The Best Person for Me to Laugh at is… ME!

“The very essence of grace is to receive the gift of laughter – especially when the joke is on us.” (William Willimon)

Episode 3 = Dressing for Important Occasions

If you were like me, your dress code during 2020 was decidedly more casual than any other year. Those of you who have seen me realize that I have taken the modeling of t-shirts, gym shorts, and sweat pants to a whole new art form. It’s as if I’m perpetually under-dressed or always misunderstanding the dress code for the occasion. I wish I could say that was unique to last year, but that would be a blatant disregard for the truth!

Take 1982, for example… After my first year of seminary in Denver, I was invited to attend a retreat in my home state of Illinois that was organized by the Board of Ordained Ministry. I was being considered for my first important step toward becoming an Elder in the United Methodist Church. As I thought about what to pack for my flight to Chicago, I focused on the word RETREAT. Based upon the many youth retreats and summer camps I had attended, I settled on bringing t-shirts, shorts, jeans, and a flashlight (of course).

I drove my rental car to a suburban area I had never been to before and approached the distinguished-looking retreat center. When I opened the heavy wooden front door, I immediately realized I had misjudged this shindig. Men were wearing coats and ties, and women were wearing skirts or dresses. And then there was me in my shorts and white Stan Smith Adidas tennis shoes. As I considered how I could quietly exit stage right… I saw my home church pastor, who served on the board. When he saw me, his eyes became wider than I had ever seen, and the unspoken expression on his face seemed to say, “exactly what kind of a fool are you???”

Thankfully, God’s grace kicked into action over the next 24 hours. Pastor Jim decided not to kill me – my interview team was kind and understanding – and everyone seemed to find me naïve-yet-mildly-amusing. I was ultimately given a vote of affirmation to continue on my path toward ordination. And as the years have gone by, I’ve learned that the ultimate fashion tips come from the New Testament letter to the Colossians:
“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience… Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony… And be thankful.” (3:12-15)

2021 is finally here and the world is indeed excited! All of us will certainly want to dress appropriately and look our best. While I understand if you don’t ask me for any tangible fashion tips – I hope you will keep the biblical message in your minds and hearts: “Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

With Gratitude,

Dr. Mike Marshall, Associate Pastor of Leadership Development


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