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/

MY HEART IN WORDS

A prayer for strength

Father, I lay down my will for yours
Teach me to walk in humility and simplicity.
I lay my dreams for me in the dust
And take up yours for me.

It may seem like the cross to me now
But I know its the resurrection door to freedom from self.
You died and overcame death & the devil
So will I for this is what you want for me.

Help me to move in the spirit and not in the flesh
Wafted easily in the stream of the power of your Spirit.
Help me to cease from striving,
Daily finding my rest on your breast

DRESS CODE & MANNER MODE

I lived for some years near an airforce training place and would often come across the recruits on the road on their days of leave. You could readily identify them by what they wore and how they looked – their own  special civvies, their cropped hair, fit bodies and lean, tanned faces. People would generally move to the side and give them space, in respect knowing they were being trained to guard the nation and perhaps, one day, lay down their lives.

My father was a police officer and I would watch the way he wore his uniform, with pride and dignity. He was always conscious of being part of the domestic protection force of the nation, and never did anything that would taint his uniform.

My husband and daughter are both law graduates and postgraduates, practicing advocates in our city’s courts. I have seen them use their black robes as the mark of their profession in the discharge of their duties within the court premises.

The Bible talks about God’s people being clothed with a particular and peculiar dress: Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful (Col 3:12‭-‬13‭, ‬15 NLT).

Israel, as God’s chosen people, were given a dress code that identified and set them apart as the nation belonging to Yahweh (Refer Deuteronomy). For that matter, every nation has its own ethnic attire which they flaunt in sports meets and other cultural events. Corporate companies and colleges have ethic outfit days or special days for such wear.

They do it only once in a while, but Christ’s disciples and followers are enjoined to wear their special wear, every minute and every hour of every day of every year.

In the city of Antioch so long go, something distinct happened when the good news of Christ reached the city.

According to the Relevant Magazine (link below), Antioch was referred to as “all the world in one city,” where you could see all the world’s richness and diversity in one place.

The Church came to Antioch and began breaking down the dividing barriers in a way that upset the society’s existing categories. People from all parts of the city – Jews and Gentiles alike – were suddenly coming together. This group of people was redefining community in a radical and unprecedented way, so much so, that a new word was needed to categorise what in the world was happening.The early church was called “Christians” by the powers-that-be for the first time in Antioch (Acts 11:26). It wasn’t a name Jesus’ disciples gave themselves—it was a name given to them by the society in Antioch.

Technically, the ending “-ian” means “belonging to the party of,” so the term “Christians” meant those of Jesus’ party.

It is often assumed that the name “Christian” was given somewhat flippantly or even derogatively by these powers-that-be—a sort of dismissive wave of the hand to those “little Christs.”  The emphasis, however, inherent in the original Greek, is on the fact that people from outside the faith recognised Christians as a distinct group.

Just as the dress code and dress culture of the uniformed forces, the judiciary, the office-bearers of the legislative, those serving in the hospitality industry and others, bear testimony to the nature of their call and work, Christians are meant to be identified by a natural code of nature. By their very demeanor and their behavior as well as attitude, they are to be spotted and singled out as followers of Christ.

A dress code is defined as a set of rules, often written, with regard to what clothing groups of people must wear. Dress codes are created out of social perceptions and norms, and vary based on purpose, circumstances, and occasions. When you are participating in certain functions, entering some fancy restaurants, recognised as one of a team (sports), part of a club, etc., a dress code is insisted upon for recognition and identification.

That God expects us to adopt a certain convention is evident in the Bible, as signifying that we belong to Him and bear His Name as His family.

The question is whether you are evident to all by the very manner you deal with people, circumstance, possessions, etc.

As the song by Peter Scholtes declares: And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yeah they’ll know we are Christians by our love!

Are you clothed as God expects you to be that makes you significant in society as His adherent?

Or are you found to be unclothed, so to speak, even though you call yourself His!

*Song link https://youtu.be/xyHvO4xoEh4
*https://relevantmagazine.com/faith/where-christian-name-really-came/
*Pics courtesy Google images

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

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

GROOMED FOR THE WEDDING

When our family conducted our daughter’s wedding, I realised that while Marriages are made in heaven, weddings are done on earth!

The amount of planning and preparation that goes into a wedding, as well as the number of people involved in making it happen, is mind boggling. After  our daughter’s wedding, my husband and I had a chance to go somewhere alone, and boy, did I really need it to recover, both physically and emotionally!

Much effort and work is always needed to pull off a wedding. Apart from finding and fixing a venue, meeting with and arranging caterers, printing and distributing cards, inviting and involving people, purchasing dress and ornaments, ordering return gifts and cake, taking care of hospitality and transport, choosing and ensuring decorations, a thousand and one duties need to be taken care of.

When weddings are scheduled, some have an year to get ready, while others may have just a month or even less to get it done. Whatever the time period available and the trappings arranged for a wedding, the grooming regime of the couple, especially the bride, is given utmost priority. Most women take time to plan and execute the care of their face and appearance, often undergoing beauty treatments, both au natural at home and those done in parlours.

The bride-to-be often goes for a full-body makeover, pampering herself over a month or more. A bridal package these days includes free trial of makeup and hairdo, besides threading, bleaching, waxing, polishing, styling, spas, therapy, etc. Smart brides do take care to go on a diet and exercise routine to have a well-toned and well-nourished body, in readiness for their big day.

Getting a bride ready, fitting her to look her best on a day when she will be the cynosure of all eyes is a huge task and process which the beauty industry has turned it into a lucrative business. Vendors and beauticians have grabbed hold of the trend. They have capitalised on the occasion and cashed in on the focus, making sure that the bride is indeed the showpiece of the whole thing!

In the Bible, we see that when King Xerxes, the ruler of Persia and Media, sovereign over one hundred and twenty provinces, wanted to replace his Queen because she offended him, he was advised by his counselors: Then the king’s personal attendants proposed, “Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king. Let the king appoint commissioners in every province of his realm to bring all these beautiful young women into the harem at the citadel of Susa. Let them be placed under the care of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women; and let beauty treatments be given to them. Then let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.” This advice appealed to the king, and he followed it (Esther 2:2‭-‬4).

Being a monarch of high order, these young women underwent a time of rigorous preparation and prolonged training since one of them would eventually be the next Queen. According to Scriptures, Before a young woman’s turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics (Esther 2:12). They were not just prepared physically, but also drilled in deportment, etiquette, manners, protocols, customs, court bearing etc as well as taught the history of the country. They learnt the art of pleasing the king, and endowed with every training to bring joy and pleasure to the king. They had to be flawless in looks, intelligent in conversation, sober in conduct, and impeccable in character. They had to keep themselves fit and ready, not have wandering eyes or attention, focused on him and fixed on only one thing – be ready to please him and serve him when summoned. They were being groomed for one purpose and for one goal only – be acceptable to him. What a picture of all is involved in being and becoming the bride of a king!

There is a wedding in the Bible that comes in the culmination of the ages, an event that the whole of the universe is waiting for with eagerness. In Rev 19:6-8, we read thus: Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. 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). The key here is that this bride, as any bride, has made herself ready. Without that preparation, she cannot be joined to her groom.

Who is this bride who has made her self ready for her bridegroom? It is the Body of Christ, the people of God, His Church. set apart for Him and as His Church, we are being groomed to be the Bride of Christ. We read that Christ loved the Church and gave His life for to her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault (Eph 5:26‭-‬27 NLT). As disciples and followers of Christ, we have been chosen to be His special people and are being trained to rule with Him, to be seated together with Him on His throne. We are to share in His authority and are the centre of all attention, the cynosure of all eyes and the crux of all His plans (Eph 3:10). Are we aware of the beautifying that we need to have in order to be pleasing to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?

There is an agenda for us and we are in the process of being made fit for the King. Are we aware of it and are we yielding to it, cooperating with the Holy Spirit Who is the One appointed and entrusted with the task of grooming the bride?

Any bride will tell you how much pain and discomfort she has to endure in order to be fully fit and in form. There is agony when her skin is being scrubbed and polished to shine and glow; there is torment when her brows are being shaped to highlight her eyes; there is exertion when her body is being toned for the best effect; there is patience when the right makeup is being chosen; there is endurance when appropriate garments are being searched for; there is waiting when various alternations are being made; there is care when matching accessories have to be chosen; there is sacrifice and testing when diet is being administered. Besides all this, there is anxiety and anticipation, fear and frustration, besides sorrow of leaving behind certain way of life and excitement for the new things ahead. All in all it is an arduous time and process, but she goes through it all so as to be the best and see her bridegroom’s eyes light up at the sight of her beauty, binding him to her all their life together. She submits to this ordeal to be pleasing to the one she will walk with until the end of her days.

As the chosen one, the Church is in the course of being prepared to be the Bride of Christ and as such, being daily groomed and vigorously prepared to be like Him in every way. Only when she is in His image, perfect and lacking nothing, can He come to claim her. If a human bride prepares herself so intensely for her earthly husband, how much more the church should prepare for her heavenly bridegroom! If a woman is willing to undergo a regime to best present herself to her man, how much more should the Body of Christ endure to be acceptable to Christ!

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it (Heb 12:11 NIV) declares the Word of God. Only when we yield and not resist the dealings and discipline of the Spirit of God, without resisting or withstanding Him, but willingly submit ourselves to His dictates can we be transformed into the image of Christ and be pleasing to Him.

The Bible declares that, Esther, the Jewish orphan girl raised by her uncle Mordecai, chosen as one of the candidates for the king, had such a posture in her preparation. When the turn came for Esther (the young woman Mordecai had adopted, the daughter of his uncle Abihail) to go to the king, she asked for nothing other than what Hegai, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the harem, suggested. And Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her...The king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. And the king gave a great banquet, Esther’s banquet, for all his nobles and officials. He proclaimed a holiday throughout the provinces and distributed gifts with royal liberality Esther 2:15-‬18.

The bride of the Lord Jesus the Lamb is the Church, whom He has purchased with his own blood. He is waiting for her to complete her cleansing so that He can and claim her. The attitude and disposition of the church has to be to submit to the fashioning of the Lord, as the clay yields itself to the potter, willingly allowing herself to be moulded into His image and paying the price in patient trust until that is accomplished.

May we, as Christians and members of the Body of Christ, humble ourselves to accept the discipline and discipling of the Lord until He comes to claim us as His own.

May we with grace accept every dealing of the Lord with the understanding that His plans for us are to prosper us and not harm us.

May we proclaim And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified (Rom 8:28‭-‬30 NIV)

Let us allow ourselves to be groomed for the King and the wedding ahead!

*Pic courtesy google images

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

A MAN CALLED JOSEPH

When we think about the birth of Christ or read the story of Christmas, we tend to focus on a number of specific happenings and people.

The angel appearing to a virgin, Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth pregnant in her old age, Joseph silently thinking of putting Mary away, the angel speaking to Joseph, their marriage and trip to Bethlehem, the appearance of a star, the wise men bearing gifts, the shepherds being visited by the angels, flight to Egypt etc. Generally the attention in Christmas plays is whittled down to the birth, the manger, the star, the shepherds and the kings. All these do play a major part in the birth of the Savior, but often one person gets lost in the milieu of events and folks. That person, a very important and crucial person in the life of Jesus, is Joseph, the faithful and unassuming carpenter, who became father to the Son of God when He came in the flesh!

Apart from the Catholic Church conferring sainthood and celebrating a feast each year (Mar 19th) in his honor, the christian world, in general, tends to ignore or sideline Joseph, and forget the part he played in the birth and life of Christ.

The Bible talks about Joseph wanting to quietly divorce Mary when she is found to be pregnant during the engagement period, betrothal being akin to marriage in Israel at that time. Pregnancy indicate infidelity and illicit relationship with another, and so, Joseph decides to put her away quietly rather than make her a public spectacle. However, God sends His angel to make him aware of the virgin conception, urging him to accept her as his wife. Joseph proceeds to do so and refrains from consummating the marriage or having intimate communion with her until after the birth.

Not only so, he adopts the Child as his own, giving Him his name, providing for Him, raising Him as his own and doing good by Him all the days of his life, until his death, which was probably when Jesus was in His teens. He fulfilled the role of a father, teaching Jesus his trade (carpentry) and gave Him the status of being his firstborn, again an important aspect in Israel. He fulfilled all his duties as a father and raised Him to know the scriptures as any Jewish man would, obviously never discriminating Him, and thus we see his townsfolk calling Him son of Joseph.

Neither does he bear any grudge or ill-will against Mary, but treats her as his wife, giving her honor and respect due to that position and role. Herein lies his greatness, his uniqueness, for which we need to admire him and emulate his example, taking lessons from his humility.

Joseph stands as an example and a model of how a man (or anyone) should consider and treat his wife (or spouse/family member) who has a call and an assignment from God. He shows us how to respond in faith, even when you don’t understand what is happening but trusting God and His call as a spouse to a woman with a mission from God.

Here are a few things that we can learn from him. In relation to his spouse’s assignment, he:

1. UNDERSTANDS & ACCEPTS HER CALL Joseph is unique in that he receives the fact that God has spoken to her and not to him, especially in an age and culture when women were considered second class citizens of society and home. Once the angel reveals to him the truth of her condition, he unreservedly moves forward to make her his wife. Many a man today fails to acknowledge or accept the call God has given his wife.or that even understand that his wife is hearing from God. Many a woman fails to be like Mary, ready to be the handmaiden of the Lord, for there aren’t many men who welcome or encourage to.follow the Lord wholeheartedly. They box women within societal constraints and restrict their commitment to the Lord. Women fear to yes to God scared of the price they have to pay for such a commitment.

2. ENDOWS HER WITH THE COVERING & AUTHORITY OF HIS NAME: That Joseph did not ostracize or ill-treat his wife nor treat Jesus in any way other than as a son is obvious from the way the people of the place they lived in mention Jesus as the son of Joseph the carpenter. Such an outstanding character to emulate, to accept her fully as his wife and Jesus as his own flesh and blood. Joseph in effect totally and fully adopts Jesus as his own and considers him the firstborn, conferring the Son of God with the title of Son of Man. Joseph is a true man, husband and father, and an outstanding example to follow and learn from.

3. RECOGNISES HIS CALL WITHIN HERS: Joseph understood that not just Mary, but he himself had been chosen by God for the special task of birthing and raising the Son of God. Many a woman has let go of her assignment from God or been restricted in it because of the lack in her husband. His failure to grasp her role will not only limit her, but will make him also not rise to the occasion, which will cause him not to reach his full potential. He fails to grasp that when his spouse moves forward, he does too. Joseph was unique because he lived in a time and culture where women were considered secondhand citizens, not given freedom or rights the way men were. He lived in period of history when women were not thought of as being equal to men. It is Jesus who brought emancipation and recognition to women, and  well exhibits the nature and demeanor of one who is worthy to be called the father of the Son of God.

4. REFRAINS FROM INSISTING ON HER FULFILLING HIS NEEDS: Joseph is so mindful of his role and call in the birthing of the hope of Israel that he puts aside his needs and sacrifices his pleasures for the fulfillment of the plan of God for the whole nation and the world! Most men may acknowledge the call or task for their wife but will hardly put aside his own needs for the sake of the work that is to be done by their spouse. Rare is the man who would give up satisfying his needs songs to help his wife fulfill hers. Result is that few women truly rise up to their real call in life or even consider obeying the Lord, for they are too tired or don’t even have energy enough to do their role after expending it on their spouse and family! Joseph is such a gem of a man who must have waited atleast a year or so before consummating his marriage. What a legacy and pedigree for the Son of God Who came to give His life as a ransom for His bride the Church and is patiently seated on the right hand of the Father waiting for her to become mature enough to be with Him!

5. SUPPORTS AND HELPS HER FULFILL HER TASK: Joseph plays fully the role of a husband to a pregnant wife, without ever impregnating her, bearing all the duties such a task entitles with no sign of murmuring or grumbling. He is not the cause of the conception yet willingly pays all the price of a man expecting a son, inspite of the fact that the child is not his own. All the idiosyncrasies that a women exhibits during a pregnancy he has to tolerate, besides having to travel a long distance by foot with a full-time wife. Reaching the place, helping her with the birth, then having to flee to an unknown place for saving the child’s life, then returning to setup life in their hometown, raising the child, so much Joseph did to help Mary. No man has ever done so much for a woman with an assignment from God and with no applause for all that he quietly did without any fanfare!

Joseph exemplifies the true nature of a man laying down his life for his spouse and standing with her in her mission for God, sacrificing his own agenda for that of the Lord through his spouse.

Women by nature and practice are veterans in giving up their own dreams and desires for the sake of the call and work of their men. Ministers of God as well as other service-industry personnel, such as those in the medical field, transportation sector, police and defence services, all will bear witness to the fact of the unassuming back end support of their wives. However, when the shoe is on the other leg, not many are like Joseph, willingly being taken for granted and often ignored in his contribution to the work of God.

Blessed are you if you are a Joseph to a Mary and blessed are you if you are a Mary with such a Joseph.

I am blessed with a Joseph and thankful for his calm and content part in my life!

*Pic courtesy https://osjusa.org/st-joseph/art/st-joseph-worker-2/

TURN ME BACK, LORD

Turn me back, Lord, to my first love for you,
Show me where I am prostituting and wandering,
Exchanging your faithful tenderness for fickle infatuation,
Moving away your unfailing constancy to fatal distractions.

Seductions surround me with enticing froth,
Broken and bruised by them I limp along the road of life,
Yet I know not why I am so easily drawn to their burning flame,
Knowing well they singe me quick, lewving me scarred and a black mark.

You woo me with solid substance and everlasting grace,
Anchored on the firm foundations of your eternal nature,
That ever works only for my good, and not to my harm,
Why then do I not make my heart fully yours, and help it be fully yours.

Capture me, Lord, and free me from the shackles that entangle me
Deliver me from self and flesh that choke the life out of me.
Walk me down the narrow road, with my eyes fixed on you,
Let me your love slave be, trusting you to keep me true to you, all my days!

Wrote this after reading and meditating the book of Hosea in the Bible

*Pics courtesy Google images

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