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"Beauty is Warfare"


“Beauty is warfare,” my friend said on her Marco Polo message. “What was that?” I thought to myself? It sure seemed like an unlikely combination of words. I learned later that Dan Allender is the originator. Not surprising--it sounds like something Dan would say. As much as I don’t like the “warfare” part, there’s something startling and true in its message.

What kind of enemy does beauty confront, do you think? I think it wages war against the enemy of hopelessness, a pernicious adversary who worms its way into us, beating us down by convincing us that there’s nothing good—or beautiful—left in the world to fight for.

Isn’t that what you think these days when you watch the news? So many overwhelming problems that are not getting better but getting worse. Isn’t that what you observe when you scroll through your Face Book feed? So much ugliness, hatred, selfishness, and meanness heaped upon you, the unsuspecting bystander.

So is beauty some sappy veneer we slap on the top of all the awful, discouraging, and truly ugly human exhibitions we’re witnessing today? Don’t go there so quickly. Think about it.

What happens when you notice beauty? What happens when you name it to yourself, to a friend? What happens when you create beauty and savor beauty and celebrate it? Doesn’t it remind you that there’s a lot in life that is worth fighting for— “fighting” in the most loving, non-violent sense of the word?

Yes, beauty has that affect on me. Over our July sabbatical, I took time to create beauty. I love to imagine and design peaceful, tranquil, inviting spaces for myself, my family, and those who come to Fall Creek Abbey for retreats. So, with an enormous amount of help from Dave Booram, I redecorated and rearranged the living room and created new ambiance on the front porch. The effect? I feel hopeful.

Beauty lifts my spirits and nourishes my heart. That’s why I love nature and treasure walks in beautiful places, just to soak in the natural beauty around me. That’s why I love color and gorgeous food and exquisite visual art. I don’t think beauty is superfluous. It, as Dostoevsky put it, saves us! It saves us from feeling hopeless.

What if we started a counterattack on all the ugliness and hatred that is waging war on our souls by lifting-up the beautiful! I’d like to invite you to consider noticing, naming, creating, and celebrating the beauty in your life. A beautiful poem, a scripture, a picture. A beautiful landscape or setting. A beautiful act of human kindness or a story that embodies beauty. And how about including #beautyiswarfare each time you post?

If you’re game, I am! I’ll start with the photograph below, which David sent me while I was at the grocery store. I’d bought and arranged some flowers the other day in one of my favorite small pitchers. He noticed it and the light coming in the window behind it and sent me the picture with the text: Beauty is warfare! Indeed it is! Tag—you’re it!

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