I spent last night at Weber’s Inn of Ann Arbor.  No – Monica did not ask for a “little space” or a “little time for me to be away.”  Retirement is going very well.  We (at least, I – I probably should not be proclaiming an assumption here … though we often complete each other’s sentences at home, I try to limit how often I do it in public) are enjoying our extra time together.  We are finding a pleasant balance of time together and apart.  We even enjoy going grocery shopping together – though we do not do it every time.  In other words, my view of retirement at this time is “beautiful”.

I am at Weber’s for my second stop in “Conference Season”.  Last week we were with other retirees at the Emeriti Conference.  Yesterday and today is the Circuit Visitors’ Conference (Monica, wisely I believe, chose not to accompany me).  On the Tuesday in-between I met with the pastors of our Circuit #19 for the first of this season’s monthly “Winkels”.  While I am seeing a few of the Emeriti again this week in Ann Arbor, no-one in the Tuesday gang is a “repeater”.  And again, I would classify seeing these brothers as “A Beautiful View”.

And then there is the view from my room at Weber’s.  Allow me to begin by stating that the view of my room as I first entered was beautiful.  I love the room.  I recommend the room and its amenities to you all.  And then there is the view from my room’s window.  The first, immediate view is of numerous rooftop AC units.  To the left is the overhead lighting for the entrance and the dome over the pool.  Then comes the parking lot, a surface street, and I-94 … all primarily hidden by tall and bushy evergreens.  In spite of the AC rooftops, it is a beautiful view.

I left my room around 5:45 for the evening dinner – I would call it a banquet, but there was no program, entertainment, or speaker (yes!).  Instead, there was one great conversation after another.  First I met a couple of people in the beverage line.   Then came a great 15-minute conversation with Evan – we had never spoken together before for more than 45 seconds.  On my way to sit down for dinner I spoke with “old friend” Bill.  His table was filled, so I sat down next to my even older friend Gerhard.  President Davis’s secretary Laurie sat down to my right (did I mention that President DD was sitting next to me all day at the conference).  If I dropped the names of the other 6 at our table, they would mean even less to you than those names above … some old friends, some brand new, and some in-between.  Then, just prior to returning to my room at 9:00, I plopped myself down between two guys I had never met (and then a fourth joined us).  So many great conversations … all contributing to my beautiful view of the day.  However, the most beautiful view of the day came in the day-closing phone conversation with my queen of Chesterfield.

Have you ever heard the term “beauty lies in the eye of the beholder”?  I think this line lies in parallel to the old question, “Is the cup half full or half empty?”  It would be very easy to focus upon the rooftop AC’s and never see anything beyond (in fact, many is the time when I have done – and still do – so).  The same comes with moaning about traveling here alone or being stuck with so many people I have never met before.  When I behave that way all I really am doing is depriving myself of one beautiful view after another!

Years ago, Ray Stevens wrote a song entitled “Everything is Beautiful”.  It starts with “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.  Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight.  Jesus loves the little children of the world.”  These words are pure truth.  However, the first line of the chorus, “Everything is beautiful in its own way” needs to be understood with a few grains of salt.

Sin is never beautiful in God’s eye, and so it should not be in our eyes … in other words, sin – that is, thoughts, words and deeds that are contrary to God’s created design – can only be beautiful in perverted and corrupt ways that lead to death.  Yet, at the same time, through God at work through the Gospel of Jesus Christ … that is, his sinless life, innocent death, victorious resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of the Father … all of creation is redeemed and made new.  “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold the new has come.  All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5.17-19)

This starts with us looking for the beauty to be found in each story.  Generally, it includes a frank – and sometimes difficult – discussion of sin (seeing what is at work destroying the beauty).  And concludes with the glorious, beautiful Gospel of reconciliation.  Or, to rephrase the words of Ray Stevens (no, everything is NOT beautiful in ITS own way), “God is working in every way toward making everything beautiful in HIS (divine) way.  Which was, by God’s grace in Christ Jesus, My Beautiful View yesterday … and will also be yours today and always as you live reconciled to God through Christ Jesus.

My Beautiful View