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New Year’s Resolution: Jesus First

repentYou have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you. You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen. Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place. ~ Revelations 2:3-5

As I sit and write, a rare, blue-sky-sunny winter afternoon brightens the view outside my window. What a great way to start the New Year! All seems well with the world. And . . . ahead lie new horizons to conquer! As my mind turns towards 2016, I keep thinking about an Oswald Chambers quote, “Keep the main thing the main thing.” We are to always “seek first the kingdom of God.” How? The Revelations passage above steers us in the right direction.

Mature but Passionless

The church of Ephesus did everything right. They persevered, endured hardships for Christ, had not grown weary and hated the practices of the Nicolatians. Their theology and their hard work was commendable. They were as steady as a faithful, mature wife of many years. As Christians we believe in marriage for a lifetime, but we doubt it’s possible to retain the passion we had at first, to continue “being in love.” We expect the hardships of life and a “deeper, more mature love” to replace the ardor we had at first. Yet our Heavenly Bridegroom apparently has higher expectations. He chastised the church of Ephesus because they had lost their first love. They were faithful and mature but passionless. Now isn’t that convicting?

Lost Love

Jesus’ complaint echoes similar grievances between spouses.

You used to have eyes only for me; now you can’t seem to get your eyes off your cell phone.
You used to listen with rapt attention to all I had to say; now I seem to bore you.
You used to make all kinds of sacrifices in order to spend time together, now all you offer is excuses when I ask you to go do something with me.

Don’t Change

It’s said that women go into marriage hoping to change their man, while men go into marriage hoping their bride will stay the same. Jesus wants our affections and ardor towards him to stay intensely vibrant and alive. And certainly, because he is a perfect bridegroom, he is entitled to this expectation. He does not wane in his love, so why should we? I am afraid, however, that I resort to typical wife behavior when I try to change my Heavenly Husband into what I want him to be instead of accepting him fully for who he is. For example, I might camp on the scriptures that speak about his love and ignore those that speak of his wrath. Or I might choose to follow the commands that come easily to me and dismiss others that make me uncomfortable.

At the Beginning

If Jesus calls us to return to our first love, what does this mean? Let’s consider what it would look like for a couple to “do the things you did at first”?

Couples in love are affectionate with one another.
They are lavish in their praise and revel in their delight.
They are eager to serve and please the beloved.
When apart, they can’t wait to be together again.
They spend as much time together as possible.
They think about one another continuously.

A High Standard

This, then, is the height from which we fall when Jesus is no longer our first love. But Jesus won’t settle for “parallel lives” or a worn out, wrung out, disillusioned love. I am thankful that he is all about a vibrant love. In John 17:25-26, he prayed, “Father of goodness and truth . . . I have made your self known to them and I will continue to do so that the love which you have had for me may be in their hearts—and that I may be there also” (Phillips).

Eager Obedience

John 14:21b says, “Every man who knows my commandments and obeys them is the man who really loves me . . . ” Returning to our first love with Jesus is not about trying to conjure up schmaltzy feelings. Instead, it’s about resetting our hearts to right priorities; it’s about being eager to obey his Word, it’s about simply loving our Lord for himself as opposed to being focused on what his power or riches can do for us.

I can’t think of a better New Year’s Resolution than to renew my efforts to put Jesus first.

Light of the World

starlightI am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12)

The Christmas season is the season of lights. What is it about light that fascinates, mesmerizes, and comforts? Especially light in the dark? What does light provide?

In the physical realm:

Light dispels darkness which allows us to see what we are doing and where we are going, enabling us to avoid danger.
Light and warmth go together such as heat produced by sun rays or fire.
Light is life giving—sunlight is required for photosynthesis and sustainable temperatures; plant, animal and human life could not survive in darkness.

So we see that light and life go together. Life cannot be sustained without it.

In the spiritual realm:

Jesus is the light of the world. Without Him we cannot see where we are or where we are going. When lost in spiritual darkness, we cannot see the danger of our sin condition.
His Spirit enlightens our hearts with the truth, comforting us with His Presence.
Jesus is the light of life. If we have Him, we have eternal life.

Jesus is the Light of the World and the Light of Life not just in a spiritual sense but in all realms as well.

“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:16-20)

Prayer:

Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of both earthly and eternal life. Thank you for making Your home in our hearts where we can always warm ourselves in your Presence. And in these uncertain times, we are so grateful to have the “Light of the World” guiding us safely home. Amen.

A Foundation For Our Times

rock“He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure” (Isaiah 33:6).

Do you get the sense that the world is speeding up more and more? Technology continuously churns out new inventions that make scenarios never before imagined possible. Think cyberbullying, sexting, and bystanders videoing police. Society’s concepts of right and wrong have also undergone huge shifts. No sooner has gay marriage passed than we hear cries of “let’s make polygamy our new civil rights cause.” Transvestites are not nearly as compelling anymore compared to the attention given to transgender people. And the sexual orientation smorgasbord offers everything from straight to pan-sexual with all kinds of combinations in between.

Disoriented

Sometimes I get really disturbed by my world. I feel like I can’t wrap my mind around the changes, can’t process, can’t quickly enough grasp new and complex questions which deeply affect our society and my world.

I’ve found myself grasping for an anchor, a foundation, something that does not change at the whim of society’s latest social construct. That’s why the verse above is such a comfort to me. My unchanging God points true north as I navigate my way through this disorienting world.

My Place

Paul writes in Acts 17:26 that “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.” This reassures me that I am living in the place and era God ordained for me. Here in Oregon, 2015!  I am inspired by the thought that, like Esther, I may be here on this planet today precisely “for such a time as this.” That’s why, when I feel overwhelmed at the increasing speed and spread of change (of both good and evil), I take comfort in this passage in Isaiah. God is my “rich store of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge.” I do not feel equipped to face these new and rapid changes, but God can certainly keep up and give me what I need!

Meeting the Challenge

Because of our challenging times, I believe it is imperative, more than ever, to be biblically literate. We cannot afford to feed only on milk or diluted Christian culture fare, because this makes us weak and susceptible to being deceived. How easy it is to get swept away in the tidal wave of popular opinion. Isaiah says, “He will be the sure foundation for your times . . .” However, we will not be able to stand firm if we do not know what we believe. And we can only know what we believe if we study the scriptures regularly. Additionally, we will only experience God’s foundation as sure when we take obedience to scripture seriously because disobedience weakens confident resolve, diluting spiritual power.

Comfort

Do you, like me, find comfort and encouragement in this scripture as well? What does it mean to you, personally, to have this treasure?

As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. (Luke 6:47-48).

Rock Beneath My Feet

storm“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” ~ Matthew 7:24-27

In 1692 Port Royal was the unofficial capital of Jamaica and known as the “storehouse and treasury of the West Indies.” It was notorious for its pirates, buccaneers, and  brothels. It was also known as “one of the wickedest places on earth.”

On June  7th of that year, after Wednesday morning prayer service, Anglican Rector Dr. Emmanuel Heath and his friend, John White, were chatting over a glass of “wormwood wine” at a nearby tavern. White leisurely smoked his tobacco pipe. Suddenly the earth began to shake violently. The two men leaped to their feet and ran for the door.

Disaster

Outside, the ground was opening simultaneously in various places sucking people and buildings into the earth, and sinking two thirds of the town immediately into the sea. Eye witnesses recount:

“The sand in the street rose like the waves of the sea, lifting up all persons that stood upon it, and immediately dropping down into pits; and at the same instant a flood of water rushed in, throwing down all who were in its way; some were seen catching hold of beams and rafters of houses, others were found in the sand that appeared where the water was drained away, with their legs and arms out.”

Deluged

Mammoth waves crashed into the town strewing the debris of ships, dead bodies and bones from uprooted graves. Nine-tenths of the city was flooded under water with only the tops of the tallest houses visible among the rubble of ship masts and other debris. The earthquake and following tsunami claimed about 2,000 people. In the aftermath, about 3,000 more died from injuries and disease.

Port Royal had literally been built on sand. Many of its 2,000 buildings were two or more story brick constructions. When the earth shook, the sand liquefied, and buildings, streets, and people “appeared to flow into the sea.”

Solid Footing

What happened to Reverend Heath and his friend John? Surprisingly, they both survived. Reverend Heath arrived at his house to find it still standing. The town structures that had been built on limestone remained largely intact. His house had been built on rock.

It is a good thing to take inventory of our lives now and then. In light of eternity, are you building on solid ground?

References:

http://old.jamaica-gleaner.com/pages/history/story001.html

https://books.google.com/books?id=X8w-nDevIfAC&pg=PA165&lpg=PA165&dq=Dr.+Emmanuel+Heath&source=bl&ots=TFOsXjotq1&sig=7103glBX_VmdUxQvQmJOCC9_O6c&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CEAQ6AEwBGoVChMI-ra9jsb1xwIVjlmICh0GNw4O#v=onepage&q=Dr.%20Emmanuel%20Heath&f=false

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1692_Jamaica_earthquake

Help! It’s Hard to Change!

brain Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. ~ Romans 12:2

I used to be exasperated with the question of how to renew my mind. Well, yes, I knew to read my Bible, pray, and fellowship. But in hard times, when life asked far more of me than I had to give, I wanted tools to take me deeper. I wanted detailed steps to the inner process of change. Without a clear map, transformation only sounded like some mystical process that felt unattainable. I needed a systematic way of “getting at” my mind.

Transforming change comes about as we respond to truth, so we need to continually screen our mind for thoughts that are either “100% true,” “partially true,” or “completely false.” This method (borrowed from CBT) has helped me very much:

Awareness and Identification

First, we must identify potentially unhealthy thoughts (e.g. “I never get a break,” ”You can’t trust anyone,” or “I’m worthless.”) Easy, right? But there’s a problem. We tend to assume we know everything we’re thinking. Not so! Since thoughts are measured in milliseconds, consider their sheer quantity at any given moment. Our brains must continually prioritize according to perceived importance. How easily, then, we lack necessary awareness. This murkiness must be penetrated in order to find the damaging content. How do we do this?

When to Pay Attention

Notice sudden downward mood shifts. Key point: negative mood = red flag. Negative moods should immediately alert us to scan our minds, name as many distressing thoughts as possible, and write them down. Our goal is to uncover the lies and fears which repeatedly blindside us. Most harmful are core beliefs we’ve convinced ourselves are true such as “I’m a failure; I’m a loser; I’m helpless; I’m unlovable; I’m bad; There’s something wrong with me.”

Doing the Work

Once named, we must challenge the thoughts rationally with evidence for and evidence against. As believers, our first task should be to test the thought against God’s Word. We also consider personal observations, knowledge gleaned from science or other relevant sources, and input from family and friends. Again, record your work.

Formulating a Conclusion

After thorough, rational challenges, we are in a position to see the truth more clearly. Now it’s time to state the new, balanced perspective. Writing it down further helps clarity.

Reinforcements and Change

Some types of false thoughts are easily challenged and change occurs immediately. Others, such as core beliefs, have been there since childhood. These require persistent challenges and hard work before the truth embeds itself deeply enough to override the lie.

Illustrations

If you’re like me, you’d like to see how this works. Here’s how someone might tackle the thought “I never get a break,” a rather easy one to challenge.

Evidence for: It may be true that for a long time I have not gotten a break, but that’s not the same as never. So I can find no evidence supporting this thought.

Evidence against: Believing “I never get a break” doesn’t make sense in light of God’s interactions with undeserving sinners. Also, my experience tells me that even though things have not gone my way lately, I recall times in the past where things did. Family and friends have been reminding me of those times, too. I’ve just been too upset to listen.

New Perspective: I don’t need to give in to self pity because it’s not true that I never get a break. I can acknowledge that a lot of things have gone wrong lately, but I can also remember that God is for me and that he has plans to prosper and not to harm me, plans to give me a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

Here’s a fictional character who is challenging their core belief “I’m worthless,” which is more difficult.

Evidence for: I believe I’m worthless because my parents never wanted me. Mom told me that she had planned to abort but then found out she was too far along in the pregnancy to follow through. She seemed to resent that I was born. I can’t remember my parents telling me anything I ever did right. In fact, my dad constantly told me how much I annoyed him. We never had much money growing up, and I always felt all the other kids were better than me. I made myself invisible at school because that felt the most safe. I guess considering my past, no wonder I have trouble making friends and living confidently.

Evidence against: How do I challenge the deeply entrenched belief that “I’m worthless”? Where does a human being’s worth come from anyway? Parents should instill worth into their children but mine did not. Yet, just because my parents did not does not mean that I have no worth.

For example, according to the Declaration of Independence, all human beings appear to have worth. It states that “all men are created equal” and “that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Beings who claim such rights would certainly enjoy worth. As a member of the human race, I inherently possess the same dignity and value as others. Whether my feelings agree or not, this is the truth.

Also, and more importantly, the Bible tells me that I am loved and wanted by God. Worth is ascribed to the one being loved and desired. If I am loved by God, I am worthy indeed. However, even though I can say this intellectually, my heart struggles to believe it. Therefore, my plan is to memorize and regularly review worth-affirming scriptures until I “know that I know that I know.”

Another evidence is my one close friend who tells me all the time how much I mean to her. When she tells me this I always wonder what she sees in me, but maybe it’s time I accept her at face value.

New Perspective: Though contrary to my current feelings, I can choose to affirm my worth. As I repeatedly immerse myself in the truth, I am hopeful that the feelings will follow.

Recapping How to Systematically Renew the Mind:

  • Commit to identifying specific unhealthy thoughts.
  • Recognize that downward mood shifts are an indication that negative thoughts are running and must be “caught.”
  • Challenge the thoughts according to all sources of truth God has made available—scripture, scientific knowledge, and wise counsel, always giving God’s Word the place of highest authority.
  • Summarize your new, more balanced perspective.
  • Reinforce the truth by reviewing your work as needed.
  • Change your behavior accordingly.
As noted above, without identifying maladaptive thoughts, we cannot challenge them, nor will we be able to change. Sometimes it helps to know the types of thoughts we are looking for. I’ve found Dr. Ross’s extensive list extremely helpful. http://rosspsychology.com/1/post/2011/06/cognitive-therapy-101-core-beliefs.html

The Glory of God’s Goodness

GodThen Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. ~ Exodus 33:19

What strikes me about this passage is what God chose to reveal of himself when Moses requested to see his glory. What was Moses hoping to see? For myself, when I think of glory I think of grandeur, power, and splendor. I would expect to be awed and overwhelmed by an impressive display of some kind. Yet of all the ways God could have presented himself to Moses, he chose to reveal his goodness. There’s something very touching about that.

Consider the definitions of goodness: moral excellence, virtue, kindness, generosity, the best part, essence or valuable element of a thing. By showing Moses his goodness, God did not overwhelm with force or loud fanfare. Instead, his disclosure was gentle, quiet, relational.

In the Garden of Eden man questioned God’s goodness. This is the ubiquitous, sinister doubt that the serpent continues to raise in our minds to this day. It is the question we raise when we don’t know him. It is the question we agonize over when we are suffering. It is the question that causes us to hesitate, to hold back from approaching God. And closely related to this question is another question, “Does God care . . . about me?” A good God gives me hope that he will care, will stoop to attend to my needs with mercy and compassion.

Unless I am convinced God is good, it is not safe to approach him. When God sent his son, Jesus, it was the ultimate expression of his goodness, his kindness, and his mercy. Jesus is our reconciliation to an otherwise formidable Father.

Do you believe that God is good? What holds you back from him? If we truly want to know him, we can be bold like Moses and ask to see God. Moses wanted to see glory, but God revealed goodness. So be prepared. God may not show you what you want to see, but instead, he will reveal himself to you on the level of your true need.

Starting Over

arkThe sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth . . . These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the whole earth. ~ Genesis 9:18-19

Noah and the ark is famous even in the secular world. Quaintly drawn arks with cuddly animals hanging out the windows abound. Recently I reread the well-known story, and I began to think about what it must have been like to be the only family left in the world. To have to start over.

What Was It Like?

Questions like these came to mind:

  • Noah and his family were on the ark about 370 days before they set foot on the earth again. What did those first steps feel like? It must have been such a relief to get off the boat! Imagine what it must have felt like to once again be able to wander around freely, to breathe the fresh air, to touch soil, to see things other than just water for miles all around.
  • What was the landscape like? After everything had been under water, they must have seen devastation all around them even though plants were beginning to sprout. Did they mourn the loss of how the earth once was or were they simply grateful that they were spared?
  • What did it feel like to be the only eight people on the face of the earth? Was it lonely? At the same time, were they relieved to no longer live under the oppressive wickedness of society? Like Lot, they surely would have been tormented in their “righteous souls” by the wickedness to which they had been exposed constantly.
  • Finally, what was it like to start over with no support from civilization or some kind of infrastructure? They had to be pioneers in the truest sense of the word. Everything about subsisting and living had to be created from scratch again. They could not run down the street to the baker and pick up a loaf of bread or have a seamstress sew them a tunic.

Encouragement

With the challenges of starting over, God graciously spoke hope into their lives:

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth” (Genesis 9:12-16).

Hope

When we’ve suffered great losses and face transitions, we can get discouraged and overwhelmed. The tasks ahead appear so daunting. Yet, we can be encouraged by Noah’s story. Will not God meet us in our time of need and give us encouragement and strength for our situation, too? In Noah’s case he gave a rainbow and a covenant promise. In our case, he may bring a neighbor to help or speak to us through His word.

Perspective

Is there any area in your life that feels like starting over? Like Noah, let’s remember to offer grateful sacrifices of praise for our salvation and all God has done for us despite the challenges ahead. We need to keep this greater perspective. After all, in the big picture of things, is not our amazing rescue from sin much more important than any difficulties we face? If you’re starting over, rejoice. With the hard things also comes new life.

Biblical Sleep Hygiene

sleepWhat a blessing it is to be able to sleep. . .

Sleep appears to be becoming more and more elusive in our times. Children and parents remain wired to their devices into the wee hours of the night, whether on their computers, TVs, Xboxes, phones, or iPads. People with anxiety and depressive disorders routinely suffer from insomnia. Old age may affect quality of sleep. A guilty conscience may be the sleep robbing culprit as well.

Health magazines tout proper sleep hygiene with basics like these:

  • Use the bedroom only for sleep or intimacy.
  • Create a quiet, dark, and cool environment to promote sleep.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, excessive sugar and other chemicals that interfere with sleep.
  • Keep a consistent sleep routine with regular bedtime and waking schedules.
  • Stay adequately hydrated throughout the day, but minimize liquid intake after 7pm.
  • Don’t overeat, especially at dinner.
  • Plan vigorous exercise for earlier in the day.
  • Take early, short naps or avoid them altogether.
  • Establish a soothing pre-sleep routine by turning off all electronic devices an hour before bedtime and engaging in activities such as gentle stretching, taking a warm bath, pillow talk with your spouse, or journal your problems so that you don’t have to take them to bed with you.

In the Bible we see examples of sleeplessness:

When Jacob returned home with his household, he was terrified of his brother Esau. Genesis 32:7-8 records that In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well. He thought, “If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape.” The night before the fated meeting, Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. (Genesis 32:22-24)

David experienced intensive pressures and challenges throughout his life that often caused sleepless nights. He was a fugitive on the run never knowing who might betray him, as king he faced political intrigues, and he was willing to face the painful realities of his sin with Bathsheba. (Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. Your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down on me. Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin. My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. Psalm 38:1-4)

David once described a sleepless season: I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. (Ps. 6:6). Yet even when sleep did not come right away, the Psalmist found his comfort in the Lord The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer. (Psalm 6:9)

Being able to lie down and sleep is a great gift. It means you’re able to let worrisome thoughts go enough to rest. It means that you’re probably not in a lot of bodily pain. It may also mean that you have peace with God and choose to trust Him. If you are troubled with lack of sleep, consider memorizing these scriptures and meditate on them at bedtime:

I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side. Psalm 3:5-6

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8 (Written when David fled Absalom.)

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Psalm 121

Prayer: Lord, thank you that you are like a Father who checks in on his sleeping child through the watches of the night, that you are the One who “restores my soul” as I rest. How wonderful to allow myself to sink into your everlasting arms as I lay down my weary body at the end of the day, as I quiet my heart in you.

Easter Fashion

Easter DressesMy mother always made Easter special. One year she sewed matching outfits for my sister and me as you can see in this photo. I loved my pink dress with the satin sash and ruffled sleeves. Those were happy days in childhood and reflect the traditions of the times. In this post we will examine how Easter dresses, fashion, and spiritual clothing relate to one another.

Easter Dress Tradition

Around 300 A.D., Constantine “ordered his subjects to dress in their finest and parade in honor of Christ’s resurrection.” This tradition later identified the end of Lent as worshipers who had been wearing the same clothes for weeks, exchanged the “old frocks” for new ones.

In the United States, “from the 1880s through the 1950s, New York’s Easter parade was one of the main cultural expressions of Easter.” Women would parade along Fifth Avenue in their newest and most fashionable clothes as the poor and middle class watched. Irving Berlin captured the spirit of the times in his classic song: In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it, you’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter Parade. Of course, clothing retailers took advantage of the parade’s marketing opportunity and soon new Easter dresses for all classes became the norm.

Relating to Fashion

Artistically oriented, I have always loved fashion as a way to express creativity, individuality, and a sense of style. I believe appropriate attention to dress reflects a certain respect for myself as well as consideration for others who have to look at me!

I’ve always told myself that I aspire to a modern version of the Proverbs 31 woman who dressed in “fine linen and purple.” Lately, however, I’ve wanted to look more closely at my heart motivations around fashion because I know the Lord values this more than the outward appearance. In the spirit of this quest, I’ve researched what attracts us to fashion.

What Fashion Says About Us

Consider these statements from the fashion industry or fashion blogs (sources referenced below):

  • Fashion is about aesthetics, theatre and meaning, not merely comfort, argues Eugene Rabkin.
  • Fashion is a method of utilizing clothing, accessories and hair to show or hide something about yourself.
  • You can use fashion to express yourself, to serve as an extension of your personality: goth, skater, soccer mom, professional.
  • You can use fashion to disguise your true self: a conservative in vamp clothing, a vamp in conservative clothing.
  • We aren’t naturally stunning to look at, so we need high fashion as a prop.
  • “What should I wear?” Your choices are dictated not by what you will feel your best in, or what will be most comfortable, but “What will make me look better than [insert female competitor here]?”

Our True State

From the above statements, it appears we use fashion as a defense mechanism, and I see myself guilty as well. Why are we so compelled to hide, disguise, express, flaunt, or compete? What do we want?

Perfection
First, people intrinsically seem to know something is not right and seem irreconcilable to the fact that their bodies fail the ideal of perfection. One blogger wrote, “Our obsession with fashion is really about wanting to look better because we are physically below our own standards.” Since we’d all agree that no one can be perfect, why are we so bothered by this fact? Why the difficulty accepting our imperfections? Perhaps this dissatisfaction comes from an unconscious knowing, written in our DNA, of “Paradise lost.” What do we want? We want the perfection we once had in the Garden of Eden.

Covering
Second, we desire our flaws to be hidden or at least disguised. We feel vulnerable and unsafe in this imperfect state, afraid of people’s judgment or criticism. We believe that hiding provides protection.

Recognition
Third, we want to be noticed, appreciated, and understood—in other words, seen and known. As a result, we may take self-expression to extremes or compete with others.

Our inherent perfectionism, need to hide, and craving for significance points to a shame problem. We are ashamed that we cannot be what we know we are supposed to be. Not only are we ashamed of our physical flaws, but our shame includes our moral deficiencies as well. Out of such a vulnerable state, no wonder inadequacy, insecurity, and a deep sense of worthlessness rise and grasp fashion or any other covering available, if only we can cloak the ugly truth about ourselves.

New Clothes

And this brings us to Easter, doesn’t it? We need an “Easter dress,” new clothes that can really do the job. No theatrical costume, no flimsy gauze, but a garment perfectly designed to cover all the shameful parts while at the same time enhancing the unique person God made. We need a “robe of righteousness.”

The Easter garment is more costly than the most expensive designer gown because Jesus paid for it with His own blood. Yet, it is offered to us for free. All we have to do is ask.

One fashion blogger stated that “Fashion is always changing, slightly elusive, extremely seductive.” How much better to find refuge in the unchanging, genuine article, guaranteed to last through all eternity.

I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation. He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. ~ Isaiah 61:10

References:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter_parade
http://blogs.fashionclub.com/my_weblog/2010/03/new-clothes-for-easter-a-history-of-the-tradition.html
http://fashion.about.com/cs/historycostumes/a/whatisfashion.htm
http://www.bjarnetimonen.com/2013/09/the-dangers-of-fashion/
http://www.fashionsalon.ca/2009/04/purpose-of-high-fashion.html
http://www.ravishly.com/2014/06/04/rihanna-gets-real-about-fashion-competition-among-women

Why We Hide

edenAdam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame (Genesis 2:25).

Naked and without shame. It is not possible to comprehend what that would be like. After eating from the tree, when it became clear that he could no longer evade God, Adam said, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid” (Genesis 3:10). Doesn’t this still accurately describe the human race today?

Ashamed . . .
Ashamed that we cannot be perfect
Ashamed of our repeated failures
Ashamed of our lack of self-control
Ashamed of what has been done to us
Ashamed of what we have done to others
Ashamed of what we have done to ourselves
Ashamed of being too much of this, or too little of that

Hiding . . .
Beneath our busyness
Beneath our computers, cell phones, and TVs
Beneath our fancy cars and luxury homes
Beneath our title, our degree, our profession
Beneath our sports, our music, our entertainment
Beneath our make up and fashionable clothes
Beneath our church and volunteer activities

How much of what we do is grasping at rags to cover our embarrassing nakedness, or we do things to distract ourselves from facing our shame. The only acceptable covering that will ever meet our need is Christ’s robe of righteousness. Dressed in this garment, we can finally venture out of hiding into the light.

One of my favorite hymns is The Solid Rock, and I especially like the last stanza:

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

Praise God that one day we will be no longer naked . . . no longer ashamed . . . no longer hiding.

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