How to Be Beautiful & Have a Beautiful Home & Life

Idon’t know how to say anything after Africa’s red earth has burned into the soles of your feet, except to try to say it hot.

All these words are a drum that make feet hardly even tap.

But what if you could find a beat that made fireballs fall and hearts catch flame and we flung everything again into the arms of our First Love? What if that?

The Esther Generation, we want that.

We’re tired of having to have everything – what we want is more of God.

I know this:

Fiery heat has got into my veins, Africa, and it’s burning a hole up the whole one side of my heart.

When I close my eyes, I see your children and their wide eyes fill my gape. In those eyes — is that having more of God.

I won’t turn away; the Esther Generation that is us, we won’t turn away – we want more of God.









We won’t turn to distract from feeling Africa’s hot breath on the neck, the way you weary for rest from hard lives, the carrying of water for miles.

Water, what we blithely wrest from the earth with one flick of our soft wrists, the turn of a tap, and only because we did nothing but be born here — water that you pump and fill and haul and break the bony curvature of your back – you doing nothing different but being born under the burning belly of the sun.

We see. We see how your children drag water jugs across the earth, stirring the earth. The Esther Generation, we won’t turn away because life is only given us once and we only get to live as much life as we give. That is the way the universe works. Ask Christ.

I can’t ever now lay my head down on the down of a pillow and not think of you with your head on the beaten earth. I walked into a hotel room last week and saw 7 pillows on one bed. It’s like we’ve all lost our collective heart – or sold our deadened souls. But we’re a generation waking now.

Waking to Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army stealing over 60,000 children from these red roads right here, hacking off limbs in the middle of the night, making daughters into pleasuring-slaves.

I watch a woman drag a bundle of wood, shoes tied to her ankles, each step slapping the earth – because her own feet are malformed backwards.

I’m slapped awake now.







A little girl named Nancy stands in these purple threads between Beldesmond and Nigarulu.

I had asked their names and they had whispered them and their eyes seared me alive with their faces.

Nancy in her royal robes torn and we’re Esther inside the palace and who in this blasted world will sacrifice their blatant palace prestige for the worth of this child God thought of and dreamed into being, this girl with these eyes and dress and named Nancy.

And all I can think is how I read it once, how one out of every 4 people in a small town was deaf.

So everyone in town learned sign language.

Those without hearing loss— entered into hearing loss, imagined it, walked in it, learned to sign through it – so those with hearing loss could gain a fuller life. The non-deaf disadvantaged themselves, inconvenienced themselves, to learn sign language – so the deaf wouldn’t struggled through disadvantaged, inconsequential lives.

And it was the non-deaf whose lives were enhanced in unexpected ways.

Who not only gained rich relationships with deaf neighbors they would have missed out on otherwise— they discovered the convenience of signing across the street to one another, of sign language communicating from atop hills to folks below, of the sick signing what they needed when voices failed, of children signing to avoid being loud.

Disadvantaging themselves —turned out to be to their advantage. Entering into loss – enriched their lives.

And Africa, you got hold of me and turned me to face Nancy and who can look into Nancy’s eyes and say I need something for my closet more than you need clothes, what church could look into her eyes and say we need more square footage more than you need food, and I touched Nancy’s cheek and the love burned right through me:

You have to disadvantage yourself – if you are ever going to help the disadvantaged.

Sometimes life burns and blinds you.

What under heaven am I waiting for? The only way to care for the disadvantaged – is to disadvantage yourself –which is guaranteed to turn out for your advantage.

Brand me and blind me with that.

Two dozen steps from Nancy, Anna holds a plastic bucket up to me. The wings in this white plastic bucket all flutter, one glassy fabric of light.

A baby howls hungry. African sun burns up my milk bottle neck. A hen scratches in the dirt and my hair feels gritty with Uganda’s red dirt and heat and wind and it has to look a good bit worse, but what does it matter when you’re ready give and really live?

Anna holds the bucket higher.

“I caught these.” Her voice is always a gravelly whisper, soft grit.




I lean in closer over the pail’s rim, a kind of seasoned kid mother who’s learned to steel herself and smile interested over a a few hundred crawling bugs.

“What are they?”

“White ants.”

The pail teems with them. Hundreds of wings lift like veined velum.

“I light a candle where I sleep at night. The ants come to the candle,” Anna holds the bucket with one hand, gestures with the other. White ants and their translucent wings turn and turn in the pail.

“When they come out to the candle — I catch them.” She shows me, picks one up, drops it into the bucket. How long did she sit in the dark, face lit by a candle in the middle of the black of an African night, picking each one up by the wings, one by one, collecting hundreds of white ants from where she sleeps.

“Now what will you do with them?” I lay my hand on the small of Anna’s back.

How many times have one of my half a dozen kids brought in a bug to show me? How many caterpillars have been carried in by a kid, stalked for a few hours, released out in the fields? Mothers get this – they get bug fascination, bug emancipation. They get bug eradication.

Anna whispers it over the edge of the pail:

“We will eat them for dinner.”

How does anybody get this?

Anna slides her hand through mine, like a hand sliding through a gate.

We sit in a doorway, watch the pounding of the fabric of the ants’ wings on the wooden pestle, all the gossamer threads of the wings.


To do justice“ means to go to places where the fabric of shalom has broken down, where the weaker members of societies are falling through the fabric and repair it,” writes Tim Keller.

Anna holds my hand tighter and the ants are pounded, pounded by the pestle and I try to swallow.

Anna’s a thread, Hope’s a thread – we are each singular threads in the world. And it’s pounding itself into my heart sitting on the earthen floor of Africa: We all get to decide to what we will tie our lives.

If I tie my resources, my time, my Esther-power only to the thin thread of my own life — my life’s a hopelessly knotted mess.

Your life only becomes a tapestry if it ties itself to other lives.

The only way to strengthen the fabric of society – is to weave the Christ who is in us — around other threads.

The only way to repair the holes of this world where hearts are falling through – is to be broken away from your life like Christ and let your Christ-filled life be interwoven with other lives.

The only way to reweave this world into wholeness — is to let your Christ-life be broken for others.

“Reweaving shalom means to sacrificially thread, lace, and press our time, power, goods, and resources into the lives and needs of others,” writes Timothy Keller. “The strong must disadvantage themselves for the weak, the majority for the minority, or the community frays and the fabric breaks.”

The only way to care for the disadvantaged – is to disadvantage yourself –which is guaranteed to turn out for your advantage.

Smiling airline attendants will somehow get hot chicken and rice with chocolate pudding and puff pastries to thousands of passengers flying comfortably at 30,000 feet in the clouds over the planet today – but there are little kids sitting right down there on the planet who are swallowing down bugs just to try to stay alive. It makes it hard not to choke on your puff pastry.

It makes it hard to keep breathing.

It makes it hard not to turn away instead of turn around.

It makes it hard to tell this story — I want another story. The Esther Generation, we’re all wild to tie our threads differently so the tapestry shimmers with a more beautiful story. Who wants girls trafficked and fondled and used like toys by tourists in the backstreet brothels of Thailand, who wants kids going to school hungry in Harlem, panhandling for drugs on the streets of LA, who wants starving fathers in Uganda selling their 4-year-old daughters to men — and who in the world wants the little girl sitting in front of you trying to scrape up some kind of nourishment by filling her tummy with bugs?

Yeah – I can want a different story…

I can want the pretty of Pinterest – but the only way to get to the beauty of godliness is to wrestle with the ugliness of sin.

The Esther Generation is beautiful – because they don’t turn away from the ugly.

The Esther Generation faces the injustices of this world — and reveals the beauty of the face of Christ in the face of the injustices.

The Esther Generation aren’t a bunch of escapists to the palace — but are activists for those outside of the palace. This. is. what. makes. us. beautiful.

That is the Christian definition of beauty: sacrifice.

And there is that:

The woman who sacrifices for a child, for a sister, for a man – she’s a truly beautiful woman.

The home that’s sacrificed so someone else can have a home: that’s a truly beautiful home.

The wardrobe that’s sacrificed so someone else can have clothes: that’s a truly beautiful wardrobe.

Pinterest doesn’t define beauty. The nails of the Cross define beauty. The broken ways of Christ define beauty.

It’s what Christ wrote right into the DNA of the universe: Real beauty is only found in the brokenness of sacrifice.

It’s how the Esther Generation lives:

You’re as beautiful as you have sacrificed.

The beauty of this:

The only way to care for the disadvantaged – is to disadvantage yourself –which is guaranteed to turn out for your advantage.








I read the Word of God with Anna’s mother.

We bow heads and weave fingers and we pray. The white ants swarm in the pail. She gives me a shawl. I finger threads, how each thread gives way and weaves and ties and is strong in the being pressed into others.

I look right into the eyes of Anna, of Nancy. Sometimes life blinds and burns you –

Here is Christ.

This disadvantaging, this sacrifice – this is for nothing less than Christ Himself.

There’s your fireball. Every face. Every face is your fireball from heaven; every face a glimpse of Christ. Who turns away unwilling from Christ?

There’s a whole generation that can feel the heat, hearts that beats with a heat, the fire right down in the bones.

The beauty in the sacrificed wing.







On Monday, Lord willing — How Katie Davis of Kisses from Katie has reshaped my heart.

The Research that Proves You Can Change the World
A Letter to the North American Church: Because it is Time
Why You Are Where You Are: For Such a Time as Now
An Internet Love Story {Part 1}: How to Live Free

Will you take one moment today and look into one face here and pray for just one by name, right now —

your real way of reaching out to a child and not turning away–

pray for the beginning of a real-life love story:

Here if you are in Canada and here if you live in the US