Category Archives: Articles

Lopsided

lopsided pic 2For the past six months my life felt like a V-8 commercial (where the person walks sideways). My hair was about 2 inches shorter in places on the right side and 6 inches longer on the left side. I actually developed a habit of tilting my head to the right. Now I sat in a salon waiting for a haircut. My hair had grown out so the short part was long enough I could get it evened-out without cutting it way up to my ears.  I’d looked at the hairstyle books and found a picture of a chin-length bob to show my stylist.

Not many people noticed my hair problem but I sure did. In those months growing it out I noticed how much a connection I had with how I felt about myself and how this impacted my outlook. For a while it seemed I had reverted back to teenage years when I had felt so insecure (because I subscribed to the lie that who I was was what I looked like). I remember agonizing over my appearance, spending hours over clothes, makeup, and hair.

Now my lopsided hair made me focus on the outward appearance again. When I focused my self-worth on the shaky foundation of outward appearance, I felt miserable and well, lopsided. I resolved to change my thinking. I viewed every day as a new opportunity to decide my identity would be determined by who I was in the inner woman, not by my lopsided view of myself.

In the wake of my hair issue, Dove soap released a new ad campaign. It reminded me of my struggle. Dove asked women to describe themselves to an artist; without looking at the women, the artist created likenesses then they asked the women’s friends to describe the women. Again sketches were created. The sketches made from the women’s own perceptions differed from that of the friends (for example, one woman described her chin as wide whereas the friend said it looked normal), indicating women didn’t feel very good about themselves. The end of the commercial showed a woman crying in her husband’s embrace. At first I didn’t get it. Then I think I understood. He had been telling her how beautiful she was and she hadn’t accepted it until then. This makes me ask, what impact does the way we women view ourselves have on our marriages? I’m guessing it has a bigger impact then we realize.

American women want to feel beautiful, so much so that as one source said, combined, we spend about 6 billion dollars on beauty per year. Due to some financial reversals, I couldn’t spend the money I used to spend on beauty products. Even if the L’Oreal commercial said, “You’re worth it” I couldn’t afford it. At one point, I remember looking in the mirror and wanting to cry. Yet my husband kept telling me how beautiful I was. Once when I had all my makeup off he looked at me and said, “I don’t know if it’s just that I’m falling in love with you more, but you seem to be growing more and more beautiful with each passing year.” I admit, at times the way I felt about myself hindered my ability to receive his word gifts. I wonder how he felt when I threw them back in his face.

Getting beyond negative self-image feels a little like trying to peel off a sticky label. Here are some questions to probe deeper. Can our identity really be contained in such things as hairstyle, facial features, skin clarity, or the size or shape of our body? How much time do we spend developing inner beauty? Do we need to start looking away from the wall mirror and into the mirror of God’s Word? What would happen if we took this to heart “Your beauty 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” (From 1 Peter 3:3-4).

As I sat down in the salon chair for my haircut, I confided in my hairstylist (also a Christian), “Why do we care so much about our appearance?” I told her about meeting a woman who had some genetic issue which impacted her facial features. Her left eye was near her nose, her right eye dissimilar. I told how I felt God prompted me to tell this woman how beautiful he thought she was in his eyes.

God doesn’t view us through our lopsided perceptions of ourselves. He sees the woman beneath the makeup; he looks past even the worst hair day. He doesn’t look at us through the insults which adhere to our self-image like sticky labels. The Bible says God doesn’t look at us as people do. He looks at the inner woman. He knows us and loves us (Read Psalm 139). He looks beyond that blemish on our nose, or the worst hair day. He sees us through eyes of his unconditional love.  Maybe we should too.

 

Perfect Love Drives Out Fear

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfraid of the Dark~ As a little girl in ponytails, I felt sure monsters glowered at me through the dark with gaping mouths and goony eyes! As I lay in my bed, one thought surged through me. What if the monsters get me? I tugged the covers over my head allowing a small opening for my mouth and nose. Sometimes I peeked into the dark with my big brown eyes staring at the corners of my room. Where my clothes once lay, a fat monster glared at me. Monsters lurked under my bed. They reached up their claws searching for little me (of all the boys and girls in the world, why they found such interest in me I’ll never know). One night as I lay hiding beneath my covers, I heard my older sister Wendy singing a Christian song. The monsters in my room disappeared for the moment. I recalled Wendy’s Sunday school memory verse, the one on the little white card. As she had repeated it I had memorized it too “When I am afraid I will trust in you” (God) (Psalm 56:3, NIV). I also knew the truth from John 3:16 about how much God loved me. However, I had not let this truth settle into my heart.
Fear Not~ In fifth grade swimming class I trembled when it came my turn to jump into the deep end for the first time. In junior high, when it came my turn to climb the rope to the gym ceiling, I felt so afraid I fled aimlessly. Only when I stopped running did I realize I had entered the boy’s locker room (Talk about scary places for a teenage girl!) I also remember feeling all the blood rush to my face when my ninth grade algebra teacher called on me for my answer. As an adult, I remember when a bear visited Jeff’s and my honeymoon cabin. I was popping some popcorn at the time. I ended up burning most of it, which the bear noisily ate from our garbage around midnight. Like popcorn, fear inflates the “what if’s” inside the heart. If not countered, it soon overcrowds faith. Someone has added up how many times the Bible said not to fear. They came up with 365 times-one for every day of the year. It’s almost as if God knew how quick the human heart could fill with fear. God also knew the stifling, paralyzing nature of fear.
Faith is~ I used to think the Bible characters never struggled with fear. Yet as I study, I realize this simply isn’t true. Hebrews 11:34 says of the great faith warriors that their weakness was turned to strength. On their own, they felt fearful like you and me. With faith in God, people like Abraham, Joseph, Joshua, and Gideon overcame. Faith is singing a song to God in the dark. Faith is taking steps into the unknown when he asks us to follow him. Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. We cannot see God. That is why fear sometimes feels bigger than God. When we let fear take over, we magnify the object of our fear through the lens of imagination. On the other hand, when we think about God, we remember his attributes, his character, and the real life miracles he has already done. We realize how big he is. Fear no longer dominates. Philippians 4:6 says not to be anxious but to pray. Among other things, verse 8 of that same chapter says to think about what is … lovely. Instead of hiding beneath covers, when we choose to think about our lovely God, each fear becomes a new opportunity to gain a firmer grasp of “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18, NIV). I cannot fully grasp God’s love but I continue to strive to take hold of that perfect love which drives out fear (1 John 4:18a). Somehow, as I do, the monsters disappear.

A Cure For the Winter Blahs

 

snow pic 2Today I woke to a gray sky. Most of the leaves had long since blown off the trees exposing dark limbs. Snow covered the lifeless ground. Depression knocked on my wreathless door. Uninspiring and unmoving, this winter day felt bleak. I wondered why unlike bears that hibernate or caterpillars that cocoon, God made humans so we continued cognizant through the long winter. I reached for the old reliable cure that has worked through the ages. Even King David, in the book of 1 Samuel 30:6 is said to have “strengthened himself in the Lord.” I wonder if his personal quiet time looked a little bit like mine today.

Prayer journaling~ This morning my faith felt weak. I needed strength. As I took up my prayer journal, I confessed this weakness to God. I sat in my blue recliner, pouring out my heart to God on the page. I wrote, “I feel like a wilted brown leaf blowing in the winter winds. I need your touch. I need your sunlight. I need your love and comfort.” Somehow the physical process of writing, seeing the ink fill the empty void and watching the pen move across the page felt so validating. There were some things I needed to tell God and get off my chest. I shared them honestly. I then wrote praises to God and some things for which I felt thankful.

Bible studying~ I paused for a moment and tried to figure out what passage of the Bible to study. This morning, I felt so uninspired. Nothing seemed to jump out at me. My husband said he studied from 1 Kings. I flipped to 1 Kings then paged over to chapter 18 starting at verse 16. In my mind’s eye, I was up on Mt. Carmel and watched as Elijah set up a contest between the true God and the false gods the people were worshiping. There was an altar and a sacrifice. “The god who answers by fire-he is God” (v. 24). It was almost 1,000 false prophets against Elijah. As all the people from the nation looked on, I watched the prophets of Baal dance and wail and even cut themselves. This went on all day. No answer. Elijah’s turn came. He called the people near. He drenched the altar with water three times. Then he prayed, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God…” I then watched God answer with fire so hot it devoured the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, the soil, and the water. God spoke to my heart about having the quality of faith that places God on a stage to let him work. On my journal page, I scrawled a prayer for God to let my testimony cause people to shout as they did on Mt. Carmel, “The Lord- he is God! The Lord- he is God!” (v. 39).

Singing~ As I moved into intercession for others, I took up my guitar and sang, “Great is Thy Faithfulness”. I thought of how faithful God was, through every season. Even winter.

Praying for others~ I took out my prayer list and started praying. It helped focus my eyes on others needs. I emerged from my quiet time refreshed.

If you have the winter blahs take time to write a prayer to God. Study a favorite story from the Bible. Sing a song to God. Pray for others. This time-tested cure has worked for centuries. Likely, it will work for you.

Time to Mend

Sewing NeedleI sat on my white embroidered bedspread and opened my sewing kit. It was so easy to put off mending. It took time out of my busy schedule to sit and piece something back together. But I wanted to wear this particular piece of clothing so there I sat. Stringing thread from the spool, I cut off the length I needed. I squinted with one eye, threading the thin white strand through the eye of the needle. As I began sewing, my mind lingered on Mary and Joseph’s relationship. I pushed and pulled my sharp needle through the fabric pondering the tumultuous start to their lives together.

How did Mary feel when she found out about her betrothal to Joseph? Did her eyes sparkle beneath her veil? Out of all the young women in the village, Joseph was chosen for her! I imagined her as she hummed wedding tunes, walking with a spring in her step as she went to the village well. Perhaps she helped her mother make bread. Maybe she assisted her Mother in altering an heirloom bridal gown and veil for the wedding. As was the custom, the family of the bride anticipated the moment of surprise when the bridegroom, Joseph, would show up at their house, wedding party in tow, to make Mary fully his own. Betrothal was much more binding than our modern engagement. Mary and Joseph were considered husband and wife in practically every sense except the physical act of marriage. But before Joseph came with the wedding party to make Mary fully his (to have and to hold) Mary was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit. I imagined the quiet whispers and lies spread around the village like fire on a match stick. “Did you hear the news? Shame on Joseph! What a disgrace— both of them are from such good families—”

I imagined Joseph’s reaction when he heard. He knew it was not his child. Was it his fellow carpenter? How about that farmer’s son? To quietly release Mary from their betrothal was the only option; he was planning a divorce.

As I pulled the needle through the fabric, the needle poked my thumb. I thought about the humble elation Mary felt when the angel Gabriel told her she was to carry the Son of God. She wrote a song “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices—” (Luke 1:46-47). Now everywhere she went did she see that disappointed look in Joseph’s eyes. I’m quite sure it haunted her. Did Mary toss and turn on her bed, weeping in quiet anguish before her Lord— “I am a virgin! Yet how can I convince Joseph? You said nothing was impossible for You. God I need your help.”

As I finished my mending, I remembered an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. The Bible doesn’t record the time of mending between Joseph and Mary, but between the lines I could see them taking long walks in the starlight, perhaps learning to hold one another’s hand again. I think it took time for Mary to forgive Joseph for misjudging her character. I’m quite sure Joseph had to get over his shock and accept the situation.

Our minds often take time to unlearn misunderstandings, even though the evidence is clear as a wedding Saturday in June. Sometimes in our marriages, we can think we know something yet misunderstanding clouds our eyes. If this sounds all too familiar, maybe it’s time to take time— to mend.

Listen To My Song “Just For Tonight”