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Friday, February 28, 2014

Sermon-- Taking Off our Masks and Finding our True Beauty

This is the sermon I will be giving on Sunday.

Men-- this sermon is going to sound a lot like it's geared toward the women at first but bear with me because it's a message that you need to hear maybe as much as they do.

OK girls, ladies, women---

I don't know about you, but I feel naked without makeup on! I feel exposed if someone sees me without it. I know this is true for a number of us.

How did we learn this?

We learned it from our moms, aunts, grandmothers, big sisters, cousins, teachers, mentors, neighbors, role models, who learned it from their moms, aunts, grandmothers,neighbors, mentors....need I go on?

Remember when we reached each age we'd get to do something new? When we were 10 we could get our ears pierced, when we were 11 we could shave our legs and wear lipstick, at 13 we could wear eye liner and mascara and get our nails done. (Everyone had different rules for different ages of course, but it was about the same because if our friends were doing it, we BEGGED our parents to let us do it too!)

It went from something fun to experiment with-- trying purple eyeshadow, red lipstick and glitter nail polish-- to a chore we couldn't live without.

Here are some things I've heard or experienced:

I would love to have dinner with you, but that's the night I get my nails done. I really want to see you, but my nails are a mess!” When did how our nails look become more important than relationships?

Oh no, I woke up late--- I have 15 minutes to get ready!! Brush hair, brush teeth, put on deodorant, makeup and clothes, skip breakfast. When did makeup become more important than sustenance?

I remember early on in my relationship with my husband, he stopped by unannounced and I was still in my pajamas—my hair was frizzy and I had no makeup on. I nearly died of embarrassment! He claims to like me better without makeup...I still can't figure out if he really means it...I mean, really, have you SEEN me without makeup???

Being without makeup is something many women can't even fathom!

Let's think about the story of Adam and Eve. After Eve eats the fruit, the story goes like this:

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.
They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

Eve was not born knowing she was naked, she learned she was naked and was ashamed. Just like Eve, we girls are not born knowing our faces are naked, we learn that they are by looking up to the women in our lives. The women that hide themselves behind their masks of products.

While writing this sermon I came across a video of four women who were asked to be a part of a Photoshop experiment. Four women modeled in a professional photo shoot and then were photo shopped, as if the pictures were going into a magazine. After seeing the pictures they were shocked at how the photos didn't look like them. This is the insight they gained from the experience:

“You look at these ads in magazines and you see these women that look absolutely flawless, and you think, “I wish I could look like that, but who really looks like this?”

We live in an interesting time where we feel like we have to make people look like the standard that's not attainable for anybody.”

I think something that everyone should keep in mind is it's natural to be critical of yourself, it's natural to be uncomfortable or awkward. But you have to know that the ideal just doesn't exist.”

Instead of looking at other things, and trying to aspire to be something else
We should just be comfortable in who we are and just try to be our best selves.”

(here's the video)

The “models” that girls and women look up to are not real. We are killing ourselves trying to achieve an unattainable goal.

Please do not think I am saying wearing makeup is all bad; but hiding behind it is. If we are not able to leave the house without it, perhaps we need to take a look at what we value.

Do we value outer beauty or inner?

Do we spend more time working on our outer beauty or our inner?

Do we claim to not have time in the day to read the Bible, do devotionals, pray, volunteer or call a sick friend and then spend an hour or more on getting ready –doing our hair, makeup, nails, and choosing what to wear? Some men are just as bad in this department!

Lent is a time to go inward... to look inside ourselves, to work on our inner beauty and our relationship with God. Lent is a time of cleansing and renewal for our mind, body and soul.

Since we've already been talking about our physicality, let's continue with the body-- It's so important to care for our bodies, so that they can be the optimal vessels to carry out God's will. How many times has a person health, weight, or being out of shape stopped them from doing more with their life? Stopped them from going on mission trips, volunteering in certain capacities, help around the church, playing with the kids in their life, etc?

It's important for us to keep up with exercise and to eat right. Some denominations go vegan during Lent as a way to cleanse their bodies and purify themselves. In traditions where people “give something up” for lent, I've mostly heard of people giving up food. Chocolate, soda, pizza, meat on Fridays...and so on. This idea of cleansing the body is deep in our Christian roots. Our minds, bodies and souls are all connected. When we begin to cleanse one, others will follow and be affected as well.

Did you ever hear the phrase, “Change your mind and your life will follow?” It's because the mind is a powerful thing. Learning is a wonderful thing. We should all strive to learn something new everyday. Education opens doors we didn't even know existed. Learning new things opens the world to us and allows us to discover more about God and each other.

We are all creatures of habit. Much of the way we live is out of habit. So if we want to lead better lives, we have to change our habits. We can adopt habits that are more in tune with God. To change our habits we must cleanse our minds. Meditation can help with this. There goes that word again! Some people love it, some people hate it. If you don't think you have time for it, you do.

Set an alarm for three times a day. Sit in silence for 1-5 minutes to begin with. Are you like me and can absolutely not clear your mind? Here's some tips I've pick up along the way--- focus on a word, like, “peace” “harmony” “love” “light” “mercy” “compassion,” and repeat that word.

Focus on your breath, just breathe in and breathe out normally, and simply notice it. It's a reminder to slow down and remember the most simple things of life and be grateful for them. Another kind of meditation is guided meditation-- these are wonderful if you can find the right ones. They help you to go deeper into yourself and tap into your innate wisdom.

Which brings us to soul. It's time to connect with God. Lent is a reminder to tune out the world and tune in with God. Talk with God. Say thank you, say sorry, say what am I supposed to do now? Ask God how to deal with the difficulties of life. Ask God to break you of your bad habits. Ask God to show you how to incorporate better habits into your life. Ask God how to stop doing those things that hurt you and others. Ask God what you can do to better love yourself and others. Ask God what it is you should be learning next. Go deep inside this Lent. Learn more about yourself and about God. Don't be afraid to think outside the box.

Close your eyes--- picture in your mind-- what is God calling you to do this Lent? What does God want you to cleanse? How are you supposed to find renewal?

At the end of Lent, my hope is that this whole congregation turns into more beautiful people. People who value inner beauty more than outer beauty, people who work on what they look like and feel like on the inside.

That inner beauty will radiate to the outside and shine more brightly than any makeup we can put on.

Let's show girls and other women that you don't need makeup to be beautiful. That inner beauty is more important and valuable than outer beauty. When we plaster over ourselves, we're hiding our true selves and our true beauty.

So next week on the first Sunday of Lent, I hope you'll consider coming bare-faced to church—no makeup-- focusing on inner beauty and showing the next generation of women that they don't have to live behind a mask.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

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