Those that know me well know I love history and am a voracious reader of it, particularly military history in which I have a graduate degree. The problem, however, is that military history is often very bleak, a record of strategy, tactics, and big personalities to be sure, but also a record of human and material destruction. I find if I don’t take a break from it, it begins to have a negative effect on my thought life. Because of this, I’ve decided to stop reading it for the month of August. Instead, I am replacing it with memoirs of people who’s lives have added beauty or value to our world.

These authors, however, are what are usually on the Publisher’s back list. Back-list books have small print runs and you have to look hard to find them because they are probably out of print! Right now, lined up and ready to go are memoirs by Michael Jenkins, Frances Wood, Priscilla Napier, Edward Ardizzone, and V.S. Pritchett. Ever heard of them? Me neither. But once I did a little bit of looking in to the lives of these men and women I discovered they were authors, artists, and practitioners of their craft at the highest levels, but also little known outside their specialty. No problem. They were comfortable knowing what they did added beauty and value to the world around them; they didn’t need to be on the best-seller list. Who are some of your favorite, but lesser known authors? Podcasters or creative artists? Musicians? Etc.? Who do you read or follow that is actually adding beauty or value to the world rather than destroying it?

I’m also making other adjustments for myself, like taking a month-long hiatus off social media. Do you know how much time you spend on your devices or on-line? Do you feel it is healthy for you? The internet is a mess. Yes, it brings a large amount of positive things to our lives (I recently connected with my friend in Helsinki!), but we also know it is a viper’s nest of negativity and disinformation. Does it bring more destruction than beauty? I can’t answer that question so I’m taking a break.

Anyway, as I make adjustments and try to add value and beauty to my everyday life, I want to challenge you to consider these words of the Apostle Paul from Philippians 4: 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things… And the God of peace will be with you.

If someone asked your what things you were thinking about, what things noble or excellent or praiseworthy were on your mind, how would you respond? Perhaps a particular piece of music or a late-summer flower that excels in the Texas heat? A good book from a not-so-famous author? Maybe old photographs of family reunions or past summer vacations? Perhaps a new recipe which brought joy to those who gathered with you around your table? Challenge yourself. Think about what is in your life which brings beauty and value. If you find you’re struggling to do so, join in me in making August a month in which you purposefully set out to do so. Will you share with me what you’ve decided to do? The Apostle Paul reminds us that as we do, the God of peace will be with us. Who wouldn’t want this? I know I sure do.

In the name of the Beautiful Savior, Jesus, Amen!
Pastor Tom