A Little Flirt Don’t Hurt…

This week I am following up on a talk I gave to a wonderful group of girls here up north.  Each post will be focusing on a topic that I have not addressed on the Quill in quite a while — flirtation.  While modesty addresses our appearance, flirtation addresses our actions.  These actions can either reflect the love of Christ in us, or a love of us in us!

Flirtation is rooted in a desire for attention, just like immodesty is.  Both bring the eye to self, glorifying appearance and action that might otherwise go unnoticed.  I am going to relay a story here that I told the girls yesterday:

When I was fifteen, I was spending a lot of time out on the ski hills at night with my friends.  There was a certain lift where the staff member was a young man from Colombia.  He was friendly, and probably quite cold, lonely and bored as well.  So, most likely for some entertainment, he decided to pick me as his target of flattery.  With a white, winning grin he declared that I had a “bee-yoo-teeful smile”.  I was — well, flattered!  No guy had ever told me that before… so I smiled even more.  Soon smiles turned to waves, and eventually that turned to him blowing me a kiss and giving me a little ski resort pin (he gave one to my friend too).  After a few days of this going on, I ‘happened’ to be skiing alone at the end of the day, ‘looking for my brother’ — of course.  As I approached him, he asked, “Is thees your last run of the night?” “Yes,” I smiled (conveniently)“Well then, I shall say goodbye like we say eet in Colombia.” And he draped an arm over my shoulder, pulled me close and gave me a big *smack!* on the cheek.  At first I was pleased, then I was shocked, and then I was appalled… and then I began to cry.  Who could have thought things could have escalated that fast?

That’s how flirtation is.  It starts “innocent”, just as ‘fun’, and then someone has the potential to get shocked — always emotionally, and then sometimes physically.  Flirtation is like playing with fire, to use an age-old cliche’.  One of the persons involved usually thinks things are more serious than they actually are, and when they find out they are wrong, their hearts are broken and burned.  

Over the next few days I am going to discuss the methods of flirtation in more depth (for my girls, this will be a more thorough examination of what you already heard, with examples of such behavior), and I will also be getting into the effects it can have on your relationships with God and family. 

“Stolen kisses require an accomplice”, and no flirtatious situation is ever completely one-sided.  Someone is either intiating or encouraging.  Our job as Christian girls is to honor God and our future husband by being pleasant and friendly, but not suggestive of intentions we do not have.  In interaction with young men, remember this: could you say, act and gesture the same way if your husband were standing right beside you?  If you couldn’t without some serious jealousy problems, then you are treading on ground that is not yours to walk on.  Think also of the young man’s future wife.  What would she be thinking if she were standing there?  Remain above reproach.  We will discuss how to do that right after this commercial break :-).

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What Happened to ‘Class’?

Lightweight wrap cardigan

Have you ever heard someone referred to as a “classy woman”?  Surely not much anymore.  Many don’t even know what it means!

What is “class”?  Using good old Webster again, we find that “class” is “excellence; exceptional merit”; “elegance, grace, or dignity, as in dress and behavior” and being “the best or among the best of its kind”.  Whew!  What a listing!  The term class is what I have used and will use in the future to describe the kind of woman of God I want to be.  I first heard this term when it was applied to my mother by my dad.  He said that when he first met my mother, at college, the first thing he noticed was her class.  These days you don’t hear that very much.  Dad was so impressed with my mom’s carriage, dress, manners and pleasant personality that he married her — and now, he’s working on his four daughters to excel in this same area. 

There are several aspects of the classy woman I am going to explore in this post.  While my last post focused on the fashion aspect of the godly woman (combining modesty with a lovely appearance), there are a few other characteristics that are necessary to make a godly woman complete. 

Posture is going to be first on the list because I believe it is a lost art.  A girl can wear anything she wants to, but if she slouches or scuffs her feet, rounds her shoulders and hangs her head, nothing will look nice on her.  It also gives her an appearance of self-consciousness and anti-social behavior.  Stand tall with your shoulders back — as the mother of one of my friends said, “Pretend there is a string attached to the top of your head, and walk like you are suspended from it.” 

Speech and posture go hand in hand.  If you are slouching and sloppy, what you say may not be taken as seriously as you wish.  And if you slur your words, talk loudly and abrasively, or speak in a monotone, uninterested voice, your physical presentation will go out the window as well.  Some of the most important virtues of the classy woman are her abilities to enunciate her words clearly, speak slowly but with a pleasant tone, and consciously watch what she is saying. 

Dress has several aspects I will explore.  We already talked about fashion, Pencil skirtbut for a quick recap, a godly woman is careful to use discretion while shopping, so that modesty is the main influence over her choices.  There are several clothing manufacturers that are known for their quality and modest styles (for the most part).  These are Lands End, Talbots, JC Penney and Coldwater Creek (my personal favorite).  I personally do a lot of resale shopping to save money, but I look for these brands because I know the quality they produce. 

5-row Beaded Illusion NecklaceJewelry can either be overdone or be the perfect accent to an outfit.  These days, too often it is overdone.  Usually, I just wear earrings, a ring and a necklace to work.  These I try to pick to complement what I am wearing.  Though this may surprise some, there is such a thing as immodest jewlery.  The girls in my family call it the “ghetto rat” look — big hoops, many necklaces, three or four rings.  If you’re a designer, maybe you can pull it off, but otherwise, it just looks like you are trying too hard. 

Makeup is a topic of great debate in homeschool circles, and I don’t portend to change anyone’s standards.  My mother went to cosmotology school before she married my dad, so in my family, we have an expert for referral!  At thirteen we were allowed to wear foundation and some mascara.  From then on it was on an “ask” basis, and now at eighteen I pretty much choose for myself, and my mom tells me if I look “muddy” or overdone.  In my family, makeup is a choice, but it is preferred because it brings life to your face.  Even if my mom hadn’t worn makeup before she met my dad, he would ask her to wear it because he likes it on her — and on us. 

Character, the final aspect, is the most important of all.  This is what motivates the classy woman to dress, speak, walk and look the way she does.  She is seeking God in her life and letting Him guide her choices.  Through Him she becomes all she can be.  If we focus on Christ, these other aspects will all fall into place. 

A classy woman is rarely found today.  Keep an eye out for them, and watch what makes them what they are.  And while you are at it, become one yourself — bringing honor to Christ by representing Him so well.

His Delight

Have you ever felt forsaken?  Have you ever had that sense that you are all by yourself, that you’re doing this on your own?  That you are living life solely on your own will power and strength?  It’s a hard way to live.  It is an unhappy, discontented way to live.  Unfortunately, I am all too well aquainted with it.

It certainly isn’t God’s fault that I feel this way.  These emotions and feelings of loneliness are only a product of my own distrust.  My tendency has always been to try to focus my own strengths toward “glorifying God”; toward serving Him, being good, reading my Bible.  But I missed the whole point!  If I trusted God with my heart, my paths, my dreams and the molding of my character, I would glorify Him — because it wouldn’t be me.  It would be Him, through me. 

In striving to glorify God with my sinful self, I continued depending on that same self, which inevitably leads and has led to failure.  Consequently, and out of my continued lack of trust (it compounds quickly) I doubted that I could be forgiven.  I doubted God’s character… and His sacrifice.  My knowledge of who He is began to fade… and as I knew Him less, I trusted less as well.  The cycle continues until you hit rock bottom and cry out, “What happened?  How far have I fallen from where we were?!” 

Desolate.  Forsaken.  Alone.  That’s how it feels.  Yet I have no excuse for those feelings.  The promises of our Lord counter and destroy them.  If I live in these thoughts of failure and discontent I am living a lie, because God has laid before us all the truth of His love, His grace and His mercy.  His arms are open — but wallowing in self-pity and relying on will power alone, I turn away.  But the ever present Help calls me back:

“You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is In Her, and your land Married, for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married.” (Isaiah 62:4)

Every girl longs for a love story, but before me today is the love story of a lifetime, between the God of the universe and one sinful, wandering little girl.  How many times He has taken me back after I fail Him!  How many times has His grace been my comfort!  To live in the thought that I am forsaken is to live in deceit.  He is there — He always will be… “And behold, I am with you always; even to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:20)

You are His delight, and He wants to be yours.  You are never forsaken, for He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Live in this hope, trusting Him to make you the person He desires you to be.  You are His bride, His delight — what grounds have you to distrust Him?

In Good Soil

The hill was steep.  Very steep.  Completely washed out by years of rain, it looked nearly impassable.  But that didn’t stop Dad from gunning his truck –with trailer in tow– up the nearly vertical slope.  We were all grasping for handles and footholds in the truck as it careened to the top, the trailer screeching and banging behind us.  Several times a summer it’s time to load the trailer up with hay for the horses, and yesterday was the first of the year.  It is actually one of my favorite jobs we have to do — the fields are yellow and green, the sky is a brilliant blue, and from the endless stretch of pasture you can see the bay glimmering in the sun miles away.  It can be hard work, but as we ride up the field on a stack of bales with the breeze in our faces and the sun on our backs, there is nothing more wonderful in the world.

After finishing the load, we drove a little ways up the road to some property my Grandpa owns, since he wanted to take a look at it.  The land is nothing but a stretch of waving, waist high timothy hay — golden and green.  As I lay in the grass looking up at the sky, with the wind whipping through, I could have spent the rest of my life there.  I never wanted to leave.  For really, no matter how fun the town is, and the bustle of a social life, my heart lies out in the fields and meadows where all is silent, and all is peace.

“A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.  Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched.  And since they had no root, they withered away.  Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.  Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.  He who has ears, let him hear.”  (Matt. 13:3-9)

The seeds God sows are all the same — they are the seeds of God’s Word.  It was not the seeds’ fault that they did not grow, but the soil in which they fell.  To blame the seed for it’s inability to bear fruit, when the soil was unhealthy and unprepared, would be a false accusation.  There are four kinds of soil illustrated here by Jesus:

First, the soil by the path.  This ground was beaten by many feet, and was untilled and unyielding.  It would not, and could not any longer, accept the seeds because it was hardened.  Because it did not allow the seeds to grow, they were snatched away by the birds — the Enemy.  When someone hears the word and continues in her way, without heeding it, the Enemy will destroy what was sown in her heart.  God may continue to call to her, but if the soil of her heart refuses to accept his planting, nothing will grow.

Second, the soil filled with rocks.  I know about rocks.  Our land is veritable rock farm.  We can grow rocks!  The problem with rocky land is that the plants must push their roots around the stones in order to be stable.  When the soil is very rocky, the plants cannot gain a deep root system, annd when the sun comes out, they have no reservoir to reach within the ground. They are shallow, and consequently, they die. 

Third, the soil shared with thorns.  If you read over the parable again, you will notice that when the good seed was sown, there were already thorns growing as well.  When the good seed took root, the thorns should have been removed.  For those who love the world too much to remove the evidences of it in their life, these “thorns” will choke out their trust in God.  They will never be fruitful.

Lastly, the good soil; this is the one who hears the word and understands it (Matt. 13:23).   This soil was prepared to accept the seed of God’s Word.  It had been fertilized, tilled, and tended.  It was receptive to the work of God, and because it was ready to be planted, the seeds were free to grow.  Those whose hearts are willing in this way will “bear fruit and yield, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, in another thirty.” 

Our hearts need to be that good soil always, not only when we first hear the gospel message.  The journey with God calls for a continual willingness to receive His word, His way and His teaching.  We may not always want to accept it, but we must keep in mind that the seed He is planting will grow into something He has envisioned for us — no matter how small the seed may seem. 

“…You may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Is. 61:3)

Hardened

 “I’m sorry, I’m sorry… I shouldn’t be so emotional… I — I don’t know why I cry about these things… I should just suck it up and be tough.”  Katie wiped tears from her eyes as she said these words to me beside the coffee makers and sugar packets in the back room.  She was crying over the fact that her boyfriend, whom she is living with, didn’t care enough to even tell her where he was.  “I’m silly to cry — I know… I’ll stop, really I will.” She stifled a sob as she tried to control her emotions.  She had hardened herself for years, but she could only contain her anguished heart for so long.

In our world, girls and women are taught to be tough, to be strong, to be unflappable.  They are taught to fight, bite and lash out.  Selfishness and pride are considered high self-esteem and confidence.  The people who go far are the ones that beat the rest down.  “Survival of the fittest” is the mantra of our society.  Innocence and purity, humility and love — these are left behind.  Women become brash, crass and unashamed.  Their beauty becomes physical alone as the truest source of loveliness is crushed while still in the bud.

I read once that when a girl ceases to blush, she has lost the greatest beauty she will ever have.  For some reason, I never forgot that quote.  Sometimes, when I was embarrassed, I would run to a mirror to see if I was blushing — just to make sure!  But why would blushing be a virtue?  Because when a girl blushes, it reveals innocence and humility.  Usually a girl will blush when she is flattered, excited, and in some cases, shocked.  But when a girl ceases to blush, she has become hardened.

It is easy to become hardened to the ways of the world.  They sneak up on you bit by bit, and if you compromise on the littlest sins, they soon give way to the greater.  When I began my job, my ears were ringing from all the cussing I heard during the course of the day.  While my co-workers kindly refrained from taking the Lord’s name in vain in front of me, they did not stop repeating other words that are not glorifying to God.  Over time I came to expect their language, and while I never repeated it, it didn’t shock me so much anymore.  I ceased to blush.

The same thing happened in my speech class at my local college.  My teacher, a non-Christian, would occasionally tell rather crude jokes to the class.  At first I couldn’t believe he would dare say them, but because the class thought they were funny, he continued.  Every time he read them I could feel my face flaming.  But what if I no longer felt ashamed to hear his jokes?  What if I laughed at them with everyone else?  My heart and mind would move one step closer to excusing sin.

Becoming hardened happens quickly and without warning.  The question is — how do we as godly young women keep our hearts and minds pure, walk in innocence and light, and glorify our Savior and Lord?  The world is ready at every turn to corrupt, tempt and lead astray.  Some do not intend harm, but because they are not saved they are at the ready use of the Enemy for his purposes.  The walk with God is not always in green pastures, and beside still waters.  This I am discovering now.  So we must be vigilant.  We must be strong.  The answer to the question lies in the verse below:

“The Lord God will help me; therefore I will not be disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I will not be ashamed.”  (Is. 50:7)

Do not be hardened to the sins of the world, so that you tolerate and accept them, but DO be hardened against sin.  He will help you!  Your face will be firm, and so will your heart, and you will not be ashamed to be innocent, pure and upright.  Just because the world is doing it never makes it right — and the Enemy desires nothing better than to have you follow in the path of the thousands of others who don’t want to stand out.  Instead, they harden their hearts to sin and eventually, fall into sin themselves.

“Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me.  Redeem me from man’s oppression, that I may keep your precepts.  Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your stautes.  My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.”  (Ps. 119:133-136)

When the world beats a path to your door, as it always does when it comes to sin, makes sure it is unable to get a foot across the threshold.  Keep your heart firm in faith, and your face free for blushing — because your innocence to sin is the most beautiful evidence for Christ that you possess. 

 

Victoria’s Unkept Secret

In Traverse City, which is about an hour from my house, there is a mall that I make sure I go to every time I am in the vicinity.  I love shopping, and this mall has every store you can possibly imagine!  It is an absolute blast… in more ways than one.  While it’s lots of fun to walk through the mall with my sisters and friends, it seems we can never escape the bombardment of provocative music, pictures and models on all sides.  It is almost appalling to walk past the Abercrombie outlet, to glance into Express, or to catch a glimpse of a Limited poster on the wall — and we’re girls.  Imagine the struggle for our brothers in Christ.

I wrote an post a few days back on “If You’ve Got it, Flaunt It”.  In it I detailed the opinions of our brothers on modesty, and the importance thereof.  But it seems like we are in the minority, and that our concept of dress will never make any difference.  It seems that you can’t find clothes anywhere that are just simple and lovely — no, they have to be “sexy”, or made into some strange, souped-up form of femininity that isn’t feminine at all. 

I found an interesting article on MSN that illustrates what has happened to fashion in the past twenty years.  Many of you may be familiar with Victoria’s Secret, the lingerie line that has rapidly disentegrated from gently feminine to unabashedly trashy.  The article linked above contains an interesting assessment made by Victoria’s Secret’s CEO — that the company has become “too sexy”.  With an air of utter surprise, the $10 billion line has decided that the overly provocative music, merchandise, commercials and even decoration of stores has actually brought about a drop in sales, as older women who still retain a sense of modest femininity are turned away by the company’s prostitutionary style. 

Even those of the world, with what little conscience they yet retain, can see when a woman’s greatest secret is being thrown away.  It is no longer a special thing when the models in the window make a woman’s beauty so easy to gain.  There is no longer any reason for a man to pursue a woman for it, because it is ever before him in a thousand different venues. And for the man who chooses to look for a women’s inner beauty rather than her outward appearance, he must also endure the barrage of temptation that he meets with every day.

So when Victoria’s Secret suggests a modesty remodel, perhaps we should make an assessment of ourselves as well!

Early I Seek You

In my last post I talked about God’s plan for us, and how we must seek Him in order to have the abundant life He promises.  This morning, as I sit on my bed looking out the window at the dawn, I am reading Psalm 63.  Not only did David seek God, but he specified when he sought God… early in the morning.

“Oh, God, you are my God; [early] I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.  So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.  Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.  So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.  My soul will be satisified as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.” (Ps.63:1-7)

I don’t know about you, but I love the morning.  I get up as early as possible, while everyone is asleep and all is quiet, and watch the sun come up over the trees across the road.  The dew is usually all over the grass, and the sun glistens on each individual blade, making our lawn shimmer in the light.  The horses’ backs reflect the sunlight as they graze in the pasture, and all the chickadees and doves start to sing.  I get myself a cup of tea and read my Bible while the sun continues to rise.  It’s the perfect time to be with God. 

I once read a sermon called “Meeting God in the Morning” by the Reverend Matthew Henry.  Although it was written in the 18th century, everything Mr. Henry wrote still holds true today.  He held that the best time to pray and read was in the morning because it is then that we are not yet burdened with the cares of the day. We are fresh in body and mind, and we are beginning our day in the thought of God so we may continue in that vein for the proceeding hours.  David held to this same concept:

“Oh God, you are my God; early I seek you…” (vs.1a)

The word you may read in your Bible for “early” may be “earnestly”, but the actual Hebrew translation can be read both ways.  Early in the morning we earnestly seek Him.

“…my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (vs.1b)

“Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep.  Where do you get that living water?… Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever.  The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.””  (Jn. 4:10-13)

“So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.  Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.” (vs. 2-3)

When we pray, we enter into the very presence of God.   We are talking to Him; conversing with Him.  Sometimes I find that I have to stop praying and just be still… not keep talking AT God but more WITH Him.  You can’t converse with a person who does all the talking herself, nor can God speak with you when you are all talk and not much listen.  When we are listening, praying, we are in God’s sanctuary.  My room is my physical sanctuary in the morning, when all is quiet and peaceful.  Jesus himself said, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matt. 6:6)  But what about during the day, when we need Him just as much or more than in the morning?  It’s so easy to feel like you’re in God’s sanctuary when all is quiet and peaceful — but what about in the hectic whirlwind of the other 24 hours?  Catherine of Siena said, “Build yourself a cell in your heart and retire there to pray.”  No matter where you are, that “cell” is there… that “sanctuary” is with you always.

“So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.” (vs.4)

His steadfast love is better than life to us…  or is it?  I have to ask this question sometimes.  Sometimes life seems more appealing than steadfast love.  We can’t physically feel God’s love; we have to take it by faith.  Of course, we can grow to know and understand it more and more, but occasionally, life on earth can be all we desire.  If His love is better than life to us — if He is really the center of our world — we will indeed bless Him as long as we live.

“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips…” (vs.5)

Being satisfied in Christ is hard for me, and I know for a fact it is a common struggle among homeschooled young ladies.  We have been raised with the mentality that to serve and love a husband and family is the crowing glory of a woman, and it is right and good to desire it.  But too often the desire gets out of control.  Every girl I know has at least some part of her that yearns to be loved by a man, and to have a beautiful wedding and someday a family… but the hard part comes in being content where she is.  She needs to be satisfied by who God is.  He promises to be very satisfying, too… David described Him to be something like a Krispy Kreme donut!  “Fat and rich food” sounds very good to me. 🙂

“…when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night…” (vs.6)

And so we come full circle.  In the morning we are with God, and at night we are still with Him. We seek Him in the morning and remember Him at night.  If every thought is taken captive for Christ — if we are living in the thought of God from morning to evening — then the day can be lived in victory, because He is the recurring theme throughout it.

“…for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.” (vs.7)

He is our help from the morning till the night — seek Him early on, and He will be with you the rest of the day, and in the shadow of His wings you will find contenment and freedom from every care.