Vanity Fair

A woman models a corset in this 1898 photograph.

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Why does irrationality seem to peak in the morning? Rarely do I bite off more than I can chew in the twilight hours. Somehow as the light grows dim, one generally recognizes inherent limitations and waning energy allotments.  But the morning on the other hand, oh the morning is a different animal.  It is new and fresh and all things are possible. 

All things- like running a few miles after a winter of relative lethargy, donning break-a leg high heels to compliment a gorgeous purple bridesmaid gown, and then subsequently roping in one’s waist with a stringent corset to epitomize a romantic heroine of days past. 

It seemed like a great idea at the time.  We gathered at the bride’s apartment, seven ladies in long flowing gowns that laced up the back.  We took turns pulling each other’s stays (corset lacing to those unfamiliar with historical lingo). 

The tightening was subtle.  “Is that snug enough?” lead to, “I think I can cinch it in a little more.”  And finally, “wow girl, look at your tiny waist.”

After a few rounds of pulling, there we stood,a bevy of lasses with reduced waists, exaggerated busts, hips, and of course, little room to breathe.  But vanity had stealthily crept in to our midst, and though I couldn’t bend over or even sit down for that matter, I felt like a beautiful damsel in distress. I’m pretty sure my voice took on a southern belle drawl.

I looked in the mirror and delighted in my pretty dress and va va voom curves.  I was Scarlett O’Hara, Marie Antoinette, and the infamous Gibson Girl of Bygone Days!

About an hour into the tight lacing, I tried to eat a snack, but my confining attire denied me any sustenance, not even a cracker.  Fortunately, I could drink and so a margarita on ice slid down nicely.

As the wedding hour approached, I noticed a stinging ache down my spine along with the growing compression of my now heaving bosom as the bottom of my lungs began to fill with fluid.  My legs throbbed from post-workout lactic acid pooling in my quads, and my hairpins felt like daggers stuck into my head.  My feet were so swollen I could barely walk.

As I lined up to walk down the aisle, I trembled at the length of what seemed like a never-ending runner.  My husband, the wedding pastor smiled at me like a warm beacon, and guided by his big goofy smile, I tottered towards him semi-delirious in pain but determined to appear graceful and elegant to the large crowd assembled.

After a lovely ceremony, more pictures, and millions of seconds of searing pain, I finally sat down at the dinner table in a heap.  But sitting proved even more restrictive.  An old song played in the background.  It was catchy dinner music tune and in my state of pain induced euphoria I swayed to the crooner’s voice.  Strangely enough, it sounded like the word salad was being repeated over and over. Then again, it could have been my starving belly crying out for food.

“I didn’t know they had such cute songs about salad,” I announced to the table.

My girlfriend Krista, also a corseted bridesmaid, but clearly retaining a few more brain cells than I, shouted, “Did you say salad?  It’s called Solid as a Rock.”

The table erupted in laughter; myself included at the erroneous error, but then along with my laughter came a blackish sort of envelopment.  The table, the guffaws…it all began to fade as I teetered on the edge of fainting.

Indeed, I was a damsel in distress. 

My friend Katherine recognizing my flushed face and dilated pupils quickly steered me towards the lady’s room where she tore at my laces and opened up my lungs for some much-needed air.

Returning to the table, I sheepishly sat down and inhaled my dinner.  Now moderately laced, I was able to eat, dance, laugh and enjoy a big piece of strawberry cream wedding cake without the restrictive garment of my own folly (It wasn’t too much later before Krista was begging me to let her loose too).

I learned an interesting lesson that day.  Vanity is subtly deceptive.  I believed the corset to be glamorous, romantic, and whimsical, but in truth, found it to be agonizing. 

I should know better by now than to be duped by another promise of pretty…but then again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, and they are but pure vanity.(Psalm 94:11 WBT)

Jesus sure has got my number.

“Without vanity, without coquetry, without curiosity, in a word, without the fall, woman would not be woman.  Much of her grace is in her frailty.”-Victor Hugo.

The Favor of God

The Favor of God

I hear a lot about God’s favor these days in the church.  Some people have it and others less fortunate get overlooked. The favored few rise to the top and those that lack favor end up floundering in the land of mediocre.  And though some might argue that the floundering builds character, sometimes it also builds bitterness.

I get the impression from current theological minds, praying for favor is a cop-out.  It’s the Prayer of Jabez-y (to use my friend D’s term) prosperity touting gospel.  It’s the name it and claim it kind of Christianity which seeks personal happiness instead of Kingdom suffering.

But what if the favor we desire is simply to be used by God?  No one faults David for wanting to be the guy to build the temple.  Even though God said no, his sincere longing for favor was legitimate. What happens when we ask like Isaiah, “Here I am God, use me,” and all we hear is crickets?

Disillusionment with God’s Timing

Some stories I encounter have me scratching my head in bewilderment. What about my friend Jonah, a missionary who felt God’s call to attend Bible College and enter pastoral ministry.  But due to unexpected circumstance, runs out of money for tuition.  When he interviews at church after church for a pastoral job, he is told to finish seminary and then reapply. So, he heads back into the workforce disillusioned. Years later, he is tentatively opening his heart again to be used by God. In all reality, he was a pastor doing Kingdom work as a missionary, but no one in the church was willing to take a risk on field experience vs. academic accreditation. Or did he merely lack favor?

Radical Obedience

I’m watching the Catalyst updates on Twitter as I write this.  Ironically, Andy Stanley is speaking on radical obedience being a pivotal component to Kingdom sized dreams.  Is God’s favor somehow mysteriously intertwined with obedience? 

Stanley suggests, “Often, a single act of courage is the tipping point for something extraordinary.”  He also mentioned the church would have kicked Peter out of leadership, but Jesus, on the other hand, put him in charge.

The State of the Heart

Hmmmm?  I guess that brings me back to favor. If the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16 WBT), then the condition of our heart influences the outcome of our prayers. If we pray for God’s favor regarding doors opening and opportunities to glorify Him, then our will cannot be out of alignment, but the means to achieve this glory may be. To put it simply, we have to want what God wants. 

Courage then, in light of favor, can be seen as the relinquishment of personal agenda.  It is letting go of our expectations and embracing the circumstances of God’s timing. 

And favor, therefore, is the exact moment when our innermost desires meet with God’s timing.

Call me Jabez-y, but I will keep praying for those moments, not only for myself, but for all the Jonah’s out there that want to be used, like Peter, for the Kingdom.  They aren’t looking for a comfortable G6 ride instead of a bumpy broken jalopy; they just want an opportunity to travel down the Kingdom road of favor.

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