Digital Beauty

In the last few weeks, I’ve tried to help several different female friends through some bumps in the road. One friend is a precious college-aged girl who is anorexic. Another is a young teen who is cutting herself, and yet another is a married friend who has discovered pornography on her husband’s computer.
Fifty years ago their foremothers in America were making some decisions. They decided it was demeaning to be “just wives and moms”” and, thus, in large numbers, they left the daily routine of cooking, cleaning, packing lunches and helping kids with homework, to be office workers, law partners, executives, doctors, nurses and workers in all levels of industry. They used words like liberation, emancipation, power career, and even self descriptive “feel-good” words like fulfillment, esteem and success a lot more.
And about that time, Hollywood, whether a cause or a reflection of this movement of American women from home to the workplace, iconified the Barbie doll look as the model for all American teen girls. She came along with specific measurements, flowing hair, straight teeth, olive skin and she was on commercials advertising everything from make-up to beer. She was always the center of attention in these ads and there was always fun music playing wherever she went and she was laughing and loving it all…and women all over America wanted to be her.
But not all American women would or could be exactly…her. Some women had inherited thighs that, no matter how many miles they ran each day, would always look like their mother’s…not like Barbie’s. This woman had her father’s Italian nose and that one had Aunt Jeanie’s propensity for large and awkward feet (not those teeny tiny little Barbie feet that never come down on their heels). And some of the dimensions were right, but just not in the right order–on some women. And there were women whose skin was more orange than olive and, even worse, had freckles. And everyone knew that a beauty mark was not that. And then personal trainers, cosmetologists, plastic surgery, tanning beds and cazoodles and oodles of beauty products that cost out the wazoo became part of the daily lives of American women.
And, by this time, there was no excuse to be anything BUT Barbie. And, sadly, with this excuse, there was no time to be anything BUT Barbie, either. There certainly was precious little time left to be mom.
But that was okay, too, because there were plenty of “experts” to go around too. Someone behind every microphone and every psychologist’s desk, it seems, was telling Mrs. Modern America, that it was okay–even healthy–for your kids to learn early to “make it” in the real world of “communities” of children rather than at home where a mom was nurturing, disciplining and, in short, being there for the children she brought into the “real world.” Worst of all, some of the Mrs. Moderns began to realize that there really might not be a way to “have it all” and, since the marriage had already pretty much crumbled by then,anyway, it was one of the first things to go.
And so the day care babies have grown up. Many have beat the odds, because that’s another thing psychologists will tell you…”Kids are resilient.” But sadly, many of them are not THAT resilient. Some of them, for all the self-esteem lessons, the psychologists’ doctrines of resilience, the tolerance training at school, and the “you- can- have- it- all” mentality did not end up with a very good self image, have not bounced back yet, and don’t think they have anywhere near gotten “it all.” They are becoming less and less tolerant and more and more angry at the expectations and at their own shortcomings and the absence of a family support system. They mutilate themselves in response to their feelings of worthlessness. To sum it up, they feel a bit left behind in our “no-child-left-behind” world that is anything but. They skip meals for months, but still don’t think they look thin enough. Perfection is always illusive and no amount of money can sustain superficial goodness or beauty forever.
If I sound a bit angry this morning as I write, it’s because I am. I am inundated with messages from girls who are the victims of this society. They cannot remember a time when being a keeper of the home was exalted as the high calling that our maker intended it to be. It’s way past time for mothers, especially those of us who claim allegiance to the Word, to stop the selfishness. It’s time to be what we claim to be. Calvary was all about sacrifice. It calls us from living profligately for the consumption of the lusts of the flesh and to the agape kind of love that bears all, believes all, hopes all and endures all. That’s the kind of sacrificial love that holds marriages together, chooses spiritual riches over material things, reserves time for the eternally important rather than the fleeting and urgent matters, and values good character more than athletic prowess, outward beauty, academic success or financial profit. I think we need to raise the bar for our girls. As you will notice in the video below, any girl can be billboard beautiful for a moment. It takes a lot more time and effort and time and love and time and teaching and time to make a girl beautiful with the kind of “pretty” that needs no digital enhancement…ever. What if you and I just decide that our homes are going to be blissfully independent of the cultural norms that call women to plastic perfection and determine to put real wholeness: goodness, virtue and the calling to care for others in the hearts of our children? If that’s the goal they get in their sights, they can be real achievers.
Please watch. Please also note that my inclusion of this film does not imply endorsement of everything the Dove Foundation may promote.

Finally, for today, the women in my congregation recently hosted a seminar to promote women of real achievement and the protection of our homes from the devil’s deceit. The program was entitled “This is War” and we have just a few t-shirts remaining from the day. Does anyone who attended (or who just wants to show support) still need a t-shirt? If you want one of these, please email me at byhcontest@gmail.org and let me know what you need. I will be sure you get the shirt, and upon receiving it, you can send a check. There is no profit for anyone involved. We’re just attempting to end up in the black. Thanks!
This price is cost plus shipping. The following shirts are available:

Large – $8.00
X-Large – $8.00
3XL – $12.00

“Snow-My-God” of the South!”

This was the title of the lead front-page article of the Huntsville Times last Saturday, January 8th.  I do not know exactly how those words in that order convey meaning, but I know a couple of things. First, the article was a warning of a snow of unusual proportions for North Alabama. Second, I knew that the sacred name of my God was being used in a flippant and blasphemous way in this headline. It was highly offensive to Christians in our area. (I somehow doubt that the writer could have gotten away with the use of the name Allah in any similar context. But it has become standard for me to hear the names of God and Christ used in vain many times during any given day in which I circulate among people….Maybe that’s another reason I love to stay at home.)

I said this was offensive to Christians. How do I know? Because a Christian, by definition, is a follower of Christ. One who truly follows Christ, honors God, as He did (John 8:49) and recognizes that God’s name is holy and reverend. The flippant use of His name has been a serious offense since, from Mount Sinai, he proclaimed “The Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7).

But if this news writer had only manipulated this headline a bit, he would have hit the nail on the head. “My God Snows on the South” would have been very apropos.

God thunders wondrously with his voice;
He does great things that we cannot comprehend.
For to the snow He says, Fall on the earth,
likewise to the downpour, His mighty downpour. (Job 37:5,6)

It is His snow from His storehouses:

Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,
or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,
which I have reserved for the time of trouble,
for the day of battle and war? (Job 38:22,23)

The breathtaking power demonstrated in the blanket of white to which we awoke last Monday morning is the very reason we reverence His name.

p.s.
Since the writing of this post, the editor of the Times has printed an apology for this headline. Thanks to all of those who wrote, called and emailed expressing your honor for the Lord’s name.

Godly Women: Do Your Clothes Match?

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;
But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works (I Timothy 2:9,10)

The first outside indicator many notice about the character inside of us is the way we dress. Our clothes should match! Matching clothes, in this passage, doesn’t mean no plaids with checks. It means what we wear should match or reflect the godliness that we are professing. Then the Holy Spirit goes on to become the wardrobe consultant for all Christian women. He says, first, that our clothing should be modest. Modest apparel is clothing that doesn’t draw undue attention to the wearer. There are at least a couple of ways that we can draw attention to ourselves by the clothes we are wearing. One is when we dress in outlandishly wild or weird kinds of clothing. I once knew a lady who wore giant hats with various wild colors of wigs to services each Sunday. She was not modest. Gothic clothing is immodest in most circumstances because it shouts “Look at me!”

I think the more common way girls dress immodestly today is by wearing clothing that is sexually provocative. The verse tells us that we are to dress “modestly with propriety.” The original Greek word for propriety according to Strong’s Greek Lexicon means with bashfulness. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says it means having a sense of shame. Our wardrobe Consultant is telling us that there are some types of clothing we should be embarrassed to wear. Then He tells us that we should dress with moderation. The original word there means with soundness of mind. It means sensibly or with discretion. The Consultant is giving us some guidelines, but he wants us to use the good sense He has given us to be certain our clothes match our profession of godliness.

Jesus made an amazing statement in Matthew 5:28. He said that when a man looks at a woman to lust for her, he has already committed adultery in his heart. Understanding that adultery is a work of the flesh and those who practice this sin cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven (Gal.5:19-21), the seriousness of this statement cannot be overemphasized. But Jesus was talking about sin that happens in the heart of a guy. What does that have to do with the way a girl dresses? Let’s examine that question.

A few years ago my husband was teaching a class of high school boys at a large summer camp. He asked the guys this question: “What is your most difficult temptation as you try to be like Christ this week?” The unanimous answer was “It’s the way the girls dress.” When asked to elaborate the young men explained that “it’s really hard to concentrate on the devotional talk when a girl comes in and sits down in front of you on the bleachers and you can see her exposed lower back and maybe even her underwear.” They explained that tight clothing, low-cut tops, clothing that sometimes exposes a girl’s middle, and short skirts were all great distractions as they tried to keep their minds focused on God’s Will and avoid the sin of lust.

Sometimes girls who profess godliness may be unaware of the effect of immodest dress on the thinking of guys around them. But that’s why God’s Word instructs older women to teach younger women to be chaste and discreet (Titus 2:3-5). That’s what I’m hoping to do in this chapter. It is simply a proven biological fact that normal men are far more visually oriented than women. To put it bluntly, normal men are naturally excited, both physically and psychologically by a scantily dressed woman. That’s why Jesus’ statement about looking and lusting was addressed to men. Christ was, by implication, commanding guys to guard their eyes in order to maintain purity of thought.

But does that mean women bear no responsibility in helping our brothers (as well as men, in general) abstain from fleshly lusts? Of course not! If you were walking through a room full of nitroglycerin with someone you love, would you light a candle? Christian guys in America today are navigating a treacherous path. There are visual temptations all around…at the beach, the mall, at school and at the movies. Guys who are guarding their thoughts have to learn to look the other way a lot. But fellow disciples should be part of the solution, not part of the problem. If I am really about helping my brothers go to heaven, I will be less concerned about what is fashionable, what makes me look good, or what is comfortable (those things are all selfish wardrobe factors), and more concerned about helping my brother avoid temptation. In this way, my clothing will match! What I am wearing will coordinate perfectly with what I am saying: “I am a Christian and I want to do all I can to avoid anything that wars against my soul or the souls of others” (I Peter 2:11). Friends don’t tempt friends to sin.

And a word of wisdom to the guys: As you make your dating decisions, make it easy on yourself. Choose girls who look the part. If you want to end up marrying a faithful Christian,—someone who will help you go to heaven—then date girls who dress to reflect godliness. In our society, a young woman who consistently dresses modestly is making quite a statement. She is saying “I want to be Christ-like even if it means making unpopular choices.”

Taken from Pearls, Article by Glenn and Cindy Colley, Lads to Leaders/Leaderettes, Montgomery, AL

Questions and Answers: What about the Tanning Bed?

Question: Do you think it’s wrong for me to tan at the tanning bed?

Answer: I think, at the very least, it is in very poor judgment and at the most, it’s just the wrong thing to do. The age old, but valid, argument is that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 6:19) and we should do all we can to preserve His temples. The stewardship argument is valid. God has given us these temples to use for His glory and, when we abuse them, and thus shorten the time span of their productivity in service and evangelism, it can’t be a good thing. I think, also, of the focus of our lives when I think about this question. While I know that all of us spend some amount of money on products and/or services that enhance our looks and make us feel better about “the presentation,” it seems to me that spending money on a process that has been proven to vastly increase our chances of developing melanoma is foolish.

According to Dr. Lisa Whiteaker in a recent issue of Christian Woman magazine, the use of tanning beds before the age of 30 has been found to increase the odds of developing melanoma by seventy-five percent. Every time the body tans, according to Whiteaker, the skin has had to mobilize its defenses against ultraviolet radiation in an attempt to protect the skin’s DNA. Abnormalities caused by UV light can lead to skin cancer. Thus, this extra exposure seems to me to be sort of an invitation to a carcinogen. In fact, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer has recently placed tanning bed use on its highest cancer risk list. This is a category called “Carcinogenic to Humans.”

Sometimes women mistakenly believe that the benefits of tanned skin outweigh the dangers. While vitamin D is beneficial to the body in many ways, it can easily be obtained in foods and vitamin supplements without the considerable risks of cancer that come with tanning.

The good news: It seems as if the porcelain skin tones are becoming more popular (i.e. Anne Hathaway) and there are better products available for temporary darkening of the outer skin layers (i.e. self tanners and bronzers). Still, we should keep in mind that we are not called to be popular or beautiful… just holy.

Source Used:

Ban the Tan, By Lisa Whiteaker, Christian Woman Magazine, May/June, 2010 issue, Gospel Advocate, Nashville, TN.

The Hard Part of Worship

Once I sprayed the clothes I was ironing with cooking spray. Another time I sprayed under my arm with hairspray. I’ve stored the Saran Wrap in the refrigerator and accidentally emailed things to myself. I steal something almost every time I go through the self-checkout and have to go back in and pay for it. I have called my cell phone from the landline, so that I could find my phone and then, when it rang, I answered it. But the other day, I added this to my long list of blonde activities: I shaved one of my legs and thought “This razor is too dull. I’m going to get another one.” I got out of the tub to throw it away and get another, when I felt the dull blade with my fingers and realized the plastic cover was still on the brand new razor I was about to toss. I have glasses to help the vision problem, but last I checked, they aren’t doing brain transplants. That shave was a perfect example of doing something “in vain.” I went through the motions, but affected no change whatsoever.

My friend, Jennifer Webster, recently said that her 8 year-old daughter asked her dad if he thought it would be wrong to pray that the tooth fairy would bring her ten dollars for her lost tooth. Her dad answered, “I guess it would be alright to pray for that, but that would probably be a good example of praying in vain.” Again…something ventured, nothing gained.

In vain…Jesus said that it’s possible for us to worship in vain. Remember doing something in vain is going through the motions without the desired effect. Hear Jesus:

But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (Matthew 15:9)

In the context, this passage was addressed to people who honored God with their lips and came near to him with their mouths, but their hearts were far from him. It is important to remember that the God we serve reads minds and hearts. We may have all of our ducks in a row in the eyes of men, while God sees the chaos of our hearts. We may be doing all the right things, while God sees all the heart’s sin. We may be praising him on the outside and rebuffing him on the inside. He knows. When our lips are 100% and our hearts are struggling in the single digits, He knows. In this case, when we praise God with fervor and teach things that are inconsistent with His Will, He easily identifies the vanity of our worship. I constantly remind myself of His omniscience, because my lips honor Him and my mouth draws nigh to Him in a very public way almost every weekend as I travel and speak to women. I want to be sure all that travel, expense and, most of all, that worship, is not vain. I ask Him to help me never teach the commandments of men, but I need to study more. I constantly ask Him to help me be all about the cross and His glory and never about my glory when I talk to ladies, but I need to pray more and with more focus. I pray about my heart and about the hearts He will bring to the sessions, but I need to evangelize more. I want my heart and life to be on the same page with my mouth.

Just remembering we can go through all the right motions and yet, if our hearts are “out of range,” it’s all for naught can help us to get our mouths and our hearts in the same proximity around His throne. Worship, done right, requires a lot of intellectual effort. That’s the heart part and the hard part. That’s the part that makes me want to teach for doctrine His Will and His Will only.  That’s the part that conditions my will for the tough things once I’m out the door of the house of worship. The hard part of worship is what makes resisting temptation outside of worship a little easier. It’s the heart of worship that produces the desired effect.

Except for the Shoes

So today I got completely ready to go to worship… except for the shoes. The shoes are always the last thing, because who wants to run around like a chicken with its head cut off getting all the last minute stuff done—in heels? Well, not this chicken. So, after I got all ready (except for the shoes), I sat down at the computer and got really involved in a matter of correspondence that was both urgent and intense. Before I knew it , it was the “we-really-do-have-to-leave-right-now” time and I grabbed the loaf of bread I had for a grieving widower, my purse, the anniversary gift I had for the couple that’s been married 60 years and I was out the door in the rain. Five miles down the road, I transferred the stuff from the purse that didn’t match to the purse that did match and I was all set (except for the shoes).
This was not a good thing because the flat, sloppy, worn-out, mule style loafers weren’t the look I was going for. They didn’t complete the ensemble. In fact, they sort of made me feel like I needed to explain to everyone I met that I didn’t mean to wear them. They shouted “This is a frumpy home-school mom!”
But as we sang the words “Christ We Do All Adore Thee” I began to think about how glad I am that Christ doesn’t care about shoes. He doesn’t care what color they are. He doesn’t care if they are dressy. He doesn’t care whether or not they fit in.
And I began to think about how glad I am that Christ does care about people. And yet the same things can be said about people that He does care about as can be said about shoes that he doesn’t care about. He doesn’t care what color they are. He doesn’t care if they are dressy. And he doesn’t care if they always fit in. In fact, he sometimes prefers that His people don’t fit in (I Peter 2:9; Romans 12:1,2)
Immediately after services, I encountered my deaf friend, Janie, who was baptized a couple of months ago. She signed to me that she has been smoke-free for 18 days. Time to run give her a hug. Janie asked me if I could help Nina. Nina has a learning disability. She was having trouble, at the moment, with her acid reflux and needed some crackers and a place to lie down. Then my 12 year old friend, Allie, with whom I study weekly (to help her prepare for baptism) was waiting for me. On our way down the stairs, we were stopped at Nina’s classroom because her teachers were wondering where she was.
At last, having everyone situated, I began the study. Today we studied about a boy named Joseph who never really did fit in with his brothers. Allie could not remember ever having heard the story of Joseph.  When we got Joseph down in the pit, Allie said, “So he just died there in the pit?”
Next week I get to finish the story of Joseph with Allie. Thankfully, he didn’t just die there in the pit. God was with the misfit brother all the way to the second highest position in the land of Egypt. Before he became royalty, he experienced rejection, lost his dressy coat, became a slave, was imprisoned and was forsaken by his friends. In reality, he must have felt very awkward and out of place on many occasions.
I love James 2. It says that if a man comes into our assemblies dressed in fine clothes and we offer that man the best seat in the house, while another attends in dirty clothes and we let him stand on the fringe or sit on the floor, that we are making distinctions among ourselves and have become judges with evil motives. James adds that God has chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith. I also love Matthew 25, where Jesus said if we minister to the least of these, we minister to Him. I want to be richer in faith. I want to be less about matching and more about ministering. I want to be less about fitting in and more about reaching out. I want to be less about the look and more about the Lord.
I’m glad I wore the loafers. They made me think a little bit about the kind of wealth I want. They made me a little ashamed of my vanity, and that’s a good thing.  And ministering is easier on the feet when you have on flats.