God speaks softly to me. Sometimes in the whisper of a butterfly dance–so quickly, so quietly if I’m not listening for Him I miss the sound. He has always been that way with me. I’ve never had big, open visions or an overwhelming arrival of an angel or Jesus showing up in the middle of the night. Occasionally, when I lift my eyes to heaven I think about what it would be like to see a burning bush or wrestle with an angel. But mostly I enjoy the simple, subtle way He speaks to me and appreciate the part of His personality He planted in my DNA. The part that sees and hears gently.
Slamming doors and angry voices echo harshly through my body. I have a physical reaction to decibels. There is pain in my bones at loud concerts. I simply cannot go to places of great noise. My condition is not something to be fixed, it is not part of my brokenness. It is part of my Father’s heart showing up in me. To be the best me I was created to be, I need to learn the language of the sound of butterfly wings.
God bless my high school science teacher who taught us observation skills. He sent us out to stake off a 3’ x 3’ plot of ground somewhere in our world and to watch it. We were assigned to record what we saw and told to describe it. How tall was the grass from week to week? What color was the dirt? What kind of animals came and went? How many types of plants grew in our little corner? For months I sat in my spot and watched the grass grow. I saw changes in the color of the weeds and observed the activities of many kinds of small critters. I noticed subtle changes that intrigued me. Stirred my curiosity about creation and the colorful world around me.
Not until ten years later did someone else speak to me about observation skills. Once again it was a teacher. An art professor at college connected me to a visual encounter with my environment and she taught me how to express that experience in a variety of media. It was glorious.
I learned that observation is intentional focus and it was focus that allowed me to see when God was messing with my physical reality. Focus let me notice the soft songs butterflies make when they move their wings. This awareness I have, this wonder and sensitivity to the lovely in my environment is a part of me that delights God. I can almost hear Him say,
“That’s my girl. See how she listens to the butterfly dance? You know she can see color in the shadows? She has sensitive eyes…just like mine. I’m her father, you know?”
Sometimes I see how out of step I am with the world around me. I feel the roar of a passing jet it’s wings loud and painful yet pulling us along. Running so fast in our daily lives we don’t hear butterflies. We don’t see them dance. But we need to intentionally look for them because the One who loves us best put them there. He choreographed a subtle song for each one of us if we’ll just listen. I know He’s got something special, something uniquely You hidden in plain site so you will discover the thing that expresses Him best to you. Go on an adventure today with Him and find it. He’s waiting for you to discover Him and His love for you.
My past is a trail highlighted by the places where flowers grew. I can track my life in flowers and foliage. I can’t tell you who was with me during many childhood events, or even what we did, but I can tell you the colors of the flowers and the kind of plants that grew nearby.
I’ve always been drawn to flowers. My first wanderings, at the age of four, were in search of flowers. Out of the yard, into the nearby graveyard, and across the lawn to bouquets conveniently placed for my little fingers and sniffing nose to find. (Yes, that journey got me into trouble.) I have no memory of the gravestones but I still remember the flowers. When I was five or six I experienced the wonder of God in a beautiful encounter with an iris. (You can read the story of this first powerful connection to beauty in the post, ‘Beautiful Journey’.)
It’s only recently I’ve come to see how my path has been dusted by beauty, scents, and the colors of flowers. I denied them room in my life for many years as I sought a professional career. I was a woman in management in a man’s world—yes, it was a struggle back in those days. In one instance, I was actually told to my face I would never get the job because I wasn’t a man. I met the challenges and won some battles, but the cost was high. What it really took from me was the beauty of flowers. I began to choose black or gray suits and filled my world with dark, muted colors to diminish any femininity that might come leaking out and undermine my goals. But I’ve come to realize flowers are a part of the identity God formed in me. I was created to respond to flowers and when I don’t there is something sadly missing. The color of life becomes gray.
Flowers speak to me of many things. They artistically express beauty, color, form, and shape. I see the essence of God in the glory of a flower. They also speak to me of hope. Flowers are the evidence a plant is going to produce fruit. The sign there is something more to come. Flowers remind me of transition. A flower is only one stage in the life of a plant. A lovely one, but not the end as there will be fruit and more seeds produced. Last winter, God dropped three words into my heart for the coming year: transition, fruit, and harvest. As I contemplate a delicate bloom I see the promise in a single flower and have hope.
One day not so long ago, I realized I had permission to enjoy flowers. That loving them did not diminish my strength. The power of beauty superseded my perception of fragility. Just because it looked fragile didn’t mean it was—not in ways that matter. I saw that simply because a flower was delicate didn’t mean it couldn’t stand up to storms or burst its way through rocks to bloom on frozen mountain tops. Like love is stronger than death.
Flowers also speak to me of God’s love of variety. Thousands of flowers all over the earth express beauty in very different ways. Loving flowers is a celebration of the unique and beautiful. How can I answer the question, “What is the best flower?” or “Which flower is the most beautiful?” Should I even ask that question when each flower has its own lovely essence? Flowers teach me to focus so I can see variations and subtle color shifts, different shapes, forms and textures that are all just waiting to be discovered and enjoyed when I take the time to look.
I always come back to the idea that beauty has the power to change the world. We are designed to respond to what’s beautiful in nature, in people, and in relationships. We are created to resonate to music, art, poetry, and stories. Sometimes it takes discipline for me to accept the gift of flowers from God. I have to pay attention when I’m in a hurry or busy or I will miss all the flowers He’s put in my path to remind me of His love and beauty. If we slow down and focus we’ll see what God’s put in front of us to remind us of His powerful beauty and love. As Grandma always said, “Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.”
The Power of Beauty | Naeem Fazal | Video
It is not that my journey is always beautiful, but there are points, markers, spaces of beauty along the way. Enough to keep me seeking for more. Looking for beauty in everyday life.
Whatsoever things are lovely*…
There is dangerous beauty in the night sky of ripe stars dripping to the earth in the minus 40 degree Dakota winter. A field of dangerous cold that can kill you if you breathe it in.
The fearful beauty of the unknown; shimmering creatures scuttling along the ground in humid places. Is it friend or foe? Poisonous or not?
There is power in beauty that moves, touches, exalts, captures, surprises and changes us. Our spirit resonates to its vibrations.
The iris was the first breathtaking moment of beauty for me. The spot in the road that changed everything in my life when I was five years old. The iris bloomed next to the old house where we recently moved. I came around the corner of the side yard and stopped. Breath caught. There it was. As tall as I. A glorious purple iris. I reached out to touch the velvet petals. Captured by its loveliness. Rich color. Grape-like smell. My first experience with the concept of elegance. The site, touch, and smell captured and filled my young heart.
I have seen thousands of iris since that day and they still fill me with wonder, but the memory of that first one bursting into my world with its expression of beauty that changed my heart forever was special. That one iris opened my eyes to beauty and made me believe in a beautiful journey.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Today, let’s let the love of God fill our hearts, like spreading wildflowers until all weeds are pushed out and only beauty remains…until only the power of colorful, wild, lovely things fill the earth.
The enemy jumps up and down in our lives, he is an ugly thing, screaming, “Look at me, look at me.” Every mean thing. Every fearful thought, every lie explodes in front of you—smelling, demanding attention, but like the little man behind the curtain in the Land of Oz, his only power is what you give him. You can choose to see and express life, light, and beauty. You can choose to ignore the smelly things in your friends, family, or leaders. You can choose to see only the beauty, looking for the fingerprint of God. The more you spend time with Jesus, with your Heavenly Father, with the Holy Spirit, the more you recognize what is of Him in the earth. You recognize the characteristics, beauty, goodness, and mystery that is of Him. I believe that if we seek Him in everything, we will find Him.
My heart has heard you say, “Come talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” Ps 27:8
What we seek changes us, transforms us. When we see Him, we shall be like Him…and He is beautiful, filled with love, expressing hope and life and caring for the weak among us.
I believe God’s beauty fills the earth. I believe God’s beauty fills you. His fingerprint has made you unique. No one, anywhere, is like you. No one brings to earth what you do. No one brings to life what you can. So when you walk into a dark, smelly place, you carry the power of His love to bring freedom, hope, and life.
I believe in the power of beauty to change the world. I believe smelling roses can change your life. I am convinced that focusing on beautiful things can change your heart forever. I believe we are wired to respond to beauty and there is a roaring emptiness within us when we do not take time to see the divine in the world around us.
Few of us were taught to see beauty in everyday things. To really look at the materials things are made of, or to watch for the patterns in the world around us. Most of us are too busy to recognize the shades of light and shadow or subtle color shifts in the plants, fields or streets during a rainstorm.
Art, music, people, nature, and everyday things can all carry the lovely, the pure, the beautiful when we take the time to see. Perception leads to thoughts, which can lead to a heart response, which leads to action—-for good or bad depending on our focus. So, as Grandma always said, “Take time to smell the roses,” and then be inspired by the beauty around you.
Seeking beauty today.
I am created in His image. You are created in His image. The One who is beautiful. Which makes us, yes, beautiful!
I think we learn what is beautiful from God. From the people and things He created. Colors, textures, shapes. Singing birds, gurgling water, crashing waves. The taste of a watermelon or a crisp pepper.
We also learn about inner beauty and community from seeing into the hearts of people and not just looking at the external trappings of race or size or cultural garments. Looking into the hearts where dreams live, where common hopes are shimmering. Where dormant gifts lie quietly waiting for acknowledgment or permission to rise. Into hearts where Jesus comes to melt walls of fear, to bring healing for brokenness and to remove slivers of unbelief, unforgiveness, and pride.
He does not judge us. He comes to heal us and to wrap us in grace to make us whole. There is beauty all around us. There is beauty in us.