August 19, 2008

Landscaping for God's glory

I gaze on beauty and may be myself deformed. I admire the light and may yet dwell in darkness, but if the light of the countenance of God rests upon me, I will become like Him. The countenance of His visage will be on me, and the great outlines of His attributes will be mine. Oh, wondrous glass, which renders the beholder lovely. Oh, admirable mirror, which reflects not self with its imperfections but gives a perfect image to those that are not comely.

If you do continually draw your impulse, your life, the whole of your being from the Holy Spirit, then you will see God and Jesus face to face.

—Charles H. Spurgeon, Daily Help, (January 17)

As I was organizing the photos from our vacation I came across this photo of an absolutely gorgeous flower planted along the entrance path to Dollywood's Splash Country water park. This flower and the myriad other flowers, bushes, trees, and other vegetation at the Dollywood parks made me consider the fact that we can reflect God's glory by seeking to display beauty.

Christians often speak of the need to honor God, but I don't often hear of ways that this may be accomplished. Of course the easy answer is "by obeying His commands." But if we look at God's character as displayed in nature we will see that God loves diverse beauty.

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
—Joni Mitchell

The environmentalists argue for the preservation of forest trees, prairie fields, and other natural elements. And in reaction many Conservatives (ironically, the original conservationists) say along with Rush Limbaugh, "the best thing about a tree is what you can make with it."

I think the Christian must come to this issue with a completely different point of view. We must approach the issue of environmentalism from the same angle that we approach everything—seeking the greater glory of our Savior. Edith and Francis Schaeffer dealt with this issue when I was in college in various books about art. More recently Nancy Pearcey has argued for Christians to be involved in the arts and for Christians to have an appreciation of the arts in her book, Total Truth. The Schaeffers and Ms. Pearcey have presented the concept that there should not be a secular/sacred divide. So we Christians should view all the world through the sacred lens, recognizing that this is God's world.

Psalm 19:1
The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.

So how does that impact our view of the environment? I don't want to get deeply into this other than to say that we should view nature as indicative of God's beauty. We should not throw away the natural beauty around us by allowing deforestation (even on a small scale) without good reason. Good reason would mean that the trees are being put to a specific use that benefits society. We also should not allow nature to run rampant and turn to brambles and thorns that are left to choke out beauty by killing off all the other vegetation.

Replica of Dolly Parton's childhood home

One of the best examples I have ever seen of what can happen when we seek natural beauty is the small home in the middle of Dollywood that is an actual replica of the home Dolly Parton grew up in. This is a simple and modest home. It contains just a few rooms and makes use of a tin roof. But it is beautiful. The porch across the front of the home is covered with vines that have been pruned and maintained to give a decorative beauty to the front of the home. The flowers and other vegetation around the home, the rocks along the path, and the trees providing shade and insulation against the weather all contribute to a beautiful scene.

This is an aspect of the declaration of the glory of God that I think we Christians have lost sight of. Well ... most of us have lost sight of it. Obviously Dolly Parton has not. May we all be encouraged to display God's glory by making proper use of God's creation.


  1. I live near Dollywood and have season passes. I love to go as often as I can. I always enjoy my time there. Thank you for giving me a feesh perspective and helping me know I am not alone in loving Dollywood.

  2. I wish we had known that you live so close to Dollywood. We would have contacted you and gotten together with you sometime during the week. We were at Dollywood five days last week and at Splash Country two days. We had a blast.

    Obviously, we have season tickets too, although we don't live too close. It's about a five and a half hour drive to Dollywood from Lynchburg (that's Lynchburg, VA - not Lynchburg, TN).


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