Monday, April 8, 2013

Beauty is designed love

Hello Beautiful

In just a few weeks the blog will be two years old.  As I spoke with a friend who is a much more accomplished writer, I began to recall my original intent in writing these posts.  What began as a way to organize my thoughts for a book has transformed my views on the subject of beauty.  This path has taken me from beauty to design, and from design to the beauty of creation.  In creation, beauty of action.  And through action the beauty of love.

This transformation of thought has lead me to believe that beauty is designed love.  The ultimate execution of such action coming from our Creator.  Every morning is presented with a sunrise and and every day ended with lights suspended in a the deepest blue sky.  In between we find promising rainbows and Grandma’s cookies.  Self-sacrificing friends and finely crafted clothing.  Food, animals, buildings, and electronics all pointing to one source.  This unrelenting love permeates everything we do and everywhere we may imagine to venture.  Each one of us carrying a small ember of its fire like a lantern for our journeys.

As I sat in church a few weeks ago we sang one of my favorite lines:

“…My heart will always sing
I love You, I love You
My heart will always sing
I love You, I love You…”
          -Jason Ingram, Kari Jobe

When I sing that I sense every cell in my body resonating in agreement.  No matter what happens—if I am mad at God, sad in life, happy at work, or just average—I can always say, without a doubt that there is still Love.  An unrelenting approximation of the unconditional Love He has for us.  I feel as though there can be no other conclusion than this.  The mutual exchange of Love we have with our Creator is our reason for existence.  It is what makes everything else not only pleasant, but functional.  Your propensity for change and desire for excellence is not because you desire to be beautiful.  It is because you love, and you are loved.

Monday, March 18, 2013

the Volunteer and the Called

Hello Beautiful

As humans our capacity for sacrifice is limited only by our mental belief in the things we hold true.  A friend recently ran a marathon.  His strong convictions in completing personal goals and pushing physical limits were matched by a strong regimented discipline. 

We all have goals that push our limits. We desire more than work, food, and sleep.  In a society connected to everything, our countries tenacious spirit has become a part of our genetic make-up.  If you desire to be a dancer, programmer, designer, banker, runner, house-dad, or gamer, a few clicks on the internet and some determination will take you there.  This world of limitless possibilities is only held back by our personal perspective.  The way we view ourselves and the essential nature of our task is often a greater limiting factor than anything physical.  Money, knowledge, and skills are diminutive determinants compared to our mind telling us we are unable to prevail or our hearts motivation extinguishing.

Our tenacity for perseverance further wanes when our goals do not directly affect our lives.  When we see insurmountable tasks in our organizations and churches we more easily can live with lowering the bar.  Thus we have the dichotomy of the volunteer and the called.

The Volunteer works because they want to.   They are the essential force of many organizations, but at the end of the day they get to go home and feel great about what they contributed.  Being a volunteer is a wonderful way to become involved.  But being called is very different.

The Called make a difference because they heard God tell them to be an agent of change and they love Him such to obey.  No matter what the sacrifice, how tired they become, or how long it takes, they will continue carrying the fight until it is won.  Their resolve and conviction is held not in a belief they have in themselves, but in a God that has delegated and entrusted them with this task.  How incredible it is to be asked to complete an assignment required by the King.  Whether it is raising a child, traveling to remote nations, working at a bank, or passing around the offering bucket, you have a prescribed job that the God of the Universe wants and needs you to accomplish.  Something for which you were specifically called and beautifully made.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Patron Saint of Lost Causes

Hello Beautiful

Today I heard a new song about the fallibility of our humanity as we try to achieve the impossible.  We have burning dreams implanted in our hearts to do great things.  Change the world.  Scale mountains.  Motivate a generation.  Even our goals of wealth and security can seem impossible when compared against the delicacy of our human nature.  Any small thing may set us back.  A bad morning, an accident on our drive, or a missed deadline.  There are so many cracks in the system we call life it is a wonder that we are able to make it through.

Yet many of us continue to fight and pursue these visions of a world changed.  A planet more beautiful, more unified, more reached.  Visions that, when viewed by human eyes, are lost causes.  Even more futile are our attempts when we examine the flesh and bone that is trying to execute such lofty goals.

The song I listened to has a chorus that echoes:

“That you are the patron saint of lost causes.
All you are to them is now a lost cause.“ –Amberlin

The artist is saying that in our road towards helping lost causes, we must not lose sight of the fact that we ourselves are a lost cause.  We are human.  As hopeless as this fact may first appear, it is a comforting notion.  We are, or at one point were, all lost causes.  Yet in the midst of it all God chose not only to pull us out of our feeble state, but employ us to reach a world left wandering in the dark.

Time and time again we hear stories of the impossible being achieved.  Food and medical attention sent to the desolate.  Book and resources given away by the millions.  Funds raised to research terminal illnesses.  Even stories that hit closer to home like abusive fathers restoring their family and addicts living free from their vices. 

Each of these stories begin with a lost cause by a lost cause with a dream.  And they end with the impossible coming true.  Great marks are not made on the Earth by accomplishing the average.  Our destiny is to believe for the impossible through a God that placed those dreams in our hearts, so that we may see lost causes become found.  And in that discovery we may find our own purpose and beauty.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Reset Button

Hello Beautiful

There are many things that we take for granted in our walk through life.  None the least being beauty, love, family, and finances.  Items that our western culture finds more easily than others.  Today I was thinking a lot about forgiveness.

As a child I enjoyed playing video games.  Back before memory cards and hard drives on gaming consoles, one had to beat and entire game in one sitting.  There was nothing worse than getting to the final level only to have your demise met by one of Kuppa’s minions.  Fortunately, one could pick up “extra lives” and continue on as though there were no consequences.  A do-over.

In life we have all had moments where we wished for a do-over.  Another chance with a job interview, significant other, or life choice.  Regrets and “what-if’s” are the fuel for stress that keeps pharmaceutical companies in business.  It keeps us up at night and floods our thoughts at the most in opportune time.  We replay the scenario over and over again trying to find the right combination that would let us “beat” that challenge.  But in the real world there are no “take-backs”, no “undo” button, no extra men. 

What we do have is more powerful.  Instead of trying to act as though a particular event or hurt never occurred, we can learn from these experiences, swallow our pride, and simply ask for forgiveness.  Forgiveness is the ultimate reset button.  When the vision of our true selves has been overshadowed by our fleshly nature three words pleading from an earnest heart set us back on cause: I am sorry.  At times forgiveness must come from another person we have hurt.  Or perhaps it was a sin committed we wish to forget.  Many times the hardest person to forgive is ourselves.

At my church the entire auditorium says a prayer of forgiveness with new Christians.  A strange act to some, but I enjoy the weekly reminder that I am constantly in need of a Savior.  I love knowing that no matter what happened in my week, how close or distant I may have felt to my Creator, I can always hit the reset button with a sincere heart and continue moving forward.  You do not need to live held back by your past mistakes.  Each moment can be made new.

You are Beautiful

Monday, January 28, 2013

Gentlemen Tie a Full Windsor

Hello Beautiful

Whenever I tie a necktie I use a full Windsor knot.  Densely packed regality offset by a single dimple as a triangle bridges the gap between collar points.  A refined knot of a distinguished class; unlike the half-hearted four-in-hand that is lackadaisically thrown in place by a society that has lost an understanding of the term “Gentleman”.  It takes more time, effort, and care to tie a full Windsor.  Last Friday as I completed a fantastically executed shave, buttoned America’s best fitting shirt by Express (the fitted 1MX), and completed my ensemble with a firmly arranged tie, a sense of pride and satisfaction gave me the confidence I needed for the evening.

It is more than clothing.  It is the forgotten art of being a gentleman (or lady).  An effort that declares, “I will not simply mail it in today!”  Composing one’s self should be executed masterfully.  Whether you area a nurse or waitress, lawyer or salesman, there is room in your life for ironing and grooming.  A little extra work that lets the world know you not only care about yourself, but the fact that someone else has to stare at your face all day.

Many debate the full Windsor (or whatever item of fashion or beauty) is not their style.  It does not properly fit.  Is not conducive to their occupation.  Consider a true re-imagination of self.  Without the limitations of culturally branded styles, employment stereotypes, or what is in-stock at Macy’s.  Where do you desire to live?  Imagine for a moment if everything that God placed in you was fully manifest.  All your wonderful personality traits, creativity, and spirit, realized both in your physical appearance and in your demeanor.  Chase after that idea and let nothing stand in your way.  Remember ties can be tailored if they do not fit.

It is not everyday that I feel like a gentleman.  Not everyday that I dress like one.  Not everyday that I act like one.  Each day I try to get at least one of the three correct.  A foreshadow of permanence in my life comes on days when how I feel, dress, and act all align.  There is always more room to execute the life God created you to live.  Gentleman or lady, baller or artist, executive or blue collar worker—elevate your portrayal.  Press onward in the display that you are beautiful.

Monday, January 14, 2013

When Ink Flows Best

After nearly a week of gorgeous weather, today brought forth rain.  The slow drizzle was foreshadowed by a fog that arrived a day earlier.  A paced announcement of the coming depths of winter.  I enjoy the pause and stillness that is ushered in by this suspended force.  It is moments like these when all distraction fades.  The sun has hidden. The streets are silent. The unbridled passion of the heart is tamed.  These hours of focus are when the purest creation takes place.

I find that ink flows best across a blank page when it rains; keys may be stroked more deliberately, music resonates more fervently. It is in these deep states of melancholy that we are most attuned to the cry of our soul.  The sobriety of our pensive state allows a direct connection between thought and action—idea and execution.

As sunshine turned to fog, turned to mist, turned to rain, I considered the original state of the Universe before the magnificence of creation; when there stood God and Angels alone.  How immeasurable the stillness that must have existed in a world without form.  Pure unadulterated nothingness.  The ultimate blank canvas.

I dare not call God melancholy, but I can imagine His longing for us as He stood before a vacuous Universe.  Out of this emptiness the greatest act of creation transpired.  The Earth and heavens, plants and animals, water and light were all created.  Each element infused with the Divine’s fingerprint.  Out of this state of quiet that was the self-existence of God, He choose to create something wonderful: You.  

I imagine God looking at His angels saying, “Watch what I am about to do.”  And out of this He not only created the physical and spiritual world of our existence, but created the force that unifies it together—Love.  Out of nothingness He created relationships—a mutual exchange of desire between the Creator and the created.  And gave us the gift of choice, such that this love would have worth by our voluntary intimacy with Him.

Such a deliberate act removes all fortuitousness from the equation and demonstrates a purposeful drive that lead to our being.  God created you because He desired to love you.  And to be loved by you.  He created you because before you were formed He knew you are beautiful.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Flowers, Chocolate, and Puppies

Hello Beautiful

In speaking with a very close friend I was reminded of a deep truth of the female heart.  “AJ, don’t you know all girls love flowers, chocolate, and puppies!”  While I already knew this overly generalized truth, I was taken aback by how passionately it was proclaimed.  As we laughed I contemplated the positive stereotypes of our society.  Those things that are “generally true” but are not degrading labels imposed on a people group.

Girls like flowers. Guys like food. Rednecks like trucks.  Grandma’s make the best cookies.

There are certain things that have been created that we enjoy.  Holding the delicacy of a flower in your hand as you greet a lady and non-verbally express your emotions toward her is one of life's more touching moments.  A man who has worked hard all day and can come home to an aromatically pleasing and delectable meal has much adoration for the chef.  Redneck’s like trucks (I feel like that one is self explanatory).  And the memory one has of warm oatmeal raisin cookies coming out of the oven as we enter from playing in the snow will forever keep our grandmothers with us.

There are things we commonly enjoy.  Others that are more individual to our particular taste.  Our Creator gave us so much goodness when we were placed on this Earth.  There was no need to create flowers so beautiful.  No biological reason for coco to be so tasty.  And puppies could have been made as cute as a beetle.  Perhaps in loving us He decided to populate the Earth with wonderful things.

In wondering about these commonalities we have in our affinities I realized that we were intentionally wired this way by God’s genius.  The plan all along was love.  The ultimate love for Him and our love for one another.  To the end of the later, He made it uncomplicated for us to commonly express our love.  How easy is it to buy some flowers or txt a photo of a cool truck?  We may enjoy overly romanticized and meticulously planned romantic gestures, but we were meant to regularly express our love to one another.  We were meant to eat chocolate. 

Happy New Year.

You are Beautiful.