Tag Archives: Christian life

Rethinking Beauty–Part 1

Rethinking Beauty…

Who is beautiful to you and why?

Is beauty truly in the eye of the beholder?

Beauty is one of those tough topics for women. It is tough because so many of us have been avoiding REALLY talking about it in honest ways for most of our lives.

I think we avoid it–because it makes MOST of us feel INSECURE.

If we don’t deem ourselves beautiful, beauty is certainly not going to be one of our favorite subjects.

If we don’t believe we fit the narrow stereotype current society says is beautiful; talking about what beauty entails–tends to make us feel inferior, inadequate and just plain not good enough.  It’s a painful topic.

But those who think they just might be pretty, have it equally as bad or worse.

Those who think they might possibly be beautiful, also don’t want to bring up the topic–they know that beauty is fleeting and that they can age, change, or fall out of style and be un-beautiful again in a flash.

If the truth be known, even the most physically beautiful women wonder how long they can hold on to their beauty.  And ladies, that–makes them even more insecure and miserable than the “average” girls.

So you see, beauty as a subject, whether you figure you have it or you don’t, is not a popular topic for deliberation among females.

But the question is, are we really viewing beauty accurately?–or are we viewing the entire subject through a faulty lens?

Whether society will ever recognize it or not–true and lasting beauty is on the inside of a woman!

The Bible exhorts women not to be absorbed with outer beauty but to build up the hidden person of the heart.  According to the Scriptures we are to adorn ourselves with incorruptible beauty–a gentle and quiet spirit–that is precious in the sight of God.

I Peter 3:3-4 tells us, Do not let your adornment be merely outward–arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel–rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.

So, where does that leave us, to be brutally honest, when I first came upon this verse years ago I hated it with a passion.

I felt it was unfair that God should show a discretionary bias towards a gentle and quiet woman.  Was He prejudiced against women of strength who possessed a voice?

This was my opinion, because in my mind, He had created me the polar opposite of the “gentle and quiet” stereotype that I believed He deemed beautiful.  I viewed myself as “strong and extroverted,” and deep down I resented God for crowning the lucky “gentle and quiet” ones as the queens of the ball. How fair is that?

It brought up some of the same emotions I had experienced growing up as a brunette and realizing that “blonds had more fun.”  In those days it felt like the media had made a pejorative judgment against all women with dark hair judging our lives dull and boring.

But in the case of the “gentle and quiet” girls, now it was GOD telling me that they were better. I wanted to run out and get a personality transplant!  It was irritating, because once again, even in the “spiritual” beauty department, beauty seemed outside my grasp.

INSECURITY raised it’s ugly head.  Would I ever be able to attain “incorruptible beauty” in the sight of God, as a strong female leader, who liked to talk?  It was from this starting point of utter frustration that my own personal investigation into “what is true inner beauty?” was born.

In Part 2 of “Rethinking Beauty” I will seek to unravel the mystery of what having a “gentle and quiet spirit” really entails.

MEANWHILE, I know many of you agree that–it is tough being a woman in a world so preoccupied with outer beauty. What are your main insecurities when it comes to the subject of beauty? (Be honest)! I would love to read your thoughts and experiences…so…please feel free to join this thread.

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Some Food For Thought–Sour Godliness???–The Devil’s Religion!

Screwtape encountering his "righteous" victim

Have you been the unwitting accomplice of any demons lately?

Hmmm…church ladies…could it be Satan?

The capability of church people to spew forth guile and judgment never ceases to amaze me.

I hate the contemporary versions of the “religion of the pharisees” that I see run rampant in the Church of Jesus Christ.

John Wesley, seeking to put a name to the critical judgmental attitude he experienced among the Christians of his era wrote,

“Sour godliness is the devil’s religion. It does not owe its inception to truly spiritual people.  I suspect that sour godliness originated among unhappy, semi-religious people who had just enough religion to make them miserable, but not enough to do them any good.”

Sour godliness, (i.e. bitter piety) could it be described any better and it is as prevalent today as it was over two hundred years ago…or for that matter over two thousand years ago.

What is so ironic is…

Jesus fought against “false perceptions of godliness” judgmentally perpetuated by those who viewed themselves as “the righteous” of His day.

Jesus battled “the Pharisees” those He called “the sons of devils” and had no qualms about declaring them in league with Satan himself.

Jesus was not at war with the sinner, he was at war with the self-righteous.

And alas, in the end, they won…it was their same false judgments– kindled to a bonfire and ignited by the devil–that were used to murder Him.

And…What is so scary to me is…

The same demons that were alive back then are still around today.  Those same evil entities that whispered in the ears of the Pharisees are still deluding, deceiving and encouraging those puffed up with their own “errant pious” inclinations to do their dirty work.

C.S. Lewis, in his classic, “The Screwtape Letters” aptly pictured these demons schooling one another in the talent to tempt vulnerable Christians into “religious unholiness.”  Lewis with his words paints a picture of the Senior devil Screwtape in a Speech before the “Annual Dinner of the Tempters’ Training College for Young Devils.”

Screwtape slithers to the stage and exhorts his underlings of the underworld…

“It will be an ill day for us if what most humans mean by “religion” ever vanishes from the Earth. It can still send us the truly delicious sins.  The fine flower of unholiness can grow only in the close neighborhood of the Holy.  Nowhere do we tempt so successfully as on the very steps of the altar.” — quoted from C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters”

Fellow Christians, let’s be wary of falling into Screwtape’s trap–let us beware of enlisting ourselves in the pursuit of “unholy religion” practiced at the very foot of the altar.

This week in my home church we are studying, Luke 23, the trial of Jesus before Pilate.  In this passage, Pilate–the secular ruler of the time–would have let Jesus go free finding no fault in Him, but in the end the cries of “the unholy religious” of His time dictated Jesus’ death instead.

Could you be allowing “sour godliness” to rule your soul?  Evaluate yourselves and hear Jesus’ counsel, “beware the leaven of the Pharisees!”


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Finding Refuge

Today, here in my home town, we are enduring a typical early spring March blizzard. 

 

 

 

And for fortunate people like me who work inside it has provided an unusual opportunity to experience finding refuge. 

 

Those of us lucky enough to be able to hunker down and enjoy viewing the snow from our cozy nests have encountered what it feels like to watch the bluster of a storm pass by while being safely and blissfully hidden away. 

 

Taking pleasure in a hide-away it seems is almost a universal human delight.

 

The drive to sneak away and be hidden seems to be virtually instinctual.  Children and hiding places go unanimously together.  Whether children are found living in the country or the city, give a couple of kids an hour or two and they will be nested away in some kind of secret shelter.  Tents, tree houses, snow caves, attic perches, niches and crannies of all descriptions are relished by children as hide-outs. 

 

Yet at times all of us—no matter what our age—may find ourselves longing for a hide-out.  We desire to find a refuge, a hiding place; a place that is tucked away and secure from the problems that are at hand. We dream of coming upon a locale where we can while away the hours unmolested and at peace. 

 

You see, just because we’re Christians the storms of life don’t just disappear.  In fact, because we are Christians sometimes our spirits cry out all the louder for a peaceful place.  It is nothing to be ashamed of—this desire for refuge—some of the greatest men in the Bible expressed their need to find a safe haven in which to hide. 

 

In one of his deepest moments of pain and sorrow over the sin of his people, Jeremiah called out…Oh, that I had in the desert a lodging place for travelers, so that I might leave my people and go away from them (Jer. 9:2).  And David expressed similar sentiments in Ps. 55:6-8 Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest—I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.

 

Fortunately for all of us, Scripture tells us that there is a refuge.  There is a safe place in the storm that is much stronger and secure than we could ever imagine. Hannah sang about it There is no one besides you; there is no rock like our God (1Sam. 2) and David wrote about it, The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God my rock in whom I take refuge.  In fact, David’s favorite metaphor for God as refuge was: God as refuge and Rock. 

 

In verse after verse the man after God own heart had more to say about God as our Rock than any other biblical character.  David’s own Psalm 62 features this metaphor.  This famous Psalm internally gives no specific historical setting.  However, most commentators seem to be in agreement choosing to place its context as written during David’s time in the wilderness. 

 

Authors ascribe these words to David during that time when he was fleeing Saul with his band of men.  It was a time in David’s life where it was typical for him and his men to retreat to the crags and caves of the mountains of Palestine for refuge.

 

During this time of running for his life the “Cave of Adullam” was David’s home.  The cave was a wicked refugee camp, a dark vault on the side of a cliff that reached deeply into a rock hill.  Huddled in this cave with him were 400 losers—a mob of miserable humanity.  1Sam. 22:2 it tells us, all those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him. 

 

In this unlikely place, it became David’s responsibility to turn a hap-hazard mob into an organized, well-disciplined fighting force, his mighty men of valor.  And at the end of days spent eluding Saul he would run back to the rocky hills with their caves and nooks and crannies and find a safe haven.

 

 It was during this chaotic time in his life that David inspired by the Holy Spirit wrote:

 

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. …

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge

 Psalm 62

 

To find refuge is to find that safe place of being covered or protected. To find refuge is to find a place that is immune to exposure and vulnerability, where one is sheltered and hidden away from the storms of life. 

 

David found this place in God.  This year as we sit behind our window panes watching the storm swirl around us let’s take the time and reflect on the refuge God provides for us.  Let’s realize the shelter and place of safety he supplies and join with David in his song of praise.  

 

Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.

From the ends of the earth I call to you,

I call as my heart grows faint;

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.

I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.  Psalm 61: 1-5

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Establishing New Habits—Tips to Help You Keep Those New Year’s Resolutions

It is good to remember that when we speak of habits, we may either be referring to something good or something bad. In the case of the Christian life, we are often speaking of replacing bad habits with good ones. This process is really called repentance, since the bad or sinful habits lead away from God, while the good habits or virtues lead toward God and eternal life.

Many people believe in changing their ways at the beginning of the New Year, but any time is a good time to begin forming a good habit. In fact, the best time to root out the bad and institute the good is always the present moment. Behold, now is the acceptable time, behold now is the day of salvation. (2 Cor. 6:2)

Ten Be-attitudes for developing new habits:

 

1) Be Patient – Understand that cultivating a new routine will take time. It is encouraging when 21st century Christians find out that what contemporary secular experts discover, using scientific methods, the Church has known and practiced all along. One such recent discovery is that it takes about six weeks, or forty days, to make a certain practice into a habit. The period of forty days has since Old Testament times been that amount of time necessary to prepare for something significant or purge oneself of something negative.

 

2) Be Realistic – Trying to change too many behaviors at once can back fire on you.

Pick one new positive habit you’d like to develop and stick with that. Many New Year’s Resolutions fail because overly ambitious people who want desperately to change try to do too much all at once.  When individuals do this all their good intentions tend to go down the drain before January is even over.  For instance a person who is trying to lose weight, launch a new daily devotional routine and do a makeover on their finances all at one time would probably be biting off more than they can chew. Instead of trying to change everything all at once, pick one area to focus on and follow through on changing that one area.

 

3) Be Concrete – Choose something tangible and measurable to change. It is difficult to assess whether you’ve met a vague goal. For example, instead of deciding indistinctly “I will have a better prayer life in 2009, be as specific as possible. Rather than the loose goal of deciding to “pray every day,” decide to “pray first thing in the morning for 30 minutes” and track your success on your calendar or in your day-timer.

 

 

4) Be Intentional – Record your goal and post reminders in places you will see on a daily basis. There are many good places to place a reminder: a post-it note on your bathroom mirror, a note under the magnet on the refrigerator door or a message on the screen saver of your computer monitor.  Remind yourself of the commitment to change that you have made.

 

5) Be Prepared – Make it easier to begin your new behavior by preparing for success ahead of time.  Make sure you have all necessary equipment and materials available beforehand.  For instance, if you’ve decided to work out twice a week, make sure you have all your work out clothes and necessary items in a bag ready to go the night before your scheduled work-out so that all you have to do is pick up your bag on the way out the door.

 

6) Be Kind to Yourself – Rewarding yourself with a small reward each time you perform the new habit will help pair it cognitively with positive emotions. In general, research shows that rewards work better than punishments and will be most effective if they occur as soon as possible after each occurrence of the desired action.

 

7) Be Smart and Link Habits- An effective way to establish a new habit is to pair it with an established habit. This is called the Premack Principle after the Behavioral psychologist David Premack. Premack proved that a frequently occurring action can be used effectively to reinforce a less frequently occurring behavior. For example, if you are trying to remember to drink more water, it is helpful to place your water bottle next to your coffee maker and remind yourself to drink your water before you down your customary “lattes” each morning.

 

8) Be Accountable – Utilizing a social support system is one of the best ways to establish a new habit.  If you make a date to work out with a friend or a bunch of friends it can increase your sense of accountability and help you stay on track.

 

9) Be Public – One way to further increase your sense of accountability is to tell other people about your efforts. In addition to your accountability partner also announce to others that you are establishing new patterns then it will be even harder to let those new habits slide.

 

10) Be Gracious to Yourself – When you experience a set-back and fail to practice your new habit, don’t condemn yourself and give-up, give yourself a second, third, fourth or as many chances as needed to get back on track. Stay positive and believe you can change, if you stay proactive and motivated and get right back on task—the change will eventually come!

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