You’re beautiful…and skinny?

I was sitting in my art class. Art Appreciation. A dumb class, but I had to take it because I needed the credit. I ended up with a D, and it didn’t count as a transferable credit anyway. But I did get things out of it that had nothing to do with a grade. One of the in-class exercises that we did was to describe beauty. So many people immediately piped in with, “Clear skin,” or, “Long hair.” Another girl said, “Being thin.” Even the men were saying things like, “Nice eyes,” or, “Tall,” or even “short.” I sat back, stunned. I had heard people say that our culture is superficial, but until I heard a sample of college students from this culture defining beauty, I’d really not had a very clear idea of what that meant.

We connect the word “beautiful” to so many superficial things. “You’re so skinny and beautiful,” or, “Your skin is so perfect and beautiful,” or, “Your hair always looks so beautiful when you curl it.” Or even, “You have such nice eyes.” It’s not wrong for people to be outwardly beautiful. God creates each of us individually, and he even creates the people who fit our cultural idea of beauty. He made models the way they are for His purposes. It was us who decided that that’s what “beauty” is. But I can’t help but wonder, even within many Christian communities, why we never hear someone say, “You’re so kind and beautiful,” or, “You’re so beautiful and patient.” Or even, “You’re such a beautiful listener.” Why do we not compliment people on their generosity? Their kindness? Their goodness? Their godly ways? The way that a wife serves her husband, rather than how lucky he was to find someone with her particular set of physical features? Or the way her husband protects and cares for her, rather that telling him how lucky he is to have such a good-looking wife? We’re only reinforcing what is forced on us daily through advertisements, the way worldly women dress, and the way worldly men treat women. We clearly value external beauty over internal beauty just based on what we attach the word “beautiful” to in a compliment.

When we tell our daughters that they’re “skinny and beautiful” we’re telling them that skinny is beautiful. When we tell our daughters that their skin is perfect and beautiful, we’re telling them that imperfect skin is ugly. And then we wonder why we have so many young people with eating disorders, various mental disorders (namely depression and anxiety), why girls are so obsessed with outer appearance, and why men only tend to go for girls who look a certain way. Once I even had a boyfriend (not a Christian man, mind you) tell me that his “ideal” woman would have a C-cup breast, weigh 140 pounds, and have short, dark hair. I had none of these, being rather above a C-cup, weighing much more than 140 (if I weighed 140, I’d have some serious issues), and I have blonde hair. I was crushed when he basically told me to my face that I was not what he was looking for in a girl, and when I realized that what he was looking for was almost entirely physical.

Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting. So why do we still choose to emphasize those things in our definition of beauty? However, a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised (Proverbs 31). So why do we not tell our daughters that they’re beautiful because God gave them each feature that they have, regardless of whether it fits culture’s idea of beauty? Why are we not telling them that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self control are all beautiful things, and that their sexuality (the thing that the world tries to exploit) is something intimately connected to their soul and being? We let the world tell them that if they’ve got it, flaunt it, when we should be stepping in and telling them (and ourselves), if you’ve got it, protect it.

Ladies, you’re beautiful because God made you just the way you are, and He loves you even with acne, frizzy hair, and a few extra pounds around your waist. You are not ugly. You’re fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of an almighty God who loves and cares for you. Think about that for a minute. God made you in His image. So what are we saying about Him when we call ourselves ugly? What are we saying about His handiwork? The same hands that created every star, the same God who knows all of those stars by name, also created you and knows you by name.

And men, treat your woman as if she is that beautiful treasure given to you by a loving Father. She is not something to be used or thrown away. She is to be protected as if she is the most precious jewel ever discovered. God gave her to you for a reason. And if you’re not married, protect what you’ve got for the person God is going to give you.

You’re Glorious.

This is just something I wrote the other day:

You’re so unbelievable,

unbelievably beautiful,

You’re glorious, victorious,

givin’ us the vision of Your mission

to see all of Your children sing,

“Glory, glory, glory! You are holy, holy, holy!”

and be filled with the joy You bring.

You’re glorious, victorious,

givin’ us the vision of Your mission.

You don’t owe us the gift of submission,

this wonderful salvation by Your Son,

when He said, “It is done.

What we could never do, You

accomplished on the Cross

to show us that we’re lost.

Trying to win on our own, we’d lose.

It’s not even that we’d have to choose,

it was that we’d never make it to You

on our own.

We never would’ve even gotten to the hill,

we wouldn’t have gone that far,

we’d have given up as soon as it started getting hard.

So You went before us and conquered the grave,

You overcame.

You’re so unbelievable that we need Your grace just to see,

We need you just to believe, because You’re

unbelievable, unbelievably beautiful,

You’re glorious, and You’re victorious,

so that we could go forward with the mission You gave to us,

to spread the Word of Your Son’s return,

of His victory on Calvary

for sinners just like me.

Author’s note: Please give credit where credit is due if you plan to use this in any way (including on social networking sites), even brief quotations. This work is (c) Alena Crepea.

The enemy of an artist.

I’ve been thinking a lot about art, whether it’s something I’d like to pursue (as in, a career), or if it’s just something that I enjoy doing. While thinking about it, I began thinking about what could cause someone to stop being an artist. I came to the conclusion that Time is an artist’s worst enemy; not because our own beauty fades, not because of vanity. But because the things you’ve been using your whole life to create are now fading away. Your hands are no longer steady, your eyes are no longer sharp, and your body may no longer be able to take long hours spent in a studio or at a desk. But your mind remains, creating invisible things, things just for you. You still see the world through an artist’s eyes. When I get too old to make things, that could be all that will keep me sane, is the ability to imagine. No matter what state your mind is in, we all imagine. Even while we sleep. We call those dreams. At the core, a true artist is someone who is good at bringing imagination to life, in one way or another, and loves to do so. They dream, not just while they’re asleep, but while they’re wide awake. That never goes away, even when the body crumbles.

So, the short answer is: nothing can stop you from being an artist. Nothing. “Artist” is a condition of the soul, not something determined by actions, or ability.

And I firmly believe that art and our desire to make things, to create is a reflection of God’s glory and His character. He, Himself, is an artist, and He’s created the most wonderful masterpiece of all time. Us. Because we are made in the image of an almighty God, who is Love. Time is not some steadily approaching doom that we all must fight, but rather is the sound of God’s heartbeat; never-ending, eternal, steady, always present.

Art is incredibly important to me, and I sometimes feel that our society is moving farther and farther from the heart of creativity, which, of course, is the Creator. He began it all. But in a world that rejects Him, I fear that we may lose the soul of our art. Art comes from a place in the heart. A place that, once filled with His holiness, has a harder and harder time creating from darkness (sanctification). Unfortunately, we live in a world that has become a cavern filled to overflowing with that darkness.

“If you want to know what is in the heart of a culture, look at its art. Read its poetry, listen to its music, and you’ll begin to know the tree from which it fell.” -M. Gungor

We are moving toward mediocrity in our artwork. At least, it seems that way to me. Many artists “sell out” and stop being original. Today, we’re fine with the idea of doing something that isn’t your dream just because it pays better, or “it’s what the people want.” What people? Your people? You? God? His people? No. The masses… a faceless mass of mediocrity.

“With auto-tune, anyone can sing ‘on pitch.’ With self-publishing anyone can be an author. But are we cultivating a culture of mediocrity? And are we robbing our art of its humanity? -Anam Cara

“Money is not the root of all kinds of evil. The love of money is. It’s also the root of a lot of bad art.” -Michael Gungor

I have to say, though, Michael Gungor is one of those amazing people who manages to retain the humanity and soul in his art. A true artist after God’s heart.

When tragedy strikes.

“With every life taken, we’re all diminished. That’s something too many people don’t get. Yeah, we gotta stop violence and killing — but you’re only adding to the problem when the way you solve it is by more of the same.” -Joe, in The Onion Girl by Charles De Lint.

When I first heard about the shooting in Newton, CN, I was devastated. All I could think was, “What if that had been my child?” But the very first thought to enter my mind was why? I learned about the event as I was going through my Facebook news feed and saw post after post, people saying, first, that a man had entered an elementary school with a gun. Then I saw the updates: 18 children dead, and 8 teachers. Then they said 20 students. My heart cracked in two. I cried. I didn’t know how to handle the news that an entire kindergarten class had been killed by a man walking into a school with a semi-automatic rifle.

However, I soon got sick of the Facebook status updates that I was seeing. They had gone from prayers for the victims and updates about the accident to the age-old debate about gun control. I couldn’t believe it. People (from both sides of this argument, mind you) had the nerve to sit there and say, “Ha! I told you so!” I wanted to scream, “There are children dead and all you can think of to do is yell about banning all guns or arming every citizen overnight?”

I am still upset over this, and I actually deactivated my Facebook account temporarily. In my eyes, the issue is not guns or lack thereof. The issue is Jesus or lack thereof. We live in a broken world full of broken people, and nothing is going to stop that brokenness. I don’t care about gun control. I honestly don’t. Not right now, at least. However, I do care about the fact that there are families who have lost loved ones in a horrific manner. I can’t help but wonder what their view of God is now. I can’t help but wonder if these little ones ever had the opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am praying continuously for the Christian community in Newton to reach out and come alongside these hurting families and share the gospel with them in a very practical way: comfort and support in times of need. I pray that Christians everywhere would come together and do whatever they can to help and be a light in a dark world.

I can tell you right now, this little boy was not worried about gun control or political parties. Neither was the girl who is holding him.This is the universal expression of horror and pain. Hands covering his face as he watches something horrific. This is not an expression of outrage. It’s simply fear, shock, and sadness.

We like to politicize everything, here in America. We want to assign blame. By jumping straight to the conclusion that guns or lack of guns could have prevented this tragedy, we are saying, “It was not the fault of a man, but of his weapon.” We are blaming objects, because objects are something we can control. We will march in the streets wearing special colors of ailments of the body, because we can potentially control those, but when it comes to the mind, we don’t want to deal with it, because it shows us how out of control we really are.

If you want to help, start with yourself. You could start by donating, supporting these people financially. There are plenty of ways to do that. One organization that I personally recommend is CLARO. Loosening or tightening of gun laws will not prevent another tragedy such as this any more than laws against drunk driving stop people from getting behind the wheel after their trip to a bar, or laws against drugs will keep people from using and selling them (not that I think those laws should not be in place, please understand).

What will prevent this from happening again is taking time to teach our children and ourselves how to apologize, how to be good people, how to respect others, how to respect ourselves, how to be responsible for our own actions. Teach the children around you that it is OK to recognize when you feel out of control and that there is no shame in telling someone you feel that way and need help. Show that you can admit when you are wrong and be examples of picking yourself up after someone knocks you down. Teach them pride in themselves and that, while you can not control the actions of others you can control your reaction to them. And it’s not just children who need this, some adults have never been taught how to deal with reality without lashing out violently or speaking out in ignorance and hate. For all ages we must be examples of what is good and teach how to recognize what is wrong and how to correct it with love and not with violence. Only instilling the principle of “do no harm” will prevent future acts of senseless violence like that seen today in Newton, CT. Reflect on yourselves, on your relationships and your actions and stop blaming politics, religion, class structure, economics. Be the light instead of pointing out the dark.

-Alicia Vélez Stewart

I think that Alicia about sums it up, and I applaud her. Ultimately, the thing that’s going to fix our world and be a light in a dark place is Jesus Christ. Want to change the world? Share the gospel. You’ll change the world for someone, somewhere.

I’d also like to take a moment and thank God for this young woman, Victoria Soto. She sacrificed her life to save the lives of her students. Before the shooter came into the classroom, she put her entire class into cabinets, or anywhere else that they would fit, to hide them. But when the shooter came into her classroom, there was nowhere for her to hide and she was killed. Thank you, Victoria, for your loving sacrifice.

Victoria Soto, age 27. Hero.

I’d also like to find names of other heroic teachers to honor them and thank them. If you have any information (pictures, ages, stories, etc) please feel free to share them in the comments.

Brief thought…

It seems today that adulthood has become all about preserving your adolescence. We work so hard to get to be 21, and then spend the rest of our lives trying to stay there. I hear people talk about college being the “best time of their lives.” Why? Because they got to be in the adult world, but got to act like children, basically.

I’m sorry, but if your four years (give or take) in college were the absolute best  time of your life, then you have a very sad, uneventful life. What about getting married? What about having children? What about the career that you had after college? Those things weren’t as good as final exams and classes? That sounds ridiculous to me. I certainly am enjoying college, but I am also under no illusion that my early 20’s will be the best time I’ll ever have in life. If that were the case, why doesn’t everyone just kill themselves when they turn 30? The next 40-50 years of your life are never going to be as good as those four years spent in classrooms being lectured to.

My thoughts on marriage and what I’ve learned about it.

First, I’d like to say: please don’t think you can’t read this if you’re single or something. I love you, too! That said, recently, I’ve been binging (bingeing? Oh, well) on marriage stuff, ever since Revolution Church kicked off our relatively short marriage series, Man vs. Wife. You can listen to what a woman is called to be here, and what a man is called to be here.

Not only am I listening to the sermons at my own church, but I am also listening to Mark Driscoll’s Real Marriage series. As with 60% of the population, I come from a broken home, because my parents had a broken marriage. Literally, it split them up. So, suffice to say that I have never really had biblical roles in marriage played out for me. I never realized how much that affected my view of God until my pastor, Josh, began preaching about what we are called to be as men and women who are following Christ. And then it was this amazing, “Aha!” moment of, “That’s what that is supposed to look like! That’s what God’s love for me looks like! That’s what I’m supposed to be! That’s who I am in Jesus!” and much more.

So here goes a bullet list of my thoughts and what I’ve learned from all of this (some of it will be my notes on it):

  • First of all, married people are broken people. They are not sinless. Marriage does not fix all of your problems. In fact, it may (actually it will) make them worse. When two broken people enter into a marriage covenant, their brokenness is infinitely multiplied. A marriage is made up of two really good  forgivers. Not two people who always get it right and “just go together.”
  • Something that I did not realize until recently (and even once I did realize it, I had no clue what it looked like) is that marriage is a picture of the gospel.
  • This is why Satan attacks marriages. He does not want to the world to see Christ through us, he wants the world to see a broken image of broken homes and broken people, and never get to seeing the redemptive power of Jesus through that brokenness. Because when people see Jesus’ redemptive power, they get saved.
  • Satan knows that if he can destroy a marriage, especially a Christian marriage, he can affect entire generations. He can have your children, your grandchildren, and your great-grandchildren.
  • Most of us have personal pain caused by a broken marriage. Either our own marriage, or our parents’ marriage, maybe even our grandparents’ marriage, or someone else who’s close to us.
  • Satan is going to attack your marriage. We need to be prepared, not just theologically or biblically, but practically. We can have the best theological knowledge about marriage in the entire world, but if we never prepare practically, we are doomed to fall.
  • “The deepest intimacy of all is spiritual intimacy. And if you don’t build your relationship on spiritual intimacy, invariably, it will fail.” -Mark Driscoll
  • Something else I didn’t fully realize until recently: leaving your father and mother when you get married means leave your father and mother. You detach. You’re on your own. Do not involve your extended family in the issues of your immediate family (i.e. your spouse and children). Their schedule, their finances, do not become entangled in yours.
  • The order of these four things will make or break your marriage. The order is: 1) Your friendship with Jesus Christ, 2) your friendship with your spouse, 3) your friendship with your kids, and 4) your job (both as a provider and as a father, or your job as a mother to your children). When you get an inversion in these things, you will fall, or already have fallen.
  • Want to defeat Satan in your marriage? You do it with the blood of the Lamb.
  • There is a difference between a testimony and a biography. In a biography, we’re the hero. It’s all about, “I did this and this, and now I’m happy.” A testimony means that Jesus Christ is the hero. It’s all about, “I was lost, but now I’m found, and Jesus is amazing for redeeming me, regardless of whether or not I’m happier now than I was before.”
  • Our marriage should be a testimony, not a biography.
  • Our testimonies can never be, “Jesus went to the cross and died for sinners.”
  • Our testimony has to be: “Jesus went to the cross and died for my sins, and here they are, and the blood of the Lamb was literally shed in my place, for my transgressions, to remove my shame, to cleanse my sin, and remove my filth, so that I would have a testimony.”
  • This is because if we say that Jesus died for sins, but we never talk about our sin, then it’s because, deep down, we don’t believe Jesus died for US. And we don’t really believe that his resurrection is the hope for our life (either our own, or our life with our spouse).
  • If Jesus changes you, and Jesus changes your spouse, you can  have a new marriage with the old spouse. You do not need a new spouse, you need to be a new spouse. Judge yourself first, not just your spouse.

There’s a lot more I’ve learned, and I may post more later. But that pretty much sums up what I think are some of the major points.