Modest is Hottest, or Something Like That

“Oh, great,” I can hear you say. “Another post on modesty.” And you click away from our blog and go read something more interesting.

I’m not saying there isn’t something more interesting to read on the Internet (including more interesting posts on this blog, even) and I actually I agree with you. A lot has been said, blogged or preached about this issue. I grew up with a “modesty checklist” some people I deeply respect came up with that included guidelines about how short a skirt should be or how low a blouse should plunge. I vividly remember having a discussion in ninth grade with two of my best friends; we were talking about how awful it was that girls wore bikini’s in middle school (we really were utterly scandalized.) On the other end of the spectrum, I came across a meme a few days ago with a bare-chested woman painted with the phrase “Still not asking for it.” It was obviously a take on the rape culture, but the discussion following it was one on modesty. One person was talking about the necessity for modesty in how women dress to make it easier on the men around us, while the other side was saying apparel should always be a personal decision.

And what about the men!!!? Men should be modest, too! Why is the impetus always placed on the women? Why shouldn’t a man have to wear a shirt at the beach or pool? Women struggle with lust just like men do. Sheesh.

The pendulum is always swinging. It swings so far one way sometimes it is in danger of flying across the room. Just fifteen years ago my friends and I were appalled that girls even younger than we were wearing bikinis. Now most of my friends have no problem with it.

So who is right?

In danger of sounding like Switzerland, I won’t say, “both sides are right.” I will say it like this: modesty checklists and nude women aside, a modest disposition of the heart will show in the way women AND men dress, interact and live. It really is a heart issue…and always will be.

Modest dress is a worthy discussion (after all, the Bible does talk about it!) but modesty includes far more than what can be seen on the outside. In fact, the definition of modest is not “Women who dress culturally appropriate.” Rather, the definition is “the quality of being modest; freedom from vanity, boastfulness, etc.” I didn’t see “Modest is hottest” anywhere in that definition either. The definition goes on to say, “regard for decency of behavior, speech, dress, etc.”

Ultimately, modesty is an issue of self-control. Titus 2:11-14 says:

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”
In essence, self-control is wrapped up in the gospel. We are to live our lives renouncing what the world says, and live for our Blessed Hope to return to us, which involves living in self-control and not self-gratification.
Our behavior, speech, and dress should reflect this truth: a modest, self-controlled approach to how we adorn the gospel. Jesus was humble, self-controlled and modest. Philippians vividly paints with this looked like…the Son of God did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing. That is our model for behavior, not what our friends or culture do or say.
My friends who are comfortable wearing bikinis at the pool or beach are not my standard. I shouldn’t strive for that type of self-expression. My family members who are more outspoken and confident in their opinions than I are not my standard. I shouldn’t strive to express myself as well as they do. My co-workers who go out and jump out of planes, climb mountains, and travel the world aren’t my standard. I shouldn’t strive to be fearless like they are. My standard should be Christ, the ultimate standard, who demonstrated in public nudity what our lack of self-control cost: his own brutal death. The only perfectly modest One who ever lived has clothed our immodest nakedness and shame with his robes of righteousness.
That is what modesty is about. So the pendulum can swing as far left or right as it wants to. Debate away, but remember that where we fall on this issue will either adorn the gospel or show a watching world that we are compromising — and that the power of Christ only goes as far as our “personal preference.” The fact is Christians shouldn’t be pursuing whatever is hottest but whatever is most holy.

Social Media and Jealousy

This post is not directed towards you.  It’s about my heart. My motivations. My jealousy. My discontent comparisons. Gratefully, I know others struggle, too. And so here I go wading into waters others have covered better than I. Yet I pray my journey touches something similar in your own.

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cell phone

The power of social media to tempt me to discouragement as a wife and mom is sometimes overwhelming; so much so that sometimes I wonder why I even use it. I log on to Facebook and it’s not just my friends statuses and pictures that I’m bombarded with…it’s articles and ads that claim to have the 5 steps to being a better homemaker and wife, a better mom to sons, or a new and better way to discipline them. As I am inundated with these images, if I’m not careful, I begin the comparison game.

Look, there’s my single friend posting a selfie of her working out in the middle of the day. Man, if I didn’t have kids I would be able to do that.

Wow. She’s really skinny, and her baby is only 6 months old. If only my body responded to post-birth like that!

Oh, look. So-and-so just had Starbucks for the third time this week. 

Gosh, I wish Eric sent me flowers every once in a while “just because”. He doesn’t do that anymore.

Man, I wish I made as much money as that person apparently does doing their MLM. Another cruise. Yay.

And then self-righteous judgment sets in.

Stop posting workout selfies! OMG, do you post a selfie EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU WORKOUT?

Why do you keep showing off your baby body? Put some clothes on, for crying out loud.

I mean, how much money can someone spend at Starbucks!?? Go buy a book instead.

Wow, your husband is just SO WONDERFUL. Way to make everyone else feel jealous.

Seriously, you want me to believe that joining your MLM will make me money all the time? I guess Eric should start posting about the raises he gets at work and take a picture of his paycheck, telling everyone to come work with him…

Admitting something like this is humbling and risky. I know, however, that others share these thoughts and feelings, too. Not being alone in my sinful attitudes doesn’t make them any less wrong, but I admit it, it’s nice to know I’m not alone. I’m not saying #fitmom or #tbt or #myhusbandisthebest or #crunchymom or any other hashtag we use should be banned. I know ladies who have worked really hard to get the job, or body, or organic foo,d and if I had your body or money perhaps I would post about it on Facebook, too. I’m also not saying we should get off of Facebook or Instagram or Twitter.

And I’m not really trying to join the bandwagon that goes in the opposite direction and glories in the fact that my life is messy and hard and “authentic” (as if being in great shape, working hard and keeping your house and children clean somehow makes you fake).  The fact is, the image of a beautiful mess is usually just as crafted as the image of having it all together. The reality is, it’s not the fault of my friends for posting things that fire up my tempations. In fact, the only solution to my problem is to evaluate what filter I use when evaluating social media. Do I filter what I see through a secular worldview that calls me to compare myself to others and judge them based on my own idea of what is good and right? Or do I evaluate what I see through a biblical worldview that interprets everything through the lens of Scripture?

It’s one thing to ask these grand questions, but another thing completely to answer, and  then respond to the truth found in the answers.

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What does it say about my heart when I think ‘Man, if I didn’t have these kids I would have so much free time!’ “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” (Psalm 127:3). Sometimes all it takes is looking at my adorable boys and the thought of their not being born runs hurtling from my mind. And sometimes, when they are screaming and fighting and disobeying, I have to remind myself that they truly are a blessing. A heritage and reward is strong language. It reminds me that, in reality, the privilege to be their mother is far greater than the selfishness I seek.

What about the heart issues related to body image? “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7). I don’t know the heart motivations of a person that posts a picture of them not fully clothed. In fact, maybe it’s in the right place. What I do know is that my heart is not in the right place as I compare or judge. The Lord is not as concerned with appearance as He is with the heart. (He IS concerned with appearance, but only insofar as it reflects the heart. More on that in another post.)

What does it say about my inordinate desire to have more money for things like Starbucks or books, or my judgment that someone spends too much money on those things? Now, the Bible has a lot to say about money, but the verse that particularly seems to fit this one is, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10). The more I have, the more I want. I wouldn’t be satisfied with just one Starbucks a month. I would continue to want more and more…and never be satisfied. It would turn into something else; wanting Starbucks everyday, a pedicure every month, a haircut every six weeks like the stylists say, and oh, I have to have a cute new outfit every month too…and then, I’m in a cycle that I can’t get out of.

What does it say about my heart when I wish my husband was more thoughtful or romantic, more attentive, or more…fill in the blank? “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast.” Everyone is a better husband online.  My desire for my husband to be like someone else’s is dangerous ground. Envy leads to all sorts of evil desires, and the fact of the matter is, where my husband is lacking in one area, he far outshines in others. And so does your husband.

As you can see, the practice of applying Scripture to all of life really is the answer to my struggles. As you and I change the lens of our worldview filter and no longer see what we wish we could be, we will see what we are and be reminded of how wonderful it is to just be a child of the living God. A child of the One of who takes all our shame and clothes us in perfection. A child of the One of doesn’t view us based on what the scale in our bathroom says, but on the scale that has been tipped in our favor and has “Grace, mercy and justice” on the weighted end, and “sin, shame and sickness” on the other.

The answer isn’t necessarily to get off Facebook and Instagram or to skip any post with #fitfamily or #starbucks in the status line. Perhaps the answer is to change the way we view social media to begin with. And (shocker) ask what Jesus thinks about it. I’m pretty sure He doesn’t care how much money we make, except to care about how we use it. I’m fairly confident He doesn’t care that I don’t work out everyday, except to care for the temple the Spirit lives in. Friends, before we log back in to social media, let’s open our Bibles and see what God has to say both about about what we post and how we respond to what others post.

Originally posted here.  Edited for this blog.

What’s On My Reading List

One of my favorite things is supporting indie authors and their efforts.  And as everyone knows, if you want to be a good writer, you have to read, read, read.  Here’s a run-down of what is on my list.

Jill Williamson’s epic Kinsman Chronicles Series.  So far, I’m really enjoying it.  Will review when I’m through with all six.

The traditionally published Tim Keller’s “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering.”  Of course, nobody can say it quite like this modern-day CS Lewis.  I started this awhile ago (read: months ago) and as it sits on my nightstand, I savor it, like a hot cup of coffee I’m afraid will end.

Hugh Howey’s Wool.  This needs no explanation.

James Maxwell’s “Hidden Relic”, the second part of his Evermen Saga.  So far so good…will also review when I’m through with the series.

book stack

On the docket:

Looking forward to diving into some not so Indie titles: Ender’s Game, Pillar to the Sky, and perhaps a thriller, to branch out a bit.  Any suggestions?

One of the coolest things, in my humble opinion, about the indie author community is the ability to support each other as we all work hard at improving our craft.  I’m biased towards fantasy and sci-fi, since my own work in progress(s) are in the fantasy genre, but I’m pretty sure the same thing goes for ANY genres within this community.  What are some of your favorite things about it?  Comment below!

Vine

vine

 

Wispy tendrils stealing softly, fire embeds my mind

Flinging seeds of suspicions blind

Hearken now to my story, listen if you dare

A tale of rejection and despair

The seeds of vine’s worries stem from roots of doubt

Can my heart be free from wounds of gout?

 

What’s this fearsome frenzy, of soul’s shaking sight?

No center for my eyes to focus light

Clouding all my thoughts, dimming shadows views

Fleeting prose and dreadful, soundless muse

Be silent, oh accuser! Be silent, thoughts constrain!

Final dusk creeps to ponder vain

 

Conflict and torture! Angst and sorrow large!

Loom ever-present taking charge

Vine slinks closer still, darkening my door

Mist steals gradually up the shore

Vine of abysmal anguish! Vine of coarse regret!

Rises imminent fostering final threat

 

Linger no longer, plant of floundering pain

My true heart desires righteous gain

I cannot attain it! It slips through my fist!

A traitor betrays with conniving kiss!

Flesh rises in me, virtue it defeats

If only grace could peaceful mercy meet!

 

Reckless is my falling, dreadful fear abounds

I must travel to the burial ground

There I find death, to shameful gloom regress

There my comfort waits to oppress

Consolation in shame, because I know it well

I’d rather have my immortal soul to sell

 

What’s this vine I see!  Wrapped upon the tombs!

I can’t escape its sacrilegious blooms!

Where is my freedom? Where’s my liberty?

Oh this vine of deceit and trickery!

Vile you await, to mock my calm reflection!

Wherever you await is my rejection!

 

So flee I must, from restful deliberation

And bid this sanctuary salutation

But where is there to go? Can I escape your wares?

Wherever I go, there is your deadly stares

Thorns envelope you, oh poisonous plant you are!

You shoot out darts to wound and scar!

 

Running aimlessly, my life a repulsive race

I long to find a truly restful place

Does such a thing exist?  Or is all fantasy?

My soul will never be given amnesty

Fie soporific waters! You do not endure!

You are fleeting, and certainly unsure!

 

Shame, doubt, fear, dread, call out my name

Their cries echo forward to proclaim

There is no peaceful life, there is no harmony

Evil reigns supreme triumphantly

So slip away I must, collapse in flesh and bone

A soul rejected, no hope, no love, alone      

Image is Not Everything

Our culture gets it wrong when it comes to women and image. That is no surprise, and much has been said on the topic. The Huffington Post did a piece on what tabloids would look like if they treated men the way they treated women. Westminster College has a well-researched article about beauty standards, women in the media, and how women internalize the “thin-beauty” standard.

It seems that although the culture admits there is a problem, they still buy into the lie that if you are thin you are prettier than if you are fat, if you have blonde hair you are more attractive than if you don’t, and having no skin flaws makes you sexier. And I’m not even touching on the anti-aging issue. One top health website has an article about top ten anti-aging tricks.

Walk through a mall and not only will you see advertisements adorning every store about beauty standards, but you will see a young generation that is literally buying into the lie that image is everything. Now that I have two sons, I want to teach them how to respect women and not objectify them. Lord willing, if I have any daughters I want to teach them to love how God created them and not have an unrealistic view of their body type. Yet the competing voices of the media and their friends will tempt them to not listen to Mom and Dad, and to go sell their souls at the altar of image. They will have to wear certain clothes. They will have to have certain hairstyles. My daughter will have to start wearing make-up at nine. She will have to have sexy underwear from Victoria’s secret in middle school…the list goes on, and it tempts me to fear. How will I raise godly children in this culture that is at war over their hearts?

I think it goes beyond just teaching Silas and Gideon to not objectify girls, and I think it goes beyond teaching any future daughters that they are beautiful no matter what. It goes fundamentally deeper; to the very identity that God has given us not just as Christians, but also as humans. Because at the heart level, sin takes what God created good and twists it to be something it wasn’t meant to be.

Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Originally, women (and men) were in the image of God. Not the image of who we were as individuals, reflecting our own inner selves that are beautiful. No. We were, and still are, God’s image-bearers. Once, Eve reflected God in a more perfect way than any sinfully flawed women that came after her (us included!) ever can or could. That is the image that matters, and that is the image we must teach our children.

It isn’t about keeping them unstained from the culture, or even learning how to love and respect others. Ultimately, a right understanding of who they are in God will lead to a right understanding of themselves and others. Wayne Grudem in Systematic Theology says, “…as we read the rest of Scripture, we realize that a full understanding of man’s likeness to God would require a full understanding of who God is in his being and in his actions and a full understanding of who man is and what he does.”

In order to teach our children about God and themselves, we as mothers (and fathers) must understand these things ourselves. And it must come from hearts that have been affected by these truths, and not just words regurgitated from Scripture or big books like Systematic Theology. We can’t expect our children to take us seriously if they don’t see the truths we teach them modeled in the way we live our own lives. I can’t expect my boys to respect women who aren’t beautiful by the world’s standards if he hears me talking about how ugly someone is if they are larger than others, or if they have acne scars. I can’t expect any future daughters to be comfortable in their bodies if they hear me bemoaning the extra weight I carry around on my own body, talking about how ugly I am.

The culture says that image is everything. God says He Himself is everything. Sin says we need to look a certain way, act a certain way, and buy certain things to be happy and to have the correct image. God says that a certain Someone came and did what we couldn’t; he perfectly reflected God, was completely sinless, and did the complete opposite of what the world thought he should do. He allowed himself to be crucified to show the culture, and us, just how far the distortion of sin reached, and just how serious God took the lies we believed that the world’s image was better than His image. And even still, with the resurrection and seal of God’s approval, Christ still has a human image, one that we will have also, that will once again perfectly reflect what was once distorted in Eden.

Hope is never completely lost in the kingdom of God. While we wait for the perfect image to be restored, let us show our children and the world that even now, in a fallen world, we can still accurately represent God and his kingdom by not buying into the cultures lies. There is only one image that matters, and it certainly isn’t the one we have been bombarded to believe. It isn’t a transitory, ever-decaying image; it’s an everlasting one. And it points directly to the One seated on the throne, with his Son placing his feet on the world as his footstool.

Conformity

conformity As a writer, finding a way to “stand out” from the crowd of other amazing authors with brilliant story ideas can be challenging (to put it mildly.)  Depending on your genre, there are beloved tropes of that genre that readers want, regardless of whether it’s new and exciting or not.

So does conforming to these tropes make you a sell-out?  Well, not according to Neal Gardner.  He says, “One does not necessarily have to cluck in disapproval to admit that entertainment is all the things its detractors say it is: fun, effortless, sensational, mindless, formulaic, predictable and subversive. In fact, one might argue that those are the very reasons so many people love it.”

 Life the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality

The issue is, of course, at what point do we stay in conformity with a genre, and at what point do we dally within the constraints that keep a genre…well…a genre.  As a fantasy writer, examples of tropes would be magic, new worlds, swords, good vs. evil, coming of age, etc. Just to name a few.

What are your thoughts?  Do you have trouble with this, too, or is it just me? Continue reading “Conformity”