Christian Dress and Humility

For the past few months I’ve been attending Bible studies on Sunday evenings. They’ve been enlightening and fun, but sadly, they finished last weekend. We ended on a high: the subject was Christian dress and humility. The title was: THE ONLY OUTFIT TO WEAR TO HEAVEN.

We as Christians are called to be different: we’re a chosen generation; a royal priesthood, and this should be reflected in what we say, what we do and what we wear.

My issue once was the unfair pressure put on women to mind how they dress, whilst the men always seemed to be ‘let off’. But after this study, I now see that ‘dress and humility’ work differently for men and women. There are of course some things that wouldn’t make sense for Christian guys to wear (such as trousers swinging by the ankles), but I think with men  the issue is HUMILITY. That macho behaviour and big ego are seen in Isaiah. God talks about the women and the men:

Therefore the Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion;
the LORD will make their scalps bald.”

In that day the Lord will snatch away their finery: the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces,  the earrings and bracelets and veils, the headdresses and anklets and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms, the signet rings and nose rings, the fine robes and the capes and cloaks, the purses  and mirrors, and the linen garments and tiaras and shawls.

….

Your men will fall by the sword,
your warriors in battle. 

(Isaiah 3:17-23 & 25)

Even though things are changing in our post-modern society, generally, there is more pressure put on women to look good and to conform to an appearance that panders to the sexual desires of men. Look in most shops on the high street: the skirts are shorter and the tops are cut lower. I would always defend a woman’s right to wear whatever she wants without being an object of lust, but sadly, the lust will happen. And even if you do dress ‘appropriately’, there are some men that will lust after anything that moves! But I’d hate to conform to the world’s standard of how a woman should look. I’d prefer to take the example found in Revelation 12:

 And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:

A natural beauty! The attention given to that type of woman is thankfully more respectful—and welcome. There’s nothing worse than hearing an inappropriate comment from a sexist male. I wish women could walk the streets without harassment, but sadly that’s never going to happen. And let’s not forget the inappropriate comments from church men! As in:

“Oh my God! Sister so-and-so’s dress was so tight I was reciting the Lord’s Prayer to take my mind off it. Mercy!”

These statements are offensive. To hear a man, or even a group of men saying things like this about women just isn’t nice. Just because you threw a Bible reference in there doesn’t make it any less appropriate than the guys on the street. Comments such as the above only cause shame, self-consciousness and humiliation for the woman involved. And I don’t think God appreciates a sexist comment haphazardly cloaked in ‘Holy-Jargon’.

The thing with dress is that it takes a personal conversion, a real experience with God for it to have any meaning to the individual. When I was a Goth, I was so angry and hurt whenever someone at church gave me a lecture about my clothes. At one stage I was told I was inviting evil spirits into my life, and that my outfits were giving me mental illness! But now that I’ve grown spiritually, I can see that those particular clothes automatically made me a part of a lifestyle that wasn’t of God, regardless of my heart. It was a bad witness: whenever I went door-knocking, people didn’t take me seriously because they thought my clothes were in contradiction with what I was saying.

So what is the only outfit we’ll wear to Heaven?

I delight greatly in the LORD;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

(Isaiah 61:10, NIV)

Righteousness and salvation. Something to think about : )

 

 

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Cocoon.

Is it true, then
that I am not loved by everyone?
Is the rain still the shower fall
of God’s many tears?
Don’t Christians rule the world?
Isn’t Sabbath kept by everyone?
We’re all saving ourselves
for Wedding Night, am I right?

I thought I knew the world
But I seemingly don’t;
breaking free of this cocoon that you kept me in—
a golden hammer to crack the
shell which has encased my body for so long.
Now I meet people who are different

Scary.

Cold. There aren’t many people like me—
A Christian. I’m laughed at and ridiculed
jokes are made about The Cross;
Jesus has become a doll with which
people stick their pins of anger into
until my Bible drips with the blood
and the pain that He went through.
Do they not know He died
for their freedom to laugh at Him like that?

I wish I never broke my cocoon.
In fact.
I wish you’d never made one for me.

Your Bright and Morning Star

I saw you sitting alone
under the crab apple tree
reading a book with old pages
that I once recognised.

You had a pensive expression
before your eyes fell on me
and as I had hoped,
you smiled, and approached
my calm embrace

Because I love you
and I always will–
I’ll give you anything you want
because deep down

I

want you

to be happy

as you join me

in Hell

And when I’ve got you
I won’t leave you.
You’ll be begging at my feet.
Pale. with track marks on your arms
and circles under your eyes,
you’ll be thin and gangly.

Ill.

It will all happen so quickly
that like the prodigal son,
you’ll cry for your parents
with your head down a toilet
but this ain’t a parable, sweetheart;
there is no happy end to this
story.

Because when I snatch people from church
they always end up worse than those
who never attended—
more poor, more destitute,
more rotten,
decomposing from the inside

And the stench will be with you
forever. So even if you
go back to the place you once called
home,
they will smell you and know
that you had been in my bed.

Consequences will caress your
body, a string of letters
will follow your name
as if you’re a doctor of dissolution:
the letters to mark your
promiscuity, with me
The Enemy.

Let’s not worry about that, though.
For now we’ll lock it in a jar.
I’d prefer it if you didn’t call me
The ‘S’ word
Or the ‘D’ word.
Call me
Your
Bright and Morning Star.

Do Something!

I’ve bored my male friends silly with my talk about women’s rights and whatnot. It’s not that they don’t care or anything, but I think they know that talk is cheap. I have such strong views, but what am I doing to make a difference, to help women in those positions that truly breaks my heart?

A few years ago I watched a Dispatches documentary about women in Afghanistan living under Taliban rule. These women were forced to wear burqas—even to the point where their eyes had to be covered—they were beaten by their husbands, they couldn’t work or be educated, and even being spotted in their homes by another man without appropriate cover meant severe punishment. These women were so hurt that they were self-immolating. There was an eighteen year old in a forced marriage who had attempted the same on a busy high street, but was rescued and doused with water by onlookers. The camera crew visited her in hospital, all bandaged and weak, and my stomach dropped. The girl looked dead inside, as if her soul had gone. It was after watching this documentary that I decided to start my own charity.

There’s so many things happening in the world against women, so there was a lot of think about: what would my charity do? What section of women’s inequality should I tackle? I did lots of research and found that there are already charities helping women in the Middle East and ones that set up schools for young Afghan girls; I know that there’s rape crisis centres rapidly being established in the Congo and other parts of Africa where war rape and incest is rife, so I decided to look into the areas of violence against women that aren’t being addressed.

Cue another documentary, Panorama this time, about asylum seekers and refugees who try—by any means necessary—to escape their war-torn and dangerous countries to get into the UK. It was  a very sad documentary and made me thankful that I was already born and raised here. There was a trio of college lads who had literally left Afghanistan in just their t-shirts and jeans and ended up on the borders of Europe in the middle of winter, shivering, with just a plastic sheet between them to keep warm.

There was a woman on this documentary who left Africa after her husband was killed. She had her two young daughters with her, trying to get into the UK. There’s a part of the asylum seeker’s journey that’s dangerous—rogues operate in the area and use exploitative means to provide transport for people to get on to the next country.

You know where I’m going, right?

Yes, the woman was raped by these poachers and they molested her nine-year-old daughter. As the woman told her story to the reporter, she and the camera crew were in tears. That’s when it struck me: women who are homeless, or coming into this country poor and broken—and their children—are in danger. It’s more dangerous for women to be on the streets than men and women asylum seekers won’t only be exploited on their way into this country, but a lot of them find themselves in human trafficking rings once they’ve arrived.

So I want to start up a charity that helps homeless and vulnerable women and their children.

It’s going to take a lot of prayer, and it’s something I don’t actually have the time to tackle at the moment, what with university and assignments, but I’m hoping that with God’s help and a lot of patience, this idea can become a reality.

Stop thinking, Baker, and start doing.

xXx

I Hate Church.

Something that is said too freely. I speak more about my own utterances than anyone else’s.

At one stage, I did hate church. I had only been a Seventh-Day Adventist for a couple years at this point and I had never experienced a colder place than an Adventist church. From being an Anglican, where all my neighbours attended and chatted about gardens and local business around the tea and biscuit table; to being a Pentecostal where everyone was too passionate to be cold, coming into the church that was supposed to ‘have the light’ really shocked me. I was outwardly different and aware that people thought I was odd. It was only years later, when I had made some of the best friends I’ve ever had, that I was informed that people just didn’t know how to take my eccentricity. They were nervous to approach me.

Since that time, God has worked wonders in my life. I’ve recently passed my practical driving test and I found out today that I passed my French Oral exam (I got a 2:2. Not a fantastic grade, but I’d been anticipating a fail so I’ll take what I’ve been given). But also, I’ve grown as a person. My life is genuinely better. My dad’s life is better. Most people, when they find out how he was before, just can’t believe it. He was never a bad dad, but looking back on our old lives, before both of us became Christians, it’s like meeting two different people.

With that in mind, sometimes I have to ask whether I’m a good witness for God. Sure, I tell  people about God, but what does my life say about it?

Today someone tried to persuade me to leave church, after I’d complained to them about something. This person is very anti-God and I’m not entirely sure if they respect my beliefs (I’m just judging by the mocking company they keep). Now, I’m not someone who believes in painting a Utopian picture of church to luuure in the un-believers. That’s just dishonest and unnecessary. However, if God has truly worked wonders for me, should I complain as much as I do? I believe in only complaining if you plan to do something about it—otherwise, keep shtum! So even though I’m in no way tempted by the offer to leave the church, I can’t really be surprised if people think I am. If I’m going to complain so much, what do I expect?

And what’s hilarious is that I don’t complain as much as I used to. I can only imagine how many atheists/agnostics I bored in the past with my ramblings.

I love God. I hate religion without God, because I agree that it has caused a lot of grief for people and has been used as a tool to control, subjugate and frighten. But these things will happen because we live in a sinful world, with humans whose natural choice is to sin anyway. With that in mind, I can’t entertain anti-God thoughts from others or encourage negative images of Him.

I shouldn’t emanate them, either.

So this week, I’m praying for more positivity. I can’t be a good witness if I’m complaining all the time. God’s done too much for me to behave like that…

Happy Sabbath.

xXx

A Text for Sabbath.

 

Don’t, by the way, read too much into the differences here between men and women. Neither man nor woman can go it alone or claim priority. Man was created first, as a beautiful shining reflection of God—that is true. But the head on a woman’s body clearly outshines in beauty the head of her “head,” her husband. The first woman came from man, true—but ever since then, every man comes from a woman! And since virtually everything comes from God anyway, let’s quit going through these “who’s first” routines.

1 Corinthians 11:10-12, The Message.

 

A text I really need after how I felt yesterday. I know that I create a lot of the gender politics in my head and I’m always on the defensive. Sometimes, though, you don’t know who to trust. It seems as though to be a Godly woman is to be a woman of the 1950s. It makes me irrational, I guess. I told my brother that I wasn’t going to get married because I don’t think I’d like it. He said ‘you can’t tar everyone with the same brush’. So I guess I’m also guilty of generalising men sometimes. They’re obviously not all bad.

At the end of the day, though, these things aren’t important. My salvation means more to me. For now, I’ll concentrate on my marriage with Jesus—because I honestly can’t be asked for all this gender hype.

I’m tired.

I Died Eight Years Ago

I died on October the Tenth, 2004.
It was the day I went to church.

I went because I was sick
because that’s what you’re supposed to do;
but it’s discouraging to see a hospital
with dead bodies the ground.

I saw walls stained with blood
and the dry bones of pastors past;
blanketed in a film of dust
to compensate for their lack of love

Patients wailing in this hospital.
Crying, muttering and screaming—
screams to wake the daemons from their pits;
screams to make the devil laugh with glee.

I was grasped with dirt-stained hands;
cakes of blood in the nails
veins that protruded from gaunt arms like bloated rivers
polluted with lies and bile from the Beast Himself

They led me through dark pastures
dragged me under tumultuous waters
My soul was beaten and battered and the Valley of Death became my home
The macabre my mother.
Evil was ever-present and I was tortured
with rods and spikes.
My tears were enough to fill ten thousand cups
and they ranneth over like streams down my legs
‘Till I stood in a pool of distress and decay.

So here I am, in a casket
made from the hopes and dreams of many
Encased in burnt earth
with the scales of snakes making prints on my skin.

I’m dead in the ground
but I like it here. We all like being dead, don’t we?
If not, why are Christians so reluctant to change?

Sometimes, though, I ask myself:
“Who is there to revive me?”

Who will revive my diseased and desperate soul?

(The theme of the day will be ‘Revive’, so I was asked to write a poem about revival. A bit macabre, though!)

(EDIT: So I performed the poem at church this evening and it went down better than I expected. As I was reading, I started to feel really worried because I hadn’t actually realised how dark it sounded haha. But people thought it was a deep message which was nice. I got some constructive criticism: read slower. I have a habit of reading things really quickly; my tongue has a mind of its own, sometimes! But yeah, feeling happy after tonight).