Thoughts from the Back Porch on Beauty


This is a book outline and a work in  progress.    The hope is to describe a way to grow closer to God through establishing a sacred space.  One description of a sacred spot is my back porch.

Everyone needs a back porch.  This is any place of solitude where you can  think God sized thoughts. Mine is actually my back porch. Yours might be anywhere.  The ultimate goal of this exercise is to recognize God wherever we are.  You are invited to  apply these principles and watch your awareness of God grow.  Read and comment but respect the copyright, “Thou shall not steal”. 

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy
    instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor

– Isaiah 61:1-3


It is a beautiful day in East Texas but not necessarily a pretty day.  It is 38 degrees and has rained and blown cold for the last 3 days or so. I have had a wonderful Thanksgiving day off and caught up some things that feed my soul.  Out of this weather that is only “fit for Crows and Methodist preachers”, I have enjoyed a quiet moment with God on the Back porch.  The rain has lent the day to beauty and stillness amid the holiday “Black Friday-ness.

This text is one of my favorites. It is a word from God to a weary people who were trapped in many levels of ugly.  Oppressed by a captor government, losing their identity as a people and as a faith.  They were clinging to this promise as their “oil of Joy” .  It was all they had.  From this captivity the Jews would rise as a way of faith and not just a racial group or a collection of aging traditions.  These ashes and hardship would forge them into the truth of what God had called them to be.  When they looked back at these treacherous times, they would remember only the fulfillment of God’s promise, the beauty of the outcome which was a true and tested faith.

This is a day that could be  defined as ugly due to the weather but the outcome, from the back porch, is a fresh look at the beauty that is all around.  I could focus on the many things that I can’t do today or how cold my toes are but I will choose to hear God’s still small voice in the pats of rain and the forced stillness that breaks all of the noise.

We are cruel to the things we call ugly and subjective in how that is defined.  In the social media today I see two images that reach into me and illuminate these scriptures.

The first was a sunrise in a particularly barren piece of desert.  In the non-descript nothing is a pallet of color that can only be from God’s own hand. In the light of day, this is an ugly path of dirt with no value.  However, in the twilight we see indescribable beauty.

The second photo was a line up of women of varying height who are all of the same numerical weight-each of them particularly beautiful.  Each of them probably knows the many labels of being “too something”, be it short, tall, round, top heavy, bottom heavy, dark or light.  Each had their own light that transcends the fashions of the moment.  Beauty is beauty.

Today on the back porch, I will choose beauty in the cold and blowing of wet leaves.  I will see gladness. Be that in the weather, circumstances, body weight, popularity, or some notion of the moment.  God chose captivity to give His people deliverance, the cross to give resurrection and the Holy Spirit to help us see the truth rather than just the thin veneer of appearances.

Where will your back porch moment come and where will it be.  Carve out your own space and fill it with time.  God will meet you there.


Thoughts from the Back Porch: A work in progress…

The view from the porch

This is a book outline and a work in  progress.    The hope is to describe a way to grow closer to God and, as a result, have a less anxious and more fulfilling life through establishing a sacred space and time to train your body and mind to be aware of God’s presence.  My example of this is my back porch.

Everyone needs a back porch.  This is any place of solitude where you can shake photo_4off the world’s garbage and think God sized thoughts. Mine is actually my back porch, complete with a desk and prayer benches. It is my “Friday office”.  It is where I write and study on my off days. Yours might be anywhere but if you don’t have a sacred space of your own, I hope this blog can be your back porch and provide you a safe starting place to seek God.  The ultimate goal of this exercise is to recognize God wherever we are.

Follow along and comment where you wish and see where this goes.  Better yet, apply the principles and watch your awareness of God grow.

Read it and use it thoughtfully but remember, “Thou shalt not steal”.

Copyright Alan Van Hooser 2015, so there.

Thoughts From the Back Porch: October 1, 2015

  This is the view from my back porch, my sacred spot. This is where I feel closest to God and can separate for a few quiet minutes each day. I Hope you have a sacred spot and find your time with God today. It makes a life of difference. Here’s whats on my heart today………

Just past the full of the “Blue Corn Moon”

Establish your sacred space out of doors whenever possible.  I am blessed to have a large yard that backs up to a wooded property to charge me up with calm. This is the view from the space that is engineered to center me on God  Dawn and dusk provide the best time for me to be immersed in  the presence of God.   Amazing things happen as God creates a new day right before your eyes.
This morning is dark, 60 degrees and silent. No air conditioners or wind interrupt the stillness. The only traffic is from farm workers and night shift-ers. I hear my first flock of geese for the year fly overhead. The only light is the full moon hanging high but still they cannot be seen. In that moment the unseen Creator is as real as those unseen geese

The early risers go about their day

My scripture meditation is Exodus 3-Moses and his angelic messenger found in the burning bush. There is a difference between being still and simply being outside.  Moses, the prince of Egypt and convicted murderer, was now a humble hired son-in-law working at the family sheep business. His wandering was God ordained and went on for many years. However, when the voice of God spoke through this angel, he recognized both the speaker and the holiness of this place.

Moses was on Mr. Horeb, the mountain of God!  A sacred space set aside for the spiritual searcher. How many other hired men might have grumbled about their work all self absorbed and missed this moment with God almighty?   Did it take more than one try to get Moses to notice?   After so long Moses was blinded by self pity and poor self esteem, as suggested in  Verse 11 suggests.   It would be easy to lose sight of God in the midst of it all.
How many of my neighbor’s this morning  rushed out and missed this sacred time and the connection of  the invisible honking geese with the majesty of God?  How many bad days could be avoided by a mere 15 minutes of intentional stillness.   God brought Moses to that moment and changed his world.  Where will God meet you today and change yours?

IMG_5589My sacred spot  is a covered porch but yours could be a hammock, car or a spot near a window. I keep plants to nurture in my sacred spot, you might choose to surround yourself with icons, artwork or a place to write or study instead.  A bench in a public park can be as holy as a pew in a sanctuary.

Actively Seek your space and surround yourself with things that point you to God.  Rise a little early and intentionally give God some time-as little as 15 minutes make a difference.

Search your Bible and other books for those images and activities that lead you to true prayer.  The ultimate life skill in these matters if to craft your sacred spot wherever you are standing.

The point of this is not what you do in your sacred space but what being in that sacred space does to you.

c. Alan Van Hooser 2015

Thoughts From the Back Porch: September 11, 2015

This is the view from the back pback porch in fogorch, my sacred spot.  This is where I feel closest to God and can separate for a few quiet minutes each day. I Hope you have a sacred spot and find your time with God today.  Here’s whats on my heart…………

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,  they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;  planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God.

-Psalm 92:12-13

Today is a mild and foggy day that brings the hope that the Texas furnace of summer wont last forever after all.  Each year I learn something new and this year it is plant propagation. My classroom is an array of pots and benches which hold the survivors of the herbs that I have tended since Easter. I have read books and studied article and videos but today I am thinking  of the many gardeners that have encouraged and taught me. This is my partial list. It is a good exercise for us all to make one of our own

Granny Mitchell could “steal” a pinch off of anything, stick it in a chipped coffee cup and make it grow.  Homer Johnston, Raymond Daigle, Herb and Mary Beth Stafford and St. Cecil Vincent could grow vegetables on a parking lot while I fought my crop of nutgrass in the richest soil.  My thoughts then go to those who could raise people like Jim Turley, Keith Witaker, My Dad and a thousand others… and ultimately to the master Gardener of hearts, Jesus Christ.

I tend to these plants to point me to the tending of disciples, especially myself.   How do I help tend God’s garden in such a way that faith is multiplied and roots deepen?  How about you?  Who is counting on you for tending and who is tending the garden of your heart?

This is not something left to the preacher.  You have someone in your life that needs encouragement, correction or education and, like me,  you need the same tending.  Plants you tend bear fruit for you.  You will receive these same spiritual blessings in the same measure when you give them to others in Jesus’ name!

My prayer is that you have a few minutes on your “porch” to recognize those people that need you and ask God to provide someone to be your heart-gardener.

May God’s grace grow lush and healthy around you, with an abundance to sack  up and share.

Great Site to learn:  Free  Great Video:  Free from Propogation

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