Mirror, Mirror, on the wall.

My mirror is literally on the wall. I guess this is a problem every girl in America and all over the globe has: Our appearance.

You know, it’s not even about thinking we’re ugly at this point. Deep down, I think we just don’t like our body because we don’t like ourselves. You can be a beauty queen and feel ugly. Because you want to have true beauty on the inside. One of my grandmothers was a model in her day, another one was a stewardess; now, even in their seventies, they still hang on to the memories of that, they still want to be beautiful.

And the reason the mirror is our enemy is because we’ve put a curse on it. Whenever we look into it we are looking for the flaws in our outfit or our make-up. It’s gotten so bad I think even the guys have caught it now.

It’s really captured pretty well in this song “Mirror, mirror, on the wall; have I got it? ‘Cause mirror you’ve always told me…who I am. I’m finding it’s not easy to be perfect. So sorry, you won’t define me.”

How is it that we can hear we are beautiful, pretty, smart, nice, and talented; again and again, and we still don’t believe it?

I’ll tell you one reason, we’re afraid. The song “Let it go!” was an instant hit. I have listened to it probably hundreds of times. And it’s not the music, which is nice, but not really my style. (Though I love the piano portion in the beginning.) It’s not even the cool animation or catchy tune. What grabbed me about the song was the mingling of beauty and being fearless. In the book of 1 Peter in the new testament, verses 3-6, Peter gives women some beauty advice, not to rely on gold, hairstyles, and fancy clothes; but on the inner person of the heart, on having a gentle and quiet spirit; which is precious to God. Later he says not to give way to fear. To give way means to let fear run its course in you life and not resist it, to give in. You can like jewelry (I do) and nice clothes, but the trap is liking them for the wrong reason. (Like because they’re popular.) Not that popularity makes something bad, but is it popular with people you respect? Looking like a fashion model is fine if you respect fashion models, but do you? It’s not wrong to imitate how someone else looks, a little bit, but it is wrong to try to become that person. The mirror tells you anything unique to you has to be ugly or boring because it’s you. The mirror always tells you to change what it’s hardest to help. (Like the shape of your face, what else is contouring for?) The mirror tells you you’re not thin enough. (Define thin enough, different weights are appropriate for different people.) But it’s never enough change to make you feel pretty, or hot, or stylish.

Often true beauty is something people talk about but don’t believe in enough to risk trying it. And it is risky. I fell like no one tells us the price. The price is that no one may notice, no one may commend you for trying to be more natural and to be yourself. The price is that you have to choose to lay aside the standards of the world, all of them. The price is that people may think you’re weird for being confident. The price also is that if you don’t meet the regular standards of beauty not everyone will think you’re pretty. But it is so worth it to know that you are beautiful.

I think we need to get a little attitude with the mirror and tell it off when we’re feeling ugly. But I truly believe only God can fix the thing in our hearts that makes us doubt. I’ve never been able to cure myself of it, only God ever breaks through. Though self talk is important. So, beauty is inward, and it is a belief and an attitude. Not a look or a number on the scale.

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Danger!

What does dangerous mean?

Who even asks that question. I do I guess. Maybe it’s because the world is a dangerous place to live and being passive and nice is not working out. There is republican candidate Donald Trump, now don’t anyone get excited. This is not a political post; I’m merely using Trump as an example of someone who seems aggressive and not so nice. Frankly I think that’s the reason he’s doing so well. Would I vote for him? Maybe not. But I admire his complete un-intimidated approach.  I don’t know what the dictionary would say, but my personal definition of dangerous would be anything that threatens to foil your plans. It hit me the other day that beauty is dangerous to someone who wishes to spread ugliness. Gentleness is dangerous to someone who wants to spread cruelty and harshness. Actually it is not strength that makes you dangerous, it’s power.

What is power? Just that. It’s the ability to do something. I may have the strength to write, but if my fingers hurt too much or my keyboard isn’t working I do not have the power. You can have the strength to lift the weight of a pencil but if you have a paralyzed hand you don’t have the power. A machine may be strong enough to operate tasks that a man could not, but if it’s not plugged into the power it is useless.

When it comes to power men and women have it different. Men often possess the more obvious power. Physical strength, survival skills, technical know-how. Women have the unsung powers because they have the subtle ones. Mothering skills, craftiness, the ability to beautify life. There are shared traits between genders, but there are traits and there are strengths; and there are powers.

Back to the subject of danger. There is a bad kind of danger. But we need to stop being afraid of danger. To fear danger is eventually to fear yourself, because you can’t help being dangerous. The only thing you can choose is who you’ll be dangerous to. That’s my thoughts for now, watch out for my coming posts–Natasha

There’s nothing the matter with your back!

Psychosomatic–1. Of pertaining to a physical disorder that is caused or notably influenced by emotional factors. 2. Pertaining to or involving both the mind and the body.

Hypochondria— An excessive preoccupation with one’s health usually focusing on some particular symptom; excessive worry about one’s health.

Neurosis— A functional disorder (isn’t that an oxymoron?) disorder in which feelings of anxiety, obsessional thoughts, compulsive acts, and physical complaining without objective evidence of disease…dominate the personality.

Why am I giving you these definitions? because I have an example of someone who was all three of those things.

I present for your consideration Colin, from “The Secret Garden.” In that book the main character Mary Lennox goes to live with her uncle, who has one son he never looks at. Mary finds the son, Colin, and in a strange manner befriends him. He is a selfish, worrisome boy who is deathly afraid of having a hunchback when he grows up, like his fther. Finally one night he throws a tantrum and Mary storms in and tells him to stop. The surprised Colin chokes out:

Colin: I felt the lump–I felt it. I knew I should. I shall have a hunch on my back and then I shall die.

Mary: (fiercely) You didn’t feel a lump! If you did it was only a hysterical lump. Hysterics makes lumps. There’s nothing the matter with your horrid back–nothing but hysterics.

Really? And all this time I thought–but what happens next? Mary looks at his back to see if there are any lumps and says.

Mary: There’s not a single lump there! There’s not a lump as big as a pin–except backbone lumps, and you can only feel them because you’re thin…there’s not a lump as big as a pin! If you ever say there is again. I shall laugh!

“No one but Colin knew what effect those crossly spoken childish words had on him. If he had ever dared to let himself ask questions–if he had childish companions and had not lain on his back in the huge closed house, breathing an atmosphere heavy with the fears of people who were most of them ignorant and tired of him, he would have found out that most of his fright and illness was created by himself.”

Do, you mean there was really nothing wrong with him after all? Nope. And ten to one there’s noting wrong with you either. Or if there is it’s nothing you can’t fix with a few changes in diet, exercise, and fresh air. Take it from someone who suffered from spiritual and emotional psychosomatic tendencies and hypochondria and neurosis; it’ll steal every ounce of joy from you life. Don’t let it. Your mental and physical health is completely up to you. Colin grew nicer, and learned to walk. He got strong. He just needed to be snapped out of his funk. To be woken up–they all needed to be woken up–from the insanity of doing the same thing over and over.

So, go for it folks! I assure you your problems usually seem worse than they really are. At any rate, quit tantrum-ing and make the best of it.

It’s settled…right?

One of the saddest things about America is the benefits of technology. Okay, it’s not always sad. The medical field has certainly made great strides; but I have to confess to having a strong dislike of technology. (Ironic I know.) It’s not like I hate it in of itself; but it’s what it does to people. I listened to an episode on my favorite audio drama series in which one character talked about exploration. When we cease to reach higher, according to this guy, we cease to have the qualities that made America, America. When we become content with the way things are. I’m afraid that has happened to many people. In other words, we’ve settled.

We’ve settled for a life of hiding and escaping from our troubles through TV and other electronics. I see commercials frequently that show couch potatoes and phone addicts, (who look like zombies.) Work is hard, relationships are harder, life can be no fun; but we have our shows. We have the news to get our minds off our own problems. Yet…life has no mute or pause button, things tend to get worse the longer you leave them alone. Is this escaping helping us?

We’ve settled for passing instead of excellence. Most of us don’t think we can excel anyway, and it’s just too hard to try. But do the just-get-by-ers change things? Do they have the endurance to stand up to others. Do they have the respect of other people, better yet do they deserve the respect. (Ouch, I know.)

We’ve settled for acceptance of disabilities instead of helping each other to overcome them. Weakness can become strength if enough effort goes into overcoming it. But how can it be overcome if everyone just says it’s normal. Who wants to be normal anyway? (Sorry, Violet Incredible, but I think you figured it out at the end of the movie.)

I’m sure you can think of more things we’ve settled for. Or that you personally have settled for. I am not against contentment; but my definition of it is not just accepting that life sucks and trying to steal a little happiness. What are we accepting anyway? Pause for a moment and consider the world we live in…should we be satisfied? I for one am not. Happiness is a joke if this world is the best we get. Of course, I believe in Heaven. So, no matter how bad the world gets, I have hope. However, I also take this line from The Lord’s Prayer (found in Matthew six) seriously “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Verse 10) this is just one verse that tells me I need to be trying to make this world a better place. I will never fix all–or most of–the problems; but that is not the point. Sometimes it’s easier to look at the widespread “issues” than at the things we dub “microcosms.” The school in our neighborhood, the political correctness everywhere. (Does anyone even know what PC is? Isn’t it basically anything that doesn’t offend political people? Which is nothing.) People are not microcosms. They aren’t statistics. We each come into contact with countless individuals. And to be honest they scare a lot of us. We only see faces. But then someone smiles at us and we smile back. “Nice person” we think. Maybe someone will do a small kindness for us. Hand us something we just dropped, give up their place in line, tell us to have a nice day; and we feel better. these are real people, but they took the time to show a little kindness. That’s all you have to do most of the time. There will be times when the situation calls for more, but just a little kindness covers a lot. If you believe in prayer, than pray more instead of turning to entertainment. Don’t settle for a life of false ease. Fake happiness is just that: fake.

And that’s my thoughts for this article. I hope you enjoyed.

Looking around or looking up? The third.

I’m still going over The Hiding Place. The principles I want to cover in this article are perhaps the hardest to live. I want to open with a thought. The Ten Booms were ordinary people, but they involved their faith in everything, and it made them extraordinary. Greatness comes with faith, but it comes when you’re not looking. You’ll be the last to see it. Corrie never thought she was super special.

Now for the most remarkable thing about their story:

In the second prison Corrie learned the name of the man who’d betrayed them. She says, “Flames of fire seemed to leap around that name in my heart. I thought of Father’s final hours, alone and confused, in a hospital corridor. Of the underground work so abruptly halted. I thought of Mary Itallie arrested while walking down the street. And I knew that if Jan Vogel stood in front of me now I could kill him.” The life dropped out of her spiritual existence. She worked herself into “a sickness of body and spirit.” She told a prison friend about it all, was only too happy to. She was puzzled by Betsie’s seemingly unchanged attitude. Finally one night she asked, “Betsie, don’t you feel anything about Jan Vogel? Doesn’t it bother you?” “Oh, yes, Corrie! Terribly! I’ve felt for him ever since I knew–and pray for him whenever his name comes into my mind. How dreadfully he must be suffering!” Corrie goes on to say, “For a long time I lay silent in the huge shadowy barracks restless with the sighs, snores, and stirrings of hundreds of women. Once again I had the feeling that this sister with whom I had spent all my life belonged somehow to another order of beings. Wasn’t she telling me in her gentle way that I was as guilty as Jan Vogel? Didn’t he and I stand together before an all-seeing God convicted of the same sin of murder? For I had murdered him with my heart and with my tongue. ‘Lord Jesus,” I whispered into the lumpy ticking of the bed, ‘I forgive Jon Vogel as I pray that you will forgive me. I have done him great damage. Bless him now, and his family…’ That night for the first time since our betrayer had a name I slept deep and dreamlessly until the whistle summoned us to roll call.”

How do you forgive on such a scale? Later, out of prison and speaking in Germany,  Corrie met one of the guards from her prison. “And suddenly it was all there–the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face. He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. ‘How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein,’ he said. ‘To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!’ His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side. Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me. I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him. I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I couldn’t. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness. As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him. While into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me. And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His.”

I wonder if I could be so humble, or forgive so thoroughly. I know that we are made ready for any trial that we need to face. We are fully equipped. Though the choice of whether or not to “train” is ours. Corrie and Betsie trained all their lives. They were raised on the Bible and church and they did things out of faith all their lives. Whether you agree with such a life style or not, it clearly does something. But the sisters would never want us to give them credit so it’s only fair to them that I say it really wasn’t them.

Looking around or looking up? Continued.

Last time I wrote about looking around at the bad things in the world, and having courage; and I mentioned heroes. So today I want to talk about two of my personal heroes, Cornelia and Betsie Ten Boom. I’ve read the book “The Hiding Place” several times. It tells the story of these two women and their father, who hid Jews during the Nazi occupation of Holland. They were betrayed and discovered and both women went to three separate Nazi prisons as a result. Corrie was sick when it happened, because of that she was put in solitary confinement. For months she was alone in a small cell with a little square window. Betsie spent her time telling her cellmates about God, and doing her best to beautify prison life. They were then moved to a concentration camp, happily reunited. There they had to work, and learned who the man who’d betrayed them was. Corrie struggled with feelings of hatred for that man…until Betsie reminded her of God’s forgiveness. Later they were moved to an extermination camp. Even there they still told people about God. About two weeks before Corrie was released, Betsie–who was sickly–died. Corrie was not crushed however, though she was sad, because she knew without a doubt where Betsie was. Finally Corrie was released. Home at last she didn’t return to underground work, but began speaking about what she and Betsie had learned in the camps. She opened homes for Jews, Germans, and fellow Dutchmen.

I learned a lot from this book and I can’t do it justice here, I suggest reading it. The story rings true today, Corrie’s world was overtaken with darkness, hate, cruelty, and fear; but her and her families response was always love and goodness and mercy. Their courage they accredited to God alone. In prison Corrie found God to be her hiding place. The verse “Thou art my hiding place and my shield; I hope in they word…” caught her attention even as a child of six. Later she remembered them in prison.

One very profound thing Corrie was taught by her father was after her first sight of death.

“Corrie,” he began gently, “when you, and I go to Amsterdam–when do I give you your ticket?” I (Corrie) sniffed a few times, considering this. “why, just before we get on the train.” “Exactly. And our wise father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need–just in time.”

Casper Ten Boom’s advice closely resonates to Jesus’ words to His disciples, “But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.” Mark 13:11. Corrie saw the “train ticket” in the future times when someone she knew died. It stayed with her. Our own strength is just not enough. Man fears death above almost all else. We cannot face it with only our strength. There’s an old phrase “There are no atheists in foxholes.”

There is also fear of death in another part of the book. Right in the danger zone. Corrie had a dream or vision of their arrest, she told Betsie. Wondering if it was a vision. Betsie answers: “I don’t know, but if God has shown us bad times ahead, it’s enough for me that He knows about them. That’s why He sometimes shows us things, you know–to tell us that this too is in His hands.”

Again, Betsie’s faith aligns with scripture. When Jesus was warning them in Mark, he also said “But take heed; see, I have told all things beforehand.” (Mark 13:23.) “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” (Matthew 24:6.) Jesus also repeatedly says “But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” (Matthew 24:13.)

Betsie’s peace came from knowledge of another thing as well. During a plane fight, with bombs and explosions (as there will be when there are bombs.) Corrie got out of bed and went into the kitchen where Betsie was. Going back to bed she found a the inch piece of jagged metal on her pillow! It pricked her finger. She raced back down the stairs. As Betsie’s bandaged her hand. Corrie exclaimed. “Betsie, if I hadn’t heard you in the kitchen–” Betsie puts a finger on Corrie’s mouth. “Don’t say it Corrie! There are no if’s in God’s world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety– O Corrie, let us pray that we may always know it!”

“Keep me as th apple of you eye; hide me under the shadow of your wings, from the wicked who oppress me, from my deadly enemies who surround me.” (Psalm 17:8-9.) “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.” (Psalm 139: 7-10.)

To Betsie, no place was safer than another place. In a thunder storm a tree would be as safe as a house. (I’m not advocating stupidity by the way.) It’s not where we are, but who is watching over us. A child lost in the mall may be in no more danger than one who is home alone. The difference is not the place it’s in whether or not their mom or Dad is with them. It is the same with all of us. A closet, the edge of a cliff, they fell different. But with God there is no difference, He is everywhere. Which is why He says “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord you God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

That’s all for this article, but watch for part three. There’s more to tell about the Ten Booms.

Looking around or looking up?

I read the news off Google sometimes, not really on purpose, it pops up. And it’s really depressing most of the time. I’ve heard this described as looking around. In other words, focusing on the world around us and forming our opinions based off of that. My mom’s outlook on life sometimes seems just a little too unsuspicious to me, not that she’s not smart, she is. It’s really not her at all actually, it’s the time she was born in. I truly believe that, unless you really choose otherwise, the decade you were born in can shape your world view, or it’d be more accurate to say the attitudes embraced by the people who live in that decade. Let’s be honest, back in the 60’s it was a different world. With different people. The adults in my life are not naïve about life, but the bad things that happen seem to shock them. The difference is, they don’t shock me.

I actually think that’s sad on my part. What happened to this world? Murders that happen every day. When a robbery becomes a relief if no one was shot, we need a double take. I’m not intending to depress you, just to be real before I move on.

Millennials do not look at life as good. We feel no real remorse when we hear of deaths or suffering. It’s not really surprising, we’ve been fed futuristic movies and books, and news that seems to consider good things not worth reporting except every now and then just to keep us on our toes. If you’ve felt fear over your own inability to feel pity for another, then I can sympathize. Apathy is scary. And partly, it isn’t our fault.

We didn’t choose to hear about some things, sometimes people make us listen, some people seem to enjoy ruining your day by telling you the latest news, just in case you didn’t check the news that day. (Imagine not doing that!) What is our fault is supporting it. Becoming a naysayer, a pessimist, a fatalist, that is not the answer it’s becoming part of the problem. You will never convince some people to be cheerful, but you can be. Here I move to looking up. In John 16, Jesus warned about believers and unbelievers having sorrow. At the end of the chapter, vs 33 he says this: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (Emphasis mine.) it is not, according to Jesus, wrong to have cheer. A positive outlook, happiness. Other translations put courage instead of cheer. And that brings me to another good point. I know too many people who deal with the trouble of this world by sitting on their duffs in front of TVs or video games and forgetting the problems. Or Facebook. Pretty much anything electronic can be an escape. Even this blog could be if I spent all my time on it. Look folks, I know you’re scared. You have a reason to be scared. BUT, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE. You can be brave. Don’t fall for the Soap Opera lie that cowardice is okay and normal. Bravery is really a choice, but you can only make the choice if you know that fear is not your identity. Think about action movies. Think about the end of the Avengers. Is evil fully defeated? Or is it just put off for awhile? There is fear still. There’s no security. Where is the peace? Heroes are always watching their backs in modern stories. The Bible teaches that you don’t have to watch your back because God is already got it. Sometimes I ache for a godly superhero movie. Not because I think a movie that has no reference to God is bad, I don’t think that, but heroism seems unattainable nowadays. We can’t all have deadly martial arts skills or special axes or hammers or super strength. Does that mean we can’t be heroes? You know surprisingly Disney has this one figured out. Over and over again in their movies they say “It’s about the heart.” In Frozen, it’s the heart that makes the difference. In the Hunchback of Notre Dame the gypsy man asks at the end “What makes a monster and what makes a man?” The answer if you’ve seen the movie is clearly this: His heart. There’s even a Disney short called “The cat that looked at a king” in which the cat asks “What is the measure of a man?” A wise old man answers, “by his heart.” Jesus said to be of good courage. The root of courage is cor, which means heart. The Bible also says in Psalms that if you wait upon the Lord he will strengthen your heart. If you want to really shine in this dark age, you need to look up and have a strong heart. I will write more about this soon. Until then, I leave you with this, whether you’re a Christian or not, you have to admit this is cool: “For evildoers shall be cut off; but those who wait on the LORD, they shall inherit the earth…Wait on the LORD, and keep His way, and He shall exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off you shall see it.” (Psalms 37: 9, 34)