1401. Beauty…is the shadow of God on the universe. ~Gabriela Mistral

A thing of beauty is a joy forever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health,
and quiet breathing.
~John Keats

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Yeh, yeh, I know it’s almost autumn, but I bought some more tulip bulbs to buy and plant this year. And I also bought a handy dandy little bulb bopper that’s driven by a drill to dig the holes for them. Not only that but it’s time to buy poppy seeds, larkspur, and holyhock seeds as fall is the time to sow them here in Texas. So in the next few weeks and months, I’ll be setting the stage, in my yard at least, for next year’s springtime. And my friends, that is such exciting stuff for this old girl. Despite all the rumors of Armageddon, the second coming of Christ and the rapture, and wars that will bring about the end of the world, I’m relying on God’s Word that says the end will come like a thief in the night and we will never know when that is. So life is yet for living joyfully and enjoying each and every day as the gifts they are instead of wringing our hands with worry and hanging our heads in despair. As they say here in Texas “it ain’t over til it’s over!”

God made the forests, the tiny stars, and the wild winds–
and I think that He has made them partly
as a balance for that kind of civilization that
would choke the spirit of joy out of our hearts.
He made the great open places for people who want to be…
away from the crowds that kill all reverence.
And I think He is glad at times to have us forget
our cares and responsibilities so that we may be nearer Him–
as Jesus was when he crept away into the wilderness to pray.
~Margaret Elizabeth Sangster

…for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. ~1 Thessalonians 5:2-4 ✝

**Mixed photos from my archives and Pinterest; collage created by Natalie

1387. In the early Celtic churches, earth, sea, and sky were, rather than enclosed sanctuaries, the temple of God. The high-standing crosses were gathering places. ~J. Philip Newell

The world is holy.
We are holy. All life is holy.
Daily prayers are delivered on the lips
of breaking waves, the whisperings
of grasses, the shimmering of leaves.
-Terry Tempest Williams

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The church is not a building, but a body of believers with a specific nature and purpose. These biblical roles or ministries of the church are foundational to it. Worship is God-centered and Christ-centered. It is not about entertaining Christians with flashy displays or presentations, but about expressing our love by worshiping our Creator. We are to praise and glorify God in worship. As such, every Christian needs to be part of regular fellowship and worship. Edification is also a role of the church. It involves edifying believers, but also nurturing, building up or helping believers to mature in Christ.

Evangelism is also a key role of the church. This means reaching out to a lost world with the Good News about Jesus. Since people often have questions or doubts about Christ and Christianity, knowing the truth and being able to defend it is also part of the role of the church. But beyond evangelism in the sense of reaching out with the gospel, the church must also express compassion and mercy tangibly by helping others. In following Christ’s example to love others, the church, too, must seek to make a real difference in the world while not neglecting to share the message of Christ. If a church fails to fulfill any of these key roles – worship, edification, evangelism – then the church is not functioning as God intends. Granted, there are times when churches face challenges and struggles to one degree or another, but a healthy church seeks to overcome such challenges in a way that honors God and His intentions for His church. (This paragraph and the one above it are excerpted from an article by Paul Velarde_)

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” ~Matthew 28:19-20  ✝

**Images via Pinterest; collage by Natalie

1386. A true worship of God, therefore, can neither be contained between the four walls of a sacred building nor restricted to the boundaries of religious tradition. ~J. Philip Newell

The Christian church is not a building,
but a body of believers united in Christ.
Its role is to worship God, nurture and edify
and reach out to a suffering world.
~Robert Velarde

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What Is the Church?
Excerpts from an article by Robert Velarde

When most people hear the word church they probably think of a building. Maybe it is a fancy building or a simple building where believers gather. But biblically speaking, a church is much more than a building. In fact, some would say that the church is not a building at all, but is all about the people.

The early Christian church had no buildings, at least not in the sense of what we would consider church buildings today. First century Christians were often persecuted and, as a result, often met in secret usually in homes. As the influence of Christianity spread, eventually buildings dedicated to worship were established and became what we know today as churches. Church structures facilitate the role of God’s people, but they do not fulfill it.

When speaking of the church, theologians often use terms such as the visible and local church as opposed to the invisible and universal church. The visible and local church is, of course, the physical churches that we see around us and around the world, as well as the members of those churches. The invisible and universal church, however, refers to all believers everywhere and is one church, united in Christ, not many physical churches.

In the temple of my inner being,
in the temple of my body,
in the temple of earth, sea, and sky,
in the great temple of the universe
I look for the light that was in the beginning,
the mighty fire that blazes still from the heart of life,
glowing in the whiteness of the moon,
glistening in night stars,
hidden in the black earth,
concealed in unknown depths of my soul.
In the darkness of the night,
in the shadow of my being, O God,
let me glimpse the eternal.
In both the light and the shadows of my being
let me glimpse the glow of the eternal.
From SOUNDS OF THE ETERNAL
by J. Philip Newell

Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens above—what can you do? They are deeper than the depths below—what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea. ~Job 11:7-9  ✝

**Image is the remains of Tintern Abbey in Britain. It cannot contain God nor the light.

1370. Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in spring-time. ~Martin Luther

And he departed from our sight
that we might return to our heart,
and there find Him.  For He departed,
and behold, He is here.
~St Augustine

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God, give us eyes to see
the beauty of the Spring,
And to behold Your majesty
in every living thing –
And may we see in lacy leaves
and every budding flower
The Hand that rules the universe
with gentleness and power –
And may this Easter grandeur
that Spring lavishly imparts
Awaken faded flowers of faith
lying dormant in our hearts,
And give us ears to hear, dear God,
the Springtime song of birds
With messages more meaningful
than a mortal’s oft empty words.
Let the songbirds speak to all
harried beings lost in dark despair –
saying “Be like us and do not worry
for the Lord has you in His care.”
~Edited poem by
Helen Steiner Rice

And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of Lord Jesus. ~Luke 24:2-3 ✝

For Christ has risen!

**Image found on Pinterest and edited by Natalie

1363. It’s a greenin’ and a colorin’ up as old man Winter slowly goes back from whence he came…

St. Patrick’s Day is an enchanted time-
a day to begin transforming
winter’s dreams into summer’s magic.
-Adrienne Cook

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As it is now, the last few days of winter are looking pretty magical themselves, if you ask me. Color has returned to the earth in places and the grass is greening, and so St. Patrick’s Day has indeed brought enchantment, brilliant and splendid. And where there are but few flowers yet, there is the promise of more of them. And where there are no fruits yet, there is the promise of them. And where there is not food from crops yet, there is the promise of such. Relying on the faithfulness of God’s promises, today and always, we can ask, as did St. Patrick:

As I arise today,
may the strength of God pilot me,
the power of God uphold me,
the wisdom of God guide me.
May the eye of God look before me,
the ear of God hear me,
the word of God speak for me.
May the hand of God protect me,
the way of God lie before me,
the shield of God defend me,
the host of God save me.
May Christ shield me today.
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit,
Christ when I stand,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me. Amen.
-St. Patrick, Patron of Ireland.

I pray all of you have a very blessed weekend. and that pray wherever there are clouds of darkness in your life, an awareness of the reliability of all God’s promises produces more than enough light to shoo them away.

God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? I have received a command to bless; he has blessed, and I cannot change it. ~Numbers 23:19-20  ✝

**All photos taken by Natalie

1339. There is an ancient tribal proverb I once heard in India. It says that before we can see properly we must first shed our tears to clear the way. ~Libba Bray

Glory be to you, O God,
for the grace of new beginnings
placed before me in every moment
and encounter, good or bad, of life.
~Edited quote by
John Philip Newell

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Wood as found in the natural world is, in and of itself, beautiful; the same is true of marble. However if wood is to be used in the making of a violin for example, some tools needed to hollow and shape the wood accordingly are chisels, knives, saws, scrapers. groove cutters, hole reamers, and peg shavers. And some tools needed to gouge and shape something out of marble are chisels, hammers, drills, rasps, files, and abrasive sandpapers, all of which in both instances can and do draw blood and extract the proverbial “pound of flesh” if used on we mortals. And the point of such is? Well, in a way these processes correlate to human suffering and what it can and often does achieve in a person’s life. For it is not until the wood is gouged out and shaped that its “voice,” AKA it’s exquisite sound, is released from the wood to bless our ears, and it is not until someone like Michelangelo gouges around and in a piece of marble that magnificent angels appear from deep inside the marble’s being to bless our eyes. So it was that when reading a comment today by a fellow blogger who has endured much “gouging,” it finally dawned on me in light of her struggles and mine as well as those of others that it is not until the soul is “gouged” out that we mortals are able to give “voice” in some way to garnered wisdom and profound truths. Thus trials should be seen as gifts to be embraced and celebrated, not mourned and regretted. However being appreciative of pain is something most of us find difficult at best. Clearly though “had the eye no tear, the soul would have no rainbow” nor would the dark depths of the soul ever come into healing light. The passages of Scripture below as well as others tell us to be “content” and even “thankful” about losses and painful trials for they are blessings brought forth from the scraping, gouging, and shaping the Lord has done and continues to do in our souls in order to set free “earth” angels, to give life to sacred and powerful voices, to fulfill ordained purposes, and to help bring about the memory of what we left in childhood that my dear friend calls the “soft glory of our being.”

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. ~James 1:2-4  ✝

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. ~Romans 12:12  ✝

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ~2 Corinthians 12:10  ✝

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. ~1 Peter 5:10  ✝

**Image found on the Internet; special effects done on by me on spicy

1318. No wonder the hills and groves were God’s first temples… ~John Muir

The oaks and pines and their brethren of the wood,
have seen so many suns rise and set,
so many seasons come and go,
and so many generations pass into silence,
that they may well wonder what
“the story of the trees” would be to us
if they had tongues to tell it,
or if we had ears fine enough to understand.
-Author Unknown

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When one thinks about earth’s courts in such a way, he/she realizes that trees, like us, stand on hallowed ground, and so it’s not surprising that throughout the ages trees have been given deep and sacred meanings. By observing the growth and death of trees, the flexible nature of their branches, the annual reoccurrence of their foliage, humanity has seen trees as powerful symbols of growth, decay, and resurrection. Trees and their way of providing shade and shelter are adored by both wildlife and humanity alike, and the views afforded from their lofty heights are to be envied. Trees are more than simply the largest elements of the landscape or garden; over time they become like venerated companions that unfailingly stand by us throughout the seasons and storms of life. Given their size and the fact that they prevent soil erosion, provide weather-sheltered ecosystems in and under their leaves, play a vital role in the production of oxygen and the reduction of carbon dioxide, moderate ground temperatures, and produce orchard fruits, trees speak to us of the largesse and power of God.

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Soon and in a blaze of glory the trees bearing the leaves in my photos will be stripped of their foliage, but though barren and seemingly no more than a silent sentry where they stands, somewhere in their core their music will play on. Muir’s idea that the fibers of the tree’s being thrills “like harp strings” at all times is true and answers Walt Whitman’s inquiry, “Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?” The music of life plays on in all of Creation, and like God’s presence it is never absent from us. We may not always hear the music but the melodies are there. We may be absent from the Lord, but He is never absent from us. He can be found in the lights of the sky, the colors of earth, the warmth of the sun, in waters that flow, in the wind that can be felt but not seen, and in the boughs of mighty trees. In his Celtic Psalter J. Philip Newell uses the image of trees as a revelation of God’s presence, “Like light dappling through the leaves of a tree and wind stirring its branches, like birdsong sounding from the heights of an orchard and the scent of blossom after rainfall, so you dapple and sound in the human soul, so you stir into motion all that lives.” When our ears and eyes weren’t “fine enough to understand,” God sent us His son. As we follow the star to the manger in celebration of Christ’s birth in a few weeks, may the music in all that God has made be heard, acknowledged, and honored.

For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. -Luke 11:10  ✝

O come, O come Emmanuel!