Ponderings on the God Topic: Beauty

As I was just going through my mail, I came to a magazine cover that had a drop dead gorgeous woman perfectly tanned with long flowing hair and voluptuous breasts wearing a skimpy bikini next to the caption, “How She Stays This Hot at 41.” Honestly, my first thought was, “I am 41, and I definitely do NOT look like that.” As a matter of fact, I am sitting here wearing my too short sweat pants, with a gray tee shirt, no make-up, and my hair in a pony tail. Of course, I am not showered. Why shower when I am going to work and then go workout? Oh, yea, I forgot to mention the extra pounds, age spots on my hands and wrinkles on face. I only have a couple of gray hairs so far, but they are comin’.

These images of how to compare our beauty to others are plastered everywhere in our society. I myself, do it all the time, and others do it to me all the time.  If I do my hair and makeup, other women will say rather condescendingly, “Why do you look so nice?”  Or if I am dressed for a meeting with a client, guys will make comments to me that are just so wrong on so many levels.  However, if I go to the bank with three kids hanging on my sweaty, ponytailed self, they just look at me like, “Oh, my  GAWD. How did YOU make money to deposit??”

And we don’t need society to do it to us. We do it ourselves. A few weeks ago, I came home from soccer and announced to my husband, “Every single mom at soccer practice has an 18 inch waist except for me.” Now, my husband has been married to me for 19 years and with me for 22 years; so, he is not a novice man. A newbie would say, “Well, honey, you could try using that gym membership and stop eating sweets.” My husband is seasoned and has been around the block a time or two, though, and replied that I was beautiful and he loves me just the way I am. Then, he smiled to himself knowing he would not be sleeping on the couch that night.

A similar situation happened a few weekends ago. I had ridden my bike with my husband from the University of Washington to Bellingham, WA. It was 110 miles, 90+degrees and very hilly. However, the next morning I was messing around on Facebook, and saw that my husband had posted a picture of us. I was just devastated. I looked at the picture and thought I looked fat and ugly. I could not believe that after having accomplished a very strenuous athletic event, all I felt was fat and unattractive.  Now that I am in my 40s, I have come to understand beauty very differently than our culture depicts it, however, I was still sucked into that cultural trap of my identity and beauty being defined by how much I weighed, my hair, my makeup and my clothes.

This got me to thinking about how do we really want to define our beauty as Christians-men and women- and what do we want to teach our kids.

It reminded me of a friend I was visiting with at church on Sunday. All day long after talking with this person, I had this feeling as if I had just experienced a life changing, defining moment in my life. I could not put my finger on why, though. We only talked briefly-maybe 3 minutes or so. We did not talk about anything earth shattering-riding our bikes, a future business trip. There were tons of people going in and out of the door as we were visiting, and he was holding my 10 year old daughter. There were no candles, no worship songs, no Kleenex, yet, that moment radically impacted me. Throughout the day, I kept thinking about it and wondering why it was so powerful for me. Later that night, I had a vision in my mind, and I realized what had happened.

The picture I saw was of my friend talking with me, but tangibly within him, I could physically see Jesus. I realized at that moment, I was so moved by the brief encounter because I had talked directly to God that day. My friend loves and adores Jesus and has invited Jesus to take over his heart and life.  When I visited with him, my spirit saw the beauty of my loving, heavenly Father in him, and it moved my spirit to experience glory.

I always tell my kids and nieces and nephews that our true beauty happens when we are looking at Christ and radiating His love to others.  Moses gives us a great example of that after he went up on the mountain and visited with God. He came down and was so radiant with the beauty of God’s glory that He had to put a covering over his face before others looked at him.

I always desire to be like that. Sometimes I win. Sometimes I fail. One time when I was in line at Starbucks, I started visiting with this woman behind me. Shocking.  I know. My husband always tells me I could find out someone’s social security within two minutes of meeting her. What can I say? I just genuinely love people so much. I want to know every single detail about every single person I meet. I love how God made each of us, and I want to experience Him in others by finding out who they are. So, anyway, after a few minutes the lady looked at me and said, “There is just something really different about you. I can see it on your face.” I told her that it was Jesus in me she was seeing. The beauty of Christ was calling out to this lady and drawing her into relationship with Jesus-a magnetic pull she could not understand.

However, I have also had times where I did not reflect Christ at all. I showed my sinful, human nature. I recently had a bad encounter with a lady at my son’s school. I called my husband, said a few choice vocabulary words, and said, “I hope SHE has a bad day. I hope her kids have a bad day. I hope her grandkids have a bad day.” My husband lovingly told me to stop and not go down the bitterness road. That was just flat out ugliness in me. I was not beautiful at that moment, and did not draw anyone into His deep, merciful compassionate embrace.

This tension between physical beauty and Christ’s beauty has been going on probably since the beginning of time. Now, one thing I would like to clarify is that inner beauty and physical beauty are independent of each other. If you love Jesus and are compassionate and beautiful, that does not mean you are cursed to wear a bag over your head the rest of your life. I have known some truly gorgeous people in my life who were both beautiful on the inside and the outside. I also have known some physically beautiful people who were very ugly on the inside, and I have known not so attractive looking people who make my heart soar with love, joy and happiness because of their internal beauty.

There is one woman in the Bible who experienced “the curse” of physical beauty. In the Book of Esther Queen Vashti was ordered by her husband to wear her royal crown and walk before the men in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles because she was lovely to look at. When she refused to be paraded in front of the drunk, ogling guys, she was stripped of her thrown.

I am sure that there are those who would feel that was the correct thing. Queen Vashti should have submitted to her husband. Obviously, I have a different perspective. The Bible teaches that the husband is to love the wife as Christ loved the church. Would Christ put any woman in a situation where she was being defiled physically and emotionally? Christ showed nothing but the utmost care, love, respect and tenderness towards women. He would have guarded and protected and kept Queen Vashti safe from the inebriated men.

Now I don’t know about you, but if I was Queen Vashti, I would not have been happy about that situation at all. Her husband and all his buddies are drunk and want to ooh and ahh over her. What woman wants to go in a room with a bunch of drunk men and have them cat call at her? I remember when I was in my early 20s I worked at Sizzler as a waitress. One evening a group of guys came in who were drunk and kept saying, “Ooooh, Sizzlin’ Shannon, will you dance on the table for us?” I did not feel beautiful or treasured or adored. I felt defiled and gross as if I wanted to go take a shower.

After Queen Vashti refused to be a walking aphrodisiac for all these men, she lost her thrown and the king decided to find a new woman who was also beautiful. I guess it would be kind of odd if a man advertised for a wife saying, “The uglier the better.” BUT again, the woman’s heart was not a consideration in the beginning. He wanted the beautiful women in the kingdom to come and be given beauty treatments for a year. They then would be called to come in and spend the night with the king. Again, would Jesus do that to a woman? “Hey, I have already had unprotected sex with 100 other women this year. Now, it’s your turn. Show me what you got, and I will rate and compare you to all those other women.” I just know if I lived in the time of Christ, there is no way he would have condoned that. He would have been the perfect gentleman treating me with respect, honor and dignity as a princess of the King.

However, that is not what Esther experienced. She went through all the beauty treatments and did end up having her night with the King. Now, I don’t know why he chose her in earthly terms. Was she just really beautiful on the outside far beyond all the others? Or did she maybe show the king her heart?  Both of her parents had died, and she was under the care of her uncle. Did she let the King see those parts of her that were broken and hurting and weak? Did he see that in her and have compassionate love for her? Or did she just really satisfy his manly carnal desires? We don’t know.

BUT, we do know that the Lord decided to use it for HIS glory. There was a man, Haman, who was very close to the king. He had a huge ego and wanted everyone to fall down and worship him. I am not exactly sure why, but for some reason, the king was blind to this. I don’t understand how he could not have seen Haman’s true colors when they worked so closely together every day, but the king didn’t. Well, Haman got mad because Esther’s Uncle Mordecai refused to bow down to him and worship him. SO Haman decided to have the king sign a decree saying to kill ALL the Jews in the Kingdom. OK. That sounds fair. You don’t feed my ego, and I will kill every person who has any relation to you at all in this entire kingdom.

At this moment, Mordecai asked Esther for help. Esther was scared because the rules stated that she could be killed if she went into the king’s presence without him inviting her. However, Mordecai replied, “Who knows that God has not brought you to this place for a time such as this?”

Did God use Esther’s physical beauty to save an entire nation? Did He make her appealing to the king with her looks; so, that she could impact the world for good? We don’t know if the king chose her for her looks or for her personality. However, we do know that she was beautiful to begin with or she would not have been in the pool of choices. We also know that he respected her because he listened to her and let her come into his presence without being invited.

Perhaps it was both. Maybe God used her physical beauty to attract the king’s human desires. Maybe the king then saw her true heart and loved her for her beauty on the inside.

Beauty does not have to be a good or an evil.  NO matter what each of us looks like, what matters is that we are using it for the Lord as Esther did to love and serve an entire nation.

 For me, beauty has always been an elusive fantasy. When I was young, I was very large. My family used to call my sister Tink because she was tiny and me Tank because I was fat. No matter how much I have weighed in my life from 120-200 lbs, I have never had one single day where I felt “skinny”. BUT I have felt beautiful on many occasions. I feel incredibly beautiful when someone looks at me and smiles with joy in their eyes. That tells me that my presence on some level has brought the love and joy of Christ into their world for a moment.  THAT makes me feel beautiful.

I also feel beautiful when I hold my tongue. Sometimes a blessing; sometimes a curse; I am very quick witted. My husband always laughs and says, “You really crack yourself up, don’t you?” As I am laughing so hard that I am crying, I reply, “Yes. Yes. As a matter of fact I really do crack myself up.” BUT there are times when my quick wit and sarcasm can be cutting to those around me. When I have the urge to make one of my sharp comebacks, but I hold my tongue, I seriously feel beautiful. I feel tender, gentle and feminine.

Our beauty can be physical and that is fine. The Bible talks about our bodies being a temple for the Lord. We can use our bodies to glorify the Lord, and I believe that can be by looking nice. However, our most important beauty needs to be the reflection of Christ in us as well as radiating off us when we are looking to Him and worshipping Him. In 1 Peter 3:3-4 it says, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

And that is what I saw in my friend that moved me so profoundly from such a hectic, chaotic brief conversation. I saw true beauty in him because of him inviting the God of the Universe and creator of all that is beautiful to come and live inside of him. When we encounter Jesus and His beauty in another human being, it changes us forever. When I experience Christ that way in another believer, it makes me desire true beauty from our Heavenly Father. Sure, I still want to look nice and stay fit, but it is nothing compared to the desire for beauty on the inside from Christ living in me.

 Also, it is not for me to judge if someone is beautiful on the inside. Maybe this incredibly sexy woman on the cover deeply loves Jesus. I don’t know. I can’t see inside her heart. I just can see her perfectly shaped purple bikini self.

Working From Home While Being a Mom at the Same Time: Sea Horses

Last night Brogan told me that boys were more special then girls. So, this morning, I said, “Brogan, did you know that God made both girls and boys special?” He said something along the lines that boys were more special than girls. So, I said, “Well, can a boy have a baby?” He said, “Yea. If you are a sea horse.” Dang. Not bad comeback for a 6 year old.

Working From Home While Being a Mom at the Same Time-The Camels

This morning as I was laying in bed, Pat reminded me that he was going to a concert tonight. I asked him what group it was, and he said it was a traveling gypsie kind of group. He said that it had such a unique sound you could almost feel the camels walking through the desert as you listened.

He then put on the music while Kailiegh and I were laying in bed together. I did not think she was listening or even awake, when she looked at me and said, “Oh, yea. I can feel the camels walking now.” I was laughing so hard I was crying, and she just kept going and going. It was so funny. This is more just a reminder story for me of a fun time with my girl.

Also, a couple of days ago, Kaileigh and I were laying in bed, and I said, “What do you think, red?” She looked at me without missing a beat and said, “I don’t know. What do you think brown?” She is SO funny!

Ponderings on the God Topic-Why We Pray For Others

Why Pray for Others

The other night I was visiting with a friend of mine who has gone through quite a bit of pain in her life. So much so, that she felt she would rather not be alive. After many months of counseling and medicine, she was feeling better, but was still unable to pray. She felt that the Lord would never answer her prayers because she was not worthy, and He had no reason to help her.

Honestly, my first reaction was anger. I just thought I was going to strangle her if I heard one more “poor me” statement out of her. Yes. I know. Loving. I began to lose my temper until my tender husband jumped in and reminded me to remain kind and patient.

At that moment, I remembered a concept that had been kicking around in my brain for a while, and that was the notion of “Why Do We Pray for Others?”  I felt like there was no point in us praying for her because she truly believed that God would not move.  I also began to question why we should even bother to pray because, if God already knows what is going to happen in someone’s life because He is all knowing and all powerful, then really-why bother?

So, I started to research in the Bible what God has to say about it. The first thing that struck me was that God tells us to pray for others. . In  James 5:16  it says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

He specifically tells us to pray for others so that they may be healed. But what is He going to heal in us?

When I searched the word “heal” in the Bible, 190 verses came up with variants of the word such as healing, health, healed. These healings ranged from the physical to the spiritual to the emotional. Of those 190, 118 were referenced in the New Testament. Looking at just the first  four books of the New Testatement: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, I found four different scenarios where Jesus healed people.

The first category included general statements of healing.  This would include statements like, “Jesus healed many.” This type of scene did not involve a particular individual requesting a healing from Jesus. He just did it. I don’t know why he just did it in these situations, but he did. There were six references of this kind.  One of the more general ones is Matthew 4:23-24, “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.”

The second category showed scenes where Jesus approached someone on his own. There were three of those cited, and in each one,  Jesus initiated contact with the person to be healed.  It is interesting to me that there are only three incidents recorded of this nature. However, would it not have been amazing to be one of the ones that Jesus saw and went to on his own? The love that Jesus had on each of these people to reach out and heal them on his own speaks far beyond a physical healing. It is also an emotional healing. For how many years had these individuals been regarded as outcasts? For how many years had no one called their names?

There was a movie about blind children in India that I saw a few years ago. It portrayed that in that culture, the people feel that it is somehow that person’s fault he or she is blind. The video showed modern India with blind children walking through the streets only to be called all kinds of vicious names by adults. My heart broke as I watched the blind children trying to weave their way through crowds of people mocking them, cursing them, and pushing them.. The very ones who needed love and attention were the ones to be abused.  Maybe Jesus saw these three individuals and said, “No more! Today, you are mine, and all of mankind for all of history will know that I saw you and chose you and know you by name.” In Luke 13:10  Jesus called over a woman bent over for 18 years and healed her.

The third situation involved people who cried out to Jesus on their own to heal them. There were nine of these stories. Some of the same stories were repeated in one or more of the gospels.

When I was in my early 30s, I began to seek treatment for depression which I knew almost nothing about at the time. As I was driving to my appointments, I remember calling my pastor and telling him not to tell anyone. I did not want anyone to know that I felt ashamed to suffer from depression. I wanted to be proud and “together”.

I also would listen to a song that said, “If I’m healed by just one touch of your garmet,  Lord, then how much more of your love is for me than I am tasting Lord?” I would listen to that song driving to my counseling appointments, and just weep. I would beg Jesus to just let me have the slightest touch of His robe because I knew he could heal me.

It is interesting to ask ourselves, “Would we publicly declare to everyone our sickness, disease, or sin; so that Jesus could heal us?” The blind men screamed out to Jesus-PLEASE HEAL US. They were ostrasized and treated lower than animals; yet they shouted at the top of their lungs for Jesus to heal them. I begged my pastor not to tell anyone; so, I would not have to face shame. Would I now be willing to shout out over a loudspeaker at the  mall, “Hey, everyone, I suffer from horrible depression when I am not on my medicine! I need Jesus to heal me?” I don’t know. BUT I do know that there were at least nine people in the Bible who were willing to do that. My favorite one is the woman being healed from bleeding found in Matthew 9, Mark 5 and Luke 8.

The final healing scenario involved individuals bringing others to Jesus and asking him to heal. Most of these stories were very intimate. A father’s son died. A widow’s son died. A woman’s daughter was sick.

In each one of these scenes, an individual had a pain or issue that needed to be healed. Jesus did not call out to them on his own, nor did they call out for Jesus to heal them. Rather, a friend or family member went to Jesus for that person and brought the need to the attention of the Lord.  Doesn’t it seem so much easier to hit your knees in prayer for another rather than bringing  attention to our healing needs? If my child was sick, I would do just about anything to get Jesus’ attention to ask Him to heal her. However, when I am sick or in need of healing, my gut reaction is to hide it.

Why would Jesus just not have healed these people all on his own? Did he truly need someone else to point out the pain and suffering to him?

I believe Jesus let friends and family bring others to him for healing in order to demonstrate the main reason Jesus came to earth-LOVE. He came here to show the Father’s love to us, and commanded us to love one another. When we cry out to Jesus for another person, we are shouting out love for that person to the Lord. When we pray for another, we are witnessing to the power of the Kingdom of God that His Love saves, heals and moves people. And that love is manifested in us to others with each breath we take. The deeper the love we feel for someone the deeper the cry of our hearts to the Lord for that person’s healing.

When we see on the news that someone died, we think, :Oh that is sad.” And then go on with cooking dinner. However, when we love someone, our prayers can often come out as just a deep groan of anguish to the Lord.

After I miscarried my son’s twin, I prayed to the point of tears all the time that the Lord would save my son. There was a very high probability that I would miscarry my son as well due to the nature of losing the twin. I cried out to God for a miracle on his little life not out of love for God or love for myself or even love for my husband. Rather, I cried out to God for this baby for the love of that baby. I loved that little guy so much, and I did not want to lose that infant. I did not want that boy to suffer or have pain, but rather I wanted life for that baby.

And the life that I prayed for with my son was the life breathed by the Lord, Jesus Christ. I did not want just any life in him. I wanted the One True Life. The life that brings happiness and joy and healing and a promise of eternity together. The life that the Lord promises us through the power of the Holy Spirit. One filled brimming with love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control.

Every day when I drop my kids at the bus or school, I say, “I love you with all my heart. May God Bless You today with love, joy, peace, patience, happiness, goodness, good times and good friends.” This blessing tells my kids that there is a powerful, loving Father in control of this crazy, hurting, broken world. No matter what pain or sorrow or suffering they may encounter in their young lives that day, the Lord Jesus Christ is in control with the loving embrace of the Father and the power and might of the Holy Spirit. They will live a life that day just like any other kid. However, their lives will be marked by the One who made them and loves them and cares for them. They will know and experience the Love of the Father in a powerful, intimate way.

  And that is the reason why we pray for others. We are asking the Lord to move on their lives miraculously bearing fruit of the sweetest magnitude and brought forth from the deepest love.

When we pray for others, we are tangibly ushering  in the kingdom of God by showing another person His love . When we place our hands on another person, we are saying to them, “I love you. You are worthy. You are clean. I am not afraid to touch you. You are acceptable. You are loved by the God of the Universe Himself. AND I love you. I believe you are worth my tears to shed in front of Jesus for you.”

Not only does the love we have for others through our prayers  move the Lord to healing, it also moves us to love.

The Bible tells us to pray for those who hurt us. I have made it a habit in my life that whenever I think of an incident that has hurt me, I pray for that person. I just say, “Lord, I have no idea what that person is going through right now, buy you do. I pray that you will bless them right now with every good gift and blessing you have .”  Each and every time that I have done that, the Lord has moved my heart for them towards His great love brought out by my prayers for them. I have had some of the most amazing relationships in my life that happened after years of praying that prayer for those who had hurt me.  I may not always become best friends with the person, but my heart grows in compassion and mercy for them because of His love and my prayers.

So, when we pray for others, we bring Heaven to the now and to the future. We are bringing Heaven to the now by manifesting love. We are showing love for another person by praying for them, and God is Love. So each time, we pray and create love, we are creating a space of Heaven right here on earth.

We also are ushering in the Heaven of the future. Our prayers bring life, joy and hope to another. Just the physical act alone of touching another person can bring healing. It speeds up the blood flow and life source to that contact point. As the Lord answers our prayers for others, it shows that person that the  Lord of the Universe is real. He is not just a nice idea we cling to in order to help us get through a sometimes rather hellish life. He is all powerful and all loving.

And that is exactly what the Lord did for my friend. After I reigned in my irritations, I asked her if we could bring her to Jesus as her friend on our faith. She said, “Yes.” Pat and I prayed that the Lord would work a miracle in her life to help to bring her a job. The next week the Lord worked out an amazing miracle of a job for her.

So the prayers that we prayed for her ushered in Heaven now by opening a space for love to exist that was not there before. It also ushered in the Heaven of the future by showing her in a real, tangible way that the Lord does hear her. He does love her , and He is there for her. When she can see those promises in a very practical way here and now, that enables her to believe and hope and trust in His promises of love forever in eternity with our Loving Father.

 

Working at Home While Being a Mom at the Same Time: The Mousse

I just dropped by hair mousse bottle, and it started squirting mousse everywhere. I instantly picked it up and put it on the wall in the shower. I let the bottle empty its squirting self onto the wall.

Brogan and I then went in clothes and all and finger painted with the mousse.

My prayer is that my response to all of life’s lemons will be as quick and spontaneous as that. That I instantly find the joy and beauty in whatever pain or sorrow may be happening and make good out of it. By the way, we drew rock crawlers with trailers. Surprised, Pat?