Fall Fashion, Ugly Runway Models and the Battle for Beauty

And a Mako Fujimura photo essay on how beauty helps us flourish

fashion models 2No woman I know wants to look unattractive. As fall ushers in sweater weather, we’re in the stores seeking styles and colors that make us feel good. For many of us that means finding clothes that are new and trendy. (Long cardigans!) Or comfortable. (Joggers for millions who never jog!) Or even beautiful, although beautiful is more elusive.

Of all the places we might expect to find beauty, we’ve come to expect less and less of it at fashion shows. Or the pages of fashion mags. Watch the shows online or pick up a copy of Vogue magazine and I have rarely seen pictures of so many women who look like they absolutely do not feel good.

They look bored. Depressed. Starving. Androgynous. They look like Dr. Oz has diagnosed them with anhedonia– the inability to experience pleasure.

But then, if I had to wear what they had to wear, I would probably feel (or not feel) the same way. What is going on?

A Vacation Opportunity to Love God with All Your Heart and Mind

Join me at The C.S. Lewis Foundation’s Oxbridge Summer Institute 2017

punting on the river Cam in Cambridge

Some vacations recharge us with rest and recreation. Some with natural beauty. And if, like me, you love to learn, some vacations renew our souls with a feast of iron-sharpening-iron teaching and discussion.

Maybe you could join me this summer in England for a week (or two) in the company of kindred spirits who delight in Lewis and treasure both his intellect and imagination. Oxford. Cambridge. Days of speakers and panels. Nights of music, dance and drama. And it only happens once every three years. Even if not, I hope you’ll enjoy these pictures.

From the time I first heard of it, Oxbridge went on my bucket list. (Is it a bonafide “list” if you only ever had one item on it?) In 2008 my sweet Mom gifted me with a trip to the Cambridge week, where these pictures were taken. This summer I’m deeply honored to be invited back as a speaker at the Oxford week. Other speakers will include Larry Crabb and Joseph LaConte. Info here.

What we cannot even imagine about Jesus’ supernatural suffering in Gethsemane

The first time I saw Robert Doares painting of Jesus praying in Gethsemane I was shocked. It was so unlike the image stamped into my imagination–the image at left of Christ kneeling, earnestly entreating his Father to “let this cup pass from me,” one of the most copied images in the world.

Artist Heinrich Hoffman pictures Jesus late Thursday night after the “Last Supper” looking up, somewhat distressed, his hands in a fretful knot. In the dark quiet before the rapidly approaching storm he has tried to get his disciples to stay awake and pray with him for one hour, but exhausted by the sorrowful news at dinner (One of you will betray me…I’m about to be crucified), they fall asleep. So he leaves the disciples about a stone’s throw behind and prays.

His disciples could not imagine what is coming. Neither, it seems, could Hoffman. Can we? Jesus could. A careful reading of the text paints this far more extreme picture:

4 Ways Lent Can Give You Far More than You Give Up

Growing up, my church didn’t celebrate Lent. But years ago I caught the vision from a friend and I’ve come to value it. Here are four ways Lent can deepen our life with Christ and enrich our celebration of Easter.

Except for my Catholic neighbor getting her forehead smudged on Ash Wednesdays, Lent wasn’t even on my radar. We didn’t celebrate Palm Sunday. Or Good Friday. Much less 40 days of fasting, sacrifice and repentance. But I’ve learned we have so much to gain from observing Lent.

If your church doesn’t observe it, you can embrace it in your own way, just as the church developed its own way over the years, stretching its observance from two to three days to three weeks to 40 days. It doesn’t matter how long we engage with it, the important thing is that, in honor of his inestimable sacrifice for us, we embrace a season of sacrifice of our own for the Lord Jesus. 

My Top Ten Faith and Culture Blogs of 2016

Happy New Year!

Part of the fun of ringing in 2017 is that I can look back at my stats and discover what you were most interested in last year. Here are your favorite blog posts from 2016:

#10 When You’re Feeling Stressed about This Election How to describe the presidential election of 2016? Bizarre? Shock and awe? The caucuses and primaries began on February 1st and by March 1st (Super Tuesday, when this blog was published), unless you were an early fan of Donald Trump, you were starting to feel the stress.

The Best Antidote to Summertime Boredom and Distraction

Summer gives us an opportunity to slow down. “The livin’ is easy; fish are jumpin,’” and all that. Without so many activities on the calendar we have more time to take trips, watch TV or kick back with friends or a good book. We all need seasons of restoration, but the cultural pull towards having fun and lazing around can make room for boredom and distraction to settle in like a fog.

Cow Appreciation Day: proof of the power of generosity and creativity

"Create living art out of love, in the form of kindnesses--food, hospitality, photography, writing..."

P1020676 (960x1280)Who doesn’t love the cows that advertise the food service franchise built on Christian principles of “hard work and creativity”? So to honor them once each summer (this year it was July 12th) Chick-Fil-A invites customers to experience the power of generosity and creativity to change your day.

We stumbled into Cow Appreciation Day four years ago. Walked in looking for one of their new desserts and cracked up at all the “cow-like” people—some in T-shirts colored with black spots, others fully decked out in cow ears to hooves–all rewarded with free food.

P1040294 (1103x1280)Some floppy cow ears dangled earrings. One guy, a youth pastor (somehow not surprising) spouted udders on his lower abdomen. “You can pull down templates off the web,” two cow-Moms and 4 cow-kids told me. And evidently they had spent some time printing and tracing, coloring, cutting and pasting. One boy had combined a Luke Skywalker outfit with the cow motif. Wish I’d gotten a picture of his Star Wars helmet with a cow nose pasted on it, winning a meal and a new dessert.

Ah what creativity (and free food) does for the energy level. Customers who didn’t know each other were laughing and talking. Comparing costume stories. We, who had unwittingly dropped by for a new brownie sundae, laughed and visited and snapped pictures.

Creativity generates life and laughter. It reminds me of what one of our contributors to Faith and Culture said at an International Arts Movement conference about giving art as a gift. Christian artist Mako Fujimura inspired his audience: 

Many Beautiful Things Movie: Why have we never heard of Lilias Trotter?

A remarkable artist chooses a hidden life of love over "success" and celebrity.

“This film is a miniature masterpiece.”–Os Guinness…“The whole world should see this movie.”–Michelle Dockery…One of the most lovely and personally inspiring films ever–Lael 

A new movie, Many Beautiful Things, introduces us to a true-life young beauty of means in Victorian England. An extraordinarily gifted artist, she is mentored and celebrated by John Ruskin, the leading art critic of the era, an Oxford professor and founder of its drawing school. He hailed her as one of the most potentially celebrated artists of her time. Ruskin’s challenge: “to give herself up to art.”

If she would dedicate herself to this great gift she would take her place among the cultural elite of England. She would change minds, as she had changed Ruskin’s, about the potential for women to paint great art.

She would also have an extraordinary platform from which to expand her work on behalf of poor and disenfranchised women–prostitutes whom she coaxed into the fledgling YWCA for shelter and job skills, the working women of London forced to eat their lunches on the streets, until she helped build London’s first public restaurant for women.

But another Voice was calling her.

Ten Faith and Culture Gifts to give or enjoy

Books, art, music and online subscriptions to enrich the year ahead

Seventy-Five Masterpieces coverWhat do all the following resources and activities have in common? Whether you give them as gifts or enjoy them for yourself, these iron-sharpening-iron books, art works, websites, culture makers and commentators will inspire and equip you to live with the truth and grace of Jesus in today’s culture.

In the election-year culture war ahead they will keep you grounded in orthodoxy without being shrill and focus your heart and mind on the good, the true and the beautiful. In today’s postmodern culture the arts open so many doors for bridging the cultural divide. These resources will help you connect with outsiders as well as the under-40’s. To order or subscribe click on the titles. Don’t miss my little Christmas present to you in #5.

1. Seventy-five Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know:
From the Book of Kells and Gregorian Chant to U-2’s Joshua Tree and Terrence Malick’s film Tree of Life, this new book by Terry Glaspey offers you fiveish-page overviews of memorable works of art. Think of it as a “quirky” ensemble of “movie trailers,” Glaspey writes in the intro, a “fist full of invitations” to begin your own personal exploration of art and artists that explore truth from a spiritual perspective.

A Christmas Lament

The overlooked dark side of Christmas resonates with the pain and loss of San Bernardino, yet brings us more deeply into the true hope and comfort of Advent

Massacre of the Innocents-Rubens

O Come Emmanuel, Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by thine Advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight

In the midst of joy to the world and hark the herald angels sing
In the midst of employee seminar/Christmas lunch, taking pictures by the tree, ten minute break
Shots rip flesh and fourteen families apart

Six ways to reach for more life, meaning and joy this Christmas

Merry Christmas! Tis the season we celebrate when the Author of meaning, Creator of beauty and Heart of love at the center of our Universe came for us in human flesh. The more we lean into that meaning, beauty and love this season, the more joy will fill our daily moments and special events.


In an update of one of my most read Bible.org posts, here are ideas and resources to help you reflect more deeply on the incarnation, feast on the beauty of Christmas, plan a mini advent retreat, host a “True Meaning of Christmas” tea or meal, mix the fun with the meaningful at parties, and serve “the least of these.” 

Makoto Fujimura inspires us to create living art out of love

On 9-11 artist Makoto Fujimura had to evacuate his home and studio located a scarce three blocks from the smoking rubble of the World Trade Center. When he was allowed to return he opened his studio doors to be a place of community, consolation and healing for local “ground zero” artists.

On Wednesday, Nov 4th you are invited to an Evening Conversation with Makoto Fujimura at the Columbia Museum of Art. Free admission. Reservation required. Presented by The Trinity Forum. Details here.

Mako CharisKairos

Charis Kairos (The Tears of Christ) from The Four Holy Gospels, courtesy of Crossway

Just weeks after severe flooding, in the midst of our rebuilding, Mako will speak in Columbia, SC. Out of his post-9-11 conversations Mako brings a timely and timeless message of hope: “In the midst of fear, in the midst of material and emotional scarcity, in the midst of the world’s collapsing idols, we can draw on the Giver / Artist, and let His creative Spirit spill over into a hurting world.”

Mako’s work has been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world. From 2003-2009 he served as a Presidential appointee to the National Council on the Arts.

Schooled in the ancient Japanese art of “Nihonga,” he creates his paints out of ground minerals and applies them on the canvass in layers of translucent washes. The richness of ground malachite, lapiz, vermillian as well as gold and silver, both in powder and foil, offer tribute to the richness of his subjects.

In this painting, Charis Kairos: The Tears of Christ, Mako begins with a black background representing the sorrow and brokenness of existence. Two large pillared washes of gold and sprinkles of vermillion evoke the splendor of the presence of God and the shed blood of his Son.

Across the entire width of the canvas the azurite-washed tears of Christ flow and spill down into the black and, with generative power,  the green malachite wash below. Here “love and sorrow meet,” sacrificial blood is spilled and new life grows.

Reflecting on this work, Mako writes,

Why the Gospel is Better than the World of Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell Cola museum 2


Before the “conquest of cool” Norman Rockwell celebrated good relationships, hope, kindness, trust, respect and family. As he put it, “Without thinking too much about it in specific terms, I was showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed.” Yesterday we took in both the lecture on his life’s work and the exhibit at the Columbia Museum of Art. His work is powerful and the world he created is richly beautiful (and fun!). I loved our walk through the archives of American optimism–so many childhood memories. But something even richer and more powerful seemed missing.

Rockwell didn’t just paint pictures, he told stories. He used models as actors, directing them to assume poses and convey certain emotions and facial expressions.