Awe & wonder: Part 1

Routines sometimes need to be interrupted. Except for morning coffee, of course.

One conscious choice I’ve made recently is to reduce and redirect my media consumption — particularly avoiding those sources designed to create more outrage than information.

Staying abreast of what’s happening in the world and finding fresh and needed insights, I’ve confirmed, can be done in less time than the continuous drip from those seeking our ongoing attention.

One practice now is for the television and the Internet to give way to the record player where well-worn vinyl albums soothe my mind and soul.

Other choices include selected readings to sharpen the imagination while providing an escape from the selfishness and bitterness that has infected much of American society including (if not particularly) the people and places where faith is most vocally claimed.

Reading the Gospels with fresh eyes is included in that practice.

This overall approach is not a matter of putting my head in the sand. Rather it’s putting my mind in places that ensure my heart will find refuse from untruth, abuse and other oft-dispensed ugliness.

Nature, with its awe and wonder, has long been a favored escape — not from reality but actually into reality.

A phrase the late theologian William L. Hendricks spoke decades ago often resurfaces in my mind. He talked about holding on to truth and goodness — even when those things seem expendable to others.

But the three words I remember precisely came when he advised his listeners on where to turn in times of difficulty, division and disappointment.

“Lean into beauty,” he said.

Indeed, beholders find beauty and creativity in different places — including wide-ranging artistic expressions like poetry, pottery, paintings and performances.

Or from scratchy records that transplant the mind to another time, if not transform it.

Perhaps it is found in paying closer attention to the bright green leaves and colorful flowers bursting forth.

Or by staring at water flowing in continuous form over well-worn boulders.

Maybe it calls for scheduling one’s time to watch the same sun rise and set each day with its distinctive looks.

Much of the divisiveness we experience today is over different views of truth — or, sadly, complete disregard for it. Fear seems to rule those for whom the only future they can imagine must resemble the familiar past.

Being constantly engaged in such conflict creates disappointment and drains hopefulness.

Leaning into beauty offers a fresh perspective apart from the anger, ignorance and greed that encircles much of public life — threatening to squeeze out the peace that passes understanding.

Strategically withdrawing from such soul-draining chaos to sources of beauty can “fill [our] minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and honorable.” (Philippians 4:8 TLB)

Immersing ourselves in the creative arts and the rawest forms of creation can be hopeful and healing. Our lives are enhanced by finding the right balance of being engaged and disengaged.

It is a matter of daily discipline — as in discipleship for those who believe following Jesus is about attitudes and actions more than eternal escapism or an ideological label.

Look for beauty, wherever you can find it, and lean into it. Perhaps fall all the way in.

John D. Pierce is director of the Jesus Worldview Initiative (, part of Belmont University’s Rev. Charlie Curb Center for Faith Leadership.