Men, The Monsters of Modesty Culture

When writing blogs containing this sensitive of a topic, I have a hard time figuring out where to begin.  What actually is a good intro sentence to what I am researching today. Yeah, I got nothing. 

So here it goes.

Women’s modesty and men.

“Men are visual creatures.”

Now, since I am not a man, obviously I have no first hand knowledge on the subject. However, as a woman, I have heard this argument to support the idea of women dressing in a particular kind of way in the spirit of not “causing our brothers to stumble”. So let me just begin by describing how that comes across to a young girl.

We will get to the men in a bit.

As a teenage girl growing up in a religious environment where the idea of modesty included skirts and dresses exclusively, the above statement was quoted frequently as a deterrent from dressing “inappropriately”. We were taught men can’t help but lust after us if we showed too much skin, wore something too tight, or wore pants. (I never really understood the logic behind the last one). Hearing this statement as a girl developing into a woman it caused me to be ashamed of my body. It also made me very afraid of men, and acutely aware if a man even so much as looked in my direction.  I came to assume all men were just sex monsters waiting for any opportunity to take advantage of viewing my body whether they acted on their lust physically towards me or in their own minds. 

What a sad little box to put men in.

Having mentioned briefly what this teaching taught me as a woman, let’s go into the man’s side of this. I have done some research, so I think I have an idea of what I am about to say. If you’re a man and disagree, please feel free to correct any misunderstandings I may have.

Yes, men indeed are visual creatures by nature. Men do tend to get aroused by visual cues more than women.  This is a scientifically proven fact.

But, does this mean all men are walking sex robots? Or unable to control their urges? Absolutely not.

There is a gigantic difference between noticing and lusting.

We can notice and even admire our friend’s new car. What becomes a problem is when we allow that admiration to turn into coveting. Same idea applies.

It is completely normal for a man to notice an attractive woman walking by. There is nothing wrong with that.  It does NOT mean the man is lusting.  Noticing only turns into a problem when that man continues to look and allows his mind to run away with impure thoughts. And clearly, if a man allows those thoughts to progress into actions there is an issue for certain.

Sexual attraction is natural and designed by God, to imply that it is sinful is misrepresenting God’s intent.

I read an article in the Huffington Post, about a woman recounting an experience she had while wearing a pencil skirt to work. Something that should have been deemed “modest” by most church standards right? She said she received unanticipated sexual comments and several looks from her male coworkers.  Was their behavior her fault for wearing a pencil skirt? Absolutely not!  It is the men’s fault for not controlling their thoughts or actions. To suggest otherwise is offensive to men and women everywhere!

So where does this leave us? Should a woman dress modestly for the reason as to not cause a man to stumble? First, I think, we need to evaluate what modesty actually is. I wrote an entire blog on this subject you can find it here, https://findingmyfreedomdoingmylife.com/2020/02/07/the-oxymoron-of-modesty/. So I won’t go into this too much again, but being modest means: not to stick out in a crowd, not to wear anything too noticeable, expensive, or over the top, to dress appropriately for whatever the situation.

Outside of those guidelines, I say, “you do you boo”.

One might wonder why a woman would choose to wear something revealing or sexy knowing that it may cause a man to notice. I can’t speak for all women, but I can tell you as a wife, I feel like I am doing my husband a favor by dressing in a way he will be visibly attracted to.  I couldn’t care less what other men think of me. There are also times when a woman just wants to look pretty, and show off what God gave her. And I see nothing wrong with that motive either.

In conclusion, the premise that men cannot control their sexual urges while being visually stimulated is ludicrous.

All this teaching accomplishes is cause women to be afraid of men and makes men to feel as if they have every right to lust because they can’t help it, they are just wired that way. It lets the men off the hook for their actions while putting the blame on someone else. It makes men feel like their brains are by nature animalistic and if a woman dresses a certain way, she must be asking for it. (I keep thinking of an image of a bongo monkey hopping around in a male brain).

It is easy to see how this type of thinking would easily bleed into viewing sexual assault as being brought on somehow by the victim. After being taught this mindset, the question automatically becomes, “what was she wearing or doing to provoke him?” This is just wrong.

It is not my job to police anyone else’s mind or heart. And I am sorry men, but if you allow your admiration to turn into sinful lust, that’s on you. Put your big boy pants on and take responsibility for your own actions.

Jesus said in Matthew 5, if a man looks at a woman in an inappropriate manner, it would be better for him to pluck his own eye out. I don’t see any mention of blaming the woman he was looking at. Was God angry at Bathsheba for bathing, or at David for lusting and sleeping with her?

I often wonder what Jesus would say concerning this argument. Would he agree with the idea men just can’t help themselves? Or would he tell them to suck it up buttercup and get their own thoughts under subjection?

From everything I have read about Jesus, I’m pretty certain his answer would be the second one, and it would be insulting to him to assume otherwise.

A House Divided

If you live in the US, (or enjoy reality TV shows) you probably watched the presidential debate last evening.

Can I just say, wow, that was tragic. No matter what side of the stage you were rooting for, I think it is safe to say, nobody really won here, neither opponent, nor the American people. I think we can all look at what happened and agree, this is a huge reason we are so divided as a nation.

But don’t worry, discussing politics is the last thing I want to dive into. That roller coaster is too much for me to handle!

But, it did dawn on me, as I was reflecting over last night’s events, a divided house will never stand.

When I began this blog site, I made it very clear my intentions were not to divide, but bring to light the real life consequences of how we treat people.

I have said this over and over, and I will say it again, yes, I am mostly addressing the religious organization I grew up in, because that is what I know. It would be irresponsible of me to talk about subjects I have no first hand knowledge of.

I ran across a Facebook post the other day about a woman who had left the UPC. Her appearance has obviously changed since leaving and she is having fun experimenting with looks she never got to try before. While she was at the store, minding her own business, a clearly UPC or other like faith woman loudly spoke negatively of this woman’s appearance. The ex-UPC woman handled the judgment graciously and left the store.

I shared her story on my Facebook page, others I know did as well, and the response was disheartening. I actually saw people either discrediting this woman’s story, or supporting the woman judging! I really don’t know why this shocked me so much, it really shouldn’t have. I have seen it time and time again.But there it is, the cancer that is eating away at Christians everywhere.

I am guilty of it, you are guilty of it. When we hear of someone who is supposed to be on our “side” acting in a way that was hurtful to others, it takes a lot of effort to stop our own emotions dead in their tracks and look at the situation from the viewpoint of the other party. It is difficult to dismantle our own biases and see things objectively.

The first thing we as humans want to do is get defensive. “No way someone from our ‘side’ could’ve done something like that!” We try to discredit the other party, justify the reaction of our ally, or even victim blame by saying that person was asking for it in some way.

Why is this?

I can tell you from personal experience, I don’t believe the woman who was ridiculed was lying. If you think she was, I encourage you to read some other blogs of those who have left the UPC, watch some of their YouTube channels, read their books. It may surprise you how common this reaction actually is. Would it shock you to know there are actually support groups and specialized therapists for people who left the UPC and other similar religious organizations? There is a legitimate reason for them.

Do those things make you angry? They should! They should make everyone on all “sides” so angry we all start a revolution! A revolution of love.

Love is the only salve that can heal.

Does it really matter if a person dresses differently than you? Does it really matter if they have brown hair or purple hair? What if they are a different political party? A different race? How about if they left your church to attend another? Or are a different religion all together? Or no religion at all?

How do we handle such controversial differences? These beliefs are personal to us.

How did Christ handle them? Jesus said out of our hearts our mouths speak, and we will be justified by our words and also condemned by our words. Remember the parable of the good Samaritan? Which one of those characters do you want to be? Those who snubbed their nose at someone who wasn’t on their “side” or someone who sees people for who they are, and helps them on their journey regardless of their differences.

It is scary to me how quickly we are able to defend our allies no matter their behavior and dismiss those we view as against us.

We will never succeed without unity. And unity will never be accomplished without love.

A house divided will never stand.

The Merry-go-round of Trust Issues

Well guys, ugly, raw, unfiltered blog here.

This could all very well be the pain pills talking, but I’m just going to tell you about my day and what lead up to a random ah-ha moment of self discovery.

I spent my morning at work training a new employee. Nothing special happened other than feeling a slight twinge in my back while helping a patient not to fall. Went on with my day, no big deal.

After work, I decided to go grocery shopping. Of course, as fate would have it, after avoiding a near run in with someone from my past, I grabbed a cart with a janky wheel. Again, no big deal, just had to push it a little to the left the entire time. Bent down to pick up a case of water, then put it in the bottom of said janky wheeled cart and realized quickly my back was going to be sore for a while. This time it was a little more than just a slight twinge.

This happens to me from time to time. Part of getting older I suppose. So here I am, 1:24 in the morning wide awake on pain pills, sitting with my legs up on the couch and a heating pad in order to get some relief.

Clearly, now is the best time for my brain to kick into self reflection mode. (Sarcasm intended). But, even now I suppose that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

Trust.

I’ve written about this before. This is a huge obstacle in my life. If you read my book, you already know my father left when I was young, couple that with some twenty-five years of spiritual abuse, and it’s understandable why this topic would come up in many therapy sessions. (My father and I do stay in contact now, he’s not really the point here).

Something my therapist said to me once has stayed with me. Maybe, I remember her question specifically because it is something I’m still working through. She asked me one day, “so, you don’t trust anyone completely?”

The best answer I could come up with honestly was, no.

The deep in your gut fear of abandonment and rejection is real.

And as I am lying here with nothing but my thoughts it occurred to me, I don’t trust me either.

While my body is telling me I’m in pain, my brain is second guessing myself. “Is it really that bad? Maybe the pain is just in my head. Maybe the little twinges I felt earlier in the day weren’t real.”

Then I began reflecting over my day and started second guessing my training abilities. “Did I actually explain that correctly? Is what I was saying the right way to do it? Have I been doing my job wrong for the last three years?”

Insert epiphany.

Maybe the reason I can’t trust anyone else, is because I don’t trust me.

I am sitting here second guessing my own body guys! Who does that?!

Logically, I know that I know how to do my job. Obviously, I’m not too terrible at it or I wouldn’t still be there! So why in the middle of the night am I questioning all of my daily activities?

Learning to come out of my shell and be myself took time. Untangling a lifetime of crazy has taken some effort. But clearly, I have some more work to do.

How can I put my full trust in Christ if I can’t get ahold of my deeply rooted trust issues? They seem to be a part of me. My identity. It’s who I am.

Hi, my name is Jen, and I have trust issues.

Maybe someday I can change. Maybe at some point in my life I can experience pain, or joy, or even sadness without the merry- go-round in my head telling me it’s not real.

Maybe someday.

What Happens When Your Church Becomes Your Idol?

When I started publishing a blog I knew there would be backlash. When my book came out, I had no doubt there would be backlash. I knew what the response would be from many people, at least, I thought I knew.

I fully expected mud to be thrown at me personally, and I expected to step on people’s toes and be on the receiving end of a comment or two made out of raw emotion. As much as I knew that would pain me, most people, including myself, take their religious beliefs very personally, as they should, so I get it. It is a touchy subject.

And, yet, after carefully weighing and accepting my potential consequences I still chose to proceed.

That being said, I can only speak to what I know, and having spent twenty-five years in the United Pentecostal Church, that is what I know.

But, the thing that has surprised me about this the most, is the responses from many people that are comprised of veiled threats to my family, claims that I am blasphemous against God, and that speaking against the church would most certainly land me in the innermost circles of hell itself. Such comments have zero scripture that can be used to back them or at least, scripture used in context, and are simply scare tactics.

Wow. Didn’t see that coming.

In an online support group I am in, someone made a very real comment. And it made sense to me. The reason so (very) many people tend to spew out these vague, haphazard responses to my published material was simply this:

The church has become their god.

Yikes, that stings a little. And I can’t say I have never been in their shoes, I would be a hypocrite to stand here and say that at one time my responses wouldn’t be the exact same. In fact, I really don’t even blame them for this oversight.

This is really a problem that spans across all denominations, but like I said, I can only speak to what I know.

Several years before I left the UPC, a friend of mine posted a paper that she had written for her college class about the organization, and how she thought it was a cult. My stomach dropped when I read this and I quickly without even giving her opinion a second thought, unfollowed her.

Why did I respond like that? Why was I so quick to be offended by someone else’s opinion of the United Pentecostal Church? She wasn’t saying God wasn’t real, she wasn’t even writing negatively about any one person, she was writing about an organization.

Everyone knows the Ten Commandments. What is the very first one?

You shall have no other gods before me”.

It was written in stone, plain as day, yet for some reason that seemed to be the one Isreal struggled with the most.

How do we know when we are putting idols ahead of God? And what happens when we do?

I think a telltale sign is when someone says something critical of whatever is dearest to your heart, it becomes obvious where your allegiance lies.

In the UPC, you are taught that anytime the church doors are open you are to be there. Rain, snow, vacation, sick doesn’t matter you should be at church. You are taught that your pastor has the authority to give you additional rules that aren’t clearly scribed in the Bible, and you are to comply. Your money is top priority, and it is widely believed that your finances will be cursed if you don’t give enough to your church (other charities don’t count). You go to conferences and hoop and holler when the main man in charge of it all dances a jig across the stage.

Your entire life is wrapped up in the church.

Is it possible, with so much focus being placed on the outward appearance of having God around, we fail to invite him at all into our day to day lives?

There is verse after verse in the Bible scorning those who have forgotten the main reason while they are caught up in being busy for the main reason. (Think Mary and Martha.)

My childhood pastor preached a message once that stuck with me, “You gotta keep the main thing, the main thing”!

Meaning, if Jesus isn’t the main thing, what is?

I am completely preaching to myself here as well. It’s easy to get caught up in the busy. And it’s easy while we are in the thick of the business to lose perspective. I get it.

But, do you put more effort into attending a building and working like a bee than you do worshiping God and entering into the beauty of his holiness? Do you put more emphasis on what your pastor says than what the Bible says? What would happen if you found the pastor’s words to be false? Or if you felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit leading you away from your congregation? What would you do?

The Bible tells us to test the spirits to see if they are of Christ.

Test your own spirit. Are you as much or more offended by someone critiquing your church organization or your pastor than you would be of them criticizing God himself?

If you feel a little twinge by reading that, maybe your church is your idol.

Here’s the thing, like I have already stated, I can only speak to what I know, and what I know is a whole lot of people have compared me speaking out against the UPC to if I were spitting on Christ himself. And to be honest, if I weren’t already a believer, those comments would probably turn me away from Christ altogether.

I have said it before, and I will probably say it again: the UPC is NOT in fact God. And speaking out against the man made doctrines of a man made organization (which has been around for less time than my grandparents) while using scripture to back my statements is most certainly NOT blasphemous.

I challenge you, search your heart, test your spirit. Be honest with yourself. If you find that someone saying something negative about your religious organization ruffles your feathers to the point you are dooming their soul to hell, maybe, just maybe that organization is your idol and you have forgotten all about the main thing.

10 Things I Wish I Knew 5 Years Ago

In doing what I do, I have had the opportunity to hear many people’s stories about their current church situation. Some are considering leaving, some are in the process of leaving, and others have already left but are learning to deal with the aftermath of that life changing decision.

Let me just say, I feel beyond blessed and honored that so many people have felt safe to reach out and trust me enough to disclose their personal situations. And I say a prayer for each and every one of them.

Myself personally, I feel like a hot mess 97.9% of the time, so I feel very ill equipped to give any sort of life advice. Leaving a church that has been your life and for some even their livelihood is a decision that cannot and should not be taken lightly.

So, I decided to put into words somethings that I wish I would have known at the beginning of my journey. Maybe it will be helpful for someone else.

1. Give yourself time! I cannot stress this enough. You are not going to sort through, let alone heal from years of indoctrination and spiritual abuse overnight. Be patient. Things will get better I promise!

2. You do not, under any circumstance, owe anyone an explanation of your decision. This is between you and God only.

3. You will not be able to convince anyone of anything if they are not ready to hear it. I know when I left, I wanted so badly just to stand in a crowded church with a megaphone shouting, “you don’t have to live this way!” But that would accomplish nothing. If your spouse is not making the journey with you, of course that adds a level of complication. Maybe, try to explain to the point they chose to listen, then do your best to trust God for the rest.

4. Ladies, the outward change is difficult I’m not going to lie. If you are like I was, I had no idea how to shop for clothes! It was so overwhelming looking at the different cuts and sizes of jeans! Give yourself grace. Wear whatever you’re comfortable in, and know that your style will evolve over the next few seasons. You are no doubt going to have a bad haircut or two. Your makeup is probably not going to look like a runway model. Eyeliner is difficult! But I promise, if you just keep practicing, it gets better!

5. Community. Super important! If you don’t know anyone personally who has made the same journey, find some online support groups. It will be easy to seclude yourself during this time, but try not to. If you need pointed in the right direction, let me know I can hook you up!

6. Realize you are not alone! This kind of goes with the last one, but when we left our UPC church I felt like I had lost everyone. I felt so very alone. But know there are others who have walked this path, and while you may feel lonely now, with time you will make connections. It is amazing how many people have ties to toxic churches.

7. Research and learn to recognize the signs of toxic relationships and the proper terms to describe them. I healed so much by recognizing that what happened to me has a name.

8. Don’t be surprised if people from your past life reach out to you. It will probably shock you how many people are actually questioning.

9. Don’t feel like you have to jump feet first into a new church right away. It’s okay to take a break for a while. No where in the Bible does it say a prerequisite to heaven is attending a church building three times a week. If you do find such a verse, please let me know!

10. Lastly, and this is very important! Know that people of “the world” don’t care a bit about seeing your upper arms or legs. This is a myth that the UPC is really good at drilling into people’s heads. Especially the women! Like I already said, wear what you’re comfortable in, but for you, not anyone else. Forget the notion that as you walk down the street in a tank top and shorts on a ninety degree day every man you pass is drooling over your shoulder blades and “lusting”. Of course there are creepers in the world, I am not negating that fact, but there are far more normal people who are used to seeing that kind of dress and don’t think twice about it. I could go on forever about the hyper-sexualization in the UPC, but I won’t. Just know when you feel a weird twinge the first time you show any skin that has never seen the light of day before, most likely it is not conviction. It is simply a remnant of your past and it goes away with time with no detriment to you. You are NOT backsliding!

I hope this blog will come in handy to someone at some point. And if you ever find yourself needing additional support, as always feel free to reach out!

One more thing, we are coming up on the one year anniversary of “Free”! I can’t even believe the response that little book has received! Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for updates about that!

God bless you on your journey to freedom!

The Repercussions of Modesty Culture Gone Wrong

I am currently sitting outside on my back deck enjoying the beautiful evening listening to the birds. They sound so carefree, and they should be! The Bible makes it clear God Himself takes care of them. Oh to be a sparrow, and by nature fully trust in God for our every need. Why do I worry, really?

I saw something this week that has stuck with me. Little girls trying to play outside in long skirts.

It seems that this small observation would be completely harmless. But the realization of the matter is, it is incredibly harmful.

I could see myself in those little girls, I could see my daughter. Fast forward to four years after we left the UPCI (Emancipation Day is in my calendar this week!) and I am still picking up the pieces of myself that I lost as a child. I am still watching my own daughter navigate through the remnants of her past in the organization.

You see, these little girls have no voice. They have no identity. They have no choice. As I was, they are being taught from birth that the very God that watches so closely over the sparrows is so harsh towards them that he cares about every stitch of clothing they are wearing. They are being taught that by wearing certain articles of clothing it would make men sin by lusting over them. They are learning to be ashamed of their bodies as God designed them and learning to hide their curves at all costs. They are losing little bits of themselves every single day.

I am heartbroken, even now. These little girls are why I can’t stay silent. Years of these teachings create seemingly irreparable consequences. Small blows to their self-esteem build up and cause incredible damage to a woman’s psyche.

I know. I’ve been there. I am still there. Not as I was before, but definitely still there.

Building self-esteem takes time. After having your identity ripped from you your entire life, it takes lots of time to figure yourself out.

I have written about modesty from a Biblical perspective recently, https://findingmyfreedomdoingmylife.com/2020/02/07/the-oxymoron-of-modesty/, however, my burden this week has been the long term effects.

Being told what you can and cannot wear every single day, having ingrained in your brain only certain types of women wear those clothes, being constantly hyper aware of every male around you takes a toll.

Most women, by the time they are adults, have adapted a certain style, perfected a makeup routine, accumulated the perfect jewelry collection to match their outfits. Have taken a dance class or played a sport. Not me. Not the girls I was observing.

We get to struggle as adults to figure us out. We get to have fitting room meltdowns, wear awkward clothing as we try to navigate the world of women’s jeans, watch countless makeup tutorials on YouTube only to get overwhelmed in an Ulta and walk out with nothing. We are the women who are ashamed of our bodies, incapable of taking a compliment, and mistrust every man ever.

We are the collateral damage of a church organization ran by man-made rules.

We are the repercussions of the men who always have to be in charge of the women.

We are the victims of modesty culture gone wrong.

But, guess what? I now have a voice! I am now capable of standing on my own two feet, making my own decisions, and speaking out against this damaging mindset!

And I intend to.

As long as there are little girls trying to run around in a long skirt, I will speak up.

I will be their voice.

I owe it to the little girl I once was.

She deserves it.

Let’s Talk About Mental Health

Hello friends!

If you have kept up with my blog posts over the last few weeks, you probably feel I may be slightly bipolar. I am not, I promise. But while we are on the subject, let’s talk about mental health for a bit, shall we?

Specifically, mental health in a conservative religious setting.

Yikes, what a trainwreck that can be!

For those of you who have read my book, or have been following my blog for a while, you probably are already aware of the mental health challenges my son faced early on in his life. Watching my child go through depression and anxiety at such a young age, drastically changed my viewpoints about mental health.

You see, I was raised in a home where you just “prayed through” if you were feeling sad, angry, scared, anxious, lonely or even ill. Whatever the issue was, I was always taught it was a me problem. Something I needed to fix by prayer and inner strength alone. Relying on medication was strictly taboo.

This wasn’t an exclusive idea to my home either. I just recently heard a story of a young lady who was dealing with suicidal thoughts. It was assumed by her church that she was just making up stories about her mental state. Tragically, no one pointed her in the direction of a mental health professional, they just pointed her to the altar to pray more.

When I was diagnosed as being diabetic at the age of fourteen, I felt like I had failed in some way. I felt less than and inferior to those who were healthy because I had to rely on insulin to keep me safe. (Turns out insulin could have killed me, but that is another story for another time). I thought if I could somehow pray hard enough or say the right words, or have enough faith I wouldn’t have to take medication anymore. It wasn’t until not that long ago I overcame those feelings.

So, imagine, if I felt insecure because I had to take medicine for a disease you can see in bloodwork, how I felt at first when my son started taking medication for his anxiety. I felt like an absolute failure as a parent. But it was abundantly clear to me, a child that young suffering those things was not because he didn’t have enough faith, or because of anything he did or didn’t do. He was a child. It was clearly biological.

Now, you would think having gone through that situation personally, I would give myself more grace.

But, the past stigma is strong.

I started taking anxiety medication right before I wrote my book. Working alongside therapy, the right dosage of medication helped me tremendously. I overcame panic attacks, difficultly sleeping, heart palpitations and other physical symptoms I was having.

I graduated therapy and weaned myself off of my medication. It was never meant to be a lifetime fix for me, just something to help me through overcoming my past.

But then this week happened. Without going into details, it has been a week of absolute hell for me. Once again, my body started responding to stress physically, in undeniable ways I cannot ignore.

Which brings me around again to my point, why do I feel so guilty about seeking help?

Because I had one messed up childhood.

Isn’t it amazing things that happened to us years ago, pop up with fresh feelings when the present circumstances are just right? I know so many 30 and 40 somethings that struggle to make sense of and heal from their childhood. Childhood was decades ago, why does it have such a stronghold on us?

For me, my home situation coupled with my church situation created mass craters of trauma that got buried beneath feelings of insecurity, pridefulness and just life in general. I navigate life unaware of their presence until I suddenly have an event that creates a sinkhole. And then I feel buried alive.

But I refuse to let my past hold me back. I refuse to allow the stigma of mental health make me feel ashamed because my body needs medication to help me cope.

No, this does not mean I don’t believe in prayer. This does not mean I don’t think God will come to us in our time of need. But what I do believe is, God has given us the ability to medicate.

The Bible itself tells us God gave us wine to help us cope with stress and ailments.

Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress;
Proverbs 31:6 ESV

(No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.)
1 Timothy 5:23 ESV

You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.
Psalm 104:14‭-‬15 ESV

Am I saying to become an alcoholic, no. But I feel I have to clarify for those who are looking for an argument.

But here is my point:

None of these verses say, only pray about your struggles. They imply that God gave us a tool that will help us control the neurons in our brains. Just as alcohol, medications can help us safely process our emotions by somewhat altering the chemicals in our brains. It is up to us to take advantage of this God given opportunity. He even gives us permission multiple times in his word.

I suppose I will forever carry reminents of my past with me. Betrayal is a strong force to overcome. But I am okay in saying I will be using the help of a therapist and medication to guide me through the landmines.

I would be foolish not to.

The Oxymoron of “Modesty”

I am having a difficult time deciding how to begin this blog, so, I am just going to throw it out there and begin.

Yes, that is a picture of me in my beach attire. I thought it was fitting for the theme of the blog. Plus, it is a flashback to warmer days on the beach, there is currently snow on the ground outside my window.

This is a touchy subject, and I’m sure it will offend someone, but then again, someone somewhere will always be offended right?

Modesty.

I told you this would be a tricky one. Before I dive into the details, let me explain why.

I recently happened upon a Facebook post from someone I do not know personally bragging about their “modest” beach apparel. In this post, they specifically stated they didn’t mind people looking at them in such clothes.

Herein lies the problem.

For those of us who grew up in the UPC, or other such organizations, women’s modesty was taught as clothing rules: skirts or dresses only, to be worn below the knees, past the elbows and above the collarbone. The UPC tacks on a few additional rules just for fun, such as no makeup or jewelry, The verses used to support such beliefs are Deuteronomy 22:5, 1 Timothy 2:9, and 1 Peter 3:3.

Now, this blog is not to debate the pants and skirts argument that stems from Deuteronomy 22:5. To be honest, I am tired of that entire conversation, as it is such a ridiculous debate since we are no longer under the Old Testament law, and said verse clearly does not apply to us. Not to mention, people wore robes in Biblical times, there were no pants and skirts back then so this argument all the way around is moot.

The point of this blog is the definition of “modest” in the Bible. The UPC as a whole seems to miss the boat entirely as to what this word actually means. And honestly, it’s a little frustrating to watch. The main verse they use to promote their doctrine of modesty is 1 Timothy 2:9-10:

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

I included the KJV here, as this is the version I grew up with and most often have heard cited by UPC ministers.

In the UPC, women are praised for how “modest” they are with their clothing, after all, modest is hottest right? But what truly is modest? As I already mentioned, their version of modesty is a skirt or dress that stays within certain guidelines. It doesn’t seem to matter to them the cost of their modest clothing, the elaborate styles of their hair, or the brand name of their church high heels or purses. They also don’t seem to mind, and actually take pride in the way dressing as such brings attention to them in public.

Let’s take a closer look from the “world’s” viewpoint.

In today’s society, women wear pants, people wear swimsuits to the beach, and beehive hairdos are not exactly seen on a daily basis. Keeping those facts in mind, let’s be honest with ourselves, dressing in UPC style attire makes you stand out like a sore thumb. It makes you look like a religious zealot and makes you pretty much unapproachable to the average person. Is this the version of modest Paul was going for?

Let’s look at 1 Timothy 2:9, 10 in the NLT to help break it down:

And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do.

“Not draw attention to themselves”, right there that seems to blow the UPC version of modesty right out the window. But to be fair, let’s continue researching.

Personally, when researching a particular subject or verse, I like to go back to the original Greek text and use an interlinear Bible app to compare. Here is the verse laid out as it is directly translated from Paul’s original writing:

Likewise also women in apparel respectable with modesty and self control should adorn themselves not with braided hair or gold or pearls or clothing costly.

This doesn’t say anything about standing out from the “world” or looking different. In fact, if we look at 1 Peter 3:3,4 these verses seem to go together in theme:

Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They put their trust in God and accepted the authority of their husbands.

Modesty according to the Bible has absolutely nothing to do with how long your skirt is, what you are wearing to the beach, or how plain your face looks without makeup, but everything to do with your attitude and how you should behave in moderation in every aspect of your life. I certainly don’t see how writing a long post about how you wear a “modest swim skirt” to the beach for people to stare at you lines up with the Biblical definition. In fact, it pretty much goes against what Paul was trying to convey. Even if you go back to the King James Version of 1 Timothy 2:9 it includes the word “shamefacedness”. What does this word mean exactly?

The definition for shamefacedness is this:

Showing shame, bashful, modest, or shy.

Sigh… I suppose the entire point I am getting at is this: is modesty sticking out in public and being proud and bragging about it? Or is it more along the lines of not standing out in a crowd and being approachable to those who may be looking for a shoulder to lean on?

Even Jesus himself got frustrated with the religious folks of his day with their long phylacteries that they prided themselves in. Here are Jesus’s own words regarding this practice:

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Matthew 23:12 ESV

I could go on all day about this subject, this is definitely a trigger for me, but I will end on this note, research.

Research for yourself the definitions, Biblical context, and today’s application for words thrown around in religious societies. Had I never looked through an Interlinear Bible app or challenged ideas like the definition of modesty I would still be in the same boat as the poor woman who posted pridefully about people looking at her in her swim attire.

Do I judge her clothing choices? No. Do I care if she wears a skirt to the beach? Not even a little bit. But I do take issue with the misuse of Bible verses and the idea that others who chose not to stick out in public are being “immodest”.

Those ideas are what I am speaking out against.

Finding My Identity

Hey guys! It’s been a minute since I have had time to sit down to write! The holidays were crazy busy around here! As I’m sure your’s were as well! But here we are, now in January, the month that always seems to drag on for at least two months!

If you hadn’t heard, I recently did a podcast interview with Cultish. I am so very grateful and humbled to have had the opportunity to represent women from around the globe who have escaped legalistic, oppressive religions. If you haven’t had a chance to listen, please do, the guys at Cultish are incredible! I applaud them for giving a voice to so many. I have been touched by the many positive messages I have recieved and am excited to see where God continues to take me on my journey!

Something that has been on my mind the last week or so, is my identity. What does that look like for me, a woman and a Christ follower?

The UPC has rather recently coined a term to describe their identity, “Apostolic”. They say this means they are like the Apostles. They use this word to describe their outward standards (especially the women’s) and even have started selling clothing with words like #Apostolic and Apostolic Identity printed on them. They seem to be very proud of this term and like to advertise it a lot. I’m not going to lie, it bothers me.

When I was growing up, there was great question as to what I should call my religion. This was before the Apostolic Identity term came around. If you know anything about the UPC, you understand why. If I were to simply say I was a Christian, people may get me confused with every other mainstream denomination who called themselves that. If I said Pentecostal, people may think I was a (gasp) Trinitairan. Thus the dilemma. Belonging to a United Pentecostal Church, we had more revelation than other organizations, so we needed something to set us apart as the highest order of Christians. This is why I think they are now running with the Apostolic identity idea. They needed something to say they are different than other Christians. And this is my problem.

I recently had someone say to me that by speaking out against the UPCI, I was speaking out against them personally because their identity is the United Pentecostal Church. This made my heart hurt. You are not an organization, you are a person, a child of the most high God.

So where does this leave me? Someone who has not only left the “Apostolic” identity, but is actively speaking out against their ideals.

Let’s break it down a little bit.

According to Collins English dictionary, the definition of Apostolic is this:

Apostolic means belonging or relating to the early followers of Jesus Christ and to their teaching.

Okay, so that seems noble enough. If you are Apostolic, you are following the followers of Jesus.

But, is that the best we can do? While clearly Jesus’s earliest followers had great insight, I mean, we use the books they wrote everyday as a guide, they were just men. Men whom Jesus hand picked to follow him and spread the Gospel, but in the end, they were just like us. They sinned, gave into fleshly desires, and woke up everyday having to reconsencrate their lives to God.

What if we all just went directly to the source and became Christ followers? In Acts 11 it records that even the disciples were called Christians.

The definition of Christian is this:

Christian: of, relating to, or derived from Jesus Christ or His teachings

So, why wouldn’t I want my identity to be directly tied to Christ? Why would I want to be identified as a follower of the followers of Jesus, when I can follow him myself? The New Testament tells me, we no longer need a high priest to be an intermediary, we can now go directly to the source.

I am in no way belittling the teachings of the apostles, but Ephesians 2 says it beautifully:

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,

Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of our faith. Yes, the apostles and prophets help build up the church, but just as we are, they were nothing without Christ.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

Colossians hits the nail on the head as well. We are rooted and built up in Christ, why wouldn’t we want to identify ourselves with him?

My conclusion is this: I am a Christian. I am a free woman following the teachings of the One who gave his life for me. And furthermore, as a Christ follower, I don’t have to live in the bondage of man made laws or traditions, my burden is now easy, and my yoke is light. This was God’s plan for me from the beginning of time, and I am humbled and grateful my identity lies in Him and Him alone.

The Simplicity Of The Gospel

I will begin this blog by stating the following:

I don’t pretend to have all of the theological answers of the world just free roaming around in my brain.

Not even close.

I will say, that I am actively searching for them.

I didn’t go to theology school. In fact, as has been blatantly pointed out to me recently, I didn’t further my education much past high school in any aspects. A past decision that still haunts me to this day.

That being said, I am thankful for my upbringing studying God’s word and the new found desire in the last few years to search the scriptures for myself and to “rightly divide the word” as to “work out my own soul’s salvation.”

I am mulling over the idea today about the “Gospel”. My son mentioned to his father and I something very profound for a twelve year old this morning. (At least, as his mom I feel it was pretty astute.)

He said, “you know what I realized at church today? My youth pastor (Shout out to good youth leaders!) was talking to us about the Gospel and how it literally translates from the original Greek to mean ‘good news’. It makes me sad that there are people who choose to make it into a checklist of things we have to do, and they miss out on the good news of Jesus.”

(Cue exploding mama heart)

Let’s think about that simple statement for a moment. Granted, my child is being raised in a home where we openly talk about our past religious experiences and we are actively sharing our story. But, even his twelve year old boy brain is clicking on the matter! Thank God!

The church organization we came out from under touted the phrase, “the whole gospel to the whole world”. Somehow they managed to make the Gospel something so secretive and complex, that only their organization was favored enough to get the key to unlock the mystery. They morphed the Gospel into something that required putting random pieces of the Bible together like a puzzle from an Indiana Jones or National Treasure movie.

The Gospel is simple and it’s beauty and depth is in it’s simplicity. The Bible says God uses the simple things to confuse the wise. He does this so no man can boast. Salvation isn’t quest to solve a jigsaw puzzle, salvation is the good news of Jesus. That is all!

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul reminds the believers in Corinth not to stray from the message of the resurrection that he has preached to them. Christ died, He was buried, and He rose. And in that simplicity, our good news resides!

My entire childhood and part of adulthood, I always thought of those who stood fast in their faith in Jesus alone as their eternal salvation as foolish. As if they weren’t the select chosen such as myself, who was elite enough to understand the actual way to Jesus was though our own righteousness.

How foolish was I?

The Gospel means good news! Furthermore, is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus truly something you want to just brush over, thinking you have a “revelation” of something more complex? It is pretty amazing to think that God sent his Son to die on a cross, and in His doing so, I am relinquished of my faults! Why would we ever want to cloud over that miracle with our own perversions?

Paul actually says about those that do so, “let them be accursed”. Yikes!

I am convicted for all of the times in my life I judged others or thought of myself holy enough to aid in the assistance of my salvation. Thankfully, the Bible says our sins are as far as the east is from the west, and God is a good, forgiving Father.

I think He gets it. We are made in His image after all. He made us to question and think about things. He is big enough to handle our doubts.

I remember saying to my husband so often, when we first realized this truth, “it can’t be this easy”! But it is! Jesus provided the way to salvation for us, it’s that simple!

The good news is Jesus my friend, and that is the entire Gospel!

Check out my book on Amazon if you haven’t already! (Seriously, if you haven’t what are you waiting for?) 😉

Free: From Legalism to Grace Breaking Out of the United Pentecostal Church https://www.amazon.com/dp/1087259134/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_ZsmYDb8QHRHM9