Book Review of Enjoy by Trillia Newbell

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I would never have thought I would need to be told to enjoy things in life. I have the opposite problem: possibly enjoying things so much that they replace God. (Also known as idolatry.) But in her recently released book, Enjoy: Finding the Freedom to Delight Daily in God’s Good Gifts, Trillia Newbell doesn’t take us down the road of idolatry, but helps free those bound by the shackles of fear and guilt. This book is for those who are too busy to enjoy the things of earth and heaven now, for those who feel like enjoying the gifts of God in material objects and activities are not spiritual enough or below Christian status, and for those who feel guilty to engage in and fully enjoy the things God gives us here on earth. Trillia is doing the Braveheart war cry here; her pages cry, “Freedom!”

Trillia does an excellent job connecting our enjoyment of God’s gifts to the giver himself being the ultimate source of enjoyment. She makes these connections with the gifts of relationships, intimacy, work, rest, play, money and possessions, food, art, and creation. Every chapter ends with The Enjoy Project, which is an invitation to apply the concepts of each chapter and ultimately to practice enjoying the giver and his many gifts.

The book opens with Trillia talking about a special racing bike she purchased, but how she felt that simply enjoying the bike itself didn’t seem right to her. She felt that her cycling needed to have a greater purpose, so she legitimized her hobby by training for a triathlon. But then it turned out to be too much. Trillia says, “I began to ask myself why I felt I couldn’t have a hobby solely for the purpose of enjoyment.” She began to discover that leisure activities can be a legitimate and deeply meaningful way to glorify God. “And my prayer is that in learning to better enjoy, recognize, and appreciate these gifts, we’ll learn to more clearly see and more passionately worship the provider of all these good gifts.”

I started this book thinking I was already good at enjoying the pleasures of God’s own gifts, but Trillia helped me see my lack of enjoyment in my mothering. I love being a mom and I love my children, but there are many times I don’t enjoy them and instead view them as a bother. Trillia says, “What’s interesting about relationships is that in order to fully enjoy them, we must be focused on others.” Sometimes our enjoyment comes through sacrifice and self-denial. Enjoy helped me see my occasional lack of enjoyment in my children as a selfish act. Because typically when I’m not enjoying my children I am focused on myself. I do enjoy a lot in life, but I’ve learned there are some things I need to enjoy more and that can take discipline.

Book Review of Humble Roots

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What if humility is the key to rest for our weary souls? Hannah Anderson proposes that it is in her new book Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your SoulI’ve already sang my praise for Hannah’s first book, so I was eager to be apart of the launch team for Humble Roots. I was able to help promote Hannah’s message through social media and receive an advance copy of the book, which already released October 4th from Moody Publishers.

I have to say I did not expect to be disappointed with this book, because I already love Hannah’s writing, thoughts, and ideas. And I’m glad to say that I was right. There is something unique about this book on humility. Instead of focusing on the sinfulness of pride alone, Hannah shows us how humility is expressed in acknowledging our human limitations; that we are dependent and created beings made from dust who will return to dust. And once we own this truth, and remember we are not God, we will find rest.

According to Hannah, we are all running around in our own strength trying to do it all and be it all (superwomen and supermen) and weighted down by the burden of stress. Although organization, minimalism, and staying up late to get everything done can help, Hannah offers another avenue that gets to the root of the cultural plague of stress and anxiety. The answer? Humble roots. Remembering who are and who God is. Her book is grounded in this one section of scripture from Matthew 11:28-29:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Hannah helps us make the connection Jesus is making here. When we come to him in our weariness and desire rest, Jesus tells us to learn from him – the one who is gentle and lowly of heart. Finding rest for our souls means going to Jesus and learning about his humility. We must get back to our roots, which is being made in the image of God from the dirt of the ground.

The book also addresses several micro-topics, prescribing humility as the remedy. Issues such as: body image, shame, the gender wars, emotions and feelings, the limits of human reason, wisdom, death, gratitude and privilege, stewardship, our dreams, desires, and plans, and brokenness and suffering. And Hannah takes all of this and ties everything together with the imagery of plants, flowers, and gardening, basically things that are earthy, to remind us of where we come from.  The rural agrarian feel of living off the land, man and nature, that which is simple and natural, is the beat of this book on humility. Replete with wonderfully told stories from her own life and a diverse and interesting use of quotes that support the larger message of the book, Hannah brings our knees to the ground as we dig our hands deep down into the soil of humility.

 

Classic Summer Reading: An Intro to Science Fiction for Serious Christian Readers

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The summer is almost over. Maybe you already have a summer reading list or maybe you’ve had no time. Either way, if you are looking to start that list now or continue to add to it, I have some book suggestions for you. I started this Classic Summer Reading list a long time ago, and my friend and former guest writer, Ryan, is back to carry on the tradition with some of his favorite science fiction. 


Science Fiction. What comes to your mind when you hear those words?

Do you think about silly movies with aliens trying to end human civilization and harvest us for our organs? Or do you think of forty-year-old men that still live in their moms’ basements and who speak fluent Klingon?

The reality is that, at its best, Science Fiction is a serious genre of literature that delves into the ethical, philosophical, and even theological problems posed by the modern world. Ever since Mary Shelley first introduced the world to Frankenstein’s monster almost two hundred years ago, Sci Fi has provided a venue for wrestling with worldviews and answers to ultimate questions in light of the technological and societal changes that humanity is undergoing at a rapid pace. Great Science Fiction authors speculate about humanity’s future (or even about alternative histories), pontificate about human nature, and envision ideal societies.

For Christians especially, Science Fiction provides a unique challenge and opportunity.

Here’s why:

We live in a day and age where we will be forced to deal with ethical challenges and changes to society that our forebears simply never had to think through. Case in point: on August 4th, the National Institutes of Health announced a proposal to lift a ban on funding for experiments that use human stem cells to make animal embryos that are partially human. Now, we could easily just dismiss this sort of thing as “playing God,” and I think we’d be right in that assertion. But what a missed opportunity that would be to engage with the question on a deep level, and to offer a fully formed Christian ethics in response.

And who amongst us thinks this will be the last scenario we’ll face like this? Science Fiction offers us a “practice field” for such questions.  Many Science Fiction authors present worldviews that contradict the Christian faith, and which can challenge us to think through what our own responses would be. We can develop our thinking and our worldview in fictional worlds as we await the inevitability of technological advance in the real world. We can be proactive, rather than reactive, about how we will witness to our faith in the “brave new world” we (and our children) will face in the coming years.

Not only is Science Fiction enjoyable, high quality literature, it’s also a great way to sharpen your mind and your worldview.

So read some good Sci Fi! Not sure where to begin? Here are some lightning reviews of a handful of classic Science Fiction novels that would be a great place to start:

Dune by Frank Herbert

A lot of people consider Dune to be the greatest science fiction novel ever written (and I’m certainly sympathetic to that belief). It’s been said that Dune did for Science Fiction what The Lord of the Rings did for fantasy. A complex novel that is vast in its scope, the issues in play in Dune include ecology, economics, psychology, educational theory, and the role of religion in society and politics.

Dune tells the story of Paul Atreides, the heir to a ducal throne in a distant future on a far away planet. He and his family are caught up in a political intrigue over control of the planet known as Dune, the only known source of a spice that enables inter-stellar travel. Paul is betrayed by a close member of his father’s entourage, only to discover that he may be at the center of multiple messianic prophecies. In order to avenge the betrayal, and safeguard his loved ones, he has to figure out quickly how to survive unbelievably harsh desert conditions, fit in to a completely foreign culture, and watch out for giant sand worms the size of buildings.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? By Phillip K. Dick

You may not have heard of Phillip K. Dick (or PKD, as he’s known to his fans), but you have definitely heard of movies or TV shows based on his works: Total Recall, Blade Runner, Minority Report, and The Man in the High Castle are all screen adaptions of PKD works. His worldview can fairly be described as Gnostic, though many of his ideas are also clearly influenced by mental health problems and drug abuse. His outsized influence on recent Science Fiction is a testament to both his brilliance and his originality as a writer.

 Androids is a post-apocalyptic novel that follows a bounty hunter’s attempts to earn enough money to buy an animal (a huge status symbol on a planet where most animal life is extinct). In order to do so, he picks up a job killing six androids that have gone rogue. It’s one of PKD’s more accessible works, and a great introduction to some of the philosophical themes he deals with. Among the issues dealt with in the novel are the question of what it means to be human, as well as epistemology and the nature of reality as a whole. It also tackles an issue that Christians are going to likely encounter very, very soon: should artificially-created beings that share human DNA be afforded the same rights as humans?

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

This one is often considered to be another contender for “greatest Sci Fi novel of all time.” Here we get to grapple with war, genocide, drone strikes, our ethical obligations to other species, the effect that video games have on the minds of children, and all sorts of other current issues. This novel has actually been on the recommended professional reading list for the U.S. Marine Corps.

Earth has narrowly managed to survive an attack from insect-like aliens, and must prepare for their inevitable return. A child prodigy named Ender is recruited to train for zero-gravity warfare by being put through a series of simulations along with other precocious children. Ender and his older siblings find themselves dealing with an adult world and a military mindset that, brilliant as they are, they aren’t quite mature enough to handle.

Eifelheim by Michael Flynn

A much more recent novel than the others on this list (it was published in 2006), Eifelheim is also the only work in this list written from a Christian worldview. There are two simultaneous narratives presented in this story: first, we meet the inhabitants of Eifelheim, a 14th century German village in the Black Forest, who become the first people to make contact with aliens after a spaceship crashes nearby. The second narrative follows a modern historian and his theoretical physicist girlfriend as they investigate the mysterious disappearance of Eifelheim from the map after the year 1349.

Michael Flynn does a great job diving into the problem of evil and the role of philosophy in the Christian faith. The Medieval German Christians in the novel grapple with whether a non-human can become a follower of Christ, even as they question their own faith as the Black Death begins to devastate Europe. Although this novel is a bit more “hard Sci Fi” (meaning it dives into a lot of technical details, and actual science and math features more prominently) than some of the others on this list, the narrative is compelling and enjoyable, and the novel as a whole is extremely rewarding.


Ryan McLaughlin is a math teacher, husband, and father of three. He lives with his family in the Tampa, FL area, and is a member of St. Andrew-the-First-Called Orthodox Church. When not enjoying quality works of Science Fiction, Ryan likes to read Russian novels, Irish poetry, Greek theology, and English political theory, all preferably accompanied by Floridian craft beer.

Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image — Book Review

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Living in the broad brushstroke of a reformed and complementarian background, this book Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image, comes as a refreshing take on some controversial topics. As a young girl I grew up in a church with some rigid outlines for gender roles inside and outside of marriage (some even promoted extra-biblically in my local church culture.)

Much of the women’s ministry I grew up in was comprised of pink passage topics aimed specifically at women: Titus 2, Proverbs 31, being keepers of the home, the submissive wife, a quiet and gentle spirit, domesticity, and nurturing. All of these topics are still valuable and I strive to adopt them in my life, but it’s dangerous to isolate these “women passages” from the rest of scripture. And of course the rest of scripture still applies to women, because like men we are equally made in God’s image. Hannah Anderson refers to this as being made imago dei, which when literally translated means “in the image of God.”

Anderson uses Romans 11:36, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things“, as her general reference point in the larger purpose of the book. What is her larger purpose? I believe it is to unmask the greater purpose of being women made in the image of God — who strive to live in communion with God, communion with others, and be good stewards of creation. A woman’s prime identity is to share in the divine nature of her God. One day we will be complete in this union with our maker as he glorifies us in heaven, but until then our purpose is to become more like Christ here on earth.

According to Anderson we can’t just define and understand ourself by different categories — gender, race, calling — we must come back to the central focus of identity, which is God himself. Instead of making gender roles the starting place for discussion, Anderson believes we must make the starting place of discovery at imago dei. She says:

“When you understand this, when his identity becomes the foundation for your identity, the details will finally make sense.”

This book also makes an appeal to treat identity as a complex issue, not something that can be completely reduced to one or two things: namely, being a wife and mother. We can’t just be satisfied with haggling over roles, but we must come back to the foundation of the basic questions of identity: “Who am I and why am I here?” When we get this straight Anderson says,

You will finally be free to live beyond the roles and labels and expectations because you will finally be free to live in the fullness of God himself.”

I don’t think Anderson has deserted the traditional biblical womanhood that we see in scripture, she is just giving it a fuller and deeper treatment. She says,

“We make womanhood the central focus of our pursuit of knowledge instead of Christ.”

She does a tremendous job of bringing our focus to the perfect image bearer who lived, died, and rose for us, so our identities could heal from the brokenness around us and in us. It is through Christ alone that we can fulfill imago dei once again like in the Garden of Eden. Through Christ we can better image God through how we love, give, and learn.

This book deeply impacted me in how I view myself — as a person first and foremost — before God and others. It also showed me how great and glorious our God is in his goodness, wisdom, sovereignty, power, and love, and how he is all of his attributes unified at all times — God is a living paradox. We can’t dissect him into categories; he is much bigger than our human categories. I was also challenged to more fully “partake of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4) in Christ; I was challenged to embrace his loving providence for my life. Like on page 139 when Anderson says:

“Providence is the intricate combination of God’s power and His love working together to bring about the best for his children — working together to make them exactly who they are meant to be.”

Honestly, it’s been a long time since I’ve read a book and walked away wanting to worship God. I think Anderson has done that in this book, and that is why I highly recommend it to you. She does a powerful job of showing how we as humans are truly made for more.

“We have all forgotten what we really are.” — G.K. Chesterton

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.” — C.S. Lewis

Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life — A Book Review

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My three year old spills things. My almost one year old spills things too. Because of this I have a good idea of what the word saturate means.

1. to cause a substance to unite with the greatest possible amount of another substance, through solution, chemical combination, or the like.

2. to soak, impregnate, or imbue one thoroughly or completely.

In Jeff Vanderstelt’s book, Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life, he is talking about something more spiritual than kids who spill things. He is referring to our life with Christ spilling over into our everyday mundane lives.

“It has always been God’s intention to choose normal, everyday people, and to show his amazing power and glory through them.”

Vanderstelt isn’t talking about another church program based out of a church building, but a way of life that makes Christ’s mission and ministry the core of our very lives. Because we are the church. We gather together every week in a building and then our weekday is spent in our various vocations and activities. Our weekdays are the lifeblood of Gospel living and Gospel mission. As Vanderstelt says:

“Church is the people of God doing the work of God in everyday life.”

As the Church, we need to be equipped on how to be intentional where God has us. What opportunities are around us for ministry and mission? Or what opportunities can we make for ourselves in the place and season God has us in right now? Vanderstelt refers to Jesus as our example in this:

“Jesus lived a normal, quiet life for thirty years in an unknown town….The difference is that Jesus did everything for his heavenly Father’s glory. He lived all of his life as an expression of his love for God the Father…He set apart every aspect of life as holy unto the Lord.”

This aspect of the book encouraged and challenged me. Being a stay at home mom is as normal and real as it gets. My days are consumed with taking care of little ones, and I’m learning that this work is holy unto the Lord; it is my primary ministry and mission in life right now. This was the encouraging part, and yet the challenging part is the area I am weak in right now, which is extending this mission and ministry beyond my family. Because of this book I’m now intentionally thinking through ways I can (with my family) reach out more to fellow Christians and non-christians in my home.

The rest of the book outlines ways to engage in all-of-life discipleship, which is learning to follow, trust, and obey Jesus in our everyday lives. Here is an excerpt on three key environments that are essential for this type of discipleship:

Life on life, where our lives are visible and accessible to one another; life in community, where more than one person is developing another; and life on mission, where we experience making disciples and, while doing so, come to realize how much we need God’s power.”

Here is another great summarizing excerpt on what it means to be the body of Jesus (the Church):

Who is God? He is our King (the Son). What has he done? He came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Who are we? We are servants of the King of kings. If we believe this, what do we do? We serve the least of the people of the world as an act of worship of our King. “

 You don’t have to be a pastor or missionary to engage in the mission and ministry work of Christ; you just have to believe, by faith, in the saving work of Jesus Christ. We are sent by God into the world through our normal lives: our day jobs, school, community work, the grocery store, the local library, and our homes. This is true Gospel saturation. This is how God chooses to fulfill his work, plan, and purpose on the earth until he returns. We get to be apart of this in the everyday stuff of life; let’s saturate where we are right now.

Who is God? He is Spirit. What has he done? He sent and empowered Jesus the Son to take on flesh and to seek and save what was lost. Who are we? We are missionaries, sent and empowered by the same Spirit. If we believe this, what do we do? We make disciples of Jesus through proclaiming the gospel in the power of the Spirit.”

 {This book was a complimentary copy from Crossway book publishers.} 
 

Book Review: The Biggest Story

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Once upon a time my husband pre-ordered a book from Crossway. We waited and waited; then – in a brown package – it appeared at our doorstep. Our order had arrived and we couldn’t be more pleased. The End.

Not a very exciting story, is it? Well, the story inside the book from my personal story is a very exciting story. It’s about Jesus Christ — the most important character. Author Kevin DeYoung does a great job telling the greatest story ever told in his new children’s book: The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden.

DeYoung takes adults and children on a sweeping aerial tour of the Bible; he weaves together key stories and thematic elements from the beginning to the end of God’s Word and presents us with a beautifully concise and simple masterpiece. Adults and children alike will have a firm grasp of the broad purpose and scope of the Bible after reading this book. In all ten short chapters DeYoung provides a God and Christ centered approach to the Biblical text — he consistently points everything back to God and the person of Jesus Christ.

Not only has DeYoung done well constructing the broad Biblical story, but the illustrator — Don Clark — has brought truth alive through his art. As I’ve been reading this book to my three year old for the second time, he asks questions about the images; he is captivated by the stories contained in each illustration. Because that is what Clark has done —  he not only has drawn images depicting the reality of the stories, but has also drawn abstract images conveying abstract Biblical themes.

Reading this book to my preschooler has stirred up questions from him and discussion between us, but it’s also reminded me about the promises of God in Christ: his faithfulness to a faithless people, and the greatness of God’s redemptive plan from the beginning. I recommend it as a bedtime story for kids, but also a book for adults to remember how they are apart of this big story. And if you rip out any of the pages to frame as art around your house, I won’t blame you.

eden1chpt2ark12sons1david-goliath

Book Review: Women of the Word

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When was the last time your face was shining? I don’t mean oily skin problems. I mean shining from beholding God. Seeing him for who he is in all of his attributes and holiness. Moses’ face shone when he came down from Mount Sinai and received the Ten Commandment ‘s from the Lord (Exodus 34:29-35.) The light emanating from his face was so intense he needed to wear a veil. Moses spent extended periods of time with the Lord and it showed, literally.

In Jen Wilkin’s book, Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds, her goal is for women to have shining faces like Moses. She makes it clear the aim of bible study is to behold God, and in beholding him we will become like him. “We must be altered by the vision,” as she says. Before we can change upon seeing God for who he is, our heart and mind must be touched first.

Heart and Mind

The subtitle of the book, “How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds,” was what drew me in in the first place. I’m not a big fan of christian women writers who only appeal to women’s emotions, without stimulating their minds. Also, I was interested to see what a woman would have to say about a male dominated topic in the church. Most christian women writers I grew up with either wrote bad fiction or wrote non-fiction that was redundant about biblical gender issues and roles.

True beauty, Titus 2, modesty, purity, and being keepers of the home are mostly covered by women writers, while the men write about Bible doctrine, reformed theology, Bible studies, and commentaries. We shouldn’t leave behind the important Biblical truths aimed specifically at women, but it’s refreshing to start seeing women writing for women with new topics. What better way for women to truly understand and apply gender-specific Biblical truths, and more, than by learning a proper method for personal Bible study?

So, what exactly does Wilkin mean by studying with both our hearts and our minds? We must seek to know God with our minds and love him with our hearts. These are interrelated concepts. We can’t worship and adore an unknown god, (Acts 17:16-34) and seeking knowledge without growing in our love for God and others is akin to the clanging cymbal Paul takes about in 1 Corinthians 13. Love without knowledge is fluff, and knowledge without love is puffed up arrogance. As Wilkin says herself,

Our study of the Bible is only beneficial insofar as it increases our love for the God it proclaims. Bible study is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself.

The How of Bible Study

Not only does Wilkin tell us why we should study the Bible, but she tells us how to study it. She unleashes her five P’s of study: purpose, perspective, patience, process, and prayer. I love how she opens up the discussion in the first few chapters by sharing her story of becoming a woman of the word. She also brought my eyes back to the focus of the Bible — not me, not the characters in the Bible stories, but God. She clarifies this further by saying,

The Bible does tell us who we are and what we should do, but it does so through the lens of who God is. The knowledge of God and the knowledge of self always go hand in hand. In fact, there can be no true knowledge of self apart from the knowledge of God.

We don’t serve an unknown god; he has made himself known in his word. Through this book I was personally encouraged to become a student again and dig deeper into Biblical literacy. All through school I was tempted to take short cuts when it came to studying. Studying the long and hard way is counter-cultural in the church and in the world. God wants us to be his students so that we might know him, love him, and serve him better. Moses’ face was transformed by his vision of God; let it be said of his people today.

Review of Wendy Alsup’s Bible Study in Ephesians

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Peace through grace. This is how Wendy Horger Alsup would summarize her bible study through Ephesians. A phrase she borrows from theologian and scholar John Stott.

According to Alsup’s Introduction in By His Wounds You are Healed: How the Message of Ephesians Transforms a Woman’s Identity,Ephesians defines my identity and security in Christ.” Alsup is one of the women forging the new path ahead for Bible doctrine books written for women by women.

She encourages women to not just pick up books on women specific topics written by women authors, but to delve deeper into a true and sound study of a book of the Bible. By bringing her feminine touch to the realm of Bible doctrine, she aims to help women apply the truth in Ephesians to their lives. She is also a wife and mother and occasionally touches on those applications as well.

Maybe you’ve been to a ladies bible “study”, where it’s really more snacking, giggling, and conversing about life than actual studying. Maybe you’ve been to some that are more emotionally driven, where women ask themselves how a particular passage makes them feel. Well, this study is not the same. Alsup takes on historical context, original intent, and examines each verse and chapter against the message of Ephesians in its entirety. Alsup sums up Ephesians by saying,

 “The Apostle Paul is intent that we understand the blessings that have been eternally secured for us by Christ despite our unworthiness, and from understanding those unconditional blessings, we then learn obedience.” 

The book is broken down into 4 sections that each cover roughly 2 chapters of Ephesians, which is then broken down by every couple verses. The actual biblical text is included prior to Alsup’s commentary, and each chapter has space for reflections. There are discussion questions in the back of the book as well.

My women’s group at church just finished using this study, and I think it facilitated great discussion. It personally affected me to seek greater humility from the Lord. Also, it challenged me to love people in my life in the way Christ loves me. Namely, to be more forbearing, tolerant, and patient in how I love my family. If it can change me, it can change you.

Book Review of Mom Enough

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Are you mom enough? The title from a Time magazine cover above an image of a woman breastfeeding her 4 year old son. This was more fuel added to the already flaming mommy wars. The book, Mom Enough: The Fearless Mother’s Heart and Hope, poses a different question: is God God enough?

This compilation of Desiring God blog posts written by eight different women answers these questions by saying moms are not enough, but God is enough. Tony Reinke says in the Editor’s Preface,

The aim of Mom Enough is not to boost a mother’s self-sufficiency, but to build her fearlessness as she finds her sufficiency outside of herself.”

Topics that are covered include biblical perspectives on the mommy wars, femininity, treasuring Christ, dependent parenting, anxiety, and the calling and mission of motherhood.

Each post is 2-4 pages of the nitty gritty issues from mothers desiring to live out what they are writing. It’s real, relatable, and refreshing. In the mundane and chaos of the everyday it’s great to pick up this slim book and be greatly encouraged. It definitely revived me throughout the day, challenged my outlook on certain areas in motherhood, and gave me fresh hope and vision to live for Jesus in my home.

Some of my favorite posts are Rachel Jankovic’s, “Motherhood is a Calling (And Where Your Children Rank),” “Mommy Wars are Spiritual Wars,” by Carolyn McCulley, and “The Amazing Calling of Motherhood,” by Trillia Newbell. I’ll close with some of my favorite quotes from each post:

The modern mom doesn’t always like to be identified as a mother…First and foremost, we are united to Christ…But this doesn’t mean we must deny the significance of being a mother…We don’t need to shed our titles as moms, we leverage our titles for what they mean for the glory of Christ.” — Trillia Newbell

Your daily life may consist of dozens of repetitive tasks that feel mundane and irrelevant. This is absolutely not true! You are engaged in spiritual warfare. By bearing and nurturing life, you are reflecting the life-giving characteristics of our holy God. Made in his image, you are reflecting him when you care for the lives he has created.” — Carolyn McCulley

You represent everything that out culture hates, because you represent laying down your life for another — and laying down your life for another represents the gospel.”  — Rachel Jankovic

Book Review: The Bible Story Handbook

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You ever get the feeling you’re doing something wrong? Maybe you studied long and hard for that big test, but no amount of memorized notecards can erase the sick feeling swirling in your stomach. When it comes to studying for a test it’s not just knowing the correct information that matters, but how you study the information is important too. A correct method of study is a crucial part of test preparedness.

This factor is exactly what John and Kim Walton address in The Bible Story Handbook: A Resource for Teaching 175 Stories from the Bible. (I received a complimentary copy of this book from Crossway through their Beyond the Page program.) Sunday School teachers and parents are equipped with the information and sometimes the theology, but rarely are they equipped with the correct methodology. The purpose of the Walton’s handbook is to supply a method of study for parents and Sunday School teachers as they prepare lessons; it is meant as a supplement to a bible curriculum.

The Walton’s say:

“If the teacher desires to equip children to submit to the Bible’s authority, the teacher must model a proper method for identifying what the Bible, in its authority, teaches.”

Before delving into the 175 bible stories outlined by a lesson focus, application, biblical context, interpretational issues, background information, and mistakes to avoid section, the Waltons provide a foundation first. Answering questions like, “Why do we teach bible stories?” “Is there a right and wrong way to use bible stories?” and “What is the big picture of the bible?”

These first few chapters in the book challenged me personally in how I approach God’s Word on a daily basis. Am I submitted to the authority inherent in scripture? Or do I use scripture to enhance my own agenda? The old and new testament bible stories are not just filled with characters that are models for good and bad behavior, but each story is ultimately about God. All of scripture is God revealing himself to us through varying means. According to the Walton’s,

“Sunday school lessons must not focus on the human actors at the expense of God’s self-revelation.”

More important than “action points” in a story are the “belief points.” In the Walton’s own words:

“As we learn stories, our belief should be affected. If our belief is affected, our behavior should change.”

Not only were the first few chapters personally challenging to my own approach to scripture, but I now plan on using this resource as part of my bible homeschool curriculum. I’ll begin preschool at home this fall with my son, and I’m excited to use the Bible Story Handbook as my reference in shaping how I share bible stories with him.

I love how the Walton’s are seeking to equip parents and teachers first before the lesson reaches children. After reading it I feel equipped to teach my son the bible with a God-centered approach and not just as a moral framework for his life. I can’t wait to tell him the ultimate story that God shares with us in the bible. It’s all about my son knowing God and coming into relationship with God through Jesus.

“If we want to lead others to knowledge of God, we will tell them God’s stories beginning in their early childhood. “

Housewife Theologian Book Review

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Today housewife has become a dirty word. In Christian circles it has sometimes become a shameful thing. We can be embarrassed to admit our occupation to others. Our culture doesn’t see much value and meaning in being a housewife in comparison with working outside the home. A housewife is second rate; uneducated and imprisoned.

In her book, Housewife Theologian: How the Gospel Interrupts the Ordinary, Aimee Byrd attempts to redeem the word housewife and transform it into something glorious; and something deeper than we make it. Byrd encourages us to think. Our days are not just about laundry and dishes, but should be rich in theology. What we know about God should be apart of the ordinary in our lives; what we know and believe should affect how we live. Byrd describes it this way:

“Truly Christian thinking involves an eternal perspective on our daily matters and contemplation of how they fit into the dogma of the drama in which God has cast us.”

Byrd explains how our femininity, beauty, identity, sexuality, self-image, sin, and attitudes are all out workings of our theological thoughts. This is so important in this day and age as we are surrounded by false teaching that impedes the calling the Lord has given us as women. Byrd teaches us how to not be ‘gullible housewives,’ who believe anything that sounds nice, but to be sharpened in our pursuit of Christian thinking.

Self-Image and Identity

Some of my favorite portions in the book cover self-image and identity. These two issues are typically areas of deception for women. A lot of the lies our culture promotes about these two topics sound pretty truthful. Today you can hear people talking about finding themselves. Feeling lost, like they have no purpose; trying to figure out who they are. It’s not just non-Christians that feel this way, but many Christians.
My only question about these feelings are: Where are you right now?

One of my heroes, Jim Elliot, says this,

“Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”

Wherever God has you right now, whatever place, position, or season, is exactly God’s will for you. If we examine our doctrine and truly believe God is sovereign, then we know where we are and what we are doing now is God’s will for us. We don’t have to travel the world or take a pottery class to find ourselves. If we are in the Word of God, we know who we are and who we belong to.

I love the quote from C.S. Lewis in Byrd’s book. It truly summarizes this issue in our culture of finding self:

“The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life, and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end . . . and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will really be yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

Identity and Idolatry

When it comes to our identity as women, idolatry is not far behind. It’s easy for us to make ultimate things out of good things, as Byrd describes it. It’s also easy for us to find something to attach ourselves to; something that identifies us. Then we end up looking to that thing as our source of happiness. When it’s taken away we respond in sin.

If we are studying and thinking through God’s Word and taking part in Church fellowship we will be setting ourselves up for idol exposing and killing. What are those things that are not Christ that we are looking to fulfill us? To make us happy? To give us purpose? Maybe it’s having a successful career? Getting rich? Maybe being a good housewife? Maybe it’s having a job outside of the home or not having a job outside the home? Maybe it’s looks?

Maybe we need to look for Christ to identify us. We do that when we are faithful housewife theologians who study the Word of God with rigorous discipline and humble prayers for grace. We are true to ourselves (as our culture calls it) when we immerse ourselves in Christ. We follow our dreams (again a modern cultural saying) when we discover the ultimate dream that is Christ himself.

He is our treasure and pearl of great price. Christ defines us as women and shows us that true value, worth, and meaning is found in losing ourselves and finding Him.

Home is Your Canvas: An Edith Schaeffer Book Review

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Maybe you’ve heard of the tortured artist. A frustrated and alienated character (also, real-life person) who feels like no one gets him or his art.  Edith Schaeffer, in her book, The Hidden Art of Homemaking addresses this type of person. The book is aimed towards women in the home, but at times also men.

Before you run and hide for cover at the word homemaking, know that Schaeffer is not trying to add another ball for you to juggle in life, but opening our eyes to the importance of beauty and order. Schaeffer shows us that homemaking is not drudgery, but a blank canvas for us to express ourselves. Art doesn’t just have to be framed paintings hanging on our walls; it can be a colorfully arranged plate of food for dinner, fresh and thoughtfully arrayed flowers on a table, or a well designed book case display.

The Little Things Matter

Why should these little things matter to us around our homes? Schaeffer says it plain and simple: because we are Christians. She presents the case that we are creative, because we are made in the image of the Creator God. God is the originator of all art forms. So, Christians should be the prime advocates of art, creativity, and beauty.

“The Christian should have more vividly expressed creativity in his daily life, and have more creative freedom, as well as the possibility of a continuing development in creative activities.”

“But, not forgetting the above, then what I call ‘Hidden Art’ should be more important to one who knows and admits that he is made in God’s image, than to those who do not.”

Everyday Details

Schaeffer refers to hidden art, not in the way of a career or profession, but as the everyday details of one’s life. We should use our hidden art in our homes everyday as a way to enrich other people’s lives, and represent the beauty found in Christ. Each chapter in Schaeffer’s book explores different art forms and how we can express them in our homes; it’s a way to give ourselves (the tortured artist) an outlet, but also a way to enrich our families and guests.

“A Christian, above all people, should live artistically, aesthetically, and creatively. We are supposed to be representing the Creator who is there, and whom we acknowledge to be there.”

“If we have been created in the image of an Artist, then we should look for expressions of artistry, and be sensitive to beauty, responsive to what has been created for our appreciation.”

You don’t have to be a married woman to read this book, heck, you don’t even have to be a woman. You just need to be someone who has some kind of living space in which to exercise your art. Whatever you call home…that is your canvas!

This Means War: Loving the Little Years (Motherhood in the Trenches)

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Put your war paint on. No, you’re not a soldier; you’re a mother. According to Rachel Jankovic’s book subtitle for Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches, you and I are in the trenches. Maybe you’re thinking…yes, my home does look something like a war zone. But this isn’t what Jankovic is talking about. She’s referring to a battle with our hearts in everyday life as a mom. It’s a tough and humble job being in the trenches, but there is much joy to be found in it.

There is much joy to be found in Jankovic’s book as well. It’s not at all ironic that a busy mom of so many littles would write a little book on the little years. She has also written this book with busy mom readers in mind, thankfully. The chapters are typically no longer than 3 pages. So, you can get a chapter in between spilled milk, food fights, and blowouts. I would sum up Jankovic’s book as a quick dose of encouragement to enjoy your children amidst the crazy moments of day to day. It’s also like a study guide before taking a test: a refresher course.

Favorite Chapter

My favorite chapter is called, “The Gracious Law.” This chapter covers our God given authority as parents under the authority of God. Our children are only expected to obey us, because they must obey God first, and God says to obey your parents. Our law is based wholly on God’s law. As parents we are subject to God’s law for our hearts and behavior as well.

So, we should be repentant parents. Humbling ourselves before our children and apologizing when we sin against them. This is a living example to our children of living under God’s gracious law. Jankovic also points out that we are to teach our children to love God’s law, so when they are set free from our authority they will still look to Christ.

Favorite Quotes

To end this post, I’m going to leave you with some of my favorite quotes from Jankovic’s book:

“As you deal with your children, deal with yourself always and first. This is what it looks like and feels like to walk with God, as a mother.”

“The state of your heart is the state of your home.”

“One of the great things about having children is that you constantly convict yourself by teaching them.”

“Christian child rearing is a pastoral pursuit, not an organizational challenge. The more children you have the more pastorally minded you should be.”

“So while your children are little cultivate an attitude of sacrifice. Sacrifice your peace for their fun, your clean kitchen floor for their help cracking eggs, your quiet moment for their long retelling of a dream that a friend of theirs allegedly had. Prioritize your children far and away above the other work you need to get done. They are the only part of your work that really matters.”

“Your body is a tool not a treasure…use it and maintain it.”

Classic Summer Reading: In with the Old, Out with the New

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Forget about The New York Times Bestsellers list this summer; invest your hours into some classics. There’s nothing wrong with reading popular literature, but it’s good to offer your reading palette some variety. It’s also good to be challenged.

Maybe you think the classics should stay buried in the past and aren’t relevant today. But behind the dated time periods and language are unchangeable universal themes. There are questions presented in classic literature that are still being asked today. The characters are still relatable, because they have the same inward struggles and feelings of present day people.

Many titles from the bestsellers list are inspired knowingly or unknowingly from classic authors. Today’s literature is built off of the pen of classic literature. What else can I say? They are called classics for an obvious reason: quality and timelessness, just to name a few.

Here are lightning reviews of some (emphasize some) of my favorite classic pieces of literature:

To Kill a Mockingbird

Written by Harper Lee in 1960, this Pulitzer Prize winning novel is set in 1930s Alabama. A small town steeped in racism is seen through the eyes of two small children, Jem and Scout Finch. Their father, Atticus, represents in court a black man accused of raping a white woman.

Along with a host of other interesting characters, Lee explores the towns hatred and kindness and their blind irrational thoughts and behavior. Lee begins her novel portraying innocence, but progressively leads us to the climactic court scene where innocence is undone.


Fahrenheit 451: A Novel

Written in 1953 by Ray Bradbury (one of my all time favorite authors), this short novel is set in an imagined future. A future where firemen don’t put out fires, but start them. What are they burning? Books. Why? Because in Bradbury’s future world censorship is taken to the extreme.

This future world slightly resembles our present world and sends off an alarm of warning to readers. The protagonist is fireman Guy Montag who meets a 17 year old girl telling him of a past when people were not afraid. Montag then meets a professor who tells him of a future where people can think for themselves, which is exactly what Montag begins to do.


The Picture of Dorian Gray

Written by Oscar Wilde in 1890, this book tells the tale of a beautiful and wealthy young man named Dorian Gray. Wilde gives us a complex look at art, morals, and beauty through his three main characters: Dorian Gray, Basil Hallward, and Lord Henry.

The book starts off with Basil painting a portrait of Dorian. As we continue to read we find out the painting is not ordinary. In fact, it appears the painting is bound to Dorian in a supernatural way. An exchange occurred through the painting; an exchange of soul for youth and beauty. Dorian remains young and beautiful, while his inward corruptions are transferred  to the painting. The question is… how does it end in this dark and seedy tale?


Great Expectations

Written by Charles Dickens in 1861, this classic stars an orphan boy named Pip. The tale opens with Pip in the marshy mists of a village churchyard where he encounters a convict on the run. Pip then meets Estella, a snobby rich little girl who captivates Pip with her beauty. Estella belongs to the richest lady in town, Miss Havisham. A decrepit old lady who appears to be frozen in time on her wedding day and living in a run down mansion.

Estella is an unrequited love and represents all Pip can’t have, so he becomes disenchanted with his poor lifestyle and his future as a blacksmith. He longs for the life of a rich gentleman, so he can be closer to Estella. What ensues is Miss Havisham becoming the marionette puppeteer for Pip and Estella as they grow up. Pip finally does achieve the lifestyle he wants, but is haunted by his true self represented in the ghostly convict from the opening scene.