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Designer Planet

Designer Planet

If I were to ask you to fill in the blank for the phrase “no two (blank) are the same”, most of you would likely answer “people” or “snowflakes”.  However, there are a lot of things that aren’t the same, in nature at least.  No two dog or cat nose prints are the same, much like human fingerprints.  So I set out to do an internet search to see what other things in life or nature were unique.  I was disappointed to find nothing more.  However, I did find an interesting piece from a logical standpoint which states that “the only thing that is the same thing is the same thing.”  Well, true! In the fundamental sense, some thing by virtue of being a thing is it’s very own, separate from another thing.

This presented a little quandary about where I want to go with this post, so set aside this point of logic with me.

There are a surprising number of fashion blogs that choose to follow this one.  As I think about fashion, I think about production and design on all levels, not merely clothing and accessories.  The word “fashion” means to make or form something out of something else, to create something from imagination and ingenuity. It is very similar to the meaning of “design”, which means to plan and make something, to create or execute according to plan. A look around my room right now reveals objects that were planned and created for a specific use.  I realize there are mass replicas of most of the items around me.  Everything I see has others which are exactly alike.  Many man-made things are exactly the same (aside from the logic above), for such is the case with mass production.  The need for the same function results in the creation of the same object for that function.

However, man-made things from a more artistic side can vary, and such is the case with fashion.  Mass produced fashion may have two things exactly alike, but uniqueness occurs when the designer intentionally wants to create something that is like no other.  I realize several things from this.  One is that this planet is entirely unique and like no other.  It is highly sophisticated in design and purpose.  A literal myriad of complex lifeforms exist on Earth, which is, according to scientific knowledge, not the case with any other planet.  Secondly I realize that no two God-created things are exactly alike.  I don’t need to research it to realize it.  God created earth and all of it’s components and inhabitants entirely different from anything else. That which is alive is entirely its own entity because it has some degree of difference regarding its composition.

In thinking on these things I also realize that as people made in the image of a Creator, we are creators.  We have the ability to fashion and design and to make things that are unique and unlike anything else.  We not only live on a designer planet, we are designer people. We have limitations of course, for we can only create things.  We cannot, aside from procreation, create a living thing.  Even when creating functional things, God applied the law of singularity. I did read from one source that all electrons are “exactly the same”, and I wonder about this.  With man’s limitations, does he fail to see that perhaps even the elemental things have some degree of variance that the naked eye or the naked mind cannot see?

I don’t know, but I marvel at life a little more when I think of how all things on earth are privileged and patented and that no two things are truly alike.  While I can’t comprehend the diversity of earth’s diversity, I can appreciate it.  I can observe and admire with astonishment and renewed wonder at the beautiful mystery of the utter distinctive quality of life and creation.

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The Measure of a Moment

The Measure of a Moment

I remember the first time I noticed, I mean really noticed, the interaction between light and water.  I was sitting in the grass in a wide open area having a scheduled quiet time at a church retreat.  For the life of me I couldn’t concentrate on the bible or the things they’d given us to reflect upon. Instead I looked around or stared at the ground in contemplation and free thought mode.

Suddenly a burst of color caught my eye and I honed in on a blade of grass upon which a drop of water rested.  The rich green and the perfectly straight edge amazed me.  I thought of a man made level that is used in construction to make sure they are building perfectly straight, level boards and surfaces.  God was the first to create such a perfect thing, yet it is something we hardly notice in the midst of that which we walk upon without a thought.

As I continued to observe the dew on the grass I moved ever so slightly from side to side, marveling at the miracle of subtly changing colors of the spectrum within that tiny liquid circle. I’ll never forget the sense of wonder encapsulated in that simple moment, the stunning realization of beauty so common and yet so rare, the significance of something so small and seemingly insignificant.  It reminded me that whole worlds can exist in a moment even as countless moments comprise the whole world.  It brings to mind now a wonderful quote I often think of in times of quiet observation:

God dwells in the details.  – Mies van der Rohe

Today is a day where the small and grandiose bounce around together in my soul, polar opposites dancing within, waltzing out of reach and eluding my grasp.  I cannot completely define what it is, but it has to do with significance and insignificance, time and eternity, the measure of a moment, the fleeting nature of time.  Time is but a dew drop in the continuum of eternity, yet within it is a marvelous array of colors blending one into another. The earth exists within eternity as a small drop of water, and even smaller, our individual world and the length and breadth of our own lives.  How small, how fast, these lives of ours.  Before we know it we are grown with children and careers, and in the blink of an eye or a shifting of our body we see that life has changed from color to color, season to season, and our children are the ones with children and careers.

What is the meaning of all this smallness and profoundness heaped together in something so fleeting yet ever continuing as time?  Do we get it? Do we truly see the significance within the seemingly insignificant? We hardly have appropriate levels or scales upon which to weigh the measure of a moment, a life, or a lifetime.   Our thoughts and actions, goals and achievements, dreams and ambitions and efforts … all seemingly small, yet at times enormous, deep, and far-reaching.

Maybe there really is nothing which is insignificant.  Maybe “insignificant” should not even be a word.  Everything matters.  The matter within the simple blade of grass and the matter comprising a drop of water and the matter of light pouring from the sun in a beam of glory (as if to say “This matters! Yes, this small thing is simply and profoundly beautiful and alive and significant!”) all come together to enlighten us on our complex journeys.

Perhaps this realization that everything matters, that all things are significant and have purpose and value, is both a precursor to love and a component of love.  Love does not see anything as insignificant, for love sees the “whole” as well as the “part”.  Love sees nothing, save evil, as ugly.  Love in fact creates beauty out of the unbeautiful.  It transforms evil into good, reversing the letters to make the opposite of “evil”, which is “live”.

I guess what I wish is for each of us to really see as much as we are able.  To walk with God and to sit with him, to listen to his observations of the world around.  How marvelous all of life would seem if we would take time to sit with Jesus and ponder the glory and significance of the “insignificant” things laid out before us in our daily lives.  To cherish, as he does, all things that are made and to gaze at everything and everyone is such a way as to see the wonder and the beauty and the incredible meaning and value of life.

Life is a splendid gift – there is nothing small about it.  – Florence Nightingale

A Picture of Restored Humanity

A Picture of Restored Humanity

A friend of mine posted a link on Facebook from a site called ViralNova: Trending Stories on the Web.  I’ve attached the link at the end of this post and you’ve really got to check it out, especially to get a visual for what I talk about here.  It contains a short story of a homeless dog found wandering the streets.  It was so filthy with such caked and crusted, matted fur that a passer-by initially thought the small dog was a pile of trash.  It is an unbelievable, unforgettable image.

I am so metaphorical in my thought process that I couldn’t help but think of how this is a picture of humanity.  This big ball turning is a mass of human generated, perpetuated mess, and we are the messiest of all.  Deep in our hearts there is a goodness worth redeeming, but it is also caked, encrusted, and matted with the badness within us.  Jesus is the “kind humanitarian” who walks by us on the street.  He sees our homeless souls and beyond our unruly filth.  He knows we’re not a pile of trash.  He dares to stoop down and touch our leprous form.  He takes us to a place of cleansing.  He doesn’t just wash us.  He cuts away the befouled growth clinging to us, shedding our moral muck and discarding it as the pile of trash.

When He’s done we look entirely different.  We look human again.  We look like we were intended to before we chose evil into the world.  We are a new creation, no longer homeless, but clothed and cared for.  We are blanketed in love and rest on the pillow of forgiveness and renewal.  We are truly at peace in the home of God’s heart, where we will enjoy his everlasting benevolent presence and companionship, never more to remember the taint and affliction of the former things from which we are forever freed.

Blessings to all who read this and soak in the images and truth.

http://www.viralnova.com/shocking-dog-transformation/

Three Types of Love

Of the six types of love according to the Greeks, agape was the only one that came to mind in thinking on love tonight.  Now that I’ve looked them up, I remember some of the others. However, it isn’t Greek types of love floating through the inner chambers of my mind at this late hour, but rather relational types of love.  There are three types that come to mind: self love, God love, and others love.  I realized for the first time tonight that these three forms of love can be arranged in several different ways, and that we as human beings may fluctuate the order of these three types of love throughout our lifespan.  The combination of the three types may be viewed in order of priority, being first, second, and third in importance and practice to us.

1) God, self, others:  Someone who loves God first, self second, and others last

2) Self, God, others: Someone who loves the self first, God second, and others last

3) Others, God, self: Someone who loves others first, God second, and self last

4) Self, others, God: Someone who loves the self first, others second, and God last

5) Others, self, God: Someone who loves others first, self second, and God last

6) God, others, self: Someone who loves God first, others second, and self last

Growing up I learned that #6 was the way that Christians are suppose to love.  We are to put God first, others second and ourselves last.  We are to love God first, others second, and ourselves last.  This was drilled into me through the cute little praise song which made an acronym of the word JOY.  J is for Jesus, O is for others, Y is for you.  But is this proper order of the three types of relational love? Perhaps you’re thinking how a self-professed Christian could even question such a thing? But what does it mean when Jesus said to love God first and your neighbor as yourself? Is Jesus saying we should love God, others, and self or is He saying we should love God, self, and others?

I always interpreted this to mean that Jesus assumed our fallible nature to love ourselves before others, and that He was saying the proper order would be God, others, and self. It makes sense doesn’t it? Putting God first, others second, self last.  It seems the loving and selfless thing to do.

But it just doesn’t settle well with me.  I think Jesus was advocating self love in a verse we interpret as implying selfish love.  I think He was hinting at a God kind of love for the self, and that the true order of love should indeed be God, self, and others and here is why:

Naturally we are to love God first, because we are His creation and when born again, we are His children.  We are to love self second, because we are beings made in God’s image, and that is how He loved before anything was created.  Before creation God existed in perfect Triune love: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit loved self in the sense that they are One.  Perfect love existed in the oneness and three-in-oneness of God.  Then God took the perfect, self love (very distinct from selfish love) and applied it to others by creating a world that He loved.  The natural order for God is to love self and then to love others.  As created beings, we must follow that perfect order.

The challenge is, how do we rightly love self in a holy, pure, God’s-heart kind of way?

My answer is this: spending time in the presence of God, soaking in His love, meditating on verses which reveal God’s love towards us, and asking God to root His love for us within us.  We cannot love ourselves and extend it to others unless we experience love first hand from God – knowledge and experience are very different.  I used to know that God loved me, but until I invited Christ into my heart, I didn’t fully experience it.  The idea made me happy and secure, but the inward reality was an entirely new awakening, quickening, enlivening of my inner senses and awareness.

I read a quote by Soren Kierkegaard that seems to support this view that the proper order is God, self, and others:

“The commandment said, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’, but if the commandment is properly understood it also says the opposite: You shall love yourself in the right way.”

I’d like to conclude by saying that the last 5 arrangements of the  three types of love listed above are all imperfect.  Since “God is love” according to the bible, those which do not start with God cannot be true love towards God, self, or others.  Number #6 (God, others, self – the typical Christian view) cannot be correct, though it starts with God and puts Him first, because the nature of love is to come from within (God loved self first) and then to flow outward.  “Self” must be the proper second love in the order, because “self” must experience love first (from God), understand it within and rightly apply it (to self) before it is able to pass that pure, holy, proper God-like love to others.

In this proper order that I believe Jesus was implicating (God, self, others), all love comes from God, honors Him, and is given back to Him. Again I refer to Kierkegaard:

 “But to love oneself in the divine sense is to love God, and truly to love another person is to help that person to love God or in loving God.”

I picture a triangle upside down to illustrate this, with God and others listed at the top and self listed at the bottom:  God’s love comes down to self, which then goes up to God, up to (reaches out to) others, which then enables others to connect to and love God, and connect to and love others.

The World’s Most Beautiful Woman

A friend of mine has been posting inspirational videos on Facebook from the website http://www.upworthy.com.  I finally clicked on one that caught my attention.  It is a 13 minute video of a motivational speaker at a women’s conference.  Her name is Lizzie Valasquez and she was born with a rare condition, that if I remember correctly, only two people in the world have.  She is one of them.  It is a condition in which she cannot gain weight no matter how hard she tries.  She could eat ice cream and twinkies until the cows ran dry and still look emaciated and severely anorexic.

I really encourage you to watch this video.  In today’s day and age our attention might peak at a 2 minute video, but I assure you that this will be worth your time.  Lizzie was bullied, as you can imagine, in some of the cruelest of ways while growing up.  Perhaps a climax of the brutality heaped upon her was a video that some high school peers took of her, labeled as World’s Ugliest Woman.  The Youtube video received a massive number of views and the comments rolled in with earth shattering force.  Some of the comments she mentions in this conference video, which were made on the high school video, include things to the effect of “burn it alive”, and “do yourself and the world a favor, get a gun and just shoot yourself.”

I can’t imagine living the life this woman has lived.  She is only 25.  If the disease failed to take her life, you’d think the hate and scorn of humanity would have by now.

So what helped Lizzie not only survive the world’s condemnation, but thrive in the midst of it?

Love.

When she was born the doctors said she’d never walk or talk or have any sort of normal life.  Her parents took her home with a vow to love, care for, and raise her to the best of their ability.  She speaks in the conference video of the amazing impact her parents love and strength of character had on her life.  It shaped her.  It gave her courage to endure and press on, to realize that no matter what people thought of her, she was beautiful, valuable, and was going to live the dreams that were alive in her heart.  She has learned what few people do in life: not how to look beautiful, but how to be beautiful.

Beauty is, and always will, come from the inside out.  From the heart of all that is beautiful, God’s heart, came forth the outer beauty of all that was made.  True beauty manifests from the beauty that is within God, and the beauty that is within humanity.  Age will always ravage the physical beauty that people have, or death will steal it young.  But the beauty within will only blossom with time and nurturance.  All of us are born with an inner beauty.  If we cultivate it and surround ourselves with people who help cultivate it, we will find ourselves shining as God intended, like stars in the heavens, highly esteemed, lighting a darkened and broken world.

Any woman who lives like this, like Lizzie has the courage to live, will find herself among the world’s most beautiful women.  Any man who lives like this will likewise find himself among the world’s most beautiful men. May those of you who read this be blessed by a beautiful Father who longs to fashion and manifest your true beauty in this life and the life to come.

Here is the link to Lizzie’s inspirational video … she’s a joy to watch as she tells a small part of her story with courage, humor, and the desire to help others realize their worth and dreams:

http://www.upworthy.com/hear-the-powerful-way-the-worlds-ugliest-woman-beat-her-bullies

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.  – Confucius

Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting.  – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Am I My Negative Brother’s Keeper?

After killing his brother Abel, Cain hid from God.  When confronted by God as to Abel’s whereabouts, Cain brazenly asked God “Am I my brother’s keeper?” A more modern translation would be “What, you expect me to follow him around like a baby and keep tabs on his every move?” Basically he was using sarcasm to convey to God that he felt he didn’t have to take any responsibility for his brother whatsoever.  Who cares where he was or what he was doing. It wasn’t of any concern to Cain.

But actually, Cain was responsible for Abel.  Cain was the firstborn, and sometime later Abel came along.  Abel was a responsibility to Cain because Abel was younger, more vulnerable, in need of learning new things.  He needed someone to look out for him, someone to look up to, someone from whose experience he might gain.  Cain was older and had that life experience.

I use this story to take a look at something that’s really been bothering me lately.  Every now and then I’ll hear or read a comment advocating that we should surround ourselves with positive people in order to stay positive.  Negative people bring you down, right? So protect yourself and keep those negative folks at bay and you’re guaranteed to feel better, have a more positive outlook, and just be happy and successful in general.  I know people who delete negative Facebook people from their friends list, or more harmfully just delete them from their physical lives.

Honestly, it should go the other way.  People who are positive and want to protect their positive bubble or outlook on life shouldn’t shun negative people.  They should be the very ones seeking to lift up and encourage those who are downtrodden, cynical, or pessimistic.  Positive people are the Cains of emotional well-being, and to cut ties with their negative human brothers and sisters is to abandon the Abels whom God has put in their lives.  They are their negative brother’s keeper so to speak.

We are all accountable for each other.  If someone enters our life, there is a measure of responsibility to them.  We may sarcastically shirk the idea much as Cain did to God, but to our own detriment.  For if our rejection and abandonment of them in their time of trouble leads to their harm, God will surely question us regarding it and then bring about a just response.

I’m not saying we need to be doormats to the naysayers and sink to the bottom with them in their negativity or despair.  God says to bear each others burdens, but also to lay our burdens on him.  If we aren’t going to God to unload our own burdens or relying on Him for strength to bear others burdens, then yes, we will become saturated with heaviness and at risk of being bound to negativity.  Or, we will become weary of the weight of our Abels and cut them loose from our lives out of self-preservation.

So how do we deal with chronically negative people, or even the sometimes negative?

  • As stated above, take it to God, and take from God.“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you … for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28 & 30)
  • Regularly practice openness to God’s love; be a receiver of that love.  If our love tank is empty we have nothing to pour out into others.  “May your roots grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 3:17-19)
  • Be patient.  It didn’t take a negative person one or two times to become filled and burdened with negativity, so don’t expect your one or two pep talks to snap them out of the pattern.  If you are living in God’s love for you and letting it fill you with love for others, patience comes with much greater ease.  “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (I Corinthians 13:4 – 7)
  • Seek wisdom, understanding, and insight. Ask God for them.  These will allow you to discern in every aspect of listening to, loving, encouraging, and teaching those  who are chained to negative patterns. “Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding.  Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair, and you will find the right way to go.” (Proverbs 2: 2 – 3 & 2:9)
  • Have a support system/community with other positive people and invite them to tag team your investment in a negative person to help them past their negative thoughts, emotions, and patterns. “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” (Ecclesiastes 4: 9 – 10)

As one who has dealt with a fair amount of negativity and negative people, I know it can be frustrating and difficult to endure the Debbie Downers in life, especially if I’ve reiterated my best advice till the breath has left me.  Likewise, as one who has been stuck in a rut of negative thoughts and perspective, I know what it is like to be so easily dismissed and given up on.  I can tell you this, cutting loose that negative person and denying them whatever measure of support you can is to shove them harder into the negative cycle and further into despair.  The last verse offered above, in the last phrase says “Someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”  How desperate are they, how compounded their troubles, when they are left alone by those in pursuit of their own happiness, who dare not risk the responsibility of a ‘brother’ or ‘sister’.

Peace to all, and please know that I welcome your own tips or experiences on this topic.

 

Believe It Or Not, You Are Beautiful

I read a book several years ago called Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul by John & Stasi Eldrege.  It is about discovering the beauty in a woman and the beauty of her heart.  I was thankful that the authors pointed out early on that the beauty they refer to doesn’t revolve around external beauty or external/obvious femininity, because I was tomboyish as a child and lean less towards outward feminine characteristics and more towards androgynous ones.

However, I have recently learned that the point of the book hardly touched me on the levels which the authors intended.  That I am beautiful as a woman still is a concept skirting the edges of my heart, fluttering beautifully around me like a tender butterfly but never landing on me because I’m no flower.  Last week I had a conversation with a friend who tells me that I am beautiful, but whose words are always rebuffed with a smirk, a snuff, or a carefully disguised and insincere “thank you.”  She caught on to my lack of belief and proceeded with an uncomfortable one-sided dialogue about how I need to let the message that I am beautiful truly sink in.

A few days later, we both went to a church meeting that offers big group worship and speaker time, then breaks up into individual groups focusing on recovery and healing in various areas.  She leaned over in big group and pointed at the pamphlet to the class titled “Captivating” and I rewarded her with furrowed brows and a frown.  Afterwards, seeing no other class that seemed relevant to my life at this time, and being convicted by the speaker to not go to the class that I wanted to go to but to the one that I needed to, we both went to the Captivating class.  Deep down I knew it was where I needed to be, especially in light of the recent conversation with my friend about my inner rejection of God’s truth about me.

When I walked into the class – a very packed room of a women – I could literally feel estrogen overload in the air.  It pressed around me and smothered me as surely as the stuffiness of the room crammed with warm bodies.  I stumbled over several pairs of legs – skinny, womanly legs as opposed to my large legs supporting my larger body – and found a tight little chair in the middle.  I sat down, clutching my purse – an item recently introduced into my 37 years of purse-avoidance and all things “girly” – and thought “what a farce.”  Here I was, holding the icon of womanly things which I’ve only had for two months, sitting in a room filled with women who are far more womanly or ladylike or feminine than me in a class that I’m supposed to learn about how beautiful I am.

Turns out, all of those women, despite their level of attractiveness or external femininity, felt the same that I did.  The speaker who talked about the book, giving an overview as this was the first “open” meeting of a new class, also reiterated this totally off-the-wall concept that feeling the very opposite of beautiful was something that the majority of women struggle with.  How could this be I wondered?  Yet on some level, I knew how.  I have meditated on it and written poems about, and I know where my identity as un-beautiful comes from, just as I know where my identity of being beautiful will come from.

So here I am, challenged to think about things my woman’s heart would rather not entertain.  It’s time to let the truth seep through the resistant pores of my mind, my heart, my soul.  I am afraid of the rocks in the earth which will be touched by the healing waters.  I’m afraid of worms being unearthed, or perhaps of the pain of cold water shocking my parched roots, so unaccustomed to a pure, refreshing, hydrating abundance of truth and kindness.  I’ll continue to go to the next 5 weeks of the open class.  I’ll continue to wrestle with feeling un-beautiful amid women clearly more attractive and feminine and graceful than me.  Here we go world … the ugly duckling emerges from a swamp of lies to discover it’s swan-like origins and heritage.

“You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.” – Song of Songs 4:7

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