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.

The Old Testament in Eight Weeks

IMG_2877I’m just starting a new class in my M.A. program at Bethlehem Seminary: Old Testament Theology. Our main text for the class is THE OLD TESTAMENT. Novel, I know.

Can I tell you how completely thrilled and excited I am?! So in the spirit of shared learning, linking arms, and strength in numbers, I made a spread sheet of our Bible reading as it appears on our syllabus.

I’m linking to it below in PDF form, hoping that many of you reading this blog post will join me in reading the OT:

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Here are few things to note:

Firstly, our prof has encouraged us to read ahead on the lighter weeks. So, it’s not essential that you only read what’s listed on that week. The goal is to get through it all.

Secondly, we are required to read each book in one sitting. If you want to follow along, of course you don’t have to do that, but I think it’s going to be really helpful and I’m excited about it.

Thirdly, some tips: Use audio to listen to the Bible, esp in the car for a chunk of time or on a treadmill or walk or folding clothes. Consider listening at 1.5 speed. Don’t read as you would for inductive study, but also don’t skim. Try and pay attention so that your mind is engaged and “lost” in the story or the text. Read or listen in a translation that is accurate, yet good for reading or listening: NIV, CSB, ESV.

And finally, an encouragement. I realize this is a big thing to throw yourself into at the last minute like this, but just think of it! Eight weeks from now you will have read the entire Old Testament. Think about how valuable that is. Think about how quickly it will be over. Think about how short our time is on earth and all the dumb things we waste our hours and minutes doing. Think about how this could change your life–to really get to know God as he reveals himself in his Word. Let’s do it!

P.S. I’ll have a four week break over Christmas and the New Year, then we’ll be onto the New Testament in eight weeks, so stay tuned!

A Little Compare and Contrast When It Comes to Boaz

I’m currently in a Bible study on the book of Ruth. Have you studied Ruth before?

I think this is my first time. Of course I’ve read it many times, but never studied it. After paying close and careful attention to the characters and the plot, I’ve been completely enthralled.

If you’d like to follow along with our study, you can find the teaching here. I got to teach on Ruth chapter 2 last week (hence the compare and contrast when it comes to Boaz) and will teach again next week on Ruth chapter 4.  Dr. Jason DeRouchie (OT professor) taught our introduction and our women’s minister, Pam Larson, is teaching the rest. She also wrote the study (and did a fabulous job). You can find it all at our podbean site.

I hope you follow along and I hope you grow in love for the God behind this incredible story he tells us.

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).

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My dad and the dad of my kids.

 

Radical, Rest, and Comparisons

Three recent resources to share:

  1. An article written for Radical, the ministry of David Platt. They asked me to write about the most important ways churches disciple children. I’m no expert, but I answered in the truest way I know how–nothing flashy or new. It’s called, “The Most Important Way Churches Disciple Children.
  2. An interview with Hunter Beless of the Journeywomen Podcast on the topic of rest. I enjoyed this conversation so very much. I hope it serves you.
  3. An article at Desiring God called, “Comparison Is Not the Thief of Joy.” This is something that’s been a theme of my writing, but I’ve never addressed it this directly. I pray it helps us use comparisons to fuel our growth, joy, and maturity into Christ.

I’m hoping to get a page set up here on the blog with links to any and all writing, interviews, and talks done elsewhere, for easy access. Bear with my slowness on all this–my desire is to make this online corner a place that serves the family of God in its small way–trusting that even small things can bring him glory. Much love to you all.

A New Year’s Invitation: Resolved, to Tear My Heart to Shreds

I’ve been thinking for some time about New Year’s resolutions. I often read through Edward’s list for inspiration at the end of the year. He has a way of injecting our impending death into our living so that our lives are smaller and bigger all at once.

One basic theme keeps making its way to my mind and heart. It’s not exciting, not new, not deep or intellectual. It’s that I would stop sinning against God and the people around me. All the things in life I’d like to accomplish would be greatly aided if I could make even small gains in victory over sin. My hopes and dreams are great and many and all of them require Christ’s righteousness and a killing of sin.

I want to be the kind of parent that is parenting with the salvation of a thousand generations in mind, not merely surviving the irritations of the evening. I want to be the kind of wife that helps and doesn’t hinder, that does good and not harm all the days of his life. I want to be the kind of friend that is completely committed to another’s well-being, especially their eternal well-being, without worrying about reciprocity. I want to be the kind of church member that honors her leaders, that sharpens and loves them, and that sees and cares for the whole body–the unseen and indispensable. I want to be the kind of online person who is so earnest and sincere in her words and sharing that trying to people-please or schlep for popularity is a non-factor, but the glory of God is all.

You can see how sin, maybe especially inward sin without obvious manifestations, is a giant roadblock to all of these hopes and dreams.

I will not parent with a thousand generations in mind if I’m stuck in the sin of selfishness and laziness and can’t rouse myself to be laid down as a sacrifice on the altar of daily living. I cannot be the kind of wife who helps and doesn’t hinder, doing good everyday if I’m stuck in the sin of a critical spirit. I cannot be the kind of friend who has another’s eternal well-being in mind if I’m stuck in the sin of keeping tallies. I cannot be the kind of church member who honors her leaders and cares for the whole body if I’m stuck in the sin of desiring honor or a voice for myself. And I cannot be the kind of online person who is sincere in her service and brings glory to God if I’m stuck in the sin of people-pleasing or platform-building.

Edwards 56th resolution says this:

“56. Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.”

It’s that last phrase that must not be lopped off: “...however unsuccessful I may be.” If success is what keeps me in the fight against sin, then I’ve gotten it wrong. Especially since the more I see my sin and the more I try to kill it, the more God reveals deeper layers to my sin. How is it that twenty-five years of walking with Jesus and I sense more sin in myself than ever before? Shouldn’t the opposite thing be happening? Discouragement is the road to circular sin apathy. If I’m discouraged by my lack of success in killing sin, I think it’s hopeless and I stop trying so hard, which reinforces the evidence that I just can’t quit sinning in any capacity. Fighting sin can’t be based on how I feel I’m doing at it.

Don’t get me wrong, there must be growth and change and discernible progress––that is not optional. But it’s like coming a mile believing the race is a 5K, then to keep going with the new realization that it’s a 10K, only to find this some kind of marathon and the distance is unknown, but so much more than I would have ever dreamed when I started.

God tells us through Joel, “…rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster” (Joel 2:13 ESV).

God wants us to tear up our hearts over our sin, not our clothes. He wants us to see the consequences for what happens to us and our people if we don’t turn. What happens if I continue in sin? Biological offspring that are denied the tastes of an eternal Father and friend? A marriage that forsakes the log in favor of the speck? Friendships that offer smooth words and zero wounds and are destined for this life only? Church members that put their own needs first and others’ last so that the most vulnerable are forgotten, never seen? And online platforms and puffing up that normalizes self-promotion in the name of Jesus, blurring the lines between a selfish ambition and a holy one?

There are real consequences to sin that aren’t boundaried by the heart in which the sin happens. No, the consequences spill out and multiply.

And it is with these serious and fearful thoughts in mind that I make my resolves and invite you to join me.

  1. Resolved, to tear my heart to shreds over my sin, whether big or small, seen or unseen.
  2. Resolved, to return to the Lord as quickly as I can, making repentance a flat sprint, not a jog or meander.
  3. Resolved, not to look at my sin one second more than is helpful for making me sober and fearful, and then to look headlong at Christ, who has paid for every bit of it.
  4. Resolved, to let thankfulness and joy be the result of repentance as I enjoy increased fellowship with my Father, rather than assuming a posture of guilt or on-going regret.

Lord, would you replace sinful inclinations and actions with thoughts of the glories of Christ and willing hands for good works and happiness in returning to you over and over, so that the appeal of sin becomes bitter and dreadful and Christ becomes more of what he is: my whole life.

Christ’s Ornaments: Learning Our Place on Jesus from Isaiah

This Advent I’ve been reading Isaiah, seeing Jesus at every turn.

I found one passage that was particularly apt for the season ornaments and Christmas trees:

“Lift up your eyes around and see; they all gather, they come to you. As I live, declares the LORD, you shall put them all on as an ornament; you shall bind them on as a bride does” (Isaiah 49:18).

God is speaking to his chosen one–to Zion and to the singular man, Jesus Christ.

Christians commonly glory in having been clothed with Christ. We wear his garments of holiness. It’s worth glorying in. But have you gloried in the fact that Jesus wears you? That you are put on him as an ornament? Bound on him the way a bride puts on something old, new, borrowed and blue? How much must he love us, to display us for all to see?

When I look at the tree this Christmas, I’m remembering that Christ has put me on, not just the other way around. Lord, grant me to be a beautiful ornament adorning Christ this Christmas, whether at home or away, at rest or at work, whether sick or well, tired or alert, “so that in everything I may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:10).

When You’re Walking Through More Than “Just a Season”: Perpetual Living in the Season of Chronic Dying

I love seasons. I love how there is always something to anticipate, always something to look forward to: snowy woolish white, new green buds, lush full life, the brilliancy of death in the leaves of autumn.

And the season motif was first put forward by the wisest of men: Solomon.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

a time to tear, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to hate;

a time for war, and a time for peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 ESV)

I’m not sure how I would have survived the “season of motherhood” that included multiple littles with no older kids, little sleep, crazy amounts of diapers, and very little adult conversation without the constant reminder that I was in a season, that there would be an end, that what faithfulness to that job looked like would not be what it looked like forever. In a few short years, faithfulness would be teaching reading, tying shoes, and working on a solution to toothpaste on the walls, cabinets, and floors.

And now, faithfulness has expanded to include in-depth conversations about the Scriptures, help with increasingly difficult homework, maintaining rhythms and schedules, cultivating mentor-like friendships with my own growing kids, and legitimately funny jokes.

But I’ve noticed that there are some areas of life that are perpetual seasons; they aren’t “just a season” as the sages like to say. They are things that won’t relent until we die.

What about the depression that is vastly longer than the season of “post-partum”? What about the hard marriage that lasts fifty or sixty years? What about the unwanted singleness that endures your whole life? Or the diagnosis that doesn’t have a cure? Or the early death of a loved one who you never do get to see again in this life? Or infertility that doesn’t abate? What about seasons that have no transient time-tables?

What about caring for a child with special needs whose needs remain into adulthood? There isn’t a changing of the seasons in the same way that there is with other children, and while many parents are either longing for or dreading the day their children are independent adults, parents of kids with significant special needs do not anticipate that season in the same way. Which isn’t to say that things are stagnant or always look the same for those parents or kids. We all do change. Things can be easier or harder, simpler or more complex. And many people like myself, simply do not know what future stages will look like. I have reason to be very hopeful, but I simply cannot know. I must walk forward with no predictable season in front of me.

I’ve heard parents with “typical” kids say that that’s true for everyone, not just special needs parents and kids: none of us know what the future will hold for our children. And of course they’re right. But there is a legitimate difference of how we anticipate the future with “normal” kids and special needs kids. With my “normal” kids, it’s true I don’t know the future, but there is a template of growth, development, and maturity that is to be expected, not because we’re pretending to be God and predicting the future or presuming on his kindness, but precisely because what Solomon said is true. To everything there is a season.

Anyone who’s observed life knows how things are supposed to go. The reason we grieve special needs or untimely death or terrible illness is because those seasons have been interrupted or the predicted flow of things has been changed. The reason the grief over the death of a fourteen-year old is particularly horrific and different than the grief over a ninety-eight year old is because we have an innate understanding of how this is supposed to work.

Yet, there is great hope in knowing that while you may not be in “just a season” temporally speaking, this whole temporal life is a season. This life is the melting of winter for Christians. For some of us who have been set down in the shadow with little to block the bitter wind, we may weather this life with an ongoing chill in the bones. And for others, the sun may be throwing a bit more warmth as we perceive a centimeter of green on the tips of the trees. So, for some, this thing called life is a season with a certain sort of predictability to it—with one thing leading to another. And for others, this thing called life is a season of ongoing and chronic trial that doesn’t follow a pattern. And for most everyone, it is a combination of both.

But, we must know that winter is doomed, no matter our experience here and now. We wait for the fullness of life to come, but it is coming. Things are changing in unseen places. The seeds are underground, but they are pushing up. We may be in a chronic season of dying—dying to our expectations, our hopes, our good desires even, but we can live through it. We can perpetually live in the season of chronic dying because Christ has died once for all and he has put us in himself. He has put himself in us. Let Christ in you, the hope of glory, keep you renewed in each and every season—especially the one of chronic dying.

He knows a thing or two about how to help you live through that.

The Secret Ingredient in Bible Study

Below is an excerpt of what I shared with the women at Bible study yesterday. It’s Luther’s rules for theologians. We’re studying Reformation Doctrine and if you want to follow along with us, you can do so here. Here is what I shared yesterday:

I wanted to take a minute and encourage you as you study your Bibles and seek to grow as theologians—as women who are knowing God better. Some of you may be overwhelmed with life. You’re here, but barely. You may be in the middle of something really hard. Luther has some encouraging words for you and me:

Martin Luther said in his Preface to the Wittenberg Edition, “I want you to know how to study theology in the right way. I have practiced this method myself… Here you will find three rules. They are frequently proposed throughout Psalm 119 and run thus: Oratio, Meditatio, tentatio (prayer, meditation, trial).

Regarding prayer Luther says:

“You should completely despair of your own sense and reason, for by these you will not attain the goal…Rather kneel down in your private little room and with sincere humility and earnestness pray God through his dear Son, graciously to grant you his Holy Spirit to enlighten and guide you and give you understanding.”

Regarding meditation, Luther says:

“Secondly, you should meditate. This means that not only in your heart but also externally you should constantly handle and compare, read and reread the Word as preached and the very words as written in Scripture, diligently noting and meditating on what the Holy Spirit means…Therefore, you observe how in this psalm David always says that he will speak, think, talk, hear, read, day and night and constantly—but about nothing else than God’s Word and Commandments.  For God wants to give you his Spirit only through the external Word.”

Regarding trials he says:

“Thirdly, there is the tentatio, testing (Anfechtung). This is the touchstone.  It teaches you not only to know and understand but also to experience how right, how true, how sweet, how lovely, how mighty, how comforting God’s word is: it is wisdom supreme. This is why you observe that in the psalm indicated David so often complains of all sorts of enemies…For as soon as God’s Word becomes known through you, the devil will afflict you, will make a real [theologian] of you.”

Psalm 119:67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Thy word. 68 Thou art good and doest good; teach me Thy statutes. 71 It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Thy statutes.

Nothing has put meat on the bones of my study like trials, friends. Our youngest son with special needs has neurological sleep problems, which means 4 years of really bad sleep and lots of throw-up every week because of his problems swallowing. It’s amazing how bad sleep and vomit can open the eyes of our heart to behold wondrous things from God’s Word. Trials give us the gift of desperation. They give us the testing ground for our beliefs and the unmatched joy of knowing and experiencing Christ to be the keeper of every promise. So I encourage you to persevere and let your trials be the hammer that drives you deeper into Christ.

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