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The Beauty of Coming Home


Hello, Beauty Observed family! Eddie here. This is my third and final post during Elizabeth’s absence. She has been visiting Amy, our oldest daughter, in Washington, D.C.  They’ll both be home late tonight and we can’t wait to see them.

The following flows out of my thinking about what it feels like to return home.

It’s certainly true that much ink has been spilled (and by better writers) on the subject of home. Everybody turns one part philosopher and one part poet when talking about what it means to them. Or at least when they think of what home ought to be.

What I am writing about is one very specific thing. Namely, what it feels like to return home after having been away for a time. I want to focus on that nearly universal human emotion that overtakes us when, after a long journey, we round the last corner to come within sight of the familiar landmark which signals our souls to, “Be of good cheer! You are almost home!”

In a way, this might be an answer to a question no one is asking. Aren’t there, after all, many natural reasons why humans feel this way? Home is our primary shelter. Like any other creature God has made, people are naturally designed to seek a safe place, so it makes sense that the idea of home brings comfort. In the same way, the sight of home causes a natural, mental reaction that declares “food!” This mental connection, like the one linking home to shelter, is therefore easily explained by nature.  So there is a naturally strong connection between home and two important human needs – food and shelter.

A third human need connected naturally to the home is the need for relationship.

The fulfillment of any one of these human needs – food, shelter, relationship – may be compromised in an earthly dwelling, but it’s a heavy truth that bad relationships represent the worst kinds of damages suffered there. In this world, there are those who endure awful pain in this regard. Children or spouses who have been abused at home can hardly be blamed for not associating these homes with safe places. But as sad and true as this can be, all know by a kind of intuition that this is not how it is supposed to be. We know that the normal, healthy connection between relationships and where we live should be one of trust and safety. So even though it is often flawed, a natural connection exists in this third area just as it does between home and food, or home and shelter.

If one wishes to do so, he could write off all of these feelings as nothing more than natural, biological, and/or, if he prefers, evolutionary effects. Not many would deny that those things play a part, but I am not convinced that such natural processes are all that is at work here. They do not seem adequate to explain the intensity or complexity of the emotions involved.

No one doubts that natural processes can be very strong. If I step outside later tonight and get surprised by the skunk that lives under our back porch, I will experience an immediate state change. Hopefully, he will remain calm even while I don’t. If I am denied water for two days, my entire being will drive me to obtain water by any means necessary. The effects of nature can be powerful. But the emotional content of these reactions is small by comparison to the emotional content wrapped up in the human idea of home.

I am suggesting that what happens to people when they finally return home after a long journey is something more. It goes deeper than a simple biological, mental trigger which indicates a satisfaction of basic needs. This deep connection we have to our homes goes literally down to the soul. The emotions are pointing to something beyond.

I have been reading some of the “big brains” of the Church like Augustine, Aquinas, and C.S. Lewis. I am no expert on any of them, but I can say all three of them talk about how man comes from God, lives through God, and is destined to return to God. Each would agree that God is the final end of man. The Westminster Catechism affirms that destiny in the answer to question one. Q: What is the chief end of man? A: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

God has placed us for now in this world, but it is not meant to be our final home.

This is why, I believe, there are so many complex emotions that strike us hard when we come home. My mother, bless her heart, has even been know to cry and kiss the ground of her Virginia home after returning from a long trip. People will cry when they see other people, even if they are complete strangers, finally make it back to their own homes! If we see a serviceman or woman step off of a plane and begin running across the tarmac, only to collapse into the arms of their family, we cry. When a repentant thief has finally paid his debt to society and is released to go home, we cry. When a runaway or lost child is finally found and returned to where they belong, we cry.  These tears and the emotions that provoke them are, again, complex. We experience more than simple tears of joy – something more than merely biological reactions.

Our emotions are mixed with something  painful. They are mixed with longing.

My guess is that this longing can be linked directly to something wired into us by God. Something that points us always towards home. Not toward our earthly homes which will someday pass away. Not these earthly homes that may not always provide the best shelter, may not always have enough food, may not always be the safest, most loving places. No. These earthly homes we inhabit and the longing God fuses into our hearts when we think about them are signs. The hard, powerful part of this emotion that’s inextricably entwined with our earthly homes is pointing us to our final, Heavenly Home.

In that place, we will abide under the Shadow of His Wings.

The table He sets before us will be filled and our cups will overflow.

Each child – every single one of us – will have continual access to the sweetest, most loving, most patient, most wise Heavenly Father. We will cry out, “Abba, Father!” and He will be there. 

As Christians, our lives need to be lived out according to God’s plans. We recognize this built-in longing for our Heavenly Home, but there is work to do here. Part of that work is to help others see what their longings are really pointing to. Living out and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the best way for us to help our neighbors to make it home, too. And even though “here” is less than perfect (because it is not meant to be a place we get too attached to) it is not without its beauty. We can thank God’s grace for that.

Life is “all in His time” as the saying goes. But if you are like me, and I have a hunch that you are, your spirit will occasionally sigh with the spirit of the weary traveller and you will whisper, “I just can’t wait to get home.”

July, 2014 Eddie Nicholson


The Beauty Of Music

the-beauty-of-musicA guest post by my husband, Ed Nicholson

Are you a music lover? I have always loved music. In one of my earliest memories, I am sitting in our neighbor’s flower bed singing “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know.” I must have been singing loudly enough for Mrs. Miller to hear me, because she told my mom about it. When I was seven years old, I inherited a clarinet from my brother and I joined my elementary school band. It was a wooden clarinet, not like the cheaper plastic models that are often sold today, and I loved that thing. Even though Benny Goodman’s glory days were drawing to a close back in 1976, I harbored a hope that the instrument would be considered “cool” again someday. That day never came. Chicks just don’t dig clarinet players. Or maybe, I was just a geek. But, at any rate, when I entered middle school, I made the switch from clarinet to guitar and I haven’t looked back.

I have an appreciation for a wide range of musical genres. I like classical, especially pieces from the baroque era, big-band, jazz, country, rock, polka, etc. And it’s not just me – my whole family loves music! I’ll bet yours does, too. It’s common to all cultures. Isn’t it interesting how music seems to permeate the planet?

Our oldest daughter played violin for a while and hopes to get back to it when her life offers her some more leisure time. Our youngest girl can memorize the lyrics to any song after a single hearing. At least it seems she can. She also plays the guitar. Our son plays the piano and is a huge, and I mean huge, movie soundtrack fan. I can always tell when he has hijacked my Pandora account because John Williams, Danny Elfman, and Hans Zimmer stations will pop up in my music feed.

Even Elizabeth, although she is the family member with the least musical talent (love you, hon) is still deeply musical. Whenever we are in public, say at a nice restaurant, and there is music playing, her shoulders will begin moving in a little pattern. As she looks over the menu, her left shoulder will go down as her right goes up. Then, the right one dips and the left one rises. Soon, they are see-sawing back and forth to the beat, and her head begins to bobble about.

“Elizabeth, dear” I’ll say, we are in public!

That only stops the dancing for a few seconds. Especially if they are playing pop tunes from the eighties. I guess you can’t put a tight enough lid on that kind of joy. It will find a way out.


And that’s the point. Music brings joy.

Especially music offered to God in praise. 

We have been able to attend a couple of old-fashioned “hymn sings” over the last year at a small country church near our home. There is a music leader, a pianist, and a bunch of folks shouting out what number they’d like to sing next from the hymnal. If you’ve never been to one of these hymn sings and you get the opportunity to go, you should. It’s a beautiful, joyful time of worship.

I also love to see my family worship God during our more modern-styled church services. My son, a typical teenager not quite yet at ease in his own skin, will often launch into a sort of “air-drumming for Jesus”  when the music starts. I have tried to gently caution him on not drawing too much attention to himself, but it’s that hard-to-contain joy at work again. He can hardly help it. As for Elizabeth – why she puts on mascara before church, I’ll never know. She regularly sheds tears of joy during worship and ends up looking like a raccoon. Sweet girl. Actually, I’m not much better. I don’t wear mascara, but I do well up with tears at times. Easter worship had me bawling. I was overflowing with joy. Literally.

Some thinkers have wondered why God demands praise. I have read that C.S. Lewis, before his conversion, used to wonder about that. As if God was insecure and needed to be constantly affirmed by His creation. I think Lewis later realized that God demands praise because He is the Summum Bonum – the Highest Good. The Creator, as the Highest Good, must call his creation to worship Him. It’s not much different than a parent telling his child to follow after, to love, to value, to worship that which is true and noble and just and holy. It’s just that in this case, those terms all describe God Himself. What else could He tell us to worship but Himself? It isn’t as if love or loyalty is hiding out in space behind Jupiter. No. All of the truly good things that exist have their existence in God Himself. He, as the Highest Good, has the right to lovingly direct our thoughts back toward Himself. It’s simply proper–and it’s powerful. When you combine the power of this proper worship of man for the Highest Good with the power of music, things can get seriously intense.


I have no doubt that this intense worship blesses the Lord. Surely, He is blessed with our praises. But God is a sufficient being. He does not need our praises to fill up some lack in Himself. God could exist just as blissfully as He has from eternity past without the feeble praises of lowly humans like me. After all, each of us is a broken instrument, like this old violin. But maybe He knows what those offerings of praise will do to us when we lift them up.  I’m not suggesting that we praise God because of what we will get out of it, but there is an undeniable benefit to us when we worship Him. There is just something about worship that aligns us with what is holy, and we need that alignment again and again.


Look at these scripture references to songs of praise, and while you do, consider what I said about His sufficiency. God may love these songs, but He does not need them. I am suggesting that we love these songs and we need them.

Psalm 33:3 Sing to him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise.

Psalm 40:3 And he has put a new song in my mouth, even praise to our God: many …

Psalm 96:1 O sing to the LORD a new song: sing to the LORD, all the earth.

Psalm 98:1 O sing to the LORD a new song; for he has done marvelous things: …

Psalm 144:9 I will sing a new song to you, O God: on a psaltery and an instrument …

Psalm 149:1 Praise you the LORD. Sing to the LORD a new song, and his praise …

Isaiah 42:10 Sing to the LORD a new song, and his praise from the end of the earth, …

Revelation 5:9 And they sung a new song, saying, You are worthy to take the book, …

God chose to make us in such a way that we learn through our senses, reasoning, and even emotions. Music, especially singing, involves all of these, and worshipping through music strikes a deep place in the human heart. God gives us a new song to sing back to Him so that we can understand our proper place and His ultimate goodness. Worship allows us to partake in that overflowing joy that can’t, and shouldn’t, be contained.

Can God be whole without that receiving that praise?

Can you be whole without offering it?

5/21/2014 Eddie Nicholson


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The Bloodmobile

The Bloodmobile - Eddie Nicholson - Beauty Observed

Click the media player below to hear Ed read his story.


I haven’t always had the best of success with medical procedures. There was the time I went in for a root canal. Memorable. After the dentist had ruined his special drill bit – he seemed really proud of that particular bit – he told me that my tooth was unusually hard and I was going to need to go to an endodontist to finish the job.

“What happens if I don’t go to a end-ditto-donatist?” I asked.

“We’ll,” he said, looking wistfully at his mangled bit, “then you’ll have a sort of ticking time bomb in that tooth that could explode into horrible pain at any moment.”

I was already in horrible pain, so I figured I’d leave that sleeping dog lie. That was ten years ago. Maybe my luck isn’t so bad after all.

Except the time I gave blood at the Bloodmobile.

I used to attend a weekly prayer breakfast hosted by a local chapter of the Christian Businessmen’s Committee. Already, the story seems odd to my memory since I am neither a businessman nor the type of guy that gets up for an early breakfast. The only prayer I usually offer up before noon is, “Even so Jesus, come quickly.” The rapture would make it less likely that I’d need to get up and start any given day. Nevertheless, there I was at The Mill Restaurant with a bunch of chipper morning people to eat pancakes and talk about God. I felt grown up and Christian-y, albeit groggy.

The Bloodmobile Beauty Observed

After breakfast and prayers for this and that, I left the meeting and walked out into the beautiful sunshine of an Ohio fall day. And there it was. The Bloodmobile. Was it a premonition or just a random synapse firing that made me think of the old commercials for the Roach Motel? “Blood donors go in, but they don’t come out.” Haha. Funny.

I knew exactly what a Christian-y grown up does on a day like this when presented with an opportunity to serve humanity. He raps on the door and says, “Hey! Let me in! I want to save a life by donating some blood! Oh, lucky day!” It seemed like such a good idea.

The driver, a large, considerably less excited man than I, opened the door and waved me in.  Inside, besides him and me, there were a couple of nurses and a few patients at various stages of the bloodletting process. They all seemed to be doing fine. I was ushered down the narrow aisle to a cramped station at the back of the bus where they test a tiny bit of your blood for iron before they hook you up to the five gallon bag they use to collect your fluids. They pricked my finger and put a drop of blood into a solution. I don’t remember if the droplet sank or floated, but whatever it did, it showed the nurse that my blood was good to go. Yep. We got a live one here, girls. Hook him up!

The Desperate Plea - Beauty Observed

Next thing I knew, I was reclining comfortably in one of the gurneys that were mounted to the inside walls of the bus. I was feeling fine at this point, but the next several steps lead me down a dark path of horror to what I now can only call, “The Desperate Plea.”

Step One: When the nurse prepped my arm and inserted the needle, it hurt. I mean it REALLY hurt! I had given blood before, but I never experienced anything like this awful burning sensation. Something was wrong with the way that needle went in and my arm was immediately on fire. Now, when a pretty nurse asks a man if everything is ok – especially if there are three or four other people on the bus that seem to be having no trouble at all – then the man replies, “Yes. I’m fine” as he turns to wipe away a tear. I was not fine. After two or three minutes, I could bear it no more, so I flagged down the nurse and said I thought the needle might not be in properly. She inspected it by wiggling it around and told me that sometimes it hurts for a minute or two, but that the pain usually goes away. The pain was making the minutes seem like hours, but I took her word for it and said, “Oh, OK. I’ll just wait it out then.” Ow.

Step Two: For reasons I can’t explain, I got to thinking about the whole process of giving blood. I thought about the way some people get freaked out by it. I thought to myself that I am not bothered by it and that I could probably even stare right at the needle and watch the blood going out of my body through the little tube and into the bag. So… still in pain from the awkward needle, I decided to look right at my arm where the gig was going down. Big mistake. You see, I have a bit of an anxiety disorder that sometimes makes me feel panicky. I have advice for you if you have any sort of anxiety disorder. Do NOT, under any circumstances, attempt to test your bravery by staring directly at the large knitting needle sticking out of your body while in a bus with strangers! I immediately felt a wave of panic flow over me. My heart began racing and I got sweaty. And even though I was reclining, I felt like I might pass out. I quickly looked out the bus window and tried in vain to go to some happy place in my mind.

Step Three: Once the bag of blood was shiny tight with pressure (my heart really was pounding) the nurse came back and removed the needle. What sweet relief! I must have looked kind of pale though, because she asked me again if I was doing alright. “Yes. I’m fine” I lied again. I sat up on the edge of the gurney and tried to collect myself a bit and I did begin to calm down. Whew. I made it. They ushered me to the front of the bus near the driver who was reading a newspaper. There was a bench up there and they had me sit down to eat some cookies and have a bit of orange juice. I drank the juice and ate a couple of cookies, but then I started to feel faint again, and this time, I knew I was about to pass out. I did the worst thing I could have done – I stood up. I called out to the nurse and said, “I don’t feel very…”

Gravity Was Winning - Beauty Observed

The next thing I knew, I was being held up in the narrow aisle way of the bus by the nurse. She was strong, but I am fat. Gravity was winning. We were doing a sort of dance with me reeling to and fro and her calling for the bus driver to help her. Now, the driver and the nurse were wrestling with me. I was completely out of my mind because I was upright, half passed out, with a loss of blood from the donation. My mind went into some crazy dark place and I was suddenly convinced that these people were trying to kill me. I don’t mean that figuratively. I actually believed that these strange people were going to kill me, so I cried out at the top of my lungs,


I will never forget the look on the nurse’s face at that moment. It was a mix of compassion and amusement. She said, “Oh, sweetie! It’s OK” as they finally got me back down onto the gurney. The blood returned to my brain and I slowly came back into my right mind. They put a wet washcloth on my forehead and left me to recover my health and my pride. My health returned 100% and my pride came back to about 2%. How embarrassing!

I said to the nurse, “I guess it’s not very good for business if people outside the bus hear people inside screaming out to their God for help.” She laughed and assured me that she’d seen many people pass out before. She didn’t say that people had called out to Jesus before, but maybe that was implied.

All of this reminds of the story when Jesus fell asleep in the boat. You know that one, right? It’s in Matthew, Mark and Luke. Luke 8:22-25 records it like this:

One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”

Have you ever wondered why Jesus asked them, “Where is your faith”? I mean, seriously, these guys knew what a storm on that lake could do to a boat like theirs. They were certainly in more real danger than I was when I was just giving blood. Or were they? They were with Jesus. The disciples were not going to perish at that time simply because it was not time for Jesus to perish. I believe Jesus was able to be at peace and sleep because He knew that God was in charge of the time of His death. No one has more trust in God’s providence than Jesus, God’s Son.

So here we all are a couple of thousand years later, in a boat, so to speak, with Jesus. If we are walking with God and trying to do His will, we can have the same sort of trust that Christ had which allowed Him to rest. If we are with Jesus, then WE WILL NOT PERSIH until it is God’s appointed time for us to do so. We can focus on the work He has for us. We can even find rest and peace enough to catch a nap during a storm.

This is easier said than done, but we can get better at it. One way to strengthen our trust in God is to meditate on that mental image of Christ asleep in the boat. Take a moment to think of it. See Him there resting as the boat rocked on the waves. We can do it, too.

God is in control. 

He always has been. 

He always will be.


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