Chalked vector sketch of vintage mirror.

Hitler had his own idea of how to define beauty. He had it terribly wrong.

So, when we begin talking about beauty, it is important to define beauty. God loves beauty. God is beauty. Everything He creates is beautiful. One of my favorite things God created is a sunset. Add a gorgeous sunset to an endless ocean, a gentle breeze, and crashing waves and I could forget we are even on Earth because it feels so heavenly. It takes my mind to places of peace and joy that I don’t get in the nine to five work day. It’s God smiling at me, holding me, and whispering He loves me. He reveals Himself to us through what He has made.  (Psalm 19 & Romans 1:20)

When He made the earth, God said everything He made was good. But, after He added mankind to the picture, He said it was VERY good. You are very good. You are beautiful. After all, you are made in the image of God and He is the epitome, the ultimate standard, for beauty. God is beauty.

So, when God looks at you, He looks at you like I look at a sunset nestling slowly into the ocean’s horizon. Perhaps He silences the angels and gathers His heavenly hosts to listen to your voice and to watch you do your thing, just as I gather my family and point to the majestic sky melting into night. He intended us to be perfectly beautiful, a reflection of His amazing love and kindness.

But, if we are made to be a reflection of beauty itself, why do we feel so ugly? We know we could never hush the heavenly chorus on our own whims and orchestration. In fact, we run for cover. Like Adam and Eve, we have hidden ourselves from God because we are ashamed. We are ashamed because we are not the beauty that God originally intended. Sin has defiled our hearts. Sin has made us ugly.

Adam and Eve went from having no idea that they were naked, completely free of any body image, to being ashamed of their bodies and running to hide. What changed? In that moment, they didn’t gain weight or age drastically. The only change was they had experienced sin. Sin changed everything. One of the things that sin changed was how they felt about their bodies.

3 Ways to Feel Beautiful Again:

1. Start Fresh.

Allow God to give you a new heart. Sin leaves us broken and bruised. It not only makes us feel ugly, it actually destroys us. Because of our own folly, we have become broken and ashamed. No one needs to convince us that we need God’s love and forgiveness; we know it. No one needs to point out our ugliness or our weaknesses. We are painfully aware of our ugliness. But God responds to us as He did to Adam and Eve in the garden when they hid themselves from Him. He calls to us. He calls us out of our hiding places. Our ugliness doesn’t scare Him. Our shame doesn’t cause Him to love us less. In fact, it moves Him to action.

It is our sin that caused God to dress himself with flesh and hang on a cross. He took our ugliness upon Himself. He carried it to the cross. He bled for us. He was bruised for us. He was killed for us. He was raised from the dead for us. And we live because of His death. We live and breath and have our being in His resurrection power. We are not just cleaned up. We are made new.

When God healed a man, Naaman, of leprosy, his wounds didn’t just go away. There was no scarring to remind him of the disease. God made his skin like new skin. He made Naaman’s skin like a baby’s. (2 Kings 5)

Jesus offers that to us. He offers us a brand new start and a completely healed heart. He offers the original, beautiful reflection of Himself for us. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 When God heals you, He makes you new. When you repent of sin that is destroying you, beauty is restored to its original state in you.

2.  Win the War Against Sin.

Ah, this struggle with sin can make us feel ugly again. We sin, therefore, we feel ugly again. It’s a cycle that Paul knew well.

“So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” Romans 7:21

If you know what is causing you to hate your body and yourself, stop! Wage war against it. Jesus would often heal someone in the New Testament and say, “Now, go and sin no more.” (John 8:11) Stop sinning – not because He wants us to abide by a bunch of rules, but because sin destroys us. Because God wants us to live in the beauty that He planned for us, He tells us to stop sinning.

That’s easier said than done, right?

Perhaps the reason we can not overcome sin is because we won’t face it. We won’t admit that we have a struggle with a specific sin.

James 5:16 tells us that in order to be healed from sin we need to: “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.”

So, you don’t need to face sin alone. Fighting a war takes more than one soldier. Find a righteous person and put James 5:16 into practice so you may heal from the suffering sin has caused you.

3.  Look into the right mirror: God’s Word

So, if God has made us beautiful and we are waring against sin, why do we still feel so ugly? It’s because we are not looking into the right mirror.

I really don’t like the state fair. It’s creepy. Everything seems a little skewed, especially the “fun house”.  A person could knock himself out with the endless maze of mirrors. As if cracking your head on a mirror isn’t enough, the fun house displays huge carnival mirrors that distort your perception of yourself. Your head looks 100 times bigger and your body is twisted like a pretzel. It’s not a pretty sight. We can safely say that we look ugly in those mirrors.

That’s what the world does to us. It holds up endless mazes of carnival mirrors for us to view ourselves. We end up thinking there is something horribly wrong with us. We can’t get a clear picture of who we are because the mirror is distorted. Those mirrors are designed to confuse us. They are designed to give us a distorted image of ourselves. When we listen intently to people rather than God, we are looking into a distorted image of ourselves.

Often, people will tear one another apart. Often, people’s intentions are not pure and good. People may want to discourage us. Their language is meant to give us fear and discouragement. Realize that the opinion that others have of you may not be a clear reflection of who you are.

Surround yourself with people that build you up. Avoid people who are trying to keep you from enjoying the beauty God has for you. If you can not choose who you are around, be aware of what mirror people are thrusting in front of you. If it is a distorted image of yourself, know that it is a lie.  But, make it your goal to be around people who encourage you to see yourself as God sees you.  The only clear, accurate picture of who we are is God’s word.

James 1:23-24 “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.”

God says that His word is the mirror of our hearts. Look intently into God’s word, not the fashion magazines or pop culture. Don’t base your parenting upon popular television or base your decisions upon the five o’clock news. Instead of looking into the world that says you aren’t wealthy enough, smart enough, talented enough, thin enough, or strong enough…..

Look into God’s word and you will hear:

You “are fearfully and wonderfully made” Psalm 139

I have “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” Jeremiah 29:11

“Fear not, I am with you.” Isaiah 41:1

Fill your mind with God’s word so that you will have a clear picture of how beautiful you are and how perfectly you are loved! Think on God’s word. When you are tempted to gaze at yourself in a distorted mirror of pop culture, remind yourself of what God says about you. Meditate on Him. View yourself covered with the love of Christ.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2

God made you beautiful. Don’t settle for anything less.

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catheyIt’s a scary place to be:  the pitcher’s mound.  Especially for an eight year old.

At first windup, we celebrated her potential and her natural talent.  In practice cages and warmup fields, we marveled at her improvement.  We would almost get giddy with excitement, like parents watching their baby take her first steps.

But the moment she stepped onto the dusty, hot pitching mound, her first windup to an actual batter, we held our breath.

It was hard to read her expression.  She seemed at ease.  But maybe she was a little anxious.

She flipped the ball into the air before settling it into her glove.  She lifted her glove, swung back, wound her arm like a clock, and threw with all her heart.

The ball left her hand like a bullet.

The batter shrieked in pain.

Every other pitch was wild; batters walked meekly to the plate, dodging and swinging like an out of step dance.

Our little pitcher looked defeated.  She walked slowly toward the dugout, face flushed, head bent, wiping tears.  This was not at all how we expected it to go.  We cheered for her as she approached us sluggishly.

Several pep talks later, we were back at the practice fields, the pitching cages, and backyard drills.

She is a pitcher in training.

Aren’t we all?

I am very familiar with hits and misses.  I’ve pitched a few wild balls.

I’m so thankful for my team.  They didn’t refuse to step up to the plate for me to practice pitching.  They hugged me and patted me on the back when I was feeling defeated.  They still do.

We are a team.  We are training for the big game.

One of my precious friends calls our lunch dates “lunch church.”  I get so excited to see her.  I pour out my heart to her like a waterfall.  She catches every word I pitch with perfect patience and encouragement.

Pitchers get to bat, too.  We have to catch; we have to listen.  I hope to be a friend that will encourage my teammates to practice their faith, dare to walk on water, boldly share their testimonies, and strengthen their pitch.  I hope I will encourage them and forgive them when they throw a wild pitch that strikes me right in the gut, knowing that I will need the same measure of mercy and forgiveness.

I have another friend that is a natural home run hitter. I can’t sit with her for any amount of time without cheering her home runs in the Lord. But, she tells of her strike outs, too. Her story sounds like most of ours. We are still in training.

This big game, this serious battle, this spiritual journey is not an easy win.  We have to train.  We need our team.  God, in His great wisdom, has put our team together.  Each one of us has a position to play.  Let us cheer each other on, practice mercy, and rejoice when our teammate shines.  We know that God has brought us together and equipped us to win.  So, with joy and confidence, let’s fight to win!

 

 

 

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iStock_000019510518SmallGod doesn’t need our service.

He doesn’t “need” us to do His will.

He isn’t crippled by our lack of obedience,

Neither is He empowered by our willingness to obey Him.

He alone holds all power,

Regardless of what we do or don’t do.

We can not change who He is.

But He can change who WE are.

That is why He calls us to follow Him.

It is because He loves us.

We need Him.

That is why He calls us to obey Him.

That is why He calls us to serve Him.

We need Him.

We serve Him because we love Him.

We love Him because He first loved us.

Out of hearts that are overwhelmed by His sacrifice and empowered by His Spirit,

We offer our lives to Him.

Make no mistake. God does not “need” us.  He WANTS us.

We NEED Him.

The question is:

Do we WANT Him?

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”  Romans 12:1

“I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.  I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine.  If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it.”  Psalm 50:10-12

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thumbnail  I’ve decided that the hardest thing for me to do is wait. It takes a lot of faith to wait.

As I’m waiting on the Lord to answer a prayer, it’s tempting to look around and try to figure out how I can work everything out with my own intellect and strength.  It stretches my faith muscles when God tells me to stay put, to just stand, to just keep trusting in Him.

Waiting for God allows us to gain some valuable perspective.  Sometimes, the greatest work He has to share with us is done by Him alone while we are merely an audience of His great majesty.

In 2 Choronicles 20, an enemy came against the Israelites that scared their socks off.

They did what we do: they cried out to God.  And He did what He does:  He answered them.  I love that.

“Thus saith the Lord unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”

“Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them: for the Lord will be with you.”

I love, love this story.  But when applied to my life, I love it even more.

God told his people:

1. It’s not your battle.  It’s God’s battle.  AWESOME.  Whew.  I can relax.  I’m out of the hot seat.  He’s got this.

2.  We don’t have to fight, we just have to stand in faith. You would think this revelation would thrill me.  But, remember, just being still is hard for me.  I’m kind of hyper.  Not to worry.  He did give them one task to do.

3.  Walk in obedience. Go toward the battlefield.  Head toward what frightens and threatens you. But, wait, I thought they weren’t going to fight.  God instructed His people to walk toward the battle and just stand and watch what He would do for them.  Could you do that?  Walk to the battlefield  knowing you are not going to swing one fist at the enemy?

It’s hard to believe that our deliverance has nothing to do with our own ability, but it’s true.  Walking toward the battlefield with the sole intention of seeing God fight for us is what walking in faith is all about.  We believe Him, so we obey Him.  We believe Him, so we worship Him.

Just a side note, we don’t go toward a battle, toward danger, toward what threatens us UNLESS God tells us to go.  In every situation, seek God’s will.  Remember, when His people call to Him, He answers.  Ask Him.

So, what are we supposed to do as we follow the Lord’s instructions to head toward a battlefield with the sole intention to wait on the Lord, stand firm in our faith, and trust Him to fight for us? Are we to tremble and cry or complain and argue on the road to deliverance?  Are we to whistle while we wait on God or twiddle our thumbs? I want to worship while I wait.

The Israelites did exactly what I want to do:

1.  They believed God.  Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).  When we believe God, it is easy to obey God.   If we believe God, we will not be afraid.  God encourages  us over and over to be strong and courageous and not to fear.  We will not fear when we believe that God will fight the battle for us.  We will have no fear facing difficult situations.  When we believe God, our hearts will do what the Israelites did. They worshipped.

2.  They worshipped.  And when they worshipped, amazing, incredible, mind-blowing things happened.  

22 And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the children         of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten. “

23 For the children of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of mount Seir, utterly to slay and destroy them: and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, every one helped to destroy another.

24 And when Judah came toward the watch tower in the wilderness, they looked unto the multitude, and, behold, they were dead bodies fallen to the earth, and none escaped.

25 And when Jehoshaphat and his people came to take away the spoil of them, they found among them in abundance both riches with the dead bodies, and precious jewels, which they stripped off for themselves, more than they could carry away: and they were three days in gathering of the spoil, it was so much.

When they worshipped, God struck the enemy and destroyed them!  When the Israelites got to the battlefield, all that they found was a fallen army and riches.  Wow. God literally goes before us and prepares the way, fights the battle, and leaves a trail of spiritual blessings for us.  Why would we be afraid to walk wherever, whenever, however He leads us?

As we wait on God’s deliverance, let us worship!

Obedience and Worship are a powerful mix.

So, if we have prayed and we are waiting on God to answer us, we still have some things we can do while we wait on Him:

1.  Obey Him – Face whatever struggle you have with the assurance that God is fighting for you.  Continue in love and don’t stop doing good.  Encourage your friends.

2.  Believe Him – Don’t let fear keep you from doing good.  Don’t let fear keep you from seeing God answer your prayers.  Believe He will do what He says He will do.

3.  Worship Him – Shout it out!  Sing a song of praise!  Enjoy the presence of God and the deliverance that He brings.

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jennPhotography lovers, it’s the seminar that you have been looking for!  We are opening the secret vault of everything we have learned about photography and the photography business and handing out the  treasures of knowledge and skill we have stored up from shooting hundreds of families and weddings.

We don’t know if we will be able to do this more than once, so don’t put it off….

TWO DATES.  TWO CHANCES to soak up everything we know  into your talented brain.

First:

MARCH 29:  Wedding Photography – Everything –  I mean, everything – you need to know to be successful at wedding photography.  This is not for the faint of heart.  From your website, social media, branding, meeting with clients, paperwork, contracts, engagements, bridals, shooting the wedding day…. whew.  SO MUCH to learn on this day!  You guys will be locked and loaded for success.  It’s an all day event.  Fun, fun, fun!!!  10am-5pm

MAY 31:  Shoot out/Edit out – You’ve got the eye, you’ve got the ideas.  This seminar is how to take an idea and make it a reality.  The most frustrating thing for an artist is to have a vision, a picture in your mind, and not know how to get it out of your head and into your camera. This class is for you.  After the class is filled (HURRY, HURRY.  We can’t have too many for this one), we will send an email with some ideas and we will brainstorm together to decide what to create.  We want you to shoot so well that you don’t need photoshop! So, we will shoot with passion and skill!  But, what’s an artist without a paint brush?  We will take you through photoshop and short cuts so that you can shoot, edit and deliver images that will thrill you and your client.  This is your chance!  What do you want to learn?   Again, come with some pep in your step because we will have a fun, fast moving day!  10am-4pm

Each class is $1000 (deposit 1/2 down).

Early bird special of $750 expires February 1.  So, save yourself a little money and guarantee your spot by signing up early.

Email us for hotel accommodation information and/or pay pal link.

We can’t wait to pour our hearts into yours!

 

 

 

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