Tuesday, February 25, 2014

One Foot in Heaven

I was looking for a movie to watch the other day. I was in a nostalgic mood and wanted to spend an evening watching an old film, preferably in black & white. I turned to the Turner Classic Movies channel and recorded three films from the 1940’s that looked promising.  A few days later I previewed two of them, but they were too dark.

The third was the 1941 film One Foot in Heaven, starring Fredric March and Martha Scott. It was the story of an ordinary Methodist minister and his family in the early decades of the twentieth century. From the first few minutes of the film (which pictured his call to ministry), both my wife and I were captivated. It was authentic to life in the parsonage and on the church field.

Normally clergy and clergy families are portrayed as stereotypes, cardboard cutouts rather than real human beings. Even when the portrayal of clergy is positive, the characters are one dimensional caricatures, like the singing priest Bing Crosby. Ministers are saintly but shallow characters, or they are hypocritical self-righteous prudes. The general rule of Hollywood is to portray clergy as either fanatics or frauds.

Steve Martin in Leap of Faith, for example, is about a traveling faith healer who cons his congregants. In the 1966 film Hawaii, Max von Sydow plays a missionary to Hawaii who forces his religious beliefs and western customs upon the native people.  The Apostle starring Robert Duvall was a good film, but the main character clearly has fanatical and violent tendencies.

There have been sentimental films like the 1947 classic, The Bishop's Wife, and the 1996 remake The Preacher's Wife, but they are far from realistic. Never have I seen a movie showing Protestant ministers and their families as normal human beings facing real problems in ministry.

One Foot in Heaven is different. It is about real people. I was not surprised to discover afterwards that the movie was based on an autobiographical book of the same name written by a PK (preacher’s kid) named Hartzell Spence. 

He was telling the story of his own parents and family, moving from church to church, living in parsonages and struggling with low income and church problems.  Even though the story was set one hundred years ago (and is therefore dated in many ways), it is a more accurate depiction of ministry than any contemporary film I have seen.

It is even insightful at times. Here is a quote from the film where the Reverend William Spence changes his mind about the evils of movie-going. The pastor says to his son, Hartzell, “He who speaks to only one generation is already dead. And he who listens to only one generation is deaf.”

This minister and his wife are people I have known. I have heard stories like theirs from my friends and colleagues. I recognize their children. I recognize the parishioners. I walk the same tightrope of spiritual and worldly concerns (which is the reference of the title). If only someone would do a remake! But that is unlikely. Who would buy a ticket to hear the truth about pastors? Who would produce it? Not even the Christian film industry today!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Life According to Countess Violet

I confess that I am a Downton Abbey fan. We look forward to watching each episode on Sunday nights on PBS. (I am already sad that this Sunday is the season finale.) The most interesting character in the show is Countess Violet Crawley, played by Maggie Smith. She is known for her memorable quotes.

Near the end of the last episode, Violet was sitting with Edith, who is in the midst of another crisis – which is typical for all the characters in the show. Sometimes I think Downton is nothing more than a meticulously costumed soap opera for highbrows.

Bemoaning her present plight, Edith says to the countess, “Sometimes I feel that God doesn’t want me to be happy.” Violet replies, “My dear, all life is a series of problems that we must try to solve. First one, then the next, and the next, until at last we die.” Then she adds, “Why don’t you get us an ice cream.”

I have known a lot of Ediths. Good people who believe they have gotten a bad shake. Things do not seem to go their way in life. Trying to make theological sense of it, they decide that God must have it out for them. God does not want them to be happy.

Let me suggest another solution to this theodical conundrum. Perhaps one’s happiness is not dependent on what happens to us. Perhaps it is about what we do with what happens - our attitude to what happens to us in life.

The countess of Grantham has a healthy view on life. Some people will hear Violet’s philosophy - seeing life as one problem after another until we die - as horribly depressing. But it is depressing only if you view problems as depressing … or death as depressing.  

Violet never seems depressed. In fact she seems to be one of the most resilient and stalwartly characters. She relishes each crisis as a new challenge to be tackled. Solving problems is her life’s joy, even though there is a part of her that wishes that modernization would cease.

Problems are not bad. They are just life. You can’t have life without them. To think God owes us a smooth ride is a recipe for unhappiness. Problems do not have to interfere with joy. Problems do not mean that God is conspiring against us. It is just the way life is. Happiness is found in the midst of problems, not in the absence of them.

 “My dear, all life is a series of problems that we must try to solve. First one, then the next, and the next, until at last we die.” And let us not forget the most important part of the dowager’s wisdom: “Why don’t you get us an ice cream.” It is important to break out the ice cream in the midst of life’s problems. Life without ice cream – now that would be depressing!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Blessed Persecution

In a February 11th congressional hearing on Capitol Hill, U.S. Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey testified that the global persecution of Christians has gone from bad to worse. “Christians remain the most persecuted group in the world,” he said. German Chancellor Angela Merkel made news last year when she declared that Christianity has become the most persecuted religion in the world.

This human rights issue has been mostly ignored in the American press. But it has recently forced its way into the mainstream media because of the turmoil in the Middle East. The burning of ancient churches and the assault on historic Christian communities in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq have finally made it to the evening news. The widespread persecution of Christians even made the cover of Newsweek in 2012 in a cover story entitled “The War on Christians.”

The imprisonment of American missionary Kenneth Bae in North Korea and American pastor Saeed Abedini in Iran have gotten the attention of President Obama and the American public. But there are millions more Christians in oppressive countries who are being persecuted for their faith.

A disturbing aspect of the persecution of Christians is the apathy it receives in America, both among Christians and non-Christians. It is a severe human rights violation, yet most people could care less. In fact many people have a hard time believing it is true.

After all, Christianity is the dominant religion in America and the West. People have a difficult time viewing the Church as the underdog. People in the West are more likely to see Christianity as the oppressor, not the oppressed. They cite well-worn historic examples, like the Crusades, the Inquisition and Colonialism, to prove this historical role of Christianity.

Well, those examples are hundreds of years old. It is a new world. Even in America, Christianity and Christian religious leaders no longer hold the places of power and respect they once did. The popularity of religion in general is decreasing rapidly. Each new survey reveals that more people identify themselves as having no religious affiliation.

Furthermore anti-religious sentiment in America is on the rise. I have personally experienced this shift in attitude toward Christianity. People who consider themselves enlightened toward racial, ethnic, and even sexual preference groups, will hold stereotypical views toward Christians.

I have often heard people use derogatory generalizations to describe Christians – words like hypocrites, intolerant, anti-intellectual, misogynistic, homophobic, bigoted, and judgmental. They think they are being insightful, but they are just parroting the prejudice of popular culture. People who would never use racial or ethnic slurs, will voice anti-Christian stereotypes without a tinge of shame.

Let me make it clear. This anti-religious attitude of some people in America is not persecution. It is not even close. It cannot be compared to the persecution that Christians face in many lands today. It is nothing like the treatment that minority groups have experienced in our country. But it is still real, and it is wrong. It feels like hate speech to me when I hear it.

Nevertheless, I have come to view my encounters with anti-religious prejudice as blessings. They help me empathize with groups who have experienced real prejudice in our country. They remind me to pray for religious minorities in other countries who are denied basic religious liberties. It has made me more appreciative of religious diversity.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

If you are interested in learning more about the persecution of Christians visit Voice of the Martyrs , Persecution.org and Open Doors.  

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Deep Peacemaking

God knows we need peacemakers. We do not need more young American soldiers coming home with missing limbs, traumatic brain injuries, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We need peacemakers to stop the carnage of our nation’s bravest youth.

When I see on the evening news the bodies of children killed by chemical weapons, rows of civilians buried in mass graves, and refugees huddled in border camps, I know we need peacemakers.

We need as many peacemakers willing to die for peace as we have soldiers willing to die in war. It takes the same degree of commitment and patriotism to be a peacemaker as to be a soldier.

Now that American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan is winding down, we need national leaders willing to embrace peacemaking. We need politicians in both major parties willing to develop an economic and a foreign policy based on peacemaking. We need peacemakers.

Jesus was a peacemaker. That is why he was the Son of God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” But Jesus did not make peace through political legislation or governmental action. He knew governments do not have the power to make peace. The most they can accomplish is a momentary cessation of hostilities.

Jesus made deep peace. Jesus made peace by digging the root of war out of the human heart. Jesus’ brother James wrote, “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war.”

Wars on earth are simply manifestations of wars waged in human hearts. The only way to rid the world of war is to rid the heart of warring. This is how Jesus makes peace. He said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.” 

This is the peace that the apostle Paul describes as “the peace of God which transcends all human understanding.” The deepest peace is heart peace. Only when we experience heavenly peace, can we make earthly peace. As the song says, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” Any other peace is nothing more than a temporary truce.

The apostle Paul wrote to a Roman military colony in Macedonia and described peace as a garrison guarding our hearts through prayer. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Elsewhere he wrote, “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts.” “For He Himself is our peace.” Paul opened most of his letters with the words, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Christ is Peacemaker. His is our Peace. By his grace the Prince of Peace brings peace into the world … through us. Then we are daughters and sons of God.


Art is Imago Dei 2 - Peace Makers. Art Quilt: cotton, rayon, pearl cotton thread, by Shin-Hee Chin http://www.shinheechin.com/art_quilt/imago_dei2.html

Thursday, February 13, 2014

How to See God

My wife and I were driving in the car the other day, and we were talking about heaven. She was remembering our parents and others who have died. She wondered out loud what heaven is like for them. I blurted out, “I feel like I am in heaven now.” “I know you do,” she replied, “but you aren’t normal.”

Actually she said it much nicer than that, but that is what it came down to. I realize that my spiritual experience isn’t typical. That is why I do not usually say things like this out loud. You get funny looks. But my wife is used to my peculiarities. She knows I am not normal.

I see heaven all around.  “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” as Jesus was fond of saying. The Kingdom of Heaven is where God is, and God is everywhere. God is here now. I would go so far as to say that I see God. (But I don’t go around saying that either. I do not want people to think I am out of my mind.)

But the apostle John said, “No one has seen God at any time.” God told Moses "No man can see me and live!" Yet Scripture also says that Jacob saw God. The patriarch exclaims, “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” It says of Moses: “the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.”

In his last letter, the apostle John implies that it is normal to see God. He suggests that the only prerequisite for seeing God is not doing evil. That is not too high of a standard.  “Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God.”

Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Let me make it clear. I do not consider myself any more pure than anyone else. But I believe that God has given me a new heart. That is what the prophet Ezekiel said. (Of course, he was a pretty crazy guy too!) “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.” This new heart is pure.

The apostle Paul says we have been given a new nature, which he calls “the new man.” He says we are a new creation, a new creature in Christ. He says that we have the mind of Christ. Surely the mind of Christ can see God! To see God all we have to do is abide in the mind of Christ. That requires being “out of our minds” a little bit.

Scripture makes it clear that our hearts have been sanctified by Christ. We are “pure of heart” when seen from God’s perspective.  Purity of heart is not something we achieve though moral or religious efforts; it is the gift of God.

Therefore Jesus is not saying that only the goody-goodies see God. God-sightedness is not just for the spiritual superheroes, those who never have an impure thought. To see God, all we have to do is look in that pure place where God dwells.

God dwells as Spirit in the holy of holies, the inner sanctuary of the human soul. In our heart of hearts, our true self constantly beholds the face of God. Pure heart sees pure God. Just take a look and see God for yourself. But be careful who you tell.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Mercy Me!

The grace of God is a river that flows through us. Those who think they can be recipients of the grace of God without being gracious to others do not know God. The apostle John wrote: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

Shortly after speaking the beatitudes, Jesus taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer. In that model prayer he instructed us to pray for forgiveness from God. He immediately added this elaboration: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Jesus was not advocating a “tit for tat” principle of divine reciprocity. God is not mean-spirited. Jesus was presenting a divine principle. Mercy is like breathing. You can’t breathe in without breathing out. We are unable to receive mercy without being merciful. If we have received mercy, we will naturally give mercy. That is the rhythm of the spiritual life.

Near my previous church in Pennsylvania, a culvert under a road became blocked. The conduit was not able to receive water in or send it out. The blockage caused great damage to the road and adjoining property. The human soul is a spiritual conduit. An unforgiving spirit obstructs the grace of God and causes great damage.

I have known Christians who are unforgiving. They believe they have been forgiven by God, but they are unable or unwilling to forgive others. That is a spiritual impossibility. The forgiven soul forgives. The unforgiving soul is unforgiven. That is not punishment from God; it is a spiritual principle.

The forgiveness of God transforms the soul with a spirit of forgiveness. When we experience forgiveness we are unable NOT to forgive. It is our new nature. It happens naturally without trying. That is how mercy works.

When we do not forgive those who sin against us, we remain bound by the unforgiven sin. It is not just our own sin that can keep us from God. Sins committed against us can also keep us from experiencing the grace of God. Mercy unblocks the soul and allows grace to flow. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Hunger Game

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Righteousness is such an awkward term. It sounds pious and moralistic. Who would aspire to be righteous? It sounds like a virtue that a cloistered monk or nun would aspire to, but not the ordinary person.

The word is badly misunderstood. Let me explain it. It means “to be in right relationship.” That is something everyone can identify with. We value relationships. In a spiritual context it means “to be in right relationship with God, oneself, others and creation.”

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” He is talking about people who hunger for true spirituality - for a true understanding and experience of God and oneself. This translates into peace and harmony in interpersonal relationships and lifestyle.

There are few who hunger for righteousness like a starving person hungers for food, or thirsts for it like a dehydrated person thirsts for water. Most people treat spirituality like a game to play on weekends. This is no game - just like the Hunger Games, portrayed in Suzanne Collins bestselling books, were no mere games. This is a matter of life and death.

There is a saying: “If you want to find God, yearn for Him like a drowning man yearns for air.” The psalmist sang: “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”

That is all it takes. There are no methods to employ or spiritual techniques to learn. There is no secret wisdom or knowledge to be gained. There are no essential rites or practices. All that God desires is a heart that yearns for him. Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.”

All it takes is sincere intent. Jesus says later in the Sermon on the Mount, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

When one desires God more than anything else – more than silver and gold, more than air and water, more than love and happiness - then the door to the Kingdom opens. Blessing pours out, and one is filled. “My cup runneth over.” Everything is right. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Unmasking Meekness

Meek. The word sounds weak. It rhymes with geek.  (Sounds like a rap song, albeit a meek one.) Meek conjures up images of the kid who gets bullied at school. We know how that story turns out. Browbeaten into suicide, becoming a schoolhouse shooter, or the CEO of a tech company. None of these sound like a path to spiritual blessedness.

Yet Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” What does meek really mean? It describes the one whose sense of self is not worn like armor. The meek have not crafted the heavy masks that most people wear.

As we physically grow as children, we also grow a persona. It is the personality mask we wear in our social interactions. Actually we have a collection of masks. We are different people depending on whom we are with. I am different with my wife, with my children, with my siblings, in the pulpit in front of a congregation, or with my ministerial colleagues talking theology.

I am a man of many roles. I am legion. There are endless variations on myself that I can display. It is hard to keep it all straight. It is all an elaborate socio-psychological charade. Those who learn to play the game well are successful in life – in career, friendships, marriage.

Some people never learn to play the game of social interaction. They feel like outsiders – as if someone forgot to issue them life’s instruction book. They feel awkward and vulnerable. Because their masks are thin, they feel like people can see who they are, and can use that against them. These are the meek.

The positive side of being meek is that they can be themselves. When you are maskless, you can see the world more clearly. The problem with masks is that they keep slipping down and blinding us. We forget to take them off occasionally and remind ourselves who we really are. We start to believe we are the roles we play.

Consequently most people forget their true face. They have forgotten who they are. They are lost in the game. They are immersed in a fantasy world of their own creation. When that happens, the world can become a self-made hell of lies and deceit.

The meek remember who they are. They remember what the world looks like without a mask. They remember they are created in the image of God, that they are mirrors reflecting the glory of God.

When God looks at the meek, God sees himself reflected. When others look at them, they see God reflected also.  The creation looks into the meek soul and sees its Creator reflected. All creation bows before them, for they are creation’s rightful heirs. The meek inherit the earth.


Art by Anne C. Brink. She has a series of works on the beatitudes here.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Blessed Mourning

Grief is one of the strongest emotions of the human psyche. If you have experienced it, you will never forget it. If you have not experienced it, you will. It is the natural psychological response to loss.

It can be a deep and profound loss, such as the death of a spouse, child, or parent. It can be the loss of anyone or anything we love - the end of a marriage, the death of a pet, moving from a home, losing a job, or deteriorating health.

Grief feels like a deep, open, painful wound. It is a soul ache. It is a void in the soul. It is vast emotional emptiness. Some people die of grief. We say they die of a broken heart. There is medical evidence to suggest this is literally true. The psychological stress of grief can increase heart rate, blood pressure and blood clotting, which can raise chances of a heart attack.

A recent news article about mourning stated, “A ‘perfect storm’ of stress, lack of sleep and forgetting to take regular medication puts mourners at increased risk in the days after losing a loved one. Scientists showed that after a significant person's death, heart attack risks increased to 21 times higher than normal within the first day, and were almost six times higher than normal within the first week.”

Grief is deadly. Yet in the beatitudes Jesus calls mourners blessed. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Mourning does not feel like a blessing when we are in the middle of it. And nothing seems to bring comfort. But Christ’s words reveal a deeper truth.

Mourning gives us access to a deep part of ourselves, which is normally hidden from our sight. It is a wound that lays bare the spiritual heart. It opens a window to the soul. It is a “window of opportunity,” which stays open only for a while. The window gradually closes as time progresses. This window holds the blessing.

Mourning reveals our innermost being. It exposes us to God… and God to us. In the presence of God is comfort. That is the blessing. It shows us the transitory nature of life; that truth, when experienced deeply, is a blessing. 

We can medicate away the blessing out of fear of pain. We can emotionally suppress it, try to avoid it, or deny it. We can wallow in grief, which only sucks us into the depths of darkness.

Or we can let the mourning mourn. Let grief do its work. Let it bring us into the depths where the Spirit dwells. Let it bring us into the presence of God.

In mourning, a part of us dies with the one we have lost.  In this partial death, we can partially experience life beyond death. That is blessing. Eternal life now. The Kingdom of God within us. In dying we live. That is the blessing of the mourning.

Mourning Woman by Egon Schiele. 1912. Oil on wood.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Eight-fold Blessing

The Sermon on the Mount is the greatest sermon ever preached. The opening words of that sermon are known as the Beatitudes. They are the greatest part of the greatest sermon.

Last Sunday I preached a message on all eight of the beatitudes. Due to time constraints, my treatment of them was necessarily sparse. They deserve a much closer examination.

So I thought I would devote a blog post to each beatitude. Just so we know what scripture we are talking about, here is a link to a translation of the beatitudes. They are found in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter five.
The blessedness, which Jesus is referring to, is the Kingdom of Heaven. Other gospels call it the Kingdom of God. This is not a future existence in a heavenly realm; it is the present awareness of God now. It is Kingdom Consciousness. It is the awareness of the Presence of God.

The first one reads: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” I am not going to weigh interpretations of this beatitude offered by sages and scholars over the ages. I will just give you my own. Jesus is talking about spiritual poverty.

It has nothing to do with being materially rich or poor. It is not about being spiritually rich – either in spiritual gifts or in spiritual qualities. Just the opposite. Jesus is saying that one must give up everything - even spiritual things - and become spiritually poor.

Jesus is not offering a trade – giving up material things in exchange for spiritual rewards. He is talking about giving up all rewards, even spiritual rewards. Francis of Assisi once said that he was willing to give up heaven for the love of God. He was poor in spirit.

The apostle Paul says that Jesus “emptied himself” and “made himself nothing.” Paul said this was what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”

Religious people are looking for something. They are looking for salvation. They want meaning and purpose in life. Spiritual seekers are seeking something - enlightenment, liberation, peace, an end to suffering. People are willing to give up a lot in exchange for spiritual riches.

Jesus tells us to give up the search for spiritual riches too. We must be poor in spirit. We give it all up. We even give up ourselves. That is what the Cross represents – the death of everything. We hear this poverty in Jesus cry from the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

Only when we give up all, does the blessing come. The Kingdom of Heaven appears, and it is ours! “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Art is Sermon on the Mount by Laura James

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Unself Portrait

One of the qualities of the spiritual life is unselfishness. It is defined as “the quality of not putting yourself first but being willing to give your time or money or effort, etc., for others; generous or altruistic.” That definition is not bad, but it focusses on behavior.

Behavior comes from something deeper. We act out of who we are, or at least who we understand ourselves to be. We tend to see ourselves in terms of individual personality. Our personal sense of self is nurtured and groomed from childhood. The individualized self is the unquestioned assumption behind all we think and do.

The problem is that it isn’t true. That is not who we really are. It is who we have made ourselves to be. We have made ourselves in our own image. We are “self-made” men and women. Our true nature is called in Latin, imago dei. According to Scripture we are made in the image of God.

This concept of the “image of God” has been the subject of much theological debate. But it is really quite simple. We are the reflection of God. We are earthen mirrors designed to reflect God back to Himself and to others. We are a looking glass into eternity.

The gospel of Christ is meant to remove all that clouds the mirror (our “selfishness”) so that God’s image may shine forth. We die to self so God may be seen through us. That is what Jesus meant when he said that we have to lose our selves to gain eternal life.

Jesus told us to deny our selves, pick up our cross, and follow him.  That is what the apostle Paul meant by being “crucified with Christ.” The Cross of Christ crucifies us. We die with Christ to be raised with Christ in new life. This is unselfishness.

When someone asks me what my favorite scripture verse is, I quote Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” This is my “life verse.”
Christ is my life. I am not my self. Neither are you. We are not who we think we are. When we give up who we aren’t and embrace who we are, we become who we were meant to be. (That’s a tongueful!) We are created in the image of God to be conformed to the image of Christ. When we are not ourselves, we are revealed to be who God made us to be.  

Art is “Self-Portrait in the Mirror” by Konstantin Somov, 1934