The Him Line
Fashion is not my forte, and I’m certainly not the model image of a fashion model from GQ. I do, however, know enough about fashion to know that Bill Cunningham, the legendary photojournalist for The New York Times, died on Saturday.
Cintra Wilson paid tribute to Cunningham in a timely article in GQ when she described the white-haired octogenarian on a Schwinn bike as a man who, “seemed to have a kind of quantum-mechanical ability to suddenly be at any location in New York City where an act of fashion was being committed, and to witness it at any point in the space-time continuum. His camera was the all-seeing eye of New York City fashion; his documenting of the infinite variations of city fashion were as close to something like omniscience as a mortal with a camera can get.”
Cunningham’s sharp eye captured the rise and fall of fashion’s hem line for nearly 40 years, and he’ll be remembered in part for the him- line that was his life motto: “If beauty is what you seek, you will find it every day.”
The essence of Cunningham was captured by Jacob Bernstein: “He wanted to find subjects, not be the subject. He wanted to observe, not be observed.”
Even though He might be out of fashion with some, I still see immense beauty in the Him-Lines of another person; I see it, in these words of Jesus:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. ~Matthew 5
Grumpy or Gracious?
Whenever I read the opening verses of Psalm 92, the number 1,440 flashes through my mind. 1,440 is the number of minutes in a day, and Psalm 92 is a positive motivator on how to manage these precious moments:
It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and sing praises to Your name, O Most High. It is good to tell of Your loving-kindness in the morning, and of how faithful You are at night, with harps, and with music of praise. For You have made me glad by what You have done, O Lord. I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands (Psalm 92:1-4).
Think about the words you spoke yesterday; was your vocabulary more grumpy than it was gracious? How would your life be different if you would spend more time counting your blessings than tallying your slights? Would you be happier and healthier?
Barbara Fredrickson, a researcher at the University of North Carolina, has examined the power of positive and negative thoughts. She has found that positive emotions enhance your sense of personal potential; opens your mind to new possibilities; and, they allow you to develop new skills and resources that add value to your life.
Fredrickson’s premise is a conformation of a principle from the Proverbs: Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. ~Proverbs 16:24
Over the next week, I encourage you to use some of the 1,440 minutes of each day to put Psalm 92 to practice:
- Focus on the blessing of God, and give thanks.
- Whistle a tune, hum a favorite hymn, and sing a song of praise to God.
- When you get up in the morning, start with a God is Able thought, and end your day by rehearsing the history of God’s faithfulness.
- Begin and end each day with the following prayer:
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. ~Psalm 19:14
A Peak Behind The Clouds
Tuesday morning, I was driving west towards Wichita and I was blessed with the beauty of a double rainbow. As the dazzling colors shone brightly against the distant backdrop of dark and menacing clouds, I was reminded that life is much like that storm.
Throughout a person’s life, he will experience the highs and lows; the sunny days and the threatening storms; and times of crippling sorrow as well as abundant joy. Through all of these moments, there is always a rainbow: the promise of God’s presence and providence.
It was the promise of God’s presence and the hope of His providence that sustained the Apostle Paul in the many heartaches and trials that he endured:
I am at peace and even take pleasure in any weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and afflictions for the sake of the Anointed because when I am at my weakest, He makes me strong. ~2 Corinthians 12:10 The Voice
When the tough times come, and they will, remember to peak behind the clouds—God has a rainbow-full of promises just for you.
. . . when I form a cloud over the Earth and the rainbow appears in the cloud, I’ll remember my covenant between me and you . . .
Genesis 9:16 The Message
The Cadence of His Voice
Some people misinterpret the 10 Commandments and the principles of the New Testament as rigid walls erected by God to deny them access to the pleasures of life. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Whenever God says, “Thou shalt not,” it’s to keep you from stubbing your toe or skinning a knee. Every time He say, “Thou shalt,” He’s inviting you to skip with joy and whistle a tune of happiness.
When you hear the cadence of His voice and walk in step with Him, you discover that He is your strength and shield.
Blessed be the Lord, because He has heard the voice of my supplications! The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; therefore, my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him (Psalm 28:7).
Words of a Particular Kind
How long would it take you to make a summary statement of your life? How many words do you think it would take?
Robert Frost said he could sum up everything he had learned about life in three words: “It goes on.” There’s a lot of truth to what Frost said, but it’s also true that what you say can determine how far you go in life and how your life “goes on.”
Mother Teresa was more concerned with the nature of your words than she was with the number of them: “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” David, like Mother Teresa, was well aware of the power of the spoken word, and he prayed: “May my words and my thoughts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my sheltering rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14).”
When I think about David’s prayer, I’m left with a couple of questions:
- Are my words and thoughts acceptable to God?
- If not, what can I do to make them more acceptable?
Joshua gave the answer to these questions, when he said: “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success (Joshua 1:8).”
When you think about your words and thoughts, I encourage you to contrast them to the principles of God’s Word in general, and these words of Paul in Particular: “Don’t let even one rotten word seep out of your mouths. Instead, offer only fresh words that build others up when they need it most. That way your good words will communicate grace to those who hear them (Ephesians 4:29 ~The Voice).”
The Power of a Good Book
Two of my childhood friends were Dick and Jane and their dog Spot. From the moment I met them, I’ve had a love for reading. Even when school recessed for the Summer, I rode my bicycle to the library two or three times a week to check out books.
An article in Quartz has identified a love for reading as the common trait that links the world’s most successful people. According to the article, “Reading is the easiest way to continue the learning process, increase empathy, boost creativity, and even just unwind from a long day. But books can also change the way we think and live.”
Because he had experienced the transformational power of God’s Word, Paul emphasized its role in the life of the believer:
- He instructed Timothy to, “give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching (I Timothy 4:13).”
- He reminded the church at Rome that, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17).”
Perhaps the one verse in the Bible that best defines its awesome power is Hebrews 4:12: “God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what.” ~The Message
I encourage you to consider your reading habits, and to use Psalm 119:14 as a prayer to guide you: “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.”
Standing Fast and Running Slow
I’ve always be thankful for some of the wording in I Corinthians 16: “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love (13-14).”
Since I’m a little slow of foot, I don’t run much; but, I’m a Gold Medal winner when it comes to standing. If Paul would have said “run fast,” I’d be in serious trouble.
The word stand is grēgoreō, and it means “to be vigilant and attentive.” There are several things that demand your attention, and Peter issues a warning about two of them. One is pride and the other one is the adversary:
God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble’. So, humble yourselves under God’s strong hand, and in his own good time he will lift you up. You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon him, for you are his personal concern. Resist the devil: you are in God’s hands.
Be self-controlled and vigilant always, for your enemy the devil is always about, prowling like a lion roaring for its prey. Resist him, standing firm in your faith.
What is the link between the pride and the adversary? In the Proverbs, pride is listed as one of the seven deadly sins, and it’s characterized as a “My way, not Thy way” attitude. This was the case when Lucifer rebelled against God:
“I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High(Isaiah 14:13-14).”
To borrow a phrase from Zig Ziglar, this is “stinkin thinkin,”and Paul warned of it: “I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one (Romans 12:3).”
Pride is thinking too highly of yourself, and it always separates you from God. The Bible says, “In his pride the wicked does not seek Him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God (Psalm 10:4).
C.S. Lewis defined pride as, “the complete anti-God state of mind.”
Instead of trying to lift yourself up in the false bravado of pride, humble yourself before God, and He will lift you up. This is one of several paradoxes of Christianity:
- To find, you must lose—Matthew 10:39
- To receive, you must give—Luke 6:38
- To be exalted, you must be humble—Matthew 23:12
- To be great you must be small—Matthew 18:4
- To be strong, you must be weak—2 Corinthians 12:9,10
- To rule, you must serve—Mark 10:42-45
- To live, you must die—Galatians 2:20
The key to this is found in the last nine words of I Corinthians 16: “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love (13-14).”
Paul’s “key” was a statement, but you might understand it better in the form of a question: Who do you love the most, self or the Savior?
In The Cross Hairs: Dodging Bullets
SNIPER ALERT! You have a bulls eye painted on your heart, and your faith is the target. The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) is an atheistic and anti-god organization that has launched a vicious assault designed to silence any expression of faith in the public square.
FFRF is more evangelistic in their efforts to remove God than many Christians are in sharing their faith. They encourage their membership to contact any business or magazine that casts religion in a favorable light.
Even the Saturday Evening Post and AARP have felt the wrath of FFRF:
- AARP published an article: “The Paradox of Prayer: A Pilgrimage” and FFRF admonished its membership to contact AARP to express their displeasure.
- The cover story in the most recent addition of the Saturday Evening Post focuses on the power of prayer. FFRF has mocked the article and it’s asking its members to write a letter of protest to the editor.
When FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor went to Northern Illinois University to give a speech, she stayed at the Holmes Student Center Hotel. When she found a copy of the Bible in her room she was angered and shocked.
Poor little Annie found the presence of the Bible to be obnoxious, inappropriate and unconstitutional since it was made available in state-run lodging. She made the assertion that the Bible was proselytizing her in the privacy of her bedroom.
Poor little Annie is an orphan-maker: She is attempting to get Bibles banned from public hotel rooms.
The actions of the FFRF have caught the attention of the American Center for Law and Justice, and it’s speaking out for the rich Christian heritage of the USA: “We’ve been defending constitutionally protected religious speech at the Supreme Court for decades. Now, we’re sending these universities a critical legal letter to protect the Bible.”
You can help protect your Christian liberties by signing a petition here.
The actions of FFRF stand in stark contrast to the sentiment of John Adams, our second President: “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion . . . Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
It’s time to stand up and speak out before your free speech becomes a crime.
Blending In or Standing Out
I’m not sure how they have been success in doing it, but many retailers have convinced the consumer to pay high dollar$ to purchase their goods and then become a walking billboard advertising their wares. The clothing companies are a good example:
- Under Armour: Earn Your Armour
- Nike: Just Do it
- Reebok: Because Life Is Not A Spectator Sport
On a recent trip, I noticed the many different messages emblazoned on the clothing of people as they walked past me: I noticed their behavior as well.
When I thought of the contrast between their messages and they were actions, I was reminded that Jesus said we are known by the fruit we bear. He also said: “Let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).”
Some of these walking billboards were advertising their faith. Sadly, many of them were in violation of the truth in advertising laws. Their shirts made bold statements declaring their allegiance to Christ; however, their words compromised the integrity of the message.
The incongruity between their walk and their talk, reminds me of James homily on the tongue:
It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.
This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!
My friends, this can’t go on. A spring doesn’t gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it? Apple trees don’t bear strawberries, do they? Raspberry bushes don’t bear apples, do they? You’re not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you? ~James 3
One of the reasons people are so conflicted today is they’re more concerned with their reputation than they’re their character. You may coast through life with a good reputation; however, character flaws made of sand eventually crumble like a weak foundation in a massive earthquake.