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FASHIONED by FAITH
By RACHEL LEE CARTER
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2011 Rachel Lee Carter
All right reserved.
Chapter OneFashioned by Freedom!
Interests: acting, painting, photography, travel, Spanish culture, art
Future ambition: actor
he says ...
I grew up with two older sisters. They've taught me a lot about women. One of the things I've learned is there is a quiet and beautiful dignity about a woman who dresses conservatively. Any man would be fortunate to have a wife like my sisters, but what makes them really special is that they have too much self-respect and confidence to wear clothes that reveal too much. I use the word confidence because I feel a girl who's covered in all the right places is a girl who lives with the freedom of not having to rely on attention for her sense of self-worth. A girl with confidence is much more attractive to me than a girl who feels she has to exploit her body to receive attention or, worse, love.
My sisters are not ashamed of their bodies, and they wear the most current and stylish clothes. Yet they understand great men appreciate modesty. It doesn't matter how many girlfriends a man has had in his past, when he decides to settle down, his ideal wife will be one who lives modestly. A man who says he doesn't care about modesty or how his girlfriend dresses is lying.
When I marry, I want to find a woman I alone can fully appreciate. I believe young women should learn to value a sense of mystery. The more a woman destroys the mystery for a man, the more he will only be interested in what's going on from the neck down. All men are guilty of it, including myself, unfortunately. When a girl can barely walk because of her tight-fitting or revealing clothes, a man will either pursue her solely out of lust or automatically dismiss her as someone he doesn't want to be with.
There's a saying that goes, "If you've got it, flaunt it." This is a lie. Instead, it should say, "If you've got it, protect it." Great women like my mother and sisters took this idea and lived their lives by it. This is the type of woman I'm interested in getting to know, because modesty and confidence in a woman is a very powerful and attractive combination.
she says ...
As a professional model of more than twenty years, I've been blessed to travel the world and work for some of the biggest names in the business. I've dined next to the king of Spain's mansion and sailed on the Aladdin, the king of Jordan's yacht. I've experienced temperatures from 114 degrees Fahrenheit to 44 below zero. I've eaten unique cuisine, from brains and ostrich to kangaroo and pigeon pie. I've had a fulfilling and interesting career. But possibly the most rewarding aspect of my job is that I get to model clothes.
I love to experience the shapes, the textures, and the fabrics of the latest trends. But one thing my twenty years did not prepare me for is designers in the fashion industry who repeatedly stretch the boundaries with immodest clothing. I've seen shorts and skirts get shorter and tighter, and tops get smaller. I've seen jeans purposefully designed to reveal a woman's undergarments, see-through blouses that expose her bra, and slogans on T-shirts that exploit the girls who wear them. It makes me wonder, where does it end? The sad part is that girls who follow fashion (like me) sometimes adopt these trends without realizing the impact it has on their self-esteem, their families, the opposite sex, and their testimonies.
This led me to ask myself a serious question: Can I—a clothes-horse—and other fashion-forward girls have the freedom to dress trendy and fashionably in accordance with today's styles and still maintain the virtue of modesty?
The answer to that question is a resounding, "Yes!" But I had to learn how. And that's the purpose of this book: to pass on my findings to you, my fashion disciple. But as we get started, there is another lingering question we must answer: what is modesty? One of the first things I did when I started this journey was discover what modesty means in some other cultures and to the generations that came right before us.
I'd like to describe the first area I looked at as cultural modesty. In many Middle Eastern countries, modest attire is a hooded wrap called a burqa that covers a woman from head to toe, revealing only her eyes. It is worn over her daily clothes and is removed when she returns to her home. In some parts of Afghanistan and northwest Pakistan, the women even cover their eyes with a mesh grille. Due to political instability in these areas, women must adhere to this dress as a matter of personal safety. That's not fashion freedom!
In Indian cultures, one of the most expressive pieces in a woman's wardrobe is the feminine and modest sari. It's changed some through the generations but remains a modest statement in Indian cultures. One of the earliest depictions of the sari dates back to about 100 BC. This style of body wrapping may have evolved from the ancient temple dancers who danced in similar garments that allowed them to move without restraint, yet still remain modest.
Years ago I was shooting for an English magazine in Marrakesh, Morocco. Hands down, this was one of my favorite jobs. Everywhere I turned there were vibrant colors, the scent of curry and other spices, snake charmers, and locals traveling by camel. We were there from the end of July to the beginning of August, and it averaged 112 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. Most days I shot in the outskirts of the Sahara Desert or on the backs of beautiful white Arabian horses. Because of the intense heat, we took long breaks in the afternoon to go into Morocco's largest, traditional open-air market, or souk. I can't think of a better time to wear a tank top and shorts, but the women of our group were advised by our guide to follow certain wardrobe traditions. I had to hide my long blonde hair in a scarf, wear long linen pants, and completely cover my arms. It was so hot! But our guide insisted only prostitutes dress "immodestly." Rebelling against this cultural modesty could have literally endangered my life.
Second, there is historical modesty. Victorian attire came about during the reign of Queen Victoria of England. The dress varied quite a bit but with one common theme: the long, ankle-length skirt. After that, a woman's wardrobe always consisted of petticoats and bonnets, and until the beginning of the twentieth century, it was considered risqué to let your ankles show! Not much freedom there either!
In more recent generations, skirts became shorter, but conservative women would still wear knee-length to ankle-length skirts. Poodle skirts were knee- to mid-calf length and rounded out the decade of the 1950s. Modest trends like these lasted until the late 1960s when fashion was coupled with rebellion and the miniskirt was introduced. From there, the way women viewed fashion shifted; it became liberal. Suddenly there were bikinis, tight-fitting clothes, short shorts (appropriately called "hot pants"), and lots and lots of cleavage. It is no coincidence this rebellion also brought with it rampant drug use, promiscuous sex, and new sexually transmitted diseases. This is where our society's fashion made a spiraling downhill turn, and we're still suffering the consequences of it today.
Today's fashion has only gotten more revealing, which leads me to believe it's not so much our clothes (or lack thereof), but where our hearts are. What's going through the mind of a woman as she shops the latest trends? The answer, of course, depends on the heart of the woman. That is the starting point of this study ... the heart. We'll be taking the road less traveled to get to our heart issues, make camp there, and listen for God's still, small voice. There we'll find many truths. We'll find modesty is a virtue that ignites a woman's dignity and respect for herself. It takes more courage to dress modestly and know one's value and worth stems from her Creator than to follow the patterns of the world and its skin-baring trends.
I want to show we can have the freedom to dress without rules, maintain our love for shopping, not get discouraged while shopping, and satisfy our craving for style without sacrificing our integrity. When our hearts are akin to Christ's, we'll develop a pattern that surpasses every fashion!
But I, for one, know it's not always easy to go against the grain and set yourself apart from the crowd. Trust me, I've had to walk off sets that wanted me to promote less-than-modest wardrobes. As you read, I'll be sharing how those decisions cost me huge campaigns, regular clients, and future work. It didn't make me popular, and it frustrated my clients and my agent, but God has been faithful to protect my career and my reputation.
Fashion should be fun, spontaneous, and should enable women to express themselves. But a good model (or role model) does not have to sacrifice her purity, dignity, or worth on the altar of bad taste!
He says ...
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. —Romans 12:1–2
So there it is: God's instruction for us to give our bodies to Him and for it to be "a living sacrifice holy and pleasing to God." As we will learn in this study, God desperately cares about how we present ourselves. God's Word goes on to say we are not to "conform any longer to the pattern of this world." Or as the New Living Translation phrases it, we should not "copy the behavior and customs of this world." How's that for specific? We aren't supposed to be like, act like, or even dress like the world around us. Does that mean we're supposed to wear long, flowing robes or paper sacks? Of course not! But it doesn't take long to see what the world dresses like. We all know we live in a skin-is-in society, and we have heard the phrase "Sex sells." Those are the kinds of behaviors and customs the Bible is talking about.
This does not, however, mean we can't dress fashionably or follow the trends (thank goodness!). In fact, in Proverbs 31, we learn of a lady who wears fine linen and is dressed in purple. That was one of the most expensive and trendy garments of her day! She was definitely fashion forward! But I have no doubt she knew modesty was more significant than her beautiful threads. These are some of the issues we'll be discussing in this book. But for now, as I mentioned before, our part starts with a heart willing to obey.
Maybe you picked up this book to read on your own or are reading this with a study group. Hopefully you're truly interested in what the Bible says about modesty. Either way, God knew you were going to be here, and He has a message for you. God wants His best for our lives, and that includes how we represent Him and ourselves by the way we dress.
The purpose of obedience is not simply for us to follow certain rules ... that's called religion. The real purpose is to bring us into a better relationship with God ... that's freedom! Obeying God's Word doesn't bind us; it sets us free!
One important thing to remember is that the Bible was not written in English as we read it today. Using a concordance, which is an index that lists significant words, their meanings, and scriptural references, we can go back to the original text and learn what the Author intended to convey so the true meaning isn't lost in translation. Throughout this book, I will refer to the Greek or Hebrew meaning of words so that we can see what the Bible says in its original form. These words are the building blocks on which we'll make our fashion decisions.
The first word is legalism. Legalism is the emphasis on outward actions (not inner changes) and the belief that those actions produce rightness with God. What it produces instead is a feeling of self-righteousness where we glorify our own actions instead of glorifying God. It also produces a condemnation of others, believing our good deeds (instead of pure hearts) bring us into a closer relationship with God. It's important for us to understand this is a dangerous trap because it keeps us works-oriented. And like any trap, it binds us and keeps us from total freedom.
The second term is license. License is the belief that we as Christians can do anything we please without consequence because we're already forgiven. This is another dangerous snare because our actions influence others, either positively or negatively, and can lead others to Christ or away from Christ. Having a false sense of license can come with some heavy and burdensome consequences.
The third word is holiness. Holiness can seem like a scary word because it's the chief attribute that describes God. However, did you know He calls us to be holy (1 Peter 1:15–16)? The word in Greek is hagios (pronounced hag-ee-os). It comes from a similar word, hagnos (pronounced hag-nos), which means "clean," "innocent," "modest," and "pure." Thankfully you don't have to take my word for it. You can take God's Word for it. God desires for us to be holy and modest.
Of course we can't be holy on our own merit, but we can rely on Him to change our hearts. Now reread Romans 12:1–2. Understanding Scripture will help us know God the way He wants us to know Him. Will you join me in agreeing with God to have an open heart that listens and is willing to obey? I hope you will! I did, and it has changed the way I think, just as Romans 12:2 promises. And according to the end of the passage it's only then that we learn God's will for us. If I've learned one thing in life, it's that I want to know God's will for me!
So ... what do you say?
Let me just tell you how honored I am to have you join me on this adventure! If you're like me, you love God and you love clothes; how wonderful it is that we can join the two and together discover God's best for our lives! Please feel free to be honest about your thoughts on this subject. You will get a chance to journal those thoughts in this section and discuss with your group your ideas, fears, struggles, victories, and hesitations. Just be yourself, and trust that God is walking through this with us!
1. how does it make you feel when you see a man stare at an immodestly dressed woman? insecure? Jealous? Angry? Something else? explain:
2. When that happens do you wish it were you getting the attention?
3. We see guys gawking at immodesty all the time. What do you think is going on in their hearts? What do you think is going on in the females' hearts?
4. We've already started talking about modesty as an issue that begins in the heart. Read Proverbs 21:2 and Proverbs 27:19. Discuss with your group; then write what these verses mean to you.
5. Read 1 Corinthians 10:23. Freedom can be positive or negative. At the beginning of this chapter, Seth noted his sisters have the confidence and freedom to dress modestly. The bible is clear. Just because something is permissible does not mean it is beneficial or constructive. Freedom outside the boundaries of Scripture is license.
In your own words, what does license mean?
6. What are some things we can do as Christians that are permissible but not beneficial?
7. License isn't love for God, but a method of using God. This is a dangerous place to be in your spiritual walk. Why do you suppose that's true?
8. However, the same is true with legalism. Legalism is just a fancy word for trying so hard to please God that we start making up additional rules not found in Scripture. Can you imagine? Adding to God's Word? Why would this be a dangerous place to be?
This is why God wants us to live our lives according to His will without exploiting His Word or changing it to fit our lifestyle. Additionally, He doesn't want us to make a list of unscriptural standards we think God wants us to keep. There is no freedom in either of these choices.
Excerpted from FASHIONED by FAITH by RACHEL LEE CARTER Copyright © 2011 by Rachel Lee Carter. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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