Friday, January 25, 2008

Cleopatra was Ugly

Experts at Newcastle University have studied a coin from 32 B.C., which on one side bears the image of Cleopatra, and on the other side, Marc Antony. These experts weren’t studying the coins for any real historical significance. Rather, it seems they just wanted to rate these two historical greats on a scale of one to ten. The results were not pretty. Literally, not pretty. They found that, according to the images portrayed on this coin, Cleopatra had thin lips, a sharp nose, and a pointed chin. Marc Antony had a thick neck, a hook nose, and bulging eyes.

Now for those of you who have seen these two portrayed on the silver screen by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Hollywood was wrong. They lied. But it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun watching ugly people on the big screen, would it? So they fudged. No big deal, right?

But really, it is a big deal, because deep down, many of us believe the lies. We give more significance and more value to the beautiful people of this world. We attribute all sorts of wonderful things to pretty, stylish people. We secretly think they are more intelligent, more exciting, more worthy of our attention than, say, the plain-Janes of this world. And we spend literally billions of dollars trying to purchase this kind of skin-deep beauty. We pay for face lifts, nose jobs, and hair products. Women buy cosmetics, men join the hair club.

Now, lest you think I’m accusing any of you, I’ll be the first to admit that I am the worst about this! Yes, I am vain. I’m not proud of it, but I am honest. Every time I pass a body parts shop, I secretly wish I could trade my short legs in for a longer pair. And if I had a nickel for every time I’ve changed my hair style or my hair color or tried a new kind of make-up in an attempt to look younger and prettier, well . . . I’d have a lot of nickels.

But I wonder what would happen if we were all suddenly struck blind, and we could only “see” people for who they were on the inside? What would happen if all of a sudden, looks didn’t matter? Hmmmm . . . I’ll just bet most of us would spend a lot more time and resources developing our inner beauty, building up the deep, lasting kind of attractiveness that only comes from a pure heart. I’ll bet if we didn’t have the constant distraction of always trying to look good, of trying to impress others with our splendor and style, we’d have more wisdom, more kindness, more compassion, . . . more love.

At least, I hope we would.

But since that’s probably not going to happen any time soon, since we live in a world where looks really do matter, we’ve got to find a balance. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with trying to look our best. But should we really judge others based on the price tags of their clothing, or how thick and shiny their hair is? Shouldn’t we just admire those things, and at the same time set them aside as insignificant to the things that really matter in this life?

I, Renae Brumbaugh, AKA the Vanity Queen, don’t know the answers. But I do hope that centuries from now, I have left more of a legacy behind than what I looked like. I pray that I will be remembered as having a beautiful spirit.

But if anybody ever tries to put my face on a coin, I’m having a face-lift first.

Proverbs 31:30 “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting . . .”

Friday, January 18, 2008

Letting Go

My closet is beautiful. It is clean, organized, and perfect. The floors of my closet are vacuumed. My shoes rest neatly in shoe pockets. My purses are lined up in pristine rows. If I had a laptop, I would be sitting in there to write this article.

Unfortunately, my bedroom/office floor now contains all the junk that was in my closet before I cleaned it out today. I already hauled out several bags of out-of-date clothing, scuffed-up shoes, and seldom used purses. Still, there is all this stuff. Where did it come from? Why have I held onto it this long? And, most importantly, what am I gonna do with it now that I’ve uncovered it? (Heavy sigh.) Oh, well. One thing at a time, right?

There is my high school letterman sweater. (Drill team. Choir patches on the sleeves.) There is the red dress that Mark bought me to wear on our honeymoon. There are the numerous, slightly-too-small outfits that I refuse to part with, as incentive to lose the extra poundage that has crept up in the last few years. In the corner rests an exercise ball, two briefcases, a pair of swim shoes, a curly pony-tail clip thingie that I bought in a weak moment of stupidity, and about a half dozen tote bags.

I never use this stuff. I’m just hanging onto it, for no apparent reason. (Okay, I’m hanging onto it because I’m a sentimental sap.) But the prime real estate in my closet is valuable. I really shouldn’t be using it as a junkyard, no matter how nostalgic the junk is. It just takes up space and clutters my view.

You know, I think I do that with my brain space, too. I hang onto stuff that I have no use for, that just weighs me down and clutters my view. Like the time the girl in my second grade class framed me, set me up and told a lie about me. I have never forgiven her. And then there’s that two-timing weasel in college who . . . well, you get the idea. Why can’t I let those things go? They’ve been over and done with for decades. Why can’t I just forgive and forget, toss out those memories, and free up some valuable space in my noggin?

Maybe it’s because it is more of a hassle to clean it all out and let it all go than it is to just hang onto it. After all, look at my bedroom floor. It’s no fun stepping over all these little piles of stuff. So, I’ve just been cramming it into my closet, which has become more and more jammed, making that little room a nightmare instead of the dreamy place it is now.

But my mind should be a palace, a place where beautiful thoughts and valuable memories are stored. It should not be a junk yard, filled with angry memories and unforgiveness. It may not be wise to pull out all my mental junk at once, but maybe I could work on getting rid of a little bit at a time? Perhaps I will try to let go of some things that are no longer useful to me. To the best of my ability, I will forgive and forget. I will let some things go. Both in my closet and in my brain.

As for the hairy pony-tail clip thingie, I think I’ll keep that. You never know when a little extra fluff and curl might come in handy.

Colossians 3:13 “Bear with each other, and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.”

Friday, January 11, 2008

Peanuts to Diamonds

Did you know that peanuts can be turned into diamonds? It’s true! Scientists have now discovered a technique that harnesses pressures that are even higher than those found at the earth’s core. They are using this technique to turn unlikely substances, including peanut butter, into diamonds!

Professor Malcom McMahon, of the Center for Science and Extreme Conditions at Edinburgh University, is one of the scientists involved in this ground-breaking discovery. He said, “Pressure can cause extraordinary changes in all kinds of materials and can create completely novel materials.”

Of course that kind of pressure would cause extreme changes. But peanuts into diamonds? Who would have thought? I would have guessed it would make some kind of runny, smelly peanut juice, or even a useless, evaporated peanut gas. But never in a million years would I have thought that pressure would turn a peanut into a diamond.

The more I think about it, though, the more it makes sense. And it gives me hope. After all, I am a little bit like a peanut. As much as I long to be sleek, smooth, and sparkly, most days I feel kinda crunchy. I want to be a person of great value and substance, but I don’t always handle pressure well.

It would be much easier for all of us to live lives with no pressure, no difficulties, no hardships. But the honest truth is, if we don’t endure some pressure, we will all stay peanuts. Crunchy snack foods. At times, it may seem that the pressures of this life will overtake us, even destroy us. But if we let them, they will actually turn us into people of great value.

I can look back at the most difficult times of my life so far, and see that they have made me a better person. They have taught me to persevere, and have given me compassion. They have led me to become a wiser, more loving, more caring individual. They have made me less crunchy. Perhaps, if I continue to allow the pressures of my life to change me in a positive way . . . maybe someday I’ll be a diamond.

In the meantime, I think I’ll invest in a peanut farm.

James 1:2 – 4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”