Plain as Prophecy

Plain as Prophecy

Friends and I recently commented on the question, “Why the Plain witness?” Most of us can say not much more than it is our vocation, an individual call and answer. When the Lord calls, the only answer is “He nai ne,” – “Here am I,” in Hebrew. It is not an answer of confidence, an answer of “Send me, because I am ready to go,” but an answer given trembling in the dark, “Yes, Lord.” What else can one answer?

St. Paul told us to be ready, to be girded in the armour of God; the Lord Jesus tells us that we need to be watchful, to be ready, to be sober, for the master will come quickly and without warning, and we need to go to his side with our lamps lit.

And that may be the Plain witness, to have our lamps lit. We cannot be hidden under a bushel, the world’s measure. We cannot be a city deep in a valley, no beacon or hope to the lost and terrified traveler. We are to be a city on a hill. We are the visible witness – not only to our own faith, but to the life of the world to come.

That is the prophetic witness. We have been called out of the world because the world is not His. The world has gone its own way. What is that world? It is the world of buying and selling, the world of entertainment and idle talk. It is the world of being concerning with one’s own pleasure. It is a world where people are used rather than honoured, where each is after his own and never mind what anyone else needs. That’s the world in which we have to live, but we don’t have to bow down to it. We don’t have to surrender and be assimilated.

Plain is a witness against the exploitation of innocents. Plain is a witness against the carelessness of modern living. Plain is a witness against industrialism and commodification. Plain is a witness against cold-hearted government and fiscal irresponsibility. Plain is a witness against the the world, the flesh and the devil – against greed, selfish pleasure and evil.

That is the prophetic witness of Plain.

There are false prophets – I can think of cults that use modest and plain-type dress to control their followers, but these are not people following Christ; they profess their own way and make themselves gods. They have usurped the style of Christians in order to hide themselves – wolves in sheep’s clothing. But by their works you will know them – secrecy, criminality, exploitation. We are warned that there will be many false prophets and christs as the world careers into self-destruction.

Those who practice modesty of heart are dedicatd to the scripture and to service to the least of God’s children, who are humble and meek and gentle in spirit – these are the true children of God and who walk in the Light. Their prophetic witness is growing.

“Let your light shine before men.”

27 thoughts on “Plain as Prophecy

  1. It’s generally rendered “hineni.” It took me a moment to make out what you were referring to.

    It’s archaic as well. Someone speaking that way would be looked at askance. It really renders better as “behold, me.”

    • Thanks for your input. I spelled it phonetically because the way you have it spelled leads to mispronunciations. It is the answer prophets give God when they are called – I wrote a paper on it in Hebrew studies. I’m glad I made you think.

      • What difference does it make? Okay, you know more hebrew than I do, but you have missed the point completely. Don’t distract yourself with irrelevancies.

  2. Yay! Amen! Go, Magdalena!

    :0D

    I think we are called to be signs of contradiction in a world rushing headlong the opposite way.

    It does indeed feel like groping in the dark, following a leading here and an intuition there, no seeing the point of it until it later unfolds.

    But I have been startled at the power of it – how it increases trust and respect and encourages people to stand up and be counted.

    I’ve also been intrigued to see what vehemence of opposition it calls forth: people who call themselves Christian suddenly unexpectedly antagonistic and hostile when they come across this witness.

    I have been where the Spirit is moving at times in the past, in the 70s, and again in the 80s, but not (personally) since then. And I feel it again now. It is unmistakeable. (Unless I’m completely wrong of course!!! Which is always a possibility!)

    • I sometimes see that people are pushed away, but in a positive manner. They begin to wonder why they do what they do, and they may be defiant – the young girls who flaunt their tight clothes and low jeans to a crowd of Mennonites at a farmer`s market, the people who start showing up in church in very casual, immodest clothes, and make a point of displaying the same for our benefit and that of the other, older, more conservative members. Giving them attention just feeds their success in their rebellion, so I pay no attention.

      I pray daily for the Spirit to move amongst our own parish, as well as in the Church throughout the earth. How long, O Lord-

  3. I have felt that antagonism as a covering woman. I have refered to it as “My life and being offends people”. Often, as Ember has stated, it comes from those who claim Christianity. I offend them because I do not wear clothing that exposes my body and I cover my head. I think they feel convicted about how they are undressed in public and, instead of responding by covering themselves, they attack me as if I have pointed a finger at them and yelled that they are naked and should be ashamed. I would never do that … however, I have had to avert my eyes on occasion. (this has been an issue involving both genders) It seems that the women react most negatively to me. My daughter and I have often received complements from older men that they find our manner of dress to be pleasant and lady-like.

    • I’m sure I get some of that antagonism still, but I pretty much ignore it. Yes, people think I’e joined a cult. Yes, people think it is an affectation, a kind of enthusiasm. (That`s a bad word to Anglicans.) Yes, others feel convicted by their failure. (Have a look if you can at some of the facebook comments. Even Quakers are struggling hard with this issue, and rejecting it for what I see as worldly reasons. But we all work out our own salvation.)

  4. Like Tracy, I have found women to be most bothered by my appearance. And like, her, when I was wearing a long skirts, modest blouse, and covering often men seemed to be very approving and respectful ( smiling pointedly, running ahead to open doors, giving a nod of the head). Now in Plain garb I elicit no reaction from men at all, but still get the negative from women. The men act like I am not there. Bruce says the plain clothes make it very clear I am off limits. I want to make it clear that I didn’t think the men who looked at me in an approving way were lustful, but Bruce thinks they feel free enough to look at me whereas with plain dress they don’t.
    Joanie

    • I have noticed the samet hing. when I was just in modest clothes, men were more attentive, probably because I looked feminine and approachable. Now I look like Oma!

  5. Never thought that my love of colour could be mistaken as aproachable. Need to think on that some more. My daughter and I wear long skirts/dresses and always have a second layer on top (usually a vest). The last comment we had was from a man who commented that he had just been lamenting to his wife about the immodesty of the young women and girls these days. And then commented that is was so refressing to see women and girls who choose to dress decently. Never really thought he was ‘aproaching’ me as he was a good 20 years older than I. I think Oma-like would be to my advantage at the present time. Time for prayer and contemplation … before I make new clothes. (my patterns should arrive soon)

    • Sometimes we mistake old-fashioned courtesy and friendliness for something else. We are now a suspicious and even paranoid people! But then, there are some weirdos out there, too…Here in Ontario, Plain Anabaptist women have a reputation for being unapproachable. This may not be justified – it may stem from language differences. I don’t really have any problem with strange men speaking to me in a polite and conversational way.

  6. Magdalena,

    “when I was just in modest clothes, men were more attentive, probably because I looked feminine and approachable. Now I look like Oma!”

    ROFL!! I know exactly where you are coming from! I drifted into ‘plainesque’ gradually, so it didn’t hit my family like a goods train… but I seem to be inextricably drawn into deeper plainness… (though still in prints and not in darks (Aussie heat makes darks onerus in summer).

    I’ve never noticed deferential treatment from the menfolk when out and about, though I have had complements from several mle lecturers at university (though with my bun covered, lace bandana, dresses or skirt/blouse/vest combos with sensible shoes and rather square frame , I am likely more like Oma also!! :-) Took the plunge and bought my first bonnet last night!!!! Oh me! I am barking mad!! (plus two pairs of coulottes to the ankle that the good ladies over at ‘katie’s Merchantile’ assure me are very feminine and not like trousers at all… ( (going to be on the back of a motorcycle in the medium term, so need something a bit more prractical for this).Thankfully, my family say nothing, any longer, and even though I at times sense that they do not approve, I think, that, at 40, I’ve earned the right to do what I believe is best… one of my SIL’s is also a skirts only type; she was questioned at my 40th birthday get together where she responded ‘I’m into skirts’. who can argue with THAT??? I’ve decided to adopt it as my own response :-)

    blessings,

    Sarah.

    • Culottes are/were known in the American West as split skirts, designed so that a woman could ride a man’s saddle. Once on the ground, the pleats were supposed to fall together like a whole skirt. I used to wear them but didn’t like the particular ones I had, since they looked like an elongated short in the back, while pleated in the front. I had a pattern for a riding habit that was a long split skirt, but never got it made up and gave away the pattern. Be sure to let me see a snap of you in the bonnet! You wild woman!

  7. The only difference I really have noticed is that people smile more, are more courteous to me. But here where I live there is a smattering of amish and many mennonite so it is not a big deal to the people here. i do get a few more curious stares when i venture from home but I just go bout my business.

  8. I too have had people who are not certain how to take me. I wear a head covering and skirts, but I sometimes wear t-shirts or sweatshirts instead of blouses. The other day I went to the zoo with my son’s class. One of the boys had no lunch and no money and did not want charity. So I asked him to do me a favor, since it is against our beliefs to waste food could he please help my son finish his lunch. The boy said he would and the problem was handled. The other mother in my group asked later how I got him to eat and I told her what I told him. She said that the way I was dressed, nobody knew what my beliefs were.

    I was in a long blue skirt, a black tshirt, a sweatshirt and pink sneakers. I had my hair in a bun and covered. I was surprised at her reaction.

    With a group of 11 7th grade boys I spent most of my day apologizing for the way they overran people going the other way in the zoo. Most people who I said that too just smiled or said no problem. Not once did anyone say anything obnoxious. I should probably mention I was in the Bronx. Perhaps because of the way I was dressed, they did not want to be offensive. I would like to think it had more to do with the smile on my face then the fashion or lack thereof on my frame.

    • I suppose some people just don’t know what it means to be plain. In an urban/large suburban environment, people often block out how other people look/act/dress because there is too much stimulation. She may have thought nothing more than that you are from a traditional European or Middle-eastern family, for instance. She may not even recognize that religious beliefs can influence how people dress.

      Your good manners and friendliness, whether it was from a social standpoint or your inner life, were the reason people responded favourably. And since your open and kind manner are part of your Christian identity, it doesn’t matter if they instantly “recognized” that. What matters is that you have a heart in Christ. Keep doing that, and don’t be too concerned about the externals. You are following your leading in modest dress; don’t feel compelled to adopt what doesn’t suit you or your family. We work out our own salvation!

  9. “There are false prophets – I can think of cults that use modest and plain-type dress to control their followers, but these are not people following Christ; they profess their own way and make themselves gods. They have usurped the style of Christians in order to hide themselves – wolves in sheep’s clothing. But by their works you will know them – secrecy, criminality, exploitation. We are warned that there will be many false prophets and christs as the world careers into self-destruction.”

    Your words could not be truer Magda.Having grown up in such a cult (Two by Twos/Christian Conventions) I know too well how modest dress can mask corruption, lies, child s*x abuse, heresies and secrets.

  10. The first thing I noticed as I changed from jeans and t-shirts to covering and longer shirts/dresses only was that I was responded to in a very different way. Men would stop and open the door for me (and my daughter) and we would be called ‘ladies’ often. It was like I suddenly became a female and worthy of some gentlemanly behavour. The thing that really got me was it was often the roughest looking fellows who were the most chivalrous. Maybe the feminine attire triggered a response that God has placed deep in men. I am aware that there are many ‘weirdos’ out there and am often on guard. I find that I struggle with attention that I don’t want from men that see me often. (some come to church and some to the soup kitchen where I work) The modest dress seems to attract them instead of repell. I am not doing anything to encourage them. (I have even checked with my pastor to ensure that I was not unconsciencely doing something to draw their attention. He assures me that I have not.) I do not concider myself a particulary handsome woman and am mystified by the attention. I have made it clear that I am not seeking a husband and that I DO NOT ‘date’.

    • I ofund that at the farmer’s market, my husband’s friends felt more comfortable chatting with me than with other women. One reason is that I don’t look like I’m inviting anything. Men are looking for women who are feminine, modest, and look like we can run a hosuehold! Can’t blame them, can we? Ifa polite answer that we are not single is all it takes, then I’m okay with that. I don’t wear a wedding ring, so that might puzzle some men.

  11. Magdalena, I have years of learning Hebrew and study in Orthodox Judaism, and knew instantly to what you were referring, no matter your transliteration style. It is apparent that you have studied in scripture this response people have given to God, and your thoughtful application is not thrown to the ground.

    • Thanks you for your affirmation. I did study Hebrew in seminary, and I did quite well at it. Sadly, I have neglected my studies lately, and need some refreshing. One thing my language professors noted about me when I studied Hebrew and Greek is that I “catch” the meaning of words and phrases rather than interpret literally.

  12. I am covered and people look at me both openly and in a bit more quiet way. I tend to look back at the people staring and smile and either they look guilty or smile back. I have never been treated badly but people do seem to like to ask me for directions and what time it is more now than before. I have been asked why I cover two times and once I got tongue-tied and just managed to say ‘because I want to’ which of course is true but I sounded like a stubborn teenager but the other time I answered ‘for religious reasons’ and he just nodded and asked nothing more.

    When I first started wearing my cap and not just a headband my colleagues avoided me a bit at first and did not dare to make as many jokes to me as before but now they treat me the same as before because I think that they have seen that it is more my outside than my inside that has changed and if there is change it is for the better. I still have a silly sense of humor and I will not go crazy if anyone swears or says something improper. I am still me, but with modest clothes and a cap.

    • Yes, it is the “inside” that changes the most but we turn in the direction in which we look – so if we look to Godliness and modesty, then our hearts will follow. I certainy haven’t lost a bizarre and quirky sense of humour myself!

      • I have changed quite a lot as it was not that many years ago I was an atheist and generally anti-religion, but my coworkers have never seen that side as I was already a Christian when I started working there but I was not covered. The thoughts and feelings that lead to covering were already there but I wasn’t strong enough then. I think they have realized this that the person they knew before I started covering is not that different to me now and they have sort of ‘loosen up’… I hope they also see that now there is less difference between my most inner self and what they see when they give me a quick glance but no one ever knows if people are that insightful.

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