I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
How do you do that?
That’s not a rhetorical question. Every day is a mix of desires and distractions, but David spoke of having a focused calmness, about which I’ve only dreamed.
How does that happen? I can’t stand pious platitudes in a sermon thrown out like candies from a parade float. The walls of our home are not decorated with schmaltzy plaques that don’t mesh with reality. How do you keep your eyes on the Lord, and keep your calm doing it?
I took a weekend retreat in August 2020 to reflect on that question, and hopefully be given some practical help from God. Our fourteen-year season of living in Southwest Washington was concluding. A close friend has a condo on the Long Beach Peninsula, and two or three times a year it became a haven for solitude and sometimes for sermon planning.
On this occasion I took no books and I had no plans; I just wanted to be with God for the weekend. Repeatedly I pleaded with him to give me a memorable image or phrase, something to help me to keep my spiritual equilibrium, regardless of what each day would bring. We would soon be transitioning back to California, and a new chapter would soon be underway.
My experience on Saturday evening sums up well the daily struggle for our focus. I left the condo for a sunset stroll along the beach, one of God’s greatest art galleries. The sun was peeking through the blanket of clouds before bedtime. Like soft music piped into the background, the gentle percussion of the waves calmed my spirit. Squadrons of Pelicans were either flying in formation or diving for dinner into the surf. Shorebirds were huddling together for the night, nestling into the tire tracks along the shore.
Tire tracks? Tragically, yes. Many of the Washington State beaches are part of the state “highway” network, and Long Beach is just that – a twenty-mile boulevard with no lanes or dividers. That’s just wrong, like allowing skateboarding inside a cathedral.
For two hours I was of two minds: attempting to practice the presence of God, and avoiding the presence of pickups and SUV’s. My peaceful stroll through the gallery – this is gorgeous – was littered with mental protests: slow down! this doesn’t belong on the beach!
I contemplated turning back toward the condo, feeling discouraged by my inability to maintain an inner calmness. With less than a full day left for my retreat, hopes for a life lesson from the weekend were fading fast.
Look for the beauty. Those four words weren’t audibly spoken, but as I had paused to face west to the waves and to the setting sun, that simple phrase came into my mind. Find what is beautiful in every situation, and put your focus on that.
Every day there will be developments and disappointments, but I have a choice: where will I set my gaze? What will I notice -- the soaring birds or the frustrating bozos? Look for the beauty.
Yes, there are tire tracks in life, the visible evidence that people trespass and have been trespassed upon. That which is sacred is often scarred. But I can look for the image of God in faces and seek the glimmer of hope in hearts. Look for the beauty.
Yes, the throaty exhaust of internet rants and news outlets can be overpowering. But I can learn to tune my ears to a different sound, the meaning behind the moans, seeking the still small voice of God. Look for the beauty.
Hearts are broken, tears are shed, and there are multiple reasons to be pessimistic about our world. But I can keep my eyes on the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth, who loved this world and gave himself for it. And to this day he keeps loving and giving. His mercy is new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness. Look for the beauty.
My phone was with me on my sunset stroll, so I was able to capture the moment. The picture accompanying this post now hangs in my home office, facing me during my morning worship times. Lord, help me today – and everyday – to Look for the beauty. To look for you.
Benediction of Blessing
May you grow in your desire to keep your eyes upon the Lord throughout your day.
May you be given an increasing ability to look for the beauty in every situation, to see his strong hand at work in your world and to see his image in every person.
May you find the comfort and peace of God as you serve as a vessel of his goodness and beauty.