738. Jessica Brown on beauty and moral vision

738. Mandarin Oranges.jpg

My dear friend Jessica Brown has a new essay up at Duke University's Faith & Leadership website about beauty and moral vision. The beauty she writes about is not the beauty promoted by cosmetic companies and car manufacturers in the ads in the front pages of magazines. The moral vision she writes about is not the impulse for bold statements on social media feeds. In these days of loud sound bytes and antagonistic banter, her words offer so much good to think about. I hope you'll take a few minutes and read; click here to go to her essay.

"Beauty isn’t just ornamentation or sentimentality; it provides the life-giving force of warm, appealing graciousness to what could otherwise be moralistic positions in danger of never blooming into real-time goodness." –Jessica Brown

Jessica has a book coming out soon from Kalos Press, The Grace to be Human.

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[Photo: taken this morning of a bowl of mandarin oranges.]

736. Ashes to go

736. Ashes to go.jpg

A picture in the current issue of Sojourners magazine caught my eye. On a city sidewalk stand two women. One is wearing a clerical robe. The other is a wearing a winter jacket, and, to me, it appears she has the beginning of tears in her eyes. The woman in the robe is marking the woman in the jacket with the sign of the cross on her forehead. It is Ash Wednesday. Instead of waiting for this woman and perhaps a man walking behind her and a couple running to their bus and an untold number of others to come inside a church, the church is going out to meet them. During the last month I've been slowly reading through the gospel of John. Here Jesus is at a wedding, here he is just walking along, here he is in the countryside, here he is getting water at a well, here he is by the sea, here he is walking ON the sea, here he is on a mountain ridge. All the while, he is meeting people where they are.

This short video expands on the story in the magazine picture. You can see the pair I described above at about 45 seconds in. It's quite a moving video; I hope you'll have the two minutes to take a look.

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[Photo: taken of a staircase at St. John's University]

730. What to think about today

Fall Sky.jpg

This past Sunday our minister's sermon was on this text from Philippians, which gives a gentle push to thoughts of a higher order.

"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."

I needed this reminder and perhaps you do too. These words are a touchstone that serve as not only wise guidance, but permission, yes permission, to at least occasionally turn thoughts away from the evening news, away from fears, away from sorrow, away from grievances, away from social media trivialities, away from [fill in the blank], and toward what is noble and right and pure and lovely and excellent and praiseworthy.

This morning I'm blowing the dust off something I wrote long ago. In Just Think: Nourish Your Mind to Feed Your Soul, I launched from this verse in Philippians to write a bulleted list of reasons to stock one's mind well. Here are some of the bullets in that list:

  • To be catalyzed, expanded, and ignited. Those of use who have battled a blah spirit and lifeless mind on one or more occasions won't find it difficult to draw a link between the state of our spirit and the state of our mind.
  • To stay optimistic and not lose hope or vibrancy. The world is full of wonderful things.
  • To link reason and imagination. To see the chasm between what is and what could be. To see possibility. To see opportunities for greatness.
  • To know the richness, vastness, and beauty of that which has been divinely created.
  • To form a solid foundation from which to launch action
  • To provide sufficient mental content of beauty and joy so that we are less likely to gravitate toward content of despair or fear.
  • To be equipped for creativity.

It's always OK to be a student of what you've already learned long ago and have needed to learn again and again. May your day be one of joy and hope. The world is full of wonderful things.

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[Photo: taken this week of fall trees and sky.]