5 Elements that are toxic to the faith of our teenagers

Dark, ominous clouds rumble overhead. Tornado sirens go off in the distance. Torrential rain starts to beat down on the skylights overhead. I look at the radar, and red, everything is red!

There has been a storm brewing in my soul. Every time I start to relax and have a little peace, the raging winds of the storm blow it away. Like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, I look out the window into the funnel and see the wicked witch riding her bike, laughing and saying, “I’ll get you my little pretty!”

Raising teenagers is tough—tougher than I ever imagined. The hearts of my teenage girls are fragile and tender. And teaching them to ‘guard their hearts’ in the world they live in seems like an impossible task.

The more I talk with my kids lately, the more I realize that between school, all their devices, texting, and social media, they are living in a toxic world.


There are 5 elements that are toxic to the faith of our teenagers.

1. Toxic Friends

My daughter showed me a group text she got from a friend while I was cooking dinner the other night.

The text read, “If you are going to the football game on Friday, say, ‘I            .”

I can’t write the three words it said. I can’t even allude to what it said. It was so vile and repulsive.

I was shocked and had to see it for myself to believe it. I started to feel sick as I leaned over. Yep, that is exactly what it said. The room started to spin so I sat down.

I couldn’t believe I had just read those three words on my fourteen year old daughter’s phone! I was filled with disgust and then I got really angry.

“Mom, I hear that kind of thing everyday at school, it’s no big deal. I didn’t say it back.” 

2. Toxic Culture

“The world’s gone mad,” I was thinking several weeks ago.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know what I am talking about. The depressing state of the world is undeniable. This summer has been especially dire. Every time you turned around something awful had happened somewhere in the world. 

If it was a good day, meaning no mass killings, then it’s the Trump/Hillary debacle plastered all over the news and social media. Could we have picked 2 worse candidates? A rich playboy who has a god complex and a criminal. What is wrong with us?!

It’s no doubt that the world needs a good laugh right now. So I guess it’s good for something!

So, what is wrong with us? The answer is simple—we’re human. Left to our own devices we will thoroughly screw things up pretty much every time. And the more that God is removed from our culture, the more depraved our society will become.

3. Social Media Addiction 

As if drugs, alcoholism, and sexual addictions aren’t enough to worry about with our kids, we have to add social media addiction to the list.

The use of social media and smart phone technology is a great experiment. Our kids have so many devices at their fingertips everyday. They are the first generation to have contact with their friends and the world available 24/7.

How will they fare in 20, 30, or 50 years from now? We just don’t know.

My parents divorced when I was 9 in 1981. Divorce in America was at an all time high in the early 80’s. I call it “The Great Experiment”. Couples were divorcing left and right and no one knew the long term consequences it would have on kids.

Well, 20 and 30 years later we discovered that divorce is devastating to children. Ripple effects can be seen long into their adult life.

What will we say about social media when our kids are grown? How is technology going to affect their future?

4. Liberal Schools

God has been kicked out of the public schools. This is not news. We’ve been watching it happen slowly for decades. Each year our schools are becoming a less safe and nurturing environment for our kids.

The number of school shootings that have occurred since Columbine in 1999 is alarming. And through the years we have been hearing about violence in schools more and more.

Kids are lost. Kids are mean. And kids don’t know how to cope with life. Put a weapon in the hands of a young lost soul and tragedy will surely follow.

Schools are becoming more and more liberal. And the educational system is becoming increasingly hostile toward Christianity.

Are our kids being taught the truth in school? Are our kids being taught the truth in colleges and universities?

5. Lukewarm Churches

The church is the vessel of hope to this wretched world.

However, instead of infecting the world with the love of Christ, are we letting the world seep into our churches?

When the ship is in the ocean, everything’s fine. When the ocean gets into the ship, you’re in trouble.  -Mark Yoder


So, what hope do we have?

We have hope in Jesus Christ. He is our only hope—but He is a big one! And, we have the joy of knowing that we will spend an eternity in glory with God the Father.

But what about the here and now? Can we find hope in this life? 

Hope is found in our families. Families are the building blocks of the church. And the family unit has power.

Taking back our families can change the world. Take back your days, don’t let every minute be filled with this sport or that activity. Spend time together as a family. Talk about the issues of the day and what scripture has to say about them.

You and I as Christian parents possess the antidote to this toxic world. We can’t save our kids, but the blood of Jesus can!

My Vanity Fast Part 3: THE CHALLENGE

In Part 1 and Part 2 we talked about what beauty is not, so let’s talk about what beauty is.

Beauty is an older woman at church who is struggling with a family that is falling apart. Even through the tears, she is praising her God because His is good.

Beauty is a woman who stays in a lifeless and loveless marriage to honor the promise she made before God.

Beauty is a woman who stays home with her kids to raise them. She is lonely. She feels like sacrificing her career has caused her to fall behind in the world. But, she loves her God and trusts the good work He is doing in her and in her kids.

There is such beauty in a woman who is willing to suffer for her God.

Beauty is  a woman who struggles with poverty working multiple jobs to support herself and her kids. She works tirelessly and has very little for herself. Yet, she loves and praises her God, and strives to live a righteous life. Her hope is found in Christ.

Beauty is a friend who was a missionary for seven years. Despite loneliness and isolation when she comes off the field, she is still trusting the Lord, and she is ready to be ‘sent out’ once again.

Beauty is a woman who is so in love with the poor people of Africa that she considers that home instead of her home in this country, and those children like her own kids.

Beauty is a woman who is willing to let God break her heart for what breaks His.

Beauty is any woman who loves God who is messy, sinful, wretched, and occasionally veers off the narrow path. But she gets back on the path and praises her Heavenly Father who saved her.

What does God say about beauty?

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.   1 Peter 3:3-4

God’s standard for beauty is a gentle and quiet spirit. One who is desperately pursuing righteousness in Jesus Christ.

I know that I can never live up to being a Proverbs 31 woman. To be honest, it is among my least favorite scriptures in the Bible. I am messy. I am wretched. And I am strong willed.

I often feel as though I am striving, but never reaching that high bar.

But I know I’m OK. As long as my eyes are on Him. As long as Jesus is my Lord. And, as long as I couple action with my faith, God will be glorified through me.


So, how can you learn to love yourself regardless of what you see in the mirror? I can’t answer that question for you. The best I can tell you is this,

The most beautiful thing that you, or I, could see in the mirror is JESUS.

True beauty is found in Jesus Christ. Such immense love cannot help but being stunningly beautiful. And, if we mirror the image of Christ, we will be stunningly beautiful too.

The Vanity Fast Challenge

If you are like me and have blurred the lines of beauty and identity, it’s time to bring things back into focus. And with focus comes freedom.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.   Galatians 5:1

I challenge you to try a vanity fast, and I pray that God uses it to show you truth. Whether it is one week, one month, or one year is up to you. What could it hurt? Why not step out of your comfort zone and see what is on the other side? It just might be freedom.

Will a vanity fast be an instant cure? Probably not. Anything worth having takes work and happens in God’s timing. And, if you are anything like me, you are a slow learner!

I would like to say after five weeks of my vanity fast that the ties of beauty and identity have been completely severed. I’m fixed . . . . HALLELUUUUIAH! But, I’m not. Let’s just say I am one of God’s tougher cases!

But that is OK with me. Because I am tirelessly working toward truth, the freedom God has for me, and becoming more like Him. And, I am beginning to see the light of victory at the end of the tunnel.


Read Part 1 here

Read Part 2 here

 

My Vanity Fast and the 4 deceptions of beauty: Part 2

Read part 1 here

A couple weeks ago I was chatting with my youngest daughter on our sun porch.

“Emily is so much prettier than I am,” she said.

Emily, My oldest, is sixteen and curvy. Jessica is skinny—she takes after her father. No matter what I say to Jessica, she can’t seem to accept that she is beautiful just the way she is. She has an adorable body that looks good in everything, perfect olive colored skin, and naturally highlighted hair that women my age would pay big bucks for.

She is perfect. Yet she still questions what her boyfriend sees in her.

We, as women/girls, are never happy. It’s as if we are conditioned to not be content with who we are. Girls who are skinny wish they were curvy, and those who are curvy wish they were skinny. Girls with curly hair wish they had straight hair and girls with straight hair wish they had curly hair. 

I wish that my daughter could see what her father and I see. And I’m sure God wishes that we would see what He sees in us.

Let’s continue with the 4 deceptions of beauty . . . . 


3. We are never good enough

I have struggled my entire life with identity and self worth. Many of us have.

Early in life, I got attention for my looks, way more attention than I ever got for who I wasgirl looking out window urbane inside. When this starts at a young age, you believe what the world tells you. You believe your worth is in your beauty. And, it is very difficult to break free and believe differently.

‘A woman’s worth is tied to her youth and beauty’ is a lie cooked up by the enemy. He wants us to think that we are just eye candy for the viewing pleasure of men.

Satan feeds young girls lies that are so easily accepted as truth. They sound good at first, as many of Satan’s deceptions do. Being attractive when you are young is fun. It feels good. It makes you popular. And if you are beautiful, you are celebrated.

Deception is Satan’s greatest tool.

The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”   Genesis 3:4-5

And we all know that beauty doesn’t last forever. After a lifetime of believing your identity is in your beauty, you find yourself enslaved by it. How do you break free?

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.   Proverbs 31:30

Being a woman today is hard. We live in a culture that says that women must change almost everything about themselves to be good enough. We change our hair color, eye color, skin color, cook ourselves, squeeze ourselves into clothes that are three sizes too small, and put on push-up bras because we think we are not good enough.

Where does it end? When are we, as girls and women, good enough?

Social media and television define beauty for us. They have set the standard, and girls are watching. When girls grow up with these wrong messages about beauty, they often confuse beauty with their identity.

Untitled design (6)Our daughters grow up being told that the purpose of their life is to be forever young and beautiful.

The truth is, if we are trying to live up to the world’s standards, we will never be good enough.

The only standard that we need to concern ourselves with is God’s standard. And, God’s Word gives us the truth about age and beauty.

A gray head is a crown of glory; It is found in the way of righteousness.   Proverbs 16:31

Often, what we really want from beauty is to feel accepted, included and pursued. But do we realize that we were made acceptable in Christ, we have been adopted into the family of God, and we are fervently pursued by Abba, Father? 

To them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.   John 1:12-13

True beauty is found in Jesus Christ, the One who paid the price for this wretched world. What He did on the cross was truly and completely beautiful.

God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.   Romans 5:8

If we want to be truly beautiful, we must reflect the image of Christ.

4. Being beautiful can never make you strong or powerful

I recently watched, The Devil Wears Prada. It is a movie about a girl who is transformed into a beautiful woman working at a fashion magazine. At the beginning, she is seemingly unattractive, and therefore, not valued. However, when she finally changes and is beautiful and stylish, she is suddenly competent and powerful.

When we feel strong, confident and powerful because we look good, we are being deceived. It isn’t truth. Beauty can hold no power. Shiny, luxurious hair can give us no strength. A pencil skirt, flattering jeans, or the perfect pair of boots can’t do anything for us. 

Power does not come from long eyelashes or long cascading hair.
Power does not come from a lean, muscular body.
Power does not come from perfectly white teeth, or flawless skin.
Power does not come from a french manicure or waxed eyebrows.
Power does not come from being a perfect size __ .
Power does not come from perfectly tanned legs, or a tiny waist.

So, if power doesn’t come from physical beauty, where does power come from?

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being   Ephesians 3:16

If being powerful is what you seek, then go to the source. God is the most powerful being that ever was, is or ever could be. He is the source of power, the author of power, and the giver of power. Our power is in Christ alone.

In Christ alone


Join me next week for part 3 as I’ll be wrapping up our discussion on beauty and presenting a challenge. 

Read Part 1 here

My Vanity Fast and the 4 deceptions of beauty: Part 1

Five weeks ago, I started my second annual summer vanity fast. Woo hoo!

Not vanityfest mind you, . . . . vanity FAST!  (a very important distinction, indeed)

What is a vanity FAST, you might ask? Instead of giving up food, I am giving up makeup for five weeks. Vanity is an area of my life that I have a hard time surrendering to God. 

‘What’s the big deal about not wearing makeup?’ you might ask. Well, makeup is a very big deal for me! Vanity has been a stronghold in my life. I know it. God knows it.

I have depended too much on my looks for confidence and power.

The unassailable fortifications of your walls He will bring down, Lay low and cast to the ground, even to the dust.  Isaiah 25:12 (NIV)

I write this blog post about beauty and identity because I know that I am not alone. What woman isn’t to some degree affected by her perception of beauty? I don’t know any.

We must bring this important issue to light.

Light exposes the true character of everything.   Ephesians 5:13 (GOD’S WORD® Translation)

The messy entanglements of beauty and identity are pervasive in our culture. Too many women are slaves to beauty. We were not created for bondage. We were created for freedom!

Although we were made beautiful and acceptable through the blood of the Lamb, somewhere along the way, we were deceived.

I believe there are four deceptions of beauty. I will address the first two deceptions in Part 1. The second and third deceptions are in Part 2. And Part 3 is a challenge.


1. Vanity can become self worship

Every year, as summer approaches and the t-shirts come out, I remember how white and hairy my arms are. Yep, I said it,  . . . . white and hairy! Ugh!

I look at other women, and they have smooth, beautiful, hairless arms. Can it be that I am the only hairy one?! And, I don’t go to the tanning salon, so until mid-June I am pretty pasty. It really bothers me. I feel ugly, ugly, hairy and white!

I don’t wax my eyebrows. At any given moment I could have a rogue, unplucked eyebrow hair out of place . . . . scandalous!! I refuse to get my eyebrows waxed because it’s one more thing. And, I don’t need one more thing to do for vanity!

Don’t get me wrong, I do normally wear make up. I do color my hair, and love it! (Nice ‘N Easy 98 baby!) And I do occasionally lay out in the sun.

However, I refuse to wax my eyebrows, shave my arms (not armpits – I’m not a savage!), paste on fake eyelashes, and go to a tanning salon. I know that if I give in to one more of these beauty rituals I will be worshiping the big ‘V’. . . . Vanity!

And, let’s just call it what it is . . . . it’s worshiping myself!

We all have to draw our line in the sand!

Satan would love for me to take my eyes off of Christ and stare adoringly in the mirror for hours. What better idol is there than . . . . ME?!! And, if I have enough ‘beauty’, I can get other people to worship me too!

After all, according to the late Whitney Houston, the greatest love of all is inside of ME!!

Me, me, me!! It’s all about me! . . .  wait a minute! That’s not right! It’s all about Him. It’s all about God and bringing HIM glory.

I’m on to you, Satan!

Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.   2 Corinthians 11:14

2. Vanity is a distraction

Have you heard of fiber lashes? Or, eyelash extensions? A friend was selling these products a while back. I remember thinking, ‘If I use these products I will probably be more beautiful.’ However, I knew then as I know now, God doesn’t want me to be more beautiful. He wants me to be more like Him

As a Godly woman, beauty is not the end goal, holiness is. Holiness in us brings glory to God. Yet, how much time do we spend focused on our vanity every day verses focused on our holiness?

He has saved us and called us to a holy life.   2 Timothy 1:9

I am a writer and work from home. One day a week I wear my best clothes, paint my toenails, and do my hair. It’s Sunday. For church I get all ‘dolled’ up. Instead of ‘come as you are’ I feel like it’s ‘roll out the red carpet’. It sometimes feels like a fashion show. And I feel as though I have to measure up.

Am I thinking about God and preparing myself for worship as I head to church? Not so much. Has vanity distracted me from truly being the church? Yes. God, forgive me. 

We must ask ourselves . . . . 

Is our beauty distracting us from the ultimate beauty of an amazing God? Are we missing the freedom He offers us because we are too busy being slaves to beauty?

We must surrender our beauty to God and stop wasting time obsessing over it.

And trust me, I know that it is easier said than done.


The second and third deceptions of beauty are discussed in Part 2.

Read Part 2 here