Fashion Challenged

Hi, my name’s Bill, and I’m fashion challenged.

I’m not sure when the condition began. I experienced occasional problems dressing myself during childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. However, the malady intensified after my wedding day.

My new bride quickly sensitized me to the disorder. After surveying my clothing selection, she would ask incredulously, “Are you REALLY going to wear THAT?” I am as clueless as most men, but even I realized the polite inquiry might actually be a scathing commentary.

ken-doll-clothesThe conversation recurred repeatedly during the first months of our marriage. Finally, I accepted my fashion senselessness. I had also grown weary of changing clothes!

So one day in a Solomon-like moment of wisdom, I said to my spouse: “Why don’t you just pick out my clothes, and I will wear them?” My wife accepted the offer with great relief.

If someone comments favorably about my clothes today, I glibly respond, “I just put on what my wife laid out.” Then we will join in a good laugh—the other person never suspecting that I am telling the unvarnished truth. Whatever vestigial ability I once possessed to dress myself withered away years ago from disuse.

When the apostle Paul sought an analogy for growing in holiness, he chose the image of changing clothes. The Holy Spirit calls us to take off our old, worldly clothes of sin. We are called to don new, spiritual clothes of righteousness.

Paul wrote: “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians 3:27)

This process of sanctification takes a lifetime to accomplish. The Holy Spirit examines our lives and asks, “Are you really going to wear THAT?” Conviction, confession, and repentance follow. We exchange our out of style clothing for something more befitting of the Christian life.

Hi, my name is Bill. And I’m a recovering, fashion challenged, child of God.

Saint Valentine’s Day

valentines-dayThe legends of Valentine’s Day inseparably blend fact and myth. Most scholars believe the holiday grew out of the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia. The pagan celebration provided an occasion for all sorts of excess—think Mardi Gras on steroids.

In 496 A. D., Pope Gelasius of Rome attempted to transform the pagan festival of debauchery into a Christian celebration of love. He created a new holy day named in honor of two church martyrs. Both men were named Valentine.

The first Valentine was a priest beheaded in 269 A. D. for assisting persecuted Christians. Three years afterwards another Valentine was executed because he converted a Roman family to the Christian faith. The church later canonized both men as saints.

Today, February 14th celebrates romantic love. Cupids, hearts, candy, flowers, and cards express undying affection for one’s beloved. Even the “Saint” in “Valentine’s Day” is usually missing. Apparently, Pope Gelasius’ attempt to replace a secular holiday with a Christian holy day largely failed!

Our society needs to recapture the spirit of Saint Valentine. In a culture of narcissistic self-gratification and disposable relationships, these saints remind us of love’s true nature. They exemplified the Christian virtue of love in life and death. The martyrs named Valentine understood the selfless nature of love. They put others’ welfare before their own.

Love is not love until it costs something; and true love costs a lot. Real devotion demands costly action. More than a sentimental journey, Christian love is an active, selfless, and sacrificial willingness to seek out the best for others.

Godly love is not based upon feeling but willing. Deep love is not an emotion of the heart but a discipline of the soul. Warm, fuzzy feelings can carry us only so far. Christian love is much deeper and sterner stuff. We love because God first loved us. With such confidence, we can risk loving others.

While most of us will never be martyred for the faith, we can lay down our lives in daily service to others. Simple, daily acts of kindness and thoughtfulness are the most common expressions of love. Hardly the stuff of newspaper headlines, but practical acts of love can transform ourselves and others.

What Valentine’s Day gifts will we give and receive this year? Allow me to suggest something beyond flowers, candy, and cards.

This week we could forgive a grudge, visit someone who is sick, listen to one’s spouse, read to a child, give blood, deliver a meal, provide a break for a care giver, or call someone who is grieving.

Actions that cost us time, energy, and effort are true expressions of Christian love. Such love is both costly and priceless. Anything else is only lip service to an unrealized ideal.

Happy Valentine’s Day—I hope it costs you a lot!

Get Clark Smart

clark-howardClark Howard is America’s profit prophet, master miser, preeminent penny pincher, supreme skinflint, and chief cheapskate. For those unfamiliar with the name, where have you been?!? The consumer advisor preaches ways to save more, spend less, and avoid getting ripped off.

Howard’s syndicated radio show can be heard on WSB 750 AM. He also has a web site that is creatively named

Clark Howard is the consummate consumer commando. His expertise spans the spectrum of economic issues. On one phone call, Clark addresses faulty dipstick tubes in hot water heaters. Then in the next segment he knowledgeably discusses 401K plans and Roth IRAs. In between, he talks about legitimate investments and illegitimate frauds.

Howard proudly admits that he sometimes goes to extremes, pinching a penny until Abraham Lincoln screams. He once appeared on national television dressed in a dollar suit bought at a thrift store. The radio personality will walk a mile rather than pay for parking. He also refuses to shop at malls because of the high overhead.

Some simple truths underlie Clark Howard’s consumer advice. Spend less money than made. Save more money than spent. Avoid get rich quick schemes. If it is too good to be true, then it is probably too good to be true.

However, Clark Howard’s advice is nothing new. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, also gave consumer advice. The Anglican priest believed that financial faithfulness was a mark of Christian discipleship.

Wesley gave this simple admonition to parishioners: Make all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can.

LESSON ONE: Make all you can.

No one would argue with this tenet. One of the most misquoted verses of the Bible is: “Money is the root of all evil.” What 1 Timothy actually says is: “The LOVE of money is the root of all evil.” Material resources are a good gift given by a loving God. It is not a question of whether we have a little money; instead, it is a question of whether a little money has us.

LESSON TWO: Save all you can.

Here is where the financial train often leaves the tracks. Spending has a way of expanding to meet or exceed income. People have a difficult time distinguishing between “needs” and “wants.” We are bombarded with credit applications and product enticements. Only the truly disciplined can spend less than they make in order to save.

LESSON THREE: Give all you can.

We are stewards of God’s wealth. We brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out. When have you ever seen a U-Haul trailer in a funeral profession or a hearse with a luggage rack? Humanity is entrusted with God’s goods in order to help others. We should give until it hurts—then give more until it feels good.

All of us need to get Clark smart and Wesley wise. Make all you can. Spend less. Save all you can. Avoid getting ripped off. Give all you can.

It just makes sense . . . and cents.

I Sat Alone and You . . .

Our church offers a weekly Wednesday night supper. We enjoy a good time of food and fellowship followed by programs for all ages. People love catching up with family and friends. However . . .

Fellowship in the church always possesses a shadow side.

We seek to create environments and small group settings where people form life-giving relationships. These very friendships, however, can lead to inhospitable environments and closed groups. The ties that bind can also repel newcomers.

Case in point:

Last fall a crowd of over 200 people gathered for the final Wednesday night supper before Thanksgiving. A raucous, joyful crowd loudly enjoyed one another’s company. Some groups pulled together two or three tables to expand their table fellowship. However . . .

A special needs adult sat at a table by himself.

I watched for several minutes, hoping someone would notice. He might as well have been wearing Harry Potter’s Cloak of Invisibility. No one sat down with him much less acknowledged his presence.

I joined him for five minutes, and we discussed our holiday plans. Then someone called me away to deal with another matter. I checked later, and he was gone.

Ask anyone there that night—a good time was had by all. Delicious food and interesting conversation. However . . .

Fellowship in the church always possesses a shadow side.