21. The Color of Light: the created world points us to God

FOR EVERY HOUSE IS BUILT BY SOMEONE, BUT THE BUILDER OF ALL THINGS IS GOD.–HEBREWS 3:4

Choosing paint colors is big business these days. There are color tools to help one choose, there are giant paint samples, colors of the month, colors of the year, and innumerable blog posts and web sites on paint colors.

I admit to having trouble making decisions on color, mostly because I love all colors, though that doesn’t mean I want just any color on my walls. There are so many caveats: Is it morning or afternoon light? When will you be spending time in this room? Do you want peace and harmony or a fashion statement or both? What if your favorite color is blue, but your partner can’t stand that color. (Ahem. Who doesn’t like blue? It’s the color of the sky, for goodness sake!)

IMG_4783

For inspiration I’ve been sitting on the back porch looking. Looking at the sky (yes, it’s blue!) Looking at the birds. Looking at the world. Every color is here, there. In the natural world, colors just seem to harmonize; the best color matching is always a close copy of God’s own perfect design. 

When I think of color and light I tend to get off topic because the physics and metaphysics of light, color, and sight are amazing to me. How do I know if the beautiful shade of Blooming Grove green in my kitchen is the same color you see?

I don’t. It all comes down to our eyes and the light.

I learned a new word the other day: metamerism (met-TAM-er-ism). It means the effect that light has on color, specifically the type of lighting used to illuminate color and how it affects our perceptions of shades and matching.

The varieties of light make colors change. Fluorescent lights, incandescent lights, LEDS, those squiggly bulbs…they all make the same color look different. That’s why decorators tell you to paint a giant swatch in your room. The same color that you love in your north-facing kitchen will look different in the south-facing bedroom. That same color will change in morning light or afternoon light, summer light, or autumn light. Think of the sunlight on the trees and how it changes their colors. Think of the sunlight pouring down and reflecting on a mass of snow crystals and the glittering colors that result.

 

The glories of creation speak to us of an all-powerful, self-existent, beauty loving God — from the sky and sun and stars to the shape and smell and shade of a hydrangea. The world is filled with minute intricacies and details that “…since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities — His eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

God the creator has made us to be creators as well. We are made in His image… He has made colors for our eyes, music for our ears, and He has put eternity in our hearts. We are seekers and God is waiting for us to knock at the door. He will never force us to believe, but the created world points us to God. He has made it all: every human, every spiderweb, every musical note, every apple tree, every word picture…

…and He is waiting for our hearts to open to Him in a thank-you song. How will you say thank-you to the Creator God for putting that creator spirit into you? 

IMG_1991Color is Light–

every color in white

Refracted, Reflected

journeys from the sun.

Refraction?

the change of direction

of a ray of light or sound,

passing obliquely

from one medium into another

in which wave velocity

Is different.

I pray for refraction.

God’s light to shine through 

the curtains,

the leaves,

the shadows,

the icicles,

the air I breathe in–

Ruah–

passing obliquely

from one medium through another.

Change my wave velocity,

refract me

remake me

redeem me

to reflect Christ

in whom all the colors

are one,

The light of the world,

The son.


For Further study, read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

 

No questions today. Just exercise your creativity and craft a thank you to God in your favorite creative medium.

19. Perfectionism—Curse or Blessing? God Is the Only Perfect Creator

FOR EVERY HOUSE IS BUILT BY SOMEONE, BUT THE BUILDER OF ALL THINGS IS GOD.–HEBREWS 3:4

All our lives we’re told, “Do your best. If you do your best, that’s all anyone can ask.”

And what, exactly, is our best? How many times can we have a do over? When and how do we draw the line between “our best” and OCD? And who ultimately gives us the final grade? Friends? Lovers? Bosses? Ourselves? Society? Or God?

These are such hard questions I’d better stop now and have a cup of tea. I hope you’re having one with me…

Several events have precipitated these musings on perfectionism.

The Color of my Kitchen

I spent (or wasted) hours poring over paint samples. After purchasing a sample jar of Benjamin Moore Blooming Grove, I fell in love. There were even signs to let me know I’d chosen well: On the way to pick up our kitchen countertop in Eastern Pennsylvania we passed the exit to Blooming Grove. It was a big green sign on the interstate that couldn’t be missed.

Delighted that I’d finally made my decision, I bought a gallon at a store that shall remain nameless. I do have to say that when the mixologist opened the can to show me the paint, I said, “That’s too yellow.”

“No,” he assured me. “This is Blooming Grove. It will dry darker.”

It didn’t dry darker. I painted half of a cabinet door from the sample can, and the other half I painted from the newly purchased gallon. It was a striped cabinet door. One half was lovely spring green, the other half was a not-so-lovely yellowish-green. I struggled with this: I didn’t want to be the whiny-perfectionist-lady-customer who demands a new gallon of paint because it isn’t exactly right.

Nevertheless, it was clearly Not Exactly Right.

Does God want me obsessing over a paint color? Paint color just isn’t that important in the scheme of the universe. I know this. Where does the line fall here?

The Last Glitch in the Kitchen Window Process

Two weeks ago we were ready to put up the windows in the kitchen. The left side just had to be finish coated and we were ready to go. As I sat down to paint it (the paint was poured and the brush dipped) I could see that the primer was not sticking to the glazing. So instead of finish coating, I spent the next three hours peeling little strips of paint/primer from the window muntins. (For those of you who are not old-window-experts, the muntins are the vertical and horizontal strips of wood that hold the panes of glass in place.)

Instead of putting up windows, we were back to priming/drying/painting/drying. It was discouraging. And I wondered as I was sitting on the floor in the late afternoon sun peeling off little strips, “Is this normal?” Would other people say, “Oh for goodness sake, just paint the stupid windows and be done!”

I wanted to do that. But I knew it was peeling. Done poorly.  Where does the line fall here?

Life in General; Rehabbing a Cottage in Particular

I don’t mind little imperfections in wood or paint or people; I myself have little imperfections. I am not a complete dorky perfectionist all the time. (The jury is still out on the contractor husband.)

I have buried uncleaned paintbrushes in the bottom of a garbage can because 

A. I didn’t want to clean them, or 

B. I did clean them, but not good enough and they dried out stiff and I didn’t want any other perfectionist who lives in the household to find them.

Did you know that one could spend hours cleaning a paintbrush? Or peeling paint from an imperfectly primed window…. Or redoing a board because it is a quarter inch off…. Or choosing the right color of paint…. I don’t have any answers here folks. The age old question—blessing or curse—is still a question. But I can tell you that just last week I read a quote from Thomas Merton (much wiser than I…) who said this:

We do not want to be beginners. But let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything but beginners, all our life.”⁠1

–Thomas Merton

That gives me hope. So does the saying from my wise contractor husband who says to me all the time–there’s nothing perfect in this world.

And just yesterday I read a quote that said: You can never be perfect. You can always be better.

Now I have to go demand a new gallon of paint. (Nicely, of course.)

Post Script: The clerk at the paint store was truly gracious. She saw the difference in color and looked up the formula to make sure it was mixed correctly. It had been. She was puzzled for a bit, and then she realized that I had purchased a new Benjamin Moore brand of paint and even the uppity-up corporate mixologists hadn’t come out with the correct color formulas yet. She then hand mixed it, showing me the paint every couple of minutes asking me what I thought. She dried the sample with a hair dryer and, to make sure I was satisfied, told me to bring it back again if it wasn’t right. Yes. God is the only perfect creator.


Last night I was reclining in bed, surrounded by pillows, books, notebooks, and reading glasses, writing a blog post on my iPhone. The mobile app is very handy when one has a thought and doesn’t want to lose it in the quagmire of daily living (or nightly dreaming). I was about to save the post when my finger accidentally hit the publish button.

There’s something very ironic and humbling about accidentally posting a post on perfectionism… It wasn’t ready. I hadn’t said it all yet. Hmmm…well, maybe I had, but I certainly hadn’t gone over it twenty-three times to make sure it was as perfect as I could write it.

Hence, more thoughts about perfectionism. But this time I’m thinking about the blessings of it—because God asks of us our best and our best can be a blessing, not only to those around us, but also to ourselves.

Artists and writers and musicians and craftspeople particularly know the struggle here. How does one know if the piece is finished and finished well? Madeline L’Engle says that inspiration usually comes as you are working, not before.⁠2 So if one keeps working, one will continually be inspired. Perhaps when the inspiration stops, the piece is finished well?

That might work for pieces of music or writing or art, but it doesn’t hold up so well for paint or wood or refinishing windows. The wood of those windows that we have renewed isn’t perfect. It’s old. There are dents and nail holes. One could work on them forever, and the wood would never be perfect. Yes, that is a metaphor…

We all have our imperfection tolerance limits, and the more talent one has, the higher the limit. That’s as it should be. The contractor has higher expectations for his carpentry skills than I do for mine. Except…

God, the perfect one, should have absolutely no tolerance for our human imperfections. Yet he does. Rather, he loves us in spite of them. And no amount of our own striving can help us achieve that perfectionism that is God. He has given us that striving, made it part of us, so we would desire to be like Him. In that way it is a blessing–His gift to us. It only becomes a curse when the world, (or the evil one, if you prefer) keeps whispering in our ears that we aren’t good enough or didn’t do it well enough.

Lysa TerKeurst says in her book It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way  that because we once lived in the perfect Eden, we remember the perfection and long for it.

“This is why our instincts keep firing off the lie that perfection is possible. We have pictures of perfection etched into the very DNA of our souls.”⁠3

Perfection died when we were banished from the garden and we have been struggling with its loss ever since. This struggle between the blessing and curse of perfectionism is just one more tension of the Christian life. We can embrace our perfectionism as a God-given gift, but we must draw the line when we no longer feel the blessing or the inspiration  of it. Instead of yearning for our own perfection, we can (we must) lean on the only one who is perfect. He has offered us His perfect self as a substitute for our imperfectness.

When God looks at us, He sees the perfection of Jesus. If only we could see ourselves that way. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:20-21: We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 

God, the perfect creator, is calling us to perfection again, through His perfect son. Jesus paid it all. For me. For you. For us. Don’t let that perfection slip through your hands…


For further study, read Psalm 8.

Questions to think about:

  • Where is your striving harming your peace with God?
  • Psalm 8 asks: What is mankind that you are mindful of them; human beings that you care for them? Yet look at the next verses and just see what God has ordained for us to do. Is your perfectionism keeping you from doing what God might want you to do? 
  • I think that sometimes we all fall on both sides of the line, because my next question is: Or is your careless attitude keeping you from doing it well? It might depend on what it is we are doing and our talent/aptitude for the project. Thoughts?
  • Our need (or desire) for perfection is really about control, isn’t it? Where can you give up your desire for perfection and trust God?

1 Thomas Merton. AZQuotes.com, Wind and Fly LTD, 2021. https://www.azquotes.com/quote/371657, accessed May 27, 2021.

2 L’Engle, Madeleine. Walking on Water, p. 176.

⁠3 TerKeurst, Lysa. It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way. Nelson Books, c2018, p. 6.

15. The Messy Beauty of Everyday Life: Jesus Loves Us Despite our Messes

For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.–Hebrews 3:4

I bought a new photo app for my phone the other day for 99 cents. While playing around with it (just pushing buttons, in other words) this photo was the fourth one I took.

Random messy beauty

I was shocked. It is really just a shot from the back porch here at Apple Hill. None of the others looked like this at all, and I have no idea what I did or how it came out like this. It is totally random, and I’ll probably never be able to recreate the effect; it’s messy; it’s artistic; and it reminds me of a favorite quote from Madeleine L’Engle:

“Inspiration far more often comes during the work than before it.” ⁠1

That means, don’t wait—just plunge right in; that means, keep working—it will come; that means, while you’re working, don’t forget to say thank you to the Creator who created you to create.

I’ve been thinking about beauty lately because in the middle of a house remodeling project there is very little beauty: walls being ripped out; ugly boards; years worth of dust and dead bugs (and maybe a mouse or two, as well). 

Yet there is a beauty in messes that only the person close to it, the creator, can see. We know what the mess is going to turn into (or at least what we hope it will be!) Think of making a cake: flour, eggshells, sugar spilled on the counter, dirty cups and measuring spoons all over? Yet the end result is a delicious dessert.

We are moving everything out of the kitchen to get ready to lay the floor. All the stuff that was in the kitchen is now in the living room along with what actually belongs in the living room. I don’t even see this mess because I know it’s just a temporary inconvenience; but if anyone came to visit, they might think we’re applying to be on the television show Hoarders. And, really, the entire cottage looks like this right now; there are no Beautiful Photos because there are no beautiful spaces. 

Yesterday there was a package of BX Cable coiled around like a hose on the floor of the mudroom; it is shiny silver and wrapped in heavy duty plastic. Electricians use this cable to run wiring—it is waterproof, mouse proof, fireproof. This coil of wire is not the essence of beauty to most people. Most of the time it just sits on shelves of the local home improvement stores and looks plain. But I look at that gorgeous roll of BX cable, and I see new wiring in a wonderfully rehabilitated, once dilapidated, old cottage. I see the cost of it, the hands that labored over it, and what it is replacing—old jumbled up, mouse-chewed, taped-together wires. Now see again with new eyes—Isn’t that a fantastic coil of shiny cable? 


What a metaphor for everyday life, for God. Our creator knows and loves us regardless of the mess we used to be (or still are) because he knows what we will be later: a perfectly created work of art; a delicious dessert; a remodeled house, perfectly wired.

For those of us who are still in the messy state of wondering how this is all going to turn out–God loving us regardless of how ugly and taped together we are–is the epitome of hope. And realizing that we are all jumbled up, mouse-chewed, taped-together wires is the beginning. Those wires can’t change themselves into brand new cable; no, not only was there a cost involved in buying the new cable, there were hands that labored over it ripping out the old and replacing it with new…

Just as there was a cost involved for Jesus—and it was very great. It cost Him His life to buy ours. Our lives, bought by Him, are no longer sin-scarred, taped-together wires. Those have been replaced and made new. They are silver-shiny and rehabilitated. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!(2 Corinthians 5:17)

That’s the version of us that He sees, because He is our creator. 

Thanks be to God for this wonderful hope.


For further study, read 2 Corinthians 5

  1. What helps you see beauty in things that aren’t necessarily beautiful? Read Matthew 6:22-23 in The Message.
  2. Madeleine L’Engle’s quote about inspiration happening as you’re working is so hopeful, isn’t it? Especially to a procrastinator who often uses the excuse that I’m waiting for inspiration… Is there anything that you are putting off doing because you’re waiting for inspiration?
  3. Look at your biggest mess (according to you) and think how Jesus will see it when it has been redeemed and made new.
  4. Do you have a mess going on right now? Broken egg shells and spilled flour all over the counter? Pray for a new vision for it; pray to see it through Jesus’ eyes. Ephesians 1 may help with this: Verses 3-14 tell of God’s amazing plan of adopting us and seeing us as “blameless before Him”, and verses 16-18 remind us to see through the “eyes of our hearts” so we can know this hope.
  5. We are created in His image, so we also are creators. What are you creating right now? Think of this question as holistic and apply it to all areas of your life–physical, emotional, spiritual…

1 L’Engle, Madeleine. Walking on Water, p. 176