Wednesday, July 16, 2014



I think it's time for...something different.

Fresh and new and innovative.

The Beautiful Side might just be taking a hiatus.

And you ask, "And how is that different from its status right now?"

Hah. Because, honestly, I don't remember the last time I published a post. But that needs to change.

And I plan on changing it.

Starting today, this little caterpillar of a blog is going to crawl into a cocoon and undergo a metamorphosis. I think it's going to be spectacular. Bigger and better and more in keeping with what I want to do, and, more importantly, what God wants to do through me.

Lately I've been peeking at my dreams and realizing that, hey, we can't sit around and simply dream. We need to prepare. Take hold of the present - which is all we have in our hands - and make the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:16). For me, that means having a place to call my own where I blog about my passions - ministry, social media, the world of advertising, and fashion, to name a few - and prepare for the future the Lord is laying out before me one step at a time.

So here's to chasing daylight (as author Erwin McManus put it). Here's to newness.

Here's to a redefinition of The Beautiful Side.

See you soon!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

the one on suffering

Courtesy of Creative Commons License.
Sometimes, I think it's safe to say that I simply don't understand life. Today, dear, wonderful,
precious friends of mine are hurting, and I can't do a blessed thing to stop it. Nothing. Nada. And my heart, the very core of me, is crying out, "God, why? Why? I. Just. Don't. Understand."

And then He whispers to the unsettling.

Must you understand?

Yes. Yes, I must! Why shouldn't I?

My love - could you - could they - bear such a weight of glory, as you are now?

Glory, Lord? What glory? Is this glory? This, this...this stupid crazy insane ridiculous mess that makes me want to kick a hole through the wall and cry away the ache?

For this light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for you (and the ones you love) a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.

2 Corinthians 4:17. Right, What about now?

Hannah. Look up "suffering" in My Word, and you'll see. Suffering precedes glory. In a fallen world, you cannot have one without the other.

Suffering precedes glory. Hmm. You know, it sounds cliché, but I guess it's true. A lot of things have to broken before they are truly beautiful and glorious.

Gold gets melted. Marble gets cut. Stone gets chiseled. The tree gets cut down and run through the mill. The river clatters and splashes and tumbles across the miles before joining the sparkling sea.

Yes, these things can be inherently beautiful because in creation God made all things good (very good), but to a designer patterning the works of his hands after the Master Designer - they are perfect, but not yet.

Yes, Lord? Isn't that so?

Consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in you and these dear ones.

Ah. Romans 8:18. And there's suffering with glory again. One forging the other. The curse foretelling its own demise.

I who sit on the throne say, “Behold, I make all things new.”

Revelation 21:5.

The One Who sits on the throne declares a renewal, a retribution, a transformation. The King reigns. God - that's You.

Behold, I make all things new.

You make all things new.

Glory is building.

Friday, May 23, 2014


This blog is starting to look like my old journal.

"January 1, 2012 - Really excited about this new year and all that it holds."

"March 24, 2012 - So, haven't written for over two months. I'm terrible at journaling."

"August 18, 2012 - I really am a terrible person to keep a journal."

"December 25, 2012- WHY DO I EVEN BOTHER."


....I think my journal was updated more frequently.

I don't know quite why I never sit down and clank out a post or two on a more regular basis. I have plenty of time and goodness knows plenty of inspiration.

I've also read enough miscellaneous blogs in the past few days to be ashamed of blogging and writers and the internet and people in general. Yikes, ya'll. Give a person a blog and suddenly they know everything about everything. I found very few to have a tone that was worth reading, that felt like they truly cared. Instead, I envisioned a person at a decrepit computer in a dark basement, sipping on a lukewarm cup of coffee, musing on the greater realities of life without ever tasting true life.

In all honesty, I will admit to being afraid of being that person.

Maybe that's why I don't write more often.

I believe what I believe - passionately. I have big dreams and deep wells of thought and a love for other people, but I'm not so vain as to think you need to read all about it. My very first blog post established that my blog would never be a personal journal, and I'll keep it that way, thank you kindly.

But how can I write and be compelling? How can my words bring truth and light and healing while standing on a firm and unshakeable truth?

Because...what are my words worth if they don't speak truth?

This pursuit is at the core of why I write and the reason why I even started a blog at all. To speak truth and to compel - propel, even - towards the light of God's truth. Nevertheless, I fear the tone of the arrogant, the rank stench of self-promotion...because I know that's my foolish sinner's heart at its core.

In spite of myself (because isn't that just how the sovereignty of God works?), my prayer is that God gives me the grace to "speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ" (Ephesians 4:15).

Will you join me?


Friday, December 27, 2013

An Imitation of God - Part 2

(Yes. It's been more than a month since my last post.)

(I'm sorry.)

Now, it's time to jump into part 2 of this series.

We're staying in Ephesians 5 pretty much the whole way through. My previous post covered verses 1-2 and established both the name and the vision of this series of blog posts - "an imitation of God."  If you have a moment and haven't read that first set of thoughts, go ahead and stop by this post to get what will hopefully prove to be a straightforward foundation for what I'd like to muse over in this post and the ones to come.

After stressing the importance of imitating God in every area of our lives, Paul moved on to point out specific elements that should *not* be found in the life of a believer seeking to emulate the holiness and love of God. Let's contemplate verse three for starters, where Paul explicitly states three "no-no's" of the Christian life:
"But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints..."
Fornication? Uncleanness? Covetousness?

What is this, a Biblical revision of Shakespeare?

Some definitions may help to clarify the meanings of these words suffering from disuse, because, let's face it - we don't go around using these words in everyday conversation.

First of all, let's look at "fornication."  (Oh yeah, we're going there.)

Merriam-Webster defines fornication as "consensual sexual intercourse between two persons not married to each other." Other Bible versions translate the Greek word πορνεια (pronounced "por-ni'-ah") as "sexual immorality," "immorality," and other similar terms. Basically, the term references any sexual relationship outside of the covenant bonds of marriage.

Please. We're Christians. None of that going on here. We don't do things like that, remember?

The Barna Group suggested in a recent survey that 5-6% of churchgoers (Protestant and Catholic) find that their greatest temptations revolve around immoral sexual behavior. Granted, 5-6% may not seem that much, but the survey also commented that sexual temptation is one of the struggles people are least likely to admit to. Also, percentages tend to downplay the true size and scope of an issue; while 5-6% may only translate to 5 or 6 people in a group of 100, this number grows with the size of the group. Pretty soon, the 5 or 6 have grown to hundreds and thousands.

Bottom line? Christians struggle with this "fornication" too. Our contemporary churches and coffee-laden focus groups won't eliminate this battle between the flesh and the Spirit, and in reality, no one is immune to a crash-and-burn in some form or fashion - or so Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1-:12-13,

If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. 13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience.

Next up: "uncleanness," here we come. That one isn't so hard to tackle; I mean, hit the pause button and think about what it means. If something is "unclean," then it's dirty. If it's dirty, then it's in need of a good cleaning. If it's in need of a good cleaning...

You get the idea. Images of your dog or bedroom may come to mind.

This Greek word, ακατηαρσια ("ak-ath-ar-see'-ah"), can refer to something that is unclean in either a physical (e.g., grease on your shirt) or moral (e.g., an adulterous affair) way. It's going against the grain, against the way God designed life to work, and it's about as attractive to Him as the mess your new puppy made in his crate last night.

Is your nose starting to wrinkle a bit? Mine is.

Finally - "covetousness." Someone who is covetous is "marked by inordinate desire for wealth or possessions or for another's possessions; [has] a craving for possession." (Thanks again, Merriam-Webster!) πλεονεξια (you knew this was coming), when translated to its bare bones of meaning, comes out to the adjective many of us associate with the little green-eyed monster: greedy. To be plagued by covetousness is to need more and more and more; you're compelled by your cravings to the degree that you will do just about anything to obtain the object of your desire. 

Okay, yeah, you're right. No need to go there. Never mind the materialism plaguing our churches: bring your neighbor to church and earn an entry into a drawing for a TV (kiddos, get a game console if you convince Albert from next door to join you at Sunday School!). Never mind our straining and striving and chasing after that prized spot on the morning worship team, the leadership core, or the event management. 

Because, my word, we don't have to worry about covetousness.

Well-intentioned sarcasm aside, I hope you've taken note of these three moral pitfalls that Paul addresses. Why? 

Because I want to point out a pivotal phrase.
"...let it not even be named among you..."
Some versions of the Bible translate this phrase a bit differently, and I think the New International Version hits the nail on the head:
"But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity..."
Not even a hint.


You see, we Christians like to regulate our morality by explicit acts. If you went all the way, then that's it for you. But hey, if you only went a little bit of the way - if you only dabbled in a specific sin without actually committing it - then no worries. After all, we're not legalists here; let's not chuck that amazing grace out the window.

No, indeed. Let's not. But let's also not forget the standard that grace calls us to: holiness. Realizing the implications of Paul's challenge to the Ephesian believers is a staggering proposition, and one that I'm sure I don't grasp fully. Not even a hint? Not even a suggestion? Not even a flickering thought? Really?

No. Not even so much as a shred of a suggestion of immorality or impurity for the flesh to feed upon.

For believers who would seek to live a life representing the holiness of the Lord to this disintegrating culture in which anything goes, the implications of holy living dictated by Ephesians 5 are radical. Stupid-sounding, perhaps. Irrational, in some cases.

(Just like willingly offering yourself to be beaten and mocked and crucified on a cross in the most brutal, humiliating manner possible for people who would continue to spit in your face for thousands of years. Because, of course, Jesus never did anything radical or stupid-sounding or irrational in the eyes of arrogant man seeking after remnants of lost immortality.)

This passage calls us to seriously evaluate every aspect of our lives and bring each corner into the light of God's truth. For many of us, it won't involve breaking off adulterous relationships or deleting the pornography from our computers (although for individuals struggling in those areas, such action absolutely should be taken). Instead, it will involve a scrutiny of our entertainment: will the music we listen to, the movies we choose to watch and the television we view, match the declaration of hearts committed to radical holiness - the ultimate rejection of even a hint of sexual immorality or impurity? This kind of examination will not only involve explicit sex scenes or lyrics, but inappropriate language and humor - hints - that foster impurity.

Obedience to Ephesians 5 will demand a stern evaluation of our words, our thoughts, our hearts' desires, because as long as the command of Ephesians 5 is neglected, as long as we dance around sin before a God Who abhors all forms of sin (Psalm 119:28), we will be living only a fraction of the life we were created to live, and the world will have very little reason to seek the hope that lies within our hearts.

So I ask you, as I ask myself: are there any forms of fornication, uncleanness, or covetousness you're tolerating in your life? Any subtle hints of impurity lurking about? Any thought that is not obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)? Those questions can be hard to answer. Believe me, I know. I still struggle to answer them honestly, knowing that my answer will most likely show a heart not yet fully surrendered to His glory and will demand a change in my life that, quite frankly, I really just don't want to have to make most of the time.

Why bother, then? I think Paul knew we would ask that question, and so he preceded this weighty subject matter with the two verses we looked at in the previous blog post, giving his answer: "...because you are His dear children." 

We're children called to reflect the heart of our Father, demonstrating His worth to this lost and dying world. We do it because we love Him. We do it because He's worth it.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

An Imitation of God - Part 1

Just so you know, my previous post went without a sequel for significantly longer than I intended. You'll just have to be content with knowing that my only consistency (apart from, I hope, a love for the Lord and commitment to His truth) is my inconsistency. If I promise a blog post is coming soon, then I probably mean soon in the long-term sense - a month might even be too much to ask. *sigh* Now, I know so many of you are hanging on every word I say and that these ginormous gaps of time in between my posts are driving you insane, but...

Oh, whatever. Who am I kidding? :)

But that's enough drabble about me. Instead, I want to get on with sharing thoughts that have been whispering at the gateways of my head and heart, gently and yet fervently begging for release.

The topic? Christ-likness.

I know, I know. You're ready to tune me out (in a really loving way, of course; instead of angrily clicking the big red "x" in the corner of your screen, you're going to skim the rest of this text, nod respectfully at the Scripture interspersed throughout, and go on your merry way) but please. Don't. You should know by now that I hate using cliches (especially the churchy kind) unless there's a very, very, VERY good reason to do so, and this situation is no different.

I'm not going to talk about loving your neighbor. I'm not going to touch on self-control or anger management. Instead, I'd like to navigate into potentially-dangerous waters and suggest that there's  passage of Scripture that has been woefully overlooked by the body of Christ in general. I want to step on toes, because the painful pinching might make you pull back and examine just exactly why your toesies didn't appreciate being tread upon. Discomfort usually indicates that something is not quite right, you know, so I ask this of you: if it hurts, let it. And then find out why. Don't shove your awkward or sensitive or downright irritated attitude into a corner to melt back into your psyche; instead, ask God to speak in a way that you can't ignore. Ask Him to help you to listen and process and, if it's necessary, change.

And for goodness sake, don't do it for me. What I have to say, ultimately, will never matter. The Word of God is your standard and declares an unchanging truth that will condemn or confirm whether you like it or not. Be compelled by His truth. Do it because He's worth it.

Originally, I was going to try to pack everything into one blog post, but I don't want to overload your mental circuitry or your spiritual senses. I want to take it one bit at a time - so yes, this will be a series of sorts - and give you just enough to manageably ponder before moving on. :)

So, then, with my characteristic disclaimer out of the way: here we go.

The topic, again: Christ-likness.

The passage: Ephesians 5. Specifically, verses 1-20.

(Yes, and now you know why I won't dump it all on you right now. You're welcome.)

Let's just look at the first two verses for starters. Easy enough, right?

"Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are His dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered Himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God."
Right away, we encounter a command. Not a suggestion - no sirree, nothing like that. The verb form here is pretty adamant: "Imitate God..." Not, "think about imitating..." or "what if you imitated..." but point-blank, no-punches-pulled: "Imitate God."

My personal inclination is to conclude that this phrase is something I'm supposed to do and I'd better get it done - or, at the very least, try. For example, when I was growing up under my parents' authority, their word was law, and strange and unsual punishments followed the child who dared ignore even the subtlest hints. (Well, so maybe not "strange" and "unsual," but try explaining the purpose of writing "I will take out the garbage" fifty times - or more - to a ten-year-old...) This environment quickly taught me the importance of immediate, total, unconditional obedience.

But why do I care about imitating God? Why *should* I care? In my parents' house, I cared about obeying their commands because my state of health was on the line, but that setting is seemingly worlds away from this scenario. Okay, yes, God is good and loving and kind and just and righteous and holy, but guess what? I was birthed into sin, and my flesh and the Holy Spirit in me still war against one another (Galatians 5:17). Naturally, I don't want anything to do with goodness and love and justice and righteousness and certainly not holiness, and it's only by the grace of God that I pursue any of those things now. My sin-infected flesh shudders at the thought of imitating God. The idea is too contrary to my natural disposition. Heaven - errr, hell, I suppose - forbid!

But then, there is grace! Redemption! I've been set free from the law of sin and death by the blood of Jesus Christ (Romans 7:24-25), and the desire to imitate God is present in me.

And how should I imitate God?

" everything..."

Fo' real? Everything?

(Hey, I didn't write that. Don't look at me. Well, I mean, keep reading the blog post, but quit rolling your eyes at me. It's impolite.)

But really, Paul again makes it clear: down to the tiniest detail of our lives, we are to imitate God.



Non-negotiable. Straight-up. Everything is everything, and if you can't reconcile that with your reality, then you probably need to get a new one. Just a suggestion.

This imitation of Christ extends to our conversation. Our entertainment (music, movies, books...Tumblr, Facebook, YouTube...). Our thoughts. Our spending habits. Our work ethic.

(I think you get the picture.)

If you're alive and you do it, then God says, "Imitate Me in it." And that means maybe you won't do some of the things you're doing now, because you're coming face-to-face with the reality that you just *can't* imitate God while doing it.

More on that in a later post.

"But why should I worry about imitating God? Why, Hannah? You asked that question twelve crazy paragraphs ago, and you still haven't answered it."

Sorry, guys.

"Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are His dear children..." And not just "His children."

His dear children.

Your heavenly Daddy loves you like crazy. No cliches, no warm fuzzies, just truth. He loved you so much that He sent Jesus Christ, Who, as Paul continues to share, "offered Himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God" to the pay the ultimate penalty for our sin and bring us near to God (Ephesians 2:13).

The nature of God, in and of itself, is enough to compell us to imitate Him: truth, goodness, love, purity, beauty, holiness, justice. In reality, He is reason enough. But, since we're a short-sighted bunch of people and need further motivation, gratitude and love will do nicely as well. A heart truly thankful for the sacrifice Jesus offered on the cross and a mind captured by the love that sent Him there will find the desire to imitate God as nothing less than the only appropriate response.

We imitate because we are loved. We imitate because we love in return (1 John 4:9). We imitate because of the sacrifice that was made for us. We imitate as living sacrifices, seeking to be holy and acceptable to God (Romans 12:1).

To look at that love, at the privilege we have of being called God's dear children, and then choose to turn and pursue your own agenda - well, that's your choice. But based on the Word of God and the commands clearly stated, I'd say it's a choice you should probably weigh pretty carefully.

Thanks for reading; keep an eye out for part two, where we look at just exactly what Paul had in mind when he challenged us to "imitate God."

Friday, May 24, 2013


Hi people. How's it going?


I'm sitting here in my little cubicle at work, waiting for the floodgates to burst open in my schedule later next month as I start running check-ins and check-outs for the various camps that our organization will be hosting. Until then, though, a busy day equates to thumb-twiddling and spontaneously speaking in Russian accents (if my coworkers and I are lucky, we might even battle over who gets to write the two-sentence email that our boss asked one of us to write).

But, seriously. It's fun. You did see my little blurb about Russian accents, right? I wasn't kidding, I promise you.

So, with all this time on my hands, I thought that something more than endless online window shopping and skipping around my Spotify playlists might be called for. Something like, say, finally drafting a blog post on that idea I've had floating around in my head for weeks...

I swear, I do this all the time:

*blog post idea meanders into head*
"Hey, that's neat! I should write a blog post about that!"
*idea settles in for a 2-hour stay*
"Ummm, yeah...let me get back to you on that."
 6 weeks later...

I'm working on it, guys. No promises.

Now, when I jump started this blog, I didn't really envision it becoming a deep theological archive of churchy-what-have-you's, and to be quite honest, I'm working to round out the concept that was originally in my head a little bit more. I'd like to incorporate some fashion tips, beauty know-how, music, movies, books...all that cultural jazz...but it seems all I ever end up writing about are the lessons God is teaching me from His Word. There's nothing wrong with that situation, I'm inclined to think; in fact, there could be everything right with it. I'm not entirely sure. I do know that writing - anything - has always tapped into the deep well somewhere down inside of me, and suddenly I start uncovering thoughts and feelings and ideas that I didn't know were hidden down there. Sometimes they're beautiful, and sometimes they're hideous and yet still beautiful in a strange way, and sometimes...

I just don't know. What say I just keep writing, let God have His way with my fingers and computer and heart and mind, and we see what happens?

Okay then. Here we go.

*Stay tuned for my next blog post - which, I promise, will be much more substantial than this cursory fly-by.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Year One: This is [Our] God

"...but the Lord supported me. He led me to a place of safety; He rescued me because He delights in me.....For this, O Lord, I will praise You among the nations; I will sing praises to Your name" (Psalm 18:19, 49).

^My sentiments as I heave a huge sigh of relief and wrap up the first year of my undergrad studies. Wow. Have I really completed one entire year of this insanity?

But I'm so grateful. And amazed.

I've watched God provide for my needs again and again, from the smallest to the greatest: a meal plan, financial assistance, a job, good grades, supportive friends - all these blessings and more. I've found reminders of His faithfulness at moment when I needed them the most. The sheer fact that I *get* to live this adventure in the presence and power of the Lord overjoys and humbles me all at once.

I'm not being churchy when I say that I am unworthy of the many blessings He has showered me with; this year has given me enough proof of my weaknesses and the areas in which the Refiner's fire needs to burn deeper and melt away the clinging flesh-attitudes.

I think it's ridiculously easy for people to share the incredible things the Lord has done in them and for them and conclude with an oh-so-spiritual, "Yeah, it's fantastic. I don't deserve it."

Inwardly, they're smugly pleased with themselves and the things they've accomplished. Oh, yes, their head may resound with thoughts of God's grace and favor dispensed in their lives, but they have yet to come to grips with their utter lack of worthiness. They've read their Bible, they've baked cookies for church, they have a blog where they write on spiritual themes...they've deserved some of God's blessings, certainly.

I know. I've done the same thing far too often, largely due to the fact that I haven't been confronted full-force with my weaknesses, with the reality that, apart from Christ, I really am undeserving.

But this semester - this year - I've watched my humanity seep through whatever veneer I prided myself on having gently smoothed over my faults and sin. Granted, I had learned much during high school, having grown spiritually and matured in my faith - but I hadn't reached some sort of perfection plateau. College transformed (and, to be honest) is still transforming my view of myself - and of God.

I've shrugged off the promptings of the Lord in favor of my pride and so-called "busy" schedule (time management issues on top of that, anyone?). I've let satan rule me with fear. My love for others has often been insincere, and my eyes have been so taken up with the glitter of the present that I, at times, haven't been able to see the glow of the future God has in store for me.

Long story short, ladies and gentlemen? I'm weak. Above all things, this past year has taught me the message of 1 Corinthians 10:12: "If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall." In His faithfulness, He forgives my sin, but His glory calls me to nevertheless pursue holiness (Romans 6:1-2). And I do. And I fail. And His grace is sufficient in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9) as I cry out for His help to please Him and live a life obedient to His words.

Thus, I mean what I say when I declare that I am unworthy of what God has done for me. I can only pray that this message, this truth of my utter unworthiness and His supreme worthiness, will invade me like a lightning bolt invades the trunk of a tree and sets it on fire. I want to always and forever be amazed by the things He does for me, to keep gasping and staring and wondering and murmuring in awe that this is my God.

This is our God.

Another psalm (Psalm 103, specifically verses 1-5) comes to my mind as I meditate on the year gone by:

"Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s."

And, honestly? That's all I can say. It's all I have to offer: an encouragement to you and to my own soul to bless the Lord, the One Who in and of Himself is the highest benefit, our Great Reward; the One Who has set our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12); our Healer; our Redeemer, Who takes our brokenness and brings forth beauty; our Glory, our Joy, our Satisfier, our Strength.

Bless Him. Bless Him for Who He is and what He has done. Even when we are (as we are so very often) unworthy, He is utterly, eternally worthy.

I can't wait to see where He takes me next...

Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name!
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