Writing

Surrounded

upIf you look up, the Lord bends down to listen (Psalm 116:2 NLT). He stoops down to make you great (Psalm 18:35b NIV). He is the lifter of your head (Psalm 3:3b NIV) and He lays his hand upon you (Psalm 139:5 NIV). He hides you in the shadow of His wings (Psalm 17:8b NIV). He reaches down from on high and takes hold of you; He draws you out of deep waters (Psalm 18:16 NIV). He pulls you out of the pit of destruction (Psalm 40:2a NIV). 

downIf you look down, He sets your feet on a rock, and gives you a firm place to stand (Psalm 40:2b NIV), He provides a broad path for your feet (Psalm 18:36 NIV) and He establishes all your steps (Psalm 37:23). He upholds you with His righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10b NIV).

behindIf you look back, the God of Israel is your rear guard (Isaiah 52:12b NIV). His goodness and mercy is surely following you all the days of your life (Psalm 23:6 NIV). He hems you in from behind (Psalm 139:5a NIV) and His glory guards your rear (Isaiah 58:8b NIV).

aheadIf you look ahead, the Lord Himself crosses over ahead of you (Deuteronomy 31:1b NIV). The Lord Himself goes before you (Deuteronomy 31:8a NIV). He is a sun and a shield (Psalm 84:11a NIV). He hems you in before you (Psalm 139:5 NIV) and His word is a lamp to your feet and a light on your path (Psalm 119:105 NIV).

circleIf you look around, the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9b NIV), and there is nowhere you can flee from His presence (Psalm 13:7-12 NIV). He is a shield around you (Psalm 3:3a NIV), He protects all your bones (Psalm 34:20 NIV), He encircles you, cares for you, and He keeps you as the apple of his eye (Deuteronomy 32:10 ESV).

circleIf you look within, your life is hidden in Christ (Colossians 3:3 NIV). It is no longer you who lives, but Christ who lives in you (Galatians 2:20 NIV). Christ in you is the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27 NIV) and the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4b NIV).

rewindIf you look to your past, to your origins and beginnings, He is the rock from which you were cut, and the quarry from which you were hewn (Isaiah 51:1b NIV). He created you in His image (Genesis 1:27 NIV). He redeemed you, called you by name and declared “You are mine” (Isaiah 43:1 NIV). Before He formed in you in the womb, He knew and set you apart (Jeremiah 1:5a NIV). He is the author of your faith (Hebrews 12:2a NIV) and He began a good work in you (Philippians 1:6 NIV). He wrote all the days ordained for you before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16a NIV).

playIf you look in your present, He is your refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1 ESV), He is with you in the waters, through the rivers, through the fire (Isaiah 43:2 NIV). He is close when you are brokenhearted and crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18 NIV) and He is with you even in the darkest valley (Psalm 23:4 NIV). He has granted to you all you need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3 NIV), and in His presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11 ESV).

fastforwardIf you look to your future, He will never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV). He is with you always, even till the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20 NIV). He is the perfecter of your faith (Hebrews 12:2a NIV), and will bring to completion His good work in you (Philippians 1:6 NIV). The Lord will fulfill His purpose for you (Psalm 138:8 ESV). Even to your old age and grey hairs it is He who sustains you, and He will carry you and rescue you (Isaiah 46:4 NIV). He will will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19 NIV). He will guide you in His counsel, and afterward He will take you into glory (Psalm 73:24 NIV) where He has prepared a place for you (John 14:3 NIV), and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23:6 NIV).

The world may encourage you: “You’ve got this”.

But the truth is:

He’s got you.

The Cure for Monday-itis

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” – Colossians 3:23 (NIV)

In even the most inherently rewarding vocation, there can be weariness, setbacks, trials and days that are hard to face. But I’ve found one of the most instantly uplifting and motivating things I can consider in this state is simply the mental reminder that I can do this for Him, and that changes everything.

For some reason I’m reminded of Jacob, who “…served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her” (Genesis 29:20 ESV). When we consider Him, no burden can ever be too great – not even a Monday.

Pray for those who persecute you

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” – Matthew 5:44 (NIV)

A small but important thing that I have learned about the act of praying for a person who is persecuting you, is that it changes your heart, and this is unspeakably valuable. It makes you magnanimous, enlarging your spirit and your vision to see and to feel beyond the petty hurts of your heart, equipping you to face them again with true love and without fear.

Prayer changes not just the subject of the prayer, but the one who prays.

It’s a bona fide superpower.

The God in the Machine: The Matrix and a Sci-Fi Jesus

Morpheus: “You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life…that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I’m talking about?”

Neo: “The Matrix”

Just as Morpheus somehow describes everything Neo has felt so far, the Wachowski brothers’ first installment of the Matrix trilogy offered a somewhat uncanny allegory for my own Christian experience. I thought it was just remarkably well extrapolated, though others have been more overt in their analyses, and the Wachowskis themselves — when not being coy about its various religious and philosophical ideas — have responded that “all of it” and “most of it was intentional”. The most obvious and widely recognised link is of course Neo, whose name means “New” and is an anagram of his title as the “One”; a messianic figure prophesied by the Oracle to come and save mankind. His dull day-job name “Mr Anderson” means “Son of Man”. And with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, he is told in his first scene by user Choi; “Hallelujah. You’re my saviour, man. My own personal Jesus Christ”.

But the more personal aspects shown in the film begin with the splinter in the mind, the inexplicable suspicion, as Morpheus describes, that something is wrong with the world. At first Neo almost bails on what Trinity calls “the question that drives us”. He gets in the car, but when it gets a bit weird to have a bugged bellybutton, he wants out. I remember faltering for a moment too — the concept of God seemed a bit too foreign, too strange and these people were being all weird and spiritual. I was curious — but also apprehensive of what would happen if I found out. Then Trinity stops him as he opens the door and stares out in the rain (Sydneysiders: this scene was filmed on the corner of Campbell and Elizabeth Street, under the Adam Street bridge);

Trinity: “…you have been down there Neo, you know that road, you know exactly where it ends. And I know that’s not where you want to be.”

Maybe I wasn’t sure where this new road led, but I did know the road I had been on was a dead end. And like Neo I stayed in the car.

Morpheus: “Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.”

Unplugging naked from an amniotic pod is a very sci-fi rebirth, and as Morpheus says, until it is experienced firsthand it is unimaginable; “Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”” (John 3:3 ESV). When plugged in, it was the only life ever known; “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 2:14 NIV). But the day of the red pill, everything changed. I remember thinking to myself that I couldn’t believe that I could have reached adulthood — even grown up in church — and still discover another level that felt like real living. If this was living, if I suddenly felt alive, what had I been doing all those years before? I’d felt like something was a bit odd about the world but I could never have imagined an entire other level; “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10 NIV). The colours and even people, looked different, and I felt so free, so new, joyful beyond explanation.

Morpheus shows Neo the meaning of the human pods by holding up a Duracell battery, a battery for machines; “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods” (Galatians 4:8 NIV). It is an image so understandably horrible and confronting that Neo throws up and passes out.

Morpheus: “It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.”

Neo: “What truth?”

Morpheus: “That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.”

In a 1995 interview Steve Jobs explains: “When you grow up, you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world, try not to bash into the walls too much, try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life”. The media will tell you how you’re supposed to be, the catalogues will tell you what you’re supposed to own, corporate culture will tell you how you’re supposed to work, Tumblr will give you philosophy, Instagram will show you how pretty a brunch should look, Pinterest will show and quote human ideals, Facebook will document what happiness looks like, fashion will tell you what men and women wear. Just go with it, dress like it, talk like it, work like it, eat like it, live like it, for the rest of your life. I wondered if this was it — surely there was more. There has to be.

Morpheus: “This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill — the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill — you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes”.

But the red pill means giving up everything, making a choice; “Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62 ESV). You have to decide which world you’ll live in.

Cypher: You know, I know this steak doesn’t exist. I know that when I put it in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious. After nine years, you know what I realise? Ignorance is bliss.

Just as history pitied Judas Iscariot, we could slam Cypher for betraying Morpheus, Neo and his crew and asking to be plugged back into the Matrix. And ultimately the nondescript coding name “Cypher” reveals the minimal impact he makes by seeking to return to the cookie-cutter life. But his case for blissful ignorance is also understandable, because unplugging is a difficult life involving a war instead of steak. And Cypher must choose between the Matrix and Zion; “Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4b ESV).

Morpheus: “That system is our enemy. But when you’re inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.”

And as Morpheus explains, the enemy in the training program is not actually the woman in the red dress or the homeless man, but Agent Smith (in Sydney’s Martin Place and Pitt Street); “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world” (Ephesians 6:12a NIV). Like protective sentinels and agents, the religious Pharisees hated Jesus for what he taught and wanted this sacrilege to be quashed. Offended by the Sabbath-breaking healing, the “blasphemously” good news, the love and care for “sinners”, they fought to protect their neat moral bubble, and eventually in hatred, crucified Him; “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds” (Colossians 1:21a). Morpheus teaches Neo that once you unplug, the Matrix is no longer a friend or a home; “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:18–19 NIV). In the world, but not of it.

Morpheus: “Welcome to the real world”

Essentially Neo receives the revelation that the real world and real life is bigger than what’s programmed in the Matrix. Instead Morpheus and his crew are heading for Zion, the last human city, which is truly worthy of aspiration, unlike the manufactured ladder within the Matrix; “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion” (Psalm 84:5 ESV). “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV).

Neo: “I used to eat there. Really good noodles. I have these memories from my life. None of them happened. What does that mean?”

Trinity: “That the Matrix cannot tell you who you are.”

The Matrix has a way of programming identities — manufactured possessions, job titles, status, stations — but they are not who someone really is. And when our hero finally declares; “My name is Neo”, he rejects his Anderson identity, the neat little life as “a program writer for a respectable software company”, with a social security number and a land lady, and becomes his true self; “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3–4 ESV). “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1 NIV). Instead of plugging back in, Neo takes the path of freedom.

Neo: “I’m going to hang up this phone, and then I’m going to show these people what you don’t want them to see. I’m going to show them a world without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible.”

And true to his word, it was Christ who taught me; “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26 NIV) and that “All things are possible for one who believes.” (Mark 9:23b ESV). He takes a while to come to terms with being the One (“If you are the Son of God…” — Matthew 4), and his divinity (“You have to let it all go, Neo. Fear, doubt, and disbelief. Free your mind.”). But eventually even bullet-dodging, even water-walking, even flying from a phone on the corner of Hunter and Pitt Street in Sydney, is possible. Jesus embodied the breaking of rules and controls, borders and boundaries. In a Matrix full of status he humbled himself to wash people’s feet. In a Matrix full of social rules he dared to speak to people of lower class, the outcast and despised. In a Matrix full of material security he had nowhere to lay his head. In a Matrix full of sickness and death he dared to heal people. In a Matrix full of religious rules he stood up and courageously opposed the hypocrisy of the religious.

Trinity: “The answer is out there, Neo. It’s looking for you, and it will find you if you want it to”.

He didn’t barge into my life; “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Revelation 3:20). I didn’t accidentally get unplugged. I wondered, and I decided to take the red pill. And maybe life is harder on a ship, fighting a war, being misunderstood all the time. But it’s also an amazing life beyond imagination. It’s free. And it’s real. It’s almost too cheap to say the red pill changed my life. Really, it was far more than that.

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The Secret Kingdom

Every year thousands of wildflowers bloom and die on a mountainside unseen by human eyes. Countless galaxies swirl millions of light years away without a telescope to see them. Yet the sunrise continues to give itself every morning, the supernovae continue to explode and die with all their being, and in this way “the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1b). Every bud persistently blossoms and glorifies its maker, and He dresses them more beautifully than Solomon in all his splendour (Matthew 6:29). Even in the absence of validation, they do not cease to glorify God in truth. They do not need to say that they are true – they simply are. Even if nobody knows.

Sometimes we will do something for someone that can never be thanked. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t count. In fact, it may count more than anything, for “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’” (Matthew 25:40 NIV).

Sometimes – and probably most of the time – we will do work that will not be seen or acknowledged. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important to do. In fact we are told, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:23). Sometimes there is a good deed that no one will know about. But in His kingdom the Lord explicitly instructs to give in secret (Matthew 6:2-4), fast in secret (Matt 6:16-18), pray in secret (Matthew 6:5-6), and even warns; “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1).

Sometimes the person who impresses the world’s standards is not the person God prefers and esteems; “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Sometimes a person’s beauty is not externally visible. But again in the secret kingdom of unseen, eternal things, it is even directly instructed, “Do not let your adorning be external […] but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:3-4 ESV).

Sometimes courage is choosing what is right even if it is not popular, celebrated, noticed. Even if it is misunderstood or attracts criticism, opposition or judgment, there is a conviction and integrity worth keeping for His name’s sake. We must live “not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (Ephesians 6:6 ESV).

There is a kingdom of stage and spectacle, fame and pedestals, glory, prestige and gloss. Deeds are applauded. Excellence is awarded. Visibility is fought for and cheered. Names become labels, engravings on plaques, self-profiled online and revered. But there is another place where things are unseen – less but somehow more. And as false varnish fades into something long gone, it rises as something eternal.

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” – Galatians 1:10

So can we be in the way we live. Perhaps no one sees. But God sees you. Perhaps it means nothing to the world. But in God’s sight it is very precious. And if He saw you when no one else could, and if He valued you before anyone else did, maybe you’re the wildflower that should dare to bloom, maybe you’re the star that should dare to burst, maybe the fall should be taken, the cost should be paid, the kindness extended, even if the recipient never knows or the crowd never sees. And perhaps if the only people to see the finest hour are you and God Almighty – well, perhaps that’s not such a bad audience.

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The Good News after the Bad News

“…he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” – Genesis 3:15b (NIV)

This somewhat violent statement is an epic plot spoiler of the very best kind.

After what was perhaps the world’s most famous mistake, it is an astonishing declaration of hope, made even more so by its timing: as soon as Adam tells God they have eaten the forbidden fruit, God’s first response it is not to yell at Adam, or to smite them both, or to complain about their rebellion – even though any of these could be expected. His first response is not even directed to Adam or Eve. Instead He turns directly to the serpent, and He declares that there will be enmity between the serpent and the woman’s offspring, but that God would ultimately cause us to triumph.

Not only does He not give up on Adam or his lineage, but He even promises that it will be from their own offspring that He would bring a champion, a saviour, the light for a world even now being made dark.

As soon as His beloved friends fall, He responds by catching everyone to come in His victory. It is the hope of good news immediately after Adam speaks the bad news. It is the very first telling of the gospel – and by God Himself. His good news in exchange for all of the bad news. His best in exchange for our worst.

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The Daily Swap

On days when sicknesses pick a fight with the immune system, or batteries run low, or people are mean, it is natural to want to wallow in it – just a little. But when any of these might like to rent some head space or a mention, what would happen if we simply…traded them in? To swap tiredness for joy at the day’s opportunities. To swap a whiny status update for an expression of thanks. To trade the grumpiness of illness for the renewed awareness of caring people and a fighting immune system. Or some of the pain of grief for a more urgent sense of love for the people still in our lives. Even on days of mistreatment, we can treasure a clear conscience, new wisdom, supportive people – and an enormous, loving God who never leaves. Although it’s possible to complain, when I look harder it seems I actually have it almost unfairly good.

“Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction. Break the habit. Talk about your joys” – Rita Schiano

It’s easy to forget that whenever there is an opportunity to do something wrong, there is always an opportunity to do something right (1 Corinthians 10:13). And that whatever harm anyone may do, God is able to turn it into something beneficial (Genesis 50:20). That anything that seems like a set back or mistake can be worked together for good (Romans 8:28). That though we may physically grow weary, we’re inwardly renewed every day (2 Corinthians 4:16). That for every bit of suffering or hardship, there is always a joy to transcend it (2 Corinthians 4:17). And even when everything and everyone is lost, ultimately “it is well with my soul”.

“Praise the Lord, my soul,
  and forget not all his benefits” – Psalm 103:2 (NIV)

We’re instructed to rejoice in the Lord always, and then again, to rejoice – everybody one more time now (Philippians 4:4)! That’s 24/7, and although rainbows and fuzzy ducklings aren’t present round the clock, God always is. My favourite thing is that a search for things and people to celebrate and praise never returns void, whether the treasure is big or small. There are countless gifts and supports in so many areas of life that are so easily overlooked.

“… memory may be very strong concerning self-interest, grievances, and trials, and yet towards God’s mercies it may be very weak” – Charles Spurgeon

One way I’ve tried overcoming my senility is using a small portable notebook to record everything I’m grateful for. I add to it whenever something comes to mind, or force myself to add to it whenever my attitude needs recalibrating. I’ve found having small space to be thankful and joyful is not only a delight and encouragement, but a very powerful life tool. While shopping or to-do lists are a common form of reminder for life’s activities, there is perhaps something – or someone – we are more prone to forget than milk or emails. And when all we can think about is unpleasant points to whine about while joy sits available half-price, He’s probably more than worth the swap!

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The Supermodel who Wouldn’t Pose Nude

“In my career I’ve tried to be the model that you don’t have to sell yourself out in whatever career you decide, you don’t have to do everything, you can say no.”

Saying no is the thing about Coco Rocha that astounds, even more than her accomplishments (which are lofty and plenty), her social conscience or her fun personality. These things have been done before – there is always someone on the cover, someone who is number one on a list, someone who has to win Model of the Year. But how she has done it is unique: Coco says no in an industry where yes has been the default, and says no to the extent that legendary supermodel Naomi Campbell exclaimed to her “How to do you [even get] work?”. But work she has, collecting accolades and covers, listed with the best, garnering personal respect from designers, all without compromising herself. She told Malibu Magazine:

“I’ve turned down more opportunities than I’ve accepted, and yet the opportunities have kept coming. I feel like I could leave it all tomorrow with my moral integrity still intact, and I’m proud of that.”

And this is Rocha’s fascinating “no”, as told to industry fellows in New York’s Model Lounge, where she provided advice as a board member of the Model Alliance: “Today, in my contract I have no nudity, no semi-nudity, no see through, no religious artifacts, no governmental, no political, no making out, is the guy I’m modelling with going to be nude, are there other girls that are going to be nude? I literally will sit down and discuss what my whole job will be before I arrive so when I get there I’m prepared. And if I arrive and I see lingerie on set I can say, we have had this discussion, I am walking out now. My contract is known to the entire team before I’ve even arrived on set. That’s how important your contract is, that is your life right there”.

In declining, she insists on professionalism and not being a “diva”, and her enduring collaborations with some of the best photographers and designers in the business show that she has managed this boundary with grace. She is also firm that “I don’t judge” as her friends and peers in the industry take the conventional route. But what is most remarkable is how Coco has excelled with her own life as one of the best in the industry, while breaking all its unspoken, unquestioned conventions. It sets her apart in a way that seems to defy logic, in the way Daniel did when he “resolved not to defile himself” as he trained for the king’s service, yet became the best one. Fashion photographer and host of “The Face” Nigel Barker (on which Coco appeared as a mentor) said of her path; “It’s a big position for a model to take in an industry that is dominated by the idea of ‘sex sells’. Fashion photographers are constantly getting the girls to take their clothes off, but Coco can actually put on more clothes and make it look sexier than the girl who is completely naked and putting her boobs in your face” (then again – selling clothes by wearing them – who’d have thought?).

Coco drew on a harrowing experience as a 15 year-old just beginning her modelling career, finding herself alone on set in a foreign country, begging photographers not to do nudity. No matter how uncomfortable she felt, it was the assumed norm and they threatened to send her home. Addressing young women at Columbia Law School (April 17, 2013), she said; “Some people look at me and think, “Be glad that you even got a cover. Shut up model, you’re just a model, it doesn’t matter what they do to you, you’re supposed to get naked, do whatever they say, you should be showing your boobs, shut up and don’t talk, just be happy you model. Well, I’m trying to fight those people”. Not only for herself, but for every young person who follows; “As a grown woman I can make decisions for myself. I can decide that I won’t allow myself to be degraded at a casting – marching in my underwear with a group of young girls, poked, prodded and examined like cattle. I’m able to walk away from that treatment because I am established as a model and I’m an adult… but what about the young, struggling and aspiring models?”.

And this is not a hollow sentiment, but a true speaking up of rights; in addition to advocating against eating disorders and digital manipulation of photographs, Coco has mentored and advised other models both formally and informally, and was an active proponent of an arguably overdue law to protect children and youth in the modelling industry, including their basic rights to receive education, be accompanied by chaperones and not be subjected to sexual harassment. She can add to her covers a rare claim that she truly made her industry better for others.

In fact, Coco’s “no” has actually let her “yes” shine even brighter. She has gained renown for the sheer number and speed of poses she can hit in succession without direction, even releasing a groundbreaking book which captured the human form in 1000 poses, captured in a 360-degree shoot in just three days. She is also famous for being one of the first in the hallowed world of haute couture to develop a powerful personal brand via social media, establishing herself as a personality and a skilled brand ambassador rather than a voiceless coat hanger. And she’s also no stranger to writing in well known publications about the industry, and tech, even serving as an editor for PC Magazine.

Speaking as a guest on Glamour Magazine’s “Secret of Start-Up Queens” panel (May 29, 2013), Coco Rocha asks a top-line question on life and work; “What’s it all about? Making the big career and being successful, or doing what you believe in? I really think people are respected in any industry if they stand up for what they believe”.

In her teenage years, the confronting question of whether it profits someone to gain the world yet lose their soul had somewhat higher stakes than high school electives; “When I first started modeling, I was told I needed to do pretty much anything to be successful. I had to pick, do I want to be successful? Or do I want to keep to my morals and my values, which, to me, was very important”. She reflects;

“At the end of the day, fashion’s standards will rise and fall, but I hope mine will always stay the same”

When presented with the choice, Coco made a completely uncertain, unprecedented call that seemed disadvantageous to her and everyone else in the industry, in the interests of what she thought was right and true. And in the end, she gained both – and forged an important, remarkable and beautiful path that lit the way for all of us.

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Dressed for the Occasion

We all (hopefully!) get dressed at some point each day. We might check the weather, look to the glossies for inspiration, try on a few different options, consult the dress code, and try a few different options.

Yet it’s possible to have the worst day in even the best of outfits. And while we might devote much time, income and thought to what is hung on the body,  it is rare to prepare as much the person within. And yet it is a person’s spirit that can be crushed by a discouraging word, overwhelmed by the day’s challenges, receive unexpectedly sad news – all while the body stands still on the train. Yet the body is the one we slave to dress.

“If we spent half the time we take getting physically dressed getting spiritually dressed instead, we’d be much better off” – Joyce Meyer

The truth is no one can really predict what will happen today. But in many ways we run out into this unknown wilderness on a daily basis completely naked and lacking the required safety gear. When I fail to prepare, I can even stir up my own unnecessary trouble – with people, with inanimate objects, with the bus pole for SMACKING INTO ME (the nerve of it!).

But God dresses us in “strength and dignity” (Proverbs 31:25), “power from on high” (Luke 24:49) and “humility toward one another” (1 Peter 5:5). We are encouraged to “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12) and to “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:14-15). We havefaith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet” (1 Thessalonians 5:8). None of these items cost a thing, they never go out of style, and they look fantastic, darling, on everyone. Why leave them on the hanger?

We might love our shoes and spend hard-earned dollars on trends, but in truth, it’s quite an unrequited love that doesn’t do much beyond a short-lived pick-me-up. It might merit a cheap wolf-whistle or a compliment, but it doesn’t provide true purpose in a day, energy to face difficult tasks, or deep peace in the heart. And perhaps these are the things we need the most.

For; “Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen colour and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met” (Matthew 6:27-33, The Message).

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