, and like the purple flowers, blossoms as she gains a respect for God and life.

It’s obvious that God puts a premium on beauty, not only for His own sake but also for ours.  Since we are made in His image, our souls cannot help but be implanted by a “sense of the beautiful” as Goethe suggests.  As a highway sign points us in the right direction, in the same way loveliness points to God’s heavenly realm and His goodness.   If we can find beauty, then we can find God. Beauty is meant to feed us spiritually, and the Lord uses what’s beautiful to speak to our hearts for His divine purposes.  For example notice all the richness and beauty involved in the scriptural telling of the birth of the Christ child.  It starts with a beautiful star that leads the way to a manger.  For Celie her beautiful flowers led her to God’s grace, and the Christ child brings all who follow the star and Him the same gift of redeeming grace.

13. As this year draws to its end we give thanks for the gifts it brought and how they came inlaid within where neither time nor tide can touch them. ~John O’Donohoe

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So I like best of all autumn, because its tone is mellower,
its colors are richer, and it is tinged with a little sorrow.
Its golden richness speaks not of the innocence of spring,
nor the power of summer, but of the mellowness
and kindly wisdom of approaching  age.
It knows the limitations of life and its content.
~Lin Yutang