Launch Day for (A)Typical Woman: What’s the Purpose of the Book?

Today’s the day (A)Typical Woman is officially released.

When I first started writing this book, I was zealous for women to understand Christ as the whole of their life as women. I was burning inside to help women see what being a Christian and a woman actually is–with the whole Bible as the foundation–nothing ignored. I was in turmoil over the misconceptions and distorted teaching that had taken hold in many places. I was angsty over the pendulum whose swing was threatening to tip the whole apparatus over.

That was over two years ago. And I find that since that time God has deepened and matured my zeal, rather than cooling it off. The need is greater, not lesser. This is a marathon, not a sprint, but I’m eager to keep running.

Why did I write (A)Typical Woman? Because the world has tried to steal something that belongs to Christ. They’ve tried to steal the words Christian and woman. They’ve tried to redefine them, not merely in a dictionary, but in living color, in real life. This book is meant to claim them as HIS–his words and his reality. The words Christian and woman belong to Christ. They’re by him and for him. And what’s much more surprising––and distressing–– is how the church has often quietly let the words go. We’ve watched the substance of them disintegrate before our eyes with barely a whimper and sometimes with God-defying approval.

This book is meant reorient us to reality. It’s meant to show Christian women what peace with God is like, and therefore, peace with themselves. So many are striving, longing, aching to make themselves into something of value. So many are rebelling, fighting, and running from their Maker and how he’s made them.

Christian women must know who and what they are and Who and what they’re made for. We must stop searching because we’ve been found in him. We must stop hiding from God and be hidden in him instead.

This is a simple book with a simple goal: to grow you (and me) up in Christ as women. To take you from milk to solid food. To free you for fearless obedience so that your joy explodes and your influence deepens to the glory of God.

Get it on Amazon. Find it at a bookstore. Share it with your friends, your sisters, your mom, and anyone else. Lay down your pet ponies and preferences and read with a heart resolved to receive Christ Jesus as Lord. May he make you one of the most astonishing and atypical things the world has ever seen: a Christian woman.

 

The Humility of Blogging for Yourself and How it Serves Readers

Recently Tim Challies started a conversation about the personal blog–its slow decay and his hope for its revival. And since I’ve been on the cutting edge of absolutely nothing since 1981 and counting (including starting a blog–I started mine right when everyone and their mom had one in 2008), I thought I’d throw my johnny-come-lately two cents in the ring.

I appreciate Tim’s keen sense of why personal blogs are important in how, why, and what we communicate as Christians who are part of a larger, sometimes cookie-cutter like online world of articles. As someone who has refused to give up personal blogging even as I now spend considerable time writing for ministry websites and other publications, I get it. I know that this space gives me a different sort of freedom in writing with my own voice and saying precisely what I want to say. It’s not that there’s no filter here (that would be terrible for everyone!), it’s that the filter allows for a personal style and voice that doesn’t suit larger sites. But I also have to say that my gratefulness for Desiring God, their laser focus on glorifying God, their work to spread the Good News of great joy to everyone they possibly can, and their willingness to let me be part of something so much bigger than me is over the moon. Bigly grateful.

You can find good contributions by Kristen Wetherell, Samuel James, and Jen Oshman in response to Challies. I just want to add one fairly narrow thing to the conversation, and I suppose it applies to all writing, but it especially applies to personal blogging.

Tim argues that the problem with many blogs is that they exist mainly for the writer, not the readers–they are self-serving rather than written in service of others. He spells that out here and here. I think he’s right that the main problem with personal blogs is the personal people writing them. We’re altogether human. The greatest strength of personal blogging is also the greatest weakness.

So here’s my small contribution to this topic: One of the best ways I can serve readers is by not being a jerk. It’s by practicing, not just pontificating. And writing a personal blog is one of the ways God pushes the floorboards of his Word and his ways into the corners of my life. I’m not sharing my diary, I’m sharing the things that have gone through the Refiner’s fire, things that absolutely ought to edify, admonish, encourage, and strengthen you, the reader. But what use are they if they haven’t been applied here first, to my personal life? What use am I to readers if my writing doesn’t take the speck out of my own eye before trying to get logs out of everyone else’s? And I believe letting readers in on that process in our personal lives is powerful. It’s our testimony of what God is doing, of his transforming power.

In this sense, I think all writing should be for the writer in the same way I think that spending a large portion of my time in prayer for myself is an unselfish thing to do.  Begging God to make me more like his Son, repenting of my own sins, is actually not just for my good, but serves my husband, my children, and everyone I come in contact with. Of course, pray for others too! Diligently, faithfully, regularly. Serve them in prayer, but remember that it is a true service to others to pray that God would help you treat them as a Christian ought to. I believe it was George Mueller who said, “the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord.” Wouldn’t you want to spend the day with someone like that? Wouldn’t you be edified by being around that sort of person?

Similarly, the first and primary business a writer ought to attend is to receive his or her own words (if they are a faithful re-telling of God’s words), apply them to his or her own life, and humbly turn from thinking our mere pontification is helping people. Then we will begin to serve our readers.

On Being a Christian Woman in the Year of our Lord, 2019

[Below is the full article I wrote last year about the coming year of 2018–here is the interview with Pilgrim Radio about the article. I was gearing up to write something new for 2019 and found that this is still what I want to say, so I’m republishing it. Just like 2018 was the year of our Lord (not the year of the evangelical woman, thank God) so is 2019. Let’s remember that God’s glory is the center, the goal, the foundation, the root, and the fruit of all we do. Let’s remember he does not suffer competitors–whether men or women–he’s too loving and good for that.]

Last month [now last year] I was intrigued to read the prediction that 2018 will be the year of the evangelical woman. I enjoy Karen Swallow Prior, the tweeter of that tweet, but I have no interest whatsoever in living in a world where the year belongs to evangelical women or women in general or evangelical men or any other such group. I am relieved that no matter our proclamations, 2018 will remain the year of our Lord.

Over the course of the past few years, I’ve observed a pendulum swing in the more public places of Christendom (i.e. Twitter, blogs, social media, and the like. You know, the important places 😉 ) regarding the voices of “evangelical” women, reflected on a much smaller scale in the more private, local sphere.

To begin with, I hate pendulums. What are they but roller coasters that cause us all a ridiculous amount of motion sickness? The good news is that Scripture is immune to pendulum swings. It’s just as solid and unchanging as it ever was. And more good news: we can stand on the unmovable Word of God and smash the pendulum with that same Book all at the same time. The Bible can multitask.

I’ve tried to put my finger on what seems to be afoot, particularly with conservative Christian women––for whom the sound of the rumbling is different than its liberal counterparts, yet seems to be aimed in the same basic direction. It seems the culprit is a general sense that women have been underutilized and pigeon-holed in Christ’s body and the internet is the main means by which this problem has found its voice.

Here’s my summary: Biblically-conservative Christian women are eager to have visible, biblically-conservative leadership by women in their churches and eager to learn from gifted, female Bible teachers whether locally or nationally. Secondly, women with the gift of teaching in conservative churches have felt underutilized/devalued and are carrying some angst, even as things may change for the better. (The accuracy of these points will vary greatly depending on your local context, but I’m speaking generally).

The underlying lesson is: women are hungry for teaching from women. This is basically right and good (Titus 2:3–4). They would like living examples of wise, Bible-soaked women to follow and imitate. They would like to be fed meat, not just milk. And hungry people get nourishment wherever they can find it––they aren’t picky, they’re starving. If only the worst kind of teachers are available to women, many will go ahead and eat the rot.

So, from the perspective of the hungry Christian woman, this pendulum swing is very much a good thing, if it means more resources available to her that make it possible for her to learn and understand her Bible and her God better. Assuming that gifted conservative female Bible teachers don’t just stay within the boundaries Scripture lays out for women in regard to how they may and may not lead and teach, but have come to LOVE and TEACH the boundaries as good gifts, this is all upside. And I’ve seen lots of this. Loads of helpful Bible resources made accessible for women. Podcasts that go deep in wisdom and the gospel and basic Christian living. It’s awesome––what a time to be alive.

But I’m not so sure this fully describes where we are. There also seems to be an itch, an inkling, an impulse, even in the conservative sphere, that has begun to demand status for women as important and essential humans whose voices must be heard. It’s not that I disagree that women are important and essential, it’s that publicly insisting so is entirely an un-Christian way of trying to get that point across.

In this CT piece, Hannah Anderson (whose book on humility was a great read for me last year) says, “The way forward is for the church to identify and support gifted women, partnering with them via theological training and commissioned ministry positions. If you don’t want women breaking down the doors, simply open them for them.”

This encapsulates it: the mood, the slight angst, the rumbling.

If women are breaking down doors in order to use their gifts in the church, the solution cannot only be to teach men to open the doors. I agree that that is part of it. Let men learn to honor women and notice gifts and facilitate the work of the ministry and open the doors for their counterparts that are helpers by nature. It seems this is vital and basic Christianity and men should be exhorted to act like Christian men.

But there’s another side to it: we must teach the women to act like Christian women, not door busters. We must teach them that the Christian life is not one of getting our way or forcing our plans or barging in––it’s one of dying daily, humble waiting, prayerful dependence, and unseen service where our right hand is ignorant of our left. That breaking the doors down would be the path toward anything but misery seems obvious enough––which doors are enough, when does it end?

Once we’ve broken them down, it’s impossible to open them rightly.

Think of Paul’s letter to Timothy. Paul tells the young Timothy that he shouldn’t let anyone despise him for his youth. I don’t know about you, but I’m apt to cheer, Yeah! You heard him! Stop despising me! I’m owed a little respect! Is Timothy supposed to demand and insist that no one is allowed to despise him? Is he supposed to say, “You must value me!” No.

Paul tells him how: “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). This is the way of Christians. How do we get respect? How do we make people see our God-given value? We go low. We set an example. We don’t insist on our importance.

What if Christian women in 2018 decided that in all things we would set an example in our godly and gracious speech, our exemplary conduct, our loving actions, our bold faith, and our complete purity? What if we stopped trying to exalt our voices and “be heard,” but gloried in exalting Christ (Matt. 23:11–12)? What if we stopped seeking a seat of honor, but resolved to eat even the crumbs from the Lord’s table (Matt. 15:27)? What if we really trusted God––that God sees us, God loves us, Christ came for us, and the Spirit’s working in us, whether others see it or not? What if we really lived like it was the year of our Lord, not the year of the evangelical woman?

This isn’t theoretical for me. I’m as prone to desire recognition and a seat at the table as the next person. I’ve got more opinions, thoughts, and ideas than is safe for any one person to have. I long to have whatever gifts God’s given me recognized, valued, and utilized to their full extent and it can be painful to be constantly weaning myself from those mixed-bag desires. But, in Christ, I know that God is building his church. And I can take the steps of faithfulness available to me, speak and serve when given opportunity, and if not, rest in the knowledge that God doesn’t actually need me to do the jobs I think he might need me to do.

Jen Wilkin says this in her talk to Acts 29 church planters, “The contributions of women in the advancement of the kingdom are essential and indispensable. If we have crafted a vision of the church in which women are extra, in which women are nice but not necessary, we have crafted a vision for the church that is foreign to the Scriptures.”

I couldn’t agree with her more. She’s right. The church advances as the church––made up of all its parts. The stronger are supposed to see that the weaker are indispensable (1 Cor. 12:22). They’re supposed to show them extra honor (1 Cor. 12:23–24). And I think in the context she was speaking to––pastors desiring a woman’s perspective on how to better minister to women––it is helpful to give that reminder. I’m thankful for women like Jen who have had doors opened for them and now are using that platform to ask men to open the door for more women.

But there’s another side to being part of God’s people on his vine and that is that none of us are actually essential. God could raise up stones in our place.

In Romans, Paul tells the Gentiles that they aren’t as special as they might like to think––he’s telling us the same thing:

“But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off” (Romans 11:17–22)

Did you catch that?

It is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.

Do not become proud, but fear.

Neither will he spare you.

Provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.

Is this part of what we’re teaching women? Are we reminding them that being a physically weaker vessel doesn’t make us humble by nature? That we aren’t owed a seat at any table, but Christ has graciously given us one at his? That as awful as it is that many women have been victimized by men, it’s equally awful that women also victimize those smaller than them, in varying ways? That pride is no respecter of gender and infects everyone in Adam, including women? Are we letting them know that they’re Christians too, which means we women have to die to the desire to be important. We have to die to the desire for the year of the woman and replace it with year of the Lord.

That doesn’t mean that we ignore the real needs of women––in no way! We must feed them, honor them, love them, and serve them––but not in an oddly self-serving, self-promoting way, rather as sacrifice. We must disciple women and fit their gifts into the body. But discipling isn’t only plugging in gifts or putting people in the right seats or developing leaders or getting a woman on staff. It’s also teaching everyone that the only path to life is crucifixion–that they aren’t living anymore, but it’s Christ who lives in them. It’s teaching them to, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Phil. 2:3)

Exalt others. Honor others––men and women and children. That’s how we follow our Savior, who didn’t count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but in humility became a servant. Only then can we be exalted, once humility has so lowered us that only God himself can raise us up. And he will, in due time.

I’ll end with two practical concerns I have with the pendulum swing I see in some of the public sphere of conservative Christendom that’s been trickling down locally.

  1. It makes advancement mainly a function of women teaching and (accidentally?) devalues all the other ways women serve as an essential part of the body. It’s like we want all women to be teachers. I understand why the focus is on women teaching, because that’s the area that some are slower to embrace–feels risky, like a woman might overstep the bounds. But, in the same way I think men can be devalued when they aren’t teachers or pastors, I think the same thing is happening with women and we should avoid this silliness at all costs. You don’t have to be an up-front teacher in order to be a spiritual mother. A female on a stage speaking to a group is not essential to thriving spiritual mothering or the fulfillment of a woman’s role in the local body. A woman teacher is no more effective or influential in God’s economy because she’s been given a microphone.
  2. Our swing is in tandem with the current swing of liberal and unorthodox Christians as well as with the world, albeit on a different scale. This doesn’t make it all wrong, but it’s something to note. When the world is swinging into transgenderism and gender queer identity, and the liberal church is swinging into ordination of women and self-identified gay Christians, the conservative swing toward a disproportionate valuing of the stage/platform as the most important place for women to serve may seem minor, but we should pay attention to it. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater––there are important things to learn in this pendulum swing, good and right actions to take. There are many faithful upfront women teachers that I love and have learned a ton from–I want their number to increase! But maybe the most important lesson is that the pendulum needs to be smashed with God’s word.

Christians have a fixed and ancient reference point. Let’s hold fast to it.

One Little Big Encouragement for Dads

Being a dad is tough. I’m not one, but I’ve seen it up close. Most dads have to step into a primary role (fatherhood), even though their primary time is spent elsewhere. They have to be good at something (something really important!) that they don’t do all day everyday. Which means they have to take a lot of advice and pointers from the mom or caretakers who do do the parenting all day everyday.

When I help Tom with his business, I have a disorienting sense when I start out, because his work isn’t my primary work. It takes me a while to get oriented to it, to feel competent to actually help him. I think that’s what parenting in the little years is like for a lot of dads. Thankfully, it doesn’t stay that way, and competence grows as the needs demand.

So, my little big encouragement to dads is something I’ve observed in my husband, Tom, and it’s this: the little things are the big things. Here are three little things Tom does that amount to more than I can calculate:

1. He initiates family devotions.

Actually, he doesn’t anymore. He used to initiate family devotions when all the kids were little. Now, the kids initiate family devotions at the tail end of dinner. Every once in a while, we’re both really tired and would likely skip devos, but the kids are in the habit and someone always grabs the Bible off the shelf and hands it to Dad.

2. He initiates family prayer in the car.

Have you noticed how crazy it can be sometimes just to get everyone in the car and going? How sometimes a couple kids are mid-conflict? Or the parents and the kids have gotten out of fellowship with one another in the push to get out the door? The little habit of praying as the seatbelts are being buckled and the car is about to take off can make a world of difference in how we send ourselves and our kids out into the world.

3. He initiates family work.

On Saturdays, it’s most often Tom who gets everyone going on their list of “Saturday jobs.” He tends to expect more out of the kids than I do. His simple routines do a lot to disciple our kids into the faithfulness of God. Because discipleship isn’t just reading the Bible and praying. It’s obeying, it’s contributing to the needs of the people you’re apart of, it’s letting your yes be yes and your no be no. It’s doing our work “as to the Lord.”

So, for any dads out there reading, be encouraged. You don’t have to do exactly what Tom does, but you can do little things that make a big difference in the lives of your kids and wife. Your little initiatives can be like the countless drops of water that make up the ocean of grace and goodness and faithfulness your kids swim in day after day. They likely won’t realize all the goodness they’ve been flooded with, but keep at it.

We appreciate you, Dads. You are doing the Lord’s work. “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

IMG_9504
My dad and the dad of my kids.

 

A Recent Interview on Pilgrim Radio Regarding, “On Being a Christian Woman…”

Last week I was contacted by Bill Feltner of Pilgrim Radio for an interview about the last article I wrote which got some attention around the web. I pray that attention is the kind of attention that draws our eyes to Christ and the glory, the blessing, the privilege of losing our life in Adam and finding it in him. It aired yesterday. If you’d like to listen in, click below.

Interview with Pilgrim Radio: On Being a Christian Woman in the Year of Our Lord, 2018

On Being a Christian Woman in the Year of Our Lord, 2018

Last month I was intrigued to read the prediction that 2018 will be the year of the evangelical woman. I enjoy Karen Swallow Prior, the tweeter of that tweet, but I have no interest whatsoever in living in a world where the year belongs to evangelical women or women in general or evangelical men or any other such group. I am relieved that no matter our proclamations, 2018 will remain the year of our Lord.

Over the course of the past few years, I’ve observed a pendulum swing in the more public places of Christendom (i.e. Twitter, blogs, social media, and the like. You know, the important places 😉 ) regarding the voices of “evangelical” women, reflected on a much smaller scale in the more private, local sphere.

To begin with, I hate pendulums. What are they but roller coasters that cause us all a ridiculous amount of motion sickness? The good news is that Scripture is immune to pendulum swings. It’s just as solid and unchanging as it ever was. And more good news: we can stand on the unmovable Word of God and smash the pendulum with that same Book all at the same time. The Bible can multitask.

I’ve tried to put my finger on what seems to be afoot, particularly with conservative Christian women––for whom the sound of the rumbling is different than its liberal counterparts, yet seems to be aimed in the same basic direction. It seems the culprit is a general sense that women have been underutilized and pigeon-holed in Christ’s body and the internet is the main means by which this problem has found its voice.

Here’s my summary: Biblically-conservative Christian women are eager to have visible, biblically-conservative leadership by women in their churches and eager to learn from gifted, female Bible teachers whether locally or nationally. Secondly, women with the gift of teaching in conservative churches have felt underutilized/devalued and are carrying some angst, even as things may change for the better. (The accuracy of these points will vary greatly depending on your local context, but I’m speaking generally).

The underlying lesson is: women are hungry for teaching from women. This is basically right and good (Titus 2:3–4). They would like living examples of wise, Bible-soaked women to follow and imitate. They would like to be fed meat, not just milk. And hungry people get nourishment wherever they can find it––they aren’t picky, they’re starving. If only the worst kind of teachers are available to women, many will go ahead and eat the rot.

So, from the perspective of the hungry Christian woman, this pendulum swing is very much a good thing, if it means more resources available to her that make it possible for her to learn and understand her Bible and her God better. Assuming that gifted conservative female Bible teachers don’t just stay within the boundaries Scripture lays out for women in regard to how they may and may not lead and teach, but have come to LOVE and TEACH the boundaries as good gifts, this is all upside. And I’ve seen lots of this. Loads of helpful Bible resources made accessible for women. Podcasts that go deep in wisdom and the gospel and basic Christian living. It’s awesome––what a time to be alive.

But I’m not so sure this fully describes where we are. There also seems to be an itch, an inkling, an impulse, even in the conservative sphere, that has begun to demand status for women as important and essential humans whose voices must be heard. It’s not that I disagree that women are important and essential, it’s that publicly insisting so is entirely an un-Christian way of trying to get that point across.

In this CT piece, Hannah Anderson (whose book on humility was a great read for me last year) says, “The way forward is for the church to identify and support gifted women, partnering with them via theological training and commissioned ministry positions. If you don’t want women breaking down the doors, simply open them for them.”

This encapsulates it: the mood, the slight angst, the rumbling.

If women are breaking down doors in order to use their gifts in the church, the solution cannot only be to teach men to open the doors. I agree that that is part of it. Let men learn to honor women and notice gifts and facilitate the work of the ministry and open the doors for their counterparts that are helpers by nature. It seems this is vital and basic Christianity and men should be exhorted to act like Christian men.

But there’s another side to it: we must teach the women to act like Christian women, not door busters. We must teach them that the Christian life is not one of getting our way or forcing our plans or barging in––it’s one of dying daily, humble waiting, prayerful dependence, and unseen service where our right hand is ignorant of our left. That breaking the doors down would be the path toward anything but misery seems obvious enough––which doors are enough, when does it end?

Once we’ve broken them down, it’s impossible to open them rightly.

Think of Paul’s letter to Timothy. Paul tells the young Timothy that he shouldn’t let anyone despise him for his youth. I don’t know about you, but I’m apt to cheer, Yeah! You heard him! Stop despising me! I’m owed a little respect! Is Timothy supposed to demand and insist that no one is allowed to despise him? Is he supposed to say, “You must value me!” No.

Paul tells him how: “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). This is the way of Christians. How do we get respect? How do we make people see our God-given value? We go low. We set an example. We don’t insist on our importance.

What if Christian women in 2018 decided that in all things we would set an example in our godly and gracious speech, our exemplary conduct, our loving actions, our bold faith, and our complete purity? What if we stopped trying to exalt our voices and “be heard,” but gloried in exalting Christ (Matt. 23:11–12)? What if we stopped seeking a seat of honor, but resolved to eat even the crumbs from the Lord’s table (Matt. 15:27)? What if we really trusted God––that God sees us, God loves us, Christ came for us, and the Spirit’s working in us, whether others see it or not? What if we really lived like it was the year of our Lord, not the year of the evangelical woman?

This isn’t theoretical for me. I’m as prone to desire recognition and a seat at the table as the next person. I’ve got more opinions, thoughts, and ideas than is safe for any one person to have. I long to have whatever gifts God’s given me recognized, valued, and utilized to their full extent and it can be painful to be constantly weaning myself from those mixed-bag desires. But, in Christ, I know that God is building his church. And I can take the steps of faithfulness available to me, speak and serve when given opportunity, and if not, rest in the knowledge that God doesn’t actually need me to do the jobs I think he might need me to do.

Jen Wilkin says this in her talk to Acts 29 church planters, “The contributions of women in the advancement of the kingdom are essential and indispensable. If we have crafted a vision of the church in which women are extra, in which women are nice but not necessary, we have crafted a vision for the church that is foreign to the Scriptures.”

I couldn’t agree with her more. She’s right. The church advances as the church––made up of all its parts. The stronger are supposed to see that the weaker are indispensable (1 Cor. 12:22). They’re supposed to show them extra honor (1 Cor. 12:23–24). And I think in the context she was speaking to––pastors desiring a woman’s perspective on how to better minister to women––it is helpful to give that reminder. I’m thankful for women like Jen who have had doors opened for them and now are using that platform to ask men to open the door for more women.

But there’s another side to being part of God’s people on his vine and that is that none of us are actually essential. God could raise up stones in our place.

In Romans, Paul tells the Gentiles that they aren’t as special as they might like to think––he’s telling us the same thing:

“But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off” (Romans 11:17–22)

Did you catch that?

It is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.

Do not become proud, but fear.

Neither will he spare you.

Provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.

Is this part of what we’re teaching women? Are we reminding them that being a physically weaker vessel doesn’t make us humble by nature? That we aren’t owed a seat at any table, but Christ has graciously given us one at his? That as awful as it is that many women have been victimized by men, it’s equally awful that women also victimize those smaller than them, in varying ways? That pride is no respecter of gender and infects everyone in Adam, including women? Are we letting them know that they’re Christians too, which means we women have to die to the desire to be important. We have to die to the desire for the year of the woman and replace it with year of the Lord.

That doesn’t mean that we ignore the real needs of women––in no way! We must feed them, honor them, love them, and serve them––but not in an oddly self-serving, self-promoting way, rather as sacrifice. We must disciple women and fit their gifts into the body. But discipling isn’t only plugging in gifts or putting people in the right seats or developing leaders or getting a woman on staff. It’s also teaching everyone that the only path to life is crucifixion–that they aren’t living anymore, but it’s Christ who lives in them. It’s teaching them to, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Phil. 2:3)

Exalt others. Honor others––men and women and children. That’s how we follow our Savior, who didn’t count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but in humility became a servant. Only then can we be exalted, once humility has so lowered us that only God himself can raise us up. And he will, in due time.

I’ll end with two practical concerns I have with the pendulum swing I see in some of the public sphere of conservative Christendom that’s been trickling down locally.

  1. It makes advancement mainly a function of women teaching and (accidentally?) devalues all the other ways women serve as an essential part of the body. It’s like we want all women to be teachers. I understand why the focus is on women teaching, because that’s the area that some are slower to embrace–feels risky, like a woman might overstep the bounds. But, in the same way I think men can be devalued when they aren’t teachers or pastors, I think the same thing is happening with women and we should avoid this silliness at all costs. You don’t have to be an up-front teacher in order to be a spiritual mother. A female on a stage speaking to a group is not essential to thriving spiritual mothering or the fulfillment of a woman’s role in the local body. A woman teacher is no more effective or influential in God’s economy because she’s been given a microphone.
  2. Our swing is in tandem with the current swing of liberal and unorthodox Christians as well as with the world, albeit on a different scale. This doesn’t make it all wrong, but it’s something to note. When the world is swinging into transgenderism and gender queer identity, and the liberal church is swinging into ordination of women and self-identified gay Christians, the conservative swing toward a disproportionate valuing of the stage/platform as the most important place for women to serve may seem minor, but we should pay attention to it. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater––there are important things to learn in this pendulum swing, good and right actions to take. There are many faithful upfront women teachers that I love and have learned a ton from–I want their number to increase! But maybe the most important lesson is that the pendulum needs to be smashed with God’s word.

Christians have a fixed and ancient reference point. Let’s hold fast to it.

Milliennial Moms

Here’s an excerpt from my latest from Desiring God called Millennial Motherhood:

“Our children need more than a mom who empathizes and feels with them. They need more than a mom who gets down to their level to convey solidarity and trust — which we tend to be good at. They need to know they have a mom who, because she knows the whole story of God’s word, sees through them, beyond them, above them, and answers to someone other than them.

Our children need moms whose minds direct their feelings, not the other way around. Moms should be a safe place for their kids. Our empathy is a gift that helps us to be that, but empathy with no connection to the solid truth of God’s word is the opposite of safe. It’s crippling to ourselves and our children.

Encourage your children to feel deeply, but not at the expense of thinking deeply — rather, as a result of it. Encourage them to feel strongly, but with the reins of truth in hand, ready to pull back when an emotion has taken the bit in the mouth. Encourage them to feel passionately, but to do so about the things that are fitting to feel passionately about and with an unflappable trust in the God who is over all feelings.

Guilt and confidence are the strange bedfellows of the millennial mom. Pew records that 57 percent of millennial moms say that they are doing a “very good job” at parenting, compared with 48 percent of Gen X moms (born 1965–1979) and 41 percent of baby boomers (born 1946–1965).

Yet it takes only the most cursory glance at any social-media platform to see that millennial moms are awash with guilt. Guilt and the millennial mom are like peanut butter and jelly. They just seem to go together. You know it’s true because if you’re a millennial mom who just read “peanut butter and jelly,” you likely just felt a stab of guilt that you fed that to your kid this week.

Millennial moms are constantly wondering whether they are doing the right thing. It’s like we’ve lost our compass and can’t find north, so we get on social media or Google to try and figure out if other people are feeding their kids PB&J three times a week and if there are any studies that tell us what damage it causes.

In a world where information about everything is at our fingertips, it seems everything has been elevated to the status of “this matters.” So, from laundry to food to sunscreen to screen time to simplified home decor, nothing is no big deal to millennial moms. And because we also are finite women who cannot ride every hobbyhorse at the same time, we are exhausted, burnt out, and often very guilty.

Yet, because we reinvent the wheel on every possible facet of life, researching (or rather Googling) each topic for ourselves and reaching our own conclusions, we tend to be very confident — even haughty — about the conclusions we’ve reached and the job we’re doing, whether it’s about vaccines or vacuums.

The benefit to our guilty confidence is that we do have, in Christ, a constant, never-ending absolution for it. Jesus met all the righteous requirements of the law for us and then died in our place. We also are a part of Christ’s body, with spiritual mothers and fathers who can guide and help us to think Christianly about every part of our lives. Remember, millennial mom, that our guiltiness and haughtiness was nailed to the cross. We are free to live according to Jesus’s ways.

According to a study called Digital Women Influencers, millennial moms spend four more hours per week on social media than other moms. They also have 3.4 social media accounts as compared to the 2.6 accounts of other moms. We are connected, yet dissatisfied. We portray something we don’t have and long for the very thing we project. Every Facebook like and Instagram heart scratches an itch on the soul that is gratified for a moment, only to feel itchier and itchier as the days wear on.

Our motto could easily be “The grass is always greener on the other side of the Clarendon filter.” We make our grass as green as possible via those perfect Instagram filters — it’s our way of quieting the inner suspicion that our lives fall horribly short of everyone else’s. Our generation’s badges of achievement aren’t the new car or boat or vacation home, but the new experience and the new destination — all of which are fully documented — so we long and ache for the next best thing.

Often, the next best thing is whatever we can come up with to share in our social-media feeds. Nothing is sacred, nothing private. Could it be that our sharing isn’t so much an overflow of the fullness of life, but a scraping and grasping to connect and appeal to our viewers? Getting others to sympathize or idolize us with an online picture, a status, or a joke seems to be good enough for us.

But it isn’t enough. All the satisfaction of online approval is really just bloat — it looks and feels like we’re full, but the fullness is actually nothingness, and it’s preventing us from consuming what really would nourish us: God’s word, Jesus Christ, and his blood-bought body, the local church.

We must repent of the sin of trying to be virtuous apart from Christ. We must repent of online pretending and online oversharing. Our longing, our aches for more have a direction; they aren’t pointless. They’re pointing us to someone. Jesus Christ is the person we need. He is the place, the final and best destination that lays a lasting balm on the ache in our heart for something better.”

Read the rest.

When Submission Is Sin

New post up at Desiring God on women and submission to the world. If you’re weighed down by all the rules the world throws at you or if you’re a little proud because you manage to keep so many of them, then this is for you. Be free in Christ, friends!

I am convinced that many of us women have a submission problem. A giant submission problem. But it isn’t mainly that we won’t submit to our husbands — it’s that we won’t stop submitting to the world. The biggest problem with women and submission is too much of it in the wrong places. We willingly submit to the world’s rules.

In Colossians 3:18, Paul tells Christian wives to “submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” Along with passages like Ephesians 5:22–24 and 1 Peter 3:1–6, this verse tends toward the infamous. But there is another perhaps less-known passage on “submission,” also from Colossians.

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations — “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” . . . — according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom . . . but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:20–23)

Women are awash in the teaching and dogma of the world. And the great tragedy is that they are voluntarily placing themselves under its authority. Some don’t even know they’re doing it.

Drowning in a Flood of Rules

Does any of this sound familiar? We compel ourselves to wear certain styles, even painful shoes, to keep up with what the stores have told us is fashionable. We clean our homes in a particular way with only particular products. We follow every rule and suggestion given to us by the ubiquitous “they” on how to parent our children and keep them safe from every wisp of risk. We stress and strain our muscles, three times a week minimum, because we believe it’s the “right” thing to do and maybe, just maybe, we’ll keep death at bay (or at least have a flat stomach until it comes for us). We’re religious about the kind of candle that can burn in our houses, and the smell of essential oils floats through the air whenever we’re around because we’re convinced they’re the “right” remedy to use.

Rules, rules, rules. Eat this; don’t eat that. “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch.” These are not God’s rules, but they are rules nevertheless. Who could ever keep up with the always-changing and ever-increasing rules the world (and our own self-made religion) throws at us?

Am I saying it’s wrong to follow a certain diet? Or work out? Or clean a particular way? Or use certain health remedies? No. Absolutely not. But it iswrong to believe that doing any of those things is “right.” It’s wrong to do them because you trust the world (or yourself) more than Christ.

Christ has given us plenty of work to do until he comes again. The last thing we need is to start working on the to-do list the world has assigned to us. We’re to “seek the things that are above” (Colossians 3:1). That means we’re to “put on . . . compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12); to bear with one another, forgive each other, and above all, to love (Colossians 3:13–14).

Read the rest.

Warding Off Darkness By Laughing At What’s To Come

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As I vote today, I’m remembering that the act of voting was secured for me by sacrifices I didn’t make. I’m giving thanks for those sacrifices as I vote. I’m also remembering that every single act of my life as a Christian was secured for me at an infinitely higher cost by my Savior Jesus. Every act of our life in Christ is of significance beyond our telling or voting. From eating and drinking to giving my kids a hug in the morning to making dinner. Every thing we do by faith as his children, we do in Christ and for Christ. It’s all blood bought and costly, because *we ourselves* are blood bought. We are redeemed, new people. 

So I vote and give thanks that this act of voting is an act I do belonging to Christ and for him. I vote by faith—faith in Jesus, not a party or a candidate. Then I hug my husband and teach my kids about the real cost of freedom in Christ—a freedom that can never be quenched. I stoke the flames of *that* fire—one whose light will never go out.

My worth as a woman doesn’t come from my ability to vote, although I’m thankful for it. We were made by him and for him; our names are written on his palms. Our influence is deeper and broader and realer than anything we find inside the ballot box. When I laugh at what’s to come with my kids in the Gospel-soaked air of our home by faith, I do as much to ward off the darkness as any vote.

So I vote, then I exercise the real guts of my freedom, a freedom bestowed by God through Jesus. The freedom to pass this faith on to others, which is unable to be contained by laws; the freedom to know YAHWEH, that is Christ the Lord; the freedom to be loved by God and to love others. We are free to be his, friends. Today is a day for thankfulness.

On Being a Good Mom

New (ish) DG article that I forgot to post on being a good mom. Good thing this is such an easy topic! Ha. 😉

One of a mother’s most difficult tasks — nay impossible, apart from God’s help — is weaning her children and transferring their source of life, comfort, and home to Another. In all her loving and comforting and making home, she is simply a pointer to a better one, a lasting one — a home where she already has one foot in the door, a home she testifies to by her own goodness.

But are we good mothers? Does even the question cause some chafing?

Christian mothers are supposed to be good mothers — happy in God, while loving and disciplining our children — because of Jesus. Yet often we’d rather celebrate our failures as a need for more grace than to rehearse, “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness” (Psalm 37:3).

That goodness is a fruit of the Spirit seems forgotten among jokes about our mom fails and laments about how impossible it all is (Galatians 5:22). The pursuit of goodness is often quickly rebuffed as works-righteousness. But is it? Not if our goodness is the result of Another’s goodness. This imputed goodness is Christ’s, and through faith he increasingly imparts it to us, where it grows to decontaminate and purify our mothering hearts. His grace makes mothers good.

When God gives us children, he answers a lot of questions in our lives — even ones we may not have thought to ask. Questions like:

  • What should I do with my life?
  • What’s it like to give my body up for someone?
  • How attached am I to privacy?
  • How selfish am I when giving feels forced upon me?
  • Does my faith hold on during the third night or third week or third year of sleep deprivation, or is it a product of my ability to string together rational thoughts?
  • Do I trust my husband as a father?
  • How weird am I about food?
  • What strong opinions do I have about clothing? Sleepovers? Education? Extracurricular activities?

Being a mom brings it all to the surface. It reveals a more truthful version of ourselves, not because we were previously being untruthful, but because we now are shaping a life for someone else, not simply ourselves.

Mothers are making decisions every day that can and often will impact another person’s entire existence. This pressure to make sure we don’t mess up our child’s life is pretty intense. It creates some heat that tends to wear us down to the core of what we really believe about God, ourselves, and the world.

Read the rest.