Apostate or Heretic?

A little internal turmoil will really get you thinking, but, before I get in to all that, perhaps a short history is required. I grew up in a Catholic church and the large majority of my large family is Catholic with varying degrees of devotion. When I was 12, my parents got a divorce and through that process, my mom left the Catholic church. We began attending a church called Inland Community Church and we were very happy there. My mom wished for more hymns instead of the praise music, but she loved the verse-by-verse teaching of the Bible. She grew as a Christian and we grew to become Christians. It was at this church that I was baptized as a believer. However, problems eventually arose (as they usually do) and we discovered the youth pastor struggled in sexual sin (with the girls of his youth group) and the associate pastor was stealing from the church. After an all out confrontation with the church leadership, my family and several others, left the church and found a Calvary Chapel. Calvary was a breath of fresh air for sermons that had gone downhill since we first began attending ICC. Calvary Chapel’s are known for their verse-by-verse Bible teaching and their back to basics style. They are good, Bible believing people, but… they seem to take things a little too lax, like wearing blue jeans to church among other things. It was really the blue jeans that got to me first, which is why I mention them.


Last July, I had the opportunity to confront this ideology head-on and I started wearing skirts more often. I felt convicted to dress modestly and femininely, not something I could accomplish well wear tight blue jeans. I found an article on headcovering and tried that out, but it became too much of a challenge and I stopped. I was still wearing skirts and I still believe skirts should be the staple of a woman’s wardrobe. The one MAJOR thing I was lacking was a community of like-minded believers. This is what I craved. I started looking for churches, and even found an Independent Fundamental Baptist church in town, but we were moving and I was still unsure of myself and my convictions and felt like rocking the boat wasn’t the best decision for this moment in time. I am still looking for a group to belong to and that is what worries me, the fear that I will choose my beliefs based on group participation and less on what is actually correct.

Here’s where I get down to the real nitty gritty. One of the most frustrating things I am dealing with right now is the name-calling. Everyone takes a stand on so many different issues, from Calvinism to Arminianism, skirt length, headcovers, beards, lifestyle (agrarianism), homeschool method, child-raising, Bible version…so on and so forth. What really gets difficult is that (particularly in the Calvinism versus Arminianism debate) we label the “opposition”. The Arminians call the Calvinists heretics and the Calvinists call the Arminians apostates. All the other issues follow along with these two groups and I just get so frustrated!

What am I to be: an apostate or a heretic?  

And what concerns me even more is that, unlike my mom, who was convicted to leave the Catholic church after seeing that confession wasn’t right and that Catholicism created people that “did” church on Sunday by just putting in their time (the real story is about the women chewing gum and gabbing behind my mom through the portion of the mass just after communion where the Catholic is at their most “holy” because they have just consumed the body and blood of Jesus Christ…I remember thinking that I had better pray quickly before he was digested out of me and I would be left powerless…anyway, these women got in the way of my mom’s worship of her Savior (yet another aside, my mom was a Bible-reading Catholic) and we left the church.) and the failure of the priest to absolve her sin of divorce, I feel like I just want to belong to a group

Of course, I want to please God in what I do and that truly is first and foremost in my mind, but lately I have been wondering what exactly I am supposed to do. I am tired of being “tossed by the waves” and I fear for doing the wrong thing. I am okay with following whatever “rules” need to be followed, I just need to know that I am following God and not man, nor man’s interpretation of God. I think at the root here is this utter frustration with who I am and where I stand in God’s kingdom. Am I really a part of it? Are my actions sanctifying me? Am I truly serving God my wearing skirts, covering my head and choosing hymns over modern praise and worship? Are these things really important? And why, why do we demean other Christians? To separate ourselves from them, to define ourselves better? Does that not also cause us to puff up ourselves, just a little? We agree that Christ is the Savior of this world and that we are only saved by grace, through faith, right? Does the rest of it even matter? I imagine that the God who took the time to send His own Son to die on a cross for us would have some details about how to live and how to worship Him. Does it all really hang on Matthew 22: 37-40,

Jesus said unto him, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

What does that mean? Does that mean that that love really is the bottom line…that “all you need is love?” What does it mean to have the law and prophets hanging on it? I would dearly love some answers here. Nothing has tried my faith so much as this.

Sanctification?

When I had originally decided to write this post I had just finished my morning reading of The Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. It was February 8th and the title of the entry was “The Cost of Salvation”. Before I go much further, I will mention that if you click on the first link above, you will get to a homepage that has the original text and KJV scriptures. You can get “today’s reading” or you may browse whatever day you’d like. I did not know about this, so I purchased an “updated” version at my bookstore. It claims that it is “An Updated Edition in Today’s Language” and uses the NKJV; I didn’t think twice about purchasing it. Now I wished I had just purchased the original! Anyway, I wanted to quote what I had actually read, but I will just copy the original version (or what I should have read). Clear as mud?

February 8th
INSTANTANEOUS AND INSISTENT SANCTIFICATION

“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

When we pray to be sanctified, are we prepared to face the standard of these verses? We take the term sanctification much too lightly. Are we prepared for what sanctification will cost? It will cost an intense narrowing of all our interests on earth, and an immense broadening of all our interests in God. Sanctification means intense concentration on God’s point of view. It means every power of body, soul and spirit chained and kept for God’s purpose only. Are we prepared for God to do in us all that He separated us for? And then after His work is done in us, are we prepared to separate ourselves to God even as Jesus did? “For their sakes I sanctify Myself.”[John 17:19] The reason some of us have not entered into the experience of sanctification is that we have not realized the meaning of sanctification from God’s standpoint. Sanctification means being made one with Jesus so that the disposition that ruled Him will rule us. Are we prepared for what that will cost? It will cost everything that is not of God in us.

Are we prepared to be caught up into the swing of this prayer of the apostle Paul’s? Are we prepared to say – “Lord, make me as holy as You can make a sinner saved by grace”? Jesus has prayed that we might be one with Him as He is one with the Father. The one and only characteristic of the Holy Ghost in a man is a strong family likeness to Jesus Christ, and freedom from everything that is unlike Him. Are we prepared to set ourselves apart for the Holy Spirit’s ministrations in us? [Emphasis added]

So there you have it. Need I even comment on it? When I read this the other day I just sat there, shocked. I want to go out on a limb and say that this process of sanctification is not taught anymore. I have been going to church all my life and though I hear rhetoric like, “become more like God” no one has really ever pointed me to a place where I can confront this issue. It is an unpopular one! Modern Christians are satisfied with grace by faith with the mistaken notion that we don’t have to do anything else! How else do we read Philippians 2:12, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

I have always been a little bit confused about what to do now that I am a Christian. I knew that I was supposed to do the right thing, but I have always heard it describes as something that just naturally happens, that now that you are saved, you suddenly begin to act like a Christian. I just could never understand why I didn’t. Am I not really saved? Did I get saved but not receive the Holy Spirit? Why can’t I do the right thing? I seriously tortured myself with these things thinking that I was a faulty Christian and that the process just didn’t work for me! Of course that’s not true!!! What has happened is that I’ve been sold a pack of lies, that the Christian life is a sudden, instant change and it’s not! Salvation might happen in an instant, but it is a constant struggle then to die to your flesh and actually become more like the God you now serve.

So what does this mean for me? It is so easy to become me-centered. People have this defense mechanism that they use to ward off sanctification. They call it legalism. That somehow having to improve yourself or follow the letter of the Word is somehow adding to the gospel. In my computer’s dictionary it defines legalism as, “excessive adherence to law or formula; THEOLOGY- dependence on moral law rather than on personal religious faith.” Hmm, very interesting. I depend on moral law to live my life, I don’t just have faith that I am doing it all right. If that were all that was required, why do have a Bible with 66 books worth of information? Obviously, God has a plan and a way of doing things. However, I can’t take that Bible and do all the right things without any faith, for faith without works is dead, James 2: 14-26.

This has lately become so important to me as I read about headcover, modesty, staying at home…without these commands being from God I am wasting my time. If these commands are from God, then I am wasting every minute that I am not obeying them! I can see that my path of sanctification is going here: to learn to be a woman of God; to dress the way that God wants me to dress (even when it doesn’t follow current trends), to submit where He wants me to (even though its unpopular), to live my life in a way that is, at its very heart, different. I want to call attention to God to glorify Him and His perfect order of things. My flesh gets in the way and needs to be removed. The question remains now, am I prepared for the cost?

No-Poo Challenge, Day 6 & 7

So far, so good. I left my hair down on day 6 just to test the waters, but I did cover it with a blue handkerchief style cover from Wal-Mart. I had a dentist appointment to go to Friday, so I knew that wearing it up would be uncomfortable. It looked just modern-country enough that I wouldn’t get extra stares…my long jean skirt gets me more than enough because I cut my denim into a 6 gore skirt and that is not the typical “denim” pattern. Anyway… After my dentist appointment, I realized that though my hair probably didn’t look much dirtier than normal, it just didn’t feel the same and I put it into my standard ponytail with the ends not pulled through all the way.

Day 7 dawned and I didn’t get in the shower right away (gotta love lazy Saturdays…okay, well I love lazy Saturdays) so I didn’t even mess with it, I washed it (per the no-poo instructions) and blew-damp and put it up and covered it. I love this style!!! It is ridiculously simple, it stays put and it keeps my hands out of my hair. The only problem with it is that it doesn’t look normal. (See my post to follow about sanctification…you’ve probably already read it if you read from my blog page…if you haven’t, well maybe I got tired. I plan on writing it directly after I post this err, post.)
So after a week, I have to say that the major difference is in how my hair feels and less how it looks, though keeping it up all day long, I don’t really get ample opportunity to observe this. What I did notice yesterday is the tendency of my hair to form “clumps” or groups of strands which obviously lead to the appearance of dirty (oily) hair. That I have thin hair that is prone to be oily and clump may be adding to the problem, or not. Lately, I have been feeling like I want to quit, feeling like there isn’t a real purpose in me doing this. It marks be as weird, like a person who would consider cloth diapering or even worse, home-made menstrual pads (neither of which I do but both of which I am considering doing!) This really has been a challenge because even when I feel like I have give up attempting to be fashionable and instead choosing to dress modestly and femininely, my hair is something altogether different. Interesting when you throw the whole headcovering debate right into the middle of that!
I am committing to do another week of this routine, but if I don’t begin to see rapid change here, then I will probably just go back to the old song and dance. What do you think? Anybody willing to step out and do this with me?

Happy New Year!!!

I rarely make New Year’s resolutions…okay, so I mention the million different things I would like to change and I may even make up a very pretty chart detailing how I am going to change…and I am done changing by January 2nd! This year, I am doing things a little differently.

I am setting goals, which isn’t the different part. I want to lose a significant amount of weight (60-70 pounds by this summer and I want to begin to try to get pregnant upon reaching a sustainable weight (170 pounds). I figure that I can get pretty close, losing about 10 pounds a month for 6 months…and I’ll be at 170 around March or April. I always bite off more than I can chew, so these are the steps I am going to travel to get there (I will be posting this to my other website, FISH, Finally I’m Seeking Health later):
Jan: drink 8 glasses of water/day
eat one serving raw veggies and one raw fruit/day
workout with husband Mon-Sat at the gym for one hour. This is just about the only “quality time” we get- looking forward to it!
Feb: look for new recipes especially for vegetables
institute a vegetarian night
find time during the day for a small workout (ie. walk with kids, trampoline…)
Mar: add another vegetarian night
try new foods
change the workout routine, add a new exercise
look back and see how far I’ve come and how good I feel
Apr: begin to choose organic food
look for ways to work more in the home, cleaning thoroughly as exercise (gardening too!)
May: try something new
buy new clothes
June: congratulate myself with a dress form in my new size!
The other thing I have decided to do is to cover my head for the month of January. I already have covers and the thing is, I just haven’t found enough proof to feel like I shouldn’t do it. I keep telling myself it’s not necessary, but why do I keep coming back to it? It doesn’t take much, it doesn’t hurt, it helps keep my hair out of my face (which is something I can’t stand anyway!) So, my goal is to attempt it for a solid month and re-evaluate from there.
Other random things:
-I want to create a reading list, which I will post on the blog, with the assorted books I want to read this year. I will probably only pick about 20, even though I know I can read more than that
-I want to continue writing my novel(s). They are fun to write.
-I recently began a journal for my son and daughter and I want to “back-date” them with information from their younger years.
-I want to become a more proficient seamstress. I love sewing.
See, no resolutions here! 🙂 
Look for more posts soon, my daughter has been ill and I think I might be getting a little bit of it- the head feels very fuzzy right now, just no mental clarity or ability to think or concentrate.

Changing, Changing…

The battle against your flesh really is a never-ending one, isn’t it?

The last several days I have been searching through my favorite blogs, reading of course, but also picking through the links that they read. This ever increasing blog roll has created hours and hours of “dish-procrastinating” reading but also a few new favorites. One of them is Team Bettendorf and the other is the Ante family’s blog, and the wife, Kris has her own, here. These new blogs have just made me start to reconsider aspects of my life. Kris has posted some articles about headcovering (because she does) and I want to read them. They make me feel like I should cover, so I’m back into this debate again…I just can’t seem to decide!!!

My Issue with the Issues

When I first started this conservative Christianity journey, like I have said before, I was really skeptical of the whole thing. I didn’t understand the claims or positions of the different groups. One thing I have found since discovering Conservatism that disturbs me is the number of ways to “classify” a person. Perhaps I am still looking in on a totally foreign concept, but I almost feel like I am changing religions, that I can now be in the ranks of “super-Christians” or some other such nonsense. I have noticed (at least) four groups of people who move in these conservative circles: one, the KJV only believers, two, the modesty and femininity are the hallmarks of the female species, women and girls wear exclusively long(ish) skirts or dresses, and three, women (and girls) shall keep their heads covered at all times and four, always home school. Along with these four main topics there seem to be at least a few other issues like diet and church preference that further divide us.

I look at all these topics, not because I disagree and find fault in these issues, but because I agree with these issues and find fault in their practice. I know (or at least I am very confident) that none of these women’s blogs would argue that any of those things are essential for salvation, which rules out “legalism” as a method for adding anything except grace through faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, but I wonder about legalism in the way we live our lives. Is it purely from the Bible or is it a way to unnaturally separate ourselves from the world and be proud of it?

I am really fighting this: am I wearing modest (long) skirts and dresses out of submission to my husband (who doesn’t care if I wear pants) and God who declares that I should be MODEST/CHASTE and FEMININE? Is a long skirt the only way to accomplish both of those things? Can I wear a well-cut, not skin-tight, pair of pants and a nice blouse and still be feminine? Am I wearing those clothes merely to be different and to be accepted by a particular group in society? I want to throw out my pants; I only wear them because they are easy and “modern” so I won’t make other people uncomfortable by my appearance (like my mom, for example). I want to dress my daughter in pretty feminine clothes, but she wears mostly pants. How does all this dress-wearing work in winter? We are moving from Washington state (semi-mild winter) to Colorado (not so mild winter) and we are moving in JANUARY!!!

Then I look at the King James Only debate and while I was completely convinced not too long ago, I have since begun to think differently. I DO find the KJV harder to understand. Yes, the words themselves are simpler, but the order of the words makes it difficult to understand the sentence. I read the NKJV, as does the pastor at my church and I enjoy it. My version pulls from both the “oldest” text that the NIV uses and the more historical version that the KJV uses, in the notes whenever the texts disagree, the NKJV translators included an asterisk and then writes out what the other version said. If I am unsure about something, I will usually take it to the KJV because I do believe in the historicity of the text forming the KJV. However, I did ask my sister who took the Christian Apologetics Master program at Biola University and her belief is that the only infallible Word of God is the original language and that the translations that we use are still useful for doctrine and correction but as they are translations cannot be considered in the same class as the inspired word of God. We know there are mistakes in the KJV, sure many of them were typos, but how many misprints are in the original text? None. I don’t mind using the KJV and I don’t care for the NIV or any of the ultra modern New Living Translation because I think they inhibit a person from truly understanding. When you don’t have to think when you read, you can easily pass over a passage, but when you have to work at understanding it, your brain recalls better. See? I’m up in the air here as well. This one feels a little less “important” because it is a pretty private issue, I think. It is easier to keep this decision between God and me.

Then we have head covering. I used to think that women should cover, but I kept going back and forth and while I think that it can be beneficial, I don’t think that at this time, God is calling either me or my daughter to cover our hair, our bodies, yes.

Finally, home schooling. Honestly, this is my plan, but I am having my doubts about whether I can do it. This is supposed to be my “test” year because Jordyn is in preschool right now. I am doing NOTHING. It seems like she is learning NOTHING!!! Perhaps, if we are in a good school district, we will try Kindergarten for her. She is really excited about “going to school” and I think she would like it. My daughter has a tendency to be shy and she doesn’t really have other kids to talk to, so school might be good for her. I know what I want. I want to use The Well-Trained Mind and give my kids a great academic life. What I am doing is letting them watch countless hours of Dora and all her Nick Jr. buddies. How do I get there?

One trend I am noticing is that I need to “fix myself” first. I think God is working hard on me now because so many aspects of my life have been either put under a microscope or thrown into the flames. I can only come out better since God has begun a good work in me and will be faithful to finish it! Praise the Lord for that or all these musings would be depressing indeed!!!

Modesty and the Olympics

Boy has this modesty subject really turned my life around!!! I was happy and content wearing snug-fitting blue jeans and t-shirts. My shirts aren’t incredibly low-cut, but they are low enough to need caution when bending down. However, I have always taken pride in how modest I dress comparatively. Now my notions seem to be tumbling down around me! My mother and I (along with my two children) visited the zoo the other day and I was shocked at what I was seeing. Women with no bras, insane amounts of skin revealed, outfits that are specifically designed to show off the female figure. I am sure that my mom was tired of me commenting on the immodesty of the people at the zoo that day, but she wisely held her tongue until we were in the car later that day. My mom has been the most vocal about my changes but I expected that. Actually, I am very impressed with how well my mom is staying silent about my choices but I get the feeling that she is just waiting for it to all blow over, as many of my ideas and commitments have in the past. Lately, our conversation has centered around the Olympics, which brings a welcome “easy topic” to the subject list….or does it?

I am feeling a little bit like a hypocrite on this subject matter. I don’t think that all swimsuits are immodest. I think that a well-cut Speedo type suit is perfectly modest, though many would say that it isn’t modest at all and I would agree with them too. I love watching gymnastics; it is my favorite sport in the world. As I watched the events this year, I kept seeing these young women’s rear ends hanging out of the side of the leotard. Not only was this unattractive but the camera had a way of focusing (probably because of the angles due to the elevated platforms) on all these spots! Then comes the question, okay, so it’s immodest. Now what? Do you prevent any activity in that sport because the uniform is immodest? Gymnastics is one of the oldest sports around, though I suppose that it hasn’t always been the women in the events. 
After thinking it all through I am prepared to be on the conservative side of “mainstream” and just specify that the modesty within a particular sport but evaluated from within the sport. This makes sense to me because a bathing suit (even a modest Speedo) is not appropriate to go to Wal-Mart in. However,  modest suit at the swimming pool does not attract attention and I think that is the key. I would say that it would be extremely appropriate to attempt to train with same-sex training partners and coaches and I would specify that an immediate cover-up is also appropriate when in mixed company. However, I wouldn’t go so far as to completely avoid ALL sports that compromise our normal standards of feminine dress and modesty. There are plenty of subtle ways to be feminine and modest even when participating in sports that necessitate an immodest uniform.
There is another reason for all these thoughts, in addition to the Olympics….though it’s a long one. I truly want to get pregnant again, but for my health and the baby’s health, my husband and I have agreed to wait until I lose a significant amount of weight. Mostly we are waiting more on the establishment of a healthy lifestyle and habits rather than the arbitrary numbers on the scale but I have long been feeling like I needed to set a specific goal. That is wear triathlon comes in. While gymnastics is my favorite sport, I have absolutely no hopes of ever performing more than a cartwheel. I really enjoy tennis, but it is difficult to “work out” for tennis without a partner. I really do enjoy swimming however, and biking, and running (or at least I did when I could actually run). Combining those three seemed to be a good combination of everything that I needed: a physically active goal, an independent sport, and inherent variety. So, now I am going to be attempting to train for a triathlon on top of everything else. The GREAT news is that as I am just a beginner, I can wear my modest workout pants while running or biking, and a suit and shorts for swimming. 
So, now I turn my thoughts to anyone else’s. What do you consider to be appropriate exercise for a woman attempting to stay modest? Important to note is that I am not trying to lose 10 pounds, I am trying to lose 50+. So, am I being hypocritical by wearing dresses to Wal-Mart and a Speedo in the pool? (Luckily the head covering isn’t as large as issue because it is essential to wear a swimming cap in the pool, a helmet on the bike, and okay to wear a hat during the run…however, those things might cover the head, but that doesn’t make them headcovers, does it? Suggestions?