We have a long standing family dinner tradition at our house. There is a book the girls gave me when they were young called “If…”. It is a book of discussion starters that all begin with an “If.” Last night we gathered to celebrate Suzanna’s 19th birthday (Is she really 19? I thought it was just 18. Where does the times go?) and Suzanna wanted to do “If…” questions.
One of the questions that came up at the table was if you had to choose the most beautiful person in history, who would it be? That’s a tough question because we don’t tend to know a lot about historic beauties other than from artist’s depictions and then the person’s beauty is highly dependent on the quality of the artist. Then there is the subjective definition of beauty. We immediately think of physical beauty, but if we’re talking about spiritual beauty then the likes of Mother Theresa are going to the top of the list. Such are the interesting discussions that the “If…” book raises around a dinner table.
So, here are my Top Five beauties, which has more to do with what I find beautiful than any kind of objective standard of beauty. Four of these came up at the table last night, and I can’t argue with any of them though they are all relatively recent as history goes. They are also all women. There were male names that were bandied about at the table, but this is my list and as beauty goes, there is not a man that can get anywhere near the Top Five, perhaps the Top 100.
Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said,“As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.”Luke 21:5-6 (NIV)
Along my life’s journey I’ve gathered with fellow believers to worship God in all sorts of places. I’ve been in schools, community centers, football stadiums, convention centers, hospital chapels, homes, parks, and lean-to sheds. I’ve also worshipped in beautiful cathedrals of historic value, prayer towers, and multi-million dollar state-of-the-art facilities.
The truth is, I don’t really care that much where I worship. As with other works of art, I appreciate all the beauty and meaning that architecture can express. Yet, as with all works of human expression, there is a subtle human tendency to shift our focus from the Creator to the created work. All my life I’ve witnessed people attach to church buildings a sacredness that actually runs counter to a fundamental teaching of Jesus.
Jesus’ death and resurrection ushered in a major spiritual shift that Jesus hints at it in today’s chapter. Before Jesus, the center of worship and the symbol of God’s presence had been wherever the ark of God was [cue: Raiders of the Lost Ark Theme]. At the time of Jesus’ teaching, that central location had been the temple in Jerusalem for almost a thousand years, ever since King Solomon had built the original on that spot. Jesus, however, taught that after His resurrection the Holy Spirit would be poured out and would dwell in (or in-dwell) every believer. It happened 40 days after Jesus’ resurrection (you can read about it here).
With the pouring out of Holy Spirit, the shift of worship moved from a central location (the temple in Jerusalem) to, as Jesus put it, “wherever two or three are gathered in my name.” The temple was no longer a building made with human hands. The indwelling Holy Spirit transforms our very bodies into the temple of God. Paul wrote to Jesus’ followers in Corinth:
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?
The implications of this shift are profound. Jesus says to His disciples that the temple in Jerusalem with all its history, importance in God’s story, and splendorous beauty is simply nothing more than bricks and mortar than will end up on the rubble heap of history. [Note: That very temple was indeed destroyed some 40 years (or one generation) later in 70 A.D., fulfilling Jesus’ prophetic words.] Worship is no longer to be centered in a building but in believers gathered together, and that can happen anywhere. God’s Holy Spirit is not located in this or that place where we must make a pilgrimage to visit. When we invite Jesus into our hearts and lives, the Holy Spirit indwells us and transforms our very own bodies into a mobile temple that we take with us wherever we go 24/7/365.
Today I’m grateful for the beautiful facilities where I get to regularly worship, but I am even more grateful that Wendy and I can worship anywhere and anytime with any other believer. God is not confined to a building, but present wherever we gather and acknowledge His presence.
This is another picture from the courtyard of the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio. I loved the way this gorgeous bloom sat perched on the end of a branch over the water. The two fallen petals, still colorful, lay as a nearby reminder that some of life’s most beautiful things are momentary and fleeting. We have to enjoy them in the moment.
Wendy and I made our annual pilgrimage to see Gaelic Storm in concert this past weekend at the Val Air Ballroom. As always, we had a great time. This year we loved having Taylor and Clayton along as we dined at Nick’s before the concert with our friends Kevin and Becky.
One of the songs on the group’s newest CD is entitled “Green Eyes, Red Hair” and it’s become one of my favorites. In part, my affinity for the song goes back to a brief experience I had in Dublin back in 1998. I was there with friends and we’d been pub hopping most of the afternoon and evening. We ended up in a small pub that was packed with people. It was November and the weather was cold and damp. As with most pubs, the atmosphere was dark. People were dressed in dark leather coats and (in those years) the place was full of smoke.
Suddenly, like the sun bursting through a hole in the clouds, a young woman walked through the crowd wearing a bright, white cable knit sweater that accentuated her beautiful porcelain complexion. She had the largest, most gorgeous mane of long, curly red hair that flowed over her shoulders and down her back and when she turned she had the brightest, most penetrating green eyes I’d ever seen. With a glance, her eyes communicated that you’d better not mess with her because beyond her beauty was a temperament that could cut you down and squash you like a bug should she choose to do so. It was like an apparition had just appeared in the bar. In my memory, I can see the packed crowd parting to let her through and as people turned their heads.
Anyway, the moment I heard Gaelic Storm sing this song I knew that somewhere, at some point in time, they’d seen the same apparition.
Shes a cup of tea, shes a Jaegerbomb Shes an angel, shes an Amazon Shes a poem, shes an alphabet Shes a violin with a bayonet Shes a revolution, shes a peace accord Shes a grain of sand, shes the Cliffs of Moher Shes Friday night, shes Sunday Morning Shes a fair wind, shes a sailors warning Green eyes, red hair, long legs Devil inside her Green eyes, red hair, long legs Shes got the devil inside her Shes a glass house, shes an ivory tower Shes a tin roof, shes a summer shower Shes a carnival, shes a masquerade Shes a picket fence, shes lemonade Green eyes, red hair, long legs Devil inside her Green eyes, red hair, long legs Devil inside her Green eyes, red hair, long legs Devil inside her Green eyes, red hair, long legs Shes got the devil inside her She can disappear, she can walk on water Shes the Queen of Sheba, shes the farmers daughter Shes a cocktail dress, a cowboy boot Shes a question mark, shes absolute Green eyes, red hair, long legs Devil inside her…
Wendy and I really enjoyed revisiting some of the special places from our honeymoon. The McNay Art Museum was at the top of the list of places we wanted to revisit. It was a gorgeous, cloudless sky on Saturday and we spent a lot of time in the courtyard of the museum where I snapped this picture. We simply sat in the warm sunshine and quiet and took in the incredible beauty of the museum and the sculptures there. If I lived in San Antonio, I would find myself there often. It was wonderful on so many levels. The good memories, the beautiful artwork, the warm sunshine, the peaceful quiet, and the gentle trickle of water in the fountain.