Monday, July 30, 2007

It's tough being a model. Hours of smiling practice, sessions with makeup artists and designers, and bottles of chill pills are required before that fateful traipse down the runway. Her burden is heavy. Although the outfit technically belongs to the designer, it's the model's job to sell it. Will the reporters hail her clothes as quirky or creative? The most imaginative design or faux-pas of the year? Dozens of cameras flash. She must now ignore the little blue spots in her eyes and navigate the return route down the runway, all while flaunting fifteen inch heels. On top of all the stress, she can't even eat. Oh, the pressure...

I'm a model, too, only without the paparazzi. From my position, the easy thing is to criticize other models for their influence: "Why are they popular while I' If I had their position, I'd do a better job of it."

I'm sure you can sympathize, as you've probably met one too; a dynamic model with that special talent to influence people. They're trendsetters. While legend tells of everything King Midas touched turning to gold, everything that person touches becomes hip. Don't ever try solving a disagreement with them by an election. They'll win the popular vote.

You've probably guessed by now that I'm not just referring to fashion models. Attitudes, word choice and even posture can be trends spread by others. We're creatures who love mimicry; some people simply have that special "zing" which causes us to admiringly imitate them. They're unconscious leaders, natural models.

In the past I've looked at friends who meet this criteria and mentally "tsk-ed" them. Can't they see how much influence they possess? Can't they see how many adoring eyes look to them for cues? "Popularity isn't just a fluke; it is gift with a purpose. Trendsetters have the responsibility to spread the right trend," I rant. Who knows how many people have been negatively influenced by bad leaders?

Inwardly I trade places with my friends and imagine how the world would be a better place if such popularity were mine. Yet if I only glanced over my shoulder I would see the face of my little sister. With one self conscious eye on herself and the other fixed on me, I have an audience too.

John Donne was on the right track when he wrote, "No man is an island, entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less." He was dreaming about death at the time; how each death affects humanity as a whole, but the principle applies to the living too. While it's easy to leave the job of role modeling to those with magnetic personalities, no man is an island. Every foot, big or small, leaves a print for others to follow.

1 Timothy 4:12 is so often quoted to prove that "youth matter" to the church: "Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity." It's pleasant to consider how much influence my actions carry, but I squirm at the command to "set the believers an example." I like being important. I just don't like being responsible for the consequences.

Like it or not, I am a trendsetter. Just as every fashion model to ever strut the runway, I impact the minds of others by what I wear. Am I an example of modesty? Or have I gotten lazy in picking my clothes?

In a way, I possess the power of a radio station in miniature. People hear what I'm saying, flippant words and all. What values am I broadcasting? What words am I using? Will others feel free to gossip if I do it? Am I a walking example of the beauty which comes from the heart?

And the hardest of all--am I being a model of love?

I want to ponder this more often; for instance, in the next five minutes when I run downstairs, maybe I'll bump into my sister. Perhaps she'll ask me to play with her. She might even ask for my help. Then, I'll need to react purposefully.

After all, it's my runway.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Beauty from the Heart.... now on Facebook.

A Word To The Interested: Josh Harris blogged about Iran's obsession with plastic surgery. I can't get the quote of one girl off my mind. She stated her reason for a nose job: "I look and my nose does not go in harmony with my face." It's fascinating, especially in light of our recent series, how crazy the world is about physical beauty.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Jesus, Cast A Look On Me

I was shocked when I experienced my first struggle as a believer in Christ. Martyrdom and persecution were, in my mind, the struggles of true Christians. I expected the world to dramatically oppose my faith, but for some reason didn't anticipate the day-to-day challenge of fighting the sin in my own heart. (Oh, how naive can I be?) Because of this, I am incredibly encouraged by brothers and sisters in Christ who have walked the same path, yet still testify of God's grace to overcome.

This hymn is one I heard recently for the first time, expressing the cries of a believer longing to be like Christ. It is a reminder of why we're fighting and of the faithfulness of the Savior who fights by our side:

"Jesus cast a look on me,
Give me sweet simplicity
Make me poor and keep me low,
Seeking only Thee to know

All that feeds my busy pride,
Cast it evermore aside
Bid my will to Thine submit,
Lay me humbly at Thy feet

Make me like a little child,
Of my strength and wisdom spoiled
Seeing only in Thy light,
Walking only in Thy might

Leaning on Thy loving breast,
Where a weary soul can rest
Feeling well the peace of God,
Flowing from His precious blood

In this posture let me live,
And hosannas daily give
In this temper let me die,
And hosannas ever cry!"

-John Berridge (1716-1793)

(Hymn courtesy of Indelible Grace Music.)


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Confessions of a Teenage Hypocrite

This past week brought word of a friend’s fall. The run toward abstinence was too much for her feet to bear alone, but after spurning her God-given authority, her own feet were all she had.

It began in the little things—miniature mutinies only the heart knows. But then her family noticed the difference: a few sharp words, an occasional discontent remark. Sin starts small, but it grows like a pathogen on steroids. Heartbreaking and yet-oh-so-typical for the human race; the fall of this conservative, homeschooled Christian girl is only one of the latest in a long series since the beginning.

“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to Eve, a sweet yet naïve, God-worshiping girl. He offered her a piece of the juicy, luscious--forbidden--fruit. With a hiss of his forked tongue, the serpent sowed suspicion: "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:4-5 NIV) With a little movement, Eve stepped nearer the tree. In a few short moments, she rationalized the situation. What could a little taste hurt? Certainly the end (becoming like God) would justify the means, and if she ended up regretting it, God would surely overlook such a miniscule mistake. Without another thought, she took a tiny bite.

Eve’s decision is the kind I make flippantly each day, yet her fall remains one of the most pivotal actions of all history. Her dirty little secret led to the Holocaust, mass murder in Darfur, the shootings at Virginia Tech and…my quick temper yesterday.

Choices—even seemingly insignificant thoughts concealed deep in the heart--can have a more profound affect than we realize. James wrote that sin starts small as a dormant desire, then grows. “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:15) My soul, take note: “Insignificant” desires can grow to big sin. Little choices matter.

In spite of this truth, after hearing of my friend’s fall, the serpent’s same old story was repackaged for my consumption: “You will not surely die by merely patting yourself on the back,” the serpent said. “Be proud that you did not choose her path.” Oops. That lie sounds familiar. A white lie here and there, a little curse word when I stub my toe, and just a dab of self-righteousness as icing on the cake; although my stray arrogant thoughts seem small compared to my friend’s fall, they’re of the same significance as biting forbidden fruit. Look at the cost of Eve’s mouthful.

Examining my friend’s situation, the temptation for self-righteousness was replaced by a throbbing sense of shame as the realization hit: I am equally guilty. “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags,” Isaiah said, “….and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” (Isaiah 64:6) Although she may have leaped off the cliff, haven’t I equally flirted with the edge? Although she’s embraced sin, haven’t I given it a sly wink more than once?

There is no compensation I could possibly offer for my crimes. If Eve’s fruit was all it took to bring death into the world, I’m certain my numerous “little sins” are enough to purchase my own execution. Yet the whispering resumes: “You will not surely die,” the serpent said. “Surely you can redeem yourself. Try following Mosaic Law, donating to a charity, volunteering in the community or attending church to assuage your guilt.” But I’ve attempted to connive my way into God’s favor enough to know it’s impossible, and these whispers are yet another lie.

C.S. Lewis painted a telling picture of my own attempts to “earn grace.” In Till We Have Faces, Istra, a beautiful, patient and loving girl, is ordered to be executed. As the best the land has to offer, Istra must die as a human sacrifice on behalf of her people. Her sister, Orual, of course, cannot bear the thought of Istra’s death, and implores the King to intervene. In desperation, Orual pleads: “You are right. It is fit that one should die for the people. Give me…instead of Istra.” The King then grabs poor Orual by the wrist and drags her until they both stand before a massive mirror. There, Orual sees the full extent of her own ugliness. The offering called for “the best in the land,” the King says, “And you’d give her that.”

Now, reality sets in. I’m an Orual. My righteousness (which is actually “filthy rags”) is not a worthy offering for a Holy God. Who am I, to dare to even attempt to settle up my actions with Him? When Job demanded God speak, His voice arose from a storm with words that knocked Job to his knees. Job, humbled and awed, replied, “I am unworthy—how can I reply to You? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer—twice, but I will say no more.” (Job 40:4-5) If Job could barely speak to Him, how do I expect to negotiate my pardon?

As Orual found, the cost for redemption is the death of the Perfect One. My sin stands, along with my friend’s fornication and all other evil acts throughout history as a debt I am powerless to pay. Yet in this sorrow, I find the deepest joy. Jesus’ words ring true, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” (Mark 2:17) It was the sin of the fruit-eaters, fornicators, liars, thieves and hypocrites that gave need for the Cross, and to us broken sinners the Cross was given.

This is the Gospel, that the One we owed paid our debt. At the foot of the Cross I have no excuses to offer. My sins, big and small, have condemned me. I can only echo the words of John Bradford, who, when witnessing a criminal’s execution uttered, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

With my sin in perspective, my friend and I are equally debtors. Any anger at her sin must eventually melt into prayer on her behalf; a request for her to see her own evil and embrace the God whose blood was tangible grace for us.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Listen Up!

The following message qualified to the 2007 NCFCA National Tournament. Since the topic of Biblical womanhood is near and dear to our hearts (and we hope to our readers as well), we thought this may be of interest:

Feminism vs. Femininity On Three Roles of Women

by Daria Woods

Already listened? Tell us what you think!

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Friday, July 06, 2007

I Dare Not Be Silent

She stood against the ice rink wall, her arms crossed, guarding against the cold. I followed her line of sight to a tiny, delicate girl gliding far too skillfully for her age.
"Is she yours?" I asked.
"Yes, she's five. I bring her here every day," she replied in an accented voice.

Thus our conversation began.

A refugee from the Vietnam war, she explained, "I am a Buddhist, but really I am lost." (I would agree, but it was amazing coming from her.) She continued, "I haven't gone to temple in years. I don't know what I believe."

At first taken aback, I felt my spirit prodded to ask more questions. God help me. I don't know what I'm doing, I prayed.

We talked on.

"Just comparing Buddhism with the Bible..." I attempted to segue to the truth. Finally, I mustered the courage to bring up the "s" word--sin. How can a man see his need for Christ unless he is first humbled by a glimpse of himself? After all, Christ did not come to save the self-righteous, but those who see the sickness in their souls.

And yet mentioning sin still manages to challenge me, as one of the most difficult words to get past my lips. A million questions whirl through the mind, "What will she think? Am I going to sound preachy? What if she gets angry?" I was downright scared.

Speaking of sin requires love. It takes the love of Christ to motivate forgiven sinners (who are still very fearful, weak creatures) to stick out their necks enough to say, "Friend, you're in sin and because I love you I want to warn you where it leads." Yet this love is so important that 1 John tells us we're not really in the faith if we do not have it:
"The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him." (1 John 2:9-10)

After discussing sin, the eyes of the woman at the ice rink widened in amazement. "I have lived in the United States for many years and known many, many Christians and you seventeen year old girl the first to tell me about this!"

I felt sick, knowing I almost had not told her; but I know God must feel sicker, knowing full well the fearfulness in my heart, and the hearts of countless others who pursed their lips instead of speaking truth.

Our behavior is shameful. As soldiers of the Cross we deserve to be court marshaled. We're cowards, cooperating with the enemy by our refusal to fire even a word into the fray. Even Jeremiah, who never heard the name of Jesus Christ in his lifetime, knew enough of God that he was compelled to speak. He cried,

"For each time I speak, I cry aloud;
I proclaim violence and destruction,
Because for me the word of the LORD has resulted
In reproach and derision all day long.
But if I say, 'I will not remember Him
Or speak anymore in His name,'
Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire Shut up in my bones;
And I am weary of holding it in,
And I cannot endure it."
(Jeremiah 20:8-9. Italics mine.)

Having seen God's love hang on a Cross, how can we be anything less than a Jeremiah? How do we dare keep silent? I'm ashamed of myself. It's my prayer that my tongue will be quicker and my heart more eager to vent the smoke of this fire in my bones. Hopefully next time, I'll be bold.

Until then, I'm praying for the woman at the ice rink.

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Kristin, Hannah & Lindsey

A blog by three young ladies who have a desire to serve the Lord and encourage other young women around them.

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