Victoria's Perfect Bodies, Rene Z's Face+The Truly Perfect Body

You've probably seen it by now----10 young women
posed casually in underwear while "The Perfect Body" hovers in the center of the spread. We don't notice the underwear at all, of course. Victoria's Secret is not selling underwear. Their new campaign is all about selling bodies. 

I had a perfect body like that once. For a year, maybe two. All I did to get it was to stop eating. Almost entirely. 

So---these models' bodies are perfect----for what? For selling underwear, maybe? (And--perfect for igniting a national firestorm!) Because we all know just by looking that they are far from perfect for much else. Not perfect for any kind of work or sports or athletics. Not perfect for bringing children into the world.
Not perfect for anything requiring strength, endurance, even simply the energy to get through the day. Look closely.

This same week, I've looked at Rene Zellweger's new face a dozen times already, fascinated and horrified along with nearly everyone else. I cannot help but mourn for her. For all of us.

What are we doing?

We've  come to see our faces and bodies as plastic, man-made material to be shaped and hacked for our whims, our needs, and for others' greed.  

It makes sense. If we are no longer God-made, God-sustained, God-loved, we must find other meaning and value for out bodies and faces. 

For the consumer, bodies are billboards, auctioned off to the highest bidder,

                                                            (Billy the Billboard)

For the technophile and transhumanist, bodies are machines, their failing flesh perfected by metal and gears.

For the aging, bodies and faces are skin to be nipped, tightened and plumped to a facsimile of who we think we once were. 

For the fashion industry, bodies are hangers, the clavicle spaced just right for a designer's drape. 

For athletes and spectators, bodies are meat-and-muscle, bred for bulk or height or heft.

And this is only the start. For too many, our bodies are commodities, and everyone is after "perfect." The highest good, is that we feel good about ourselves. (See Rene Z.'s explanation of her new look here))

I'm not young anymore. I’m trying hard to feel good about myself too, and my increasing, visible changes, but feeling good isn’t enough. I've read articles that instruct women to start their day by standing in front of the mirror, wrapping their arms around  themselves, and reciting, “I love you! You're so beautiful!” for as many times as they need. 

 Surely there’s more to feeling good about ourselves than feeling good about ourselves. I think there is.  I see it on the faces of a few women I know in their 70’s and 80’s, women with wide waists, sagging chests and creased, smiling faces, faces brightly turned to others. These are women who feel good about themselves, but clearly they feel even better about others. 

 My vanity still props me against the mirror every morning massaging high- promise creams into the latest creases and lines. I’m always trying to lose 10 pounds. I  wear shocking red lipstick, splurge occasionally on a fru-fru coat, fret about my varicose veins. I still want to look and feel good.  But more than this and more than ever, I want to BE good.  I want to be the kind of person who sees beyond herself  to others around her. The kind who loves her neighbor like herself, who knows her body is not hers alone but is meant for the good of others. That kind who does for her neighbor what she would like them to do for her, two golden rules that never show their weight or their age. 

Until we know whose bodies these are and what they're for, we'll always get it wrong. 

But when we see women who get it right,  it's so beautiful and perfect---

we should put it on a billboard. 

We should even start a campaign. 

"The Perfect Body"


Killing Gods Word, Our Ultimate Rescue+My Best-Ever Cookie Recipe

Yes, this is a strange tripling: Killing God's Word, Ultimate Rescue---and Cookies? But this world is more tightly woven than we suppose. 

First, the Rescue.

How many times have you been rescued in your life? Too many rescues to count, I am sure. But what about the ONE rescue that literally swept you out of darkness and death into full, real, beautiful, glorious LIFE? Remember that one? 

 I was just a girl, barely 13, but I hungered for God and knew He was both present and absent. Present in the world, absent in me. I was vacant. Somehow I knew I was built for someone to come and move in but no one came.  I did not stop waiting, though, until that knock at the door . . .  and that rescuing presence rushed in with blankets and cookies and set the table and never left. 


All this week I have been memorizing a passage about God's rescue from Ephesians 2. I did something new. I wanted to take those words out for a hike, to test them on the trail, to trot them out of church, the pews, up to the top of a mountain. I realize how I have contained and constrained the words of God, limiting them to the sanctuary at church, to the special chair I sit in when I read. Reading them in my head, silently. And when reading aloud, reading as if they were--------just words. 

Only marks on a page . . .

But aren't these words alive? Aren't these words infused and indwelt by the Spirit? Aren't these the words that thousands of men and women have died for? If these words ARE alive, why do we read them as though they are dead? If these words are alive, why do we empty our voice of feeling, inflection, passion, fear, and LIFE itself? If these words are living swords that pierce and divide why do we dull the blade with boredom and monotone? If these words are living, why don't we fill them with the life God has given us through them: our breath, our body, our awakened hearts, our joy?? 

AND why don't we take them out of the pew and the sanctuary and speak His Living words aloud into His living world?

So I did. I climbed that mountain step by step, with Scripture, Ephesians 2,  aloud in my mouth. And all the world came alive. 

For we were dead in our trespasses and sins in which we used to walk when we followed the way of the world,

But we have been made ALIVE with Christ!  And He has seated us with Christ in the heavenly realms, 

that He might show to us the incomparable riches of His grace . . . 

And here is how it felt for me to do this----(and I post this humbly, with ugly hat hair, with no cameraman but my own arm . . .)


Would you try this? It may not be camera-worthy (as mine so clearly illustrates!) but these words this day went deep. 

When you are needing rescue, in voice loud or soft, let loose God's word, speak it aloud in some beautiful place that God has made. Listen to His words in your throat, out in the air, let hands and arms and feet echo its truths. Speak, know, see, feel its truths again. This truth most of all:

We were dead in our sins. But---God. But God has made us alive in Christ. For it is by HIS grace that we have been saved.

And here is where cookies come in! Some readers asked for this recipe this week, and grateful as I am for all my readers, I said Yes, of course. So last night I batched up another bowl of cookie dough (making sure the recipe was perfect), eating way too much dough in the process--but it was worth it. These cookies take me back to Eden.

Which is why I have named this recipe "Before-the-Fall Cookies."  I'm pretty sure that had I been there in that paradisical garden, and had these cookies, I wouldn't have given that other tree, that one, a second sniff, glance or reach of my hand for its dull fruit. 
   The grace is that they're terrifically healthy---in a cookie sort of way, of course.  I hope you love them as much as I do! 

  Leslie's Before-the-Fall Cookies
1 c. butter, soft
1 cup coconut oil
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. soda dissolved in 1/2 c. boiling water
3 c. brown sugar
1 c. almond flour
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
2 c. white flour
1/2 c. flaxmeal
4 c. oats
chocolate chips
butterscotch chips
slivered almonds

Go, climb a mountain, roam a meadow, fill your mouth with God's out loud words, and then with these cookies. 

Taste and see how full-of-grace-and-goodness is our God!!

P. S. Would you tell me how your cookies turned out?? (And---if you took God's words out for a walk this week?) 

Maybe We're NOT All Beautiful+Awesome!!

It's near the end of October, the snow is marching down the mountains, the light is draining. I am dreading the advance of winter and may I start my life over again?

Do you know that feeling when you sit in church and suddenly you realize you know nothing? You've done nothing? You're a lumpy, bulky assemblage of pride, sloth, gluttony and selfishness and you wonder if you have done anything right in your life at all. . .  And you suddenly worry that maybe you serve God only because of all  the good stuff He gives you . . .  And then you wonder about your  "worship" and the way you lift your hands when you sing, and has all your time in the Word of God been just some clever ploy to finally get what you want, which is the Good Life, the American Dream of freedom and happy pursuits, all that---and hold on now for the finale:  all that----freedom, happiness, independence---plus God. Wow--way to have it ALL! 

And it gets worse, of course. All those who suffer, who are suffering for His name, and then this life I lead, this easy easy life, and the way I waste money that could feed someone starving .  . . .  My stomach turns, my heart tanks and I despise myself and I would wear sackcloth if I had it, but maybe sweats are good enough. Sweats, no makeup and a shorn head. 

I need a rescue, I know, but don't whisper to me words of esteem and self-love. I don't want Oprah or Osteen "Love Your Lovely Self Because You're Incredibly Amazing" kind of words. Nor do I even want the Christian version of those words, like this: 

This is titled, "Who You Are: A Message to All Women." I heard another  "Spoken Word" performance for women with words like this at a conference last year----spoken by a 20 year old college kid to women twice and thrice his age.  Honestly, neither of these work for me. I hope it works for you and God bless you if it does!! Maybe you feel encouraged and inspired---Hooray!! But for me------maybe because he's not a woman? Maybe because he's younger than some of my sons? Maybe because he doest know me at all, or know anyone I know? Maybe because he has no idea what my life is like?       I wonder if we are hearing these words too often these days:

We are beautiful. We are loved. We are worthy. We are awesome. 

Yes, these are true words . . . . But apparently we're having a hard time believing it, because the message is said again and again in so many venues (yes, even here, by me.)  Here is the real problem, I think. We know ourselves too well---And so these words are hard to believe. AND--we don't know God well enough---And so these words are hard to believe.  If we spent more time looking at God, at His capacious love, his scandalous sacrifice, his patient mercies and outrageous rescues right now---and through ALL time  and if we spent less time pumping ourselves up about our own beauty and worth----- I think we'd be okay. 

The goal, really, dear friends, is not to love ourselves, but to love God. With all we've got: heart, soul, mind, strength, muscle, memory, senses, will---everything. And if we want to repair the damage of the past and present----those who belittle us, who think us unbeautiful, unworthy, who refuse to hear us or see us or love us---affirming words will never be enough. I know this. 

And You do too.  It takes more. It takes the blood of a Savior, the death of a Redeemer, the fire of the Holy Spirit, the living breath of God's word in our souls. 

 Words like these: And even when we were dead in our transgressions, He made us ALIVE together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and RAISED US UP WITH HIM, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus!!!

(Yes! HIS kindness! HIS grace!)

And these:  But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great LOVE with which He loved us, even when we were DEAD in our sins,  made us ALIVE together with Christ---by GRACE you have been saved!!

And out of thousands of verses, just one more: " . . . in all these things we are MORE than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  From the Love of God for us in Christ Jesus our Lord . . ..                          

When you are low and feeling unloved, unbeautiful, not-awesome, turn to these words and believe GOD,  Believe how Great and Awesome HE is-- Believe how worthy HE is, Believe how holy and beautiful HE is, Believe how Trustworthy HE is,

and then you'll know who you are:

Rescued, redeemed, beloved daughter and son of  THIS God.

Yes.  Now----Believe it.