Doug, (not his actual name) has become a good friend and one of the many men with whom I try to regularly visit. He used to be a Presbyterian but left the church and became a Buddhist a few years ago. Doug knows that I’d like him to reconsider Christ and the church but he remains unpersuaded. Here are a few excerpts from a recent email exchange that I thought you might appreciate.
Me: Doug, I'm grateful for your honesty about how you are doing. Thank you for your friendship over the years and for the safe person you are to speak with. One cannot unveil their soul around just anyone and you’ve been hospitable enough to allow me to do just that. Let’s stay in touch and connect when you are feeling better. Hang in there.
Doug: Greg, That “safe” feeling works both ways, and you have a definite way of making people feel safe enough to be open and honest. It’s a gift that you put to great use in many ways. Sure we’ll stay in touch, as always.
Me: Thanks Doug. That is a great encouragement to me, though I am so-so at it, to be honest. By the way, I find it interesting that you felt a divine presence in the historic church you visited, as well as in the wilderness. What, if anything, do they have in common? They seem so different. Do you think that you’d feel the same presence in a cinderblock church building or might divine presence have been made more easy to discern because of the beauty of the architecture? I kinda wonder if it’s beauty that matters most....that is, maybe we sense God’s presence when we experience beauty, which typically has two elements that are in perfect harmony with one another: Unity and Diversity. Perhaps, when we encounter those two qualities, we are correspondingly drawn to our Triune Maker who is three (diversity) yet one (unity). Both/and. Perhaps both of those settings [sanctuary and nature] contain both...in harmony, complimenting one another in some way?
Doug: I think you’re on to something Greg about beauty and feeling the divine presence. After all, nature is God’s artwork. That’s why it’s easy to photograph. I’m awed by God’s beauty. Many artists, and I’d include architects, will admit they draw inspiration from they don’t know where, a source, a stream of ideas. I take it as God’s creative force, which fortunately manifests itself everywhere. Now in a concrete pillbox church? Nothing particularly beautiful about concrete. But if this “church” was arranged in such a way that it was a quiet sanctuary, I think it’d work for me. Now there is that church in the HQ of a local corporation. I couldn’t get into that; that wouldn’t move me. Sterile. Corporate. Unless the oratory and songs and lessons hit home.
Me: Sounds like beauty has, in your mind, something to do with the activity that takes place in that particular locale, whether it be indoors or outdoors. What else would you say constitutes beauty? I think you are right in saying that activity can determine beauty and if that is the case, then there must be some mystical (residual?) element present which screams, ‘ugly’ even though the architecture or environment might appear at first glance, as beautiful... etc. etc. etc.
Note: Our conversations will typically go on for quite some time both through email and in person. Please pray for the flourishing and well being of my cherished friend, Doug and his dear family. I simply cannot thank you enough for making these kinds of relationships, and conversations, possible!
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