7 read-a-long (chapter 2: clothes)

Writing about this chapter scares me. Not because I have a “problem” with clothes, but because I don’t. Jen’s list of 7 clothing items? Whoopty-doo. I don’t even need the dress shirt (or heaven forbid, the cowboy boots–no offense, my darlin’ Texas friends). I could just replace it with my ratty pink sweatshirt from Old Navy.

Jen and I are similar in that we both write books (write, have written, whatever) and speak to groups of people. The difference is that Jen’s audiences are typically much larger and she has to look nice when she gets on stage. She said she’d never worn a t-shirt to an event. I have never not (well, maybe, but rarely).

So, what is my point? I don’t care about clothes. In the winter, I wear jeans (from the thrift store), long-sleeved tee (thrift store) under a short-sleeved tee (with some kind of justice slogan), and tennis shoes (Target cheapos). In the summer, I wear shorts/capris and a t-shirt and flip-flops. Always. If you see me five days in a row, I will look exactly the same. If you see me every Sunday at church, I will look exactly the same as I do Monday through Friday.

And even though I really do think everyone (ALL OF US) could really benefit from some Purging o’ the Excess, I would never, ever say that you should all dress like me. PLEASE don’t all of you start dressing like me. B-O-R-I-N-G. This world needs some color, people!! Some style! Some creative expression!

Which brings me to my real, actual point: clothing isn’t one of my “weak” areas, so I don’t feel comfortable handing out cheap advice.

That said, I do want to ask you what you thought of some of the things Jen says about our wardrobes in this chapter. Because she says some things that I think could maybe possibly be a little off-putting to those who like themselves a cute outfit.

(Part A will be Pick-a-Quote-and-Expound and Part B is what we’ll call Analyze Yourself.)

Part A:

1. “Perhaps an obsessive occupation with dresses and hair and shoes detract us from the point of the gathering: a fixation on Jesus.” (53)

2. “What I’m wearing and what you think of it pales next to loosening the chains of injustice and setting the prisoner free.” (56)

3. “I would like to be so focused on the valuable that what I’m wearing doesn’t even warrant mental space.” (57) And friends, it’s okay to disagree with Jen. If you don’t like this quote (or any of the others), feel free to say so.

4. “As I gaze upon their hopelessness [the families of her Ethiopian children], I imagine them calculating what I’ve spent on clothing alone, realizing that same amount would’ve kept their family fed and healthy for thirty years.” (66)

5. “If my influence is linked to my wardrobe, then my ministry is falsely inflated and built on sand.” (67)

6. “In a culture that elevates beauty and style, the Christian community is at genuine risk for distraction, even deception.” (67)

I’ll share my thoughts on a few of these in the comments section this time to keep the post from getting forever long.

Part B:

I think one thing we should keep in mind is that we are all very different, and while we can gently challenge each other, we have no room to judge each other. Until I’ve walked a mile in your cowboy boots/high heels…

I’d love to know which category you fit in and some steps you think you might take in this area to bring you closer to Jesus.

1. Don’t really care about clothes.
2. Love clothes but consider yourself more creative than excessive.
3. Sense you might have a clothing addiction.
4. Other.

Part C: (TOMORROW)

We’re going to discuss the rule-breaking necklaces Jen wore on pages 60-61. Both of them meant something super-special and actually drew her closer to God and loving the poor. For as much as I don’t love clothes, I get super tickled by clothing/accessories for a cause. Bags made by poor Ugandan mothers, necklaces made by former prostitutes in Cambodia, t-shirts about ending slavery and caring for orphans.

Get ready to share your favorites tomorrow!

114 thoughts on “7 read-a-long (chapter 2: clothes)

  1. Amanda C

    When it comes to clothes, I am very casual with jeans, tshirts, tennis shoes or flip flops depending on the weather. Yet my husband may tell you I hoard clothing. I have known for sometime I need to start donating clothes, as I have clothing in my old closet at my parents home still (I have been married for 3.5 yrs). I have not “missed” any of these clothes, so should be able to donate easily….not exactly the case. Reading this chapter as made me think a little more about what clothes I “need” and what clothes I am “hoarding”. Due to my career, there is a certain amount and type of clothing I need to meet dress code. Yet it is surprising to think about the rest of the clothes I own and how those I only wear 2 out of 7 days of the week. Excessive!

    The part of the chapter that really has me thinking the most was about the comsumer detox. The quote saying, “the needy are without income and the weathly are without needs” makes me really think about why I want to “hoard” these clothes. It does allow me to think about the many others that could benefit from the clothing and why I feel the need to be so selfish as to want to keep all the clothing, but not wear it?

  2. Jen Hatmaker

    GREAT DISCUSSION. Marla, you are really good at organizing and running a multi-layered conversation between 100 strangers from different parts of the country. I appreciate all your comments so much, and I really understand and receive your perspectives. Who knew clothes could be so complicated??

    It’s not elsewhere, of course. This is a first-world problem. You won’t be surprised to discover where I land here: For me and mine, giving “my best to Jesus” on Sundays has nothing to do with what any of us are wearing. I love what our little denomination has to say here (Free Methodists…I know you’ve never heard of them): When they were founded in 1860, they decided to keep their “buildings and attire” simple, so the poor would feel comfortable among them. Love that.

    But I also love that we can have this conversation in love and respect for one another, agreeing that ultimately it is our heart that God cares about the most, as He has told us ten billion times. We all reach consensus there. Where He is worshiped sincerely, there the kingdom breaks through. The end.

    Much love to you all…think of you so often, so fondly.

    1. Ruth

      Very VERY well said, Jen! Thank you for being the catalyst for this discussion. It’s truly the heart that matters!

  3. Elizabeth

    This entire conversation is so interesting! I think I’ve seen it all. Growing up, we dressed up for church and always had an extra special dress for Easter. The church my husband and I attended for years had an interesting dynamic: the Saturday night people were much, much less dressed-up than the sunday morning crowd. The Saturday night service had a decidedly more casual atmosphere and the congregation reflected that. Then we attended a first Baptist church in Oklahoma, and let me tell you, our jeans/nice shirt combination was not the norm. I was shocked how much time/energy/MONEY people put into their “church clothes” and Easter morning was INSANE. I’m talking color-coordinated attire for the entire family. Ridiculous, I think. But still, I can’t get over it when I see people at church wearing sweats or pajama pants (I’ve seen this), or just looking like slobs. I don’t necessarily have Biblical reasons why this should bother me, but it seems lazy and disrespectful to not at least clean yourself up a little. If there’s someone in need at church, who can’t provide for themselves the clothing they need for everyday life/work, then it’s our job in the church to provide them with it and not chastise them for how they dress at church.

    I tend to think a problem in the church is not whether we should/should not dress up, but how revealing a lot of our culture’s dress is. It’s not different at church. I see women with their thongs or bras exposed. That seems like a much more serious issue to me.

    1. John McCollum

      I tell ya, nothing makes less sense to me than spending big bucks dressing up for church. It seems to be in clear opposition to both the letter and the spirit of biblical counsel.

      How many verses do you need to read about not honoring the rich more than the poor? About the first being last? About laying up treasure in heaven? About not adorning oneself with expensive jewelry and braids?

      I guess I understand the perspective of those who say “you dress up at church because you’re visiting the king.” I profoundly disagree with the sentiment, but I understand it.

      But to dress with the express intention of impressing other people around you — as in the tradition of expensive Easter outfits? Frankly, I think that should put you in line for church discipline.

      No. Seriously.

  4. Tonia

    One day late again. I’m sure based on the fact that there are 102 comments that someone has already made the exact point I’m making, but of not here I go. I too really couldn’t care less about clothes and since I am a SAHM I don’t even need to get out of my pjs most of the time (but I do because it makes me feel more productive). BUT there is a lesson to be learned for all of us in the. A. Don’t care about what I wear category. Two words: sweat shops. Do you know the condition under which you cheap plain clothes are made? Did an 8 yr old in China sew until his fingers blead to make that t-shirt with the awesome African logo on it? I’ve been “trying” to be a little more conscious about purchasing fair trade, but what about when you can’t afford a fair trade expense or find what you need fair trade when you can cheaply and quickly make a run to Target? I would live any suggestions or direction on this. I’d love some fair trade jeans and t shirts.

  5. John McCollum

    A little late and a little off topic, but I do have sort of a love-hate relationship with clothes.

    I do believe that it’s impossible to not communicate; what we wear does tend to communicate what we value.

    So, I am very intentional about wearing blue jeans in most every situation; when I wear dress pants, it feels artificial, and like I’m working a bit too hard to identify with a socioeconomic system/perspective that I find broadly objectionable. Same with ties. Especially in church.

    On the other hand, I tend to wear dress shirts because the “t-shirt and jeans look” seems too informal for many of the interactions I have. Also, because I need to lose about 10 pounds and good tailoring covers a multitude of caloric sins.

    So, as much as I hate to think that I’m working hard to craft a certain image by the clothes I wear, I do acknowledge that — for those of us who have the luxury of choosing our own clothes (and that would be almost all of us here) — our choices do matter because they do communicate.

    All of this is contextual, by the way. When I’m in Asia, I do tend to wear dress pants (except for when I’m playing with the kids) because shorts would communicate a certain lack of respect in many of the situations in which I find myself. I also try to cover up my tattoos.

    I used to take the attitude that “I can wear whatever I like and say whatever I like and if people don’t like it, well they can attempt anatomically improbable maneuvers with themselves.” But as I’ve grown up, I’ve taken more ownership of my role in people’s perceptions of me and the work I do.

    1. Shelly

      “I used to take the attitude that “I can wear whatever I like and say whatever I like and if people don’t like it, well they can attempt anatomically improbable maneuvers with themselves.” But as I’ve grown up, I’ve taken more ownership of my role in people’s perceptions of me and the work I do.”

      My favorite comment today.

  6. Danielle

    I wanted to post this on your FB status but couldn’t pare it down enough, so you get a blog comment instead! 🙂

    I go back and forth on how I personally should approach my attire on a daily basis, not to mention Sundays with my church family. But God has really been working on my heart lately about how I approach people who come to church looking differently than I would expect. Do I care about how people are dressed, or do I care about partnering with God to minister to hearts? 3 examples come to mind.

    A lady started attending church with her BF (fiance, husband, ?) and she wore dress clothes that were pretty revealing of the beautiful body God gave her. Rarely on a Sunday morning would anyone talk to her, and several of my friends admitted they didn’t want to because they were intimidated by her beauty and didn’t want their husbands to notice her because they were talking to her. I tried to seek her out after services a couple times, but she usually bolted to the door after services. After a while they stopped coming, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it was because she made every effort to dress up for church but wasn’t modest enough for a bunch of church-y people to be kind to her.

    A young man showed up at our church about a year ago. He has gang tattoos all over his face, neck, and exposed skin. We’re a young church so tattoos aren’t so taboo, but obvious gang tattoos set you apart. I was talking to a friend after service and watched him across our foyer. For 15 minutes no one looked his way, no one greeted him, people steered their small children away from him. (Notice I had time to talk to my friend and watch him, but not to greet him myself.) He stood in the melee completely still until one of our elders went and introduced himself. Over the last year this sweet boy, who is oppressed by schizophrenia, who was an abused foster kid, who has had no one give him a chance, he has worked his way into the hearts of so many people. That first Sunday many of us wrote him off because he didn’t fit our norm, and now he has dozens of people being Jesus to him on a regular basis because one person was bold enough to shake his hand.

    Finally, is a HS girl came to our church with a friend. This friend had approached her daily at school and told her she was praying for her. Just days after attempting suicide she asked her friend is she could come to church with her. That day she heard the gospel preached and believed in Jesus to redeem her life from destruction. Some parents were worried about their kids hanging out with the girl with the dark makeup, dark hair, crazy band t-shirts. But on the day this girl was baptized hundreds of people cheered for this sister who had fallen in love with Jesus, and had found a true Father, an eternal family.

    Does it matter more what I wear to church, or how I treat those who look differently?

      1. Danielle

        I’m only minimally sorry for the crazy long comment. I read all the back and forth on facebook before i went to bed last night and then woke up in the middle of the night with a heart burden for this young man whom I love dearly. I know it’s way off topic of where this blog post was going, but it seems to be where a lot of people’s brains are going so here ya’ go with my $0.02!

  7. Leslie

    This:
    “I want to belong to a Christian community known for a different kind of beauty, the kind that heals and inspires. I can’t help but remember Jesus, and how God made sure to mention He was plain and simple by human standards…His humility appeals to the unloveliness in us all. We are drawn to His simplicity, then transformed by His magnificence.”

    Lord, help me align myself correctly…

  8. Pingback: Marla Taviano » 7 read-a-long: clothing as symbol

  9. Melissa

    On the clothes front, I’m more of a #2, but can be close to #3. I feel like I have the most costume changes of anyone I know, because of all the jobs/things I do. We have a farm, so I have overall. I run, so I have athletic gear. I’m a Mary Kay consultant, so I have dressy clothes. And as I mom I have whatever is comfortable and fits that day. What struck me most in this chapter was when she wrote about our “needs” and how all our true needs are met and that businesses are working hard to create superficial needs for us. I was convicted and unsubscribed to all the facebook feeds for retailers and am slowly unsubscribing from the consumer emails I would get daily. I realize I have zero unmet needs and even though I would most days delete them, I sometimes would be caught by a good deal.
    I feel like God is blessing this act of obedience (and some other ones of late) and opened the door for me to minister to a new friend today. So I am thankful for the lessons I am learning from this book!

  10. Rachelle

    3. “I would like to be so focused on the valuable that what I’m wearing doesn’t even warrant mental space.”

    and for me it’s also, “focused on the valuable that what OTHERS are wearing doesn’t warrant mental space”. Because sometimes I waste time investing what I think about others and myself based on what we are wearing.

    I think I fit somewhere between #1 & #2. I care just not enough to really invest too much time/energy.

    I do love my husband’s clothing methodology though: he believes that what you spend on a clothing item should be divided by the number of times you wear the item. So a $5 clearance shirt you wear 1 time costs way more than $60 jeans that you wear 100 times!

    1. Jennifer Ekstrand

      I agree on the “others” point, it can be easy to think too much about what other people are wearing.

      The last paragraph reminds me of 4-H. For a clothing event I participated in every year, we had to calculate the “cost per wearing” of our outfit. In general, it was considered good practice to keep it under $1 (there were exceptions for things like prom dresses).

      1. Rachelle

        Ha! I hadn’t thought of the 4H project factor(we are a 4H family). But wow $1!!! I doubt I could buy a yard of fabric for $1 today. Well except that really narly stuff that no one would ever wear (see above) 🙂

        1. Jennifer Ekstrand

          The $1 was for the “cost per wearing” not the total cost (and the annual clothing event had categories for both making and selecting a garment/outfit to purchase). I love that our thrift store sells fabric, so I can occasionally find a good deal there, but even previously owned fabric usually costs more than $1 for a garmet-sized amount.

      1. Rachelle

        Isn’t he the bomb! He came up with it while I was shopping for jeans once and you know how many times a girl can wear a well-fitting pair of jeans! It often helps me curb impulsive “good deal” spending. Works on other stuff too.

  11. Kim

    Wow! What a 10 days I have had. The tornado that wiped through southern IN . . . yep, my town, my neighborhood, and my home. Yikes.

    Here’s my post on clothes, but not a summation of today’s reading.

      1. Kim

        We were all safely tucked in our church’s basement.
        We have “catastrophic” damage according to the insurance, but not a total loss. Hopefully, the insurance & contractor will get along nicely and my home will be repaired before summer.
        100 volunteers donated over 1000 man hours of labor to clean up our little farm. So the property looks really good right now.
        Another family member donated
        $60 in wild flower seeds to help rebuild my wild flower meadow. The orchard and garden may not recover for years. We lost barns too.

  12. Teresa Henry

    All of the quotes that you chose spoke directly to my heart. My life use to revolve around seeking acceptance from people. I grew up in a home of fear and in my teens was violated. Because I did not tell anyone and saw myself as ugly, dirty, and shameful, I set out on a life of destruction. I spent my life trying to hide who I was on the inside so I put all of my attention on trying to make my outside look a certain way. Part of that was an eating disorder and another part was trying dress in a way that was “cute” or “in style” as a search for approval. I accumulated clothes and accessories that I used to hide behind. I use to spend hours dressing and redressing and checking the fit and thought about what others would say or think. Obsessive. With that said as I found a relationship with the Lord and I have gone through restoration I see how I allowed my appearance which includes clothes to define me in extremely unhealthy ways. I still struggle with clothes and part of me wanting to “look” like I fit in…but lately God is not only shifting but rocking all of my thoughts and choices… and clothes is one. Part of me wants to “look” the part but then who am I looking the part for? I pretty much wear jeans with something black, white or grey on top…and sometimes a scarf (I live in Washingon State…it’s cold right now!). I have about 30 pairs of shoes and rotate through about 5 pairs…why do I have 30 still?

    3. “I would like to be so focused on the valuable that what I’m wearing doesn’t even warrant mental space.” (57)

    I love this…I really do…even if it punches right in the gut. I love a cute outfit…I don’t see anything wrong with a wearing a cute outfit…it is the motives behind the cute outfit that I think needs to be examined. Is the cute outfit for validation? Then that is wrong…and that is where I use to be and still am sometimes (okay way more than I want to even admit). Is it to showcase your personality? I think that is okay….as long as we examine excess and accumulation. But as Jen states if clothes takes up mental space that should be meant for the Lord then we have put clothes ahead of the Lord. I put clothes ahead of the Lord. Ugh!
    This morning I piled up all of my clothes from my closet on my bed and my goal is to go through them today and examine my motives behind each piece…and get rid of the excess.
    I hope my clothes become more expressive than excessive and that I don’t care about what others think or if I am in style or need approval for an outfit…but to clothe myself in what fits my personality…with out excess and for the right motives.
    This book is perfect for me right now as God has already been shifting my world…and reading this has shown me new insights on God’s Word!
    Love Love Love….

    1. Marla Taviano

      Okay, wow. More expressive than excessive. I LOVE THAT!! Thanks so much, friend, for sharing so deeply from your heart. Praying for you as you keep working through this. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your story!! Hugs!!

  13. HopefulLeigh

    My copy of the book finally arrived last night! So I can only weigh in on what you’ve written here, Marla.

    For me, clothing is a creative extension of my personality. Some days you will find me in a t-shirt but the other days I’ll have a unique sweater and scarf on. I love finding one of a kind pieces that reflect who I am- the person God made me to be. That said, I don’t go shopping that often and if I do, thrift stores tend to be my go-to places. Last year I challenged myself to only shop at thrift stores, with a few exceptions. It was rather eye-opening to see how easy it had been to toss a shirt in to the shopping cart at Target or buy a little something for random occasions. I didn’t even end up going to thrift stores that often! Instead, I shopped my closet and it was good.

    1. Amy

      I think that’s a great idea and one challenge I might give myself for the year. I really wish our thrift stores were better stocked around here though.

      1. brooke

        i love shopping at the Goodwill stores in my hubby’s home town of Dublin, OH – I call it Yuppiville. The women can’t be bothered to wear things more than one season so I can get several nice pair of Ann Taylor slacks for $4 whenever I go there! Our thrift stores around here are quite sad in comparison.

        1. Bethany Peters

          Same here. Our thrift stores stink. I get excited really about them and always come back either empty-handed or with a few random items that don’t fit and then I just wasted time and money.

          I’ve also tried the “re-purpose” route. I spent 5 hours one evening last month trying to make a dress from an old shirt, elastic and a skirt. It ended up not fitting right and I totally ruined all of it! All that time wasted!

          Or I’ll get a couple shirts that are on clearance and hate both of them. I’d rather know what I like and spend a bit more and wear it 2 or 3 times a week.

          1. brooke

            Visit Marla, then have her take you to the Goodwill on Sawmill Road. Its a beautiful thing. 🙂

            i agree – if most of us more carefully selected our clothing and just bought what was both comfortable and flattering, far fewer of us would have this problem of excess.

        2. Lori

          So true Brooke! I used to shop at the Once Upon a Child in Dublin because of the selection. Or I would garage sale the big ones in Dublin and find lots of great stuff. What a deal!

    2. Jen Hanson

      I like the “thrifty-store only” idea. I actually was planning on asking for a gift cards to resale shops instead of Target/Kohl’s this year for my birthday (that and fair-trade accessories).

      I really enjoy (maybe too much) “price dropping” when someone compliments me on an outfit. “Oh it was clearance at Target – only paid $2.00. Thankyouverymuch.” However, while I love a good bargain, I don’t like that it often comes at the expense of the poor who are making the clothing. A resale/thrift shop is a good alternative to clearance racks at the big retailers. I’m going to try and do better about this. (Although I know for a fact I don’t need anymore clothing, so the first goal is to just not buy more clothing, but if I feel like buying something for fun, I’m gonna stick to the resale and fair trade stuff.)

      1. Marla Taviano

        I’m a price-dropper too. Oy. (Not that I get a ton of compliments on my clothing.) I tell myself I’m just encouraging others that they, too, can get decent clothes for cheap. 😉

  14. Valerie Henry

    “Perhaps an obsessive occupation with dresses and hair and shoes detract us from the point of the gathering: a fixation on Jesus.”

    I wouldn’t say that I have an “obsessive occupation with” my appearance, but something happened a few months ago that really made me angry. My husband, who is the chairman of deacons at a very traditional rural Southern Baptist Church, decided one Sunday morning not to wear a tie to church. He was actually a little worried at his brazen protest of the status quo, but I told him nobody would notice. Guess you was wrong?

    At least two people commented on the fact that he was not wearing a tie, one in a very disapproving manner.

    I was flabbergasted and disappointed. Although one of the commenters was an older gentleman, I still think it’s just…..well…..lots of words come to mind, but just plain WRONG on so many levels!!!!!!

    I’m not much of a clothing person, either, but to be honest I admire those who do take the time to make themselves look nice!!! One woman said she liked to look good for her husband. I think my husband would appreciate that 8-). Also, in my culture, getting dressed in your best for Sunday church is a sign of respect for God’s house and a way of setting aside that day and that place as special.

    That said, I most definitely have more than I need, no question about that. I think when I come to clothing month I will concentrate on winnowing out the things my family no longer needs and getting them into the hands of those who do.

    1. Marla Taviano

      I’m going to say this very, very carefully, because I know I will never, ever fully understand the Southern mindset, but one thing that’s hard for me when it comes to how we dress for church is this: skirts, ties, nice clothes, dressing up fancy? Where does it say in the Bible that this is what we’re supposed to do?

      I think Jesus would say that’s what inside our hearts is so much more important than what we’re wearing. He even accused the Pharisees of being clean and perfect on the outside and filthy on the inside.

      I just think we’ve allowed culture to over-rule Jesus’ heart and words.

      1. Valerie Henry

        Uh…..Yeah! Thanks for being careful, but I have to agree with you!

        And yet don’t we all struggle with our culture? Years of well-intentioned “brainwashing” by a legalistic Independent Baptist culture, all of my FORMATIVE years LOL, are so very hard to overcome. And if you wear jeans to church just to annoy your elders, isn’t that kind of self-centered too?

        Believe me, my friends and I have this discussion about three times a year 😎

        1. Marla Taviano

          Yeah, wearing clothing just to rebel isn’t cool. Maybe ask God what he’d like you to do. If all the legalism is getting in the way of worship (and maybe it isn’t), maybe it’s time to find a new church home.

        2. Bethany Peters

          Being the youth pastor’s wife, a lot of our teens had started wearing jeans and t-shirts to church. I wanted to wear jeans, too, but my husband said out of respect for the older people in the church, he didn’t want me to (they would be offended). So I wore dresses and pants–just no jeans. I argued at first, but I wanted to submit to my husband. (I used the example of our moms. We don’t think it’s wrong to say “fart” but we don’t say it around them because they don’t like it. So instead we choose another word out of respect for them.) But then all those people ended up leaving our church and my husband said I could wear jeans to church so I wear them every week now! Here is my philosophy: I wear jeans every other day of the week, so why spend money on “church appropriate” clothes? We also want to be a place where outsiders felt comfortable and didn’t have to worry about coming to church and sticking out. Some people just don’t have the money to buy “church appropriate” clothes and some people won’t come because they don’t have the right clothes!

          1. Marla Taviano

            I think we should start saying fart around Mom. 😉 Just kidding. We only use that word selectively around here anyway. 😉

            I’m trying not to smile about all the people who don’t like jeans at church LEAVING. What the what?? Where in the Bible does it say, “Thou shalt not wear JEANS??”

          2. Bethany Peters

            I don’t think they left because of the jeans thing. I don’t really know the real reasons why anyone left. Coincidence or no, I don’t want to spread false rumors!

          3. John McCollum

            You know, I think it’s interesting. Paul tells us that we should modify our behavior to make concessions to the consciences of our “weaker brothers,” not to keep from ruffling the feathers of people who have themselves been Christians for 60 years, and who consider themselves the conservators of orthodoxy.

            If anything, the older and ostensibly more mature Christians should be the ones putting aside their preferences in deference to those who are younger. But boy, do we often have it the other way around.

            Sometimes the grumpiest, most easily offended people are the people who have been in the church for decades.

            Mature Christians should have the thickest skins and the tenderest hearts. Too often it’s the converse.

      2. missy @ it's almost naptime

        I am pretty dang unpretentious but I’ll tell you why I dress up for church and why I have my kids dress up for church.

        It’s because of who I am having dinner with.

        If I were invited to dinner at the White House, regardless of who was president, I would dress very, very nice. No way in heck would I wear jeans and flip flops. It’s a matter of respect for the occasion and the company.

        When I take communion at church, the Person I am dining with is far, far, FAR more important than the President and the occasion we are commemorating FAR more important.

        Which is why I have no problem wearing flipflops to bible study etc. But Worship is a different thing altogether.

        Not judging those who are wearing the flip flops – and sometimes feeling jealous. But that’s my rationale, and it’s what I’m teaching my children.

        Get it now? 🙂

        1. missy @ it's almost naptime

          HOWEVER –

          if I were to be ugly to someone because of what I were wearing, I think that would tick Jesus off something crazy.

          Years ago a guy friend and I went hiking in a small town not far from Houston. We decided impromptu we didn’t want to drive home after dinner and grabbed motel rooms (trust me, it wasn’t sketchy). The next day was Sunday so we went to the local Methodist church in our grubby hiking clothes, me having washed my hair with bar soap 🙂

          I was shocked at how rudely we were treated by every single person in that beautiful church building. The dirty looks of contempt! How dare people who looked like sinners set foot in their church!

          If I had been a visitor or a non-believer, I would have probably turned my back on Jesus forever. It taught me a very good lesson.

        2. Marla Taviano

          I love you, friend, but we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one. Based on Jesus’ behavior in the NT, if your fam met him for dinner, you guys would be way overdressed. 😉 He didn’t even wash his hands sometimes. And he probably only had one change of clothes, if that. And I don’t think they were very fancy.

          I understand wanting to respect him, but where does it say that nice clothes are what he’s looking for? Flip flops are a lot closer to what he himself wore.

          And why isn’t Bible study considered worship? Worship is focus and praise. I do that every day right here in my home. Nice church buildings, dress suits, patent leather shoes are fine, but they’re America-based, not Bible-based.

          Jesus was forever inviting dirty, yucky people to join him wherever he was. I’d rather those people feel like they belong at my church instead of looking/feeling like outcasts.

          1. missy @ it's almost naptime

            That’s fine but I AM a 20th century American, not a first century Hebrew. And in America we dress up for weddings, funerals, dinner at the White House. Worship deserves no less.

            And I believe that there is a difference between the worship that takes place during the liturgy than at other times – but that’s a whole nother conversation.

            Nice church buildings are not American. The Temple Solomon built? Pretty stinking fancy. Way more elaborate than the prettiest church I’ve ever seen, including the Vatican, and the very, very particular interior decorator with a flair for beauty and extravagance was God himself.

          2. missy @ it's almost naptime

            The earliest cathedrals, built within years of Christ’s death = also pretty fancy. Cathedrals thoughout history were majestic and beautiful in an attempt to display God’s majesty and glory. Fancy church buildings actually are biblical. So is studying scripture under a tree, but the idea that God deserves the best that humble man can possibly offer is not an American idea, it’s been around forever. And I think this extends to dress.

          3. Marla Taviano

            Once Jesus came, he WAS the temple. God never gave any more commands to build fancy churches. People met in humble homes. And on hillsides and stuff.

            You just inspired my latest fb status. 🙂 I asked if we should dress up for church. Lots of comments and then I said this:

            If dressing up is equivalent to “giving God our best,” how dressed up is dressed up enough? Wouldn’t a wedding gown and tux be the ultimate “I love you, Lord?” But what if I can’t afford that? If we all wear our absolute best, will it prove who loves/respects God most or just who has the most money to spend on clothes?

            What do you say to the person who can’t afford nice clothes? I personally don’t own a single thing suitable for a White House dinner (or Texas ;)).

          4. missy @ it's almost naptime

            But Marla, you can’t tell me that you wear flipflops and shorts to weddings. You find SOMETHING ‘appropriate’ to celebrate a very special occasion. If you got invited to the White House tomorrow, you’d find something cute to wear, and I just BET you’d even stress out about what to wear, and I wrong? I just say that because I cannot imagine a woman who would not.

            Did you wear flip flops to your wedding or did you try and be as beautiful as possible? Maybe you did wear flipflops 😉 but I looked prettier than I ever have in my life, and I will never look so pretty ever again. And it was appropriate, because I was marrying my beloved – and our very wedding was an earthly reflection of the wedding of Christ and his bride, the Church. I was presented to my husband in white, signifying holiness, in just the same way that Christ presents me, holy and blameless before the Father (can I get an AMEN???)

            And every week, this wedding is re-enacted when I worship at church. And by golly, I believe it deserves some lipstick and a cute skirt (which can look just fine with flipflops).

            It’s not about what you wear or how much it cost etc etc etc. The Lord looks on the heart. I know your heart, and I know that it doesn’t really matter what you wear Marla.

            But I believe it is more about how we have lost complete sight of the sacred and – and THAT is an American invention. Wearing sweats to church is just a further sign of how our society as a whole holds little reverence for the things of God.

            Now, I know y’all up North are more laid back about appearances as a general rule so maybe this is not as applicable as it is here. But down here, looking cute is still a cultural norm. Everyone’s brand of cute differs, but for the most part, we look cute. So when I see sweats in church, yeah, I’m a little horrified and begin to think we’re all going to hell in a handbasket.

            But I have similar thoughts when I see people at WalMart in their pyjamas too, so, whatever.

    2. Jennifer

      My husband is a Southern Baptist pastor, and at our last church (rural, smalltown, older congregation), he got major grief when he finally ditched the ties. People are Pharisees and want to push extra-biblical standards on others, especially when it comes to what we should look like for church.

      The church we’re at now (urban, big city, younger congregation) is one where no one cares what he’s wearing. They’ve figured out that the old way of doing it actually keeps the church from moving forward and from being inviting to the lost. So, it’s not all Southern Baptists. Just a remnant that I think is fading away…

      1. Valerie Henry

        I love to regale my friends with funny stories from my Independent Baptist past. When my family moved from an Independent church to a Southern Baptist one, my parents were aghast. It was like First Baptist was Sodom and Gomorrah. Don’t these people know that the Bible says “A woman should not wear that which pertains to a man?” Back in the 60’s we thought any girl who wore an ankle bracelet was certainly not of good character.

        But I grew up with good, God-loving, honest, kind people who led me to Christ and built a strong foundation for a life-long Christian walk, so I will not judge them for what they wore, any more than I would judge someone for wearing an ankle bracelet.

        Gosh, I wonder what would have happened back in the 60’s if one of my brother had gotten his nose pierced! Can you imagine? Oh, the humanity!

          1. Rachelle

            We have a godly woman who always dresses to the nines and has commented in the past that she believes we should dress our best for God on Sunday. The younger generations consistently wear jeans. A few Sundays ago she wore jeans too and I’ve never felt more respect for her!

          2. Rachelle

            I’ll try to muster the courage! 🙂 It was January, so maybe it was just too cold for anything else, however they were blue denim jeans(not slacks).

        1. Valerie Henry

          Well, that’s the thing. I think most (maybe I shouldn’t say most, but many) of our church members are Biblically illiterate. That may sound harsh, but I’m afraid it’s true. That’s why when David Platt says “read the Bible”, it’s radical!

        2. Jennifer

          We’re all probably inclined towards that — imposing extra-biblical standards — on others without knowing it. I know I’m guilty of it, more than I’d like to admit. So thankful for grace and for the correction of God’s word in my own life, for sure.

    3. brooke

      oh my! i understand where the “Sunday best” mentality comes from, but i also know that trying to live up to it has hurt people greatly so. people like my grandparents who didn’t have the money to cloth their families in “Sunday best” yet thought to do otherwise was disrespectful. in the summers my mother went barefoot EVERYWHERE except church because her parents could only afford one pair of shoes. just typing that breaks my heart. so i’m stopping now because smeared mascara looks good on no one.

      1. Marla Taviano

        Aww, that makes me so sad too. And there are still SO many people (here in America and around the world) who can’t afford to dress up. I so want them to feel loved and valued!

  15. Shelley

    First, thank you Marla, for having this read-a-long! This book has taken the focus off myself – a terrible funk I have been in for a few months – and put some perspective in my life. I can no longer compare myself and the things I have to my neighbors and need to look at things from a perspective of the rest of the world. Compared to the rest of the world, I have so much! Too much!

    My favorite part of this chapter is #4. “As I gaze upon their hopelessness [the families of her Ethiopian children], I imagine them calculating what I’ve spent on clothing alone, realizing that same amount would’ve kept their family fed and healthy for thirty years.”
    Wow! So true…..

    While clothes for me are not a big deal (I am happy to hear someone else dresses like me!), I still feel bad sometimes when friends of mine never wear the same shirt twice or always seem to have something new to wear. I get into that “poor me” attitude. I need to remember that clothes are not why I was born into this world and the mission is so much greater….

  16. Pingback: Naked? A 7 Clothing Fast | Living the Life of a Frugal Trophy Wife

  17. Shannon Wheeler

    What an awesome dialogue! As someone who used to care WAAAAY TOO MUCH about clothing and appearance, I find my real struggle is finding the sweet spot. In my conviction and heart change about clothes, handbags, shoes, jewelery and “stuff” I sometimes feel like I don’t know where the good place to land is. My refugee family came in January with one outfit apiece, and one of the teenage girls told me yesterday her one pair of non-sneakers fell apart, so I just feel so not-caring about going out to TJ Maxx to buy a pile of shoes I love but don’t need, when I have “family” who have one pair of fallen-apart shoes. It’s a very interesting thing to consider… God blesses us and wants us to enjoy our blessings, but I also think He helps us really not care so much about clothes and accumulating more and more when He shows us the lack that is surrounding us. I wrestle with this so much. Especially because I on the other hand want to look super-adorable for my husband. Loving all the commments! Thank you for bringing up this conversation!

    1. Marla Taviano

      “Super-adorable for your husband” is a great point. And for all the single girls out there too. I know one thing. If I was on the market right now, no guy would be buying. 😉 I just happened to marry a guy who likes plain and simple. Not every guy does.

      And I totally get what you’re saying about your refugee friends. Knowing and loving and being friends with people who are poor makes you really stop and think about what we do/have/wear.

      Love your point about the sweet spot. I think we all need to work toward finding our own, seeking God and not worrying about what everyone else’s sweet spot is.

    2. Amy

      Yes! Looking good for my husband is a huge deal for me. It’s something I learned from my parents and I think my husband appreciates. BUT I purposely put on yoga pants and tennis shoes for him because he likes that sporty look. Lucky me!

      1. Marla Taviano

        This comment makes me so happy. Speaking of, how’s your e-book doing? (And I don’t mean, how many copies have you sold? I mean, is it going well? Are you getting feedback? Are you glad you did it? Has it been hard?)

        1. Amy

          I’m so glad I wrote it. It’s one of the most freeing things I’ve ever done. As for others, I think people have really had some eyes opened.It’s such a personal issue though I think most people are keeping their opinions to themselves. The feedback from friends/family has been so great though. No one has disowned me yet 🙂

    3. brooke

      my husband likes my hair in a pony tail and me in yoga pants – so i can’t relate to that part, but certainly the balance is a hard one to find. thinking about the CS Lewis quote about humility being thinking of yourself less often – maybe its not a dull wardrobe that we need, but rather one that’s cute, trendy, but doesn’t require a lot of work to look good?

      1. Marla Taviano

        I LOVE that C.S. Lewis quote. Need it blown up on my wall. And GREAT application of it!!

        And did you see Amy’s comment up there? Her husband likes her in yoga pants too. 🙂

  18. Amy

    I’m a clothes-lover. I admit it. I love feeling creative on how I put an outfit together and I love feeling put-together. That’s just honesty. I do try to always buy on a sale and coupon if possible. I don’t buy with reckless abandon. But that #4 quote hurts to read. I’ve discussed this several times and wrestled with it and understand somewhere there is a balance. I don’t think I’m called to wear the same outfit 7 days a week but obviously I don’t feel comfortable spending $100 on jeans. I’m still working this out.

    1. Marla Taviano

      Maybe each time you buy something new, you could sell something old to offset the cost. Don’t know how practical that is. Just a thought.

      I’m no expert (obviously), but I think you have great fashion sense. And I think the creative thing is big. Our Creator God created us in his image.

      1. Amy

        Definitely do this in different ways. I’ve consigned, donated to Goodwill, donated to families. My favorite by far is giving it to someone directly. This works well for kids’ clothes but harder for my clothes. I think the big lesson for me is to not bring in a lot to begin with and then I don’t have to worry as much about where clothes should go.

        1. brooke

          if you have nicer, business type stuff, you might research battered women’s shelters in your area. they tend to appreciate dress clothing because some of these women leave home with only the clothes on their backs then have to look for employment to support their families.

  19. Marla Taviano

    When Jen talked about her imaginary meeting with Ben and Remy’s Ethiopian families, I could TOTALLY relate. Whenever we were at the orphanage in Cambodia, there were 2 older girls in particular who would run their fingers along my t-shirts and capris and say, “How much your shirt cost?” or “How much your pants cost?” And holy cow, it was SUCH a huge blessing to be able to answer honestly, “These pants cost me $1.00.” (thank you, thrift store) These kiddos have never owned anything that cost more than $5. And most of their stuff cost way less than that (like free).

    Confession time: I mentioned that most of my t-shirts are “for-a-cause” and so they usually cost $15-$25 each (since a portion of the proceeds is going to some ministry or other). When they asked me how much my shirts cost, I’d totally lie. “$10.” I justified it by telling myself that I couldn’t explain the whole deal in English words they’d understand.

    1. brooke

      when we were working the clothing line at the homeless ministry a couple of weeks ago it was raining. the lines are set up under a major interstate bridge (8 lane i think, maybe more) so no matter the weather we’re protected from the elements. which of course doesn’t mean we didn’t get wet walking to/from our cars – so all the volunteers had on hoodies or rain coats.

      we ran out of clothing very quickly and had to start saying “i’m sorry, we don’t have ______” including requests for rain coats. on the drive home my friend said that half way thru the night it hit her that we were lying. we *did* have rain coats – the ones on our backs. and while they were asking for something to protect them from the elements all night, we would be going home walking in the door and hanging them on the coat rack.

        1. brooke

          we’re tackling an item a month, so we don’t overwhelm our family/friends/coworkers/church-mates. but yes, rain coats definitely need to have a month of their own.

  20. Jennifer

    4. “As I gaze upon their hopelessness [the families of her Ethiopian children], I imagine them calculating what I’ve spent on clothing alone, realizing that same amount would’ve kept their family fed and healthy for thirty years.”

    You know, I don’t even care all that much about clothes, and I KNOW this quote still has to be true for what I’ve spent over the years. And generally, I stick to the same few basic pieces and leave the others untouched in my closet. So why do I have all this stuff?!

    Just thinking about going through it all and purging the mess makes my head hurt. Marla, do you want to come to Texas and do it for me? 🙂

  21. Jen Hanson

    4. “As I gaze upon their hopelessness [the families of her Ethiopian children], I imagine them calculating what I’ve spent on clothing alone, realizing that same amount would’ve kept their family fed and healthy for thirty years.”

    That quote slapped me in the face when I read it. WOW. Perspective.

    I’m not sure what category I fit in. Probably the second one. I have a pretty simple style – lots of basic solids that I can mix and match and some fun, creative accessories. I do have a problem sometimes with buying something just because I’m bored with what I have or don’t have a shirt in THAT color. But over all, my desire for accumulating clothing has gotten less and less over the years. In college I didn’t buy clothes for a full year and it was very eye-opening 1) How many times I wanted to shop just to have something to do and 2) How much I SO DID NOT need to buy any more clothes – what I had was more than sufficient.

    I am a sucker for cute accessories though, so I’m trying to save my compulsive “I’m bored” or “buy it even though I 100% don’t need it” shopping fixes for nice, fair-trade items that help someone in poverty.

    I’ve been sitting on a Target and a Kohl’s gift card for months now because I just plain don’t need/want anything in those stores (besides maybe some dark chocolate M&Ms from target…). Even when I have TRIED to think of a clothing item I could buy at the stores, I just can’t bring myself to buy something I don’t need.

    I sound kinda double-sided on this issue. Maybe I am. To sum up: I know I don’t need more clothes, it makes me sick sometimes how much excess I have especially when I don’t care all that much about fashion. I am 100% fine when I don’t buy more clothes but sometimes give into the compulsion for “more”.

    1. Marla Taviano

      I got a Kohl’s gift card last year and spent it on 99-cent cards from the card section and a bunch of socks (that were probably made my slaves–boo) for Livi and Ava.

      Now Target, I could find a million things to buy there.

      1. Rachel M.

        That reminds me, I got a Kohl’s card for Christmas and it took me an entire year to use it, finally got Christmas clothing for kids the following year! Yeah I don’t care about clothes either!!

    2. Bethany Peters

      Kohl’s has the BEST little boys clothes! They sell Carter’s brand which is my absolute favorite for baby boys! We’ve had some people give us random clothes items so I use my Kohl’s gift cards to get whatever is lacking. (For example, Jack has a lot of hand-me-down pants, but needs some onesies). Also Kohl’s has the best selection of modest swimsuits. I love their athletic swimsuit section!

      1. Jen Hanson

        I was pondering a new swim suit from Kohls actually… not sure how the post-twin tummy is gonna look in my current collection of tankinis. Might need to invest in a one piece come summer.

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