Belly Pride (aka Eat THAT Kate Moss)*

To know God is to know beauty; to know beauty is to know God. Just as God is the source of all truth and goodness, God is also the source of all beauty. God is the Supreme Artist – the Creator of all. Thus, everything that is beautiful reflects God’s artistry. Indeed, God is Beauty itself. –Rich Vincent

I was bumping around Amanda Palmer’s web site as well as the fatshionistas web site and was reminded of a few things. We have reduced beauty to surface matters, not thinking twice about being retouched, computer enhanced, reimagined through surgery in order to achieve the makeover of our false selves. We’ve reduced beauty to that with is merely pretty, setting cruel standards (impossible thinness and youth), the endless pursuit of which changes us and our definitions of beauty.

The tragedy is that beauty is so often determined from the outside that we’re left in need of constant validation. We cling to a fundamental insecurity about ourselves to the point where we can’t recognize beauty in the mirror. We are taught to be ashamed of our bodies, disgusted by any part of us that fails to meet up to some metric impressed upon us by others. Forgetting that beauty can be self-defined and self-determined. And easily recognized.

Admittedly, I was thinking about this while staring at my wife’s belly. It’s not a 25 year old belly. It’s a belly that has seen the birth of two children. A belly that has stood accused of being evidence of pregnancy. A belly that has caused her to defiantly retort “no, just fat. Thanks for asking when I’m due though.” It’s a belly that isn’t afraid to go swimming in a two piece bathing suit.

What impresses me is that it’s a belly that won’t be shamed by others. That won’t be belittled by the short-sighted or narrow-thinking. It’s a belly that won’t be defined by modern society’s pressures of beauty and physical definition because her sense of beauty isn’t rooted in what people think of her. It’s a belly that demands appreciation on its terms. It’s a belly that won’t believe the lies of her past won’t be condescended to and won’t be pressured by others.

Hers is a belly has been tested and persevered. Held a marriage together through good times and bad. Sure, that belly has dieted, exercised, but it still knows how to enjoy the occasional hot fudge brownie sundae. Hers is a belly that has lived and loved life. A belly that is fearless. A belly that demands to be known, loved, and appreciated.

A belly that knows peace and contentment because she knows that she is a beautiful creation of God, His perfect daughter.

Sometimes it takes a spiritual eye, a discerning eye, to truly appreciate beauty. A spiritual perception of glory, the loveliness of holiness, and the preciousness of grace … all the things that come with being created in God’s image. All beauty reflects its source, namely, God. When we experience beauty, we experience God. Sometimes we need to be reminded how much we need to still grow to appreciate the beauty around us.

*Hers is a belly that says “it’s your blog, why don’t you take a picture of YOUR belly.”

Nip/Tuck (Season 5.2) – A Review

“Deeply Superficial”

Nip/Tuck is what it is. It’s an over-the-top look at our culture’s fascination with physical beauty, how it defines (and traps) us, and how no pretty the outside it, there is no covering the deep scars of untreated wounds. The season 5.2 DVD set picks up right after the events of the (mid-)season finale, picking up right after Sean McNamara’s (Dylan Walsh) attack from his former agent. The season continues to mine the lives and characters of this broken collection of folks. Not ready to face his life, Sean decides to fake his recovery, pretending to be paralyzed below the waist. All too ready to face his death, Christian Troy (Julian McMahon) seeks to find his replacement to help Sean and pursue a marriage with their lesbian-except-to-marry-Christian anesthesiologist, Liz Cruz (Roma Maffia). In the mean time, would be true love to Christian, former drug addict and porn star Kimber (Kelly Carlson) returns with Christian’s grand-daughter in order to have plastic surgery done on the toddler (injections of botox to correct her “thin, villainous lips” so she can pursue a modeling career).

“Now you are perfect.” –Kimber

We live in an image based culture. From the moment we turn on the television, pick up a magazine, turn on the computer, or step out the door, we’re told what is pretty, what is the sexual ideal, what is stylish, what is beautiful. We forget that there is truth and goodness in beauty, one that we recognize without having to be told (much less needing it plastered all over magazine covers). Beauty should touch a primal chord within us, captivate us, and spur us to adoration, even worship.

“If I could just find joy in my life. Or maybe one day feel human again.” –Budi Sabri (Chi Muoi Lo)

A lot of people live their lives never fully convinced they are loved as they are. Never be able to love or unable to receive love, or allow ourselves to feel and accept love without strings attached or pre-requisites. They are so starved to be loved, they go to desperate lengths to fill that hole. Time and time again, the characters try to stave off the travails of the human soul, the loneliness and sorrow; and fill a hole, desire, and thirst only God could satisfy. They looking for affirmation, validation, appreciation, affection from friends, family, or fans; not realizing that they can’t look for their true self there.

“Even I, in this body, am a true expression of God.” –Budi Sabri

One particularly interesting case the doctors are presented with is that of Budi Sabri, a man with a virus that causes warts to break out all over his body. “All he’s known is pain and isolation” and his condition (and his hope) touches a chord in all of them. He is a reflection of what they all feel (and perhaps what they look like) inside. So the doctors take it upon themselves to try to get him to look and feel human again.

It is critical to not be defined by the past, but to always be working toward who we were meant to be. And live in the hope of becoming whole. We’re all wounded healers, broken or rather, incomplete. In the midst of pain, agony, and infection, we are to encourage one another as a fellow patient and in so doing become part of the healing. When our spirits are wounded, we speak words of resurrection. We offer new hope and new life. We invite one another to live a new kind of life, one where we are continually surrounded by Jesus’ transforming love.
As Nip/Tuck prepares to enter its final season (again, another show guilty of sticking around at least one season too long … Smallville says what?), the storylines and surguries only continue to get stranger as the characters have all but been exhausted. In what episode, the writers all but concede that they didn’t know what else to do with Christian besides kill him off. Despite its multitude of flaws, it has just enough left in its tank to limp to its finish line.

Friday Night Date Place – Embracing the Truth

Continuing our conversation from last week, I know it’s not easy to free ourselves from a lifetime of false lessons and beliefs about ourselves. It’s easy to get trapped in a mire of “woe is me,” a self-fulfilling and self-perpetuation spiral of self-hate. I don’t live under any illusion that we can just flick a switch and change.

But you don’t have to be who you are.

The overwhelming majority of folks I talk to know exactly when they are doing this emo dance of self-delusion and pity and simply can’t get out of their own way to stop it. It’s their default setting, a comfortable response to help them cope with the reactions they’ve come to expect from people. It’s the flip side of the chip on the shoulder posturing.

So I can’t say just stop it. I will, however, start by saying … stop it.

You are a precious creation of God. Precious. Accept yourself. No, better stated, accept the truth of yourself. Recognize that you, too, are an eikon, an image-bearer of God; worthy of respect, value, and love. We participate in the Divine Being, meant to partake in the Divine Life and Happiness*. We were created in love, for love, and are to open ourselves to the possibility of love. Embrace that love.

Draw on the love already in your life. I have several people in my life who are “sick” of how I see them. Because they don’t see themselves the way I see them. People of value, who deserve to be esteemed and appreciated. Whom I’m thankful God brought into my life and have made my life all the richer for knowing them. You know what makes them most uncomfortable? The idea that they don’t know if they can live up to how I see them … because they had had it so drummed into their heads that they weren’t beautiful or were somehow unworthy of being loved.

I’m ready to cut someone again.

Sometimes the only way we can really see ourselves is when we are reflected back in the eyes of someone who truly loves us. It gives us courage, strength, and a sense of worth we may never have known that we had. Find it in God, find it in the overflow of His love in your friends and family, and let that love begin to transform your thoughts.

Embracing the love and finding freedom and empowerment in it to love and be loved is a good second step. The next is to demand it. You DO deserve better. It’s okay to have high standards for yourself, to try to live up to them, and in so doing, help others to have higher standards. It’s okay to demand to be treated better.

In the end, part of the transformation is a matter of faith. You see, it takes a lot of faith in yourself to make such a step and make such a transformation. Confidence is little more than faith in yourself and that’s hard to teach. But embracing your value, that much of a step I think we can handle. As a start.

Because you deserve better.

*Special thanks to M. Basil Pennington’s True Self/False Self

Friday Night Date Place – True Beauty

There is truth and goodness in beauty, one that we recognize without having to be told (much less needing it plastered all over magazine covers). Beauty should touch a primal chord within us, captivate us, and spur us to adoration, even worship. Sometimes it takes a spiritual eye, a discerning eye, to truly appreciate beauty. A spiritual perception of glory, the loveliness of holiness, and the preciousness of grace … all the things that come with being created in God’s image. All beauty reflects its source, namely, God. When we experience beauty, we experience God. When we create beauty, we reveal God to others.

Continuing the thoughts from yesterday’s post, whenever my faith wavers, I try to remember that I have encountered true beauty in my life. I just wish more would see the beauty in themselves and realize they reflect God with their very existence. True, beauty has a subjective element to it, but there are also standards, or universals, to it. So I decided to look around at some of the beauty in my life to realize what they have taught me about beauty (keep in mind, these are but a few examples. I could easily go on):

Beauty sometimes has believed lies about itself, be it from a parent or a friend or a social group, to the point where it can’t recognize itself. The tragedy is that beauty is so often determined from the outside that we’re left in need of validation. We find ourselves consciously or unconsciously asking “Do you see beauty in me? Am I worth another glance?” We can become trapped in negative stories we’ve come to believe about ourselves and cling to a fundamental insecurity about ourselves to the point where we can recognize beauty in the mirror.

Beauty sometimes needs to be drawn out. Better stated, sometimes beauty doesn’t recognize its own preciousness. Nicole Johnson has captured the desires and dreams of women in her book, Keeping a Princess Heart In a Not-So-Fairy-Tale World. Without succumbing to sentimentality, Nicole demonstrates how the fairy-tale stories of our youth touch upon the very real desires women possess. We all long to be Cinderella (the mistreated beauty rejected by others but pursued by a prince), Sleeping Beauty (the captive beauty waiting for life-giving kiss), and Snow White (the outcast beauty who raises a family of dwarves). Put succinctly, too many princesses wait on princes, not realizing that they don’t need them.

Beauty should have confidence and confidence is beautiful. Because beauty is so often determined from the outside, we forget that beauty recognizes itself. Beauty can be self-defined and self-determined. Just like we can become trapped in negative stories about ourselves, we can write our own positive stories and wait for the world to fall in lockstep with them. When beauty acknowledges and affirms their beauty rather than waiting on the princes of the world to recognize, beauty turns heads.

Beauty perseveres. Like faith it can be tried and tested, it may bend, but never fade away. I am reminded of this verse: “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:3-5. Beauty, art, faith – all are meant to persevere.

Beauty has standards. I am guilty of Philokalia. Philokalia is Greek for “the love of the beautiful.” Beauty doesn’t need me to value it, but it demands to be known, loved, and appreciated. I may not be everyone’s idea of a prince, but I am someone’s. When true beauty is encountered, it defines the world around you. That kind of beauty you better marry.

A part of loving one another means looking at one another with eyes of love. I’m not going to look at just anyone with the same eyes that I look at my wife, but the spirit of philokalia should be contagious.

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