Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Fashion Advice

I do not claim to be a person who knows much or puts considerable thought into fashion.  My rule of thumb typically falls within the line of: if it’s comfortable, I’m in it. There are these so called ‘Fashion laws’ I remember hearing along the way: “No white after Labor day,” “Shoes match the belt,” “less is more,” “Do not mismatch patterns,” and “never wear navy blue with black.”  It seems now we live in a time, where anything goes, where people are more comfortable coloring outside the lines when it comes to wardrobe choices, and where the no no’s of our growing up, seem to be the trendy fashion for kids today. You still probably will never catch me in mismatch patterns, and white after Labor Day? I just choose to stay away from the color period. And I probably will always hold true to less is more. So even though I may not follow these new cooler fashion trends, I do still believe it is important what I put on each and every morning.
For the past year, I have found myself in three separate studies of Acts. I am confident that it is not by coincidence that I have ended up in this book or learning more about Paul’s story. I’ve always been a Peter girl, riveted by this rough and tumble fellow whose emotions often got him in trouble, this man who frequently spoke before he thought, and despite it all was in the inner circle, one of Jesus’ dearest, most loved friends.  But the more time I spend in Acts, and in the other books that Paul has pinned, I am finding that same fascination for this man that I could never seem to connect with before, and honestly who I knew very little about.
As I laid on my bedroom floor this morning in defeat from the insecurities that had already challenged my day as I flipped through hanger after hanger of clothing, I was reminded of Paul’s words to the church in Colossians.
“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12 (NLT)
Paul, a fashionista?? Who knew!
Maybe it did not matter what dress I pulled out of the closest, as much as it did that I walked out of the house wearing compassion. Being available to suffer, moved to the core--in my guy, by a person’s demanding situation or trying circumstance.
Maybe it did not matter what color top looked more flattering, than it did that I got into the car covered in kindness, fixed to lend my strength to whom ever made need it.
Maybe it did not matter what sweater I grabbed for the cool AC filled office, than it did that I drove down 95N suited up in humility. Ready to view myself accurately, ready to approach all who crossed my path today as a friend, and acknowledging what makes me special, is the exact same thing that makes anyone else special—that we are all loved by our Heavenly Father.
Maybe it did not matter what shoes adorned my feet, than it did that I walked through the parking lot clothed in gentleness. Equipped to set aside my strengths, and meet others in the middle of their strengths and weaknesses.
And maybe it didn’t matter what purse carried my belongings, than it did that I walked into that office dressed in patience, prepared to set aside my own pace, and deciding to go the speed of others.
I also laid on the floor this morning in the conquest of feeling misunderstood, walled off and hard hearted toward those who have caused hurt, for those who have failed to understand.  I reached for my Bible, and continued to read Paul’s words in vs. 13 & 14 “Make allowances for each other’s fault, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.”
It does not matter how misunderstood I feel, or the hurt caused by others,  Paul says to throw on the  fashionable cloth of treating others, not how they should be treated, but how time and time and time and time again God has treated me.
And over all let love be your canopy.
Maybe Paul’s name will never carry the weight in the fashion world like those of Armani and Versace. Maybe he will never have a fashion advice column in Style magazine. But it’s Paul’s advice:  clothe yourselves in compassion, kindness, humility gentleness, patience, forgiveness and love that will be the fashion rules from this point on that I will intentionally try to follow.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Under the carpet

Today I entered Barnes and Noble and made my way to the normal cafe table I occupy most days for lunch. A book that I was fascinated by years ago caught my eye on a display shelf. "My secret: A Postsecret Book." It's a book that contains hundreds of anonymous postcards that reveal people's innermost  secrets. As I flipped through the book, I read confession after confession. Sexual sins, deep regrets, feelings of failure. I read of people's suicidal thoughts, of struggles with cutting, self-injurious behaviors, and eating disorders. I read about people wrestling with loneliness, like one postcard that read "Today is my birthday . . .and nobody knows." People battling self-esteem issues and those who bare the scars of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. It went on and on. Page after page of people who most likely wear the mask of "I'm OK," "I have it all together." when we pass them by on the streets, in the break room at the office, in the halls of our own homes and in the sanctuaries of our churches.

I heard a sermon last week, that like this book reminded me that behind every mask is a story, and behind every story lies a past.

Sometimes when I approach the Bible, I tend to forget that the men and woman who did great things--had a past. I want to remember the extraordinary good that God did with their lives, and skip over the step where they had to remove their masks, reveal their secrets, acknowledge their past and let the God of the Universe heal, restore and make new.

One of my favorite Bible stories is the story of Paul's conversion in Acts 9. Saul is on the road to Damascus eager to kill anyone who followed the Lord, when a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. Saul was blinded and he was led into Damascus by his companions and he remained there, blind for three days and did not eat or drink. In the meantime, there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias and the Lord spoke to him in a vision calling him to go to Saul and to lay his hands upon him so that he could see again. You see, Saul was the chosen instrument to take God's message of hope to the Gentiles, to the Kings and to the people of Israel. In a nut shell Ananias' says "Lord you have the wrong guy. He is the most unlikely candidate of them all."  

And in essence Jesus says "that's my point."

Paul had the courage to let God pull back the carpet and deal with the "Chief of all sinners" as he calls himself in 1 Timothy. And when that carpet is pulled back God begins to heal and redeem and restore whatever is under there.

But God doesn't stop there. 

In 2 Corinthians 1 verse 4 Paul writes "He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given to us."God wants us to take off our masks, to share our secrets, our struggles, to bare one another's burdens as it says in Galatians 6:2. We rarely expect that our biggest regret, our greatest failure, our most hidden secret is that one that God can use for the greatest good, the one He can use to reach the unreachable, the one He can use to show others that He is willing to come into the mess of our lives, to get his hands dirty so that He can transform us into the men and women we were destined to be. When we find the courage to do that, we glorify not our name, but we glorify His name and others who are observing us, watching our lives just might have the passing thought that if God can do that with her, with him, then maybe there is hope for me.

The reason Paul did something extraordinary wasn't because He was perfect, or that He had it all together. The reason God used Him was because He was willing to acknowledge his past, He was willing to deal with His secrets, and He was willing to let God leverage that past so that someone else wouldn't miss out on the hope of Jesus Christ. 

He lived out 2 Corinthians 1:4 and that's my prayer for us tonight. That we let God take the messy things in our lives, our greatest failures, our biggest disappointments, that He will redeem them from our willing spirit and use them as a gift to those in this world who think that their past, their mistakes have disqualified them from belonging to the church and more importantly from belonging to God.