What’s Up With Modesty?

 —  February 19, 2014 — 11 Comments

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I live in a land of perpetual spandex.  Everywhere you go women seem to be on their way to or from a workout wearing yoga pants or something of the like. On top of this we seem to be bent on resurrecting the 80′s as leggings and tights have made their way back on top once more. We’ve modernized this look by placing pockets in the back, coloring them a shade of denim and calling them “jeggings.” At least in that decade we coupled these with long sweaters and shirts every time. Not anymore. A friend of mine posted a very funny infograph a couple of months ago along these lines entitled, “How To Know If You’re Wearing Pants.”

While I consider all of the above ridiculous and even at times inappropriate I never realized they were an issue of immodesty. That is until I came across a blog post that spoke on the topic. As a matter of fact it has seemed like these “modesty” posts have been really quite the rage for the last several months. There have been many Moms who have asked girls to watch themselves for their sons. Young women have spoken out on how it is their responsibility to keep “pure” for the guys in their lives.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I have two daughters at home in that teen range. Sometimes we walk through the mall, and I will point out the “never” outfits. You know, those items this parent will never allow them to don on their bodies.

It begs the real question about what modesty is and what it is not.  In the 18th century it was considered terribly immodest for a woman to show their ankles.  In some cultures it is considered risque for a woman to show her face to anyone other than her husband. There was a time when men wore tights and this was simply considered the “style.”

So what are the constants in this issue?

It’s Not Just A Girl Issue

We have the tendency to keep telling our young ladies to help protect the purity of guys. At the same time, we allow our girls to drool over a shirtless guy. The idea that “only boys” are visual is a terrible misnomer. We women can easily take a second glance at something that causes us to to “stumble.”  We need to be teaching our boys and girls to be sensitive to what might cause someone to “lust” after you.

Navigating Culture

When I first moved to Florida I was shocked at what the “good Christian”  teens wore. Tank tops, strapless shirts and bikinis were all regular attire for the girls. Guys found excuses on a regular basis to remove their shirts and wear low slung board shorts. It didn’t take me long to realize why. It’s hot there.  Most of the year it’s over 80 with 70% or higher humidity. It was less about modesty and more about the ability to not feel like you are on fire. Styles change and they sometimes expose more or less skin. We need to find ways to teach our students how to deal with the ever-morphing culture.

It’s A “Heart Issue.”

A young woman asked me once if I thought her shorts were too short. I asked her why she wore them. If she wore them so that boys would look twice and decide she was “sexy” well then yes they were. If she genuinely thought they were “just the style,” then it was for her to decide with God.  Anytime, a girl or guy starts dressing so that someone will drool a little over them, then they are dressing immodestly in my opinion.  It isn’t always about what someone wears, sometimes it’s about why they wear it. Now that does not mean that we have an excuse to join a nudest colony because our “heart is in the right place.”  This is a constant navigation.  We are held responsible when we follow the Lord to be in the world but not get sucked into it.  We must be very careful about why we wear what we wear. It’s a constant assessment.

It’s Not Just For “Them”

This is not merely an issue for the young. I wonder if there are times we point fingers because we wish we had the “body to wear that?” We can think this “modesty” thing is just for the young because they are the ones “struggling.” If in our deepest soul we wish we could wear it, that’s immodesty too.

Modesty is a much more complicated topic than we give it credit for. I think we would like it to simply be about a list of rules of “what not to wear” and then it’s dealt with. The reality is that it is much deeper than that. When we are totally head over heels in love with Jesus, then we have a deep desire to live differently.  We fight a little less about what we should and shouldn’t wear and navigate this track with Him in mind.   I think that is what we need to be teaching the next generation and ourselves.  I also think us Moms need to write some posts to sons about how to dress so my daughter isn’t “crushing” on you. We’re all responsible.

What do you think about this topic?

How are you dealing with it yourself and then teaching your students?

Leneita / @leneitafix

guys 2

There is a misnomer in America: Girls are the only ones who pick apart what they look like. However, did you ever notice in those Abercrombe & Fitch & Hollister ads that annoy us at the mall, there isn’t just a beautiful, half-naked woman.  Instead there with her is a “buff,” gorgeous guy, showing the world his six pack abs.

Think about these stats from the National Association of Eating Disorders, The New York Times and the Self Esteem Institute:

  • More than 40 percent of boys in middle school and high school regularly exercise with the goal of increasing muscle mass.
  • 38 percent of boys in middle school and high school reported using protein supplements and nearly 6 percent admitted to experimenting with steroids.
  • 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat.

 

The world is not just pushing our young women to look a certain way.  For a pudgy Middle School boy awaiting his growth  spurt, they are shown the “comic relief” in media has glasses and a little bit of weight. The nerd or geek is lanky and the one who “messes up.” We all “know” the one that “gets the girl,” is athletic, tall, slim and strong.

I think it’s time we recognize that while boys are appearing goofy and just trying to show off for the girls, there are long term consequences to the way they see themselves.  According to a study done by Florida State University drug usage is higher in 20 year old males when they have experienced low self-esteem in Middle and High School.  Gangs are known to recruit not only in the inner city, but now in suburban and even rural areas, males who feel disconnected from family and are looking for a place to be respected.

How do we help the young men in our lives?

1.  Deal With It

Boys will tell you this is a “girl’s issue” while at the same time sweating the next time they will have to change for gym class.  Talk about the topic in your programming, and one on one.  It is helpful  to have the discussion in small groups of BOTH mixed and single genders.  This way you can get to the heart behind the “why” to the low self- esteem.  Is it the “comparison game,” or are they suffering bullying, verbal abuse at home or perhaps all of the above? Try allowing students to write anonymous questions on index cards and pass them in regularly.

2.  What Is the Image Of God?

Genesis does not declare that Adam was created looking like an underwear model.  The distortion is that our bodies became “ugly” when sin entered the world. If the Lord continues to create people of all shapes and sizes could it be instead our perception is skewed?  Take the time to dig into the Word and what it means to look at yourself in the mirror and truly be God’s reflection.

3.  Promote Healthiness:

High School athletics often push for guys to make time to bulk up so they can have a better performance. If you have to “make weight” with anything, there are rarely ideas in how to eat well and merely exercise. Instead, we live in a fast food culture with “easy to make” meals.  Rarely are students being taught ideas like portion control, or better choices in food.  What about teaching about nutrition, and balance in working out within the context of your ministry? Practical and spiritual need to collide sometimes.

4.  Modeling Life

Our goto is to usually to say that we need more Christ centered men to speak into the lives of our boys.  This is true. However, it isn’t just words they need to hear. It’s the way we live. Are you a guy who is super competitive or driven to be over the top fit?  Are you a Dad who might be a little too “into” whether or not your son wins at sports? It goes for us women too.  Are we saying that what matters is character and a life founded on Jesus while at the same time off handed swooning at the latest action star? Are we all “joking” about the ways we wish we looked just a little bit different?

I never really knew the depth of these insecurities until my son hit puberty and began to compare himself to his friends. At the same time, his friends share how inadequate they are. These are just starting points, parents need to have ongoing conversations that acknowledge insecurity is male and female.  The truth is in girls or boys our appearance is way easier to take control of than our soul.  We can “fix” our body, working on all the ins and outs of trying to follow Jesus and be His, takes far more effort.

How are you approaching this issue with the guys in your ministry?



Growing Up A Girl: True Story

 —  September 18, 2013 — 2 Comments

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I hear weekly from preteen and teen girls what they believe is “wrong” with them.  Their teeth are too yellow.  Their hair is too straight or curly.  They are too short or tall, chubby or skinny, busty or flat chested.  They are in a constant state of trying to look “right” so they can be accepted.

Sure we walk around saying that it is what is on the “inside that matters.”  Of course those of us who follow Christ are saying  we see the Lord’s reflection when we look in the mirror.

Yet, the horrible and very real truth is that as women we can rarely look past the outside long enough to focus on the soul.

 The problem according to several statistics is that they are consuming about 10 hours and 45 minutes of media DAILY.  This generation is consuming more television, internet,  print media, video games, and movies than ever before in history.

Even if  we hide our girls away-  turned off the computer and never watched a movie, the moment we walk into a store it is in our face. Article after article is about how to be skinny, have perfect skin or perfect hair.  If not it is about picking someone apart because of their lack of such attributes.

How do we convey how to live in this world and look like Christ when we are constantly bombarded with WHAT WE ARE NOT.

The problem of course lies in the moment that we believed that serpent’s lies;  when we took the bite from the fruit of knowledge of good and evil we lost our innocence.  Women lost the memory that we truly are created in the image of our living God.

So the diets started.  The comparing.  Sizing up.  You are looking at me and wishing you had my eyes, while I want your hair.  So we make ourselves look “pretty.” In the meantime our girls are crumbling under the pressure of, “If I could be a little more this and a little less than that.”
We wonder why they are starving themselves or marring their bodies. They can’t get past the fact that they are “all wrong.”

Those that are smart or leaders are seen as “too much.”  We can say it isn’t true over and again.  We can keep saying we shouldn’t care about our looks. An hour out the door of church and my own teen is asking if her jeans, “make her look fat.”  Yes, we joke about that line, but I have stood in my bedroom on more than one occasion sweating that question to my own husband. Perhaps it’s about control? If I can at least look the part then I just might be able to get by. So I am wondering:

How do we really teach our girls that they are gorgeous to God and that is what matters?

How do we help them engage culture and take it back for Christ, in real ways?

How do we really help them to put their identity in the right place and person without pretending- but really make it a truth in their hearts?

First

We need to stop ignoring it. The facts are that while women OUGHT to believe that our souls are beautiful we are striving for beautiful bodies. It begins with every woman working on seeing themselves as created in the image of God. Every woman needs to get before God and honestly assess their insecurities as they compare themselves to other.

Second

Godly women need to be mentoring girls.  We need to show them in the word what the Lord meant for them. It is important for us to teach others how to take the words of Proverbs 31:30  inside: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;  but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.”

Third,

We must teach this generationally.  Each generation of girls needs to be sharing with the next that they are “perfectly and wonderfully made.” Adults, teen, pre-teen, and children: one to another.

Finally

We must teach girls that they were created to do mighty things for God.  Teach them about our Biblical examples: A queen that saves a nation (Esther.)  One redeemed that helps those take over the promised land (Rahab).  Mary was a teen chosen to bear the Messiah. What about Deborah, Abigail, Mary & Martha, Sarah or Rebecca? Ever thought about how there was a void until Eve was created?    We simply don’t know what amazing things our girls might do.

Let’s get them unstuck from this place. THEY ARE CREATED AS A REFLECTION OF THE LIVING GOD.  Let’s celebrate, and teach them to celebrate as well.

These are just starting points what are you doing to affect the girls in your life?

A couple of weeks ago this tweet came across my phone:

93 years Ago today the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote. Sadly the church still has a way to go on recognizing women leaders.

— Pete Wilson (@pwilson) 

What was interesting to me was the slew of comments that followed.  There were all sorts of ideas about whether or not women should be pastors, or follow “culture” or if this idea of women in church leadership was “Biblical.”   Pete’s responses were gracious and void of malice.  My favorite response was this one:

Nope. Not sure how you came to that conclusion from one tweet. Esteeming women and their God given purpose is a Biblical value.

The whole exchange really sat in the back of my brain.  It’s interesting that Pastor Wilson was not making a stand as to whether or not he felt women should take the pulpit or be in charge, he was saying that if God has put a call on your life, and you happen to be a woman you shouldn’t be looked over. (The idea that we draw conclusions from 140 characters is another post all together.)  I want to make it clear this post is not meant to be a theological debate.  I have heard very solid Biblically based arguments for all sides of where women should sit (or stand) in church leadership.  All I can give are some thoughts from a woman who has been in family ministry for 22 or so years.

Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God has a purpose and a plan for our lives.  A plan for good and hope to prosper and not harm us.  That plan might include marriage.  Or not.  It might include children.  Or not.  It might include being called into “paid” ministry.  Or not.  It might mean that plan is to become an international missionary, or be the first person to swim from Cuba to America.  What I know is that whatever this plan is,  it does not go away.  It’s inclusive to all the seasons we go through.  Yet, somehow our culture often dictates for women in ministry it is supposed to “look” a particular way.  If it does not work out that way, something it “wrong.” Too often we are talking about our opinions and not the Bible at all.

I know that when I look at my daughters, Moms, women and girls growing up in my ministry, I want them to know how much Christ loves them.  When they grasp how high, wide and deep that love truly is my prayer is that the greatest cry of their heart would be to love and serve Him. Then I pray the Lord would help them understand that as we do everything for the Lord, as we serve, we lead. It will mean a variety of things wherever God places them. They may or may not be celebrated for it here on earth, and that has nothing to do with gender.  However, this journey with Jesus is the most important one we have.  For me he broke my heart for the least, the lost and the last.  I long to see families who are falling apart, put back together.  In this he has given me places where I lead.  I also agree with Pete’s original tweet, and I could tell you stories of ways I have been pushed down, stereotyped, and that people- who love Jesus- have been down right mean.  When I look at my girls,  the ones in my home, the ones in my youth group, my greatest desire is that they are willing to walk this life with Christ.  I trust He is big enough to lead them correctly and they will know when they seek him with their whole hearts.  Sometimes, I think we as people need to get out of His way.

I would love to hear from other women in ministry, what are your thoughts?



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Weekend Teaching Series: Crazytown (week 2 of 3)
Sermon in a Sentence: 5 Things Guys Wish Girls Knew
Service Length:71 minutes

Understandable Message: This week was another huge hit with students – we covered 5 things from guys that they wanted girls to know. I mashed up some very insightful conversations with guy students, my personal experiences and what the Bible says into a fun talk on relationships and sex. It was super fun to talk frankly with the students and push them into really thinking about the choices they are making and the consequences of a life outside of God’s path. Excited to make this into a resource for others to use in the future as well, too!

Element of Fun/Positive Environment:We had a great weekend planned – we played a hilarious new screen game called Taylor Swift Lyric or Lamentations that was one of the most clever games we’ve ever played. We also had a fun dating video spoof and lots of student involvement. Great energy on a tough weekend (prom at one of our key high schools) and met several students for the first time, too!

Music Playlist: Heart Attack (Demi Lovato cover), Hosanna, Divine and Holy

Favorite Moment: I’m really proud of Travis, he is our new weekend guy and is doing a GREAT job planning the program and keeping things on track. What a great series this has been – 1 more week to go!

Up next: Crazytown (series finale, week 3 of 3)

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It was almost ten years ago at a camp that Sarah had decided that she was choosing Jesus’ ways but she needed help. I agreed to be her mentor. When we got to church after camp I took her home…she had some stuff that she wanted me to help her get rid of…her pipe and her stash of weed. I was young and 5 months pregnant driving home from her house to mine with WEED in my car. I was freaking out…it was a first of me.

We started meeting weekly. We walked through Life Hurts, God Heals together for over a year.

And then she walked away from it all.

It wasn’t the first time…and unfortunately it wasn’t and won’t be the last time a student walks away.

I am guessing you have experienced the same thing at some point.

When this happens…I remind myself of these things:

1. Don’t Give Up

We need to continue to reach out. If they go missing for one week, one month or even a year or more, we keep reaching out. Thanks to social media it isn’t hard to do this with most students. I am also a big fan of snail mail. Everyone LOVES getting mail. We can’t give up.

2. Let Forgiveness Come Easy

I am not sure we are always willing to admit it but students can’t hurt us. Sometimes when they walk away they leave with words that aim to hurt. This is one of those times were we get to be the mature adult believer. (Let’s be honest…this sucks sometimes!) But we need to let forgiveness come easy. Don’t make them work hard to earn it…give it away. Let the same forgiveness that Jesus freely gives to us flow to the students that walk away from us.

3. Keep an Open Door

Don’t stop at forgiveness- welcome them back. We talk a lot about the front and back doors of our ministries. Here is my concern that our front door stays open even to those who have walked away from us. Don’t judge them when they come back or don’t make them feel like an outsider.

4. Pray for Another to Water 

There are times where we plant the seed and we pray for another to water it. As much as we hope and pray that they will come back to our ministries…we pray that another believer or another youth worker will come into their life and continue point them to Jesus.

5. The Final Word is LOVE

Let’s follow after our Savior and let love win. Let our final word to our students be filled with love. Even when we feel overwhelmed, discouraged and wounded…we choose love. If our students last moments with us are their reminders of who Jesus is…let it be love.

About 8 years later, Sarah showed up at church. It was good to see her. You could tell her life was filled with pain and lots of confusion. She wasn’t back for good but she ran to me and gave me a big hug. I am glad. I hope she remembers a young mom who loved her despite the fact that her life didn’t change like I had hoped…and I hope someday she comes back for good.

What do you do when a student walks away?

 



Is your ministry messy? Are your students in the midst of messy stuff right now? Please say yes…so I don’t feel so alone right now.

I am not really sure why it has gotten more messy lately or if we are just finally willing to really step into the mess and embrace it. Nonetheless…it is messy.

Girls struggling with identity issues, lack of confidence and sexual pressures…but dig deeper and we have girls struggling with sexual identity, self-injury, broken families, drug addiction and pregnancies. Heavy…painful…messy.

Today I had a moment of clarity.

I need to face my mess…We need to face our own personal messes. (That includes you…)

Have I taken the steps needed in my life to work through my own mess? Have I done the hard work to overcome habits and hang-ups in my life?

Students in pain or in the midst of mess can trigger our pain and mess. The key is will we recognize our own triggers…either we’ll get hurt or get healing.

Now it’s not that my life is free of mess but I have had to at least be willing to address my mess and start the process of healing before I can really step into our student’s pain.

It will be impossible for me or my leaders to help students find healing if we haven’t done the work in our own lives. We have all heard it said before…we can’t take students where we haven’t been or…in this case, help them find healing when we are stuck in our mess.

So, how to do we embrace our mess?

Get help for ourselves.

Read. Connect with others. Seek professional help. (One or all of them.)

Here are a few books that have helped me with my mess:

changesheal

Changes That Heal

listeningtoyourlife

 

Listening to Your Life

wounded healer

 

The Wounded Healer

jesus i never knew

The Jesus I Never Knew

What are books that have been helpful to you during difficult times?

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I was a freshman girl.

They were senior boys.

We had grown up together. Our families were friends at the church. We traveled to many camps and retreats together.

We were friends.

I trusted them.

But all that changed after one annual youth group event.

It was tradition, every year on that winter day we had a day off of school, our youth group would journey up the mountain for a day of fun together. It was a long day and we would head home after dinner, after the sun had long set over the mountains. We piled into the vans and cars and I choose go in the van with my guy friends for the ride back to the church. You know one of those large 12+ passenger vans with bucket seats. We sat all the way in the back because they were the senior boys and that was the cool place to sit. The leaders were in the front seats unaware of what was about to happen in the back row of the church van.

It had been a long, fun day in the mountains and I was tired, I didn’t think twice about my surroundings and I fell asleep during the long drive back. It was a week or two later that I found out what happened in the back of that church van when I fell asleep. One of the boys I knew, I had grown up with, a guy I trusted took advantage of me by fondling me. The other guys in the back who had not fallen asleep, encouraged this boy to see how long and much he could do to me.

I share my story with you not so we can pick apart my choices as a freshman girl, not to condemn these boys choices, not to criticize what my youth leaders did or did not do, but to remind us of the importance we carry as youth leaders of teenage girls in this broken world.

Here are some good reminders for us as female youth leaders:

1. Truth is even good Christian boys are tempted and make poor choices. We cannot be naive and think that something like this wouldn’t happen in our group. At the same time it doesn’t mean that we cannot trust our boys either. Set up safe guards for your girls.

2. Spread out! Yes the back of the van, room or wherever is the furthest from adults is going to be the cool spot. But if that spot exists keep an eye on who is there. If you see that there is one girl with a bunch of guys send a girl student leader to join them, or go hang out in the cool spot too.

3. We need to be AWARE. Aware of the settings the girls in our groups are placing themselves in while under our care. Aware of those dark corners, or aware when students are missing from the group for a while. Aware when that flirty, innocent girl is enjoying the attention of the cute boys and caught up in it.

4. You can never be too safe. Yes you may need to make a rule or decision to remove a girl from an unhealthy setting she has placed herself in. She will be upset at you for ruining her opportunity with those guys. But I wish someone had seen the unhealthy choice I placed myself in and upset me that night by making me ride home somewhere else.