SUITED TO THE OCCASION

In every part of the world, in every culture, being dressed to suit the occasion is an accepted custom, an in-built trait and a common etiquette of even the most primitive tribes.

How we would dress to attend a wedding is different from dressing for a funeral. What we would wear for a party is not the same as what we would clothe ourselves for shopping or sightseeing. Hiking and trekking require special parnephelia that is not the same as when we swim or run or jog. Working at home means we must dress to enable chores such as cooking or washing or cleaning, while working from home, a recent development due to covid, needs other suitable attire. Business meetings and office space require appropriate appearance and outfits, not to mention sleep time which needs right clothes that would promote rest and repose.

Dress sense and fashion consciousness does not relate only to haute coutre designs but also to insight and acumen needed to know and note the occasion for which the apparel is being worn!

No one goes to visit the poor or does slum cleaning or other community work in their best clothes since it would hurt the cause and wound  the sensibilities of those we seek to serve. It is not good breeding to go to honor the dead in flashy clothes or gaudy show , but one must wear what fits the somber mood of the occasion and the sentiments of those around. We don’t go before a dignitary dressed in a way that would show disrespect to their persona nor attend a personal award function in rags. Again, no one dresses in wool in summer or thin cottons in winter, for that is foolishness to say the least!

Each and every season, occasion and focus demands suitable garments and appropriate or fitting apparel. So, fashion is stated as prevailing style (as in dress) during a particular time, custom, usage, or style as well as a form of self-expression and autonomy at a particular period and place and in a specific context, of clothing, footwear, lifestyle, accessories, makeup, hairstyle, and body posture. Being fashion conscious implies being able to match your tastes and interests to your personality and the occasion you dress for or being groomed for.

It is interesting to note that the Bible does talk about how one ought to dress and the manner to be suited for different occasions.

In the Old Testament, God instructed the people of Israel on different dress styles for the various people, according to gender, office, the task and the occasion.

The High Priest and other priests had definite robes and special garments made for use in ministering to God: “Have Aaron your brother brought to you from among the Israelites, along with his sons Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, so they may serve me as priests. Make sacred garments for your brother Aaron to give him dignity and honor.” (Exo 28:1‭-‬2 NIV). They could not wear that would make them sweat as its smell was reminiscient of curse and therefore, repugnant to the Lord (Eze 44:18).

God also gave specific dress codes for men and women, as well as instructions on not to mix linen and wool, etc (Deut 22). He showed them what to wear to signify various expressions of solemnity such as repentance, sorrow and mourning (sackcloth and ashes). Teachers and other instructors of the law had a distinctive garment that made them conspicuous as to their vocation. Thus, God did indeed prescribe a particular fashion code for His people so as to distinguish them and set them apart as His particular followers from those around. I believe that His demands were also given keeping in mind for them to be in tune with the weather and their environment to preserve their health!

When you read the New Testament, the focus is more on the inward orientation and the clothing of the soul that is required as the followers of Christ. It was not enough to dress up the outward, but the inner being had to line up to the truth of what is being exhibited on the outer. Jesus very specifically condemned the Pharisees and Sadduccees, naming them white-washed sepulchers, for projecting a false picture of piety and sanctity, when in reality their inward was rotten.

The leaders and apostles of the early church, steadily and constantly taught the disciples of Christ the importance of being clothed with the right attitudes and intentions (Col 3:1-15). They also instructed on the right demeanor for each occasion and event. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep, says the Holy Book in Rom 12:15. In Jas 5:13-14 it says: Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing. Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master.

Being well-dressed or clothed tastefully is not about just buying the best available or the costliest you can afford or the brand on display. It is about being a wholistic human being, in and out, the outer coinciding with the inner. The way to dress to impress is to clothe the outer to adorn and exemplify the inner orientation. Good nature enhances and amplifies the outward adornment causing an aroma of innate fashion to be felt and smelt!

*Pic courtesy https://images.app.goo.gl/E7ZdrDymmGR7SZUr8  unsplash.com and Shutterstock

This is part 4 of a series of articles relating to fashion sense and dress code. You can read part 3 using this link https://sabinatagoreimmanuel.com/2022/09/07/fashion-sense-and-sensibility/

FASHION SENSE AND SENSIBILITY

According to Britannica, fashion is best defined simply as the style or styles of clothing and accessories worn at any given time by groups of people.

Fashion sense means having an instinct for how clothes look when worn together and how those clothes can make an outfit that both looks good and expresses something about you. Fashion sense is not about knowing any sort of formula or the absolute and only correct way to dress, but it is about knowing what suits you and fits you. The way you dress expresses who you are and in essence, contributes to your identity.

Shiona Turini, freelance stylist and consultant declares: Fashion is about storytelling through clothing; it’s about the stories behind them and the ones you create around them. It’s a cultural influence, backstory or intellectual touchpoint that you can trace back to what you’re wearing. We use it to escape the mundane, to embrace and celebrate tradition. It’s about a sense of history and pride and it embodies a greater sense of purpose than just a garment tossed on to cover bodies.

Fashion sense can be an inherent trait for some, an inherited skill for others, and an acquired learning for many. Fashion consciousness is not about adopting per se what you see or what goes on around you. It is about selectively identifying what enhances your personality and what strengthens your demeanor. Being fashionable does not mean you have to buy the best items or purchase only branded pieces, but it’s knowing what suits you and acquiring what is suitable for you. Fashion sense is not about conformity to the existing trend but an alignment of the inward and the outward to give a pleasing overall effect that impacts quietly.

For a Christian and a follower of Christ, fashion sensibility does not mean adhering just to the latest trends of clothing and makeup, but it involves an adorning that reflects the nature of Christ.

Apostle Peter well articulates this when he advises the women: Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.

His advice is not confined to women alone but to the men too: In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered (1 Peter 3:3‭-‬7 NLT). Even though these passages seem to indicate the conduct of married folks, yet it is clear, that for a disciple of Christ the inward should be commiserate with the outward.

Jesus Christ’s warning about elevating the outward show over the inward condition should sensitize anyone to the standards expected: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness” (Matt 23:27‭-‬28 NIV).

He balances this instruction with another to the crowds that followed Him about on when, how, where and why you should strive to keep up appearances: “When you practice some appetite-denying discipline to better concentrate on God, don’t make a production out of it. It might turn you into a small-time celebrity but it won’t make you a saint. If you ‘go into training’ inwardly, act normal outwardly. Shampoo and comb your hair, brush your teeth, wash your face. God doesn’t require attention-getting devices. He won’t overlook what you are doing; he’ll reward you well (Matt 6:16‭-‬18 MSG).

The message is clear – a Christian’s inward orientation should add depth and character to their outward manifestation, but it is also important that their physical appearance should serve to conceal and dignify their inward sacrifices. Image is indeed important, especially when involved in the disciplines of faith, but it should augment and aid the internal rather than mask or cover up lack of reality.

Fashion acumen, thus, is not just about wearing costly dress or using brand items or being decked excessively. It is about garbing yourself in a way that unconsciously uplifts and upholds you to hold your own wherever you are. The right dress and accessories, not necessarily the costliest, will always polish and project you in a way that will make others take a second look or go wow. Real fashion sense will help you make a statement without meaning to or striving for, but naturally, in a matter-of-fact manner, especially when it is bolstered by a good sense and decent nature!

Fashion trends should not camouflage or inflate value, but fashion sensibility should serve to add value to deportment and dignity to comportment!

It is important to be a fashion trendsetter, not only in clothes, but also in conduct and conversation!

More importantly, as the expert pointed out, what is the story you are hoping to tell through your fashion statement?

What is the history and tradition you are seeking to illustrate through your fashion taste?

Finally, what is the sense of purpose you are modelling through your fashionable look?

Do find the answer to these and you then will be the epitome of class and couture!

*https://repeller.com/meaning-of-fashion/ https://artsandculture.google.com/story/why-fashion-matters/_QKS0J-OeT7HIA
*Pic courtesy Shutterstock & Unsplash

A similar subject: https://sabinatagoreimmanuel.com/2022/08/16/dress-code-manner-mode/

REVAMP & UPDATE YOUR WARDROBE

During the pandemic, being stuck at home with no place to go, my wardrobe seemed useless and redundant. I became quite content with home clothes and nightwear and for 2 whole years made no purchase except to invest in some comfortable cotton dresses that wore well with home chores.

The covid season was freeing in one way in that I did not have to buy clothes for outside wear or break my head about using make-up or keeping up with appearances. The zoom mode needed only the upper torso, including the face, to be of acceptable standards and I guess, most of us made to do with what we had, seeing that was enough for the day. Moreover, with so many going through crises of health and loss of life, it made no sense to indulge in clothes and other stuff that is usually needed when there is a life outside the home!

With the renewal of social interaction, I needed to revamp my wardrobe having outgrown some and becoming tired of others! A change on the cards, with alacrity, I promptly but judiciously began investing in some good outside wear, making use of the flood of offers and bargains available online. I emptied half my cupboard to make way for the new, passing on to others my existing lot as they were in pretty good condition. It gave me such joy to step out of my home in my new outfits after being confined at home for 2 years!

It was marvelous to feel like a whole new creature, inside and out, and to step out into the open freely!

Apostle Paul when writing to the church at Colossae writes this: Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire. Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ. So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it (Col 3:9‭-‬14 MSG).

These lines show us that we were once clothed in a set of old, dirty clothes but have now been granted a set of new attire because we are part of His family. Unaware this, we walk around with orphan mentality and poverty spirit, clothed in rags and not in riches. Not understanding who we are and what we have been given, we live in shame and condemnation. It is important for us to grasp this in our spirit and comprehend our estate so that we daily divest ourselves of the old and adorn ourselves with the new, specially custom-made and hand-picked for us by God.

Oftentimes, in Korean movies, I have watched a rich young man fall in love with a poor girl, and then set out to beautify her with the best he is able to buy. He leads her to showrooms once inaccessible to her and proceeds to select attire suited for her, with great care and taste. After arraying and grooming her from top toe, he escorts her to places and parties he is privy to, proudly displaying her as his beloved. Those who neglected her are put to shame by the gesture of her beloved who is now her defender. Such a picture of what God has done, is doing and will do for us!

Yet, we live according to the old fashion, spend our lives dressed in outcasts and rejects, unaware of the new one ready for use hanging in our wardrobe. We rue that we can’t be different and look wistfully at some who seem to be royal in demeanor. We don’t seem to grasp that all they have done is to lay hold of what is theirs by right and use it appropriately.

Christian living is not so much striving as it is resting in Him and claiming what is our own!

All you have to do is not walk in your own old rags of self, but strip them off and reject them when they rise up, as they seem to do every moment. Then, put on the new nature of Christ and walk royally in them, with your head help up as His son or daughter, every minute of every day!

Begin to behave according to your noble lineage and refuse to do what this world forces you to do. Any part of the day, in every instance and circumstance, reach for the new and reject the old.

Often you will be attracted to the old, for they are familiar and comfortable attire you are used to, but reject the impulse and persist in putting on the new, even when it seems hard to do so. In due course and time they will become very appealing and easy to wear. Soon you will become so acquainted with this new that you will not miss your old. Even if you slide back to the old, just turn back to the new and persevere on. Learn to enjoy your different but fresh clothing and continue on until they become part of your new normal and you are truly a new creature, in and out!

When I began dressing in my new fashion, different from my old, eyebrows were lifted and questioning looks directed at me. Yet, in due time everyone accepted me and also began complimenting me on my new style, telling me it suited me.

Don’t let any criticism or ridicule or discouragement or rejection rob you of your royal robes!

Your wardrobe has been gifted by your dear Father in heaven. People will come to accept and respect your new fashion sense in due time. So, be joyous and thrilled in the clothes fashioned from heaven!

Be and become a trendsetter with designer wear from heaven!

*Pic courtesy unsplash.com

A sequel to this: https://sabinatagoreimmanuel.com/2022/07/21/revamp-update-your-wardrobe/

ESPOUSED TO THE KING

In the Biblical culture and Jewish society, betrothal or engagement was considered as binding as a marriage, since Jewish marriage was a two part process. The first part, engagement as we call it today, created a legal relationship without mutual obligations. In Hebrew called: kuddushin (sanctification) is far more binding than an engagement as we understand the term. Once kiddushin was complete the woman is legally the wife of the man. The relationship created by kiddushin can only be dissolved by death or divorce. However the spouses do not live together at the time of the kiddushin, and the mutual obligations created by the marital relationship do not take effect until the nisuin is complete, because the nisuin (elevation) finalizes the marriage process.

The betrothal process is to ensure that the couple is made accountable to the law that prohibits adultery which carries a death penalty, whilst at the same time, not making them “completely” married. In Hebrew and classical in rabbinic literature, betrothal is normally referred to as sanctification, on account of the bride becoming “sanctified” (dedicated) to the groom.

Betrothal was a signed and witnessed legal contract which was a promise given that a marriage would take place. A change of intention by one of the parties is a serious matter and may be referred to as a breach of promise, a civil disobedience which was subject in some instances to a fine or other penalty.

The betrothal period is also significant as being the time of preparation in which the woman fits herself with what she will need for her home, including her trousseau, while the man builds a home for her to enter in. When that work is complete, the marriage ceremony is held and the husband then brings his wife into his home where they begin their married life together. A bride price called mohar was paid to the bride’s father or guardian, and custom was for both the bride and her father to share in it, but later it was given to the bride.

Betrothal is seen as a time of preparation and anticipation, with both the man and the woman making themselves ready for setting up a home and beginning a new life. It could be a few months to almost a year or even more than that, and in all that period the couple was in effect married though not living together. What a contrast to what is prevalent today!

Betrothal was a sacred time of maintaining fidelity and faithfulness to the one you are espoused to, since you are already married to the person concerned, except for the act of physical consummation. Any misconduct during this period was viewed severely as breach of contract, which is why Joseph decided to put Mary away when she was found with child during this period. Such was the custom and practice in Biblical lands and in Jewish society!

The church is the bride of Christ, and we are the members of His bride, bought by His blood (the bride price), espoused to Him by our verbal assent our commitment to follow Him, sealed by the baptism in water, and marked as set apart for Him by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We have to make ready and prepare ourselves to meet our bridegroom, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, when He will come to claim us.

In his second letter to the church at Corinth, Apostle Paul writes most significantly these words: I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him (2 Cor 11:2 NIV). Paul was fo used on

Ministers of God and leaders need to be aware of and adhere to this orientation of the Apostle Paul – to be passionate and committed to presenting the church to the Lord, as a spotless and pure bride. We can’t use, abuse or misuse the church to fulfill our agendas, our dreams and our desires. The Church belongs to Christ, and we must fear to harm her in any way. We must be filled with godly zeal and jealousy to see that the Church turns to the Lord, honors Him and lives to please Him.

John the Baptist exemplifies the right attitude when he declares: The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less. (John 3:29‭-‬30 NIV). This is how those who work in the sphere and realm of the Church must be – turn the attention of the Church to her Beloved, and not seek to draw the attention of the people of God to themselves, but train them to love the Lord their God with all their heart, all their soul, all their mind and all their strength.

Any one who elevates themself and captures the attention of the Church, drawing her idolizing to themselves is in danger of causing the Church to commit adultery!

Anyone who brings in worldly practices and distracts the Church with activities that promote self is dangerous causing the church to commit fornication!A

Anyone who does not lead the Church to purify and prepare herself, but is leading her to indulge in self promotion or self glorification and selfish gain is in danger of causing her to prostitute herself. We need to be like Hegai, the Chief Chamberline and Eunuch of King Ahaseurus, who faithfully prepare the virgins for King!

Apostle Paul warns the Church: You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. (Gal 5:13 NIV). He also admonishes the Church to Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Col 3:2‭ ‬ NIV). May we as His Church be faithful to our Bridegroom who bought us with His own life!

He also warns the leaders to Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. (Acts 20:28 NIV). May we be leaders who faithfully espouse the Church over which we have charge to the King!

In Rev 19:7-8 we read: Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people).

May He find us ready when He comes for His bride!

*Pic and Information on Jewish culture and practice from Google sources

HORSE TALK

My son-in-law (actually a son than a law) and I often take time to discuss about the ministry and work of God, since both of us happen to operate within the realm of the church. Our repartee would bring insights and growth that enhanced us both. Being at different ends of the age spectrum, as iron sharpens iron, we crystallize and shape one another’s understanding that causes expansion in our thoughts.

In one such recent colloquy, we were analysing the post-covid orientation and state of the church, about members in general and leaders in particular. I was lamenting on the fact that Christian life and witness seemed to be focused on creating a good impression and causing a outward expression. Rather than exerting a life-changing influence that flowed from an inward heart-level transformation, leaders were intent on visibility and projecting of themselves.or their work.

He stopped me short with this pithy statement: It is a matter of knowing what you want to be trained for or what you are training others for. Whether you are grooming or being groomed to be a show horse or a race horse or a war horse. The goal and end determines the training and the achievement of the desired outcome!

Thunderstruck, I followed the ensuing train of thought and came up with an perception of the difference between a wild horse, a race horse, a war horse and a show horse!

Wild horses roam free, unfettered, gamboling around the range, eating what they will, drinking what they want, going where they want and typically live about 15 to 30 years. Wild horses travel many miles a day (usually between 10 and 20), in search of food (grasses, seeds and leafy shrubs) and water, often through rough terrain that wears down their hooves. They use fight or flight defend themselves against predators and other dangers such fires or storms, etc.

For a horse to be wild, all you need to do is to allow it to go scot free, without any disciple or restriction. Just set it loose, offering no direction or forcing it into training, and its own nature will take over to be what it wants to be – an outlaw!

Horses enjoy racing for running and jumping come naturally to them and Race horses are usually considered “hot-blooded” horses, known for their agility, speed, and spirit. Race horses are well-bred and carefully trained animals who are given the highest levels of animal care and welfare. Race horse trainers tend to develop strong bonds with their charges, understanding well their traits and moods since they work many hours a day with them. Horses happily take part in a race in most cases but no racehorse can be made to race if it doesn’t want to, and can plant its feet refusing to move. Racehorses are treasured and prized possessions of their owners, getting utmost care and attention.

If you lasso and corral a horse, wishing to turn it into a race horse, then its diet and schedule will have to be carefully drawn out with care given to its type, age and other physical abilities. Training has to focus on developing muscular strength, stamina, and speed in that order, and must be spread over several weeks,  moving from slow and steady to fast and furious! Great care is taken to tailor the program to suit the age, condition, weakness, etc of the horse and though there are general/common components, each horse is trained deliberately and particularly, making each animal uniquely fashioned and special care is taken to factor in its individuality for getting the best result!

War horse breeds were highly valued animals that carried mounted warriors into battle, bred in medieval or ancient times for the sole purpose of aiding men in war. War horses were a mixture of heavy breeds ideal for carrying armored knights, and lighter breeds for hit and run or fast moving in warfare. They were either heavy animals able to carry a fully armored knight as well as their own armor, or shorter, lighter, and swifter ones, ridden unarmored during sieges and raids.

Whether horses were trained to pull chariots, or ridden as light or heavy cavalry, or to carry the armoured knight, much training was required to overcome the horse’s natural instinct to flee from noise, the smell of blood, and the confusion of combat. They also had to learn to accept any sudden or unusual movements of humans while using a weapon or avoiding one. Horses used in close combat may have been taught, or at least permitted, to kick, strike, and even bite, thus becoming weapons themselves for the warriors they carried. Moreover, a war horse used as a riding animal was also trained to be controlled with limited use of reins, responding primarily to the rider’s legs and weight. The horse thus had to become accustomed to any necessary tack and protective armour placed upon it, learning to balance under a rider who would also be laden with weapons and armour. Developing the balance and agility of the horse was crucial to and in warfare. 

A war horse needs more discipline and attention, a more rigorous and diehard regime to equip it to not only carry the warrior but also itself become a fighting machine. Horses used for chariot warfare were not only trained for combat conditions, but they also had to learn to do teamwork with other animals in close quarters under chaotic conditions, since a chariot would drawn by more than one horse. War horses are also denoted as fight or flight animals since both tactics would come in handy in the battlefield.

Show horses in circuses, on the other hand, perform a variety of equine acts ranging from sensational feats of acrobatics to clever stunts and the execution of the elegant “airs” from classical equitation. There are no specific performing breeds, since ability alone determines the particular horse used and are groomed to be fine performers for they are show-stealerrs and crowd-pullers. In the history of circuses, the excitement of the show and the hard work of the show depended on these horses!

Show horses are trained to behave cooperatively and willingly, taught tricks and skills to attract crowds and seek to develop its own talents. Show horses are performance horses and so, confidence training and trick learning are part of their drill. Boldness is a key ingredient that is inculcated so that they execute their acts with grace and poise as well as appear endearing and appealing.

The accoutrements of a show horse are for attracting attention and therefore quite elaborate and flamboyant in order to capture the eye.

The war horse, on the other hand, is fitted with armor, making it ready for battle and is aimed at protection rather than giving pleasure.

The race horse is minimally equipped with only the basic necessary for riding such as saddle and bridle. As speed is crucial, the lighter the horse, the greater the chance of victory in an even field. Even the jockey chosen is usually of small stature so that no extra weight would burden or slowdown the horse.I

It goes without saying that none of these apply to a wild horse since it rebels against confinement and submitting to tutelage.

All this horse talk just goes to show one thing – that in considering a horse, its purpose and the focus of what it is to be determines whether it is to be trained or not, and the type and direction of its training. The end surely does justify the means!

Apostle Paul acknowledges a Christian, especially a leader, as having to endure hardness as a soldier, undergo rigorous training like an athlete and working hard like a farmer.

In the Scriptures we also come across statements such as: Run in such a way as to win the race; my aim is to finish the race; I wanted to be sure I was not running or had been running my race in vain; And let us run with perseverance the race market out for us; Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize; etc.

We also note admonitions such as: Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air; Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms; For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds; etc.

The thread through the Word of God and the teaching therein motivates and urges the disciples of Christ and God-fearers to be race horses and war horses. Nowhere is there an instruction to be a wild horse or a show horse.

On the contrary, there is a injunction against being unbroken as an unruly horse and not to be showoffs or self-promoting or having an outward form without inward orientation. Indeed, one of the seven churches in the book of Revelation is judged as having a reputation that was not true in reality.

Following through my initial train of thought, I see that it is important to decide whether I am striving to be a race and a war horse, or a show horse, or worse still, a wild horse!

As the people of God and as the Ministers of His work, the Church needs to ensure that it is not breeding or grooming show horses, but committed to raising race horses and war horses.

Wild horse, show horse or race horse, war horse – which will you be?

*Pics courtesy google images, unsplash.com, shutterstock.com and information on horses from Google links

THE CHANGED FACE OF THE MINISTER OF GOD!

Gone are the days when a man of God would be identified by a trademark cloth bag, white veshti jiba (sarong and kurtha) and Hawaii chappals. Today’s man of God is a tech- savvy, ipod-toting, laptop-wielding and smartly dressed post-modern phenomenon!

In the past, the man of God used to be, at best, a high school graduate and articulate just in his own mother tongue. Today, he is atleast a college undergrad or even a post-grad, fluent in probably two or even three languages not his mother tongue. Most often, this suave creature would be more expressive in English than in his own mother tongue!

Men of God in the past would at the most, be able to play a tambourine or thump a drum with dexterity more than skill and would sing in either a guttural voice or a flat monotone! Today’s urbane individual is able to play atleast a guitar, (many are experts in more than one instrument), sing extremely well and would even be able to harmonize in different parts!

The disparity between these two, the golden oldie and the erudite youth of the day, is so obviously glaring that many Christians are in a dilemma as to whom they should model should accept, follow, and emulate! A whole generation is struggling to understand and come to terms with this change and correlate it with the known past. The fact that the Indian representation of godliness and holiness is the saffron-clad sadhu, who lives apart and in isolation from worldly pursuits, only complicates the issue. So the question uppermost in people’s mind is: With what is true holiness and godliness associated?

To answer this question, one needs to reach back to the scriptures to understand and come to terms with this paradigm change, in the light of another epoch-changing personality – the Lord Jesus Christ. It is significant to note that Jesus was incarnated in the form of sinful flesh, in the form of the very man He created. Why? Simply because that was His target group! 

He first came to His own, the Jews and so “was made like unto His brethren in all things”. He could not have come as an angel, for then He would be apart from and different from them and so would be unable to tell them “take up your cross and follow me”! He was so like those He came to save that a king had to kill all the babies born around that time and a kiss had to be given to identify Him as the one to be tried!

Computing and extending this analogy to the present, it is obvious that to be contextual, the man of God needs to be incarnated or made like to his brethren of the day! The target group of the day is the smart techie, who commutes between countries as easily as if he is commuting between cities! The target audience of the day is so cosmopolitan that bumping across different nationalities has become a commonplace occurrence the result of globalization. In such a scenario, it is not a choice, but a necessity for the man of God to evolve to the present form.

This, however, does not imply that his value system should evolve or even change, for Jesus Christ, our example, showed us the balance between human incarnation and divine absoluteness – to be wholly human and yet satisfy the divine standards of morality, holiness and godliness. Thus, the core or the internal frame of reference of the man of God is still this: Be ye holy even as I am holy. 

However, the peripheral issues can and should change – issues that do not bear on the aspects of his life that must conform to the divine model. This is the continuity versus discontinuity principle – Codes or standards must be a continuum but non-essentials can be, must be and should be discontinued. It is in this whole sphere of paradoxical understanding, viz. what must be continued and what should be discontinued, that  generation gaps occur and divide the old and the new, each stuck in their own time frame.

How does one bridge this gap and draw an understanding between the old and the new? The one bridge that would span these two time lines would be the growth of knowledge and understanding of the times. For example, in the Indian panorama, in the past when a man/ family accepted Christ, they were ostracized by their near and dear, besides being ostracized by the community. As such, they were forced to adopt a very minimal and simplistic way of life, often being denied even the basic amenities of life. 

Take for instance their clothes. For men it would be the ubiquitous jiba made out of a cheap, rough, white material. The local tailor denying them patronage, they were forced to use a garment with just a straight cut and holes for arms and head, ideal indeed for hand stitch! Thus, a practical, pragmatic, down-to-earth simplicity, born of necessity and convenience rather than holiness!

The modern day scenario speaks of shopping centers and malls overflowing with tailored–to-fit clothes, with anything available to anyone and customer service depending only on availability of cash. As such, it is ludicrous to even think of adopting white clothes on the behest of holiness, given the pollution levels and the cost of cleansing white clothes! It is ridiculous to invest in floor-sweeping, pristine white clothes that will need meticulous washing in a city where even daily water is rationed!

The core values in any time frame should relate to simplicity that suits the situation and therefore, investing in a pair of jeans that wears well with time, mixed and matched with a number of shirts would be a better option for someone subjected to the plagues of modern world! Unless called to live like John the Baptist, i.e. to make a statement with his lifestyle, the man of God would have to become a cultural chameleon, changing color with the times, in every way! 

Leaving the core values of simplicity for a sophistication that costs more to sustain is at best both ridiculous and unholy for its waste! What sense does it make to boast of not wearing jewels while wearing a watch with a gold bracelet! How can it be simplicity to wear a pure white silk outfit as against a cheaper colored one! How can it be wrong when one who shepherds literally thousands, uses an air-conditioned, fuel-efficient car that helps him conserve his strength, energy and time? That’s not luxury; its not even common sense; its just smart sense! When what is feasible in one context, becomes a tradition in another that blinds to the truths of simplicity, contextuality and convenience, it is foreign fire on the altar!

Why is then there a reluctance to change or adopt such a changing lifestyle? Just that change is traumatic for anyone and change is fearsome when compounded with culture, politics and ignorance. Culture because here in context of India, the concept of spirituality is related more to the outward and rituals; politics because Indians are highly conscious of social opinion; and ignorance because Indian mentality just accepts tradition better than the rigors of seeking for the truth for oneself.

A man of God needs to plunge himself into the cauldron of humanity, willing to be spoiled outwardly in the process, yet impacting and changing those around him with his inward purity. He is the salt of the earth that disappears into the culture round him yet bringing the taste of true life to a tired and weary world. The need of the hour then is not asceticism in isolation but inward separation and consecration to the Lord. 

Holiness and godliness are, therefore, to be seen not in not being like the people of the world outwardly but inwardly! It is seen in the maturity that weighs everything in the light of scripture and identifies the core principles of simplicity. It is seen in the man of God who learns to filter out the essentials from the non-essentials, who has enough savoir-faire to identify the continuity-discontinuity principle and who is flexible enough to move with the winds of change.

He is like the rock in his principles yet humble as a reed to bend and bow with the storms of changing life.  He is the man who knows he needs to be “all things to all men that somehow a few may be won to Christ”! In short, he is like his Master, who overturned the tables of and on religiosity, a thorn in the flesh of traditions, but who gave His life even for those He offended!

*Pic courtesy shutterstock

WOMEN, FIGHT TO BE UNIQUE; NOT TO IMITATE!

One of the aspects of women liberation and emancipation seems to be to show that women are like men. In the name of freedom, women are focusing on imitating men rather than on recovering their uniqueness and specialness.

To be human is to be set apart and different from all other forms of life, for human beings have been created as the highest order of life, second only to God. For a human being to imitate an animal to be a vegetable is both unthinkable and ludicrous. We can masquerade as one which is ok for fun or even a play, but to imitate or strive to be one is ridiculous

For a woman to fight to be like a man or to imitate one in order to establish equality or even supremacy borders on lunacy. Being a woman is being different, set apart as being a dissimilar species, acknowledging and avowing with divergence rather than with congruity. A woman is unique and distinctive, just as a man is in his own way, each able to contribute uniquely. Each is special and individual, and therefore, impossible to imitate or copy.

A forgery of an invaluable artwork or an exquisite ornament is undesirable when it is possible to have or possess the original. An imitation has not the honor or respect as the authentic and genuine. A replica does not carry the validity of the bonafide and true. An imitation is just that – a counterfeit – not the same as the real.

Why is it then as singular beings, the best of the best, we seek to be a copy when we already truly are special since we are unalike! The stimulating and invigorating aspect of this earth is its variety and variability. As human beings, man and woman are both distinct and distinguished. To imitate one another is to lose identity and identification. Together they make a wholesome one, unparalleled in complementarity as well as in complexity. To make one as another will cause uniformity because of conformity rather than solidarity through integration.

As women, we do need to claim and demand what is ours by right – equal consideration, equal parity, equal acceptance, equal honor, equal treatment etc. However, we do not need to surrender our uniqueness to gain all of this. It will take away our contrast and make us common.

I, for one, won’t bow down to that pressure, but forever to be who I was created to be – special, quirky and individual!

The women of past who rose up against injustice accorded to their own, from Alice Paul and Maud Wood Park to Malala Yousafazi and Kamla Bhasin, all did without comprising their feminity. To champion the cause of women and women’s rights doesn’t mean we have become masculine or like men.

We need to stand for who we are and what ought to be ours!

To have to be like a man in order to gain for a woman is antiprogressive and antipersonnel.

To surender in order to win is anticlimactic.

Women, on Women’s Day, celebrate your originality and strive to be unique while seeking to be equal!

Women, to understand and tap into the real power of a woman, read https://sabinatagoreimmanuel.com/2021/01/10/letter-to-a-leader/

*Pics courtesy in splash.com, shutterstock and google images

*This article had been published in https://ctrendsmag.com/in-question/should-women-imitate-men/

REST IN REAL ESTATE

In the Bible, there is a very telling verse that needs consideration and quotation in these times:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Eccl 3:1). King Solomon the Wise writes this at the fag end of his life, as part of his summation of the affairs of men and Heaven’s impact on it.

We live in very unstable times, seasons in which we haven’t a clue as to what will happen next or what disaster will strike. Life that used to be so predictable has changed to being uncertain and so the plans we make must be tentative only and contingent upon day by day events. 

When we look at and consider both these aspects, viz. the instruction in Ecclesiastes and the times we are living in, we need to one thing – cultivate and live in an attitude of rest. If we don’t, we will sink and be submerged, lost and floundering in this world of uncertainty and randomness.

This brings us to the question of how to cultivate such an attitude of rest and what does rest really mean.

Rest is not just sleeping or sitting back – important for physical well-being; or taking a vacation – necessary for family bonding; or holiday – pertinent to prevent burnout in work. True rest goes beyond all of these which are imperative to physical well-being, and is crucial to enjoying abundant life in Christ.

Real rest is to be the way Christ lived while on earth, so much so, even faced with the most dire and dreadful circumstance in his short life – the crucifixion and the events preceding it – he never lost his poise . Though he knew he would be undergoing the most terrible torture, worst ill-treatment, greatest misunderstanding, and horrible rejection by His own people, He could still say: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. Jn 14:27 NIV. Such equanimity and magnanimity in the face of adversity, what wouldn’t we give for such calm functionality!

How was Jesus, man though he was, able to exhibit such supermanhood? It was not because he was divine by origin and birth, but by his understanding, as a man, of his standing with God and his grasp of what he came to do as man, both His calling and his work.

Jesus lived in perfect comprehension of God as His Father  and in perfect awareness of God as His Master. 

  • As a son, he knew he lacked nothing and therefore, lived in perfect confidence of being provided for by his father God.
  • When in need of food, he looked to his father to multiply what he had and supply the need (feeding of the multitude in Matt 14).
  • When in danger, he slept in perfect peace, rising up to rebuke the winds and waves with perfect composure of being his Father’s son (Luke 8).
  • When he saw others struggling, he walked on water and enabled another to do the same (Mark 6), because he knew Whose child he was.
  • When threatened, he simply refused to give way to fear, knowing his time was determined by his Father God, not by men (Jn 8).
  • When his time did come, he knew no hesitation to do His will, for he knew his Father’s agenda (Jn 13). 
  • As the servant of a great Master, he knew he owned nothing, yet was His steward to do what He bid. 
  • He was accountable for all that He did and conscious of what was expected of him.
  • He willingly went about doing everything to please his Lord, with no personal agenda except to bring glory to His Name.
  • He looked to his Lord in everything and walked in total dependence on His leading, never moving out on his own or doing things on by himself.
  • He constantly demonstrated that he do the will of Him who sent him (Jn 6) and did not seek his own glory, only the glory of Him Who sent him.
  • He lived in submission, unwilling to do anything by himself, but only what he saw Him do (Jn 5).
  • He walked in total obedience to his Lord, humbling himself to the uttermost, even to death on the cross, though it was hard for him (Lk 22).
  • It was because of his perfect stewardship that His Master was able to entrust Him with great power, even to rebuke the elements of the air and endow him with enormous authority even over demons.

These two inward postures and related outward actions enabled him to walk and live in perfect rest and peace.

He had such quietness of spirit that he could offer his rest to others (Jn 14:27). He was never anxious or hasty or fearful or disturbed, and therefore, could give a call to be free from burdens and loads (Matt 11:23). He gave a simple solution to those who were struggling with stress –  take my yoke upon you, meaning, just accept my way of thought and adopt my way of life, to enjoy a relaxed and abundant existence

Jesus lived His life as man on earth demonstrating what it means to be true man and how to live as man in relationship with God. He exemplified how a person can and ought to live on earth with an understanding of their position as a child of God and as the servant of the Most High. The situation around was full of unrest and the times he lived were full of uncertainty. Yet, he lived and worked in the knowledge of Who was with him.

He was both son and servant at the same time, both positions kept in tandem composition not in opposition or competition of being!

Called to follow and imitate him, may we learn to walk over the waters of life and not be submerged by nor drowning in them!

Peace be upon us all!

Continue to read my article on another aspect of rest: https://mullingspicewordpresscom.wordpress.com/2021/07/05/women-at-rest/

*Pic courtesy unsplash.com

PANDEMIC PROGNOSIS

Last Sunday we were challenged in church to look back at how we have used this period of pandemic – whether we had used it wisely or squandered it foolishly.

True wisdom lies in being able to recognize the times and seasons we live in, then adapt to it accordingly. An unprecedented worldwide phenomenon such as covid, be it man-made or natural, incidental or accidental, induced or spontaneous, can and should alter our lives. Nothing comes even close to this universal event, except maybe the world wars of last century, which most of us in this century have no idea about.

Such a massive happening will and should produce an realigning, but whether that change is for the good and better or bad and worse, is our choice.

A checklist to see what alteration and adaptation pandemic lockdown should have birthed in us/our lives:

1. In the light of so many deaths, have I/we become more considerate and compassionate of others? Pandemic should have taught us the value of human lives and how quickly people can pass out of our lives, without even a warning. If I haven’t learnt to treat others better, then I have wasted this season.

2. In the wake of so many losses the world as a whole incurred, have I/we learnt what is of value and what is not? Everything became meaningless and pointless when one was isolated and alone in a hospital bed or room. The greatest commodity, if we may term it so, the most valuable of all things, is human life. Living things, especially humans, are the most indispensable and fundamental part of this world. Once lost, their absence will produce irrevocable and irrecoverable impacts and effects.

3. In the aftermath of the disease, have I/we learnt the efficacy and importance of building community consciousness? It was those who had built a network of associations who survived and sustained as the illness raged, felling all equally. Rich or poor, educated or illiterate, upper class or low class, single or married, young or old, whatever the estate, we all were susceptible to the onslaught of the infirmity. Relationships and friendships became key to maintaining sanity and humanity. To know someone cares was enough to stem the despair that flooded us when we were sick.

4. In the affect of such sweeping malady, have I/we learnt to value time? We have seen that money, possessions, lands and gold cannot compensate for time lost, especially occasions lost in spending with loved ones. Time is one thing that cannot be recovered or restored, and so, I hope we have all learnt to conserve time and to use it well, for the right and appropriate things.

5. In the wake of so many lost lives, have I/we priortised spending time with loved ones? Bible declares that the life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more, Psa 103:16 NIV. The truth of this statement was demonstrated and made evident in these 2 years. After seeing people pass away in an a moment, we need to seek and make time with loved ones. Just as lost time cannot be recovered, lost souls cannot be recovered nor lost opportunities to be with those we love, regained. Let’s not go back to our old trends but form new ones that focus on people.

6. In the recovery period of the malady, have I/We understood the importance of physical and in-person interactive exchange? Meeting in person and face to face cannot be replaced by virtual connect or face time or skype/zoom calls. Nothing can ever replace the exchange that takes place physically, for such an exchange uplifts us unconsciously in physical meeting. Let’s not become so used to isolation that we lose out on physical interaction.

7. In view of an infirmity of this magnitude, have I/We developed a new lifestyle, one that focuses on healthy living? The old adage that when health is lost something is lost has been sufficiently proved and I think we would be foolish not to take stock of our health. We need to reassess and set in place healthy habits and appropriate dietary practices so that we build bodily stamina as well as mental resistance. Emotional and mental stability depend so much physical well-being and hence, let us develop healthy bodies for fit minds.

8. Last but not least, have I/We learnt to put our trust in God and given time for prayer and meditation? If this pandemic has proved one thing, it is that man cannot control many things in life. When everything failed, it was only the faith in a Supreme Being, Whose power surpassed us, that kept us going. It gave us hope that things will turn around and helped us to hold on, inspite of massive despair. As the song goes, There can be miracles When you believe. Though hope is frail, it’s hard to kill. Who knows what miracles you can achieve? When you believe, somehow you will. You will when you believe. If we have failed in this, we will fail in all else!

It is imperative and important to do a pandemic prognosis so that we can correct what we need to when we can.

Covid was just a warning shot across our bows to take stock.

Have we heeded the warning and set in place the right life choices and ways?

Has pandemic shocked us to our senses?

*Pic courtesy Google images

WOMEN AT REST

Covid conditions have been quite stressful and strenuous for women, especially in the family, more than anyone else. The reason is, I believe, traditionally and by nature, women consider home their domain and their resting place. Men would prefer to unwind outside the home with their friends and cronies, but a woman’s nook of refuge is her home. Like a bird that seeks its nest to rest, a woman would make a beeline for her home, every time. That’s why, when buying or investing in a house, women seem to be finicky and demanding, insisting on a certain way since it is her corner in this wide world. Nothing rejuvenates or restores a woman more than an empty house and a time to de-stress!

Unfortunately, with covid confining the family to the home, women have found it difficult to find a place to decompress and loosen up. More than ever, women, and primarily homemakers have found their realm invaded and inundated by people as well as an unending list of chores and duties. They are lost as they find no place or space for them to recover and be restored. There is no time or occasion for peace and quietness, something which is the strength of a woman. Added to this is the way the family seems to be insensitive to her need for rest and a concern for or an understanding of what truly refreshes her.

Here are some tips for finding rest in covid:

1. Be regular in your day. It is my observation that many women, specifically homemakers, do not plan their day. They don’t take hold of their day, but meet it as it comes. Rather than laying hold of their day, they allow themselves to go with the flow. This is more so in this season of pandemic, causing them to feel like a stick tossed by the day. Chalk out your day and lay hold of it, so that you are not at its mercy!

2. Find your daily rhythm. Women are most flexible and fluid, enabling them to be easily adaptable to any situation. However, during this season, with all the people at home and in constant demand, this works against them. Unless and until they set a routine they cannot combat fatigue. Make your day both flexible and rigid,which will bring order to your life.

3. Start your day with rest. Prayer and meditation is a key to rest, for the quietness you seek will be found in God’s presence. Nothing makes a woman feel refreshed as singing praises to God and doing homage to Him. By nature, women tend to be devoted and often take time to worship. Most men in the family do recognize this stellar nature of a woman and encourage their prayer time, for they recognize its role and importance. So, make time to rest in God as well as to pray for strength and grace for the day!

4. Plan your day. Women at home do not really schedule their home chores as much as women who hold a job. This is because they do not view their home duties the same way a woman does a job. Another reason is that homemakers don’t get paid and the chores they do is taken for granted. Though this attitude is good in itself, it does not give clarity to the work and so no planning gets done. Women, order your chores and plan even your meals for the week. This will help you prepare in advance and give you an edge over the day, even if disturbances arise. Moreover, your husband and kids would be more rolling and happy to help you if you don’t pester them often to run to the store because you forgot a necessary item or ingredient. Planning avoids clashes too!

5. Regulate your work and rest. A prime need for women is to mark out rest hours amidst the work. For instance, you can catch your breath and carve out a moment of peace after breakfast and before lunch work begins. Do the same in afternoon between lunch and teatime, as well as between tea and dinner. Go to bed on time so that you can rise early to have your quiet time before day begins. Don’t wait till the end of day to rest, but find pockets of time to rest!

6. Cordon off your time and space. A major default in women is that we don’t communicate with others. Once you have planned your day and ordered your time, make it known to your family. Teach them to respect it by making them understand how you need it to serve them better. Request help from your spouse to care for your kids during this time. The man who sees his wife is better for having such space will surely give it. Our problem is that we don’t admit our weakness and our need, but try to be superwomen!

7. Do something you really love. An important need for women is to develop a hobby or pastime and to do something beyond housework. Most women are lack and slack in this. They don’t evolve by learning a skill or even participating in a study process, but may spend time and effort in watching soaps and serials. Learn to do gardening or tailoring or crochet or knitting or beadwork etc. Learn driving, baking, even electrical work or earn a degree. Upgrade and encourage yourself in this season by doing something new!

8. Define yourself. Most women are clueless as to who they are and hence, allow others to delineate who they are. At the end of their life or during menopause or after children have moved on, they feel adrift, having lost themselves in the milieu and myriad of roles taken up in the course of life. Women, you are more than your roles (daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, cook, caregiver, daughter-in-law, etc). You are a human being with distinct gifts, abilities, strengths, weaknesses, personality and character. You have the ability to define yourself and not get caught up with who you are in each season of life. Understand this and keep your uniqueness secure, guarding it as treasure. Then, even when everyone in your life has passed on or moved on, you have your being intact to evolve to a new height!

9. Live in peace and tranquility. Rest and quietness must first be felt inward before it can be realized outward. Harboring resentment, bitterness, malice and so on, will harm you more than others, since it won’t allow you to rest even though you are doing it physically! Inward equanimity will go a long way in finding rest during the day. More than men, women need to let it go. Forgiveness and forbearance works much to ensure rest for we are emotional beings and when our feelings are in turmoil, we can wave goodbye to rest!

10. Reach out to make friends. Women need companions and thats why women are more invested in marriage than men. Communion and companionship is at the heart of a woman’s being, which makes her a team worker or team mate. So, reach out to cultivate friendship with others and do not isolate yourself. Communicating with a community of cronies does much for mental health. There is a sense of oneness in knowing others also have the same problems as well as strength in encouraging another. Sisterhood should be a way of life if we are to be able to maintain our sanity in this season!

Ladies, let us face this time of unprecedented happenings with zest and vivre, as we always do, by developing a new pattern and way of life. It is no use cribbing about what has been. Let us make do with what we have, thankful in the midst of it all, coming out with flying colors!

Remember, even this too shall pass!

*Read more about rest: https://sabinatagoreimmanuel.com/2020/03/11/men-at-rest/

*Pics courtesy unsplash.com