Book Review: Wilderness Wanderings by Stacy Reaoch

I just had a baby three weeks ago. She is the third child I’ve carried and birthed after her two big brothers. This past week was my first time being alone with a newborn, a three year old, and a five year old. I’m in that transition stage of trying to figure out a new routine and get everything done (or at least as much as I can) with a big change.

Because of the new baby girl, and changes to my everyday life, I thought it would be a good time to share about a free book I received from Stacy Reaoch. This is a book written exactly for someone like myself in my new stage of life. It’s really for every woman, especially a woman who wants to go through a chronological study in the Bible, but it’s great for moms who have limited time.

With just one-hundred and twenty-five pages and twenty-five short devotional chapters, Wilderness Wanderings: Finding Contentment in the Desert Times of Life, takes us through the Israelites’ wilderness journey to the Promised Land. Each chapter begins with a Scripture reference from either Exodus or Numbers, along with a brief meditation on the passage, followed by real life application, reflection questions, and a prayer.

In just a small book, Stacy reminds us of big truths. Truths of God’s promises, provision, and glory. And lessons about faith, obedience, and perseverance. She brings us into the wilderness where it feels like we’re lost and wandering, but are in fact exactly where God wants us to find him.

 

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.

 

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.

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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

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.