Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Bible and Yogurt (Guest Post)

This is a guest post by one of my wonderful girls (and friends) from UNC. Meredith is great - artistic, loving, creative, real. I do miss her. Maybe since her family now lives in the same city as me, I will get to see her more and maybe enjoy a breakfast or two together! I do have some pictures of us together, but I think this picture captured of who Meredith is: her love of cold weather (she used to live in CO), her love of outdoors, and her fun hair that I've always loved!
I hope that those of you reading this will be encouraged tonight. For me, this evening was one of those times when I was so tired from my day that after reading chapter 1 of Ephesians, I couldn't even remember what I had read.
I am a perfectionist, and therefore, I expect my devotions to be perfect; meaning I will have life-altering mountaintop revelational moments daily. But then I have nights like tonight, when I don't feel anything except how my eyelids are trying to close.
I was brushing my teeth feeling discouraged (that's one feeling I know well as a perfectionist!), when I remembered Hebrews 4:12 - "the word of God is living and active."
And here is where yogurt comes in. Yes, this is an analogy comparing the Bible to yogurt. As weird as it sounds, though, God has truly encouraged me with this! You know how you can buy yogurt with "live active yogurt cultures" in it? Well, often when I'm eating yogurt in which there are actually living organisms such as Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, I think about how these little organisms are running around inside me, doing good stuff that I can't feel!
I think it's the same with God's word; regardless of what we feel, His Word is living in us; it is at work. Reading the Bible is analagous to ingesting live active yogurt cultures in a sense; perhaps it seems as mundane as eating Yoplait one day, or even most days. Perhaps it seems we haven't achieved anything meaningful in our devotions. But we have - Hebrews 4:12 tells us we have.
I trust the seal of the National Yogurt Association that tells me Lacto and Strepto are diddling around in my tummy. (Did you even know there was such a thing as the National Yogurt Association!?) So, do I trust that I have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and that this seal assures me Christ will complete the work he started in me? And He will do this regardless of how "well" I read my Bible tonight. He will do this regardless of and because of the physical and mental limitations of being a human.
I'm going to bed encouraged tonight, and I hope that you are, too, especially if you share this frustration. And in closing, the major flaw in my analogy is that yogurt cultures are potentially beneficial, but the word of God always is.

Thank you Meredith. Enjoy your live active cultures!

Every Wind of Infatuation

The title of this came from a blurb I heard in chapel this morning. Don't worry - I'm not a poet, this just got jotted down on paper:

Soul wanders.
Soul wonders.
Searching stars.
Searching cravings.
Static haunts.
Static joys.
Seeking direction.
Seeking meaning.

Soul found.
Soul happy.
Searching long.
Searching eternity.
Surrendered heart.
Surrendered calling.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Left and Right of Feminine Style/Dress/Modesty

InStyle. What Not To Wear. Ann Taylor Loft. The Devil Wears Prada. The Bible.
Most women would recognize the first four as beacons for the world of fashion. What about the last? Shouldn't the Bible be our first place to go for answers on what we can wear and how we should dress as Christian women?
Many years ago now I was given a sermon by my then pastor's wife on "The Soul of Modesty" by Sovereign Grace pastor CJ Mahaney. I always thought I dressed modestly - but before I pulled out of the church parking lot, the Spirit used that sermon to convict of so much more than hems and necklines. That day started a work in my heart that God is continuing even till today - more than 5 years later.
This post isn't so much about lists of what we can and should not wear. It is more about our heart and seeing some of the ways the culture and its bent toward feminism has altered our view on modesty. Recently, I attended a women's conference. There were women dressed in skirts and tees - there were also woman dressed in dockers and plain shirts. Some had their hair done and makeup on and matching purses and some didn't have any makeup on and wore worn-out tennis shoes. Trust me, I love days when I don't have to put on makeup and I can stay at home in exercise clothes - but that does nothing for my sense of femininity and I rarely go out in public like this (anymore).
So, here is where the title of this blog post comes in. I had a brief chat with a wise woman about this topic and my concerns. The first thing she pointed me to was Isaiah 30 where God whispers to His children "this is the way, walk in it". The Lord is chastising His unfaithful children who live their lives without consulting Him or His laws, how they make plans without seeking His face, how they longed to stay in slavery to self and worthless idols. Then, He offers hope - that if they would just return to Him, to His Word, to His Commands, they would know his directions. With every step - whether to the left or the right - they would know his direction.
Scripture gives us Biblical guidelines for our daily lives. We don't need to wonder about anything - we have everything we need in order to live Biblical lives. This goes for fashion and our wardrobe too. There is a left and right (extremes) in this due to the sin in our hearts. Let us strive to live "this is the way, walk in it".
Here are two of the extremes:
1. Not wanting to dress/present ourselves as femininely. Women blame this on place of residence (in the country), personality, lack of money or interest. In reading Carolyn McCulley's newest book Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World, I came across this excerpt from The Goddess Within by Woolger and Woolger:
"Despite her strength, brilliance, and independence, there is a paradox contained in the traditional image of a maid clad in armor. It seems to us that the more energy the Athena woman puts into developing her successful, worldly, armored self, the more she hides her maidenly vulnerability. So, with her androgyny, Athena conceals a conflict, an unresolved tension between her tough outer self and her hidden, unexpressed self that can be a source of great insecurity with regard to her finding an integral feminine identity. We call it Athena's wound."
This may be one of our culture's problems. We want to be so equal to men that we are unwilling to dress femininely. God didn't create us to be androgynous. He created us FEMALE! Live in it - accept it - love it. Its hard for me to even wear business suits to work because they look very manly - even if I wear a pink shirt and heels with it.
We are given a great, godly example of this in Scripture - Queen Esther. She spent 7 days in preparation - a full week at a spa! Makeup, dress, oils, lotions. Now, I'm not suggesting we spend hours on our look every day - but 30 minutes to get dressed, do our hair (in front of a mirror), put on makeup (not while driving) isn't bad.
2. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is the woman who cares too much about what she wears. Recently, I was loaned a copy of the latest issue of InStyle magazine. I enjoyed looking at all the latest styles, but I don't have $300 to spend on a purse of $900 on a pair of shoes. Some of sin by going into debt to buy these things or by attaching ourselves unhealthily to things of this world. Maybe we spend more time looking in the mirror getting ready for our day than we spend in the Word of God. Or we tend to get judgmental of others - basing our thoughts of them solely on what they are wearing. Are we too proud to shop at thrift and discount stores or clearance racks? One word of caution in Scripture comes from the preacher in Ecclesiastes chapter 2. He learns after all his striving that "all was vanity and a striving after wind".
So, if we are "to walk in this way" - according to Scripture. What does it say on this topic?
1. Proverbs 31.30. A profound verse. Our hopes are not in what we look like - they are only found in God. We may think this and "believe it" but until this comes out in our actions and in our hearts - it is just lip service.
2. 1 Peter 3.3-4. Again, emphasis on the heart. But this admonishment from the Apostle doesn't say "do not pay attention" to the outer - he warns not to get them out of order - the heart is first.
3. Titus 2.4-5. Teaching others about purity - especially "older women". This doesn't mean we have to wear pants and turtlenecks year round - but we do need to watch our necklines. Women - train those around you. Model biblical femininity. They look to you. Be fashionable - but be modest. Especially if you are in front of a lot of women, or on a platform. I remember the rule for singing in Southeastern's chapel was to wear skirts below the knee, preferred to the ankle. Is this necessary - no. But, the standard is higher for those in leadership.
4. 1 Timothy 2.9. We must adorn ourselves with modesty and self-control. If some woman has 300 pairs of shoes - or even 30 - that may not be a problem with modesty but with self-control.
I think these guidelines are very important. The Bible doesn't give us a list because its not about lists (last legalism) - it is about Christian liberty, grace, protecting others, being feminine, living pure, conduct becoming to Christ, running hard after God.
I was in Goodwill recently. Found a great gray skirt by Banana Republic - expensive. The Goodwill price was only 3$. I knew it looked short on the hanger, but of course it wouldn't be that short in the dressing room. However, it was. I thought it about it - looked at it in the mirror from many different angles, sat down in it. I finally had to take it off and say no. Sometimes I wish I didn't know anything about God's commands when it comes to my clothing, my heart, and the protection of men around me. But, I do. And I am thankful because they are life-giving.
My prayer for you is this:
1. Dress modestly. If there is a question about it - you probably shouldn't wear it.
2. Love God more than your wardrobe.
3. Don't judge others because of what they wear or don't wear.
4. Dads (if any are reading)- set the bar high - go shopping with your wife or daughter and give your input into their wardrobe.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Catch up on my world...

Sorry for the lack of posts on this particular blog. I don't post many pics here anymore because most people use facebook for that. I've tried to keep this blog for truly what it set out to be - a place for my thoughts on the Word. So, here you go.
1. Reading. I do love to do it. Currently, I am spending most of my time reading books about women in missions (for a blog I am working on) and also Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers - for the upteenth time. I LOVE that book. It is my bed time reading. Find much of her in myself and love the modernized story of the book of Hosea.
2. I am slowly reading through Colossians from the J B Phillips version of the Bible. I got this Bible from Brad Layland back in 97 when I started working with him at Young Life - great boss. I love this Bible. I love the inscription on it. He was such an influence in my life. Thank you Brad! Colossians is one of those books that no matter how many times I read it - I learn something more each time, wondering where that came from and how come I never saw that before. I am thankful for the continuing working of the Holy Spirit through the writings of Scripture.
3. I am trying to plug in to Sojourn - my church here in Louisville. I am grateful for a church who's passion is the Word, the community. There you go. The force driving both of those things is the Gospel. Sojourn is not about great music (which they have) or great preaching (which they have) or great art (which they have), its about the Gospel.
4. This week is my 2 year anniversary of being in Louisville. I absolutely love the men of God that I work for. They are men who encourage me, pray for me, lead me, show me what it is to be real, humble, leaders of their wives and children, etc. I love their passion for the gospel and the ministry of the local church. I love how they care about their family and spend time with their children. I love their love for their students - and how they succeed. How refreshing this is. I am grateful for my job and for the professors in my life.
5. Thinking about gluttony vs indulgence. When does indulgence become a sin? Why don't more pastors or leaders preach on the sin of gluttony? Thank you JD for such a powerful sermon on this topic many years ago.
6. Learning to say no. I am learning that I am a person of scheduling, and I am learning how to say no to things so I have time for myself. I love meeting with girls and others but I also know that if I don't have any downtime during the week, life is not pretty.
7. God is so gracious and forgiving. I am not. I am very selfishly motivated in things I do. I am very critical and like to give my opinion. I need to shut up more and grow in wisdom. Would I be considered a person of wisdom? Am I faithful in all things? These passages of women (1 Pet 3, 1 Tim 3, Titus 2, Eph 5) always convict me when I read or study them again. Again, thankful for the Word and the Cross.
8. I am learning I do not like to pray aloud. I like to pray - I pray throughout the day. The other day I was praying for my brother and thought to myself I do not know how to pray in this situation. The Holy Spirit interceeded and I am grateful for that. But, prayer is so intimate, and even when I have a good relationship with the person in whose company I am in, I still don't like to pray aloud. Scripture commands us to in certain situations, but I am definitely more of a prayer journaler or silent pray-er.
9. Discipling the younger generations. This is still my heart. As I see so many areas this younger generation needs help with (many areas I still need help with) I am on the look out for opportunities to serve them, teach them, pour into their lives.
10. Thankful for people who want to be my friend. Not because I offer them something or bring something to the table, but just because. These girls all love me, and all bring out some sort of mercy and grace in my life. Some can call me out on sin more than others. Some add depth to my life. Thankful.
11. I love using this period of my life to travel, enjoy the US, enjoy riding in my car, blessing others with my cooking, having people in my home, pouring into other girls' lives, honing my homemaking skills, enjoying some quiet time with the Lord, watching football, being convicted of sin. Its a good time. We'll see what the next year brings - who knows? That is why I love serving a big God - you never know what He is going to do in your life.