Got Modesty?

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Today my daughter attended VBS (Vacation Bible School) and was leered at by high school boys. One even commented how he wanted a girlfriend like her because she was so pretty. She is eight years old and still has a slim boyish figure with no breast development. There is no mistaking my daughter for a child in middle school or high school.

When I commented to other moms about this incident, not one agreed with my disgust because they thought it was “cute” and my daughter should feel “lucky to get such attention from older Christian brothers.” One even asked, “How was your daughter dressed? Was she wearing a short skirt to make guys stare at her? It is a reflex for males to do this.”

The behavior of the boys and the comments from moms was upsetting, but I believe it reflects the acceptance of this type of behavior in society and in the church. Boys or men who act in a flirtatious manner are harmless. They are not inappropriate. If anything, we should accept that men are visually oriented and tell our daughters to dress modestly, so she does not cause Christian brothers to stumble. For males struggle with sexual thoughts, and females need to do all they can to help them fight off this sin. Sharon Hodde Miller writes about this in her Her.meneutics article, “How ‘Modest is Hottest’ is Hurting Christian Women.” She believes this type of teaching and acceptance in the church makes the female body be “perceived as both a temptation and a distraction to the Christian community. The female body is beautiful, but in a dangerous way.”

When I first heard about the female modesty issue, I was a young high school student and I remember feeling confused and ashamed because the conversation was full of judgment toward women. Girls were being approached by boys in my church and being rebuked about their style of dress. My youth pastor felt proud about men being honest and believed this type of conversation was helpful and affirming to both genders. Unfortunately, what eventually happened were judgmental attitudes among young women and men about clothing. Modesty was the rubric used to measure a female’s spirituality. I was confused because there was so much tension about being attractive, feminine, and gentle but not sexual. Also, I believed that modesty was about female clothing.

This approach to modesty and the body can be destructive to young women for several reasons:

1. It tends to place the origin of sin in the female body.

In this way of thinking, the sin is not where an individual’s mind goes or the action they choose to take; the sin is the woman’s body. Even if that is not explicitly stated, this concept is conveyed through the continual placing of responsibility on women to “protect” fellow Christians from seeing too much of their bodies—lust happens because women’s bodies are sexual and men cannot easily overcome the temptation. In the end, it comes down to the physical characteristics of the female body and no amount of clothing is ever enough. The women cause the men to stumble. Her body contributes to male lust.

2. This understanding of modesty encourages a sense of shame about the female body.

It is the origin of sexual sin; I have to cover my body so that my friends will not lust after me—if my body did not look the way it does, my friends would not struggle as much with lusting. As a young woman, I became ashamed of my body. The way modesty was discussed in our youth group, it seemed that no matter what I tried to do to cover my body it was never enough—I was causing others to sin completely against my will and I felt that my body was the cause of sin in fellow  Christians.

Modesty can be defined too narrowly to only include the way women dress, rather than encompassing how Christians, both men and women, live. When we define modesty so narrowly, it places unfair burden on women that can lead to shame for being female.

3. The way modesty is taught disempowers women.

In this definition of modesty, the women become responsible for the men’s sin. There is little conversation about how dressing immodestly or marketing one’s body affects the psyche of young women. Rather, the conversation is focused on the effect on the young men and their spiritual standing before God. The standard for “modesty” is always up to the men in the community to decide. How women view their own bodies or a woman’s own standards of modesty become a secondary concern.

Unfortunately, when I was a young woman in the Church, almost all conversation about modesty was centered on female clothing. There was some conversation about how the media objectifies women, but either way, I felt a huge sense of shame because of my body and gender.

I remember how my youth group, made it seem like men were sexual animals. Their lusts could not be controlled. The Bible verse of God asking Adam, “What have you done?” and Adam saying, “It was the woman you gave me” was used when teaching about sexual attraction. I know the topic of sexual attraction is hard, but when discussing modesty with young ladies and men, clothing can be discussed, but not because they are causing others to stumble.

The bodies of young women are developing and changing drastically. They need to feel empowered to deal with bodies and sexuality in a healthy way. Instead of conversations about modesty focusing on the biology of men and women—aspects that cannot be changed. It should also be affirming the value of the female body. A woman’s body is not something distracting or tempting, but as Sharon Hodde Miller writes, “Women’s bodies glorify God. A woman’s breasts, hips, bottom, and lips all proclaim the glory of the Lord. Each womanly part honors Him.”

Intentional Encourager

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When God appears to Solomon one night and tells him that he can have anything that he wants, it is so surprising that Solomon asks for wisdom. He could have asked for health, wealth, women, or prestige, but he didn’t.

What is even more amazing is that he was only twenty -years old when this happened. I believe he turned out so well because of his father, King David, who was the most respected man in Israel. King David was imperfect and made personal mistakes, but he obviously did something right since Solomon turned out so nicely.

David believed in his son. He was also an intentional encourager.

A mom who is an intentional encourager is honest with her kids. She tells them what they need to hear, even when it is not what they want to hear. She does not overlook their immaturity, mistakes, and mishaps; but when she brings up these points, there is not a general air of disapproval and low expectation. She chooses rather to temper her honesty with the grace of edification and encouragement. She goes the great lengths to protect her children’s spirits by making sure the overarching tone of their relationship is one of approval. She does not try to force her children to be like someone else—especially other siblings or her friend’s kids. She rather seeks to focus on their unique gifts, talents, and skills God is perfecting in that child.

She knows God has purposes “prepared” for her children to “walk in” (Ephesians 2:10), and He has consecrated each child by setting them apart to accomplish those God-given purposes.

And so she fights not to become discouraged during those periods of immaturity and inexperience in her kids. Even when she sees their failures, she continues to apply appropriate guidance and correction to get her children back on track.

She is an intentional encourager—who expresses love to her children by not allowing them to settle for immaturity or succumb to mediocrity. She inspires excellence not be demanding they meet arbitrary standards of others but they rise to the achievable challenge of God given purpose and potential. She speaks highly of her children to others and is not bashful about seeking prayerful help.

Like David, she believes in her children.

And who knows? This kind of intentional encouragement might cause a twenty-year old to turn his face toward heaven and say, “Lord, give me wisdom.” When they do, you can believe that God will grant them what they ask and more.

Is Beauty Fair and White?

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Ad for Fair and Lovely Skin Cream

Beauty is “a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight” (Oxford Dictionary, 2010). Those who are considered beautiful are perceived to have good qualities, greater employment suitability, higher income, and greater popularity. .Beauty can also be equated with youthfulness and is perceived differently in certain societies and cultures. This is why some women experience so much inner conflict with it.

Throughout history, the whiteness of a woman’s skin has been an empowering and disempowering function within Asian cultures. In the Confucian Doctrine of Threefold Obedience, it states women were subordinates to their fathers as girls, to their husbands as wives, and to their sons as widows. Since women had little control over their lives in the past, the ability to whiten their skin, allowed women to liberate themselves from the control of men by increasing their social status through work and marriage. However, the whitening of skin has also disempowered women by placing large amounts of pressure on women to follow the standards of beauty, in order to gain acceptance.

In the past, whiteness equated being part of the upper class who did not have to work in the sun like the poor people. Even though time has passed and there are more indoor jobs available for women, the stereotype of what a fair skin means, has not changed. Those women who have it are seen as more beautiful, successful, and worth noticing than someone with darker skin.

 

 

I have a daughter who is eight-years old. Last year, she was started modeling professionally and has already been in different print ads. Whenever we go to auditions, she constantly receives comments about her long silky hair, unique dimples, and attractive almond-shaped eyes. She is beautiful on the outside, but she is also attractive because of her charming personality and soft heart toward hurting people.

Though she usually has Korean classes on Saturdays, I allowed her to stay home last week to spend time with her father and just hang out. She played in the yard, went swimming, and even learned to ride a bike. She really enjoyed the time because she had her papa to herself and could spend the day frolicking in the sun.

 When we arrived at church the next day, my daughter and I got out of the car first and walked hand in hand, as she excitedly retold me every detail of the previous day. When we were walking closer to the church, there were a group of women who were talking and enjoying the fresh air outside before service was about to start.  As we were passing them, they all turned and gasped at my daughter. One woman loudly said, “She looks like a little black child.” Another woman scorned me for allowing her to play in the sun and not putting enough sunscreen on her face.

When my daughter heard these things, she immediately covered her face with her hands and then hid behind me.  As we walked away quickly from these women, I could hear them still discussing their disapproval of her skin color and complaining how I should have done a better job of maintain her whiteness, especially since she was “more beautiful pale-skinned.”

Instead of heading to her Sunday School classroom, my daughter went to the bathroom and looked at herself in the mirror. I stared at her and felt my mind running with what to say to her about what just happened. Yet, before I could open my mouth, she looked at me and said, “I think my skin color is beautiful and it makes my cheeks rosy. What is wrong with those ladies?”

 

 

Our culture and the thoughts of others have made it challenging to be ourselves and feel good about it. Just like my daughter, we shouldn’t worry about what others think, and compare ourselves to what is considered a beautiful woman in society. True beauty lies in our spirit, the part of us that God sees and feeds. The sooner we take a stand and accept who we are, and are happy with how God created us, the sooner we will see past what others think and truly understand how we are unique and beautiful.

 

The Calling of Motherhood

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Every morning, I drop the kids off at school and then head over to Starbucks for my latte. I go there so often that my husband jokes, he is ready to buy stock in the company. On this particular morning, the barista decided to ask me questions like what I did for a living, if I was married, and what I did to celebrate my ten-year anniversary. When I remarked that my husband and I could not go away to celebrate our anniversary because of our children, she gasped loudly and then told me how she went to Europe last year and just came back from Africa last week. Though she has been married for twelve years, she never wants to have children because they “get in the way of life” and probably won’t be much fun when they become teenagers.

I took a sip of my latte and left the restaurant. I felt deflated and wondered about my own life.

There are many women who have the same mindset as the woman from Starbucks. To these individuals, children are not viewed as important since they limit a person’s ability to go out and have a good time.

 

Motherhood is a calling that many women are blessed with from God. Through children, mothers can teach, love, defend, and lay down their lives for another human being. Isn’t this exactly what the gospel teaches Christians to do?

To lie down one’s life, does not mean that a person’s dreams need to die with it, or life holds no future during the mommy years. Freedom may be put on hold for a bit because the baby needs to nap or eat, but these life stages are only temporary and are all part of high calling of motherhood.

 

The Bible clearly states how children are valuable to Jesus. He loved them and moms are commanded to do the same by bringing them up in the Lord. In Motherhood Is a Calling (And Where Your Children Rank), Rachel Jankovic offers the following encouragement to moms:

Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.

 

In contrast to what culture says is important, Jankovic writes,

But a Christian should have a different paradigm. We should run to to the cross. To death. So lay down your hopes. Lay down your future. Lay down your petty annoyances. Lay down your desire to be recognized. Lay down your fussiness at your children. Lay down your perfectly clean house. Lay down your grievances about the life you are living. Lay down the imaginary life you could have had by yourself. Let it go.

 

Motherhood is hard. It’s sacrifice. There are many days when I have to cry out to God for help. He gives me enough strength to make it through each day.

Though motherhood feels like a job, it is a calling. It is the highest calling a mother will ever have.

 

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Racism: A Continuing Dilemma

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On Tuesday, I woke up excited because I submitted the final grades for my spring semester classes and it was my first day of summer vacation. I dropped the kids off at school and was planning to spend my day at Starbucks with my laptop. As I was driving to my destination, thoughts were oozing from my head and whenever I reached a traffic light, I busily scribbling my thoughts down, so they could not be forgotten.  I was so inspired and could not stop giggling to myself as I was singing with the radio.

Few moments into writing an introduction for my next blog post, a car speed toward me and had two passengers who were yelling words that I could not understand. As I stared at them to see what was wrong, they came closer to my car and threw garbage at my windshield. When I tried to speed away, they continued to chase me and threw more things out the window. As I turned to look at their faces, I was able to clearly understand their spirited words of “chink” spoken over and over.

I was stunned. Were they talking to me? Had I done something to cause such anger? As I sat in my car and was digesting the events that may have lead up to this event, it suddenly dawned on me that I am who others perceive me to be. No matter how much education, skills, or how I try to form a new identity, I will always be labeled by my group identity.

Growing up, I have had encounters that demonstrated how people viewed me as a racial type. When I had my first job at a college, my co-workers, who felt they knew me well, would try to genuinely connect with me by saying, “it reminded me of you,” and then talking about Karate Kid movies or a recent trip to the Asian portion of a museum. When I was in college, a good friend of mine who just finished Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club, said she understood me and the Asian people better from reading the book. Martin Luther King Jr. wanted to be judged by his character rather than the color of his skin, but in these incidents, I was not judged by my character because it was only about the color of my skin or my image.

Some people believe skin color does not matter or they do not see color when they look at a person. Yet, look at churches that are heavily segregated or studies that show children perform better academically when they are taught by individuals of the same race. To shut one’s eyes to these truths is to ignore how minorities are the fastest growing group in America.

When the issue of race is involved, people will often shape their information from their own experiences, family, culture, values, and beliefs. If one ever felt racism, he may believe that an individual, who comes off a certain way, is a particular type of person. Because of this, it may cause him to avoid or to make assumptions about a person and his situation.

It can even be a seed of bitterness because he is so wounded by an offense. When this occurs, it takes root in the heart and can turn one of two ways. It can be acknowledged and forgiven, in which case the heart heals and becomes stronger than it was before, or it can go the other way, where the offense is unforgiven and grows into bitterness. This is dangerous because it can lead a person to become what wounded him.

Michael Morris, a professor at Columbia University’s graduate school of business, has conducted fascinating research on culture and how others view different races. Professor Morris and his colleagues have found that people’s views operate like Transitions lenses: They activate, automatically, whenever they encounter triggers like pressure and stress. For this reason, they cannot be controlled, but can be managed through learning and asking questions that will help lead to the truth.

When Morris showed a photo of a person standing in front of a group, the Asian executives concluded that the person standing alone was an outcast. This is because in Asian cultures, community is widely viewed as the key to success. When the same photo was shown to American executives, they concluded that the person standing alone was the leader. To Americans, individual effort is the key to achievement.

Answers cannot be found until people acknowledge that various views exist when looking at race and culture. By doing this, hidden biases can be confronted and racial knowledge can be expanded.  On the same note, since race is a controversial topic even if one is careful, someone can get offended from the discussion.

In a culture where many do not consider the Bible, a moral compass, it is difficult to find agreement in what is right and wrong. Yet, instead of being guided by “Political Correctness,” Christians need to take a stand and be the salt of the world (Matt. 5:13) by preserving values and moral principles and making a contribution to the development of life. We are also to be the light of the world (Matt. 5: 14-16) by being torch bearers in this dark human race. Shining not to make ourselves look good in front of others, but so others will see our bearing of fruit, good deeds, and praise God.

Breaking Free of Your Past

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You are worthless.

You are stupid.

You will not amount to anything.

You are a disappointment.

Though words like these were told when we were children or by a co-worker, the words can still sting and crush how we see ourselves as adults. We tell ourselves to move forward and not believe the words, but they linger and stay with us, to the point of clouding our perspective and even tormenting us.

“Why couldn’t I do more with my life” or “Why am I such a loser?” As women and mothers, it is so easy to point out our flaws and the things that we didn’t do. It even makes us feel guilty and blame ourselves for not spending our time wisely or not doing more with our lives.

Sometimes when I feel like this, I want to be a turtle and hide in my shell. I want to close myself off from people because I am ashamed for lacking in so many areas. When I am like this, I can’t think about my future because I am so stuck in the past that is affecting my present life.  I also do not want to be around people because I have hardened my heart from getting hurt from another person.

It is a rough road to be on alone. Yet, we don’t need to believe in those negative words. We just need to turn to God who loves us and sent His Son to save us. Also, remember that no person’s life is so horrible that God can’t do something wonderful in His timing.

Rahab was a prostitute

David was a murderer and committed adultery

Paul persecuted Christians

Peter denied Jesus

It is easy to allow the past to dictate our lives and to numb pain through food, television, and keeping busy, but when Jesus died on the cross, he washed away every dirty stain, our tears, and past wounds with his blood. He transformed us into new creations. The old life is gone and a new life has begun (2 Cor. 5:17).

As Easter is coming, may this be a reminder to lay the shattered pieces of your life at the foot of the cross and be healed within. You are a new creation who is being molded daily to the likeness of Jesus Christ. Be free from the garbage of the past and remember that you were chosen by Christ for a purpose.

Why I Need To Be A Praying Mom

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This morning as I read I Thessalonians 5:17, I was reminded how we are to pray continually because it is shows our devotion, makes us aware of God’s presence, and helps us submit to His will. Terry Glaspey writes, “Prayer is a work to which we must commit ourselves if we are to make sense of our lives in the light of eternity.” Despite our busy lives as mothers, prayer helps to regain our priorities, understand biblical wisdom, and make correct decisions. Without prayer, it would be easy to live in a superficial manner with material values. Also, prayer encourages us to look at eternity and have a heavenly perspective, so God is #1 in our lives.

Without prayer, we will not grow as Christians in our walk with God. We will instead, stay as spiritual adolescents. J.C. Ryle says the reason why some believers are brighter and holier than others is because of their habits with private prayer. The holier ones pray more, but the less holy pray little. When I became a mom, I learned that I needed to have my time with God each morning because when I missed, I turned into “mom with no patience” who was ready to blow at the slightest mistake from my kids or husband. Yet, motherhood made it so much harder to schedule times with God.  How can I spend alone time with Him, when I can’t even use the bathroom or take a shower sometimes?

Motherhood has caused me to refine my prayer life. I had to learn to pray when my kids were napping, while taking a shower with four eyes looking at me, while driving in the car with my kids screaming at each, and even as I am about to explode because my son has smeared poop all over the walls…again! I also had to learn how to pray beyond prayers that were like a Christmas list to God. I did this by using prayers of Paul and applying them to myself.

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” Ephesians 1:17-19

By doing this, I have been transformed in my relationship with God and have realized that during my times of transparency about my struggles with parenting, God strengthened me and my relationship with Him. He knows my heart because Jesus died to make me his own treasured possession. Knowing this brings me comfort.