Friday, September 28, 2007

Is modesty now "hot?"

The burgeoning modesty movement
Penna Dexter

DALLAS (BP)--"Overexposed" is a word that comes to mind when considering young celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie. We see too much coverage of them in the news and not enough coverage on their bodies. But it's not just Hollywood. Young women in general are looking a bit trashy these days.

Take a look at your high school yearbook or photo album. If you're under 30, look at your mom's. You'll notice something: less skin. Certainly there were the exceptions. Remember hot pants? Parental reminders regarding necklines, skirt length and "sending the wrong signals" have always been a necessary part of raising a girl.

But in recent years, even good girls have dressed like they're bad. And young women who would rather cover up more have had trouble finding stylish clothes.

Sometimes even their mothers, unwilling to look matronly, find themselves with scant middle ground between frumpy and "Desperate Housewives." So they compromise, just a little, then a little more until we have a new norm where fashion trumps modesty. Christian women and girls unwittingly undermine their testimonies by the way they dress.

A few churches are attempting to address the problem. So are some public schools. In Arlington, Texas, the school board voted last year to prohibit "the display of cleavage."

Some Arlington parents complained that the cleavage ban would be tough to enforce. We can only hope that most are grateful for the back-up in the modesty battle. Some students said the rule would make back-to-school shopping more difficult, and a trip to any mall proves their point. It's almost impossible to find clothes teen girls like that don't reveal too much, sometimes way too much. The fashion industry seems to be conspiring with the popular culture to tear down the natural modesty that God has provided as protection for little girls. Some parents, especially mothers -- even Christian moms -- are going along with it.

Little girls' natural modesty gets its first challenge during the grade-school years, when they are inundated with the Britney Spears-Bratz dolls culture. This world is less than wholesome, to put it mildly, and provides inspiration for clothing manufacturers. Parents do not have to buy the dolls and the provocative clothes for their little girls. But they do, by the millions.

Of course, mothers hold the purse strings and have the final say regarding their teen daughters' clothes. But faced with the most popular stores offering revealing clothing and little else, moms of teenage girls are tempted to compromise to avoid friction within the home. In doing so, they sacrifice something very important: their daughters' modesty. Parents who should be protecting this treasure are allowing, even encouraging, it to dissolve. Girls are victims of this corrosion. So is a society that once benefited from the virtue of its women. But we no longer encourage that virtue, and the sexual revolution of the 1960s that claimed to empower women has fueled a full-blown sexualized culture.

There are, though, some encouraging signs that this is changing.

Move over Paris and Britney. Make room for the "mild girls." A recent Newsweek story described a growing modesty movement in which young women are learning they don't have to be what Newsweek calls "bad, or semi-clad."

It's a welcome backlash. Author Wendy Shalit calls it "a youth led rebellion" in her new book, "Girls Gone Mild: Young Women Reclaim Self Respect and Find It's Not Bad to Be Good." The book is filled with stories of girls who, often motivated by their faith, or just the innate desire not to be defined as sex objects, hunger to escape the sexualized culture. Shalit's 2000 book, "A Return To Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue," offered a common sense rationale for chastity and virginity. It hit a nerve and sparked a "modesty movement" that has given her the opportunity to continue talking to girls who are tired of the pressure to portray themselves as sex sirens. Her website (www.modestyzone.net) has spawned at least a dozen others.

Additional leaders in the modesty movement include model and actress Summer Bellessa, publisher of the magazine Eliza, launched in June. Her goal is to help women be stylish and "still keep high standards in dress, entertainment and lifestyle." And then there's Brenda Sharman, national director of Pure Fashion, a modeling and etiquette program for teen girls. The website (www.purefashion.com) features a schedule of the group's fashion shows across the country. A new fashion niche is developing, and clothing manufacturers are beginning to respond.

The modesty movement is about much more than clothing, although dress is a sort of bellwether. Paul, in 1 Timothy 2:9 instructs women to dress in "modest clothing, with decency and good sense." It's unrealistic to minimize the impact and importance of fashion. The truth is most females love clothes. The "mild" girls are not rejecting the trampy look in favor of the drab denim jumper. Modesty and glamour are not mutually exclusive.

Allyson Waterman, from the shopping magazine Lucky and a regular guest on ABC's "Good Morning America," says we've hit a limit in style and behavior. She says the modesty backlash is not about being dumpy or "hiding under a lot of fabric" but "about embracing a woman's body with elegance and decorum," a la the style icons of the past like Jackie Onassis, Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn. No, they're not the role models for Christian girls, but we never saw their navels or their bra straps.

Some feminists call this modesty revival a new kind of oppression. The mild girls will tell you it's liberating.
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Penna Dexter is a board of trustee member with the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, a conservative activist and an announcer on the syndicated radio program "Life on the Line" (information available at www.lifeontheline.com). She currently serves as a consultant for KMA Direct Communications in Plano, Texas, and as a co-host of "Jerry Johnson Live," a production of Criswell Communications. She formerly was a co-host of Marlin Maddoux's "Point of View" syndicated radio program.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Eating Dinner Together

Eating Dinner Together

Sharing dinner as a family can be difficult; you’re working late, the kids have soccer practice, music lessons, and dance class, and no one can agree on what foods they like! But, eating together as a family is very important. It’s a great way to connect and research shows that the more often children eat dinner with the whole family, the less likely they are to engage in risky behavior.

Here are some easy ideas for making family dinner a tradition in your house:

Pick a Day and Stick To It. On Sunday, look at everyone’s schedule and decide which day will be most convenient for the whole family. Then, stick to that schedule – no excuses! Soon, you’ll have created a tradition that your whole family looks forward to.

Encourage Your Kids to Pick the Menu and Help Prepare. Have a few picky eaters in the house? Let your kids help plan the menu, and then take some weight off the cook by letting the kids help with the preparation. When everyone has a say, you’ll have fewer complaints, and the whole family will enjoy the evening more.

Turn Off the TV. Family dinner is a time to really connect – not tune out! Ask your children what they learned in school today, and tell them about your work day. This is also a great time to talk with your kids about what’s going on in your family and your neighborhood.

Keep Conversation Positive. Use this opportunity to encourage your children and bring closure to their busy days. Also, make sure everyone gets a chance to speak and share. You’ll be amazed at how 30 or 45 minutes spent sharing a meal together can positively impact you and your children.

So this fall, make time for family dinner at least once a week. It's a great way to connect and make memories that will last.

This story was adapted from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse’s celebration of Family Day. Family Day is celebrated the fourth Monday of every September. For more information, visit www.casafamilyday.org.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What is "Men's Fraternity?"

'Fraternity' helping men fill biblical role

Posted on Sep 13, 2007 | by Kay Adkins GRAPEVINE, Texas (BP)--What high-profile events like Promise Keepers and wild-game dinners instigate -- namely, a push to mature Christian men -- Men's Fraternity facilitates.

The growing local church ministry program available through LifeWay Christian Resources has mapped out a process through which men, whether saved or lost, can discover what biblical manhood is all about and how to put it into practice.

In 1990, Robert Lewis, then the teaching pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, Ark., responded to the pleas of the men in his Bible study for a deeper Christian, fraternity-like camaraderie. When Lewis first announced to his church that the Bible study topic would be "discovering manhood," the group instantly grew from 30-40 men to 300.

"I knew then I had stuck my finger into one of these raging spiritual streams Henry Blackaby [author of 'Experiencing God'] talks about. God wanted to do something," Lewis said in a 2004 interview with Baptist Press.

The three-year program "Men's Fraternity" was the result.

Also the author of "Raising a Modern-Day Knight," Lewis grew up in a home without a healthy model of manhood and fatherhood. In the first Men's Fraternity session, "What Men Need and How the Church Can Help," Lewis tells how he left home at age 18, "clueless about manhood and seething with anger."

"When you haven't been schooled to be adequate in manhood responsibilities, then you constantly make stupid mistakes, which only fuels the anger and shame that you feel as an incompetent male," he said.

In his quest to help men discover the principles of authentic biblical manhood, Lewis said he found several elements are needed for a transformational men's ministry:

-- a safe place where men know they are understood and not alone.

-- a compelling vision of biblical masculinity.

-- time to process their masculinity.

-- practical how-to's that yield success.

-- encouragement from other men.

-- a celebration of their crossing into responsible manhood.

-- the church.

Men's Fraternity director Rick Caldwell conservatively estimates that the material is now being used in more than 6,000 settings. It is being used in churches, corporate and work settings, and even prisons.

"It is an avenue for believers to bring non-believers to help them understand biblical manhood and to lead them to Christ," Caldwell said.

In a December 2006 article in New Man magazine, Caldwell said that Fellowship Bible Church has recorded at least 80 salvation decisions annually in recent years stemming from Men's Fraternity meetings. The Fellowship Bible group now includes about 1,200 men. They gather at 6 a.m. each Wednesday from fall through spring months to be served a "plate-sized" 45-minute presentation and then break up into small groups to "digest" it, Caldwell said.

The method of Men's Fraternity is to provide an atmosphere that doesn't look or feel "churchy."

"We try to not make it feel like a [Sunday morning] worship service. Why do that if you can't get them to attend worship on Sunday?" Caldwell asked.

The most successful meeting time has proven to be on a weekday from 6-7:30 a.m. "Safe" music, or sports videos, or other "guy" things going on in the meeting room help men understand that they are at a function designed for them, Caldwell said.

Over the three-year course, men go through three study guides:

-- "The Quest for Authentic Manhood," which defines manhood and challenges men to let the boy in them die.

-- "Authentic Manhood: Winning at Work and Home," which addresses fulfillment at work and relating successfully to a woman.

-- "The Great Adventure," which helps men rediscover the adventure in life and encourages them to maximize their manhood.

At each meeting hear a 45-50 minute talk given by the presenter, who can either be Robert Lewis via DVD, or a live presenter who has mastered the material and can deliver it with excellence. Men then go into small discussion groups.

"What's happening is that men who have journeyed through this material are excited about taking it to their communities and other settings -- they feel like they're almost commissioned," Caldwell said. "They are moving up the ladder of manhood and taking responsibility. And that's our mission."

For more information about Men's Fraternity, visit lifeway.com/mensfraternity.

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Are Christian fathers more effective?

Are Christian Fathers Better Fathers?
Hey, Dad, ever wondered if you have what it takes to connect with your kids? According to a study from the University of Virginia, if you've got a relationship with Jesus Christ, you're already heading in the right direction.
"...evangelical dads spent more time with children playing, helping with homework and talking."
W. Bradford Wilcox, an assistant sociology professor, studied fathers of children 5 to 18 years old. Evangelical Protestant dads came out on top or near the top in every category compared to fathers from other denominations and those with no religious affiliation.
According to Wilcox's research, evangelical dads spent more time with children playing, helping with homework and talking. They ate an average of 27 more meals a year with their children and were more likely to coach youth sports or lead youth activities.
"Evangelical Protestant fathers are very involved with their children, which I found surprising, given their tendency to embrace traditional gender attitudes," Wilcox noted.
So how can you defy society's expectations and become an even better dad than you already are?
• Watch a favorite TV show with your child. Ask him about the characters and storyline. This is a simple way to enter your child's world and recognize other influences that affect the way he thinks.
• Take your son or daughter to a restaurant you both like. Share favorite things and talk one-on-one without the competing demands of other siblings, phone calls or TV.
• Keep reading. Even tweens will enjoy reading a book aloud with you.
• Include children in projects. Ask them to help you string the Christmas lights, paint the basement or change the oil in the car. The teaching, connecting and fun will be invaluable.
• Know their friends. As children get older, knowing them means knowing their friends.
— by Clem Boyd