Painted Without Makeup

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Monthly Archives: March 2011

Ephie and the Good Book

Once upon a time, there was a young girl named Ephie who lived in a city where it was illegal to worship the one true God. Her parents had been taken in the night several years ago for being God-worshippers; their prayers had ascended like purple incense above their small apartment and the police came to arrest them for treason against the state. The only gods legal to pray to were Shemelehu and his river wives, for they controlled the movements of nature. It had only rained in their country three times in the past twenty years and the desalination plants were almost to the point of exhaustion from turning the bitter sea water into a liquid potable and ready for irrigation. 60,000 days seemed to be the limit for the water-purifying machines, and rain was needed.
After her parents were arrested, Ephie decided to avoid trouble by avoiding the one true God. She shut the windows that had opened to the heavens on their 4th-floor flat. She stopped praying before meals because it was the state that brought her the food allotted to orphans and she didn’t want that to stop (even if it was awfully tasteless). Ephie got rid of all the books her parents had read to her, except one—a Bible. The smell of the old book reminded her of better days. She taped it up nicely underneath the piano bench so that the book opened downward. That way she could still smell it when she played.
One day while playing the piano, she smelled something delicious—fresh bread. A knock sounded at the door, altogether too early for the orphan allotment to come. She peered through the peephole. It was an old woman who looked kind, so Ephie took a risk and opened the door.
“Hello,” cackled the old woman. Her voice was not very pleasant. “Want some bread?” Ephie’s stomach rumbled with hunger and her eyes betrayed her hunger through her suspicion. “Yes, please.”
The old lady tenderly placed the bread in Ephie’s hands and urged her to eat it. With a nod of her head, Ephie invited her uninvited guest to sit down inside.
“It smells familiar in here,” scratched the voice of the old woman. “Psalms?”
Ephie froze. She had heard of even children being arrested for having a Bible and now she was fifteen—legally not a child anymore. One thing she remembered very clearly from her parents, though, was that it was best to be completely honest when you have been caught in something.
She swallowed the big bite of bread in her mouth.
“Yes, mum. It is.” She motioned to the piano bench and smiled, although her hand was trembling.
Acting as though she didn’t care that having such a book was illegal, the old woman turned to Ephie and asked,
“May I play the piano for a turn, daughter?”
Her eyes were not hard and cold but warm and kind, so Ephie shrugged in assent. Her companion sat on the bench and started a scale, simple but elegant and beautiful. All the sudden, she burst into a dramatic dirge and played slowly at first, then faster. As she played, the pages of the hidden Bible were loosed from the tape that held them in place and they swayed back and forth, as dramatically as the sounds from the small woman’s fingers. Only the strong tape Ephie had placed on the binding remained intact, keeping the book from falling from its perch.
Not only were the pages fluttering vehemently as if someone where turning them, but Ephie could also smell glorious fragrances which seemed to be coming from the piano bench—more fresh bread, the salt of the sea, a perfume she would later come to know as myrrh, and then its companion spikenard—so many new smells, all distinct and precious. Roses? “Oh!” she murmured as she remembered the time her father brought home a dozen for her and her mother. How sweet the smells were to her! It seemed like her visitor played for hours and hours, every moment of which Ephie was surrounded by a joy she had forgotten. It lulled her into a deep sleep.
When she woke up, the woman was gone.
“It must have been a dream,” Ephie thought, but when she looked around she saw three loaves of fresh bread on the table. The memories of that day echoed in her heart, awaking a sleeping hope that life was worth more than she had believed. Ephie thought of her parents, and her heart ached for them more than she had let her little heart ache for a long time.

Songs for the Unborn

Here are 2 more songs from the album Songs for the Unborn. I wrote the lyrics and music to all of the songs over the past 10 years and I compiled them onto this project for women facing unexpected pregnancies.

I hope they minister to you.

Nothing You Can Do  (Posted last week, but up again in case you missed it.)

You Make Me Beautiful



The Day the King Came to Town

The Day the King Came to Town

By Amanda Beck

It was the day the king came to town. All the people gathered around to see him pass by in his entourage, knowing that it would be a sight to behold. He was a new king, but there was something in his eyes that gave the impression that he had lived many years longer than any present, even the oldest of them. A light burned within his eyes—it was like a window to the very soul of this new king. Only those who were close to his passing could see this; the rest could only feel it in his air.

The king’s robe was purple, trimmed with the finest fur in the country. It was a robe well fit for a king. There was no doubt about it—this robe suited this king. It was made for him, for this very occasion. The way the sun shone off its purple folds reminded the old women of the vineyard harvests of yesteryear when the crops were plentiful. It reminded the children of the purple lilies in the field near the town that waved as the wind played them like strings on a violin. This was a magnificent robe, but everyone seemed to understand that it would be nothing if it were not worn by this great man, so great and yet so close.

The crowds kept a respectable distance, knowing that this man and his robe must be left as pristine as when they strolled through the city gates. But very close to the edge of the robe, gliding along the leaf-laden ground as it trailed this mighty king, was an old, blind woman, hands covered in blood. The town blemish. She never wore the proper clothes, the ones needed to cover her nakedness properly, and today was no exception. She obviously couldn’t see him or the beauty of his robe, but she could feel that she was very near to greatness. Her years of blindness had taught her well to understand the movement of a man’s feet plodding along the gentle roads of this humble city.

The crowd, which had been noisily greeting her king, gasped as one man. “She’s going to soil his robe—bloodied by a dirty hand…the most beautiful robe we have ever seen. Someone must stop her!”

But no one did.

She reached out her hand as he walked along; she reached out her blind, bloody hand and firmly grasped the king’s robe, as firmly as an eighty-year-old woman could. It must have felt as no more than a gentle tug to the great king, but surely it would be enough to irk this great and noble man.

The whole crowd could see, as she loosed the garment from her grasp, the stain of her red hand that remained on the now-ruined robe. And then the man with clear and bright eyes turned and looked at this thing that had happened. First he saw the handprint on his robe, and tears began to form in his eyes. “How could she know?” he asked himself. “How could she know what she has done? She has undone me,” he whispered.

The blind woman had begun to retreat back into the crowd, her heart filled with assurance that her unseen bleeding would be stopped. As he watched her crawl back into the mass of people who looked at her with reproach, his gaze turned from one of gentle wonder to one of anger and wrath.

“Surely he will have her flogged for this,” one man whispered to his wife. She agreed with a nod. “She deserves nothing less,” his neighbor said. “To think—that robe must be burned now; it isn’t clean anymore,” said the leader of the parish church. “I’ve never seen such wrath in a man’s eyes before,” thought the young maiden who had come in from the fields to greet this long-awaited king.

The whole crowd held their breath and looked at the woman crawling back into familiar anonymity, waiting for the crime to be addressed and dealt with. But instead, he called to her in a gentle voice, “Who was it that touched my robe?”

All knew, except for the woman, that he only looked at her as he spoke, a question without need of an answer from anyone but her to acknowledge her deed.

The anger in his face a moment earlier, directed at the crowd and not the woman, subsided as he spoke. The blind woman stopped crawling into the crowd. She slowly turned and faced this great king with a visionless stare. “I did, your majesty.”

“Do you know what you have done to me?” he asked her with a quiver in his voice.

“No, sir,” she said with an anxiousness in her voice, as a young child waits for the discipline of a disappointed father. “All I know, your majesty,” she said with confidence growing in her voice, “is that I once was lonely but now I feel found.”

“Found out?”

“No, just found.”

He came close to her, the crowd watching in horror as he knelt in the dirt beside her. He picked up both of her filthy, bloody hands and put them on his cheeks, smearing her blood onto his beard and looking at her with an unfathomable peace that passed all the understanding to be had in that entire village.

“Now what do you feel, daughter?”

“I feel…I feel…at home, like I’ve rubbed your cheek many times before. It’s unknown, but somehow familiar.” The townspeople were shocked—they had never heard the blind woman speak more than three understandable words. She had a habit of slurring and mumbling always before, but now she spoke as if she had never said anything incompetent in her whole life.

And he took up the edge of his royal garment, that perfect robe, and he spread it over her nakedness and he held her close as she began to weep.

And in this day, these words were fulfilled within their hearing, as the words of this king echoed faintly in their hearts, “Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of My garment over you and covered your nakedness. I gave you My solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you and you became Mine.” And the people marveled, “Who is like the LORD our God, who dwells on high, who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor out of the dust, and lifts the needy out of the ash heap, that He may seat her with princes.”



Nothing You Can Do

You can listen to today’s song here: 01 Nothing You Can Do.
[At this point, feel free to download and share anything I post on my blog. It’s for sharing!]

Nothing You Can Do
by Amanda Beck

Here I go again, seeking my own good
Hiding who I’ve been from the One who made me
And I know that every day I forget You
‘Cause I want to do my own thing

Why do you love me still? I don’t understand You
So I run away from You
And I’m begging You to stop pursuing me
‘Cause I don’t feel, I don’t feel worthy

And then You say the words my heart has dreamed of
“There is nothing that can change My love”

Nothing you can do
will ever make Me stop loving You
Nothing you can do
Nothing you can say
will make Me look away
‘Cause I am in love with you

You’ve pulled me from the clay so many times
But I choose to run again and again
I push away, I fight like a teething child
And yet, You still come for me
And yet, You still come for me

Nothing you can do
will ever make Me stop loving You
Nothing you can do
Nothing you can say
will make Me look away
‘Cause I am in love with you
‘Cause I put my life in you

Love is stronger than death
Its jealousy relentless as the grave
So even when you walk away
I will pursue you
You are a torch, you bear new life
I promise you–it’s worth the fight
And know that…

Prestige as Equity

Prestige can be bought, sold, bartered, and stolen.

Character, however, cannot. It can only be built by time and love–the only currencies that we truly have.

Painted without makeup: A poem

So, you may be wondering, what’s with this title, Painted without makeup? It just came to me when I was dialoguing with God about this blog. I wrote a poem to try to express it better.

She walks in beauty, like the day
Mind full, heart full, so much to say–
Through art and love she’ll lead the way;
She’ll not shrink back in fear.

There is a song inside the heart
that’s needing to be shared; impart
it to me and I’ll do my part
to know it and be known.

Can one be known and not be shared?
Or is it all inside my head?
Be drunk on love, but not impaired
To carry culture’s banner.

What colors high, what love arrayed!
Of each new hue and certain shade
She brings new life by heaven’s aid,
Painted without make-up.

You’re a kid with a bullet soul

Bullet Soul
by Jon Foreman, performed by Switchfoot

I wanna sing one for all the dreamers
I’m singing this one for the sparks
Here’s one for the friction makers
We are the bleeding hearts
Don’t care whoever you are

We rise and fall together
Our hearts still beat below
You can’t stand by forever
You’re a kid with a bullet soul

Are you ready to go?
Are you ready to go?

I wanna turn up the radiation
I wanna glow in the dark
Love is the one true innovation
Love is the only art
Don’t let ’em blow it apart

We are the children of the scar
I wanna start from the start

This is one of my absolute favorite songs. It’s funny, then, that in finding the lyrics to post it on this blog entry I discovered that I have been singing it wrong; my favorite line of the song, in fact, does not exist. And all because of one little “r”:

“Here’s one for the friction makers…”

I definitely thought he said, “Here’s one for the fiction makers.”

With that confession on the table, I still think that the song is a fantastic anthem of purpose, especially the lines “Love is the one true innovation/Love is the only art.”

The reason that we need art (read, culture at large) is because it communicates deep truth that lectures of truth will not convey. In his awesome (and scholarly) book Planet Narnia, Michael Ward investigates C.S. Lewis’ motivation behind writing the collection of 7 Narnia books, what he calls the Narniad. It’s an awesome look into how Lewis’s personal passions–the 7 Medieval planets: Jupiter, Mars, Sol, Luna, Mercury, Venus and Saturn–shaped each Chronicle.

But what kid needs to know that in order to reap the benefit of Narnia? Lewis allows the influenza (the air, the influence) of a planet to permeate each particular book and it gives us this wonderful sense of cohesion even if we can’t put our finger on it. God does this too, and I think any good author does it. But it’s not always clear on the surface level. Anyway, my point is that you don’t have to understand everything that’s happening behind a story in order to be impacted by it.

Not everything is a parallel. Sometimes there are just odd parts that can’t be explained right now. Deal with it and let the beauty of the art capture your heart and teach you deep truth. There is a time for war and a time for peace–with literature. Sometimes it’s good to fight through it all, other times it’s good to accept it on faith.

Tomorrow I start with the posts of my own art! Check back! :o)


Culture is the hinge

A blog about culture?

“How very difficult it is to resist an entire culture, and especially for children to do so, because it is a right and good thing for children to grow into awareness of being members of a broader community. They need culture in order to grow properly. It is one of their primary means of learning what it is to be a fully human person in a community of fellow human beings. That is why the solution will never be simply a matter of negatively criticizing the false culture surrounding us.

Michael D. O’Brien. A Landscape with Dragons: Christian and Pagan Imagination in Children’s Literature. Quebec:
Northern River Press, 68-69.

This will not be the first time you see me quoting from Michael O’Brien. The man is amazing (check him out here).  O’Brien and I are on the same mission: restoring culture to what it is meant to be–an affirmation of the imago Dei, the image of God, in creation, and more specifically, in the human being. He does it through writing essays and novels and through painting. I seek to do it through teaching Spanish, writing children’s literature, and sharing original music.

So why is a Spanish teacher sharing her thoughts about culture on a blog?

Good question, and one that I’m not sure I can answer completely. But it seemed the right time to start writing and so I did. I don’t know if anyone will read this (besides my mom–hi, Mom!), but the impetus for it came during Thanksgiving break of 2010.

I was spending time with God in the spare room at my parent’s house (how very Narnian!), staring into space/at the closet doors in front of me (could I say ‘the wardrobe doors’?). My eyes alighted on the hinge of the left door, and the word of God quickened in my heart:

Amanda, culture is the hinge.

I responded, “Okay, Lord. Culture is the hinge. But what is the door?” Yep, that’s exactly how the conversation went. I toyed with the idea a little while, but soon I was on to praying for other people (probably myself…) and thinking of other things. I didn’t understand what He had said to me until I was sharing the story with my good friend Sarah Hedrick (oh, the power of community! dialogue!). As we talked, it was like a veil was lifted from my eyes and I saw what God was saying to me:

The heart can be a wall. But if you put hinges on a wall, it becomes a door. And culture is the hinge.

What a revelation to me, the culture-lover! No wonder I am so in love with culture–it has opened up my heart to God. What do I mean by culture? In Sarah’s case, it is music. For me, it is novels and poetry. For my sister, it is art. For others, it is nature. It can be any combination of what are sometimes referred to as ‘the humanities’–theatre, literature, philosophy, history, art, music.

Isn’t it true that someone can be completely closed off to an idea but then experiences something ‘cultural’ and has a change of heart? This being said, I plan to share pieces of art with you, dear reader, that come from the creative well inside me. I encourage you to create and to do the same! Let’s put a hinge on the door of the walled heart and open it to Truth and Beauty!

A butterfly hinge


Triva: The word for ‘hinge’ in Spanish is eje (this refers to the conceptual hinge; the literal hinge is bisagra).