Ladies, you gotta read this book!

I knew after reading the first couple pages that I was going to like this book. I don’t just like it, I love it. Rachel Jankovic speaks directly, boldly, and challenges many of the unbiblical messages that are being taught these days about what it means to be a woman. Here is how Rachel starts her book:

Perhaps I should open this book with a warning. If you are looking for a book that will gently pet your bangs and soothe your worried brow, telling you how beautiful you are, this is not it. I will not stick only to the feel-good themes and ways to boost your self-confidence, telling you that you (no matter what you are doing at the moment) are enough. I will not give you a big pep talk about how to fight for you, and there is no chapter on morning affirmations. This book is not here to help you in your quest for self-love. I want something much, much better for you, because I want something true for you.

The goal of this book is to encourage and equip believing women to see their identity in Christ as the most essential part of them, and to see all the ways that will work its way out in their lives, manifesting itself as strength, dignity, and clarity of purpose.

Have you found yourself saying or reading things like this?

“I was born that way.”

“God wants me to be happy.”

“Follow your heart.”

“I’m enough.”

Instead of merely getting upset that someone is challenging the way that you think (or talk), be open to the idea that God, through the power of his Word, wants to fill your mind with biblical truth and wisdom.

Moms, this is a great book for you to read, think about, and pray over. But it is also a great book to talk about with your daughters. Our daughters are in a world that desires to fill their minds with false concepts about what it means to be a woman.

HERE is where you can purchase this book (and a study guide), and I strongly recommend you do so.

If you want to get a better sense of the worldly wisdom that Rachel is fighting against spend a few moments watching the videos below.

Finding Holy In The Suburbs by Ashley Hales

February 22-23, 2019, we are going to have Ashley Hales come out and teach at our Women’s Retreat. One of the moms, Jenna Moffatt, who attends New Life Church, knows Ashley fairly well. So I asked Jenna if she would be willing to share a little bit about “Finding Holy” via my blog. So here you go! BTW-Great job Jenna!

_____________________________________

My third child will be six months old in a few days. I had expected our son’s birth to usher in the highest amount of stress, since research shows (of course) that three children are more stressful than any other number—higher or lower. In many ways, having three has been harder, my husband and I are outnumbered, more time spent nursing than attending to my two daughters or cleaning the house. But, in other ways, number three has ushered in an easier season. I no longer feel the need to strive for perfection around the house, socially, in parenting; rather, three has shown me that these lofty goals are impossible.  I cannot fix myself or parent in such a way that my children will turn out to be the cutest little moral beings that you ever did see. In many ways, Ashley Hales’ book came at a pivotal time for me as a new mother trying to find my place in the craziness of new life.

As I’m feeling temptation of “keeping it all together” slip through my fingertips and combating the guilt of a disheveled stay-at-home mom with discolored grout creeping up my all-white bathroom tile, I wonder what higher calling God has for me in this time. Have you also wondered how the gospel is relevant for where and how you live? In her new book, Finding Holy in the Suburbs, Ashley wrestles with temptations of everyday living in America and graciously orients us toward the story we ultimately were created for. I found that one reviewer stated it best, “[Ashley] only cuts where it can bring healing.” Throughout her beautifully written words, most often with first being vulnerable herself, she consistently points us back to our redeemer, Jesus.

If you’re not from the suburbs, don’t stop here. Her words are relevant for anyone who lives in any community with at least a modest income in America (including in rural communities like my own). The book consists of three sections: common idols that suburban Americans face, living in repentance and belovedness, and then counter steps to take when pursuing holiness.

Idols of the Suburbs

Through these chapters, I discovered that I had fallen victim to idols I had previously fought to identify. Ashley writes in a way that puts words to and holds up a mirror to clearly reflect our sinful desires. In four chapters, she highlights the idols of consumerism, individualism, busyness, and safety, all as means we use to fill healthy hungers like, “having good work to do, to be significant or safe.” Each is a counter-narrative to finding our identity in Christ, who wants us to come home to Him like the prodigal son and celebrate grace from the Father, rather than trying to earn our way like the elder brother.  

The discussion on busyness was particularly convicting. Ashley writes, “instead of trusting in a God who is with us even in the wilderness, in the suburbs we use our busyness to stiff-arm God.” We fall into the belief that our actions will save us, even if they are true and good. When the world is racing madly on, how do we as Christians take a step back and find true rest? The anecdote to all of these temptations is to turn to Christ’s work on the cross: the Gospel.

Now What?

Weaving in Biblical stories of exile of God’s people and then provision for their every need, Ashley points us to the true One who will quench our thirst and satisfy our hunger. At the end of each chapter, she shares practical ways to orient our hearts back to Christ.  She also shares how we can partake in God’s great adventure even if we aren’t called to missions overseas but rather a middle-class cul-de-sac. In the second section of her book, the first steps forward to finding holy are redemption and belovedness. First, to participate in God’s beautiful story and find his kingdom on Earth, we are called to repent. This, “is both a turning from [sin] and a turning toward [God]”. These are the first small steps to being embraced by your Beloved and, consequently, having the ability to extend forgiveness to others in community.  We are also called to quit chasing belonging through what we look like, buy, or do, rather resting solely in being beloved by God. Here, our greatest failures fall away and we find true rest, beauty, joy, and hope.

In the last portion of the book, Ashley presents the practices of hospitality, generosity, vulnerability, and shalom that train our hearts to be fed by God wherever He has us. We must begin small, finding ourselves content in Christ’s redemptive work on the cross to propel us outward, bringing glimpses of the kingdom to our neighborhoods. It requires that we switch the narrative from my story to God’s story. As Ashley states,

The work of beloved is a constant returning to the story of creation, sin, redemption, and glorification. It is in remembering and embodying the story together in our local churches. It is in starting daily liturgies that draw us in to a beauty that overwhelms and is even present through pain.

Only then can we practice true hospitality, give of our time, money, and resources generously, be vulnerable in a way that brings healing to both people and the place we live in, and bring shalom or God’s “faithful presence within” our communities. These exercises give us a taste of the glory of the ultimate Kingdom we await: God coming down to live among us, with no more tears or pain. It is the culmination of joy and beauty and love.

If you, like me, struggle to find the plan God has for you in the trenches of early motherhood, or question why God has brought you to your hometown, rather than the inner-city or abroad, there is hope. You can find Holy in the Suburbs.

____________________________________

If you are interested in attending the retreat with Ashley please be watching for more details coming soon on our Facebook page.

5 Thoughts Regarding “No Little Women” by Aimee Byrd

Let’s start with an important question. Who is Aimee Byrd?

“Aimee Byrd is a Bible Study teacher and author of Housewife Theologian and Theological Fitness. She also speaks at women’s retreats, blogs about theology and the Christian life, and cohosts The Mortification of Spin podcast. She is married with three children, lives in Maryland, and is a member of New Hope Orthodox Presbyterian Church.”

I wanted to read No Little Women because Aimee has a strong desire (one that I share) to see women in the church grow as disciples by becoming serious students of the Word of God.

You may be wondering where the title of the book comes from in the first place? Here is your answer.

For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 2 Timothy 3:6-7

Byrd explains that weak women could be translated literally as “little women.” What Aimee seeks to do through her book is to encourage women to become such serious students of the Word of God with the result that this verse never applies to them!

Here are five things that stood to me from No Little Women.

  1. The book is a challenge to Christian women to see themselves as theologians and to work hard to know the Word of God. Aimee writes this, “What we may be missing isn’t so much a better philosophy on home and work. What many of us need is better theology. No matter what our different circumstances and vocations may be, every woman is a theologian. We all have an understanding of who God is and what he has done. The question is whether or not our views are based on what he has revealed in his Word about himself.” p.53 I love the fact that Aimee is not pulling any punches and is encouraging women to read, study and to push themselves to become better students of God’s Word.
  2. The book takes some serious shots at the Christian publishing world and Christian book stores. Well needed shots I might add! “Christian women’s book studies have become quite popular, and many women in your church are also shopping for Christian books to read on their own. Because of this, Christian women have inevitably become a valued target market in the so-called Christian publishing industry. It is pumping out Bible studies, devotionals, customized Bibles, and personal growth books for us to buy (along with Christian candy, mugs jewelry, and artwork.) But the sad truth is that Christian book stores can promote some of the worst doctrines (and their candy can be quite inferior.)” p. 47 Again, I agree. I can’t hardly stomach going into a Christian book store any more because of all the knickknacks and books filled with bad theology.
  3. The book needs to be read by all leaders (men and women) in the church. Overstatement? I don’t think so. Aimee makes a strong, biblical case that women in the church need to be equipped and trained so that they can help fulfill the Great Commission. This is very challenging for me as a pastor. What are we doing to train women in the church? It’s simply not enough that there is a “Women’s Ministry” in the church. Are we investing in the women leaders of the church? Are we listening to them? Do we see them as allies in the work that God is doing?
  4. The book properly elevates women and helps us to see that the Bible has a lot more to say about women than their roles as wives and mothers. There is more, Aimee argues, to being a woman than just these two roles. “Where is all the teaching on the women who left their households to follow Jesus and even provided for his ministry? Where is the teaching on Phoebe as a model of Biblical womanhood, a prominent woman in society, and a patron to Paul and to many others? And, while we love the “do not be a Martha” message, much of the teaching on biblical womanhood emphasizes our domestic roles in the household. Much of my life is spent serving in domestic household roles, and I am happy that the church has worked to maintain the honor and calling of working in the home. But much less effort has been put into equipping women to be good theologians, which Jesus emphasized as the better portion.” p. 123
  5. The book is asking us to be very discerning about the Christian writers that we read. This includes warnings about some of the most popular Christian writers out there (Beth Moore, Lysa TerKeurst, Joyce Meyer, Jen Hatmaker to name a few). It appears to me that Aimee is most troubled by the idea that God has spoken directly to any of these Christian writers. “Unfortunately-and we’ll see this more in chapter 6-much of what is marketed to women appeals to a desire to hear a special voice from God. Life is stressful. We have so many decisions to make that take wisdom and sometime downright risk-taking faith. It would be wonderful to have direct revelation telling us the direction that God would have us take. But that is not the way that he has ordained for us to grow. No, he wants us to count on the sufficiency of the Word that he has already given us and the wisdom to apply it rightly, in dependence on the Spirit. This is a lot more difficult. It requires prayer, discipline, reflection, seeking godly counsel, and stepping out in faith.” p. 59-60 Instead of just waiting around for God to speak to us audibly let’s focus on knowing God through his written Word. I must confess that I still need to process this a bit more. I do believe that the Spirit of God indwells every genuine believer and he is able to guide, lead and nudge us in ways that can only be explained as supernatural. Yet I agree with Aimee that we cross into dangerous territory when we claim that we have been receiving special revelation from God. John, the writer of the book of Revelation, leaves no doubt that the canon of Scripture is closed when he writes, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” -Revelation 22:18-19

I really enjoyed No Little Women and I would encourage you to read it as well. It seems obvious to me that Aimee has a love for the local church and for women and that is what motivated her to write this important book. I pray that No Little Women will go a long way when it comes to encouraging women to know, love and treasure the Word of God with the result being a much stronger church of Jesus Christ.