The Restorative Power of Beauty

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What is it about beauty that refreshes me and puts my mind at rest? It’s not simply looking upon a beautiful scene or object that restores and delights me. It’s looking upon that beauty and knowing that it has the very fingerprints of God all over it. The truth that it comes directly Him, and is a reflection of His beauty, is what gives everyday beauty meaning and causes me to delight in it.

There is something about beauty that has the power to elevate the human spirit in the worst of circumstances. When Corrie ten Boom and her sister, Betsie, were imprisoned during WWII, they were living in separate cells at one point. Corrie was wondering how her sister, who so loved beauty, was surviving the drab dungeon-like atmosphere of a prison cell. One day she had the opportunity to view her sister’s cell, and described what she saw there:

“…Unbelievably, against all logic, the cell was charming… the straw pallets were rolled instead of piled in a heap, standing like little pillars among the walls, each with a lady’s hat atop it. A headscarf had somehow been hung along the wall. The contents of several food packages were arranged on a small shelf… Even the coats hanging on their hooks were part of the welcome of that room, each sleeve draped over the shoulder of the coat next to it like a row of dancing children…”[1]

Betsie made that horrible place as beautiful as she possibly could for all of its inhabitants. Beauty is a gift that we can give to those who share the spaces we inhabit.

What about when we live in a place in which it is more difficult to see beauty?

 

In my former home, I was swimming in it… literally. After school, I would walk down the road to the Strait of Georgia, where I might spy a blue heron standing on one leg, or spot a seal surfacing not far from the shore; all against the breathtaking backdrop of the coastal mountain range.

 

 

 

On rainy days, I’d go out my back door into the west coast rain forest, where the moss hung like tinsel from the fir trees, and the raindrops bounced off the lacy ferns that lay at my feet.

After a long day’s work, I would look forward to these times in nature, and would return home refreshed and feeling almost as if I’d had a bath (perhaps in the rain, I had!)

I went through a kind of beauty withdrawal when I moved to the city. Beauty is here, but it isn’t as easy to get to. However, the joy and surprise when I unexpectedly encounter beauty now is a wonderful gift.

Today, I walked to a neighborhood park and spied some lovely trees all dressed in their autumn best, with a delicate carpet of leaves spreading out beneath them.

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I realize that I appreciate beauty more now when I see it. It’s like a cool drink of water in a desert of concrete and graffiti.

It’s also a very special gift from the One that I love. When I appreciate His gifts, it causes my heart to rejoice in the Giver of those gifts. It reminds me of His beauty, for He is the most beautiful One of all.

Lately I have been considering how we help children to appreciate and enjoy beauty as a gift from God and a reflection of who He is. Not beauty for beauty’s sake, but beauty as it points to God’s glory and grace.

I was on a hike through some spectacular scenery recently, and one of my fellow hikers pointed out the hollowness of trying to enjoy the beauty we were surrounded with, if we didn’t have a God to thank and praise for it. I had to agree! Our loving God gives appreciating beauty meaning; otherwise our appreciation stops short of the full-orbed awe and wonder it was meant to provoke in us.

When beauty leads us to rejoice in the goodness, power, and majesty of our God, then it serves its restorative purpose in our lives. It restores us to our humble position of gratitude before our Maker, the One who has made everything beautiful in its time.

 

[1] from p. 150-151, “The Hiding Place” by Corrie ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherrill, 1971, Chosen Books.

Is Philosophy Making a Comeback?

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Image: Wikimedia

by Tina Olesen

 

“As they look at the church, the world ought to see that a head-on clash is coming between its philosophy and the philosophy of Jesus Christ, and that the one who is going to win is Jesus.”

– Ray Stedman

 

Philosophy seems to be enjoying some attention in educational circles as of late. The Guardian recently reported that “Philosphical discussion boost pupils’ maths and literacy progress” while The Independent stated that “Children from deprived backgrounds benefited the most from philosophical debates about topics such as truth, fairness and knowledge, researchers from Durham University found.”

It seems that these researchers did not understand exactly how the study of philosophy improved students’ performance in school.

Perhaps a benefit of the study of philosophy might be the development of critical thinking skills? Critical thinking is crucial in subjects like math, particularly problem solving. Critical thinking skills are also indispensable in reading, listening, and viewing, in order to be able to evaluate and discern the material.

There’s much I don’t know about this study and how it was conducted, but it leaves me wondering. What kind of philosophy are they studying?

There is good philosophy, but there is also bad philosophy. The type of philosophy we expose our children to matters.

If during a philosophical discussion a child gets a glimpse of the truth, and attempts to follow that truth to the best of his ability, it may result in moral character growth. If a student develops moral character, then that would result in improved academic performance.

The more a student is able to will himself to do that which is difficult for him, but that which he must do, the better he’ll do in school. In “setting himself to do the truth, he is on the way to know all things. Real knowledge has begun to grow possible for him.”[i]

However, the age old question which Pontius Pilate put to Jesus immediately comes into play: “What is truth?” Many philosophers have earnestly sought truth, which presupposes that there is such a thing as truth. The moral relativists in our day would have us believe that absolute truth does not exist (for an excellent exposé of moral relativism’s failures, watch Christian apologist Greg Koukl brilliantly demolish it in this video – it is well worth the time it takes to watch the whole thing).

Philosophy comes from the root words philo sophia meaning love of wisdom. A hunger for the truth, a desire for wisdom – these earnest longings in the human heart are meant to be satisfied in a Person: Jesus Christ, who is the Truth and who is Wisdom.

Jesus perfectly exemplified God’s moral standard. He embodied the highest and most beautiful ideals of truth, love, goodness, holiness, mercy, justice and compassion. While none of us can independently live up to that moral standard, most of us can readily recognise the surpassing excellence of it when we see it.

All that Jesus exemplifies in His perfect character is what we were created for, although none of us can attain it apart from Him, and not perfectly in this life. Yet He honors even our attempts to practice what we know of the Truth. The more we practice what we know, the further He leads us on.

The philosophies of this world have come up against the philosophy of Jesus time and again throughout history, and they eventually all crumble at His feet. Perhaps they enjoy a season of popularity and apparent success, but their shortcomings and weaknesses soon become apparent. The beauty and glory of Jesus and all that He stands for never fades and never fails.

It is the philosophy of Jesus that we want to train our children in. The only way to do this is to live it out before their watching eyes.

When we Christians train our children up in the philosophy of Jesus, to love His Wisdom and to trust Him as the Truth, we are giving them something of eternal value. Children who are planted in Jesus and His way of looking at the world have an anchor that will hold them in the storm of all competing philosophies that will one day blow away with the wind.

 

 

 

[i] From The Hope of the Gospel, by George MacDonald

Pebble Toss

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by Tina Olesen

A pebble tossed into a stream ripples outward, its impact more far reaching than its diminutive diameter. A small smooth stone in a little boy’s sling killed a giant. Then there’s the pebble that gets lodged in your shoe, and it regularly reminds you of its presence until you pay attention to it.

Sometimes just a few powerful words can cause us to stop in our tracks, convict us, or even give us the encouragement to go on when we are battle weary.

I collect some of these powerful “pebbles” in my travels, and so I intend to “toss” them here into the Education Current regularly!

Here’s the first “pebble toss”.

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3 Quotes:

 

“If our children were to grow up truthful they must be taught by those who had a regard for truth; and not just a casual regard, a delicate regard. On this point we were adamant.” – Amy Carmichael

 

“…the work of teaching the Bible to the child is at once [the] most delicate, difficult, delightful, and dynamic that the Church is called upon to carry out. It is the greatest work that we can do in the interest of the individual, of the family, of the city, of the race. It has its immediate value, its value for the coming age, and, indeed, for all the ages.” – G. Campbell Morgan

 

“Jesus Christ says, ‘Except ye . . . become as little children…’ A little child is certain of its parents, but uncertain about everything else, therefore it lives a perfectly delightful healthy life.” – Oswald Chambers