Short-Cuts or Straight Paths?

July 9, 2010 at 5:21 pm (Articles, Attitudes, Family, Friends & Ministry, Godly Living, Submission, Vignettes) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

A guest post by Abigail’s dear mother, Marcia

Our caravan consisted of the largest U-Haul available, a pick up pulling a trailer, three other well-packed vehicles, and 7 people.  Estimated loading, departure, arrival times—every detail—had been carefully, thoughtfully planned by my orderly husband. Included in the glove compartment of each vehicle were printed directions to the final destination of that vehicle in case of accidental separation.  The plan:  upon arrival at the new town, the moving van and pick up would take their cargo to the new house.  As leader of the other three vehicles, I was to proceed to a friends’ house where we would all spend the night.  We all understood the plan.

Six hours later, as we neared the exit where the caravan was to separate, I remembered another way I had been taken by the realtor.  A brief wrestling with my thoughts and I decided, “Yes, I’ll take it!  It’s a better way- a short cut!”  Brushing off noble attempts by others in the caravan to convince me to turn right, I confidently turned left.  After all, I knew the short cut.  Obediently, the two other vehicles slowly followed their confident leader.  Within minutes my confidence began to falter. “Surely I should have come to the short cut by now,” I thought.  As I passed the city limit sign for the upcoming town the truth began to haunt me.  In the darkness I had clearly missed my turn. My only choice now was a third road… the long way.  Eight miles of very dark, unfamiliar, and dangerously windy blacktop for one foolish leader and her trusting followers.  A shameful and repentant wife awaited her husband’s return that night.

What was I thinking?  Why did I second guess the plan?  How could my way have been better than the well-planned and communicated, previously tested one of my husband?

The spiritual lesson is so obvious and simple: Follow the directions carefully laid out for me by my loving heavenly Father in His Word.  I cannot simple hit the rewind button and re-tape my daily decisions.  Trusting Him means following His plan the first time…without question, without regret.  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.  Do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”  Proverbs 3:5,6

Tonight, two and a half years later, I took my husband for a drive…back to the place where I made that rash and prideful decision.  This time I turned the right way and properly followed his old plan to the original destination.  Of course, it wasn’t quite the same, yet in a small way it eased my aching conscience.  My husband, along for a nice ride, had long since forgiven and forgotten my offense.

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Feminine, Feminist, Feminazi

June 9, 2010 at 8:24 pm (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

I visited a young ladies’ blog the other day. While skimming the sidebar, a chicklet caught my eye: the image was a young woman, dressed in a frilly blouse and a curly hairdo from the 19th century with a “charming smile” pasted on her face. Printed across the top were the words “This is what an anti-feminist looks like: Fear us!” I sat back in the leather desk chair and chewed on that simple statement for several minutes, my thoughts in a spiral.

I know the intent of the image is to prove ridiculous the accusations and fears of the militant liberals, but I’m afraid the label sometimes fits Christians: anti-feminist. Read: reactionary. How often do we react to feminism, even changing the label to variations such as “feminazi”, only to completely miss the point? The complaint about the error of “feminism” is that it is a reaction. So, why are we reacting to a reaction? Why are we complaining about the caricature drawn of us, when we are returning the favor? Are we in danger of becoming militant anti-reactionaries on the other end—militantly feminine, militantly anti-feminist, “feminazi” in our own right?

How many feminists do you know? To be honest, I have an aunt who would describe herself as a feminist. She’d have voted for Hilary Clinton. She would likely counsel women not to be in a hurry to marry or to have children as young as she did. I’m quite certain she’d support a pro-choice cause. She would encourage higher education (college) and pursuit of fulfillment (career) for women. I disagree with my aunt on many points of practice, but my aunt is not my enemy. I love her. In fact, she is quite possibly the most supportive member of my extended family. She has praised and encouraged my rather counter-cultural practices and even applauded me for work at a Crisis Pregnancy Clinic. Since visiting Nathaniel and Lauren last year, she’s developed a profound care and interest in Lauren, as well. You might find it interesting that I would consider my aunt to be very modest in her manner of dress. She’s also very wise with finances. She’s a devoted grandmother, has been happily married for over 40 years, is an excellent listener, a wonderful cook, a talented seamstress, takes good care of her home and is even interested in healthy, wholesome, natural eating. And she loves Jane Austen.

You might be surprised by how much you have in common with the average feminist.

The fact is that the feminists have some legitimate concerns. They are concerned about women being domineered by selfish men. They are concerned about women who are overworked, exhausted, unfulfilled and unhappy. They are concerned about women who have no respect for their minds or bodies. They are concerned about women who are unsure of their identity. They are concerned about women who dumbly, blindly, unthinkingly do whatever they are told just for the sake of tradition. Quite frankly, they are concerned about half of the curse that followed sin in the Garden of Eden. Yahweh told the woman, “Your man shall rule over you harshly.” And in their eagerness and enthusiasm to liberate women from this curse, they often bow down to the first half, “Your desire shall be to control and manipulate your man.” Feminists are not the enemy. They are the prisoners. “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, principalities and forces of darkness.” They have been taken captive, deceived, manipulated and mistakenly continue actimg out the curse–just like every lost person. What the feminist doesn’t know is this: in the crushing blow that He dealt to sin and death, Jesus liberated women. It is finished.

Through Christ’s liberation from sin and death, we are free to be all that God intended, and obedience to Him is the ultimate fulfillment for women. The feminists are concerned about women. They claim they want what’s best for women. Christ’s work offers that and His word enumerates it. When we respond to the charges of being “anti-woman”, let’s be wary of responding with personal opinion, nostalgic appeal, or tradition. “Feminine” is a shaky stronghold from which to fight. Let’s be wary of reacting to lies and simply focus on acting according to the truth. Christ holds the answer to the feminist argument. Let’s respond with the truth that liberates.

See, a mental image of Jane Austen or “traditional” femininity leaves room for much that is ungodly.

Gossip? Check. Silliness? Check. Laziness? Check. Wastefulness? Check. Self-absorption? Check. Discontent? Check. Flirtation? Check. Plenty of women are “feminine” without being godly.

I remember seeing another blog poster declaring something about “getting back to Biblical femininity” and scratching my head. Biblical femininity? In all my recollection, I couldn’t remember finding the word or any variation of it in scripture. Another time a young lady posted a picture of a pair of ruffled, pink, spike-healed shoes with the comment, “I love, love, love them! Aren’t they so adorable and feminine?” My thoughts were something more along the lines of frou-frou and impractical. And I actually chuckled at the “anti-feminist” picture, which lookedl to me, exactly like the pictures of young suffragettes in the 19th century. How did the image of a wild young woman in one century come to typify the “conservative” of another? Old-fashioned does not equal godly. Girly does not equal womanly. Traditional does not equal true. I’m not trying to attack femininity–or those who promote it. My concern is that we might inaccurately portray femininity as the standard of godliness and so find ourselves in an indefensible position. There’s nothing wrong with femininity. Feminine simply means womanly. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with being womanly. It’s just that the term is so ambiguous that it can hardly be held up as a legitimate argument for anything. Much of the time it’s an issue of personal taste. One young lady found a pair of pink heels to be feminine, while I thought they were silly and unattractive. There’s nothing wrong with appreciating femininity, with appreciating beauty, with appreciating nostalgia. There’s nothing wrong with liking to wear a flowy white dress and tuck daisies into your hair—as something that appeals to an individual woman. My concern is that we might inadvertently portray an our favorite image of femininity as an image of godliness.

But the Bible, the ultimate yardstick, tells us what God intends women to be: strong, wise, hard-workers, courageous, able to give an account for what they believe and practice, able to evaluate all that they hear, helping younger women, good managers, shrewd stewards, and well-satisfied to be women. (Check out Proverbs 31, 1st Timothy chapters 2 and 5, and Titus 2.) Does that resonate with femininity or feminism?

When the feminist is concerned about women who are weak, why would we hold up pictures of languid women, dressed in white muslin and doing fine-needle-point doilies? Let’s model for them the woman who is dressed in strength and dignity, who girds her arms with strength and makes her arms strong. When the feminist is concerned about daughters at home who are wasting their lives, bored, wandering aimlessly through the house and singing “Someday my prince will come”, why do we hold up pictures of damsels in distress and talk of how we dream of marrying someday and pine away because our biological clock is ticking? Let’s model for them that godliness that is accompanied by contentment, that the Lord has appointed a time for everything, and that serving the Lord in any situation is a joy and a delight. When the feminist is concerned about women being uneducated or ignorant, let’s take our cue and prove that God gave us a mind and commanded us to be innocent, yet shrewd. “Get wisdom” says Proverbs. Study of God’s word is greatly deepened by studying grammar, language, history and logic. When the feminist is concerned about women who must find their identity in a man, we should prove that our identity is safe with Christ. He is ours and we are His. In Christ we have everything pertaining to life and godliness. But Christ is no male chauvinist, as demonstrated by His sacrificial relationship with the church and this is His picture for marriages to be. Not domineering men and manipulative women, but unified couples. Let’s picture for the feminists, what God intends for marriage to be—another avenue for serving God and others. When the feminist is concerned about women who are frumpy on the one hand or obsessed with being beautiful on the other, let’s prove that the virtuous woman dresses in scarlet and purple and that she possesses a self-control which never fades. When the feminist is concerned that women are permitting themselves to be objectified by flaunting their bodies, let’s not respond in shame, but with reverence for our bodies, as temples of God. When the feminist is concerned that women are marginalized, let’s point out that women are unique and the Lord has uniquely gifted us to carry life. We recognized that women are indispensable to society. We are equal with men, yet different, and we don’t feel the need to compete. We certainly have a production edge when it comes to children—yet it’s not something we accomplish on our own. There’s nothing wrong with appreciating “femininity”, but let’s stop hurling “feminine” images and start modeling godly womanhood. Sometimes we can learn from our critics.

If we are upholding Biblical truths, we’ll be demonstrating that we have achieved with Christ what the feminist cannot without Him: we are happy, intelligent, fulfilled, strong, confident women. Happy because we rejoice in the Lord. Intelligent because we know what and why we believe, and the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Fulfilled, because we are doing what we were created to do and therefore are able to do it well. Strong, because the Lord is our strength and we are working out our salvation. Confident, because who is there to alarm us when God is our shield?

And isn’t that what the feminists want to see? If they are honestly looking for the best interests of women, your unapologetic obedience may lead them to Christ. There’s no call to go to battle against the feminists. There’s no call to set our goals up as opposite of theirs. Why react against a reaction? Our best defense is simply to live a purposeful, cheerful, godly lifestyle, to share the truth of Christ’s liberation by our words, to offer love and kindness to all, and to let the Lord prove that our lives, our talents, our minds and our hearts are not wasted or enslaved, but are full and free.

“When a man’s way is blameless, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” ~Proverbs 16:7

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Ending Is Beginning

December 29, 2009 at 6:42 pm (Family, Friends & Ministry, Godly Living, Vignettes) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

Yesterday, my Mom and I crept in late to the funeral of a woman we had never met. Actually, she was the mother-in-law of a friend, and we had come to show support to the family. In front of us a lady folded a handkerchief around her finger and dabbed at her eyes.

Several months ago, Marlene’s Doctor had told her she had the silent killer: cancer. He gave her only a few months to live, without treatment. “It’s okay,” she said. “It’s right.” Without a complaint, she accepted from the Lord that He was calling her home and refused any treatment. She was ready to go. “Herman the Vermin,” she named her enemy—cancer—and she looked to Jesus for certain release. On Christmas Day, at her son’s home, Marlene shed her earthly body and went to be with Jesus.

I looked at this woman’s beautiful paintings and wood-burnings, listened to the stories others shared, watched the slideshow of her life and listened to the notes she had written in her Bible. A hunger, a thirst for the Lord. A longing to be with Him. Even as an older widow, the preacher recounted how she had enthusiastically wanted to be part of an evangelistic team. In a letter she’d left in her Bible, she had expressed that she didn’t know how much longer she had, but she wanted to serve—the Lord and others.

As I listened, I struggled to understand. Why did the Lord allow this woman who loved Him to linger so long between this world and that better one? Why the dark cloud of certain doom? Why the struggle for her family as they watched her fading away? Perhaps, her attitude in suffering brought the glory back to the Lord. As the glory departed from her earthly temple, the glory of God shone more brightly to those left behind. Everyone I mentioned her name to had one thing to say: “Miss Marlene was a godly woman.”

Miss Marlene spent her life learning that “to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

How fitting. As one year draws to a close, we find we are beginning another. As Miss Marlene’s life ended, we are reminded that it is not an end—but a beginning. In life, with Christ, ending is always a beginning. Life with Christ begins with an end—an end of living for self and sin, of being enslaved to that which would destroy us. The end of every day brings us to the beginning of another—with new mercies and new grace. And when we come to the end of life, we discover that we are only beginning—to live. The end of the world marks the beginning of Christ’s eternal reign. Every fairy-tale finishes with the words “The End” but in God’s eternal story, “The End” marks the beginning.

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His Perspective…On Respect

February 14, 2009 at 1:00 am (His Perspective) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

his-perspective-on-respect

Valentine’s Day conjures up thoughts of red foil, powdered candy hearts, oozing chocolate cakes and over-the-top sentimentalism all wrapped up in a hazy misunderstanding of the word “love.” To the world, love is a feeling, coming and going on the winds of time, age, business and beauty, pronounced in words that pass away and proudly displayed through things destined to perish with the using. The disciple Jesus loved gives those of us who would understand true love a great reminder: “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in action and truth.” (1 John 3:18 ) English teachers will insist that love is an abstract noun—an idea. Scripture tells us it’s a verb. Sisters, let’s stop just using empty words to express love. Let’s really get active about loving according to the truth of scripture!

Paul, the bond-slave of the Lord, never mentioned flowers or chocolate or candlelight dinners, but he did give some excellent advice for godly love and relationships. “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church…and let the woman see to it that she respect her husband.” (From Ephesians 5:22-33–we really recommend reading the whole passage). In the literal Greek the word for “husband” is really just “man”, plain and simple, and we believe that the respect factor applies to young women under the authority of their fathers, as well. After all, what better way is there to prepare for respecting a husband, some day? Could there be a better way to prove respect for the Lord than to respect the authorities He has placed in our lives?

Some of the men who are seeking to work out this Biblical pattern graciously agreed to help us in digging up some great insights on the issue of respect. We’ve included a few prime quotes below as a sort of appetizer and we’d encourage you to take a look at what they had to say and put your love into action, guided by the truth of God’s word! Just follow the link at the bottom to visit the “Respect” page and see the whole survey! Feel free to share what you find, and don’t be afraid to ask your own men the same questions to discover what honors them and proves to them your love and respect–for God’s glory.

Are candy hearts and red roses wrong? Not at all. They are thoughtful. They are romantic. They are even pleasant. Only to call those things “love” or even “expressions of love” which never even come close to scratching the surface of the love of God, who sacrificed His Son for sinners, is to cheapen a word which should be reserved for gifts of much greater worth. This Valentine’s Day, we challenge you to give more. We challenge you to lavish your man with respect—all year long.


“Biblical respect is the humble, intelligent, joyful response of a wife to God’s placement of authority expressed by esteem for, encouragement of, and submission to her husband’s leadership.”

Shai Linne, Philadelphia, PA


“It is possible to have a surviving relationship without respect because I could choose to love them [wife/sister/daughter] even if they refused to respect me, but to have a really healthy flourishing relationship both must fill their biblical roles.”

–Moriah Day, Altamont, KS, age 16, eldest of 10


“Leaving me would be the highest rejection of my leadership and provision. But in absence of legal separation, complete emotional and relational separation would be basically equivalent.”


–Nathaniel, Tulsa, OK, married to Lauren for 1 year, 4 months and 4 weeks 😉

We hear much about men having a built in need for respect and similarly women having a built in need for love … as if men and women are designed by God with the frailties of tiny egos and frail emotions that need constant stroking by the other lest we suffer the consequences. This is nonsense. Respect and Love in the context of Marriage have everything to do with God given roles and authority structure. Respect and Love are what bring about God’s desire that we use our position selflessly for the benefit of our Spouse.”

–John Day, Altamont, KS married 18+ years, father of three daughters (so far)


“’Love is of God,’ I John 4:7 says. God’s love is not natural to man, as the Scripture continues: ‘everyone who loves has been born of God.’ So husbands are to love, not by human product, but by the love of God. Likewise are wives, according to Titus 2:4, to love their husbands, not by natural love, but God’s love.”

–Glenn Schreiber, Central Illinois, (very happily) married for 18.5 years, father of two daughters


It is the ‘picture’ of Christ and His bride. The relationship for the husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church. Sacrificial love, a love worth respecting because it is wonderful and it knows the love is acting in the best interest for the wife. How do they differ? The love is the leading action which makes the respecting enjoyable.”


–Gabe Graham, Tulsa, OK, married 5+ years, father of three daughters


“The Bible says that Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. I think this word is a great way of summarizing how a wife is to respect her husband. She treats him as someone who is very important; as someone who she means to serve and obey, and who is worthy of her service. No other person trumps him; he is the #1 person she is meant to help, to love, and to give her time and affections to. What is important to him becomes important to her, simply because he values it. This all comes out of an ultimate desire to serve her Heavenly Lord, because this is His command to her; ultimately, she is serving Him through demonstrating a giving over of her desires to the desires of her husband, and treating him as the authority God has given her.”

John A. Moss, Morgantown, WV, married almost three years, a daughter due in April (!)


“God’s originally-stated purpose for creating mankind was to rule over the earth (Gen. 1:26). His special purpose for man was to cultivate and keep the garden (Gen. 1:26; 2:15) and for woman was for her to be a suitable helper of her husband (Genesis 2:18). It follows that she must learn to help her man. This is the major distinction between the husband and his wife’s roles–he is the leader and she is the helper. More descriptively, he is to be her loving leader and she is to be his reverent helper.”

–Lane, Rural AR, married 31 years, father of Abigail (and Lydia)


Trust and respect can be shattered by failure to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus.”

Zach Welchman, Arkansas Tech University

We found the answers sometimes surprising, often enlightening, sometimes encouraging, often convicting.   We’d love for you to take a look at the comments and the survey (when you can) and tell us your thoughts!

His Perspective on Respect: The Survey

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From Germany, With Love

January 20, 2009 at 1:30 pm (Attitudes, Vignettes) (, , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

from-germanyHer name is Heidi.

She was born near the Rhine, in crumbling Germany. As a young woman, she met and married an American soldier during the occupation after World War II and left her land and her people to follow her husband to the States. That was in 1968. Over forty years ago.

She was bundled in an earth-tone sweater, sporting a knit stocking cap and well-worn sweat-pants when I first laid eyes on her. Dust and muck surrounded her, but she glowed like a new bride. There in the tight quarters of an Arkansas trailer home, early in the morning, with dirty dishes on the table and little boys’ toys on the floor, she glowed with a joy that warmed me deep inside my too-big coveralls.

My younger brother, Josiah and I, have been handling the morning milking for a neighbor. His foreign-exchange wife has been back in Russia for several months trying to iron out the paperwork to become an American citizen, leaving him to manage his school-teaching job with college classes and caring for two little boys and a farm. Amid the chaos and stress of his life stepped his mother, Heidi. To help keep the family afloat while his wife is gone.

The first day I walked into the house and met Heidi, I read Jesus in her eyes. In fact, I could hardly see past Jesus, to actually evaluate her features—simple and honest, well-worn with smiling creases around her eyes and mouth. Her smile flashed like the morning sunshine. Her eyes sparkled with warmth behind her glasses as she filled a bucket with warm soapy water and sent me on my way up the hill to the milking shed. Maxine and Moo-Moo grumbled along behind me, nearly stepping on my mudboots.

Back in the house as we filtered the milk and Josiah tampered with an out-of-order lawn mower, Heidi began to ask about my family and tell about hers. She spoke of the Lord with the same familiarity as she spoke of her husband (whom she missed terribly while away from him every week). She shared how she’d worked with mentally handicapped folks. “They are so precious,” she added, her ready smile lighting her face.

For several weeks now I’ve seen Heidi every weekday, first thing in the morning. I grumble my way into my faded, blue coveralls and rubber mud boots and snag the keys to the pick-up. Milking cuts into my morning—half an hour first thing, gone, just like that. But as soon as I walk through that trailer-home doorway my grumbling melts away as Heidi appears, smiling, welcoming and thanking me in her slightly choppy English. As if I were doing some great thing, when it is she who is sacrificing her entire week to help her son and family. And every day she bids me good-bye and Got bless and tells me she loves me.

And she means it. She’s the most straight-forward, honest person I’ve ever met. She can tell us bluntly what she does and doesn’t like, while softening it with her kind smile and a few words. “I don’t mean to be pushy, but here’s why…”

I think, were I to really step back and cast a critical eye over this aging German woman, I’d describe a plain, grey-haired woman, worn by life and love and work. When I think of Heidi, I smile and think “beautiful!”

Decked out in my floppy felt hat, dirty coveralls and smelly mudboots, I’m hardly the picture of fashion. Dressed in her worn sweater and faded pants, peering at me from behind her glasses, she’s little better. Neither of us cares. And again the Lord has reinforced to me His perception of beauty. I don’t want to be eternally youthful—stunning and flawless. Someday I hope I too will be an aging woman, worn by life and love and work, with smile creases around my mouth and eyes, with roughened hands and graying hair from giving myself for others. And I hope that when that day comes, I will be the kind of woman who radiates the love and joy of Jesus. Someday, I want to be like Heidi.

For now, I’ll take joy in milking that smelly cow.

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Lessons from Wisdom: The Art of Availability

December 27, 2008 at 9:03 am (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living, W.O.W.) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

art-of-availability

“In the fullness of time, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that He might redeem those under the law.” (Galatians 4:4) When time was ripe, God sent His Son—born of a woman. A simple virgin from Nazareth. Why? I can’t peer back in history before the visit of God’s messenger, but God reveals His sovereignty in shaping this young woman, throughout her entire life, to be His servant and to give birth to His Son–the perfect Servant and the ransom for mankind.

The Lord’s work in Mary’s heart and life is summed up in her words “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord.” The Lord’s slave. Devoted to Him. At His bidding. Available. God uses those who are available. As the story of Jesus unfolds, Mary’s quiet part in this perfect drama is this: quiet availability to God’s needs. Humble. Pure. A servant.

Behold, the Handmaid of the Lord. (Luke 1:38)

Mary stood on the verge of a Jewish maiden’s ideal future when the angel appeared to her. A Jewish woman’s identity was wrapped up in her marriage—to a good man, a righteous man, a man with a trade, a man of good reputation and good family. As she listened to the angel’s declaration, the Lord revealed to her something not generally understood by the Jewish nation—that the Messiah would be the Son of God. He would not belong to her husband. When Mary bowed her head and expressed her willingness to do whatever the Lord asked, she opened herself up to heartache and loss. She could have lost her entire future. A woman pregnant outside of marriage was an adulteress and could be stoned. A righteous man could not, in good conscience, marry her. Forever she would be looked down upon, ostracized and whispered about. Still, she made herself available to God, trusting His eternal plan for her life—and that of the child she would bear. I remember the day that the realization dawned on me: Mary and I are not so different. The Lord’s call came to me as well—and I have been chosen to carry the truth of God’s Son as well! God seeks those who are available—empty of their own plans and dreams, so that He may fill them with His Spirit and overshadow them with His power!

Mary rose and went to Judah…and greeted Elizabeth. (Luke 1:39-40)

The angel had left Mary with another piece of news—Elizabeth was also miraculously with child. Seeking encouragement and to be an encouragement, Mary rushed to her side and spent the next three months with her. Why? As Elizabeth reached her time to give birth, she must have needed help, encouragement and companionship. Mary made herself available to this godly woman, to help her and to learn from her to be a godly wife—and mother. The Lord has placed in our lives those who are doing His will, seeking His glory. “You should serve each other,” He told His disciples in His last night with them. His desire is to see us become servants, available to encourage, assist and pour out His love to those who love Him.

Joseph rose and took Mary as his wife. (Matthew 1:24)

Even when it seemed that Mary might be abandoned, Almighty God intervened to give Mary a protector and provider. “Don’t be afraid,” the angel told Joseph. Immediately he rose from his bed and took Mary as his wife. What had her feelings been a short time before? About to be divorced by a man she admired—likely loved deeply. Suddenly he was at her door, calling her name to take her as his wife—early. Catching up her covering, she made herself ready. Available to follow his lead, to trust that he was following the Lord’s command, knowing that in following Joseph, she was doing the Lord’s will. When the Lord transferred Mary’s authority to her husband, He also began speaking to her husband and leaving Mary to hear from Him second-hand. Not because Mary was no longer worthy to hear from the Lord, but because the Lord had sheltered her under the authority of a righteous man. Joseph was her God-given head. Joseph stood under God’s authority and Mary trusted Him. Even Jesus spoke of being under the authority of the Father. The Lord places authorities in each of our lives and leads us through them. Our part is to be available to His leading through them—no matter how inconvenient.

Joseph had to travel…and Mary went with him. (Luke 2:4-5)

God had also placed Joseph under authority. No matter how ungodly the Roman empire was, God was in control and was using the decree of Caesar to accomplish His eternal purpose. As Joseph obeyed the decree, Mary made herself available to her husband, to travel with him, to be with him, in spite of the fact that she was about to have a child. Inconvenient is an understatement, I’m sure. With the discomfort of pregnancy–swelling, water retention, constant bladder pressure, dizziness, nausea–traveling the dusty roads from Nazareth the Bethlehem could hardly have been a pleasure trip. Yet Mary went accompanied her man, so fulfilling the words of the prophets of old in her availability to her husband who was also obeying the government.

They found the baby and His mother. (Luke 2:16; Matthew 2:11)

Alone and cold in a foreign town, the middle of the night she gave birth could not have been the time Mary would have chosen for visitors. Yet as she watched her baby, she opened her heart and arms to the smelly shepherds who had come to see God’s good news. Some time later, finally in the privacy of her own home, she was invaded by a crowd of foreign magi. Again she opened her arms and heart and shared Jesus with those seeking Him. God has called each of us to carry the truth of His Son—and to be available to share Him with anyone who seeks Him.

Take the child and His mother and go to Egypt. (Matthew 3:13)

The Lord’s commands don’t always seem convenient, but they should always be treated as urgent. Joseph took God’s commands seriously and immediately obeyed. His instant obedience produced a wild ride for his wife, Mary. But think how strenuous obedience would have become had Mary balked, complained, dawdled or refused. The quick cooperation of a woman who trusts her man to lead her in the Lord is the encouragement and blessing that can empower that man to do whatever the Lord has called him to do. First the move to Egypt and then the move back, turned Mary’s life upside down. As she learned to be a servant, she recognized Joseph’s obedience to the Lord and his desire to protect her and the baby, Jesus and cheerfully made her place by his side.

Didn’t you know I must be about My Father’s business? (Luke 2:49)

When Jesus was a baby, he depended on His mother and she gave Him what she thought He needed—food, sleep, baths. As He grew she had to constantly re-learn the hard fact of service: a devoted servant is attentive to the Master’s desires, wishes and needs. A devoted servant seeks to know the Master. And she learned that Her Son came to be the greatest servant of all–to give, to love, to sacrifice and to pour out His own life for the glory of God, His Master in heaven. From the mouth of her perfect twelve-year-old came this humbling reminder, “Didn’t you know…” Jesus’ first responsibility was to be about His Father’s business. Mary had offered herself available to serve the Lord. Her Divine Son was calling her to know Him. The Lord has called us to know Him as well and to serve Him by learning Who He is and what His desires are. As godly women, He has called us to know the men in our lives, to seek to understand them and the ministry to which God has called each of them and to support them in that ministry–their service to God.

Woman, My time has not yet come. (John 2:4)

When Mary informed Jesus of the lack at the wedding in Cana, His words nearly seemed harsh. Like He was irritably saying, “Leave me alone, Mom” in the very tones that used to earn me a sound spanking. But Jesus’ words are so much different than my bad attitude. His was a straightforward reminder that He did not belong to her. Her ways were not His ways. Often we seek to tell God what to do. We try to point out to Him the way in which He can serve us. Mary took the response, digested it and commanded the servants to do what? To be available. What she was learning, she was teaching. “Do whatever He tells you to do.” Then she was silent. When our heart is available, our attitude ready to do whatever He tells us to do, God can take our water and turn into the wine of life!

My mother and brothers are those who do the will of My Father. (Matthew 12:50)

How difficult it must have been for Mary to loosen her mother’s hold and let her Son be in control of the universe. When she and her sons came seeking Him, His words seemed like rejection. “Who are my mother and my brothers? He who does the will of My Father.” But Jesus was not rejecting Mary as the one who had given birth to Him and nursed Him. He was reminding her what it was she had committed herself to do. “I am the Lord’s handmaid,” she had said. Even the Lord’s mother must learn to trust Him and entrust herself to Him. She had made herself available to serve the Lord. It’s easy to imagine service as doing what I think should be done. What I think is best. What I think will bring God glory. Jesus corrected this misconception with truth: service is doing whatever the Lord asks. Doing whatever He wants. Simply put, obedience. Availability to His needs and requests.

Jesus saw His mother standing nearby. (John 19:26)

From His birth to His death, Mary was available. Even as Jesus hung from the cross, paying for the sins of the world, she stood by, watching and weeping. He saw her and He provided for her care. Did Jesus love His mother? He gave His life to redeem her, to purchase her back from sin and from slavery to the law and to make her a child of God. He bought for her, with His blood, an eternity with Him. Once upon a time, she thought He needed her. Finally she understood that she was lost without Him. As He had once been helpless in her arms, so she was helpless without His intercession. Favored of God—because of Her Son, Jesus.

Mary stored up all these things and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:51)

As Mary watched Jesus grow and fulfill God’s purpose in His life, she treasured every moment in her heart, storing it up. Later she shared all she remembered with Luke, the beloved physician, who sought to write a thorough account of all that Jesus began to do and teach. She made herself available to listen, to watch, to remember, to treasure and available to share the precious life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

matthew-23-11

As I studied this woman of wisdom, I wept over her sacrifices—constantly giving up her dreams, her comfort and finally her Son. “I am the Lord’s handmaid,” she had said. “Do to me whatever.” The life of a servant is availability to the Master, always near, always ready, always cheerful, always eager. Long before Gabriel visited Nazareth, God had been at work in Mary’s heart, shaping her into an empty vessel that He could fill. From the day she accepted the Lord’s call to carry the Savior of the world, Mary made herself available to the Lord, available to the authorities He had placed over her, and available to anyone who sought Jesus. Pouring herself out as a sacrifice before the Lord, she found favor. Jesus told His disciples the secret of true greatness, “He who desires to be great, must become servant of all.” (Matthew 23:11)

Read the story:  Behold, the Lord’s Handmaid

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They Say…

October 17, 2008 at 1:35 pm (Flowers of Thought) (, , , , , , , , )

flowers-of-thought-2

While studying for his Master’s Degree, Jonathan Edwards scribbled this sparkling tribute in the front page of a Greek textbook:

“They say there is a young lady in New Haven who is beloved of that almighty Being, who made and rules the world, and that there are certain seasons in which this great Being, in some way or other invisible, comes to her and fills her mind with exceeding sweet delight, and that she hardly cares for anything, except to meditate on him–that she expects after a while to be received up where he is, to be raised up out of the world and caught up into heaven; being assured that he loves her too well to let her remain at a distance from him always. There she is to dwell with him, and to be ravished with his love and delight forever. Therefore, if you present all the world before her, with the richest of its treasures, she disregards it and cares not for it, and is unmindful of any pain or affliction. She has a strange sweetness in her mind, and singular purity in her affections; is most just and conscientious in all her actions; and you could not persuade her to do anything wrong or sinful, if you would give her all the world, lest she should offend this great Being. She is of a wonderful sweetness, calmness and universal benevolence of mind; especially after those seasons in which this great God has manifested himself to her mind. She will sometimes go about from place to place, singing sweetly; and seems to be always full of joy and pleasure; and no one knows for what. She loves to be alone, and to wander in the fields and on the mountains, and seems to have someone invisible always conversing with her.”

He spoke of thirteen-year-old Sarah Pierrepont, a young lady whom he had come to know and admire. Others recount her as attractive, but the beauty that bubbled up from within caught the heart of a man who loved God, and earned his praise. Four years later, in 1727, Jonathan and Sarah were united in an uncommon union to the glory of God.

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised.” Proverbs 31:30

Oh to be such a woman as to earn such a tribute, and yet to be such a woman as to never notice the tribute had been given.

Lord, to be in love with Thee,
As to be so consumed with Thee,
That, unaware of others’ eyes
I would be so in tune with Thee

That they would say I knew Thee, Lord
That they would see I so adored
The One who so loved that He gave
His life to save me from my grave

That offering the world to me
Would prove a waste of energy
For Thou art of such perfect grace
As to be all, before my face

To capture every thought and word
To be all that my Spirit heard.
That I’d be praised for seeking Thee
And yet, that praise, not even see.

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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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