Monday, May 30, 2011
No, really....stop and try to imagine a week without your technology. Would you feel relieved to go techno-free for a season? Or, would you feel terribly inconvenienced? Even worse, perhaps the thought of living without all your devices and connections triggers outright panic.
Do you own your devices and technological gizmos? Or do they own you?
Overwhelmed by the beeps, buzzes, and flickering screens of life in the digital age, Tim Challies asked himself these same questions. In the Introduction to his new book - The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion - Challies writes, "I began to wonder: Am I giving up control of my life? Is it possible that these technologies are changing me? Am I becoming a tool of the very tools that are supposed to serve me?"
In The Next Story, Challies thoughtfully examines both the benefits and the risks of the technologies and tools available to us today, and explores how we are to engage with our technology as Christians. "We are looking for that sweet spot where our use of technology is not just thoughtful and informed, but it is informed by the Bible, by an understanding of God's purpose for technology. In that place of thoughtful, technological discernment, we live in light of what we know to be true about technology, what we know to be true about ourselves, and what we know to be true about the God who made us."
After a quick overview of the development and progress of technology and its impact on us emotionally, physically, and spiritually, Challies looks at several areas of daily life particularly influenced by our use of technology: communication, identity/mediation, distraction, information, truth/authority, and visibility/privacy. I was personally challenged by the "Application" and "Questions for Reflection" sections at the end of each chapter - What does my computer's search engine say about me? Do I value having many shallow relationships over a few deep, meaningful relationships? Do I find it easier to relate to others through email or chat instead of face-to-face?
While the benefits of a certain technology are quickly discernible, we often snap up the latest device or gizmo with little or no thought to the risks or dangers associated with it. How will this technology help me? How might it hinder me - in my relationships, my use of time, my productivity? Given my sinful nature and the fact that I live in a fallen world, how might this technology foster idolatry in my heart or even become an idol itself?
Challies challenges Christians: our task is not to avoid technology, but to redeem technology. Rather than passively allowing technology to rule our lives, we are to deliberately, consciously, and conscientiously master our devices and our use of them.
If you email, text message, or Facebook, if you use a cell phone or GPS, if you are living life in the digital age - and you ARE - The Next Story will help you own your technology, instead of allowing your technology to own you.
To read a sample from The Next Story or to see a trailer for the book, click HERE.
To purchase your own copy, visit Westminster Books or Amazon or a bookstore near you!
Friday, May 20, 2011
Six jewel-blue buntings, a flurry of indigo...whoosh!
White blackberry blossoms, prickles hugging the steely gray barbed-wire fence.
Scruffy brown ground hog galumphing through the grass.
Fairy flowers, dainty purple vetch floats in the breeze.
Ebony crow perched atop a silver sycamore tree, calling like a sailor from high on a mast.
Orange fox momma peeking through the woods.
Golden finches flash like drops of distilled sunlight from tree to tree.
Pink clover blossoms bounce like tiny balls in the hay.
Red-tail hawk, keening on an updraft.
White fence posts stand sentinel around the field.
Blue tractor dozes by the bright red barn.
Every color electric against the background of spring's leafy green.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
"You guys stop being so crabby!" I cried in exasperation.
"Just STOP it! You guys are wearing me out!"
"Well, you know how it is," one child philosophied, "The family that crabs together....is together."
I'd love to paint a purely romantic picture of life with a houseful of children, but that would be dishonest. Yes, we do have a lot of fun together. Yes, my kids count their siblings to be their very best friends. Yes, we have stimulating conversations of every imaginable sort, and we have moments when we laugh ourselves limp with silliness.
Sadly, we also have days when it seems that every remark is snippy, whiny, complain-y. When you have eight or nine people hanging around snarking at one another, believe me, it is not pretty.
But, as my near-grown son pointed out, it's all part of being together. And I'd rather have the togetherness - and the occasional crabbiness that goes with it - than to all be living separate lives, where we don't bump into each other enough to even have opportunities to get irritated.
If you've never seen your brother when he's crabby, if you've never been crabby yourself around your brother, if you've never had to deal with each other's bad moods or down-in-the-mouth days - well, then I'm willing to bet you don't know your brother very well. And if you don't know him very well, how on earth can you love him well?
So, after considering my son's remark, I'll take even the crabbiness. It's just part of the "bad" that comes with very much "good" - good that I wouldn't trade for the world. Family life, after all, is a crucible for sanctification - a place for extending grace, for practicing patience, for learning repentance and forgiveness, for slogging through the yucky and for celebrating the sunshine. Besides, I know everyone will be in better moods by dinnertime.
Hmmm, this got me thinking...how do we experience similar sunshine and shadow in the body of Christ? Am I willing to endure Susie Saint's irritating habits and to walk with her through her "bad" days so that I can know and love her, my sister in Christ, better?
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
I just fed Donna’s starter its slurry of warm water, sugar, and potato flakes. In its sunny spot on the kitchen counter, the starter will soon be bubbling and churning in its clear plastic jar, telling me it’s alive and feeling good. And tomorrow afternoon, we’ll be slicing into a warm loaf of Donna’s fabulous sourdough bread. Mmmm!
This morning, in my read-through-the-Bible trek, I found myself in John, chapter 6. This entire chapter is about bread and life and true deliciousness. Jesus feeds the five thousand, at which point they decide it would be a good time to grab Him and make Him king.
Makes sense, doesn’t it? Who wouldn’t want a ruler who could provide abundant free food? Maybe these folks are thinking their days of toil and hardship are over…here is someone who can feed them, cure their ailments, and take on the crabby religious establishment. It seems that life is about to take a turn for the better.
But Jesus eludes the people during the night, frustrating their hopes of kinging Him.
Not to be easily put off, the crowd gets up the next morning and hunts Jesus down, eventually finding Him on the far side of the sea (now how did He get over there?!) Then ensues a strange dialogue between Jesus and the crowd of followers. Jesus basically exposes their worldly hearts and tells them they are not going to get what they came after.
What was the crowd seeking? Why were they so enamored of Jesus? They wanted signs, miracles, free bread, healing - all good stuff, but not, Jesus told them, what they should really be after.
What should they have wanted instead? Jesus Himself.
Jesus goes on to explain that if they want real life - eternal life - the people will have to eat the bread of His flesh, drink the wine of His blood.
Ugh. Many are so disgusted and appalled at Jesus’s words that they turn away. Clearly, this guy is not who they thought He was.
This passage challenges me today to consider – what “Jesus” am I seeking? Am I looking for Magic-Wand-Jesus, here to make my dearest wishes come true? Do I desire the benefits possible due to His deity – material provision, healing, security, comfort – or, do I desire Jesus Himself? Do I want the blessings Jesus can provide – or, do I want Jesus? That is not an easy question to answer, given the strong desires of my flesh.
Jesus’s true disciples made a difficult choice – they chose Jesus. They chose Him over all the temporary blessings they could’ve enjoyed in this life on earth. They suffered famine, persecution, want, illness, and even death – not quite the life the above crowd was looking for, huh? But they gained Christ.
At the end of chapter six, when many of His followers had turned away, Jesus asked his disciples, “Do you want to go away as well?”
To which Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Indeed, where else could I go? To whom could I turn to find life? Chirst IS the true bread of life, and union with Him, knowing Him, is far better than any earthly blessing I can imagine.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
My house is a disaster. The two college boys are home from campus, their dorm equipment, linens, etc. piled in boxes and laundry baskets in the living room. Nate began sorting through some of that mountain yesterday, and we hope to have most of it packed in storage boxes and relocated to the attic by the end of the week.
In my room, plastic storage tubs dominate the landscape. Winter coats are washed and packed away, along with gloves, toboggans, and scarves. These are also in queue for a trip to the attic. Then there are the boxes of summer things, which we will be unpacking and sorting through in the days ahead. Maybe, if we are very industrious, we will actually find the floor before the end of the week - I haven't mopped in a month and things are getting rather nasty underfoot.
Like the interior landscape, the out-of-doors is undergoing a seasonal transition, too. Three months ago, I could look out the living room window and see horses and cows dotting the hillside way out behind the red barn. Now, a wall of living green has shortened my view to only a few yards...green leaves, dancing and rustling in the wind, hide everything in the fields beyond.
Yesterday, I hiked back to the Three Sisters. The creek, carved into new curves by the recent rains, whispers and burbles over gravel shoals. In the pastures, brown stubble has given way to thigh-high grass. Yes, the blackberry brambles are covered with white blossoms - and the honeysuckle and cane are in full bloom, too.
Everywhere, there are birds, birds, birds. Snowy egrets around the pond, herons at the creek. Sunshine yellow finches and jewel-bright indigo buntings, orioles, robins, field sparrows. Walking late in the day, I hear two hoots owls booming round deep notes back and forth overhead.
The farm is redecorating for summer.
Monday, May 16, 2011
I am the state. - Louis XIV (disputed)
I am Legion, for we are many. - the demoniac healed by Jesus in Mark 5
Context certainly influences how you introduce yourself to others. "I am Camille Kendall, applicant for the position of Unit Coordinator." "I am Mrs. Camille, your Bible teacher for this week." "Hello. My name is Camille Kendall, and I am the speaker for this morning's session..." "...I am Reuben's mom." "...Steve's wife." "...a home-maker." "...a home-educator." "...a writer." "...Bill and Carolyn's daughter."
An introduction tends to be short and to-the-point, emphasizing one particular facet of who you are, in an attempt to make some kind of a connection with a new acquaintance. But what if you have time for more than a quick bullet point? What do you want to communicate about yourself now that you have more than 20 seconds to work with?
I have two friends who are very alike in many ways, very different in others. Both are devout Christians. Both are beautiful, articulate, intelligent women. Both have large families. Both have a mix of biological and adopted children. And both have children with physical and mental disabilities. How they introduce themselves - particularly, how they introduce their families - is shockingly different.
One - lets call her Lara - will say something kind of like this: "This is my son William. He loves mountain hiking and camping. He is also a very talented musician..." - OR - "Meet my daughter Sarah. Doesn't she have beautiful eyes? Sarah is such a blessing to our family...such a sweet big sister to the little ones!"
The other - lets call her Reba - will say something more like this: "This is my son Samuel. We got him from (another country). You can tell by looking that he's got some pretty serious physical handicaps, but we're hoping surgery will be able to help..." "Tina, she's our adopted daughter. She has a learning disability, probably because her mother used drugs when she was pregnant..."
Weird, the difference. Lara looks at her children and sees beauty and promise and amazing possibilities. She does not define her children based on the autism or the learning difficulties or the color of their skin. They are all hers, all "Jones-es", and all wonderful.
Reba looks at her children and sees hurdles, problems to be overcome, distinctions between "these" and "those." Spend twenty minutes getting to know her family and I guarantee you'll hear the words autism, learning disability, handicap, and adopted. Reba genuinely loves all of her children, and they are an affectionate, happy lot to be around. Still, her odd way of "making introductions" strikes me as kind of sad.
One mom defines and introduces her children based on what they are coming out of. The other, based on the goodness of today and the bright possibilities ahead.
What do you see when you look at yourself? Are you looking back with regret at yesterday? - or looking forward with hope toward tomorrow? In high school (and beyond), I was very much a legalistic, arrogant, self-righteous twit, prone to beat those less "virtuous" than myself over the head with my self-centered moralism. Thankfully, after several decades of being pummeled against a Rock, I truly believe I am a much softer person today. I am not who I once was.
Sometimes, I think we stay so chained to the sins of our past, so despondent about past failures, so preoccupied with who we used to be, that we fail to look up and see how much God has moved us toward Glory. Our eyes are focused on the horizon behind us instead of the horizon ahead. Sadly, this robs us of much joy in this sanctification journey. Gratitude for God's faithfulness and goodness in transforming us becomes elusive.
I encourage you today, Dear Reader - Look up. Look ahead. Look not to past failures, but to Jesus and the joy of Glory.
I am a princess, a daughter of the Most High King. - my sister Katherine
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Me, I'm pushing 50 and I wear the solidity of middle-age. I've given birth to, raised, and educated seven children. I, too, boast an abundance of white hair.
And, I'm from the South.
That means that - even considering all their wisdom, their years of experience, their respectability, their professional accomplishments - I call my parents Momma and Daddy. When my parents have both moved on to Glory, and I'm a dottering 95-year-old (should I live that long), I will still refer to them as Momma and Daddy. It's not a matter of failing to appreciate or respect these two remarkable people. It's a matter of affection, security, and comfort.
Mother. Father. Growing up, I always thought those words sounded so stiff and formal. Like a strained relationship. A tense dialogue. A line in the sand, painfully restricting and defining the terms of intimacy and affection.
But that has changed.
I realize that everyone prays differently. How do you begin your prayers? "Dear Jesus,....." "Almighty God in Heaven,...." "Heavenly Father,...." Do you have a familiar phrase, a greeting, an introduction, a way to mark the beginning of your prayer? Me, I most often pray to God the Father. I frequently pray to Jesus, too. And sometimes, I even find myself bouncing around in my prayers between all three persons of the Trinity, like we're having some extended family conference.
But no matter whom I end up addressing, I begin my prayers, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, with one simple word: Father.
And here lately, I've found that I often don't make it much past that. "Father."
These past several months have been, well, intensely sanctifying. At least, that's what I'm hoping - it would be sad indeed if recent trials, griefs, and struggles were wasted on any lesser purpose than conforming me to the image of my beautiful Elder Brother! (Thankfully, Scripture assures me that, in God's economy, nothing - no suffering, no pain, no heartbreak - nothing is wasted. It is all precious, redeemed for God's glory and for my good.)
Oddly, I have found that in these dark and difficult places, my prayers have changed. Early on, I spent much time weeping out my pain, or pleading for relief or rest or peace. Or asking for eyes to see God's purposes in my trials. Or begging grace to persevere. Or asking for wisdom to know how to move to a better place.
Now, I find I am very likely to get snagged at that very first word. "Father,..." Who is this Father to whom I pray? My needs and concerns are set aside while I try in vain to wrap my brain around the person of God the Father. His majesty, sovereignty, goodness, justice, mercy....I feel like I am mentally wading into an ocean vaster than space. Scripture verses and lines from hymns come to mind, proclaiming over and over the unfathomable greatness of God. And I call this holy, transcendent One, Father?
Father. One word communicates a filial relationship so secure that it cannot be shaken. And, as I consider anew the love and the tender mercies of this Father toward me, His child, "Father" no longer sounds stiff and formal and strained, but warm and safe and welcoming. When I contemplate the truth that He delights in me, that He has brought me into His presence and into His family because it pleases Him to do so, because it brings Him joy...I am overwhelmed.
Why was I coming to the Lord in prayer just now? What burdens, what struggles, what griefs did I bring to lay at His feet? What rest, what comfort, what hope did I seek? All that jostles my mind and any tumult in my heart is quieted...all my prayers are answered...in one word of tremendous comfort...
Friday, May 13, 2011
At first, we thought she was flying to the windows to dine on the spiders who had built their webs there. No, that wasn't it. Then, we thought maybe she saw something inside the house that captured her attention. No, that didn't seem to be it, either. Finally, we decided she was having some kind of rather unpleasant conversation with her own reflection.
At a time when most birds are busy building nests and feeding babies, this beautiful tanager wasted her entire day preoccupied with the bird in the window. Not a real bird, mind you - but an image, an illusion. A reflection in the glass.
The little golden bird got me to thinking about how much time, thought, and energy I waste every single day preoccupied with a very similar illusion: the "me" in my mind's eye. How do I perceive myself? How do I want others to perceive me? How do I present myself to others? What do other people think about how I look? the things I say? how I spend my time?
Like the tanager, I live in a real world, filled with real opportunities for meaningful work and honest interaction with others. But how much of each day do I spend thinking about, worrying about the "other" me - the me in the eyes of the people I meet? The me I want to be? The me I wish I were? These ghost images, these reflections in a window, are unworthy distractions from a more noble calling.
When I first started wearing glasses (back when my arms shrank to an unaccommodating length), I found it very difficult to focus. A strange flashing, dancing "floater" appeared in my line of vision. Every time I moved my eyes, this speck moved, too, always staying between my eyes and the person or the print or the object I was viewing. Over and over again, I removed the glasses, inspected them for dirt or scratches, cleaned them thoroughly - only to find the floater still bouncing around when I replaced the glasses on my face. Nearly drove me CRAZY.
I finally discovered the problem. The "floater" was the reflection of my own pupils in the back side of my lenses. It took a while, but I learned to look past the reflection, to look beyond the image of my own eyes, to what lay beyond. And now? What about the reflection that once made me nauseous and unable to concentrate? I don't even see the reflection at all.
Our little tanager has a short vision that prevents her from seeing through the window into the world beyond the glass. Her life has shrunk to the size and depth of a vague, flickering image. She sees only herself.
I pray that God gives me vision to see further.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Nate could press the skin around his knee and move this "floater" in all sorts of gross and interesting ways. Unfortunately, it would sometimes, of its own accord, drift under his knee cap, causing his knee to lock up. Frequently, it would lodge in some less distressing place where, although it didn't disable his knee, it caused considerable discomfort.
We learned from the orthopedist that this phenomenon is not too uncommon. We also learned that it seems to be genetic. We were NOT surprised. I've heard various women in my family refer at times to having "a mouse on my knee" - a little calcified critter running around loose where it ought not be. Uncomfortable at best, disabling at worst.
February, Nate's "mouse" moved to a new home.
He keeps it in a small plastic lab jar. It looks sort of like a Mentos chewy breath mint (but it's hard). The first few weeks after surgery, Nate carried this pet with him everywhere. Rather fascinating, is it not, to have a piece of one's self in a jar, where you can take it out, set it on the desk, look at it, and talk about it like some foreign invader? Now, several months post-surgery, he's less mesmerized with the mouse - has it tucked away for safe-keeping, something to tell the kids about one day. And his knee? Nate says it feels better than he ever remembers it feeling before. He can fearlessly take steps three, four at a time. Jumping up onto our high porch, down from the bed of his pickup, attempting standing back flips...a whole new world of thrills has opened up for the young man.
So, what about the mouse?
I was thinking yesterday how Nate's mouse is so very similar to the pet sins we harbor. We play with them and nurse them, make adjustments for them and accommodate them, sometimes for years. Hopefully, we get to the place of truth, of realization, where what was once a comfortable sin becomes to us an unbearable handicap, a weight, a burden. Laid under the surgery lamps, under the knife of Scripture, the mouse has to go.
Yes, our repentance is sincere. Yes, we long to be free of what has so long enslaved us. Yes, the pain of surgery is a relief after the years-long ache of guilt and bondage.
But then there's rehab.
Rehab. A difficult place to be. Yes, finally free of the destructive influence of the floater...but not quite strong enough yet to take the stairs three at a time. Nate was on crutches for six weeks after the surgery. Zero weight on the new knee. Not an easy situation for a college freshman lugging around a backpack of engineering textbooks!
And there's the mouse.
Like Nate with his cartilage floater, we grieve in some weird way having lost something that has been a part of us for so long - even if it's something we hate. We put it in a jar on the shelf. We think about it, talk about it, pass it around among our friends. But, if our repentance is indeed sincere, the pet does eventually begin to lose its significance, to fade from the reality of who I am as a new man.
Someday, the mouse will be a memory, only a story. The reality? Nothing less than a standing back flip...
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Monday, May 9, 2011
We have deer in the garden and some varmint - a fox? a skunk? - methodically killing off our chickens. I miss our two bad dogs. Of course, I understand that getting rid of the dogs was preferable to living under the constant threat of a lawsuit from our city-boy neighbor. I'm the one who pressed to have the dogs deported, after all. But today, I'm thinking it would be really good news if I heard that my next-door neighbor was putting his house on the market and packing up to move to Australia. Maybe our dogs did try to eat his rodent-pooch...but they also kept unwanted critters away from the house. Sigh.
We have ants in the house, refugees from all the recent rain. And while the hay and the mosquitoes are thriving in the present sogginess, the cucumbers and the new asparagus crowns I planted have drowned. And I know now that the car trunk leaks. Sigh.
I have another job interview Friday morning. While this should be a "Yay!", I am grieving the fact that I don't have my prayer sister here to walk through the process with me this time. I need some clear guidance, some encouragement, and the reassurance that comes from praying together with another believer. But, no, Melissa is far away, trying to climb up from her first round of chemo. She's going to be in isolation for many months, and, although we can talk on the phone, I can't see her or pray with her in person. And that whole situation is breaking my heart, too. Sigh.
I am tired of being tired. Tired of all my oh-so-friendly aches and pains. Tired of fighting dragons. Tired of relationship issues. Tired of gray skies. Just plain tired.
Where is Pooh when you need him?
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
So, forget Cinderella's dad - Fathers, you do not want to be like him. No, you want to be lovingly engaged, looking out for your daughter's best interests, guiding her as she grows into a young woman who can wisely and confidently relate to the men around her.
Consider the following two dads:
My brother-in-law planned and carried out a "practice" date with his daughter when she became date-able age. He wanted my niece to know what to expect on a date, how she should behave, and how her date should behave. Barry took his daughter out to dinner and then to a movie, being very careful the entire evening to demonstrate good manners, respect for his "date," concern for her preferences and needs, and enjoyment of her company. When they reached home at the end of their outing, Barry walked my niece to the door and thanked her for a pleasant evening.
Then he told her, "L----, this is how any boy who takes you out on a date should treat you. And you are to behave in a way that communicates that you expect this kind of respect from your date. This is the standard. Anything less is unacceptable." Barry respected and valued his young daughter, and he wanted her to respect and value herself. And, he wanted to make sure any boys that showed up knew they would have to respect and value her as well. Well done, Barry. Very well done.
Now, consider Dad #2. A couple of years ago, my husband and I attended a Valentine Party/Dance hosted by neighborhood folks at a local church. While we were sitting at a table with a group of other parents, whom we had just met, a young girl - maybe 8 or 9 years old - bounced up to the table. She was wearing a skimpy little halter top that exposed her midriff and back, and tight, knee-length spandex pants. "Ooooo, honey, don't you look sexy!" her dad enthused as he gave her a big hug and pulled her up into his lap.
Steve and I sat blinking like stunned 'possums, but nobody else at the table reacted like anything odd or unsettling had occurred. Later, on the drive home, Steve brought up the incident. "That really disturbed me," he confessed. "Don't you think it's a little perverted for a dad to call his 8-year-old daughter 'sexy'? To let a little girl go out dressed like that, then to act like it's good? There's just something sick about that." Okay, fathers, Dad #2 is NOT the parent you want to emulate.
Dad #1 communicated, "You are precious. You are valuable. No one should treat you with disrespect or like a toy to be used for their diversion." Dad #2 communicated, "Flash some skin, shake some booty, and you really get my attention." Essentially, he was saying, "You are a toy, an exciting little plaything." One taught his daughter that the men in her life should value her and respect her thoughts, her feelings, her aspirations, and her virtue. The other taught his daughter that the men in her life should value her for her body and relate to her based on how she packages the goods.
A mother of teenage boys commented on Monday's post about the skimpy prom dresses: I get that a teenage girl doesn't fully understand the way men/boys think. She may not understand what she's doing. I'm sensitive to that. But where are the dads who are brave enough to say, "No, you can't wear that"?
LZ Granderson, a columnist for CNN.com and ESPN The Magazine put it this way: "Parents, don't dress your girls like tramps." Halter tops, push-up bras, and thong underwear for pre-pubescent girls? You've got to be kidding! Granderson writes, "In 2007, the American Psychological Association's Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls issued a report linking early sexualization with three of the most common mental-health problems of girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression. There's nothing inherently wrong with parents wanting to appease their daughters by buying them the latest fashions. But is getting cool points today worth the harm dressing little girls like prostitutes could cause tomorrow?"(cnn.com/20111/OPINION/04/19) Dads, is that really the road you want your daughters traveling down? Read Granderson's complete article here - he addresses an issue that deserves the attention of every parent today.
So, Dad, what are you telling your daughter? She loves you and cherishes your love and esteem. She's listening, whether you know it or not. Her radar is up, and she's learning from your behavior, your attitudes, your comments how she is to view herself as a woman. Be the brave dad, the dad who encourages his daughter to be truly beautiful.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
I don't think she would.
No, I think that what she really wants is something very different.
After living nearly 50 years as a woman, among women and girls of all ages, I can confidently assert that one characteristic common to our gender is the desire to feel pretty. We're all Cinderellas at heart. Even the funkiest punkette has some concept of attractiveness to which she aspires. The millions of dollars spent each year in this country on cosmetics, hair maintenance, tanning, toning, clothing, and accessories testify to our ongoing pursuit of our individual ideals of beauty.
Sadly, our culture seems to have replaced the idea of "beauty" with the lesser quality of being "sexy". While feminine beauty does indeed have about it a distinct quality of sexuality, it encompasses and expresses much, much more. A woman who is truly beautiful will also be to some degree undeniably sexy. However, it is entirely possible for a very sexy woman to be truly un-lovely.
Sexiness focuses on one small aspect of what it means to be a woman; beauty, on the other hand, is much more complicated, involving the fullness of what it means to be a woman. Hollywood and Fifth Avenue, unfortunately, have chosen the easier path of promoting and marketing the "smaller" version of womanhood, the sex symbol.
What does that mean for young women today? It means they are constantly bombarded with false images and twisted, narrow ideals of what it means to be beautiful. Sadly, it often means they view themselves as lovely only to the extent to which they feel physically stimulating to the young men around them. And it means that, come time to shop for a prom dress, they have very little to choose from that is not too short, too tight, too low cut, too just simply not-enough-dress.
So, what's a girl to do? First, I would encourage the young women of today to ignore Fifth Avenue and to work instead on developing beauty from the inside out. Throw away the glamour magazines and study instead to grow in the beauty which is precious to your Creator (see 1 Peter 3, or Proverbs 31). Then, let what you read and learn from Scripture influence the way you see yourself and the way you present yourself to others.
Second, do NOT base your notions of beauty on the reactions that can be elicited from a teenage boy or a college student. I've heard it straight from the horse's mouth: when males are a certain age, all girls are appealing. Basically, if you look him in the eye, smile, and say "Hi," he'll respond with interest. The wrapping paper is entirely secondary. Instead, why not ask an older, more mature fellow's opinion...someone like Dad. He already knows how beautiful you are on the inside, and you can trust that he wants others to see that beauty, too. (Dads, I have a word for you later...maybe tomorrow?)
Third, get it in your head that "sexy" does NOT equal "beautiful/pretty." Boys know the difference - you need to know the difference, too. Trust me on this: I live in a house with five men. I've heard one of my guys make the comment, "Man, So-and-so is really hot!" Let me translate, based on remarks that immediately followed that comment: "So-and-so is well-packaged. When I see her, I don't think of her as another person or as a friend...I think of her as a female who is flaunting her goods." I've also heard various of my boys comment, in almost reverent tones, "You know, So-and-so is a really beautiful girl/woman." Let me translate: "So-and-so is a truly beautiful person. Something about her commands my notice, my admiration and respect."
One more thing...be encouraged. When all the girls around you are trying very hard to be the sexiest thing in high heels and it seems like they are getting all the attention from hormone-high boys, you may think no one really notices or appreciates your commitment to being truly beautiful, lovely from the inside out. You're wrong, Little Sister. God sees your heart, and is pleased that your desire is to please Him. My boys see, and are so thankful for a female friend they can talk to and enjoy without the stress and awkwardness of having to continually divert their eyes. And the mother of your future husband sees, and she is already falling in love with you.
Monday, May 2, 2011
A few of the ladies danced in elegant floor-length ball gowns, while others wore simpler "Sunday-morning" dresses or jeans. The men were decked in everything from tails and pinstripe pants, to bluejeans and paisley shirts. Still, I saw no obvious self-consciousness over apparel...every dancer was having too much fun to be preoccupied with clothing.
No awkwardness over dance partners, either. "May I have the honor of this dance?" a dashing young man asked with a bow. "I'd be delighted!" answered a middle-aged mom, taking his hand. The six-foot-plus highschooler bowed to the little girl wearing pink gingham who stood only half his height. She beamed and bounced out onto the dance floor beside her partner. I'm fairly certain that by the end of the last waltz, everyone present had danced with everyone else there!
One particular feature of the evening's festivities really stood out to me. Our host for this dance - a young husband and father - gathered all the dancers around him and prayed. He prayed that God would be honored in our dancing, our conversations, and our fellowship. And he prayed that God would bless our evening together.
Immediately after breakfast Saturday morning, my kids were asking, "Are there any pictures from the dance posted online yet?!" They were already eager to relive through pictures the delight of the night before.
Saturday was also the occasion of another long-anticipated dance. Our local high school was hosting it's Junior-Senior Prom. I haven't seen posted online any pictures from the actual dance, but, just going by the pre-prom pictures of couples who would be attending, I'm guessing it wasn't anything like the country dance Friday night. Every young man in a tuxedo, every young woman in a party dress. Lots of glamour and sparkle...and, wow!, what a lot of flesh.
Maybe my young friends had no idea that stodgy "Mrs. Camille" would be perusing their photos. Surely they didn't intend for me (and everyone else online) to know them so, ahem, intimately. I know these kids, and they are very decent, good young people. Why, then, were they presenting themselves in a very different manner on this special occasion?
These pictures made me blush. I thought, "Young man, find your girl some kind of wrap! She doesn't realize how exposed she is!" "Young woman, I know you don't want to be viewed as a sex object, a toy, a thing...do you realize how you are presenting yourself?"
Maybe it's just me - old, old-fashioned, out-of-date. Nah. As I was looking at one group photo - four beautiful couples - one of my sons came up and looked over my shoulder. His first reacton? "Wow. That's a lot of boobs."
Okay, clearly we need to work on some things here at home. But, this spontaneous, unsolicited comment communicated something that I wish all four of those lovely young women could understand. If they want to be respected and cherished for being the attractive, intelligent, fun women they are, they don't need to package themselves like the only thing they have going for them is a pair of nice melons. Ladies, if the dress is back-less, side-less, top-less...it is probably less of a dress than it ought to be. Unless you're trying to get across the message that you are less of a lady than you ought to be.
As the mother of four young men, my work is cut out for me. Obviously, Steve and I need to focus on teaching our boys how to see past a couple of well-displayed melons to the beautiful person hidden inside.