Beautiful

We spend a lot of time looking at ourselves in the mirror. Sometimes we like what we see and other times we walk away with a list of a million things we’d like to change. And it’s exactly those days that we keep returning to that self-absorbing mirror. Do we ever stop finding things wrong? No. Because we aren’t perfect. No one is.

Studies completed in the past few years by various groups have shown that women will spend an average of five days a year in front of the mirror. The average life expectancy for women in the United States is 81 years old. Lord willing you live to be 81, you will have spent 405 days of your life in front of a mirror. That’s over a year of your life.

Our standard of beauty is fixed on temporal things: Images we see from fashion magazines, actresses we see on TV, or the woman sitting next to you at church. We fall into a cycle of comparing our beauty with other peoples, forgetting that we each reflect God’s beauty. In Genesis 1:27 we learn that God created both men and women in his image. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” You are just as much an image- bearer of God as the woman on the cover of that magazine. Though you may look nothing like her, you both reflect the image of your creator.

It is not a sin to be beautiful. Living in a country where physical beauty is celebrated from beauty pageants to magazine covers to career promotions for the more attractive – we get a distorted view of how we should celebrate beauty. Young ladies are shaped to crave to be sought out for their outward beauty. Our culture celebrates the physically beautiful yet disregards those they deem less so. Christians perceive beauty as something bad because of how the world perceives it. To be beautiful isn’t wrong, but our lenses for seeing and celebrating beauty shouldn’t be the same as the worlds.

The lenses we use to see beauty is God’s word. If a person were to spend 15 minutes a day studying the Bible for 81 years than we would only spend 308 days of our life in God’s word. This means that most people will spend more time in front of their mirror focusing on their outward beauty than spending time reading/studying their bible.  We know from Proverbs 31:30 that “beauty is fleeting”.  You won’t physically be beautiful forever no matter the amount of anti-aging cream you use or the surgeries you choose to have. You are going to get older. It’s a fact. Why fight it?

We fight it because we put our value in our outward beauty and not our inward beauty. In the same verse that we learn that beauty is fleeting we also learn that it’s the woman “who fears the Lord” who is to be praised. We learn how to fear the Lord not by changing ourselves physically to match the beauty of our neighbor but by spending time listening to God speak to you through his word.

We are surrounded by beauty. We see beauty in creation. We see beauty in a great meal, a sweet dessert, and in people. Beauty isn’t limited to a person’s physical appearance. Each of us with our own standard of beauty need to be reminded that all things beautiful and ugly point back to God’s fame and eternity. Stop comparing and competing to be beautiful and know God and let your relationship with him be the most beautiful thing about you.

Guest Blogger:   Amanda Edmondson (friend since childhood)
Amanda, co-leads the Women’s Ministry and is the Women’s Director of the Midtown Campus in addition she is the Executive Assistant to the Lead Pastor at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky. She has taught women in various settings and written blogs for Gospel Taboo, the Gospel Coalition, The Resurgence and Sojourn Women. She desires to see women know God and be transformed by the gospel.

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Pride, Condemnation and Clinging to the Cross-Hot Mess Style!

In my late 20’s, the relationship I had with God was very intimate.  I had an intense desire to fully know Him and completely love Him.   I was on fire for His Kingdom and nothing was going to stand in my way of doing everything I could to further it.

Enter Pride

I can still remember the exact moment, almost 13 years ago, when I questioned three specific actions of ‘key players’ in the bible.  First, how could Eve have listened to the serpent; second, how could Peter have denounced Jesus three times and the third question requires its own blog.  I remember thinking to myself, ‘I would NEVER do that Lord!’

Pride is the ‘mother’ where all other sin is birthed…Mark Driscoll

It wasn’t too long after, that I naively believed I was above reproach, when sin entered my life.  With it, came first hand knowledge of just how easy it is to listen to the soothing lies of Satan…sorry Eve.

Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Pro 16:18)

The sins were exposed; I repented, confessed them out loud (to God and the appropriate parties) and I am living proof that ‘the truth will set you free’ (John 8:32).  Theologically, I knew my sins were forgiven through the mighty blood of Jesus…but mentally; I kept waiting for the moment when I finally felt worthy to be called ‘His’ again.  I couldn’t come to terms with how badly I blew it and by not being able to do so, I could not forgive myself…sorry Peter.

 

 

Enter Condemnation

Condemnation wasted no time ushering right in and hunkering down in my life over the next four years.  That was ok by me because I felt I deserved it, to say the least, and society almost seemed to welcome it.  Arthur W. Pink said, ‘Man’s own idea of sin is practically limited to what the world calls “crime”.  Anything short of that man palliates as “defects,” “mistakes,” “infirmities,” etc.  And even where sin is owned at all, excuses and extenuations are made for it”.’  I quickly learned how easy the world made it to buy into the lies of ‘the thief [who] comes only to steal, kill and destroy’ (John 10:10).

So at 34 years of life, I had come to the terms that I didn’t fully deserve Him in my life so I climbed into the luke warm waters of daily living, to die.  Unbeknownst to me…God was not done with my life yet.

And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)

Enter Autism

When I began to lose Jackson to autism, I hit my knees. I cried out to God, mostly begging and pleading with Him to intervene.  My prayers were for healing and restoration — for all of us.  When God did not answer any of my demands (which I conveniently referred to as prayers) — according to my timeline and expectations – I blamed myself and the past sins I committed…thank you, once again, condemnation.

The harder and tighter I tried to hold on to controlling every aspect of the autism journey, our lives, my life…the more quickly everything crumbled.   On the outside, I appeared cool as a cucumber but on the inside, I was a complete hot mess.  And it hurt; it hurt like no other pain I had ever felt before.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.  (Romans 8:28)

 

I wanted so badly for God to step in, be my hero and save the day.  He did, but I just couldn’t see it because I was focused on His intervention to be mighty, ‘Cable TV Style’ mighty.  I was looking for Him to ride in and consume our trials in a strong wind…or an earthquake…or a fire.

‘And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”‘.  (1 Kings 19:11-13)

I chew on this passage often.  I love Elijah; he is one of my favorite “super heroes” of the Bible. In 1 Kings 17: 17-24, Elijah, by crying out to the Lord, raised the widow’s son from death.  In 1Kings 18, Elijah called down fire from the Lord to consume the burnt offering, slaughtered the prophets of Baal and ended a three year drought ~ all through the power of God.

Fast forward to 1 Kings 19, where Jezebel threatened to kill Elijah.  What do you think was the first thing Elijah did?  Did he slay more prophets…did he call down more fire…did he cry out to God?  Nope, none of the above, true story.  Elijah “was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life” (1 Kings 19:3) and he didn’t stop there.

Our super hero from the old testament left his servant behind and kept running until he came to a broom tree.  He sat down under it and ‘asked that he might die, saying, “it is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers”.’

Elijah was scared, depressed, alone and full of condemnation; I understand.  I can relate to the trials of life being too much to bear and finding myself huddled in fetal position on the floor – under a broom tree.

 

 

Enter Jesus

We live in a fallen world where it is impossible not to sin and even more impossible to try and resist the human temptation to run from it.  However; what is possible is the chance to be forgiven ~ for each and every ugly one of them.

God forgave me and still continues to forgive my sins because of what Jesus did.  Period.  End of story.  Jesus chose to be firmly nailed to that cross for my sins and the only way to truly be set free from them is by choosing to cling to it.

I could have chosen to live my life in complete condemnation, huddled in fetal position, but that, my friends, was exactly what Satan was betting on.  Instead, I chose to get over myself, run to the Cross and cling to my Savior!

Enter Question

Are you clinging to the cross or does Satan have you in luke warm waters, waiting to die?

Guest Blogger:  Berly Tillman Sullivan

You can visit her blog at www.grievebreatheandbelieve.com

Full-Strength Joy for Motherhood by Author Gloria Furman

Full-Strength Joy for Motherhood

At dawn the white light from the desert sun starts to illumine the wall from behind our dark curtains. That’s when I shuffle into the kitchen and look forward to an obnoxiously strong cup of Americano (if I remembered to set the automatic brew for the coffeepot). Each and every day, all the time, all around the world, moms wake up to long hours of hard work. “The days are long, but the years fly by,” they say. Whoever they are, they’re right.

Fake Help and Real Help
When it’s 7:30am and we’re already looking forward to 7:30pm… or it’s 7:30pm and we’ve got a full night of hard work ahead of us, what will sustain our joy? It’s easy to turn on the fake cheer—or sneer at cheer altogether. On and offline, we’re tempted to consume a steady diet of pot shots at parenting. Taking care of this baby is bloody hard work; these kids are why I can’t have anything nice; my motherhood is a trainwreck. Getting honest with others about our struggles is a step in the direction of receiving real help. And we need real help! We feel relief when we open up about our frustration. But if we’re just watering seeds of cynicism for the sake of winning a sarcasm contest we will only cultivate disappointing weeds of bitterness. Can joy flourish where bitterness rules in your heart?

“They” also like to say, “If you can’t stand the heat then get out of the kitchen.” This is where they are wrong. The truth is none of us can “stand the heat.” When the heat is on we’re parched for real help, we need to quench our thirst with precious living water. The only place to get this living water is from Jesus Christ.

Promised Manna for Mamas

The place we meet Jesus is in his Word. Through his Word the light will shine in the darkest places of our heart and light our path.

From cover to cover, the Word of God reveals and displays the glory of God who sent his Son to rescue for himself a people gathered from every tribe on the earth. It’s this Word—this truth that reveals God’s promises—that will cut through the clouds in the very darkest of times. God’s promises are what encourage you to keep going as you daily lay down your comfort, your money, your time, your energy, your ideas, and perhaps even your health for your children.

When your soul feels like it is melting with sorrow, God will strengthen you according to his Word (Ps. 119:28). Let the testimonies of God’s faithfulness be your delight and make God’s Word your counselor (Ps. 119:24). Wise up to the sour indigestion of the world’s fake soul food, and taste the sweetness of God’s Word. “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Ps. 119:103).

We’re going to need something a lot stronger than fake hope to empower our motherhood today. There is manna for us, busy, exhausted mamas, as we engage in the daily grind of disciplemaking. It’s in the Bible that we read about the divine joy of the Lord that sustains our motherhood. So, since our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18), let’s not fix our eyes on our temporary pains. Let’s open our Bible, ask God to open the eyes of our heart, and lay our very real struggles at Jesus’ very real feet and really fix our eyes on him.

Gloria Furman (@gloriafurman) lives in Dubai with her husband Dave, a pastor at Redeemer Church of Dubai. They have four young kids. Gloria is the author of Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home (Crossway, 2013) and Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms (Crossway, 2014).

What I Learned From Taylor Swift

That’s right people; Taylor Swift is teaching important life lessons. Get a pen and paper (or whatever contraption you use to remember things) – this is huge.   I am super-pumped about this post, but before I “begin again” (yep, I did) let me explain why Taylor is on my mind.  I have been a closet Taylor Swift fans for years. I know, I know. I realize I am 30 years old, but I feel like “22” people!   It all started with “Drew” and those “tear drops on her guitar,” but now the world knows: I.  Am.  A.   Taylor.  Swift.  Fan.  Whew!! That feels good coming out.    Now before you start hating, stop and ask yourself, “Am I a closet Taylor fan?” It’s okay, it really is.  If after contemplating your love for Taylor you find that your love runs dry, and you find yourself pointing a judgmental finger my way, “why you gotta be so mean?” Granted, if she ever starts twerkin on stage, I may reconsider.

Knowing I am on the Taylor Swift bandwagon, my husband offered to send me to her last concert in Nashville.  I, of course, was jumping up and down like a fifteen-year-old girl at one of her concerts – hmm.   Anyways, my husband in all of his sweetness did not realize that purchasing the tickets would be the equivalent to our monthly mortgage.  So no, I didn’t get to go. I was not “The Lucky One” (at least not this time).

Why are tens of thousands of people willing to spend hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars to watch Taylor live?

Story telling.

Taylor fan or not, you have to admit, she is an amazing storyteller.  The songs capture all of our senses and make us feel as though we are there with her. It is like we are sitting on those cold bleachers in our t-shirt and feeling the rejection of watching someone else who wears “short shorts” snag the guy – unless of course you were the girl in the shorts (different frame of reference).

When she sings “15,” as though it were yesterday, we remember that first day of high school and trying to figure out where we fit in.

Think about the “Tim McGraw” song.  Every time we hear it, we reminisce back to those old blue jeans we used to wear almost every day – hoping that the loser that broke up with us really regrets it.  We share her anger as she burns his picture and hates on his stupid old pick-up truck that he never let her drive.

After listening to“22,” I want to get dressed up like a hipster (which I am still trying to figure out what that would be exactly – glasses?) and then go out dancing.  However, I typically just end up in the living room busting out mad dance moves with the toddlers.

What does all this mean?  Here’s what it means: We need to get our “Taylor on” people!

No, I don’t mean having an air guitar show in the kitchen, hair thrashing and all.  Although, I do know from experience that this will get your kids’ attention (possible parenting strategy).  It does not mean we start writing angry songs about our husband when he forgets to take out the trash.

Getting your Taylor on simply means to be a storyteller.   There is a great story to be told.  “It’s a love story baby – just say yes!”  Say yes to telling yourself this story every day.

What is this story?  If you are a Christian, you have a story. Or, as Taylor likes to say, you have a song, but “our song” is not a “slamming screen door.”  Rather, our song is the fact that we slammed the door in the face of our great love – God Himself.   We said, “forget you;” I love myself more than I love you and I am going to write my own story.  The Bible teaches that this rebellion is called sin, and as a result, we deserve death (Romans 6:23).  If the story ended there, God would have been just to simply let us die in our sin – forever separated from Him.

But the story continues.  God sent His only Son, Jesus, who lived a perfect life for 33 years. Then, He was brutally murdered in my place on a bloody cross.  Not only was He publicly executed by the hands of evil men, but even more unfathomable, He was crushed by the wrath of His own Father for our sin.  Christ conquered death and the grave and now for those who believe in Him, they can be called the children of God.   He changes “our song” by giving us His story. If you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, this is your song: you had nothing to offer a holy King but the sin that nailed him to a tree, and yet He offered you eternal life – not because you were lovely, but to make you lovely.  But not just that, this great God offers us His unending and unconditional love.  Until we’ve been loved by Jesus, we’ve never truly been loved.

We need to remind ourselves of this story daily.  That is, that we had nothing to do with our salvation.  Not only this, but there is nothing we can do to keep our salvation – not even having a good Bible study.

The fact is, though many don’t even realize it, those around us are starving for this story.  Every woman desires to be loved for who she is, in spite of all of her flaws and shortcomings.  We have a greater story to tell than Taylor, and we must become Spirit-filled storytellers seeking to capture our listener’s senses with the great love of their heavenly Father.

When my kids are fighting in the backseat because apparently my oldest will not stop committing the crime of looking at his sister, the story must be told.

When big sister does not want to help little brother clean up the toys, the story must be told.  Jesus came and spilled His blood for our sins, all while He was sinless.  He cleaned up messes that He did not make.

When our children wake up with nightmares, tell them the story.  Christ is a conquering King!  He came to destroy not only Satan himself, but all of his boogey-men.

Additionally, we must pursue authenticity in our storytelling.

What do I mean by this?

Taylor has woven her life experiences – pain, rejection, joy, and confusion – into a melody that people can’t get out of their heads.    The media often pokes fun at Swift for getting inspiration from her breakups, but this is why we love her songs so much.  It’s because they are real.  Authenticity is something people will pay to see.

I would argue that many Christians are afraid to be authentic.  “If they knew how crazy I was they would punk out!” On the contrary, I would argue that authenticity will draw people to you! Craziness and jacked-up-ness loves company.

Authentic storytellers don’t “hide there crazy;” instead, they let it all hang out. They use it to point others toward the One who holds it all together.  God will use all of our pain, rejection, fears, joy, bruises, and scars for His story.  None of our pain is wasted. He is weaving all of these things together for our good and His glory.

We can step out in grace and be real with others because the cross has already told them how big of a failure we are and that we are loved in spite of it.  We don’t have to hide anything because the cross has already exposed everything.

Your kids, coworkers, church members, neighbors, and husband need to see you living authentically in the Lord. Real Christians are not wearing a halo and smiling all the time (those that pretend to make me want to punch them in the face). So get over it!  Your kids don’t need a super-mom, they need to see your tears – and then tell them the story.  People around you need to see you fail; then they are reminded, “Oh yeah! She is not saved because she is a perfect person, but because her trust is in a perfect Jesus!” Tell them how you sin, too, and that’s why Jesus came – to rescue this woman from herself.

Be an authentic storyteller.  If you need to use an air guitar, go for it!  Twittter @AnnieEdwards01

Here are some great storytellers that have helped me:

Ann Voskamp

Give Them Grace

Sarah Mae

Sally Lloyd-Jones