clothespic

Sexism, Skirts, and Spirituality: Part One

The last few months, Ruth and I have been discussing clothes and what The Bible teaches of attire, so we decided to write about it for the blog. I am writing about the social implications in The Church this week (below) and Ruth will write about the theological implications next week.

A few weeks ago during our Women’s Camp, there was a banquet where we were encouraged to dress up. I really wanted to wear my “Doctor Who” TARDIS blue, “Wibbly-Wobbly Timey-Whimey” shirt because, simply put, it’s one of my favorites. Instead, I ended up doing the socially acceptable thing and wore some dress I bought at Target for $7 cause that’s what’s expected of me. Even as a grown woman I get mocked for the way I dress. And without fail, at the banquet, I heard the inevitable and pitiful “You look nice” statements. I’m convinced; some people say this as a bribe to get me to dress nicer more often.   It’s more of being humored than being respected. This has been going on since my preteen years. During most of my 20s, I tried to meet people’s standards of femininity and finally, one day, I decided I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was done! I was exhausted from trying to be someone I’m not.

While growing up, I was never expected to be “frou-frou” just because I was a girl. I was only required to wear a dress for church, programs, and special occasions. Outside of that, whatever I wore, I wore (as long as it followed modesty rules). When I went shopping, my parents told me to get what I liked (within price range). If I asked my parents, “What do you think?” Their response was, “It doesn’t matter what I like; I’m not wearing it. So wear what you like.” This freedom was also given to my siblings, and I’m grateful my parents had this attitude.

So let me tell you a bit about my choices of clothing. I like things that express myself (i.e. “Doctor Who”, John Deere, raccoons, etc…). I like my clothes to fit loosely. Only on a hot day will you catch me wearing a skirt/dress. My favorite article of clothing is a beat up camp sweatshirt I was given as a gift in 2002 while working there. Clothes given as a gift to me that speak to my personality, no matter how old and tattered they are, are like a “Velveteen Rabbit” to me. I like to wear jeans with widened legs. Corduroy is my favorite! I love the sound it makes when you walk! Swoosh! Swoosh! Swoosh! I like the feel of cotton and polyester. My socks must have the hem on the top of the toe. Sneakers are my favorite type of shoe. Nothing is as comfy as a pair of “teddy bear soft” flannel PJs. And it’s not rare to see me wearing a hat.

So let me tell you a bit about what I hate in clothing. I hate the smooth feeling, such as with silk, it’s the grossest feeling ever.   Anything that is cold against my skin will make me cold. Pantyhose are from the devil created in the deep bowels of hell! Anything tight fitting makes me want to squirm, continuously. I avoid any kind of clothing that requires “an all-day dance”. One example of such dance: pull up from shoulders, pull down over buttock. My feet become extremely cold easily due to being frostbite one too many times in my childhood. As a result, dress shoes, pumps, flip-flops and sandals make my feet become so cold that sometimes they go numb.

As unselective as my clothing choices may seem, I am selective, just not in the traditional way.

I understand not everyone is like me, and I really could care less. If you want to wear dresses all day long, every day, because it makes you feel better, go for it! The problem is, too often, the favor isn’t returned, and that’s where the issue begins.

There are “diagnoses” made as to why I don’t dress up enough. There’s the statement, “You must be a lesbian” which isn’t true. Or the comment, “You must have low self-esteem” which is true, but I know many women who have low self-esteem that dress up daily.   Others say that if I had a man to dress up for, things would be different. Funny. I know girlfriends/wives who dress up just as much as I do, so this is just belittling singles. Some say the “diagnosis” is that I’m an introvert, which is quite plausible. Sometimes, I hate dressing really nice because it brings a lot of attention to myself. So, if I’m to dress up, I want to call the shot of when I feel like putting up with it. Also, introverts are inwardly focused and appearance is an outward focus. The other “diagnosis” that makes sense to me is people who have attention issues tend to be pickier about clothing because it can be a distraction. I don’t actually know the reason why I don’t like to dress up, and to tell you the truth, I don’t care. It just isn’t me.   And more importantly: why do I need to justify myself?

I think it’s strange how people emphasize that a father should tell his daughter what to wear. It’s not only men who hurt my feelings when it comes to clothes. In fact, I feel far more disrespected, pressured, and judged by fellow women! This leads me to believe that being more feminine is a high status in the womanly Christian world and that femininity comes from outward appearance. This annoys me. I had someone tell me once, that if I wore sexy underwear, I would feel better about myself and then become more feminine. So, I tried it. I didn’t feel better about myself at all. In fact, I felt worse. Why? Because all I could think about was how I could have clothed an entire third world country with the price I paid for four items that wouldn’t stop riding up my butt. Trying to improve my self-worth by wearing expensive sexy underwear doesn’t make any sense to me, whatsoever.

Speaking of sexy clothing… “modesty” annoys me too. I have 4 points to say to this: 1.) men’s brains are not more visual than women’s brains. This is just a myth. But even if it were true, why does it only apply to clothing? Maybe we shouldn’t eat cookies in front of men, because we are tempting them to gluttony. Maybe we shouldn’t watch our big screen television with our curtains open, because we are tempting them to steal. Maybe we shouldn’t allow men to drive past road construction sights, because we are tempting them to covet ‘big toys’. 2.) Women are attracted to men’s eyes. Sex starts when a woman looks at a man’s eyes.  Therefore, all men must wear blindfolds to keep all women from lusting after them. Keep’em covered! Especially… if he is… you know… endowed with big eyes… We don’t want to see that disgusting man-whore display! Shame on men for having eyes, which solely exist for sexual pleasure and serve no other purpose!   3.) Sex crimes are about control, NOT sex! Sex is the rapists’ weapon. It has absolutely nothing to do with a woman’s attire. No woman asks for it by the way she dresses! 4.) Bottom line: you’re responsible for your sin and I’m responsible for mine.

What I really wish we would teach in our culture is to dress in a way we want to present ourselves. If we are an artist, we should be able to dress like an artist without being judged. If we are sportsy, we should be able to wear a jersey without being judged. If we are “frou-frou”, we should be able to dress classy without being judged, etc… That way people dress to respect themselves and to express themselves instead of letting others use guilt to control appearances.

A few weeks ago, I googled the word “femininity” and at the very bottom of the website page, it discussed the topic of “cross-dressing”. If you are a woman and have ever worn jeans and a t-shirt, you have cross-dressed, however, we don’t call it that in our culture. It’s usually called dressing ‘tomboyish’, ‘wearing what’s comfortable’, or ‘dressing down’. However, if a man wears women’s clothing, they are judged and called gay cross-dressers. Why? Well, this comes from a very sexist perspective. You see, man is the stronger sex, so it’s okay for the woman to promote herself to be like the stronger sex. However, woman is the weaker sex so it’s wrong for a male to demote himself to try and be like the weaker sex. As an egalitarian and feminist, this sincerely bothers me! There is NO such thing as a weaker or stronger sex! So, I say, the heck with it! If a man wants to dress like women so be it! And when I stopped to think about it, I realized, just like I have clothes that I prefer and aren’t stereotyped as ‘feminine enough’, who am I to judge a man for wearing something that’s not ‘masculine enough’? He may absolutely feel better in women’s clothing and I’m totally cool with that.

Really, I think clothes are just some lofty standard and a sexist stereotype to be honest with you. If I wear a raggedy sweatshirt to a nice dinner, how exactly does that affect you? It doesn’t! I think people make a really huge deal out of nothing. And frankly, if we’re told not to judge a book by its cover, then we should also be told not to judge people by the clothes they wear. Really, I think we should acknowledge that clothes keep us from being naked and just move on with life. There are greater things to worry about in this world like starvation, slavery, and child abuse. Spending time judging people by what they wear or telling them what to wear is a waste of time, Middle School-ish, and to be honest, hurtful.

It’s interesting how we’re often told, “Be who God created you to be. There will never be another one like you. You are created in God’s image.” When what people really mean to say to us is, “Be who God created you to be, as long as it’s in this box I have predetermined to be God’s desire for you.

For my final thought… At Women’s Camp, when the woman in charge addressed us, she said right from the beginning, “You are all beautiful, and it has nothing to do with what you’re wearing.” Thank you for that. No, really. Thank you. Because frankly, I’m weary of being beautiful based on my clothing, my make-up, my hair, my bra size, my modesty, my femininity, my weight, and just in general, my appearance. And if we were honest, I think we can agree that we are all sick of it. Don’t we all desire to be loved and accepted for who we are instead of what we look like? If the only thing I have to give The Church is a nice, feminine appearance, then I am ssssssoooooooooo done! I have so much more to give. Actually, as women of God, we all have much more to give! Beauty comes from our hearts, our intellects, our relationship with God, our relationship with others, our ability to love, our creativity, our passion ministries, our spiritual gifts, our talents, our humor, our personalities, our perseverance, and from our spirits; NOT from an unattainable expectation of outward appearance our culture has assigned us that has leaked into The Church! So thank you for acknowledging that our beauty doesn’t depend on clothes. Thank you so very much indeed.

She’s been everybody else’s girl/Maybe one day she’ll be her own

–“Girl”,Tori Amos

Disciples

The Great Commission: Being Disciple-Makers

This week’s guest blogger is Kelsie:

Have you ever noticed how often the most important part of a message comes at the end? When letter writing used to be a popular pastime, the last few sentences often contained the most important thoughts of the writer – declarations of love or instructions for the reader or a maybe a reminder of some significant idea the writer is trying to get across. As a preacher, the last five minutes of my message is the part that I really want people to get – because it’s usually then that the call to action is made or a challenge is issued.

Jesus saved, for the very end, an important message for his disciples. It was a call to action. It was a challenge to engage in his mission. It was a Biblical throw down to keep the kingdom growing and moving and active.

We read his words in Matthew 28:

Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV) 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

This is known to us as The Great Commission. This is the kingdom business. This is our challenge, our purpose as people of God. We see this passage prayed over short term missionaries going to other countries as an encouragement to win people to Jesus. We hear it on multi-cultural emphasis Sundays to give weight to the boundless reach the gospel should have – to all nations and all peoples. We quote it to inspire ministry leaders to action and recite it to motivate believers to testify and witness to those who are lost or marginalized or wandering. We use it to prop up evangelism training and to give a framework of support to many missions programs.

But are we doing what Jesus actually commanded? Are we evangelists AND disciple-makers? We need evangelists – they’re important to the kingdom. We need proclaimers of the truth to win people to Jesus. We need people on fire with the love of Christ to tell their stories and share the gospel so that people may hear and come to know Jesus for themselves. I myself was saved when an evangelist came to my church when I was a young child. His puppet show presentation of the gospel hit my little seven year old heart in all the right places and I knew that I needed Jesus. And much like a short term missionary, after the week-long series was complete, the evangelist left and I didn’t see them again until many years later.

Evangelists are the great boundary spanners of the gospel, the ones who take God’s words to where the people are. They are the short term missionaries who share God’s love in distant lands in hopes that those who do not know Him might come to. But often they move on – to the next place where the lost might be found and rescued. They are the passionate preachers who speak in such a way that the hearts of people are moved to consider the weight of their sin and the call to redemption.    What happens next is where we sometimes fall short of meeting the challenge – the instructions that were so important that Jesus saved them for last. I’m so very thankful for the ministry of a traveling evangelist that ushered me into the kingdom, but I’m even more grateful for those ones who showed me how to live once I was there. Because as much as we need evangelists, we also need disciple-makers.

We need to finish the mission: the teaching them to obey everything Jesus has commanded part. How many people have been saved — believing that salvation is all there is — and have walked out the doors of our churches to live their lives, believing that their salvation will only be realized at the end of it? They have only been saved to secure their eternity with no impact on their present. Evangelized, but not discipled.

I contend that we are saved in the present, for the present, and it is when our present lives become intertwined with life in Christ that we become not just saved; we become followers of Jesus and learners of truth and doers of his Word. These are now discipled lives – lives lived in the presence of God. And those lives are not lived by only pastors and those in full time ministry – the plan for the redemption of the world includes disciples who are also doctors, architects, politicians, fisherman, dentists, grocery clerks, librarians, construction workers, artists, writers, knitters, inventors, bloggers….you get the point.

The person of Jesus and the gospel of Jesus opened the doors of the kingdom for all people to be saved and then discipled. His command to the disciples was to bring all nations, all people, home to the kingdom. Evangelism is walking someone to and then through that door. Disciple making is showing them where to put their coat, giving them a tour, teaching them the rules of the house, and making sure they get settled in.

Discipleship is a beautiful part of God’s plan to redeem the world. Disciples are to make more disciples. The lives of discipled people can, will, and should change the world – because the lives we are living now do matter to the kingdom of God.

In fact, it’s so important that Jesus mentioned it last. Don’t forget these words, he’s saying, not just to those men gathered around him in that moment. He’s saying it to you and me too. Listen to Jesus now – for this is what it all comes down to. Evangelize the world, please, but don’t neglect to also be disciple-makers. Teach them his ways – show them his heart – engage them in his mission.

Therefore, go and make disciples.

To read more of Kelsi’s excellent writings, you can visit her blog at: http://kelsmoreno.wordpress.com/

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Brokenness

Guest blog by Melody:

“I’m broken”. All of us have identified with that statement. Something happened in our lives to break our hearts. Maybe a death of a loved one, maybe our dreams got knocked down. We often experience betrayal. Sometimes our own guilt can make us feel brokenhearted. Yes, we’ve all felt broken, but what do we do about it?

For awhile, we may try to protect ourselves by withdrawing from everything we can. We may even lash out with our sharp, broken shards against others – or even against ourselves; somehow believing such action will bring healing. After a short time, though, the brokenness wears us down. Now we are broken and weary.

I worked as an advocate for a domestic violence shelter, and our director had a degree in art therapy. She came up with a hands-on way to deal with the brokenness that the women had experienced. The women began by taking various old plates, representing their lives to that point, and smashing them to bits. These bits were sorted into containers. Our director had already taken a very large wooden square – like a canvas – and had drawn a butterfly on it. The women then took the various pieces of broken plates and affixed them to the board until it made a beautiful butterfly; a symbol of the metamorphoses they were making and the freedom they would be experiencing. A beautiful mosaic was created out of the broken pieces of their symbolized lives, giving hope to the women that they, too, could use their brokenness to become beautiful new creations.

There is a Japanese craft called kintsugi, which means “golden joinery”. It is all about turning ugly breaks into beautiful fixes. The story goes that a wealthy Japanese man sent a broken bowl to a craftsman to be repaired. When the bowl was returned to him, he was disgruntled to see that the two pieces had been rejoined by two ugly, metal staples. He sent it back in a huff, and the craftsman came up with kintsugi by mixing gold dust with resin and letting it set in the crack. The wealthy man loved his repaired bowl now better than when it was new, and the art of kintsugi has been popular ever since.

When I think of my own brokenness, I imagine God as a master worker of kintsugi. He wants me to be made whole, and He delights in making me more beautiful than before.

 

Psalm 34:18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

I need to remember to surrender my brokenness to His hands, though, so He can do His work. I cannot fix myself, and hiding from Him in shame cannot result in healing.

What happens to us after we are repaired by the Master Potter? Evidence of our brokenness remains as a crack, but it is filled with the beauty of God’s grace. Others will see it and marvel at the Potter’s work. They may even seek His craftsmanship for repair of their own brokenness.

In Leonard Cohen’s song, Anthem, he says “There is a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in.” We do not need to hide our broken pieces in shame. God sees us with compassion and longs to take us tenderly into His hands and create a work of beauty. We return changed, our scars visible but now beautiful, healed by the balm of His grace.

Goldilocks

Goldilocks And The 3 Eschatological Views

This past November, for NaNoWriMo, I wrote a collection of stories that I entitled, “Fairytales Dipped in Eschatology” and this is one of them.  In July, Ruth and I will be blogging on the End Times aspect of Eschatolgy and various views, so here’s a foretaste of what to look forward to in a couple of months.  (And as a side note, you can go to our “Terms and Definitions” that is linked on the top of this page for definitions of any unfamiliar words.)  

Once upon a time there was a forest, and it was called the Dispensational Forest and it is the place where Goldilocks had lived all her life. In fact, Goldilocks knew nothing of anything else. She was raised, taught and was surrounded by the Dispensational Forest and was completely unaware that anything else existed.

On the far edge of Dispensational Forest, and unbeknownst to Goldilocks, there was a quaint little house. And in that house lived three eschatological views: Postmillennialist, Amillennialist, and H. Premillennialist. One day, Postmillennialist said, “We should do some extra research on the interpretation of the number 1,000.” The other two agreed that this would be a good idea, and they all headed off to the library in search of more wisdom and understanding.

On that very same day, Goldilocks wandered further into Dispensational Forest than she had ever wandered before. She came across the house of the three eschatological views. She looked at the quaint little house and became very curious about it. Goldilocks peeked inside the door and hollered, “HELLO?” and no one answered. The home seemed very beautiful and she decided to take a little self-guided tour.

In front of her was a table and on that table sat three bowls full of three different eschatological views. Goldilocks tasted the first bowl labeled, ‘H. Premillennialist’ but it was too negative!   So next, she tasted the bowl labeled, ‘Postmillennialist’ but it was too positive! Then she tasted the third bowl labeled ‘Amillennialist’ and why! It was just right! So she gobbled it up!

Next, she saw rocking chairs set up in the living room and she decided to try all three of them. First she sat in chair labeled, ‘Amillennialist’ but it was too metaphoric. Then she tried the chair labeled, ‘H. Premillennialist’ but it rocked too literal. Next, she tried the chair labeled, ‘Postmillennialist’ and why! It was just right! So she rocked in it until it fell apart.

Goldilocks next saw a stairway and thought, I wonder where this leads? At the top of the stairs was a gigantic bedroom that had three beds in it. She first tried the bed labeled, ‘Postmillennialist’ but it was too hard. Then she tried the bed labeled, ‘Amillennialist’ but it was too soft. Next, she tried the bed labeled, ‘H. Premillennialist’ and why! It was just right.   Suddenly, Goldilocks realized how incredibly tired she was from all the thinking she was doing that she fell fast asleep!

                  The three eschatological views came home sharing their thoughts with one another and debating what they had just learned. They walked in to see the three bowls on their table had been tampered with. H. Premillennialist was the first to notice, “Someone has rejected my view of eschatology!”

Postmillennialist replied, “Someone has rejected my view of eschatology too!”

Amillennialist smiled, “Someone has received my view of eschatology!”

“Look!” Amillennialist exclaimed pointing and walking over to his rocking chair. His smile melted into a frown, “Someone has rejected my view of eschatology!”

“Someone has rejected my view of eschatology too,” said H. Premillennialist.

Postmillennialist stuck out his tongue, “Look! Someone has accepted my view of eschatology!”

The three views of eschatology searched the rest of the house to see if they could find who that someone was. When they reached their bedroom, they stopped.

“Someone has rejected my view of eschatology,” explained Postmillennialist.

“Someone has rejected my view of eschatology as well,” said Amillennialist.

“Someone has accepted my view of eschatology,” exclaimed H. Premillennialist, “and there she is!”

At that moment, Goldilocks woke up and saw the three views staring at her, just waiting to see what would happen.

“You all think too hard about everything!” She shouted, “I don’t care anymore!”   Goldilocks then jumped out of the window so fast the three views of eschatology were unable to stop her. As she ran back into the forest, the three views called after her and asked her to stay. They all three were more than happy to help her understand, but it was too late. She had disappeared back into Dispensational Forest.

The three views of eschatology stared out the window. Postmillennialist, with a saddened heart, said, “Some people just have a hard time wrestling with Scripture. They fear the change of conviction, I suppose.”

“Wrestle with Scripture?” H. Premillennialist said shocked, “How is one supposed to wrestle with Scripture? It’s a book! It’s not like it has a head to put in a headlock!”

“My dear friend,” Amillennialist stated putting his hand on H. Premillennialist’s back as they walked away, “I think it’s high time you learned what a metaphor is. We can start with the number 1,000.”

“Oh, no we won’t!” Postmillennialist protested, trailing behind them.