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March first was my ten year anniversary of being at the Home For Needy Children in Oaxaca, Mexico.   Looking back on those ten years I think about Beauty, Goodness and Truth.  I have been rereading a Christian philosophy book about Beauty, Goodness and Truth, with regards to the writings of C.S. Lewis.  Beauty, Goodness and Truth are three important characteristics that describe God and his work with humanity.  We are created in God’s image, thus three important aspects of of humans, especially Christian humans should be Beauty, Goodness and Truth.beauty, truth, goodness

In God we see he created beauty in the six days of creation.  Not only was it beautiful, but God pronounced it good.  We also see the goodness of God in the way he provides for our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs.  As Pastor Aaron is fond of saying, “God is good all the time” and “All the time God is good.”  When it comes to truth, well, God is truth, and all truth is God’s truth.  Jesus said, “I am the truth.”

As Christians we strive to be like our maker (who after creating man and woman proclaimed this special act of creation as Very Good).  Everyday, followers of Christ should desire to make beauty, or make the world and the kingdom of God, more beautiful.  A true disciple should also do good and acquire and disseminate truth.  As I look back on my ten years in Mexico I ask myself if I have done these three things.

God loves us and wants us to be happy.  He has created us to be most happy when we do these three things.  I have been extremely happy these past ten years cooperating with God in making beauty, doing good and acquiring and disseminating truth.  I am most happy when I am making gardens, following in the footsteps of God who made the first garden.  Genesis tells us the first garden was first of all beautiful, and then good for producing fruit.  I try to make gardens that are also beautiful and good for producing peace and happiness, as well as good food.  I appreciate it when visitors to the Oaxaca mission tell how beautiful and peaceful it is.  My primary hope is that the gardens bring a sense of peace and joy to the hurting children that we care for.  We have one troubled boy who, despite his inner struggles and conflicts, consistently tells me, when I am putting in a new garden, that it is beautiful.  Thank you Danny.

All the staff members at the mission do good things and practice kindness everyday.  We take kids to school and pick them up.  We do dishes and sweep and mop floors.  We go to Oaxaca city after our “workday” is done on Tuesday evenings and spend a few more hours at the fruit and vegetable market asking vendors for donations of produce, arrive back late and unload the pickup.  Usually some kids from the mission go along and help.  It all makes for a long day, but I think that as we finally climb into bed, we give thanks to God that he has allowed us to participate with him in the kingdom work of helping “the least of these”.  For members of the Family of God, doing good is is important, especially considering Jesus words in Matthew chapter 25 – when you feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, take in strangers, help the sick and visit those in prison, we do it as though it were for Jesus.  “When you did it to these my brothers, you have done it for me.”  These ten years in Mexico I have done a few good things, by the grace of God who has allowed me to partner with brothers and sisters who share a faith to “love one another as I have loved you”.

One of my favorite things to do throughout my life has been to acquire and disseminate truth.  I have always loved to read and learn and to share with others what I have learned.  At the Home for Needy Children there is a primary school which offers the students a variety of electives.  I have been privileged to share truth with the children on gardening, baseball and currently basketball.

There is a prison across the street and for over five years I have walked across the highway to that prison and have taught an English class to groups of women, men, and inmates in the psyche ward. Disseminating truth not only about nouns, verbs and vowels, but also about God’s love, compassion and mercy.  Psalms says that God gives us the desires of our heart.  God gave me the desire to learn and teach, to acquire and disseminate truth, and I am blessed that I have been able to do that in a variety of ways at the Mission in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Speaking of Beauty, Goodness and Truth that I have experienced during my time in Mexico, I am most grateful for my beautiful wife Anita, and two wonderful daughters, Sally and Kelly, that God has given me during my time here.  They are so good and bring much happiness to my life. Surely God is good all the time.

I also thank God for the chance to get to know Charla Pereau , the founder of Foundation for His Ministry which operates the Home for Needy Children here in Oaxaca.  She is the epitome of making beauty, doing good and sharing truth.  Thousands of the “least of these” in Mexico enjoy happier lives because of her life.  I am one of those.

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How shall I make a return to the LORD for all the good He has given me?  I will take up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the LORD.   Psalm 116:12,13

 

There are three things that will never die: truth, goodness and beauty.  These are the three things we all need, and need absolutely, and know we need, and know we need absolutely.  Our minds want not only some truth and some falsehood, but all truth, without limit.  Our wills want not only some good and some evil, but all good, without limit.  Our desires, imaginations, feeling or hearts want not just some beauty and some ugliness, but all beauty, without limit.  These three things are three attributes of God, and therefore of all of God’s creation:  three transcendental or absolutely universal properties of all reality.   C.S. Lewis as Philosopher: Truth, Goodness and Beauty  by David J. Baggett

 

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I am thinking of a father and his soon to be 10 year old daughter.  He loves her very much and wants to give her the best birthday balloonsbirthday party ever.  He has been planning  it for months, considering every detail so that it will be a beautiful affair, to be remembered always.  It is to be a surprise party, so when the  day arrives, mom takes the little princess out to have her hair done and nails painted and a special dress purchased.  Meanwhile, the doting father is hanging miles of party streamers, inflating dozens of balloons, and placing hundreds of flowers all over the living room and kitchen.  On the dining room table sits a beautifully decorated cake, filled with icing flowers of all colors and 10 candles.  Loading down the kitchen counters is an array of catered food, the likes of which few people have ever seen, along with plenty of chips, and five kinds of pizza.  The  fridge is filled with soda and the freezer with ice cream.  On a nearby shelf sits the gifts the father has chosen for his daughter’s special day.  An i-phone, a Kindle tablet, a Blu-Ray player, and a 32”  Sony LED TV, all wrapped up, waiting for his darling daughter to unwrap.  He can almost hear her cries of delight and joy.

Her classmates, friends and family members, all decked out in their party best, begin arriving for the celebration at 1:3happy-birthday-cake-wallpaper-225x300 p.m. for the 2 p.m. scheduled big surprise.  At eight minutes past 2:00, the birthday girl and her mom walk through the front door and a thunderous cry of “SURPRISE – HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!” erupts.  The young girl is blown away, overwhelmed by the decorations and love from family and friends.  Music starts up from the live band out on the back patio and the party goes into high gear

The birthday girl rushes to her room to  put on her new dress.  Coming out of her room she runs into a 12 year old boy that she has a crush on.  She is thrilled to see him at her party.  He is looking at a red button on the hallway wall.  He wishes her a happy birthday, and then asks her about the button.  She tells him her house has a fire sprinkler system, and if there is  ever a fire, all you have to do is to push the red button and the sprinkler system will go on.  He tells her that sounds cool.  He tells her that sounds like fun; just like playing in the sprinklers outside on a hot day.  He tells her that she should push it; that it would be a great big joke on everyone and that everybody would laugh and dance around in the shower.  She tells him that her dad said no one should ever push the red button unless there was a real fire emergency.  He bets her that her dad would think this was a special exception, and that he would laugh and laugh and pick her up and dance around the room in the falling water, just like in the movies.  She says that she will go and ask her dad first.  He tells her that that would ruin the surprise.  He gave you a big surprise party, and now it’s your turn to surprise him.

She thinks about it for a few seconds.  She looks at the older boy with a bit of doubt in her eyes.  He looks at her pleadingly.  She looks at the red button and imagines what fun everyone will have in the  water shower.  She also thinks about what her dad has told her.  She thinks and thinks.  The boy says he’s getting a bit bored, and just remembered there  was  something he needed to do  at home.  He turns to go, and she pushes the  red button.

Water gushes down on everyone and everything.  It is all ruined.  No one is dancing around in the water.  No one is laughing .  At first, all the guests look panicked – they look for a  fire.  They hurriedly make their way out to the front lawn or back patio.  The party streamers turn soggy and drop from the ceiling onto party clothes and new carpet, which become stained. Frosting and cake slowly disintegrate.  The pizza is inedible    Some balloons drop and pop, adding to the chaos.  Expensive electronic gadgets are flooded with water and become worthless.  Firetrucks arrive and fire fighters rush into the house.   All the  people hoping for a happy, beautiful party go home upset.  It was definitely one to  remember.

The father is beside himself.  He doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry; yell or die.  The good, loving father truly wanted the best for his child.  The best decorations; best food; best presents.  Now it was all ruined.  Now it was all  ugly and bad; all because of a lie.  All because of disobedience and distrust.  All that’s left are regrets and remorse.

This story makes me think of our Heavenly Father.  One time He prepared a great party for His children.  It was a garden garden_of_eden_by_amosha-d3ijz4tparty.  The garden was filled with the most beautiful flowers and plants ever seen.  The variety of trees filled with good fruit was beyond description. All kinds of incredibly, beautiful animals roamed about freely. He  invited His children to go in, and then yelled “Surprise!”  His two children were overwhelmed with joy and the great. good, beautiful experience that they had.  In the midst of their happy celebration, the Father walked them over to a tree.  The name of  this  tree is “Knowledge of Good and Evil.”  There are hundreds of beautiful trees in this garden, loaded with juicy, tasty fruit that will dazzle your taste buds and energize your bodies.  I  want you to enjoy all of them.  But this tree, “Knowledge of Good and Evil” you must never eat of.  You should never even touch it.  In fact, just to be on the safe side, you should never even come to  this  part of the garden.  The reason is, is, that the day you eat from it you will die.

I looked up the Hebrew words and definitions for “good” and  “evil”.

Good is tobe:

good (as an adjective) in the widest sense; used likewise as a noun, both in the masculine and the feminine, the singular and the plural (good, a good or good thing, a good man or woman; the good, goods or good things, good men or women), also as an adverb (well): – beautiful, best, better, bountiful, cheerful, at ease, fair , fine, glad, good deed, graciously, joyful, kindly, kindness, like (best), loving, merry,  most pleasant,  pleasure, precious, prosperity,  sweet, wealth, welfare, (be) well ([-favoured]).

Evil is rah, raw-aw’

 bad or (as noun) evil (naturally or morally). This includes the second (feminine) form; as adjective or noun: – adversity, affliction, bad, calamity, + displease (-ure), distress, evil, + exceedingly,  great, grief , harm, heavy, hurt (-ful), ill (favoured),  mischief, (-vous), misery,  noisome,  sad (-ly), sore, sorrow, trouble, vex, wicked (-ly, -ness, one), worse (-st) wretchedness, wrong. 

Without eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and  evil, they had all the good, beautiful, fair, bountiful, cheerful, joyful,loving, pleasurable, merry life that they could  ever want.  Unfortunately they disobeyed God.  They believed the lies of the Evil One.  They touched the tree and ate the fruit of the tree of  the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Banished from the Garden, their right relationship with God dead, thus their spirits dead, they suffer daily with the curse and punishment of God and experience the  bad, evil, adversity, affliction, calamity, displeasure, distress, misery, noisome, hurtful, sorrowful, trouble, and wretchedness that most people in this world experience on a daily basis.  They gave up all the good, and began to experience all the evil, the day they believed a lie.

Yet, some beauty, goodness and truth have survived.  G.K. Chesterton gives us the image of a shipwreck and survivors living on a deserted island, in his book Orthodoxy.  The survivors cherish the things that have washed up on shore from the lost ship.  In the same way, after Adam and Eve made a shipwreck of humanity, God has left us remnants of the beautiful, good party.  His love.  His true Word.  His grace and mercy.  Things to cherish.

So we cling to beauty, goodness and truth for the basis of our happiness and joy in God.  Daily, ugliness, evil and lies intrude into our lives, and often we have to battle to hang onto the good and beautiful and true.  We seek to share the truth, the beauty, the good with a hurting world.  We want to share our treasured remnants of the crash with those around us who have given up on having a good, beautiful life full of truth.

The Father has planned another party, bigger and better  and more beautiful than the first.  It’s called Heaven, or The New Jerusalem.  Our invitations are found in the Bible.  Have you RSVP’ed?

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Every component of our faith (worship, liturgy, creeds, theology, fellowship, spiritual formation, religious education, etc.), though in itself is valid and valuable, must lead to  good works, good lives, good creativity, and goodness to help our world get back on the road to being truly and wholly good again, the way God created it to be.  Brian McLaren in a Generous Othodoxy.

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Next blog – Purple Litter

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