Tag Archive: religion


Modesty, Expectations, and FYI

It was with interest this week I read a blog post on modesty. Perhaps you’ve seen it, FYI (if you’re a teenage girl) by a blogger named Mrs. Hall at Given Breath. The post has certainly been making the rounds. I popped onto Facebook (yeah, yeah, I know – *I* got onto Facebook) just to see what people were saying. Some were for, some against, and some in between. Myself? I didn’t like it. It bugged me, and it’s been hard to put my finger on exactly why it did. It provided a great opportunity to think, though!

On one hand, Mrs. Hall is really offering a great reminder to folks, that the world is an increasingly public place. Everything ends up on the web, the information will probably remain available for years to come, and it’s not smart to assume that a privately posted picture, comment, or anything else will remain private. It’s usually pretty easy to download, right click, screenshot, copy, paste, and repost it more publicly. Barring an apocalypse, your info *is* going to be out there for others to find. What do you want them to see? Do you think you’ll still feel that way in 10 or 15 years? Heck, how about next week?

It’s also probably a good thing to remind young ladies that some young men out there actually are reaching for purity, to maintain their own innocence and modesty.

But, man, something just didn’t sit right with me. One outstanding burr is the blocking policy. One “sexy selfie” posted, and the offender gets blocked. I know – parents want to protect their kids. Good parents want to keep them safe, and social media doesn’t necessarily offer a lot of parental control tools. But… what many do offer is some form of private messaging. Why not practice a little bit of Matthew 18:15-17? Verse 15 has what I’d consider to be the important part. It says this: “If your brother or sister[a] sins,[b] go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” Why not talk to them one on one, point out in a nonconfrontational manner that the photo might be a bad idea, affirm their innate worth, and give them a chance to make a different choice? Why not try to win them over? Then, if they are still posting questionable pictures, send ‘em a regretful explanation and block them. Without that outreach, blocking seems like a mini shunning from an exclusive club, and that can’t feel very good.

Another thing I thought about was how I wouldn’t want somebody talking to or treating my little sisters that way. By “that way,” I don’t mean Mrs. Hall or anything she wrote specifically. Modesty is a big deal in a lot of Christian circles. I mean I don’t want them feeling confused or ashamed or hurt or guilty because they were given the idea that they’re somehow wrong, bad, or responsible for some young man’s struggle with lust.

Here’s something else. This attitude that the female needs to dress more modestly (however modesty happens to be defined by that person) in order to protect males from their own lustful hearts – it stinks. To high heaven, it stinks. Practically speaking, I don’t think it works. All it does is set up scapegoats. Emotionally speaking? Now, I haven’t ran into trouble (that I know of) regarding my state of dress or undress. What I do have, though, is a background of childhood abuse, and this issue does push some of those buttons. Part of what I learned living in an abusive situation was to try to modify my own behavior to help change my father’s behavior. I learned that he was dangerous to provoke, and I learned to try to make sure I wasn’t provocative. It didn’t work all that well. I was never able to control my dad’s behavior by changing mine. That’s not my responsibility, and I’d say the same is true for modesty issues.

Furthermore, there’s an old story that reminds me a lot of the idea that women have a responsibility to protect men. I get the stumbling block argument, I really do. I’ve certainly heard it enough (and agree to a limited extent), but what I’ve not heard mentioned too frequently in modesty discussions is this other story. It should be. As far as I know, it’s the first recognition of nakedness in the whole Bible! I’m talking about Adam and Eve, of course. Maybe you know the story. If not, here’s a link to Genesis 3, and I’ll give you a summary.

Eve, encouraged by the crafty serpent, ignored God’s command and ate fruit from a forbidden tree. She also shared it with Adam. Upon consumption, they were suddenly aware and ashamed of their nakedness, made coverings, and hid. When they eventually, shamefacedly, appeared before God, He asked for an account. Look at Adam’s answer. He said, ““The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” God’s response, some few verses later? He said this:

“Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;

   through painful toil you will eat food from it

   all the days of your life.

18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,

   and you will eat the plants of the field.

19 By the sweat of your brow

   you will eat your food

until you return to the ground,

   since from it you were taken;

for dust you are

   and to dust you will return.”

Boy, that doesn’t sound like fun, doesn’t it? I’d like to point out a couple of quick things. The first is what Adam said is still heard today, I think. It’s somewhat different. In the case of modesty, it might sound like, “That girl You put here with me – she put skimpily clad pictures of herself on Facebook, and I checked ‘em out!” The second, sobering observation? It didn’t seem to matter to God that Adam didn’t directly pick the fruit for himself but rather took what was offered by Eve.

Think about that, huh?

There’s one more thing I don’t quite understand about Christian modesty teachings and that inclination to expect females to protect males. Maybe I just missed it, but I don’t remember any place recorded where Jesus demanded that a woman cover herself in order to preserve His purity. Seemed to me that Jesus saw people as people (even if they were lousy Samaritans!) and modeled for us relationships filled with forgiveness, provision, grace, and love.

***Disclaimer: I’m not trying to pick on Mrs. Hall whatsoever. Her post and position, a position not uncommon in the circles in which I grew up, provided food for thought. I also am not a fan of females trying to tempt males. After munching on the forbidden fruit, Eve didn’t make out so well, either, ladies.***

Narrow the Road

“But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:14

The road leading to life is narrow and found by only a few. I suppose this could make Christianity sound like some goofy, exclusive club with unnecessary barriers to entry. A small gate could be considered hidden. I’ve also heard this explained that, compared to the wide gate and broad, destruction bound road in the previous verse, Christianity just isn’t as attractive or well advertised. I have this glimmer of memory of a picture of two gates. One was huge, glitzy, and definitely designed to get attention. The other was small and rather plain. It wasn’t drawing much of a crowd. One more idea (I think) I’ve heard associated with this verse is that only a few find life because, being narrow, the road is treacherously easy to lose. If it’s not actually lost, you might just fall off of it.

I suppose all of those interpretations have some validity, and I’ll bet there’s a bunch more out there I’ve not even considered. But… “narrow the road.”

“Narrow the road.”

Ever been near a stream on a hot, dusty day? Maybe there’s a little breeze stirring the pine needles and rustling the dried grasses. The stream is babbling happily away. A grasshopper startles and leaps, wings buzzing against the quiet. There’s not much going on. It’s a sleepy afternoon, a dreamy afternoon, a time to be lost in thought, to ponder. A smooth, round stone comes to hand. It’s perfect to roll over one’s fingers, to idly toss in time to a thought. Up and down the stone goes, its texture catching the sunlight, shadows deepening and shifting as it twists in the air, making a soft slapping noise as its caught. It has rhythm.

Up.
Down.
Up.
Down.
Breathing in.
Out.
In.
Out.

“Narrow the road.”

Life slows to a contemplative crawl.

Breathe in. Another toss. “Hmm… ‘narrow the road.” It reminds me, in this deep and quiet place, of this:

“…Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus.” Hebrews 12:1b-2a

Maybe the road being narrow has little to do with leaving people out, a lack of advertising, or a slippery slope. Maybe it’s got more to do with focus and dedication. What do you have room for in your life? What takes up space? What’s keeping your eyes busy? Can you fit that through a small gate and travel with it along a narrow road? I can’t. When my life is too busy, too full, all I hear is noise, and I need space for my life to spread out and let me breathe. I’m hindered. I’ve lost my focus. My eyes aren’t fixed on Jesus at that point, and if I’m moving, it’s probably like a ping pong ball. I’m bouncing between all the clutter in my life.

“Small is the gate…narrow the road” – not everything will fit. Sometimes I just need to let go of things and keep running.

Why Do We Need Religion?

“So,” a friend wondered, “why do we need religion?” Great question! Really, that’s a great question, especially considering that she believes that she doesn’t need it. She’s not religious. She doesn’t believe in God, either, but does say that there are things out that defy explanation. That’s my paraphrase, and I may be misrepresenting her views somewhat. Don’t quote me! I know I’m not quoting her!

Anyway, it’s a great question. We’d been talking about all kinds of things – politics, religion, counseling, abuse, life, death – and she popped that one into the mix. For her, she wasn’t raised with much religion, and I’d guess that plays a part in shaping her opinion. She also mentioned religion has sometimes very negative effects. That’s true. Even if a religion claims to be good and beneficial, it’s not always angelic, saintlike, and completely positive. The Spanish Inquisition, Catholic priests molesting children left in their care, and the Salem witch trials spring immediately to mind. History is awash with examples of religions that, either thanks to core beliefs, misbeliefs, or being warped to serve dark lusts, cause harm to those in its vicinity.

The harm caused by religion need not even be that dramatic. Harm can be something as simple as burdensome guilt.

What good does religion do? Why do we need it? I think religion, particularly Christianity, because that’s the one I know best, can be very good for people. Let me share a few thoughts.

  • It has helped keep people healthy. I could be wrong about this, but I’d guess religion has been around longer than science has. In the Old Testament, lots of religious laws were given to the people of Israel. Those poor, overworked Jews weren’t allowed to do things like poop in their camps. They had to go outside and make sure it was buried because God thought it “indecent.” Any more, most people would call that sanitation and be completely grossed out by a pile of human excrement collecting flies within a campsite (“ew! ew! bad smell! disease! WTB toilet!”), but humanity hasn’t always had flush toilets and knowledge of disease vectors. Jews weren’t allowed to eat pork or shellfish, meat that sometimes came with illness causing friends. I could talk about it more, but I don’t want to take that much space. This article, Bible Health Laws, from Tomorrow’s World, focuses on the health benefits of ancient Judaism. Knock yourself out!
  • Religion ought to be helping to meet social need. James tells us that worthwhile religion involves activities like taking care of distressed widows and orphans.
  • For myself, I learned a lot about how to become the kind of person I wanted to be. My dad wasn’t exactly the greatest example of virtue, integrity, or how to treat others. No father is. They’re all heroes, I think, to their children and are emulated by their children. Then the children get a little older, realize that Dad does have some flaws, and must grow beyond that childhood ambition of being just like Dad. There are all sorts of ways a kid can go. I picked the Bible, God, and Christianity, and I learned a lot about how to treat myself and others better. Take a look at Matthew 18. It promotes humility, advocates good treatment of children, gives advice about how to handle conflict or sin, and advises mercy and forgiveness. I Corinthians 13 talks about the necessity of love and explains what love is actually supposed to be. Proverbs is chock full of pithy nuggets promoting wisdom, illustrating folly, and other valuable insights. Reading through Psalms and even some of the OT prophets like Isaiah or Jeremiah helped me to reach my heart and feel the emotions I was packing around with me.

In some ways, religion has been great for me. I’m sure there are lots of other reasons why it can be beneficial, but I’m out of time and brainpower today. How about you? Got any ideas?

Asking For His Blessing

I am tired today. The last few days have been busy. In fact, the summer has been busy. It’s generously provided me with a limited time opportunity to accomplish a lot outside, and I’ve seized that chance. It’s made for long days, short nights, and sore muscles, which would be why I woke up this morning with a sore shoulder, a developing headache, an abundance of yawning, and no phone call from work telling me that I could just stay home in bed.

I don’t know about you, but these are perfect conditions for a good case of the grumps, the cranks, the snarls, and good, old-fashioned crankiness. I am tired. I hurt some. I have things beeping and ringing and otherwise annoying me, and I have to be nice? Or at least put up a decent pretense? Bleah.

Fortunately, I do have options. I don’t have to assume the guise of Grouchy Malouchy, and fortunately I remembered that options are available this morning when my alarm went off. It’s always best to nip the grumps early. I can ask for God’s blessing.

It’s pretty simple. In some ways, it’s a lot like asking a blessing before a meal. We do that as an expression of gratitude, as an acknowledgement of of God’s provision, and as an opportunity to make requests, such as nourishment. Why not carry that practice into other areas of our lives? I figure that a God who does “immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine” probably does more than simply give us food. I think that a God who can turn water into wine, feed a guy using ravens, keep a supply of flour and oil refreshed until the rain comes, feed five thousand from a seed of 2 fish and five loaves, make bread and quail appear to sustain the desert dwelling Israelites, and an old man into a great nation is probably a pretty good provider. He sounds like He’s good at meeting needs.

He sounds like He excels at taking inadequacy and making it into an abundance, so that’s what I asked Him for this morning when I woke up and realized how tired I felt.

God, I’m really tired. You know I’ve been busy, and that it was hard to get to sleep last night. Thank you for the sleep that I did get. I know every bit helps, but I also know that it’s not enough, and I have a long day ahead. Please bless the rest I did get. Take it and make it somehow enough to get me through my day safely. Help me to have a good day. Thanks.

This isn’t the first time I’ve asked for His blessing on getting me through a day. He always gets me through, though I never know what to expect. Sometimes I just feel better (and can’t give caffeine all the credit), sometimes I have an unexpectedly easy day (which seems to be today so far), sometimes I get to experience the sufficiency of grace through a hard day, and so on. Easy or hard, He always seems to work it out so that the day has value. I don’t usually get stuck gritting my teeth while trying endure on my own yet another horrible, stressful day. If nothing else, simply having an open door to ask for His help relieves some of my stress. Remembering that I have a choice helps alleviate some stress, too.

We’ll see how today goes. Personally, I’m expecting good things!

—–

Yep, it was a good day, and now it’s bedtime. Have a great one!

Links for This Week

This last week, I’ve been pretty busy working outside, playing with my sisters, and painting hope onto my wall. In other words, I’ve slacked off and not written a post, but it’s all good. I’ve been meaning to put up a post recommending another blog. In the last week, Kari provided some great posts, and I definitely think her work is worth reading.

For a little background, I found her blog on Facebook. Half my lifetime ago, Kari and I went to the same rural church. Since it was small and relationally oriented, everybody knew everybody. We were a community. The church attended services together, ate together, worshiped together, worked together, had retreats and Family Camps and weddings and all kinds of stuff. It was really a great church in a lot of ways, so for me, it was fun, 10 or 15 years later, to see that Kari had been keeping a blog. It was even better to read it and see that she definitely still loves God. I always love to see that! She writes about faith a lot, and when she’s not writing about that, she often writes about some practical ways to keep a house and live more frugally.

This week, she wrote a series of posts dealing with the dreadful “d” of disappointment. The first is called “When the road is long.” Kari shares some thoughts about disappointments which last a long time. The second is called “When no one understands.” It’s an interesting thought. I hadn’t considered how disappointing it can be to not be understood. The third is “When you must be silent,” and she talks about the difficulty imposed by silence. That’s one I do understand. Not being able to talk about things can just swell your throat shut so that the time comes that it would be okay to talk, you can’t. Come to think of it, that right there is pretty disappointing.

One thing I would mention about disappointment is that it can be quite the thief. It will steal hope from your heart if you let it.

Following those three posts identifying some types of disappointment, Kari wrote a great post about expectations titled “What to expect when you’re expecting…” I love this one. There’s truth in it, truth that can help point a person to God and make them aware of their need for Him. Look at this!

So what should we expect?

Opposition. Persecution. Obstacles. Suffering. Trials. Conflict. Hardship. Storms. But most of all …

Except to see and encounter Him in the midst of it all.

He is found in the midst of the storm, the suffering, the obstacle. When we run from those things,  we run from Him. He is there.

I expect to face these things, and I expect to see His face there.

That’s what I can expect.

I love this, not because the idea of being used as a punching bag sounds like fun, but because God doesn’t leave me. Because God is there. Because God works things out for good. Because even death can’t beat Him. Life is not a soft, fluffy, sweet teddy bear on which we can land without the least concern. Bad things, hard things, painful things – they all happen, and they happen without regard for my wickedness or righteousness, my foolishness or my wisdom, my poverty or my wealth, or any number of other things. We can’t control much of what happens. In the middle of it all, in the good and the bad, God is there. I sleep better at night because of that.

Have a good one!