LeAnne Martin
Beauty and the Beholder

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Hope of Beauty

“This world in which we live needs beauty in order not to sink into despair. Beauty, like truth, brings joy to the human heart.” Pope John Paul II, “Letter to Artists,” Easter Sunday, 1999.

We are living in challenging times. Bad news seems to be all we hear and many of us are experiencing financial troubles, job loss, major illnesses, and other crises. When bad things happen to us or our families, what do we do? We focus on our circumstances.

But the Bible tells us in Hebrews to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” and to “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess.” Hope is defined in the dictionary as “to look forward to with confidence or expectation. To expect and desire.” We have confidence in God, the Creator of the universe (Who is bigger than our circumstances) and we have confidence in our salvation through Christ’s death and resurrection.

Years ago, I went through a difficult time. But as God was comforting me and reminding me that He was my help, He also gradually opened my eyes to beauty. I began to see it everywhere: in my home, in my baby girl’s face, in art, creation, music, words. Beauty had been there all along while I was struggling but I didn’t see it, didn’t fully appreciate it. When my eyes were opened to it, beauty reminded me of God, reminded me that Jesus was my hope, and it made me worship Him--my Creator, my Savior--even more.

Beauty can pull you out of yourself and put your focus on the Creator, who can comfort and soothe your aching heart. It can remind you of the hope you have in Jesus if you have committed your life to Him. And in spite of what’s going on in the world around you, you can know that because you are His, you have hope not only for the future in heaven but for life right now.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Beauty Sleep

I wrote this last night and then forgot to post it. Proof of how tired I was...

It's late. It's been a long day. My dog is snoozing at my feet and she looks so comfortable. Tomorrow will be a busy day; I'm preparing to speak at a ladies' retreat on Saturday. The topic? The beauty around us.

As I sit here thinking through so many moments of beauty I've experienced and written about, I don't know if I've ever written about nighttime. Moonlight, yes, but darkness? No. The truth is, I don't often walk outside at night. We have coyotes in our neighborhood and, now that the weather is warming up, the snakes will be out as well. While it's true that coyotes and snakes have a certain beauty, I have no desire to meet either one in the dark (or even in the noonday sun).

But there are so many things I like about nighttime:
1. quiet
2. rest and rejuvenation
3. relief
4. reading (a ritual before "lights out")
5. pajamas
6. cool sheets in the summer, thick comforter in the winter
7. the gentle whirr of the ceiling fan
8. the end of the day
9. checking on my daughter while she's asleep
10. the art in our bedroom (the mixed media pieces over the dresser and the bed, the pencil drawing of my ballerina done by a friend, the metal cross sculpture)
11. the vintage furniture (Grandmother's chair and chiffarobe, a cedar chest, a lady's writing desk, an armchair I rescued and refurbished)
12. and last but not least by any means--my husband

But maybe the thing that's the most important is knowing that tomorrow is a new day. I'm not quoting Scarlett here but paraphrasing the Bible, Lamentations 3:23 to be exact: "God's compassions [mercies] are new every morning." Knowing that I can start over with Him every day--now that gives me sweet dreams, and, I guess you could say, true beauty sleep.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Two very special babies were born yesterday. This morning in my inbox I found photos of their little pink faces, their heads covered in blue and pink newborn caps. The mothers look exhausted but still radiant somehow, the fathers look proud, everyone is all smiles. Tiny hands that grasp Grandpa's finger, eyes that see (however dimly at first), ears that know their parents' voices, lungs that now capture and release air, hearts that pump lifeblood throughout the tiny bodies.

Babies are born every day, every minute even. Yet each one is precious--a miracle. Each one is wrought by the very hands of God.

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well" (Psalm 139:13-14).


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Beauty of the Cross

The azaleas, dogwoods, cherry trees, and more have been putting on a show the past couple of weeks. And then surprise! The last few days, we've had below freezing temps and even snow flurries yesterday. It's going to start warming up, but I don't see how the flowers can make it. It makes me sad.

But what's uppermost in my mind is Holy Week. Several years ago, Cindy Morgan, I think, recorded a song called "The Beauty of the Cross." What an oxymoron! I thought, when I first heard it. How could something so horrible, so devastating be beautiful? But then I thought about the sacrifice made for me there--Jesus' perfect life given over in death to cancel out the death in me and give me new life.

How could it be? How could it be that He would do that for me? Last year, I explored this issue in an article about the cross for The Lookout magazine. If you'd like, you can read it here.

May this Easter weekend be special and meaningful for you, and may the beauty of the cross fill you with gratitude and wonder.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Beauty and the Word

I came across something last week that I found beautiful. It combines the beauty of the Word with the art of calligraphy and painting. It takes the timely and timeless and adds a new dimension of beauty to it. It's called The Saint John's Bible. It's a hand-written Bible--the first one since the invention of the printing press. And it's gorgeous.

The website says this:

In the Middle Ages, monasteries helped preserve knowledge and culture for the sake of the greater community. By commissioning a handwritten Bible, Saint John's revives a tradition and affirms its commitment to the study of scripture, to the book arts and to educational, artistic and spiritual pursuits.

The website says this:
At the dawn of the 21st century, Saint John's Abbey and University seek to ignite the spiritual imagination of believers throughout the world by commissioning a work of art that illuminates the Word of God for a new millennium.

And this:

In the 8th Century, near what are now Scotland and England, Benedictine monastic scribes created a Bible that today is one of the longest surviving monumental manuscripts in the Western world.

Nearly 1,300 years later, renowned calligrapher Donald Jackson approached the Benedictine monks of Saint John’s University and Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, with his life-long dream: to create the first handwritten, illuminated bible commissioned since the invention of the printing press. The Saint John’s Bible uses ancient materials and techniques to create a contemporary masterpiece that brings the Word of God to life for the contemporary world.

Go see it for yourself.

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