Saturday, August 23, 2014

Modesty Rebound; Boing!

I'm amazed by how much confusion has been blowing around Christian circles in regards to modesty.   I've read lots of different articles posted to social media criticizing legalistic notions.  These posts have made me take a long look at my own traditions, and also at these trends in the community of believers who call themselves by the name of Christ.

One thing I've noticed is what I call "rebounding opinions".  Joe or Jane Christian decides that someone else has a problem with something they do.  So they take a defensive position against this error, as far from it as they can.  Boing!  The other person is offended.  They react by making their own bounce in the opposite direction. Boing! Others take sides, and soon you have a regular Church battleground where everyone thinks they are fighting the good fight of faith, but no one actually consulted their Bible or their prayer closet in forming their opinion. In fact, the deciding factor is often hurt feelings. All of these people are hurting the name of Christ, and they are usually hurting His Church as well.

My brethren, or sisteren,  these things ought not so to be!  God's Word, and His Spirit are enough to guide us into the truth. These will never guide us to attack or despise another Christian.  If you feel intense negative feelings in regard to the topic of modesty, where ever you plant your flag, I plead with you to recognize that those feelings must be dealt with biblically before you can be objective about how God wants you to honor Him.

I would be more than happy to cast off a tradition that is unbiblical, unwise, and harmful.  I will have to be convinced through scripture, though.  Someone being rude with a standard does not mean the standard is bad; it means someone reacted in the flesh and used their separation from the world to boost their pride.  This is what the Pharisees did, and we know Jesus took a dim view of it.  But He said things like, "...these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone...."*

Here are some statements I believe miss the point, leaving undone some spiritual essentials:

1.  Modesty isn't about how much of your body you cover with clothes.  It's about your heart being humble.  Actually, this statement is true.  The problem is that it is usually followed by the idea that, because modesty isn't only about the outer covering, therefore the covering doesn't matter very much.  A reference to God's admonition to Samuel that man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart is common.  Step, step, leap!  (That's a reference to logic flow.)  I feel a bit silly saying this, being obvious, but it's a huge leap in logic to conclude that, because God is more concerned with heart, He doesn't care about what man looks at.  Jesus wasn't advocating for people to drink out of cups that were clean on the inside and dirty on the outside. It's just to say that if we only care about what man looks at, we are ignoring our relationship with God.

Let's talk about the word, "modesty".  A quick search gives us a good definition1. the quality of being modest; freedom from vanity, boastfulness, etc. 2. regard for decency of behavior, speech, dress, etc. 3. simplicity; moderation.

When the Bible talks about being modest, it is a message to women.  (I Tim. 2) Men are also admonished to be humble and meek, so they count too, but women are told specifically to adorn themselves modestly.** You might say that this includes not showing off one's riches.  Some have said this has nothing to do with showing off one's body, but is talking about wealth.  Don't you think that is pushing it a little?  Of course it includes showing off one's wealth.  It also includes showing off.  Women shouldn't show off in their dress.  Period.  Body, wealth, and all.

Seriously, people!  Rebellious little kids try to restrict their parents' admonitions to get away with more of what they want all the time!  Any wise parent knows that if they play the game of words with their kids they will lose.  "Clean your room" becomes, "Go into your room and pick up every single thing that is not where it belongs and put it exactly where it belongs, and that does not mean to stuff it all under your bed, or shove it into your draws and then say that this is where it belongs, because it is not where it belongs, but put them in the exact place where I want them to be, and where I put them when I put things away, because if you try to find a new home for them, they will not be where they belong and your room will not be clean."  (deep, slow, cleansing breath) God doesn't play those games.  He said what He said, and you want to please Him, or you don't.  If you don't, you will find some way to interpret the Bible to mean something else, and no amount of detailed descriptions will be enough.  If you doubt this, see what the Pharisees did with Leviticus. (They butchered the spirit of the law and focused on the details.  There are two extremes that do the exact same thing to God's Word.)   See also, non sequitur argument.

Speaking of Pharisees, here's another one:
2.  People who have strict standards are Pharisees who are judging me all the time.  Again, this could be true, but it might not be.  If you assume that someone is judgmental based on what they are wearing, aren't you being judgmental?  Hm?  I have some close friends who have different standards than I do, some of them much stricter than I, but it would be unchristlike to judge them.  I've also found many who have taught me and inspired me to make changes in my life, based on their wise deportment.  I don't always change things, but it's never bad to objectively look at your life and ask God if He wants to make any changes.  See also, ad hominem  argument.

3.  Men are responsible for their own hearts and minds before God, so a woman has no responsibility in the way she dresses.  This one usually comes with a description of a very out-of-balance church, and someone's deeply hurt feelings because of unfairness.  Ok, feelings aside, let's be honest about fashion.  It objectifies women more than men for a reason.  That reason is nothing less than perversity.  Why does a man's summer fashion involve loose-fitting, comfortable clothing, but a woman's summer fashion involves tight garments with much more skin exposed to the damaging rays of the sun? Men who wear peek-a-boo holes in their garments and translucient, or skin tight clothing are not trying to attract the attention of women.  I'm not saying that a man is perverse by nature, but in our culture, perversity objectifies what men want, and it's obvious by just looking at styles and listening to what worldly people say about them. A Christian who wants to please God will not wear styles that objectify her.

The truth of that statement, that a man is responsible to God for his thoughts, should not change how we view ourselves as women.  I am repulsed by the expectation that I need to show my sexual nature to the world in order to be a complete woman, and I will set markers in my life that will not change with with fashions in order to avoid doing so.  Those, I call standards.  They do not increase my personal value, but they do show how I value myself.

I see this statement as a red herring.  Yes, God will receive an account from Christian men for their thoughts.  What does that have to do with women obeying God's direction to be modest?  Why would a Christian woman dress provocatively and despise a man who struggles with his thought life?  Is that the spirit of Christ? To disregard a weaker brother who struggles with his thought life is like a wealthy person bragging about and flaunting his goods in front of the poor, and blaming them if one falls into covetousness.  This is where the word "modest" really comes into play.  Will you push your assets into the notice of others, or will you honor what God blessed you with by using it with meekness and control, respecting others and yourself?  (Of course a perverse man will think perverse thoughts no matter what you are wearing, but that's a diversion from the point.)

Finally, much is said about liberty.  I love my liberty in Christ.  No one tells me what to do, outside of God's basic line of authority, and we are all subject to scriptures.  This is incredibly freeing to a Christian who has felt judged, and it is humbling to the Pharisee who takes unwarranted responsibility over the lives of others.  Therefore, pastors don't get to dictate what their members wear outside of church functions.  If a pastor feels like he needs to do that, he should look for that line of authority in the Bible.  (He won't find it.)  Such a person is out of balance.

Regardless, I do not need to determine how I live my life by rebounding away from such people.  If I do, I'm going to end up doing something harmful to the body of Christ and His testimony!  I have to find how I live and how I think in the Bible, if I want to have the mind of Christ.  He put His liberty aside and humbled Himself to serve others.  I am honored to do the same.
*Mat_23:23  Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
**1Ti 2:9,10  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.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Prayerletter, May 2013



May 2013
Dear Pastor,
                We thank God for His blessing and care of us this past month, and for the faithful prayer and support from our family of churches that care for us.  We appreciate your prayer for these requests, and consider it an honor to represent Christ for you in Xochimilco, Mexico City.

                May was Family Month, and we focused on encouraging families and teaching the Bible in regards to the family.  Our church was invited to a family conference at Antioch Baptist Church in the Federal District of Mexico City, and a good portion of our church attended every service.  It was a help to each of our families, including mine!  We are seeing some of our families making good decisions in regards to serving and honoring God.  We were also blessed to see old friends there, because this church hosted us nearly ten years ago on our survey trip to Mexico City, and the missionary who established the church had flown in to preach with his family.  We were delighted to see Bro. Roberto Ramos and his wonderful family again!

Another pastor ordained to lead God's flock
Giving a message on the responsibility of the sending church
Just a couple of weeks later, I was privileged to participate in the ordination service of one of the men we worked with while establishing the church in Tizayuca.  Bro. Pedro Morales has served God faithfully for years, and now he is going on to pastor a church in Northern Mexico.  It has been an honor to serve with him and his wife, and see their dedication, faithfulness, and genuine love of God.






Praise God for spiritual victories along with the fun!
On the last Saturday of the month, we had a teen youth activity, a water fight.  There’s nothing like a good water war to get the adults wanting to participate in the youth program.  In fact, we had just as many adults as teenagers!  Before we began hostilities, I preached about our enemies as explained in the Bible and encouraged everyone to fight the good fight of faith.  Then, we had an epic battle.  The next day, one of the teen girls got saved after the morning service!  She knew she was lost, even though she had made a profession of faith when she was a young child.  Now she knows she’s on her way to Heaven!
Urgent Prayer Request:
Please pray for us as we are trying to raise the funds needed to travel to the border and renew our passports in Texas.  Gas, highway fees, passport fees, and supplies for the ministry and homeschool all add up to about $2000.  Please let us know if you feel God leading you to be a part of this need. 

It has been a wonderful privilege serving with these brethren.
We are eternally grateful for your prayer support, most of all.  Thank you, and God bless!

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Father's Heritage



Dad enjoys a new grandbaby's smile
Yesterday was Father's Day, and I called my dad, and told him how thankful I was for him.  He was a great dad to me, and my siblings.  I married a man who is a great dad, and so did my sister.  My brothers who are fathers are also great dads.  None of us have the same parenting style, although we all do our best to parent following the precepts of the Bible. I told my dad we had a good example of a man who taught us what a real man is.  A real man of God.  My dad didn't really know what I was talking about, because we both know he doesn't float on angel wings.  But I don't either, and I don't know anyone who does.

I just know that my husband and I have, nearly every month of our ministry, tried to counsel a woman weeping over the broken dreams of the man she chose, who turned out to be a selfish, spoiled man-child.  I've had my shoulder dampened by the tears of hurting women, and their hurting, often angry kids, because a man thinks he is the center of all things, and can't imagine that he has any obligation to the women he's used or the children he's fathered.  As we try to help these women pick up the shards of their girlish dreams, grow up, and take on the heavy burden of providing for their growing families by themselves, I am struck by a gratitude in me that gets stronger with every suffering woman we try to help. These kinds of men are everywhere.

Playing computer games with the girls
A real man sees these things as a no-brainer.  He can't imagine being able to live with himself without taking care of the basics.

  • I thank God my dad has always loved us and is still faithful to and loves our mother.
  • I thank God that he took care of us, that he prayed for us, that he sought our hearts, and that I know he still does pray faithfully for us.
  • There were men who flattered me, flirted with me, and tried to buy me things, but they did not interest me in the least, because I had received enough wisdom from my dad about how a real man thinks, and how a godly man seeks out a wife.  I had also received plenty of loving attention from my dad, so I wasn't looking for that attention from someone else.  These girls get all that from a man, and it's as if their brain suddenly flies away.  They go after that attention like someone dying of thirst goes after a drop of water.
  • I thank God that He led me to a man who would fast and pray, and make a decision to love me forever.
  • I thank God my nephews and nieces are getting the same blessings from their dads, and so are my children.

David and his favorite buddy
Psa 16:6  The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.
It isn't good luck.  This verse was written by a man  who received a godly heritage from his father, grandfather, and great-grandparents. I pray that we pass on the blessing God gave us through our father to our children, and that they pass it on to theirs.  I hope my kids are able to look past our errors, and receive this wonderful blessing of the goodly heritage of God.

God truly blessed us!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Happy Birthday to my little freckled tiger lily!

Rebecca Joy

Please ignore clutter.  Here she is cleaning!

sharing a laugh

squinting in the sun

thoroughly enjoying herself

Thursday, February 14, 2013

I Heart This Kid!

This morning this little man woke up with a bound and yelled, "It's Valentine's Day!"  He ran to the fridge and brought me a sandwich he had made the day before, wrapped in a paper napkin and tied with a clumsy bow.  Tucked inside was a note with two hearts drawn on it.  It was a little stale, but it was the best sandwich I ever had.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Beautiful Fragrance of Unity

Ruth and Rebecca, in a not-squabbling moment.

Being a mom has taught me many things, and one of them is how to better relate to God as my Father.  I've also learned much about myself as I see reactions and behaviors that are typical of human nature being acted out as openly as only a child can act them out.  Children are less concerned about appearing perfect and righteous to others.  Adults, on the other hand, frequently have layers of motives behind their actions, and it can be hard to tell why they do what they do.  But if you understand more about children and why they do what they do, you will see that adults have the same feelings, and often respond in the same way.

Let me make an example.  When I noticed that two of my little angels were at odds with one another, I put them to work to do a job together, hoping that the comraderie would help them to see things the same way.  They didn't trust my judgement on that.  Both of them believed with all their hearts that the other was at complete fault, talking about it would resolve nothing, and that the other child would take advantage of them and make them do more work than they needed to do.  Needless to say, they did not complete their job.  With both of them on the defensive, pushing the other to work, nothing happened. This made a problem for everyone as we had to endure their work not getting done, and the tension they caused in our home.  As I looked at them, with their arms crossed, chins jutting out stubbornly, blaming the other person, and taking no blame for themselves, I was reminded of adults (sometimes me!) with the same attitude.  (Note, the correction of this problem not being part of my point, I am leaving it out, but it was corrected!)

We might not take that posture, but in our hearts we despise others.  We are always on the alert to see that others do their fair share, and when there is a problem, the last place we look is our own hearts and our own actions.  When God gives us clear instructions that we ought to go to the person we have conflict with alone and talk, then go with one or two to judge between, we get uncomfortable, and come up with all kinds of reasons why it's better to talk to all our closest friends about the matter, and why trying to talk to the person in question just won't work.  (Read Matt. 18 for a step-by-step how to on personal conflict.) God knew all the circumstances that could happen ahead of time when He gave us these instructions, but we don't see His wisdom when we are justifying ourselves.  We end up believing that God is wrong, and that belief comes out in our actions.  It also creates a mess for the people of God around us since the work that God wants to complete through us does not get done.  We usually end up hurting ourselves and others and damaging the environment of God's house.

When David thought of how the unity of brethren made him feel, it reminded him of the anointing of the servant of God; that holy day when a person is separated unto God for service. (Psalm 133)  It reminded him of the fragrance of the anointing.  When we live in unity, it is a testimony to all of our holy separation unto God.  It means we are willing to lay aside our own preferences, to humble ourselves at times, and to do it for the sake of the kingdom of God.  It means that at times we will need to not stand up for our own rights, because we love Him, and we know that He is grieved when we are not in united.

As a parent, I understand a small portion of the hurt God feels when His children treat one another hatefully and with pride.  I can see the end of this, and am compelled to correct it.  My children do not look that far, and need to learn to trust me that learning to work together is way more important to me than the washing of a few dishes. God also sees the end of our squabbling.  He sees the good He can do if humble ourselves and follow His word, and He sees the destruction that will come when we resist His wise command.  As His daughter, I want Him to experience the fragrance of unity from me and my relationships!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Homeschool: spelling relief!

All of my kids who have spelling started out this year having trouble with their spelling.  We have been making extra time each week where we focus only on spelling, and I've come up with some fun games that can help the words and rules stick more fully in their heads.  Kids learn in a variety of ways, and while rote memory has its place, it doesn't excite my kids very much.  Quite frankly, if they don't care about it, it doesn't stick.

One of the best games I've come up with is to sing the Spelling Song.  To the tune of "Bingo is his nam-o", we sing, "I've got a word it's name is ______, and this is how we spell it:  ______"  This gets them to repeat the spelling of the word three times to a catchy tune. We then sing it again, with the child saying only the first letter and me singing the rest; then we sing it again with the child singing only the first two letters, etc., until the child is saying all of the letters by herself, preferably loudly!  An added benefit is, the longer the word, the more times you have to repeat it.

I'm also teaching the kids to finger spell letters in sign language.  It's a bit slow, but getting the body involved in any way uses a different part of the brain, and thus gives the child another copy of the information to access in case one copy fails.  It's really fun to try to finger spell and sing the song at the same time-but not at all easy!

Then there's the old-fashioned way: write out the word in question a gazzillion times.  This also works, and can improve handwriting if the child cares about improving her handwriting. (I'm saying "her" because all my children who have spelling are the female variety.)  A side effect of this process is hand cramps, and in our case, some complaning.  I use this method for the really unsticky words.

It's also important to talk about the word list and how the words relate.  They usually have two or three different sounds or spelling rules they are working on.  "That's a 'wa' sound too, and they're all spelled the same way."  If the curriculum doesn't mention the spelling rules being used, I do it!  Any way that I can get them to think of their spelling words with interest and relate them together activates their brain, increasing stickability.

I'm no education expert.  Like most homeschooling moms, we just keep trying new things till we find something that works, and this works for us!

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

At Looooooooong Last!

One of the things that a missionary faces is finding things that they like and are not easily available in their host country.  A big one for me is books.  I love to read, to learn, and yes, even to study.  When the kindle first came out, I drooled.  Imagine having all the books you could want at your fingertips, and at thrift-shop prices!  Drool, drool.  I had to lay that desire down though, because we couldn't afford it.

Well!  I got a kindle for Christmas!  What a blessing! (Pardon the triple exclamation points.  I'm excited.) 

Some of books I've really enjoyed have been the Canadian West series by Janette Oke. I read them all when I was a pre-teen girl, and enjoyed them, but they take on an entirely new light now that I'm a missionary in a foreign country, with my own language problems and feelings of isolation.  These books encouraged me to keep ministering patiently and let the Lord fulfill my unrequited desires in His time. (Which He did with my kindle!)

I'm enjoying the free books available on the kindle Amazon store, but I've learned that you need to be choosy about what you download!  Not everything listed under "free Christian fiction" is suitable for Christians.  The reviews are valuable, here, so I don't download a book without reading enough of the reviews to know it's not smutty.

One book that was very favorably impressed with was, Gods and Kings:  Chronicles of the Kings by Lynn Austin.   I haven't read any other books in this series, but since the first one was free I tried it out.  I've never read biblical fiction that was so "right on".  It clearly brings out the fact that there is nothing new under the sun.  Following the life of King Hezekiah up to the moment he decides to be "that" king; the one who leads his people back to God. You can see the temptation of God's priests to compromise their convictions for the sake of people, trying to draw them back into the temple worship, as they make a transition from serving God, to serving the people, to serving idols. God's plan is evident as He protects Hezekiah and His own faithful prophets, while devout Jews find the temple abhorrent and defiled. There are adult themes, though (Worship of Molech described in graphic detail.)  I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this series!

Well, enough of my jabber for now.  Thanks for reading!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas with no presents? Can it be?

Our Christmas Tree from 2010, the Year of 'No' Presents
It all started about three years ago, when we gave Christmas presents, and for whatever reason, all our kiddos were struggling with their attitudes on that day.  My children are sinners too, and they had been on the road, were just a bit cranky, and unthankful. Although they received some beautiful gifts, they didn't say "thank you", and started fighting right away.  We dealt with their attitudes, and my husband made a decision that the next year, we wouldn't be giving them presents for Christmas.  This was not punishment, but an opportunity to see that we can have a fine Christmas without presents.

To be honest, I wasn't too crazy about this plan, but I wanted to make the best of it.  We told each of the girls to work a little every week and earn money, because this next year they were going to give something instead of get.  The Bible says, "It is more blessed to give than to receive,".  We said that this next year we were putting that statement to the test.

I was surprised at how wholeheartedly the girls worked, and we added up the total that they were earning.  The next year was our first Christmas in Tizayuca, Mexico.  They were each doing a little something, earning a peso here and there, and I tallied them up on a paper attached to the fridge.  As the holiday season got nearer, they began to get excited about how much they were earning.  The week before Christmas we chose a family in our church with health needs, and purchased them a heater to help with keeping their home comfortable.  The girls had earned nearly $60 altogether, and they were so delighted to help someone with their own work.

That is not the end of the story, however!  Since we were new in Tizayuca, and it was the first time we lived in Mexico far from the border.  We didn't really know how the mail works here.  We were pleasantly surprised to see three good-size boxes of presents arrive in time for Christmas.  This was unusual, although we had at times received boxes from some dear friends, we had never had so many presents for the children, and this time, they waited patiently, enjoyed the Christmas story being read, and thanked God for the greatest gift He has given us.  They had a greater appreciation now of what it means that "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son".  I told the girls that God always blesses those who give, and their biggest blessing was to see that God was pleased.

However, I did not realize what a miracle it was that those boxes even arrived at our door.  Now we kind of know how it works.  Mail is delivered on a motorcycle.  Boxes don't come on these motos.  You have to go down and get them, and if the box doesn't have a number to track, it's very unlikely that you will be able to get it from the post office.  They don't give you notification that you have a box either; you are supposed to track it, then go and get when you see that it has arrived at your local post office.  Since then, we haven't received any boxes from the mail carrier, and several that were sent to us went back because we didn't pick them up in time.  The fact three large boxes came to our door was a work of God!

More than the overload of presents we had that year, I am delighted to see how God has worked in the hearts of all my children.  They love giving, and Christmas just gets more and more fun.  My biggest challenge in the holiday season isn't finding super gifts for everyone, it's making sure all of them are given an opportunity to exercise their giving muscle, whether it's making something, or earning money to buy for someone.

It always pays when you put God's promise to the test.  While we didn't actually have the presentless Christmas we were planning on having, we got to see that God's heart is giving, and He gives back more every time. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Inside info on good ol' Saint Nick!

 http://www.homeschoolfamilylife.com/wp-content/uploads/st-nick.jpg
Not much is known about the man named Nicholas, who's life's story evolved into the Santa Clause. We know that he was the pastor of the church in Myra, where he was born.  Most of the stories we have are legends that have filtered through several different cultures, and there is no physical, written evidence of him from that time.  During the third century, the church faced two great persecutions, and Nicholas spent some time in prison for not forsaking his faith.  He made a name for himself through his generosity.  He had come from a wealthy family, and he gave liberally, trying to do so anonymously.  His most famous story, which very well might have some truth in it, is that he secretly gave money for the dowry of three sisters to keep them from being forced into prostitution.  Poor children were known to leave their shoes out on their doorstep so he could drop coins into them at night.  He wanted people to give the glory to God, not himself, so he did his best to hide his giving.

As you can imagine, the rumors spread about him, and after his death, many Christians were inspired by him to continue the practice of anonymous giving.  As the rumours spread, they began to be corrupted by pagan fantasys, and eventually his legend morphed into the myth we have today.

So here's my two cents.  I think Nicholas, or at least his legend, was a shining example of Christ's Spirit in action in the Christian.  We have been given to, the greatest Gift of all. Therefore, it behooves us to give, without grudging; doing our best to let God recieve all the glory.  We understand more of God's heart the more we give.  This story is far more beautiful to me for it's sweetness and humility than Santa.  That's not to say that Santa Clause is the devil.  I just think Christians needs to guard their focus, and many times the clown in the red suit is a distraction to us from the heart of God, which is love.

For us, the trappings of Christmas are all optional.  We've celebrated Christmas on the road, without decorations, we've even celebrated without giving gifts to one another.  (That's a separate post!  I promise to tell that story;  it's a good one.)  We celebrate this truth, that we have eternal life, an unspeakable Gift that came at an unspeakable price from God Himself;  that Christ is one of us, that He knows us, understands us, and loves us anyway, and that without sin, He is able to redeem us to the uttermost.  As we are encouraged in Philippians 2:5, to "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:" I think we ought to see others with more patience, be more willing to help others, and more willing to tell them of God's Gift.  I think Nicholas had that one down!