A beauty tip

Psalm 34

I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise always on my lips.

photo-on-9-7-16-at-8-06-amRecently a discoloration has developed on my lower lip. I should have it looked at by a dermotologist, but I haven’t yet. Believe it or not (hehe), I am self-conscious about it. I attempt to hide the spot by always wearing lipstick. Otherwise, I’m thinking you are looking at the spot on my lip and not at me. Wearing lipstick covers an embarrassing blemish and with my flaw hidden, I can take my focus off of me and enjoy being with you.

Does the Lord’s praise on our lips do the same thing? Does the Lord’s praise cover our flaws, so that we don’t have to attempt to cover them ourselves? hmmm. Does the Lord’s praise free us to consider the other’s interests, to attend to their words, their person? Does the Lord’s praise allow our beauty to shine? hmmm.

Pockets of Paradise

God desires our communities to be safe places where one can live in intimate relationship with God, with self and with others. Genesis 2:25 describes the quality of such a fellowship beautifully and poetically, “And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.”

A gathering of God’s beloved children should be characterized by people who are “naked and not ashamed.” Wow! Of course I am speaking metaphorically and spiritually, but consider with me the definitions and implications of what it means to be naked and not experience any shame in the context of community.

Although Adam and Eve were literally naked, the Hebrew word translated naked also means a person without pretense or uniform. Police officers wear uniforms so they can easily be identified. A police uniform tells you how to relate to the person wearing it and what you can expect from them. The uniform defines the role they’ll play in your life and how you should interact with them. You don’t know the person behind the uniform, you don’t even care about the person behind the uniform, your relationship with them is defined by the role they play.

When physically naked, there is nothing covering your body, your beauty and your flaws are seen by all. To be naked spiritually and relationally is to be yourself, without pretending to be someone you are not, or hiding within the safety of a role you play. It’s “what you see is what you get”, no pretense, no hiding, just guileless authenticity.

And (here’s the kicker) this person, in their absolute nakedness feels no sense of shame. Shame is the feeling that follows disappointment of opinion, hope or expectation. They are purely themselves and have complete confidence that who they are will not disappoint in any way. There is no shadow of doubt cast on their personhood, they live from a place of sufficiency, value and acceptance.

I think of my grandkids when I think about this type of unashamed nakedness. Eliza and Jack both jump out of the bath and run around in naked exuberance, unaware of their bodies, conscious only of joy and life. This is the experience God desires for us in our communities. To live with one another in the freedom that unselfconscious nakedness would allow. Imagine outposts of Eden where God’s kingdom is realized, where brothers and sisters can live together Naked and Not Ashamed. This is paradise!

What are your thoughts about this concept? Do you have any place where you experience the type of community described in Genesis 2:25?

Can you let yourself be loved?

Remember this, my friends: God is love, God cannot not love. Peter van Breeman says it much better than I can.

If we think God is a person who can divide his love, then we are thinking not of God but ourselves. God is perfectly one, the perfect unity. We have love, but God is love. His love is not an activity. It is his whole self.

It takes a lifetime to let ourselves be loved by such a fierce and tender God. God, though is a patient lover. We resist, we throw out the reasons we are not worthy of such a love and these excuses are swatted away by God’s gracious hand.

I was totally taken by surprise when my husband, Jack, proposed to me. I was still dating other men at the time, so obviously, he was much further along the relationship road than I was. In my shock, I asked him why he was proposing to me at this early stage of our relationship. He answered, “You’ve told me that you hold back your heart because you are afraid of rejection. I just want you to know that if and when you are ready to let your heart venture out, I will be there waiting for you.” Wow.

I had dated other men and had friends who had told me I was attractive, or had gifts to offer the world, but in my heart I thought, ‘Yeah, you don’t really know me, I’m actually quite ugly and selfish inside.’ But when Jack told me these things, I believed him. His love for me helped me believe God’s truth about myself. I decided I needed to let myself be loved by such a man. I agreed to marry him and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Such is God’s love for us. God knows we’ve been convinced through any number of circumstances and relationships that we are fundamentally unloveable. Yet God never forgets our true self, the beautiful soul he had in mind when he created us. He calls, invites and woos us into daring to believe his image of us is possible. Slowly, his love wins us over.

Anthony de Mello is quoted in Father Gregory Boyle’s book, Tattoos on the Heart,

‘Behold the One beholding you and smiling.’ It is precisely because we have such an overactive disapproval gland ourselves that we tend to create God in our own image. It is truly hard for us to see the truth that disapproval does not seem to be part of God’s DNA. God is just too busy loving us to have any time left for disappointment.

and again, Fr. Boyle,

God, I guess, is more expansive than every image we think rhymes with God. How much greater is the God we have than the one we think we have. More than anything else, the truth of God seems to be about a joy that is a foreigner to disappointment and disapproval. This joy just doesn’t know what we’re talking about when we focus on the restriction of not measuring up.

We need to let ourselves be loved by such a God.

With you on the journey,


This is part of a series entitled  The New Old, a look at familiar things God wants to make new. It begins here.

I wanted to be Japanese when I grew up

Dear Elle,

Every child is asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My response would usually cause a smile and then an attempt to correct my faulty thinking by the curious adult who posed the question. “I want to be Japanese.” It didn’t matter that I was a blond-haired, green-eyed four year old, I had been told that America was the land of opportunity, a person could be anything they wanted to be; and I wanted to be Japanese!

If you want to know who you are and who God created you to be, pay attention to your childhood dreams and the worlds you invented and inhabited in your childlike imagination. They hold the secret of the you you long to be. God named you, formed you and consecrated you before you were even conceived. You have been imagined by God and created to live in the exact time and place, country and family in which you find yourself. You and your life are not an accident that is correctable by God’s grace. You and your life are potentially exactly what God had in mind.

You were born to carry a particular piece of God’s heart into the world and as an uninhibited child you lived this mission out in your play and your imagination. I wanted to be Japanese… My mom even made me a Japanese outfit that I would wear as I served tea and bowed to the roses in our garden. In my little girl mind Japanese ladies were so pretty, quiet, demure, and serving.  This ambition of mine was left behind as I matured. Family and school taught me that success was measured in the amount of attention I was paid by others, so I would do whatever it took to gain the notice of those in power. I wasn’t the smartest or the prettiest, so I became the loudest and most talkative. Goodbye quiet and demure, hello “motormouth” (as I was dubbed by my high school teachers).

Losing touch with the Japanese lady inside me caused me to lose touch with the me God had created me to be. I know this because of the misery I experienced in relationships and the disdain I had for myself. Pay attention to your current life situation. If you are more often unhappy or unsettled than peaceful and at rest, perhaps you’ve lost connection with the embedded God-image that is yours alone to express.

When God first thought of you, he assigned you a particular temperament, a unique set of talents and gifts, a distinctive personality and energy level, and a range of emotional reactions. You are unrepeatable and important to God’s plan for bringing out the “God colors” of the world in which you live.

With you in the journey,


We are all God’s pugs! What?

We are all God's pugs!

Dear Elle,

When you doubt your value, remember who created you.

God, the creative genius, who made the majesty of the redwoods, the intricate beauty of a  hummingbird, the unseen wonder of a molecule, made you. And because you are God’s creation, it is okay to appreciate your own value. You are esteemed, not because you are talented, beautiful and smart. You had nothing to do with these qualities about yourself. God is the one who endowed you with them. In humility, you can “think rightly about yourself”, as St. Paul encourages. (Romans 12:3)

Most of the world agrees that Monet is a great artist. His works hang in the most prestigious museums and places of honor around the world. In 1998 one of his paintings sold for 33 million dollars! His body of work is recognized as sheer genius. And because of his abilities and his reputation, even sketches that he would have considered trash are worth a lot of money. Not necessarily because they are masterpieces, but because he is a master artist.

So it is with God. Everything God’s creative hand has formed is priceless and beyond value. You, my dog, the ocean, even the mosquito has beauty and value in the eyes of their maker. Elle, you are made by God and God calls you good. (Genesis 1:31)

When you focus on and denigrate attributes that do not come up to your standard of perfection, you are casting blame on the one who created you. Blame leads to distance in a relationship. You cannot remain in a healthy intimacy with someone you think has done something fundamentally harmful to you. Peace must be made.

As you know, my dog Molly is a pug. She is short, rather wide, has a smashed in face and not everyone would think she’s a very attractive animal. But you know what? It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, because she doesn’t belong to anyone else. She’s belongs to me and I love everything about her, I think she’s adorable.

In effect, we are all God’s pugs! All that counts is God’s making and choosing us. No one else’s opinion, not even our own counts for anything. We belong to God.

With you in the journey,