5 Hints that You’re Getting Ready to Do Something Shabby

Here are 5 things that should clue you in that what you are about to do (or are doing) is shabby.

1. You feel the urgency to do something quickly more than the urgency to get it done correctly. This can include texting something that ought to be done with a phone call, saying something in a phone call that ought to be said in person, and saying something in person  at a time or place that leaves the other person no chance to think or respond to the full weight of what you are saying.

2. You purposely avoid asking anyone for advice who might disagree with you.  This includes people who have special knowledge about you and any particular subject that impacts the action you’re about to take.worn-out-shoes_001

3. You think of ways to keep people from knowing what you are about to do (doing).  Creating an alias that no one knows is you, figuring out how to delete text and email threads and web search history, looking into security measures to guard your actions from scrutiny are all in this category, especially if you’ve never considered them before.

4. You have to pump yourself up with self-righteousness before you act.  Listing reasons you are right and someone else is wrong or deserves something to happen is a tell tale sign of shabbiness.

5.  You think about an exit strategy to get away from the scene.  This is true if you’re robbing a bank or ditching on a friend.

If you are planning to take an action and any of these things are part of the run up to it, I suggest you take a step back and reconsider.  You’re not a shabby person and you don’t want to treat other people in dishonoring ways.  It makes the world a sucky place to live in.  And just in case it occurs to you that someone writing an article like this must know a lot about doing shabby things…yeah.  I’ve done all of them and none of them have left me with a lift in my spirit and most have produced bad results.

 

 

 

 

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Marriage: You’re Closer Than It Appears

objects-in-mirrorObjects in the mirror are closer than they appear.  Why?  Because the mirror bulges in the middle.  Imagine the mirror as plastic wrap spread across a frame.  If you took a ball and pressed it into the wrap it would bulge outward taking the shape of the ball.  This is a convex mirror.  Light reflects differently in this kind of mirror, bouncing off at an various angles.  In a flat or planar mirror light reflects at ninety degree angles virtually recreating a picture of the object being reflected.  In the  convex mirror on the passenger side of cars the different angles of light compress the image in the middle and expand the image at the outer edges increasing the field of vision by about 30% but making  reflected objects appear to shrink.  Both mirrors are useful in their place.  If you want to see around a corner you’re going to need the convex type, but if you are trying to put in your contact lenses a flat mirror is going to be your best bet.

Have you notice how some people have a wider perspective than others?  They can see things other people don’t see.  On the other hand there are people who are very good at reflecting exact pictures of what they see.  Same light, different reflection.  Mirrors have warnings.  People don’t.  In relationships it is often a good thing to suspend judgment about who saw something in a certain way until you have a better feel for their perspective.  Flat mirror types often feel like the picture they see is getting distorted by convex mirror types.  Convex mirror types often feel like the flat mirror types aren’t looking at the big picture.  Both perspectives have value and can be combined to  help you safely navigate your relationship.  Either way you see things, you are closer to each other than it appears.

How to Improve Your Marriage Today with One Simple Act

Before I go further I want to give you a disclaimer:  simple does not equal easy; simple is just simple, meaning it is not difficult to grasp the concept I’m going to give you.  Applying it is not easy, but if you do, it will improve your marriage or any other significant relationship right away.

The principle is this:  judge your own judgments.  What do I mean?  Well lets use a common marital interaction to illustrate.  I come through the door from driving the school bus and walk into the kitchen where Tina is sitting at her desk  I say hi and give her a kiss.  She barely looks up and gives me a half-hearted kiss in return.  I am a thinker, so I process the world by thinking about things and trying to sequence them with logical patterns.  If action A, then result B.  The cool response by Tina to me must have something to do with what I said to her last night or what I forgot to do before I went to work.  This may or may not be true, but the thing that will help us most at this point is not for me to drill into her about why she isn’t responding to me right now.  How to I know this is about me at all?  Well, all I really know is that if I was in her place and treated her cooly, it would be because she offended me some way.  I really don’t have insight into why she is acting the way she is acting right now, I only have my own way of doing things as possible motives.  Do you see what I mean?  The only lens I have to view Tina’s actions is my own actions in the same situation.  This is crazy!  And it is killing plenty of relationships.

None of us are motivated by the exact same things.  Each of us has a history that makes us do things differently and for different reasons.  My A leading to B is not your A that leads to the same B.  And even when my A leads to B and yours does to, it takes a different Jan2011-March2011-autocritica_799671110path.  Instead of assuming you know why your spouse is giving you the cold shoulder or is not responsive emotionally or sexually in a given situation, judge your judgment.  Recognize first that you only think they are doing what they are doing, that you really don’t know why.  Ask questions.  Use your judgments as entry points to understanding your spouse or your children or your friends, not as evidence to convict them.  Say, “Hey, if I was acting this way in this circumstance, it would be because I was angry/sad/distracted/etc, what are you feeling right now?”

A warning.  The reason this is so hard to apply to our relationships is that we rely on judgments more than we know.  We do it all the time and we think it serves us well; it may serve us well in many cases.  If you are a fairly intuitive person, you may get many judgments right.  You develop a track record and a confidence that you are the kind of person who just “knows people” or you think you “know what makes people tick.”  Trust me on this, you don’t know as much as you think.  I mean, lets be reasonable – do you know why you do what you do all the time?  You perfectly understand your own motives? I don’t.  I find myself doing things I have no idea why I’m doing them.  The implication of this is obvious: if we can’t get our own judgment about ourselves right, what makes us so sure we have anyone else sorted out?

Take this to heart and your marriage will improve today – it isn’t a miracle cure for all that ails us, but is a great way to start cutting down on meaningless arguments and misunderstandings and to begin building some trust in communication.  Try it.  Judge your judgments.

A Bad Sign for Your Relationships (and what to do about it)

I have several relationships that exist across wide gaps in time and distance.  Friends who live in other states I only get to see a few times each year, and with whom I don’t maintain regular contact (ie we don’t email, Face Book, text, Skype, facetime, etc, frequently or at all).  These relationships exist with a lot of empty space, yet the minute I am together with these people I feel as if I’ve never missed a beat.  We pick up right where we left off and keep going.  Actually we have grown in friendship even without regular communication.  But there are other relationships I have that a week without communication creates something dark.  Its as if the lack of contact creates more distance.  I notice that I fill up the empty space in some relationships with good thoughts and others I fill up with negative thoughts.  Some people don’t call me for 3 months and when I think of them I smile and say, “Wow, I bet Joe is super busy. I should probably check up on him.”  In the other kind of relationship three days go by, and I think of them and say “Wow, what’s Joe’s problem?  I must have made him angry about something.”

It is a bad sign for a relationship when you start filling up the empty spaces with negative thoughts.  Every time you get back in contact with a person in this kind of relationship, you have to expend time and effort checking to see if your negative thoughts were right.  That is time and effort you can’t use to grow the relationship.  Since most of us don’t have huge excess of time and energy, the time and energy lost to the dark space is more than we 604891have to give.  Instead of digging out all the nastiness we pour into the empty space and getting rid of it, we don’t deal with it all.  It takes too much effort.  It accumulates.  The next time we are disconnected from the person we throw a little more negativity into the empty space and it doesn’t get cleaned out.  Like barnacles on a ship, this stuff puts a drag on our relationships.  Sometimes you are right about why your wife didn’t call you while she was away on the business trip.  She was mad about an unresolved conflict over the kids.  Sometimes your friend did get your texts and ignored them because your needs weren’t very important to them at the time.  Add enough “true” situations where your negative thoughts are accurate, and it gets easier to throw even more negativity into the next time there is empty space in the relationship.

This is a mess.  It is full of guilt and shame, presumption and anger and self-righteousness and hurt.  It is the exact opposite of the easy, fulfilling and life-giving kind of relationships we treasure.  If you continue pouring negative thoughts into the empty space, the relationship will break down.  You’ll have the occasional “come to Jesus” meetings where months worth of junk gets pulled out of the dark and you start over again, but those take a lot of effort, and after you’ve done it enough you’ll stop having them.  You will be worn out.  Marriages like this don’t last.  Parents and children like this drift apart and only connect in the mandatory meetings of life.  Friendships cool and die out.

What’s the answer?  Well you could try thought replacement.  Every time a negative thought tries to come into the empty space just squash it.  That is fine if you are strong and consistent.  But it also wears you out and often feels false.  There are some really negative things that come into our relationships and it seems a bad idea to pretend they don’t exist. The root of negativity is the thing we need to get rid of.  How can we find it?  Well what is at the core of those other kind of relationships where empty space gets filled with positive thoughts?  That must be the thing we need to bring into all our relationships.  The thing is called grace.  Grace allows me to think of you in the highest light.  A grace-based relationship is the opposite of a works based relationship.  It means I’ve decided to love you for who you are, not for anything you do.  I make no claims upon what you owe me; not a phone call or text or a birthday card.  If any of those things are missing it has not changed the foundation of our relationship AT ALL.  But in works based relationships, the exchange of goods and services is the basis of how I relate to you and when you or I are behind in payment our relationship foundation cracks and shifts.  I’m not sure who I am any more or who you are.  Am I the one behind in payment?  Have you ever owed money to someone and not been able to pay them back?  It isn’t easy to come around them is it?  You might start avoiding them.  If you see them talking to someone you may assume they are talking about what a no load you are.  This is what a works based relationship looks like.

How do I get grace into my relationships?  Foremost, grace is a decision.  You must decide your relationships are not going to be based upon works.  You have to say that your friends, lovers, and children owe you nothing.  Then you have to put this into practice.  No matter what happens you have to keep a zero balance sheet.  My husband owes me nothing.  My daughter owes me nothing.  My best friend owes me nothing.  Sound easy?  No, it is pretty hard.  But it is the way to go if you want lasting and healthy relationships.  Fortunately the gospel gives us a huge resource we can incorporate into all our relationships if we accept it.  Jesus told a story about two sons.  The younger asked for his inheritance and spent it in a wild extended party until he ended up eating out of a pig trough.  The older keep working at home tending the father’s farm.  When the younger came home, asking to just become a hired hand, the father not only received him back, he put a ring on his finger and a robe on his back and threw a party for his lost son.  The older brother got angry at this and complained to the father.  One of the things the older brother says to his dad is basically, “I’ve never done anything but work and do your will and yet you throw a party for this horrible son of yours…while you’ve never done anything for me.  What’s wrong with this picture???”  The older son had a relationship with his father based hawala-money-changing-handson work.  I do for him and I should expect X out of you.  The younger son had a relationship of grace with his father.  I should only be a servant, yet you call me a son.  If you notice in the story, the father takes the same position toward both sons.  He stands ready to give them what they don’t deserve.  The older prodigal son couldn’t possibly work hard enough to earn what the father offers him – yet the father says to him “all I have is yours.”  Wow!  He gives up everything for the older son.  Grace.  And the father offers the younger son his place in the family even though the younger son, by asking for his inheritance before his father was even dead was saying, “I’m outa here pops, you can drop dead for all I care.”  Grace.

How can you and I change the basis of all of our relationships at once?  Get some perspective.  The gospel is God being in relationship with you regardless of what you do.  Wish him dead and just want his stuff?  He doesn’t change his mind about you.  He will still call you son or daughter.  Think you are pleasing him and earning your keep by all your hard work even though you couldn’t know your left from your right unless he gave you air to breathe?  He doesn’t change his mind about you.  He will still invite you to come in out of the field of works you’ve made for yourself.  At what cost does God extend his good thoughts about us?  How can he afford to fill up the empty space with good will towards us when we are so obviously messed up?  He gave up his son.  He let Jesus do all the work of the older brother and make up for the inheritance the younger brother blew with prostitutes.  If you and I see the grace God extends to us, it puts our grace in perspective.  It shrinks the burden.  When I want to think ill of you the gospel reminds me that God thinks well of me when I don’t deserve it.  It also reminds me that God is thinking well of you too.  The cross is the evidence of how God feels about you and me. Grace.  It is fresh air.  I have so much I have plenty to spare.  Now I can give it to you and I still haven’t lost any of God’s infinite supply.  No wonder Paul opened so many of his letters with “Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ.”  He was filling in all the empty space of every relationship in and around the church with the most positive thing he could think of.  Grace and peace to you.  Give this to all your relationships in the name of Jesus Christ.

How to Stop Shooting Off Your Mouth

“In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.” (King James Version of Proverbs 10:19)
“The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words.”
(The Message, Proverbs 10:19)
“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”
(English Standard Version of Proverbs 10:19)

Sitting in a public spot early this morning I had a few extra moments before getting out to drive the school bus (yeah, that is 1 of the 4 or 5 jobs I have).  I try to redeem the time when waiting and for me the best way to do that is to read.  I broke out my phone and opened my pocket Bible app which if you don’t have one I suggest Laridian, I’ve used it for years and its cool.  But I couldn’t read it.  I read the same line 5-6 times and still could not get it going.  The problem?  The morning coffee klatch that is always going on in this place.  Same three people.  Same volume of words.  Words, words, words, words.  A flood of words.  Not especially loud and certainly not offensive in nature; just a multitude of words that washed over me drowning out all coherent thought.  I considered moving to another part of the lobby, but realized it was not far enough away.  You know how it feels when you weren’t paying attention to some sound but your mind gets locked in somehow and you can’t help hearing it?  The dripping faucet in the night.  The irregular banging of a hammer on the construction site near work.  But to me there is nothing so distracting as an endless drone of words.

I’ve quoted the verse from Proverbs about this so much over the years it immediately came to mind this morning.  A bunch of words means a bunch of room for error.  The more we talk the more we open ourselves up to saying something we should not say.  Words are 1375738928_free-speech-words-are-weaponsweapons.  Some are so sharp just a touch opens up a serious wound.  Others are barbed fish hooks.  Once they puncture a hearer they will not come back out easily. There are double-edged words that cut both speaker and hearer, and cudgel words that smash people.  And some words are quicksand pulling us in and choking out all air and light.

I have a conceal carry permit for a gun, although I rarely carry.  In fact I’ve only carried my .38 revolver once, and even when I did I kept the rounds in one pocket and the gun in another (gun enthusiasts please don’t write and tell me how stupid I am).  I did it because I am very aware of the damage I can do with a gun and I was being extra cautious.  The first time carrying a gun in public I was more comfortable knowing there was an extra step between me and using it.  I am no where as cautious with my words in public or in private.  I generally shoot first and ask questions later.  I make a lot of mistakes.  It has taken me years to slow down the words I use with my friends, my coworkers, my kids, my wife.  I swear it feels like a balloon blowing up inside my chest sometimes when I want to spew words back out over a person.  I can hardly keep it in.  But I’ve learned to do better.

How about you?  How careful are you with the words you let out of your mouth?  Try an experiment the next time you are with a few people.  See if you can just listen.  See if you MUST speak.  Don’t be rude.  Answer any questions directed your way, but attempt to throw the talking back to someone else and try to steer away from giving your opinion, your achievement, your advice, your feelings.  Just. Listen.  Warning:  this is very hard.  Another exercise:  when you are with a group of people and engaging in conversation, do not Words_as_Weapons_by_dickie0speak about a person who is not present unless you would say the same exact thing in their presence.  Do not contribute to a conversation that tears down another person with jagged edge words.  Warning:  you may not think this is hard, but if you really are keeping away from talking about others in a disparaging way, you will notice at first you don’t have much to talk about.  No kidding.  The first time I did this I was shocked at how much my words are devoted to dismantling other human beings.

Once you get a feel for using fewer words and for using less damaging words, you will agree with the Proverb.  You will see how hard it is to control your words and how many opportunities there are to do damage with them.  All your relationships will benefit from cutting down on your words and practicing restraint with the words you do use.  You know what I think when I see someone who can’t stop talking?  Who floods the phone or the lobby with words?  I think they must not be heard.  No one is listening to them, or that is their self perception.  When I hear a person who uses weaponized words I think this person must be trying to get higher by making others lower.  I can tell both of them the truth in a few words.  The truth is that they (we) have the ear of God.  God listens.  Your boss may not hear you or your teenager may ignore you, or your spouse may talk over you, but you are heard by God.  Let that sink into your heart and the urgency to make people hear you will diminish.  It will give you peace.  Your heart is heard and understood by the most important being in the cosmos.  The truth is also that God makes much of us.  He elevates us.  You could tear down all the people in the world and never get a higher reputation.  You could shrink down every person who ever lived and not get the place God gives to you.  That will put out the fire in your heart and words.  It will make you reconsider just what you hope to gain by ripping and tearing at people when it gets you no where compared to where God takes you.  And it will humble you to see that God uses good words about you; “son,” “daughter,” “faithful,” “beloved.”  This is our power to use fewer, better words; God’s ear and God’s opinion both revealed in Jesus.  And this power over words is the power to change more than just our patterns of speech, it is the power to change our marriages, our communities and our world.

How Our Sorry State is Ruining Our Marriages (and an accessible solution)

“I’m sorry.”  “He offered an apology.”  “She made a public plea for forgiveness.”  It is hard to imagine a day’s news cycle without hearing something like this.  Everybody is sorry about something or wants someone to be sorry about something.  It permeates everything we do.  It is a smog of sorriness.  Our kids bring it home from school.  It seeps in through the TV and the internet.  We start to think sorry is our normal condition and we wonder what may be wrong with us when we find we really aren’t sorry. We are living in a sorry state.  A sorry state is a “pressed down” state.  It sits on us, this feeling of being sorry. forgive-meIt lingers over us until we start saying it for no reason at all.  A little girl who we keep in our daycare walks around all day saying, “I’m sorry.”  She just says it out of the blue.  I ask, “What are you sorry for?”  She never answers, she just starts telling me about whatever she is doing.  It makes you wonder though doesn’t it?  It makes us feel like we must be doing something wrong if this child feels compelled to say “sorry” ten times a day.  But it is a pretty good reflection of what goes on in our culture every day all day.  Many of our relationships are suffering because of this sorry state.  We are like the little girl.  We walk around with the feeling we ought to say we are sorry, but we’re not sure why.

Let me tell you a few things about being sorry.  First of all, and so obvious you may not notice it at first, feeling sorry is not natural.  If you and I are cosmic accidents who are only part of the animal world and making a way through it by being bigger, faster, stronger, then sorry is stupid.  You ever see a lion who was sorry it stole the last bite of antelope right out of the mouth of the slower lion? No.  Feeling sorry is unnatural, meaning it is something outside of us we can’t explain based upon what we see.  Second is that sorry is just the tip of the iceberg called forgiveness.  The real ruinous part of our sorry state; the thing that kills marriages and all our significant relationships, is the idea that “feeling sorry” is how forgiveness is accomplished, and if we don’t “feel sorry” we are not truly able to experience forgiveness, and if someone asks us for forgiveness who doesn’t feel bad enough (whatever that means – it varies from person to person) can’t or shouldn’t be forgiven.  Since it is almost impossible to make ourselves feel bad enough, or to know exactly how bad someone ought to feel in order for us to get on with the business of living, we end up with a lot of loose ends in our relationships; a lot of unease about ourselves and our spouses.

I asked a couple this week what they thought forgiveness was.  They told me it was about owning our mistakes and then agreeing to go on together.  I thought that was a good start.  Then I asked this:  So you uncover the fault and agree to go on together.  What happens if a week, or a month or a year from now you bring it back up again and demand more answers or more concessions or whatever?  What if every year on the anniversary of the offense the offended person brings it up again?  Is that forgiveness?  Have you really forgiven?  They both laughed at that and agreed it was not forgiveness.  I agree.  But what is forgiveness then?  Does it mean forgetting an offense ever happened?  Try that.  Many of us have tried to do that.  It isn’t very practical is it?  And it doesn’t feel healthy.  It feels like I’m trying to fool myself into believing something bad never happened, and that can’t be right.  I also discovered that when I most need to forget the offense I am in the worst position to do it.  When do you need it most?  When things are forcing you to remember the offense, right?  Triggers.  People, places, words, things.  Forgetting just can’t be the right answer.

imagesForgiveness is a decision, not a feeling and not forgetting.  Both the person needing forgiveness and the person extending it must decide.  It is not a mutual decision, but a personal one.  A decision?  Yes.  A decision about cost.  Who is going to bear the cost of the offense.  In real forgiveness the person who is hurt must decide to bear the cost of the hurt alone and not try to make the other person pay for it.  And there are plenty of toll booths set up along the way where we can make others pay; plenty of decision points.

Years ago my wife collected ceramic figurines called Precious Moments.  She put them all in a cabinet in a little walkway just off the kitchen.  Some of them were limited editions and many were no longer made.  One day my daughter hit the cabinet as she walked by it.  It came off the wall and fell onto a tile floor. The sound of breaking glass went on and on.  Out of perhaps 50 pieces only one or two survived the fall.  It was a total loss.  I remember the look on Nicole’s face and Tina’s face.  “I’m sorry Momma!  I’m sorry, I’m so sorry Momma!” she said.  It was pitiful really.  What could she do?  What could Tina do?  The mistake was made.  The pieces were never coming back together again and never could.  There was no replacement cost because there were no replacements to be had.  It was an accident, you say.  Surely you have to be forgiving when accidents happen.  Right.  And do we usually set out to hurt our spouses?  Our friends?  Our children?  No.  Forgiveness isn’t easier because it was an accident.  It is the same thing.  It is a decision to bear the cost rather than break the relationship. It is a decision to take the loss rather than to make the other party pay for it.  If every time Tina saw a Precious Moments figure from then on she reminded Nicole of how she destroyed her collection, she makes Nicole bear the cost.  If someone asked Tina where her cabinet full of figures was she used the opportunity to run Nicole down and call her clumsy, then she decides to make Nicole take the loss.

Someone is going to bear the cost of an offense.  It doesn’t matter if it was an accident or on purpose.  And here is another angle that we often miss:  if you are asking for real forgiveness you are agreeing to let the other person bear the burden for your offense.  You are not asking them to let you pay it off in an installment plan, you are leaving the decision with them and you can’t do anything more about it.  If you keep trying to pay for it, you really aren’t asking for forgiveness, you are asking them to tell you when the account is paid off; and most people will never be able to tell you when that happens.  Do you see how different this view of forgiveness is from what we’re being sold in our sorry state?  How upside down it is?  Our culture is obsesses with extracting the cost of forgiveness from the person who committed the offense.  True forgiveness is squarely on the shoulders of the offended party and their decision to bear the entire cost.  How did this get flipped on us?  Take God out of our collective consciousness and we have a real problem.  We do feel sorry.  We do feel guilty.  We are not like the other animals.  But we have no explanation for it.  No God means no right or wrong.  It means there are no burdens to bear and no apologies to make.  If you are bigger, faster, stronger you win.  And why worry about accidents when everything is an accident including your own existence?  Leave God out and you get a sorry state with no remedy, no forgiveness.  The problem is that letting God in means having to face up to offending him; to having to ask him for forgiveness.  What about that?  What if God doesn’t want to bear the cost?  How are we going to pay off that debt?  What happens when we knock all his Precious Moments to pieces?  If God decides we owe him for the things we’ve broken and wants to make us pay for them, how long will it take to pay it off?  When we’ve broken things of infinite worth we are in for an eternal work day to make it right.  Can you see now what the gospel is?  Can you see how it is God accepting the cost of calling us his daughters and sons?  When things are broken someone must bear the cost.  God decided to bear it.  The cross is the payment for God to stay in relationship with us and never abandon us.  We must accept it or try to come up with the payment on our own.  It is hard to accept true forgiveness.  Very hard.  I’ve had to watch my wife’s face when I put hurt into her life.  I had to see the struggle to decide not to make me pay while I stood by helplessly, knowing I did that to her.  I did that to the person I love.  It is terrible and wonderful to see.  What is the resource she has to do this?  How can she bear it?  She believes the cross is God’s forgiveness for her and for me.  She sees that God bore the cost of her failures so she could be his daughter.  That gives perspective.  It shrinks the size of my offenses against her.  But she also sees something else, something that releases her heart and clears her mind to remember my offenses but images (1)to live without the heavy burden.  She sees that when I hurt her it was an offense against her,yes, but it was also an offense against God, her Father.  He takes it personally.  It is his to take.  All things are his.  All abuse is abuse to his property.  All the offenses against people are offenses to his family.  And he decides to forgive. He decides to bear the cost.  Now my wife sees that she isn’t bearing the cost alone, that Jesus is under the full strain of her husband’s offense.  This is how our marriage works.  This is how we escape the sorry state.

Unguarded Beauty

My wife is a beautiful woman.  I knew this the first time I saw her walking down a hallway in High School.  I just turned right around and followed her.  She had Sun-In bleach blonde hair and a ribbon around a single ponytail in back with wings in front, and she used a lot of blue eye shadow (it was the 80’s).  I have a very clear picture in my mind of this moment – this first “seeing.”  But I also have other moments when I saw her for the first time again.  I old_pix_0002wish I knew how this happens so I could teach it to people, but I don’t know how to make it happen.  It just happens.  There is no particular pattern to it.  Some times it happens a lot in a short period of time and then it may be a very long time before it happens to me again.  It is always a surprise and a delight.  I think it is a gift God gives me, like many of his gifts, for no good reason other than He delights to delight us.  The most interesting part of this gift is that Tina never provokes it.  She never poses or tries to look a certain way that triggers this gift of re-seeing.  In fact, most of the time I’ve never told her about it because it was too hard to explain.  So she may be reading about this for the first time along with you.

There is a kind of beauty in this world that is unguarded.  It is raw and real and striking.  You may not immediately recognize it because it hides in plain sight.  Advertisers know this about us; that we are susceptible to capture by unguarded beauty.  That’s why they try so hard to make their spots look like they just happened; that there was no real preparation and this beautiful thing or setting just popped out of the background.  We know its fake though.  In our true hearts we know this is not unguarded beauty – it is well fortified beauty.  Beauty built from scratch and etched and carved and photoshopped.  We know lies when we see them because we feel the truth when it hits us.  It isn’t trying to be true or beautiful; it is true and it is beautiful.  C.S. Lewis said in his famous essay The Weight of Glory that we are far too easily pleased, and he was right.  We are also far too easily deceived.  It is almost as if we let ourselves stop hoping for unguarded beauty because we can’t produce it ourselves.  And since we can’t be in control we start to say to each other that the less than and the plastic; the faked beauty is real or it is all we are going to get so we might as well embrace it.  I’ve done it myself.  I do it myself.  But I’m sharing my glimpses of unguarded beauty with you in hopes that you will throw off the lies and stop contenting yourself with less.  I’m sharing with you so that you will share with me too.  Together we may be able to live more authentically in light of our accumulated unguarded beauty.  Of course this is a gift.  Being able to see it at all is a gift.  All of these gifts come IMG_2560from the greatest unguarded beauty of all, Jesus.  The Bible teaches that in his light we see light.  In other words Jesus is the light that shows all other light – he is the beauty that makes everything beautiful.  He fell into darkness and brought us light.  He was marred beyond recognition and made us beautiful.  Do you realize that in Jesus we can know that God looks upon us like I look upon my wife?  We don’t have to guard ourselves or pose or create; we are completely unguarded and completely beautiful to God.  That is beauty unguarded and unassailable.