Part Three: Diving In! Continued…

August 29, 2008 at 6:26 am (Articles, Godly Living, Modesty) (, , , , , , , )

This is the second half of an article on swimwear within the series on Situational Modesty. To view the first half, click here.

Of Swimsuits and Glory

So, in a practical sense, how does a swimsuit glorify my body rather than God? Or, put another way, what potential problems are there with modern swimwear? I’ll address this in a list (not a list of rules, but things to think about).

  • Swimsuits are almost always skin-tight. No matter how much skin they cover, they tend to show every curve, every crease. In some cases this can be even more provocative than blatant nakedness since the sleek fabric reveals the form of your body without any skin imperfections.
  • Typically, swimsuits show a lot of skin, even one-pieces.
  • Swimsuits are usually low-cut, showing cleavage or hints of it, as well as a lot of skin in the chest and back area.
  • Many girls have to adjust the straps, bottoms, or neck line of even “modest” swimsuits because of their tendency to hike, crawl, and cling, and this draws attention to the areas you’re trying to keep covered.
  • Sometimes even “modest” swimsuits will end up revealing more than you bargained for—wear typical swimwear on a cool day and you could be flirting with disaster.
  • Often times, because swimsuits do not measure up to our day-to-day standards, we end up wearing them with a mind to show off our bodies and get attention—even if our swimsuit is the most “modest” one on the market. (Remember how I selfishly looked forward to wearing my high-necked one-piece and shorts because it was a chance for me to show off my body more than I usually could?)
  • We girls have this nasty habit of comparing ourselves with one another and competing with one another—swimsuits only spur this on because they highlight our bodies, making the pool deck a stage for a beauty (or “sexy”) competition.
  • Swimsuits send a message to those around us about our character. Wearing a flattering, stylish swimsuit with little regard for your brothers in Christ tells others that you are either oblivious or care more about your own reputation than your brother’s purity. In contrast, taking even baby steps to cover up your body out of deference to your brothers, love for your (future) husband, and for the glory of God will show that you care and will gain you respect and gratitude.
  • In general, swimsuits are no better than wearing underwear (two-piece = bra and panties, or undershirt and panties; one-piece = leotard, or corset with straps). In some cases (as with bikinis), underwear would be more modest! I actually saw a girl wearing cotton underwear and a matching cotton cami-style sports bra while swimming at the lake! Interestingly, she was more modest in her underwear than a lot of professing Christian girls are when they go to the beach. My sisters, this simply should not be the case! In the context of this series on situational modesty, based on your own standards for dress, would you ever wear underwear in public? No, you’d be ashamed to! (Hey, now we’ve come full-circle!)
  • In almost every situation, Christian girls compromise their day-to-day standards when they put on a swimsuit. Consider these questions: Would you wear underwear in public? Would you wear skin-tight tops in public? If you wouldn’t wear skirts above the knee elsewhere, why would you wear them for swimming? If you wouldn’t bear your back elsewhere, why do it when you swim? If you wouldn’t wear skin-tight, short shorts for any other reason, why should you change your standards in order to swim (especially in light of the fact that men wear the same type of loose, long shorts that they always wear and swim just fine)? What inconsistencies do you see in your own practice?

Oh Brother!

Now that we’ve considered some of the problems that typical swimsuits cause in general, glorifying our bodies rather than God, let’s take a moment to consider the stumbling block they can be for our brothers in Christ. The following question will tie the last section with this one, and it is central to our discussion of situational modesty: Whatever the situation, is it possible to truly dress to the glory of God while creating stumbling blocks for our brothers? In other words, all excuses and situational justifications aside, are we truly modest and discreet when we wear something that causes a brother to stumble?

In God’s word, we see that He takes very seriously the issue of causing our fellow believers in Christ to stumble—we are to avoid it at all costs, even at the cost of our fashion, fame, or friends—and at the root of this is love. In light of the fact that we are to spur our brothers on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:23-25), we’d do well to carefully consider how we can avoid causing them to stumble and instead look for ways to promote their growth in godliness!

Let me take a moment to stress this fact: We are not to dress modestly to gain favor with God, nor out of duty or self-righteousness or fear. We are to dress modestly and discreetly out of love for God and love for our fellow believers, seeking God’s glory and our brothers’ good!

Now, with that established, I encourage you to check out the Modesty Survey and click on the “Swimsuits” section. Study the statistics and PLEASE take the time to read the comments that guys have left. As you will see from the survey, in general, godly guys do NOT want to see your cleavage, your midsection, your upper thighs, a lot of skin in general, or fabric stretched tightly across your body, showing every curve and fold of skin. I would suggest that, at a minimum, we seek to honor our brothers in these areas. If you do show your cleavage, if you do show your belly, if you do show a lot of leg, if you do show a lot of skin in general, or if you do show your form by wearing something skin-tight, then you are showing off your body at the expense of your brothers’ purity, preferring your own “comfort” or “practicality” or “popularity” or “fashion sense” to their walk with the Lord. Think about it ladies. Die to your own interests and look out for the interests of others. Let’s honor our God by honoring our brothers—men for whom Jesus died!

Consider the following scenario: A young man admires a young lady he knows from church because of her character and love for the Lord. He’s already interested in her, but fighting for purity of heart. At a pool party hosted by a family from church, she wears a “modest” swimsuit that meets her church’s dress code. She’s modest compared to a lot of Christian girls, but very immodest compared to her own everyday dress. The young man falls and falls hard because he sees the outline of her body and considerably more of her skin than he’s ever seen before. His imagination runs wild and the girl that had once been a pure interest and an encouragement has caused her brother (someone’s future husband) to stumble. I’ve asked for the opinion of Christian young men regarding this scenario, and I have found that this is not just a common occurrence—this is typical.

A number of young men, including my husband along with some family members and friends of ours from college, have asked with honest frustration, “Why don’t girls just wear T-shirts and modest shorts to swim in? That would just make everything easier for us!” These guys, like most, swim in shorts. “Why can’t girls do the same?” they ask. And these guys are even willing to wear T-shirts, too, out of fairness to girls. Why do they want both shorts and a T-shirt? Well, for many guys, chests are a big problem—the skin around them and the fabric stretched across them make a godly guy want to look away. So shorts alone won’t do. On the other hand, many guys, and many of the same guys for whom chests are a problem, will have a hard time with a girl who simply wears a dark colored T-shirt over a swimsuit. “It looks like she’s just wearing underwear with the shirt and it’s very suggestive.” Legs can be just as big of a stumbling block as the bust can. Thus, many guys would prefer for girls to just keep both their tops and bottoms covered with a dark colored shirt and shorts.

Granted, not every man shares this opinion, but many guys do. Unless you know exactly where each guy stands who will see you, do you really want to play at odds: “Only four out of ten guys will stumble at what I’m wearing”? And consider the fact that you’d be causing four out of ten guys of ALL ages to stumble. When we talk of tempting our brothers to stumble we usually think of the guys our own age. Lust doesn’t just “go away” in older men, and it starts very young in guys, disturbingly young—in many cases well before the pre-teen years. Jesus warned that whoever caused a little one to stumble might as well have a millstone hung around his neck (or hers) and be thrown into the sea (Matthew 18:6-10). Is your swimsuit going to be your millstone?

Considering all I’ve said in the past two sections, I want to make it clear that we must be careful not to label articles of clothing as “evil”. That misses the point. The point is to be discerning and to seek God’s glory. For example, can I say that bikinis are evil? No, but applying some basic discernment leads me to the conclusion that they (along with many other swimsuits) have no place in public—at least not on Christian girls. Legalism reacts and says bikinis are evil no matter what. Love and discernment respond with reason and say bikinis are not for public consumption, but they can be worn for the glory of God within the context of marriage! I hope that helps you to understand where I’m coming from.

Tips and Creative Obedience

We’ve laid quite the foundation now for determining how best to dress for the pool or beach. Some of you may be shocked at the effect your swimming attire has on your brothers. You may even be wondering if you should swim around them at all! That’s a good thing to discuss with your parents or husband.

Now, as far as getting creative…If you can find a swimsuit (or combination of swimsuit pieces) that is truly consistent with your convictions, great! If you can’t, then I encourage you, with the guidance and practical help of the authority God has placed over you, to seek to create your own swimsuit—tailor made to honor God, your father or husband and your brothers in Christ. Here are some tips when you think about doing your own thing:

  • Watch out for, well, “showing through” your swimsuit top! Wearing a padded bra underneath a T-shirt or whatever top you plan on wearing should take care of this—no matter the temperature outside or in the water!
  • Layer! If you have a nice top you like to swim in that isn’t tight (meaning it may not stay down on your torso), you can keep from exposing your midsection by either wearing a tucked-in camisole or one-piece swimsuit underneath.
  • Leggings or bike shorts are a great way to keep your legs covered when your shorts or skirt may ride up in the water. You can also loosely connect your skirt (or shorts) to the leggings with a loop of thread and a button—this will keep your thighs covered and keep the skirt from floating up when under water!
  • Shop thrift stores for lycra or other water-friendly fabric and colorful prints that you can use to make your own swimsuit that actually fits your convictions.

Here are a few examples of girls that have sought to be consistent with their convictions when in the water:

  • One of my college friends wears a bikini for her husband, but only for her husband. She wears long board shorts and a dark T-shirt to swim in public. She simply doesn’t want to show any more of her body in public—she doesn’t see why she should!
  • Another girl I know has standards that are more conservative than my own. She’s working on making her own swimsuit that includes a skirt, but also has leggings down to her ankles. I’m delighted to see that she’s seeking to honor the Lord by being consistent with what she and her family believe!
  • ModestSwimwearSolutions.comHere are some girls who made their own swimsuits because they didn’t want to compromise their convictions when they swam. They sell swimsuits, swimsuit kits, and patterns (though they’re not cheap)!
  • Abigail and I usually wear T-shirts and shorts. I wanted to come up with something more feminine than just a dark T-shirt and long gym shorts, so I recently bought two skirts at a thrift store, made of swimming-appropriate fabric, one black and one with a tropical floral design. I made the black one into a knee-length skirt that I wear with knee-length bike shorts underneath (covering to the knee being my personal standard). Then, I made the other flowery skirt into a top—it has cap sleeves, a boat neck, and blouses nicely. I wear a camisole underneath, tucked in to my skirt. My goal was to have a swimsuit that I would be comfortable wearing anywhere in public. My husband and I are really happy with the way this project has turned out!
  • Some girls I know are ok with sleeveless tops in their day-to-day dress, so they might wear a long, very conservative tankini swimsuit top and shorts or a skort that also meet their standards, or those of their family.

The results will be somewhat different for different girls and their families. The point here, however, is that wherever you do draw your lines for modest dress, you don’t have to compromise them when you swim. Be consistent! You’re free to pursue creative obedience as long as you are submitted to the authority God has placed over you, seeking to please your father or husband.

I hope you’ve been able to see the heart of this issue more than the specifics mentioned. To sum up, we should embrace the godly sense of shame that compels us to cover up, rejecting the world’s wisdom, so that we can dress to swim for the glory of God, being careful to guard our brother’s purity. And we should first and foremost seek to grow in love for our God and our brothers and sisters in Christ—the love that motivates careful obedience in this area (and in every other part of our lives, as well!).

Grace and Peace!

part one / part two / part three / part three cont’d / part four

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Part Three: Diving In!

August 28, 2008 at 2:39 pm (Articles, Godly Living, Modesty) (, , , , , , , )

I wrote in my previous post (part two) that my goal in these specifics that I am about to bring up is not to “lay down the law” as far as how we dress, but rather I intend to challenge you to think about what you wear in certain situations in light of your day-to-day standards of modesty, which should be based on God’s word (see part one) and be in submission to your God-given authority (father or husband).

So let’s dive right in to the first situation in which many girls are pressured to compromise their standards…swimming. Whether it’s at the beach or at a pool party with your church group or family friends, we need to be thinking about what we wear, seeking to glorify God in it. Now, some of you may not even believe in mixed swimming, and that’s fine—I encourage you to stand firm in that conviction, and I ask that you bear with me as I address the majority of Christians who don’t have a problem with mixed swimming. It’s been a challenge to know where to start since this is a potentially volatile subject, but after much careful consideration and consulting with my husband, I have decided to begin with my own journey…

My Own Story

At the age of 13 or 14 I was given parental permission and even encouragement to wear a two-piece swimsuit, so I went ahead and bought one. It wouldn’t quite qualify as a bikini—it was more like a sports bra with matching bottoms, so many would consider it fairly “modest”. I felt somewhat self-conscious wearing it at first, but my parents thought it was fine and as a result, so did I.

As I grew as a Christian, I began to question what I was doing, seeking to bring everything into submission to my Lord and Savior, so I eventually switched back to my high-necked one-piece swimsuit. I felt much more comfortable in it! And eventually I began wearing board shorts over it, covering some areas that were just a bit awkward to have exposed in public! This was an improvement (I didn’t feel so much like I was wearing underwear for all to see!), and I know the guys around me appreciated it, but I also recognized that even in a “modest” swimsuit, I was still eager to put it on and display my body—not all of my skin, so I was doing better than most—but I could still show off my form. Nevertheless, I continued to wear my one-piece with shorts. That is, until I found out there were other options…

One early summer day, at the end of my senior year of high school, my youth group had a get-together at our youth pastor’s house. They had a pool and, though none of us had come prepared to swim, we decided it would be a fun way to cool off. I ended up borrowing a darker colored T-shirt and some long gym shorts so I could swim. It was at this time that I realized I was the most comfortable when I was covered up! When I sat at the edge of the pool, I didn’t have to worry about my legs or rear being imprinted by the pebbled patio; I didn’t have to adjust my “bottoms” when I stood up; I didn’t have to put on nearly so much sunscreen; I didn’t have to worry about anything of my upper-half showing; and I didn’t have to worry about the inevitable fat rolls on my belly when I sat down. I was free from wondering what everyone else thought about my body—Was I skinny enough? Will they notice my “farmer’s tan”? Do they think I look as good as so-and-so over there? I was free to enjoy my time in the pool with the other girls, and I didn’t have to worry about any of the boys looking at me (whether I wanted them to or not). And the extra fabric, despite what I may have assumed, didn’t seem to slow me down in the water.

After that day, I never went back to a normal swimsuit. I’ve worn dark T-shirts and shorts for over five years now! At one point, when my family and I were preparing to go to the beach, they insisted I wear some kind of swimsuit (something that looked like it belonged on the beach, rather than standing out because it was “tacky”). This was a bit of a difficult situation. I told them I wanted to obey, but that my convictions were such that I would have a hard time going back to a swimsuit. I told them I wanted to find a surfer shirt made for swimming, and they said that would be fine. So I got in the car that day and headed off to a couple of stores, praying that I could find what I was looking for—the only thing that would be a good compromise between what I was most comfortable wearing and what my parents preferred. God answered my prayer and I came home with a made-for-swimming T-shirt that pleased my parents and fit my convictions! I praised the Lord for hearing me and graciously answering!

I share all of that to give you a bit of a background so that you know I’ve “been there, done that” as far as swimsuits are concerned. I’m not sitting here at my computer screaming at girls to cover up, assuming they all should know better. No, it’s not like that at all. There was a time I didn’t know any better. A time in which I flaunted my body and thought it was ok. A time in which I thought I was limited to what the world had to offer in the way of swimwear. But now I know we can do better. And we’re free to do better! Free to reject what our culture calls normal and free to create new options to the glory of God!

But before we get creative, let’s back up a little bit. Remember how we defined modesty as dressing and acting with a “sense of shame”? I want to take you back in time a few years (or in my case, over a decade) to our pre-teen days.

For Shame!

Back in 1997, I went to the end-of-the-year pool party for my sixth grade class. As an out-of-the-loop 12 year-old, I wore the same one-piece I’d worn since I was ten. My good friend and fellow outcast Tyra and I had a good time being, well, goofy girls, splashing in the pool by ourselves. Meanwhile, the more popular girls came giggling out from behind the side of the house. Some of them were already in their swimsuits—most sporting two-pieces of one kind or another. One girl, however, donned a pair of overall shorts over an apparently newly-purchased blue and yellow bikini. Her face was red with a sheepish grin.

By now the girls were in plain view for all to see. And by now the boys had paused their eating and talking about baseball to see what was about to unravel. With the encouragement and nudging of her friends, the bashful girl stepped forward and removed her overalls—and immediately wrapped her arms around her half-naked body! Why did she do this, especially considering the fact that she was already known as being fairly “loose” for a sixth grader?

Somewhere around the age of 12, most little girls become women. And most have some sense of shame about their newly forming bodies. This is natural! And perhaps God-given! A little girl learns almost overnight that she must take care to guard the treasure that has now been entrusted to her—she feels the eyes of people around her, some admiring her body, some more than admiring it, and some scrutinizing every square inch! Her natural reaction is to cover up.

Enter worldly wisdom, stage left. Perceiving a girl’s natural shame, her “more mature” peers and worldly psychologists alike encourage her to be “proud” of her body. Their wisdom would have girls “comfortable” with their bodies, with their sexuality—comfortable enough to flaunt it and eventually throw it away. The world tells us that as women we should take ownership of our bodies, be proud of them, and show them off without shame no matter what anyone else thinks, no matter what harm or discomfort it might cause others. This view is rooted in pride, selfishness, and sensuality. It shows no understanding of healthy, biblical shame, and it rejects a woman’s body as a special treasure created by God. Instead she is made an object and a tool—purportedly to be used for herself, but inevitably used by those around her.

The reality, however, is that most of us in America have bought into this way of thinking in one way or another. Some of us wear things that trip up many of our brothers, and we justify it by saying “It’s my body; I’m free to dress how I want,” or “They’re accountable for their thoughts,” or “I don’t feel convicted about that.” The truth is, we are responsible for our own actions, and if we “don’t feel convicted” about some of the immodest clothing we wear, it’s probably because we’ve bought into the world’s lies about our bodies and the attitude we should have toward them. We’ve allowed our conscience to be seared by the world’s proclamation of what is normal and good and right. Consider this passage in Philippians, chapter 3:

17 Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. 18 For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21 who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. (emphasis added)

So, those who are enemies of Christ, who set their minds on earthly things, glory in their shame. Their pride, their glory, is in the very things they ought to be ashamed of. When we set aside the natural shame that should lead us to cover our bodies, and instead “set our minds on earthly things” by buying into the world’s values of pride and self-promotion, we end up glorying in our shame. We boast in and show off what we ought to have covered up! Don’t you see that this has no place in a Christian’s life? In fact, a believer’s heart, in contrast, is set on things above and the day when we will see God’s glory and in which this temporary body, which Paul calls our “humble state” will be transformed into Christ’s likeness. Our bodies have been given to us to glorify God, not so that we can glorify our bodies (which would be equivalent to boasting in our shame). See 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 and Romans 12:1-2. The only time we are supposed to let down our guard is for the one man that God gives us to in marriage—the one man who is commanded to delight in our body as God has created us (Proverbs 5:18-19).

Have you lost the sense of shame you had in your pre- or early teen years? Let’s seek to “renew our minds” in God’s word and with applied wisdom so we will learn to be ashamed of revealing our body to anyone but our husband!

As we continue this discussion on modesty and swimwear in our next post, we’ll get into the specifics and practical application of sticking to our standards in this slippery situation!

part one / part two / part three / part three cont’d / part four

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Consulting with Father

August 27, 2008 at 5:11 am (Articles, Family, Friends & Ministry, Godly Living) (, , , , , , )

“Sometimes I feel a little bit envious of you,” my friend Tabby confessed. “You know so many people and have so many opportunities to serve the Lord.” My mouth dropped open. So many people and so many opportunities. Yeah. And I miss most of them. Those that I see overwhelm me and leave me feeling helpless, small and alone.

There’s a lot of things I keep to myself. Many simply aren’t fit for sharing or could be embarrassing for others, but when I’m feeling low or alone I call Tabby. And I ask her to pray. Even if I can’t tell her why. On the days when I’m fighting tears and I’m stranded in the middle of an ugly situation far from a phone, I send a quick cry to Father and I remember Tabby. She prays for me every day. Every day I know that she’s been talking to Father about me. And about the people I know. She’s asked me for a list of names and she faithfully cycles through them, praying for me and the people the Lord brings across my path.

“What do you pray for me?” I asked her. “Mostly just scriptures,” she answered, shrugging. “That the eyes of your heart would be enlightened, that you would run with endurance, that your love would abound still more and more, that you would approve the things which are excellent…” she went on, quoting beautiful passage after beautiful passage—God’s own words which she prays over me every day as she talks with our Father about me. My eyes widened as I listened, suddenly realizing just how blessed I am to have such a faithful friend—a faithful comrade at arms. She lives states away now. I see her every few months. But in the spiritual battle we’re waging, she’s got me covered.

If you think there’s no ministry for you at home, think again! Perhaps you’re like me, thinking, “I don’t even know what to pray for!” Paul prayed often for those he loved. Tabby has patterned herself after him, consulting daily with the Father. Here’s a few of the passages she uses:

For believers:

Matthew 5:13-16 To be light and salt of the earth…

Matthew 6:33 To seek first His kingdom…

Matthew 22:37 To love the Lord!

Romans 12:1-2 To present themselves to God…

Romans 13:14 To put on Jesus!

Romans 12:9-13 To have godly practices…

Ephesians 1:18-23 To know the hope of His calling…

Ephesians 5:7-10 To walk in the light and learn to please the Lord…

Ephesians 5:16-17 To walk carefully, redeeming the time…

Ephesians 6:13-17 To put on the armor of God…

Philippians 2:3-5 To do nothing from selfishness…

Philippians 3:14 To press on toward the goal…

Philippians 4:5 To have a gentle spirit

Philippians 4:6-7 Peace!

Philippians 4:8 To have pure thoughts…

Colossians 1:9-12 To walk in a manner worthy of the Lord…

Colossians 3:2 To set their minds on things above…

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 To rejoice always…

2 Thessalonians 3:5 To direct their hearts into the love of God…

1 Timothy 4:12 To be examples…

2 Timothy 2:21 To be vessels of honor…

2 Timothy 2:22 To flee youthful lusts and pursue righteousness…

Hebrews 12:1-3 To run the race with endurance…

2 Peter 1:5-9 To gain these qualities…

1 John 3:18 Not to love in word but in deed…

1 John 2:15 Not to love the world…

For unbelievers:

John 8:32 To be set free by the truth…

Romans 10:19 To confess and believe…

2 Timothy 2:26 To escape from the snare of the devil…

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A Hedge of Thorns

August 25, 2008 at 1:56 pm (Flowers of Thought) (, , , , , )

D-town is a town of trust. So many of the shops are so careless—it would be so easy to lift something. Strangely, the thought has entered my head on multiple occasions lately. Not actually to steal something, I don’t believe, since there’s no struggle or deliberation involved, but almost more of a shock at how easily I could pocket something and continue on my merry way. Only, I would be rather less than merry.

I remember the only time I ever took something from a store—it was a fake flower, lying forlornly on the cold, tile floor, and my four-year-old mind reasoned that it would never be missed or cared about. Surely the Hobby-Lobbyists would just sweep it up and throw it away anyway. So I rescued the poor blossom from an untimely demise. Mom discovered my heroic effort halfway out to the car, turned me around, marched me back inside and made me return the flower with an elaborate apology. Something like, “Sniffle…I’m sorry I took this…sniffle…it was on the floor…sniffle, sniffle…I’ll never do it again. SNORT.”

Why do I do what is right? Why do I shudder at the thought of taking something that is not mine? Is it a fear of punishment that keeps the thought spinning through my mind, polishing it like a stone in a tumbler, but never allowing it to hatch? Is it my conscience that would never allow me to enjoy something taken through deceit? Is it a fear of disappointing my parents? A horror of displeasing my Heavenly Father? All these facets are in place to keep me from sin—like a hedge of thorns around me, keeping me on a path of purity. It’s the same way with many sins—lying, sexual sins, sins of excess, rebellion. But how often I forget that these same hedges guard the pathway to keep me from secret sins? I trample my conscience, I push away fears of punishment from the One Who sees what is done in secret, and I indulge in sins that stain my heart—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life. I shrink in horror from breaking the commandments against lying, murdering, stealing and fornication and glibly go my way, trampling underfoot the two greatest commands: to love God first, and my neighbor as myself. Oh, that I would shrink from impurity of heart as quickly as I shudder at impurity of actions.

Lord, Thou art a perfect Master,
Which would seem a huge disaster,
Had Thou not been born of dust
So as to sympathize with us.

May my life not be a lie
As studied to please human eye
But lived in perfect purity
To bring delight to even Thee.

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Stop, Drop and Roll

August 22, 2008 at 10:34 am (Articles, Godly Living) (, , , , , , , , )

Imagine you are a little mouse in the home of the average American family, where two children sit coloring at the kitchen table. “You stole my pencil!” one exclaims. “I did not!” the other replies indignantly. “You stole it yourself!” You, the mouse, sits to the side, contentedly munching the missing pencil. Behold the epic tale of the false accusation.

The issue caught my attention the other day while browsing the Rebelution forum: What do you do when you’re on the receiving end of the accusation? Here’s my recommendation for becoming fireproof.

Stop before you answer. Think about the accusation to be sure it’s false–that there is no truth in it. Answer gently–not affirming the accusation, but also not denying it or if you feel you must deny it, deny it gently once. Don’t argue about it. Siblings are rarely persuaded through argument. Parents should be honored. Husbands should be respected. Proverbs says to leave the arguing to fools.

Drop to your knees and pray for wisdom, gentleness and forgiveness, insight into why the other person may have accused you, understanding of what they may currently be going through and for the truth to be made known. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood–pray that the Lord would do the battling and the debating for you.

Roll with the punches. Remind yourself that you may falsely accuse at times as well. Remind yourself that your relationship with this person is too valuable to risk harming by fighting. Remind yourself that God knows the truth and He will bring all truth to light eventually. If the person is angry, you won’t be able to reason with them anyway. Give them some time to think it over without irritating or increasing their anger. Shrug your shoulders, thinking of the bigger picture—eternity. How important is it really whether you stole the pencil or not?

Sometimes, at a later time, an opportune moment arises to discuss the issue–take it then and calmly express yourself, respectfully. Even siblings deserve respect and honor. But don’t force an issue and always give it time to cool! If it becomes an argument, bow out. So many misunderstandings resolve themselves when set on a shelf for a little while. Many false accusations are quickly proven to be false without a struggle. In fact, if you maintain an attitude of humility and gentleness, you’ll find that people are less likely to accuse you, more likely to listen to you and more likely to acquit you and come to your defense. For me, I find the root of my defenses usually lies in self-righteousness, pride and anger. King David had an excellent attitude toward false accusations, of which he found himself the frequent butt. “But I, like a deaf man, do not hear, and I am like a dumb man who does not open his mouth. Yes, I am like a man who does not hear, in whose mouth are no arguments. For I hope in Thee, O Yahweh, Thou wilt answer.” (Psalm 38:13-15) The Lord will vindicate the righteous. And He does so with much more finesse.

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Part Two: Getting Specific Without Being Legalistic

August 21, 2008 at 1:17 am (Articles, Godly Living, Modesty) (, , , , , , )

I had been planning to jump right into the situations in which girls tend to compromise their standards, but being as “tricky” a subject as this is, I’ve decided to make one more post before I get in over my head.

As the title of this post suggests, my goal in dealing with this issue of applying God’s principles for dress to our daily life (including special occasions or activities) is to get specific without being legalistic.

But is that even possible? I had to ask myself that question before I ever began to write this series. I want to tread very lightly on the issue of specifics when it comes to the way we dress. Legalism is a trap and a snare, bringing bondage and either self-condemnation or self-righteousness rather than freedom to enjoy the love and grace of God we’ve received through Christ (see Liberty and the Christian). I know, I’ve been there—I want nothing to do with legalism anymore!

That said, if we only talk in principle (“Be modest and discreet in attitude and dress!”) but don’t get specific (for example, “Dressing to show off your body is a wrong motive,” or “That shirt is rather revealing.”), then we probably end up preaching to the choir, only to hear a hearty “Amen!” from readers who go on wearing things that will trip up their brothers in Christ. I’ve seen it happen. Many a Christian young lady will take up the hip motto, “Modest is Hottest”, while sporting clothing that is hardly an improvement upon the world’s party scene. They look no different. They may not dress like prostitutes, which I guess makes them more modest than some, but they miss the practical application of modesty even though they enthusiastically support the principle.

So can you see how it is important to get specific? That’s really where discipleship and Titus 2 comes in: older women are to instruct the younger women. The best place to deal with specifics is in a discipleship relationship, where challenges can be made and advice offered in a loving way, seeking to build one another up. I’m not much older than most of you—I’m younger than several, to be sure!—but God has convicted me concerning the way I’ve dressed in the past, and He’s given me a desire to communicate the wisdom I’ve gained in this area to help girls make wise decisions in regard to the way they dress—and to do it for the glory of God. So just imagine that I’m a (slightly) older sister in the Lord, who cares deeply about you and your walk with Him (which I do!), and take what I say as loving counsel (which it is) rather than condemnation (which it certainly is not!).

I have been hesitant to begin discussing the specifics because I know that inevitably some will be offended. I pray that this would not be the case, and that is why I have made this post first—so that you know that my intention is not to condemn anyone, nor to set up a standard for you to follow (that’s why I dealt with the Scripture in my last post and asked you to set your own standards based on what God has clearly commanded). My intention is to make you think about things in a way that perhaps you have not considered up to this point; to make you evaluate the way you dress in certain situations, and to challenge you to be consistent with what you believe, no matter the circumstances. That is the heart of this discussion on situational modesty.

So please, take to heart what I have to say in these next few articles, really considering what I share before reacting to it. I ask you to be “quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger,” and remember that “fools despise wisdom and instruction” (James 1:19, Proverbs 1:7). After you have considered what I have to say, please feel free to comment, sharing your thoughts or calling me to account if I have been in the wrong. I will seek to write in such a way as to give grace to those who read (Eph. 4:29), so please take it as such and be gracious in return. Thank you, ladies! I love you in Christ!
part one / part two / part three / part three cont’d / part four

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Beheading Ye Olde Beast

August 20, 2008 at 10:08 am (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living) (, , , , , )

Brilliant sunshine streams down on the sparkling helmet of the valiant warrior, decked in armor, sword drawn, advancing along the dangerous pathway. But if you’re a warrior like me, you’ve discovered that the most dangerous dragons rear their heads somewhere underneath the breastplate of Christ’s righteousness…somewhere deep down inside your heart. All too often I find the monster Pride residing there. And I wave scriptures at it, like “Have this attitude in yourselves which was in Christ Jesus!” and “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble!” Blinking, it snickers, and the billowing smoke from its nostrils sends me coughing and wheezing and tumbling backward. If you’re like me, you know you’re often guilty of feeding that dragon instead of destroying him, but as the dragon of pride grows, he will destroy you!

The secret to ousting the beast is simple, but painful. After all, destroying a dragon who resides in my heart feels about akin to chopping my own head off.

Espy ye opportunities for humbling and give hearty chase.

A friend once shared this astonishing piece of advice with me. I find it goes completely opposite of my nature—I want to take every opportunity to make myself look as good as possible. Instead, discipline yourself to share your weaknesses, your struggles, your failures. Be vulnerable. Be honest. Tell embarrassing stories on yourself. Laugh when you do something stupid or awkward. Take opportunities to try something new—even if you might fail. Paul discovered his thorn in the flesh was given to him to keep him humble because God is glorified through weakness. Glory in your weakness so that God may be shown strong.

Serve ye others.

Jesus said, “The greatest among you must become the servant of all.” He didn’t come to be served, but to serve and we are to have His attitude of humility. Don’t look out for your own interests, but for the interests of others. Be willing to vanish from the spotlight and work backstage. Stoop, take up the basin and towel and wash the feet of the Lord’s people.

Make use of thy shield to deflect ye praise.

Invariably it comes—praise. And the one giving the praise is doing well. For you, each shaft of praise my be a dart of poison, shot from the dragon’s mouth. Send those shafts somewhere else! “The Lord has blessed me with good teachers.” “My parents have worked hard to train me this way.” “The Lord’s been working on me a long time about that—I’m thrilled if some of it is finally sticking.” “I hope the Lord is pleased.” “My brother built most of it.” “It was my sister’s idea.” “My dad suggested I try this.” “You should hear my friend play!” So, the credit is no longer yours? Good. The Lord says those who seek praise on earth have their reward in full, but your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

Keep company with ye lowly.

Jesus set the example for us by hanging out with the lowly of His day. For me there are certain people I’d rather not be seen with—they say embarrassing things or act immaturely or wear weird styles or simply need to take a shower. Essentially, they are about three pegs below me on the social ladder. They make me look bad. The Lord spoke through Isaiah saying, “I dwell in a high and holy place and also with the lowly and contrite or spirit.” Do I want to be where the Lord is? I can’t attain His high and holy place no matter how hard I try, but I can hang out with the lowly.

The scriptural promise is manifold—the proud will be brought low. But to those who choose to be lowly, the Lord will say, “Come up here and sit by Me.” And I find the given grace is two-fold: not only does God extend grace to us, but He lends graciousness. If you’re already lowly of spirit, nothing can humiliate you. Do you have a nasty habit of walking into doorways? Your laugh saves you from ridicule. Are you teased about being so short? Your trampled pride will not become irate. Has no one noticed your splendid accomplishment? Well, really, it was the Lord’s work. Nothing will offend you. Why should you be offended?

Ah, but that dragon hates to be humiliated. He hates to be annoyed. He hates serving others and spending time with those “below” him. With a huff and a puff, he’ll walk right out of your heart to find a more comfortable nest.

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True Religion

August 19, 2008 at 10:17 am (A Slice of Life, Vignettes) (, , , )

When Nathaniel went to Tulsa last summer to “prepare a place” for me to join him when we were married, he moved in next door to a woman named Evelyn who had lost her husband of 57 years just one week earlier.  Nathaniel was able to help her and pray with her during that first month or so of grieving.  She took him in as if he were her own son. 

 

Once we were married and I joined Nathaniel in our new home, I got to know Evelyn, and she quickly adopted me as well.  Being a new wife in a new city knowing only one family within 100 miles, this lovely widow and I became fast friends.  We’d go for walks on our street, clip coupons and go on lunch dates every once in a while, or just sit in her living room and watch the birds fly around outside.  God’s timing in placing us next door to Evelyn was amazing—she had just lost her husband, and I had just gained mine.  She treasured my joy and excitement being newly married, and I had the opportunity to learn from her experience.  We encouraged each other in the Lord.

 

Hanging out with a 78 year-old was new territory for me.  At college I spent most of my days surrounded by people my age.  I’d been thinking about the verse in James that says “True and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this:  to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”  I realized that most of my Christian life had been focused on avoiding the stains of the world, and that I’d pretty nearly neglected the part about caring for those in need. I suppose God decided it was time for me to learn to love—to catch a glimpse of what it’s like to practice true religion—so He put me next door to a needy widow!  It amazed me how much it meant to her that I would come and visit her every few days.  On more than one occasion I got to hold her hand while she cried.  She would repeatedly tell me that the Lord Jesus was the only one keeping her going since her husband died.  And she told me she didn’t know where she’d be without friends like Nathaniel and I.  Indeed, I’d been missing out on real joy and real love when I was in college just doing my thing, having good, clean fun with my Christian friends.  God has taught me so much through Evelyn. 

 

Eight months or so after I’d gotten to know Evelyn, her health took a turn for the worse.  She couldn’t manage her home by herself, and so her family moved her to a nursing home, where she’s been for about 4 months now.  When she got into the nursing home, she was capable of dressing and feeding and cleaning herself.  She was perfectly autonomous—she only needed supervision so that someone could help her in case she fell.  I’ve continued to visit her frequently, and it’s been a great blessing.  But it’s also been hard to see.  She has gradually lost all the abilities she had when she moved in to the nursing home.  Her eyesight is failing, she can no longer walk nor feed nor dress herself.  She has trusted in Jesus all this time, and has had a remarkably cheerful attitude.  There are times she’s prayed for me and brought tears to my eyes.  But physically, she’s slowly slipping away. 

 

I was out of town last week and had promised to bring her crayons and some coloring and puzzle books.  I only wish I’d gotten them to her sooner—last week she could have used them.  Today she tried, and it was a struggle.  She lacks the strength and dexterity needed to color or write.  I fed her oatmeal this morning, as well as held her glass of milk up to her face so that she could sip it through the straw.  I thought to myself that this must be good practice for whenever I have children one day.  Sadly, this is what happens as we grow old.  We’re humbled to the point of needing people to care for our most basic needs since we can no longer do it ourselves.  We end up as helpless as a baby—and most end up about as cranky.  Evelyn has been a good example in all of this by keeping her hope fixed on Christ, trusting in Him no matter how hard things get, no matter how much her body aches.  She longs to go home to her Savior and see her husband again.  She’s been gloomy lately, but never without hope.  And the time I spend with her is precious. 

 

Evelyn considers me her best friend.  I can’t express what that means to me.  She says I’m the best friend she’s ever had.  I’m a foolish, distracted little girl with a severe lack of initiative, but God has stretched me in this past year to be faithful in a few things—faithful to my husband and to making a pleasant home for him, and to this beautiful widow and to making her final stretch toward home a more pleasant one.  I can regretfully say I have been ignorant of true love and true religion up until this past year—godly living is so much more than avoiding sin.  But I rejoice that God has put Evelyn in my life, to show me what it’s like to be a faithful friend in any season of life, being a help to the helpless, and to finally practice and experience what my God calls “true religion”.  Soli Deo Gloria!

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A Review for Chosen Brides

August 18, 2008 at 7:48 pm (The Book Shelf) (, , , , )

His Chosen Bride by Jennifer Lamp (now Neef)

Book Type: Teen/young woman, singleness/relationships, godly living

Rating: 10 out of 10

Recommended? Especially for single girls, age 13 and up

Overview:

At the time of this writing, Jennifer was a single lady approaching thirty, living with her parents and sister and serving women through a ministry called Grace Works. A short time later she began serving a family who had just lost the mother to cancer and wound up stepping in as a new mother and wife—marrying an entire family! In her book Jennifer speaks as a friend, exhorting young women to seize the season of singleness to serve the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:34). She leads through an in-depth look at the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31, unveiling the beauty of character and devotion and challenging single women to live out these qualities to delight their Divine Bridegroom.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly:

Nothing offensive, requiring “maturity” or parental caution. Of course, if you’re like me, you might have preferred something other than a pink cover. 😉

Praises:

Through her humble and friendly style, Jennifer proves herself to be teaching only what she has striven to master. So much more than pat answers, scripture slinging or lofty observations, this book is chock-full of practical advice for applying scripture, inspiring examples of women who have been “His chosen bride” and thought-provoking questions for further study and personal evaluation.

Concerns:

Why would I be concerned about a book that refocuses our hearts on our Divine Lover?

Tips for getting the most out of this book:

Grab your Bible, a pen and a notebook and study the scriptures, scribble evaluations and get involved. There are plenty of activities! When you come to a tough spot, stop and work on implementing what you’re learning. Be sure to check out some of Jennifer’s suggested resources. Challenge yourself to practice the character of the Proverbs 31 woman, diligently working because she “fears the Lord.” Don’t forget, a bride spends time just being with her groom, as well as busily serving Him.

Visit Grace Works

Buy the Book from Amazon

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Pearls and Diamonds on Facebook

August 15, 2008 at 6:21 am (Announcements) (, , , , , )

Are you a social networker? Do you have facebook?

Guess what! So do we!

Click on the link below to join us on facebook!

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Part One: Setting Standards and Sticking with Them

August 14, 2008 at 6:04 am (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living, Modesty) (, , , , , , )

Posted by Lauren

In our last article on this very touchy issue of modesty, we discussed the importance of keeping covered in church—both as an act of humility before God and in order to safeguard our brothers in Christ.

Undoubtedly, most of us dress differently throughout the week than we do on a Sunday morning. And this isn’t wrong—so long as we’re still dressed modestly and femininely (by “femininely” I do not mean “dresses and skirts only”. See comments on Deut. 22:5 below.) The issue of situational modesty is related to situational ethics—that our standard of what is right and what is wrong changes depending upon what situation we find ourselves in.

As believers in Christ, we know that God’s standards of right and wrong never change. A lie is a lie is a lie—no matter how “white” it may be. If we deal honestly with the Scriptures, we know that we can never justify our sin by using our situation as an excuse—we are accountable to God for our own actions.

So what about the practical application of modesty? Do we really seek to be modest and discreet 24/7, or do we compromise our personal or family standards when we attend certain events?

Eventually I’d like to address specific events and situations in which Christian girls are frequently called upon to compromise their modesty, but for now let’s just take a closer look at the clear commands in Scripture by which we are to set standards for ourselves.

Deuteronomy 22:5 “A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God.”

Clearly, God doesn’t want us to dress like men. This does not teach, however, that skirts and dresses are the only way to achieve that goal, especially since both men and women wore robes at this time in history. It just means that their robes were distinct from one another.

1 Timothy 2:9-10 9 Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments; 10 but rather by means of good works, as befits women making a claim to godliness.

Proper clothing—when was the last time you put something on and asked, Is this proper or fitting for a woman of God to wear? “Proper” may also denote an orderly rather than slovenly appearance.

Modestly—the word really carries the meaning “sense of shame”. This is not to say that a woman should be ashamed of how God has made her, but rather that she has something of value to hide. Modesty is really an attitude of humility that says, “It would be shameful for me to draw attention to myself. What I have, I will keep hidden for the man God has chosen for me. I would be ashamed to do otherwise.” This kind of shame is not at all linked to insecurity—instead it shows great confidence and trust in the Lord. Another thought: “Modest is hottest” is a popular slogan among Christian girls today, but does it reflect a godly attitude? Does it make much sense when we think about the fact that a truly modest girl isn’t trying to be “hot”?

Discreetly—to be discreet is to be discerning and self-controlled. This is more closely related to the way we use the term “modesty” today. To be self-controlled when it comes to outward appearance means that we do not allow the world to sway us, telling us what to wear and how to act. Instead, we determine to honor God in the way we dress and set standards for ourselves in order to protect our brothers—and we don’t compromise those standards. We are self-controlled enough to stand firm. This understanding is foundational to breaking free from the trap of situational modesty.

Braided hair—most scholars agree that this is not talking about braids as we think of them today. It is better understood to mean elaborate hairdos that attract attention. These should be avoided as they do not reflect a modest heart.

Gold or pearls—similarly, we should avoid extravagant jewelry. Keep it simple. Don’t try to look like a rich, old lady. Jewelry can be a great way to look feminine, but don’t wear jewelry that gets attention or that makes you look wealthy, upper-class, or like a celebrity.

Costly garments—again, we are not to dress to impress. The emphasis is not just on how much you paid for something, though that is important to consider. What this really means is that we should not try to “look like a million bucks.” Does your appearance tell others that you’re willing to fork over a lot of money to look a certain way? Does it tell others that you are trying to look “higher class” than them? We are to be dignified, but never ritzy. Perhaps this should be our attitude: “I’d rather nicely dress down so as not to alienate or discourage my sisters in Christ who are unable to dress up. I have the freedom to dress up, but I will limit myself so that I can reach and serve the poor.”

But rather by means of good works—so, instead of trying to look fancy and wealthy, we are to focus on adorning ourselves with good works. The heart of a godly woman is that of a servant. This is far more important than any form of outward adornment. A good question to ask is this: Am I willing and ready to serve? Does what I wear prevent me from serving others? If we have our hair perfectly set and wear costly garments and a bunch of bling, odds are we aren’t interested in serving—after all, we might mess up our hair and dirty our pretty dress or break a nail, or we might sweat and get our pretty jewelry all grungy, or scuff up our fancy shoes. Do you see how Paul’s discussion of what we are to avoid is naturally in opposition to good works? That is why he transitions using the phrase “but rather.” It’s difficult to be a true servant, dedicated to good works, when you are extravagant in your dress and invest much time and money in it. Let your reputation be based on what you do, not on what you wear (see 1 Timothy 5:9-10 for the kind of reputation we should pursue).

1 Peter 3:3-5 3 And let not your adornment be merely external– braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4 but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands.

This passage parallels the 1 Timothy passage above. Peter has the same warnings as Paul, and he contrasts them with both the heart and lifestyle of a godly woman.

Gentle and quiet spirit—we are to be gentle rather than harsh, and our spirit is to be quiet or tranquil. This really means that we are not easily moved, that circumstances do not phase us. The godly woman has such a spirit of trust and confidence in her God, that she is not easily shaken nor offended. And this is an imperishable quality—one that God highly values!

Submissive—from this passage we see that a gentle and quiet spirit on the inside results in a lifestyle of submission on the outside. The godly woman is too interested in honoring her Lord by honoring her man to be preoccupied with having an extravagant appearance.

Those are the three main passages that contain commands concerning women’s dress. There’s a lot there to think about! The beauty of these passages is that they address both the outward physical appearance as well as the heart and character of a woman who follows Jesus Christ. That fact in itself is very telling: we cannot separate the heart and character from the outward appearance. We can’t say, “It’s the heart that matters” and then neglect the practical commands that apply to what’s on the outside. Nor can we dress “by the book” and think we have done well without cultivating true Christian character.

I challenge you to consider your standards in light of these passages and their implications. Talk with your parents or husband about them. Determine what practical guidelines you will set for yourself so as to obey both the letter and spirit of these commands. And then be thinking about the questions I raised earlier: Do you compromise your personal or family standards when you attend certain events or participate in certain activities? In the next couple of modesty articles, we’ll focus on several of the most common situations in which compromise has become the norm.

part one / part two / part three / part three cont’d / part four

Scripture taken from the New American Standard Version of the Bible. Terms are defined with the help of Strong’s concordance and Greek dictionary.

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She who has ears, let her plug them!

August 12, 2008 at 10:40 am (A Slice of Life, Attitudes, Godly Living, Marriage, Submission) (, , , , )

It was a hot morning in early summer. I planned to mow the lawn that day and my dear husband, before he left for work, reminded me that I should wear earplugs to protect my hearing.

Grumble…”Why is it such a big deal to wear earplugs? I mowed my parents’ lawn for years without wearing earplugs! My dad never made me wear them.” This was not the first time we’d discussed this issue. Nathaniel had told me before that I should wear them, but I’d forgotten to do it the last time I’d worked in the yard. He patiently reminded me of the statistics, how a lawnmower was loud enough to damage your eardrum and potentially cause hearing loss as you grow older. He even showed me a chart on the internet based on scientific research. He was right! And still I grumbled on the inside.

So, an hour or so later, after Nathaniel had left for work and I had gone out to the garage to get the mower ready, I remembered that I should wear earplugs. I am a submissive wife, after all, I thought. So, with a sigh of resentful resignation, I obediently went back inside to get them.

As I mowed the lawn that day, I began to realize that I hadn’t been submissive at all. I asked myself the same question that I’d asked Nathaniel earlier: “Why is it such a big deal to wear earplugs?” I had made it a big deal by refusing to respond with joyful obedience. And when I finally did “obey”, it was only out of duty and not out of love for God or my husband. But, as is true in many cases, when we choose to obey even when our heart isn’t in it, God works in our hearts to change our attitudes. And He sure did in this situation. I had allowed my stubborn heart to rob me of joy–I’d been resentful and complaining in my heart all morning, leaving no room for rejoicing. When I let go of my foolish resentment, I began to see that my husband loved me and was looking out for me by insisting that I protect my ears. And he was patient with me when I was so mule-headed about it all! And I realized that my heavenly Father loved me enough to give me a husband as my head (and a quite wonderful one at that!) to lead me and protect me.

So what had been a spot of contention became a cause for joy and gratitude. I was humbled to realize that I am not nearly so submissive as I had imagined. I’ve taught others about what the Bible says concerning the relationship between husband and wife, and parents and children, and I thought somehow I had “mastered” submission. But none of us has truly “arrived”. I’m sure I will be growing in this area for the rest of my life!

I’m thankful to have come away from this experience with a better grasp of what it really looks like to honor the Lord by honoring my man: True submission is an attitude of the heart which results in outward respect and obedience. To think I do well by “dutifully” obeying is to miss the joy of true obedience and surrender to my God. And I will always have room for growth in this area–I’ve come to enjoy wearing earplugs to the glory of God, but who knows what other little issue will come up next to test me? It’s only a matter of time. By God’s grace, I hope to learn more quickly in the future! 🙂

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Understanding “No”

August 11, 2008 at 6:17 am (Flowers of Thought) (, , , , )

I cried myself to sleep the other night and woke up feeling like I’d been hit by a train. Slowly I opened my eyes to discover they were not swollen, and then climbed out of bed to fix an early breakfast. As I worked, the thought came to me: No is not a punishment. The force of this simple statement hit me with the power of a speeding locomotive. No is not a punishment. It’s not a divine spanking when the Lord says “no”. It’s not something to be dreaded. His plans always work out—for the good of those who love Him. For Him to answer my prayers with a “no” should not cause me tears, it should not disturb me or make me miserable. It should bring me peace, knowing that the Lord has heard and answered. And whatever He has is better. Don’t say it tritely. Really listen. I thought what I wanted was good. The Lord said, “No, I’ve got something better in mind. Because you are called according to My purpose.” Where is my cause for sorrow? Where is my excuse for depression? Where is my reason for pitying myself? When the Lord says “no” it is not a punishment, just a redirection. He’s simply blocking me off from the wrong direction and heading me in the right direction again.

Chains fell off my heart and mind. For the first time in a long time I felt completely freed of a burden that had been growing heavier and heavier. Anything to which the Lord says “no” is simply not what He has for me now, and I can accept that joyfully as His loving protection. The rest of the day I floated around on the joy of knowing I am a daughter of the King and my heart is like water in His hands, to turn wherever He wishes.

Later, I passed a picture of a much younger Abigail, reposing placidly on the bookshelf in the library. “Little girl,” I sought to advise the innocent-eyed child. “Life is hard. Living is dangerous. Loving is risky. The only true reward is in the Lord. Pursue Him.”

Lord, may I ever, always be
Content to know Thy will for me.
And when I know Thy will in full
Pursue it gladly, heart and soul.

And when Thy will seems distant still
Remind me, waiting, is Thy will.
And when Thy will is dim or worse
Remind me to pursue Thee first.

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Tithing Chicken Salad

August 9, 2008 at 9:20 am (Counter Culture) (, , , , )

Ingredients:

Cooked chicken breast

Mayonnaise

Onion salt

Garlic powder

Dried dill weed

Cumin

Directions:

Chop the cooked chicken breast and put in a bowl. Stir in enough mayonnaise to make moist. Season to taste with onion salt, garlic powder, dill weed and cumin. Don’t neglect the weighter parts of the law–like compassion. 😉 Forgive the lack of measurements–Abigail rarely measures when she cooks. Serve with a salad, on a bed of lettuce, as a sandwich or in pita pockets.

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Perceiving a Knight in a Windmill

August 7, 2008 at 12:08 pm (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living) (, , )

He doesn’t always appear to be a knight in shining armor. To put it bluntly, he not only has moments of unknightliness, but whole hours, days or weeks. Or months or years. In fact, he’s never really been your knight in shining armor. Maybe he more resembles one of those squeaky awkward windmills that only Don Quixote could confuse for a giant.

That’s your man: a squeaky windmill.

The more you think about just how squeaky he is the more bitter you will become. The more bitter your heart is, the more harsh and disrespectful words will spill out of your mouth. The more you tear your man down, the more squeaky he will seem.

How many women wouldn’t kill for a chance to remake their man? There’s a simple secret and it starts in your mind. Paul puts it this way, “Let the woman see to it that she respect her man (Eph. 5:33).”* Make respect a top priority. In her book, “For Women Only”, Shaunti Feldhahn explains how men equate respect with love. You can’t lovingly humiliate your man. You can’t lovingly nag him. You can’t lovingly embarrass him. Lovingly you bear with him, believe in him, hope in him, patiently wait on him and you seek for ways to build him up. Men might appear to be tough and self-sufficient, but they need a lot of affirmation from their women. Ever heard the saying, “Behind every successful man stands a woman”?

So, he has faults. Could he have worse ones? Start by keeping your mouth closed on the issues that irritate you. Proverbs says “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers a multitude of sins (Prov. 10:12).” Before others, honor your man. In private, honor your man. Next, make an effort to note the things he does well. So, he’s a squeaky windmill? At least a windmill can pump water. Take pride in telling others what he’s good at. What you admire. What you appreciate. Don’t hesitate to tell him, too. Pay attention to his desires, his wishes, his preferences and make them your priorities. Maybe others perceive him as worse than a windmill? To them he might even seem an ogre at times. Defend him! Buckle on your armor and go to battle for the sake of his honor.

My father has often been accused of being over-protective in a society where independence is worshipped. He’s as misunderstood today as Noah was thousands of years ago. My answer to those who complain? “Look, I have a father. That’s a rare blessing. I have a father who cares what I do, where I go, with whom I spend my time. I have a father who loves me. And in a time where the godless increase, he has raised four children to love the Lord. You do better, if you can. In the meantime you might do well to learn from him.”  Of course, I try to say it gently.

I’ve found that respecting and defending my father has fascinating results. I may emerge weary from the fray (after all, it’s a spiritual battle going on here), but I run home eager to see my father, eager to embrace him, to see his smile. Perhaps he’s not perfect. But he’s mine. The more highly I speak of him, the more highly I think of him. The more highly I think of him, the more the praises gush forth. Before my eyes he morphs from a squeaky windmill into a studly knight. Why? Because I chose to shift my perception of him. Next thing I know, others begin to speak highly of him as well. Their perception of him mirrors my own. As for my father and I, we bond because he knows he can trust me to conceal his faults, not to embarrass him, but to honor him. With me he no longer need keep his rusted visor up, but he can take off his helmet and give it to me to polish.

And ladies, that’s not all. When you choose to respect your man, others perception of you grows. You’re no longer a mill girl ranting and raving about a squeaky windmill—you’re a lady at the side of a respected knight. Those who respect others will be respected. Those who tear down others…well, others will be eager to return the favor.

Go ahead—take the risk. Be willing to overlook his faults. Be eager to search out his strengths. Be quick to perceive him as worthy of respect. Be ready to defend him when his back is turned. Maybe your man really is a knight after all and just needs you to polish his armor.

*In the Greek language, there is no specific word for “husband” or “wife”—the context shows us whether the word “woman” or “man” is possessive. When I speak of your man, I mean the man you live with—be it father, brother, husband or a guardian. Your man is given to you by God as your head and deserves your respect—even if he’s not acting like a man.


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