Not as much of a "how to" book as the title might imply, but more of a wellspring of life-experience and wisdom from an experienced, godly woman. VeryNot as much of a "how to" book as the title might imply, but more of a wellspring of life-experience and wisdom from an experienced, godly woman. Very much a grace of God in my life right now....more
Starting this book on the heels of What's Best Next (review here), as another three-word-titled productivity-ish book, I have to admit I was a little curious as to the direction it would go. (I mean, that title almost sounds like it flows with Your Best Life Now? ;)) Thankfully, the book and its content are fairly straightforward.
Lysa Terkeurst'sThe Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands connected well with my recents readings of What's Best Next and Essentialism, but definitely had a unique approach and is geared toward the specific audience of women (and moms), though still providing material that applicable for anyone. This was also my first time to read a book by Terkeurst.
Saying "no" is hard. Especially, saying "no" to good people, good opportunities, and even good ministries. We live in an age of endless opportunities, 24/7 accessibility, and lots of pressure to not only "have it all," but to "do it all" and "be it all." And in this type of culture, it is especially important to consider, reconsider, and pursue wisdom as we make decisions.
For most of us, we need to hear the message that we need to do less in order to do and be our best. Many of us who grew up in Christian subcultures often saw busyness as a measure of spirituality, and involvement in any and every ministry opportunity was encouraged. If this was you, this book is for you. (Even for those on the opposite spectrum, who feel like they really need to stop being lazy or take on a little more challenge, this book will be an incredibly helpful resource.)
For those of us who have been reading material countering these demands to stay crazy busy, many of us are familiar with the saying that a "yes" to one opportunity is a "no" to other opportunities. The Best Yes follows along this stream, but casts it further by encouraging readers to consider how saying "yes" to too much or the wrong opportunities causes us to miss out on the best opportunities. Hence, the title.
Terkeurst uses the helpful analogy of bankruptcy to more fully describe the importance of guarding our time and physical and emotional (and spiritual and financial) resources. It is not mine to give what I do not have to give. (Hard to hear for me!) Most of us know that to be true with our finances, but sometimes it's a bit harder to see this with our other resources: our time, our emotions, or our physical strength.
Yes, sometimes, we must push ourselves (really, rely on God for our strength) when life circumstances fully out of our control overload us. Sometimes we need to bear burdens for others that are hard. (We also need to ask if our own unwise choices and lack of boundaries have brought about such circumstances in the first place.) But we cannot voluntarily hand out time and energy that we don't have to give. We grow in debt and become bankrupt when we do so. When we hand out tokens of our time and energy beyond what we have, we end up coming back empty handed on those who are consistently dependent on us.
This is an area that I've done some reading on over the last few years, yet this book helped me see things from a fresh angle and was a reminder that I desperately needed to recalibrate yet again. And as a young mother of young children, this read highlighted the need to constantly reevaluate what are my "best yeses," as my abilities, resources, and time are constantly changing over different seasons of parenting and life. I also need to realize this is going to look different for everyone, even for those who I consider to be in the same season of life with many similarities. Personal reflection on this theme also had me realize that when I refuse to set appropriate boundaries, it can cause others to also make poor decisions in that area; and vice versa, when I surround myself with people who have poor boundaries, it's much easier for me to feel I must live the same. And the emotional effort of having to set boundaries for myself and for those who struggle to do so can often itself require additional boundaries.
Terkeurst helpfully weaves together her life stories, Scripture, and other sources of wisdom together to present the message of this book. Saying "yes to the best" requires a long-term vision, rather than a vision for the present - for instant gratification results. It requires saying "no" to a lot of good things, and a willingness to look beyond temporary reactions to our decisions. It requires seeking wisdom preemptively, rather than as a reactionary response. And quite importantly, it requires seeking God's face, and trusting in Him through faith, trusting that He has given us the resources we need to find and exercise wisdom. Where other books on a similar note often focus on the "no" of boundaries, the focus here is more positive, on aligning our saying no and our decisions under being able to give our best yes, whether now or later on down the line.
My concerns or negative reflections? I've seen this being marketed as a women's Bible study. It's not. It refers to Scripture, and draws the message of the book from the Bible. But it's not a Bible study! (This is one I'd count as such, though more specifically this would be a true Bible study.) Otherwise, parts of this grow verbose and flowery. But many of the audience this is written for prefer that style, and might not as apt to pick up differently-styled books on the subject. And those flowery stories to accompany the counsel offered are sometimes the way that the book's message sticks with me, too. Table of Contents
Thus far in 2015, ahigh percentage ofmy reading has beenin the field of productivity, but more tReview originally posted here: http://wp.me/p26dwz-2aC
Thus far in 2015, a high percentage of my reading has been in the field of productivity, but more that just that: it's been about essentialism, a term I now use as a result of this book. Greg McKeown's Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less is a great read any time, but perhaps particularly at the start of a new calendar year.
McKeown poignantly explains, “Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.”
In an age of information and material overload, self-discipline is absolutely essential to saying "no" to the excess in order to focus on the best. Essentialism is similar to productivity, but more broad in its scope. It's also similar to minimalism, yet the goal is not to hone down life to as little as possible, but to better focus on what is truly essential. Essentialism incorporates many of the core principles of popular productivity books. But it also goes a step beyond.
Essentialism is divided into four main parts: Essence, Explore, Eliminate, and Execute, with each section comprised of four to six chapters. McKeown begins by laying the foundation of how an essentialist must think and focus. Next, he gives principles to help the budding essentialist determine the essential components of his or her specific life roles, gifts, and seasons. The third section gives tips to learning to pare down life to the essentials (including the power of "no"), and the final portion deals with creating habits and productivity hacks to better improve the true essentials.
Ironically, in a book about pursuing less, I wonder if the author could have shortened the book at times when the content seemed repetitive (not that I'm any kind of expert on this). But overall, Essentialism a superb read. And at the risk of sounding forced, it's an essential read for learning to prioritize life and pursue less in a culture of ubiquitous excess.
This book also dovetailed nicely with my reading of Matt Perman's What's Best Next (my review here), though Essentialism takes a more singular, focused angle, and certainly does not include the specific theological connection. ...more
Like many Evangelicals, I have grownweary of seeing Christian authors simply take secular books,Review originally posted here: http://wp.me/p26dwz-29s
Like many Evangelicals, I have grown weary of seeing Christian authors simply take secular books, concepts, and ideas, slap on the label "Biblical" (or "Gospel-centered," "Christian," "godly," or other buzzwords), throw in a few (usually-out-of-context) Bible verses and call it their own, usually holding their version on a pedestal.
When I first saw this book and started into it, I'm afraid both Daniel and I did a mental eye roll, thinking that's what this book would be. But all those initial red flags quickly dropped as I delved further into this book.
Is it possible to disguise a theology book as a productivity book? Or a productivity book as a theology book? If so, Matt Perman just did it in What's Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done. And actually, it seems he's done better than simply disguising one as the other: he's showed how the two are intrinsically linked together for the believer.
Perman opens the book by distinguishing the difference between productivity and efficiency, an important distinction to make when implementing productivity habits. Throughout the book, the author references his own life's study and work to demonstrate that it's not just about working hard, fast, and furious that will get things done, but one also needs to examine how to use wisdom and skill to be more productive in one's work.
As he walks readers along the path to productivity, Perman examines books like Getting Things Done and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, sharing how such productivity tips have helped him become more productive. In sharing his own experience, Perman notes that even after implementing hacks from the above resources, he was still coming up short. Eventually, he had to realize he was taking on too much, an assessment which is also a part of improving productivity.
In examining the scope of this book, two weaknesses stand out to me. The first is that it sometimes seems that the author assumes we have all shifted into a knowledge economy and all work in knowledge era work. What of the man who still works in a factory? Or for someone who still works in the field of manual labor all day? In a books that ties productivity so tightly to living out the Gospel in day to day living, it seems it is crucial to distinguish how productivity may look different in various realms of calling. Perman does helpfully acknowledge that these concepts are applicable to those who spend most of their time parenting, but even this deals primarily with productivity within the sphere of a knowledge based economy.
My second concern is the emphasis on excellence without the necessary counterbalance. Whereas Perman tempered much of his other advice by addressing the applicational extremes that have proven to have harmful (e.g., living fully for Jesus does not mean moving to "Africa," our lives are not divided into two halves of sacred and secular), I felt that his repeated emphasis on the excellence theme warranted additional emphasis for keeping this in check: not judging others for what seems a lack of "excellence," that our performance does not earn us better favor with God, that we need to be wary of allowing our pursuit of excellence to drift into elitism).
In our realization that productivity and excellence in our work is a part of loving others, we must also love others by gently joining together with them where they are in an understanding of productivity. As an extension on my first concern, it's also an important reminder that if you work in a knowledge field, excellence in other fields is going to look different elsewhere, and sometimes might not seem as productive or bright and shiny as the knowledge industry. Perman excels at placing excellence under the umbrella of human flourishing and living for God's glory, and that itself speaks much to keeping this emphasis in check. But simply put, a pursuit of excellence must be used as a personal challenge, but not as a bludgeon when used towards others. More direct warnings on this would be helpful.
Overall, though, I was blown away by all that was packed into this book: practical productivity tips, a deep theology of vocation, a deep theology of human flourishing (shalom, as Tim Keller describes it), and how our work in this world flows from the two greatest commandments: loving God and loving others.
In addition to drawing from popular productivity books, Perman also draws from William Wilberforce and Jonathan Edwards, focusing frequently on Edwards' Charity and Its Fruits and onWilberforce's life work of seeking to abolish slavery.
Not only is the content itself rich, but it is laid out well, in a way that is incredibly helpful (something the author emphasizes can be a way of loving others), and Perman provides numberous resources along the way.
Productivity is a significant part of our living out wisdom. Perman helpfully points out that secular wisdom on productivity is a gift of common grace that we should attempt to learn from. But our faith puts our work on a different foundation than secular pursuits of productivity. And though we will likely utilize similar workflows and productivity concepts, we are also pushing toward things that are eternally productive. Perman also helpfully places productivity within the sphere of the creation mandate, skillfully pointing out that its purpose is not to take over the culture, but to serve it. In this way, he demonstrated a deep understanding of vocation and a humility that is often lacking as Christians examine their role in the culture and world.
Much like Hannah Anderson's book, Made for More, the theology of vocation in this book was freeing and empowering to find fulfillment and pursue excellence in the callings God has given me. Most valuable to me in What's Best Next, though, was Perman's focus on productivity and work flowing from loving God and loving others, thereby promoting human flourishing (shalom) and serving our culture. While others may not find this emphasis to be a novel one, those who share a similar religious background and emphasis with me (American Fundamentalism) will likely appreciate this further Scriptural exploration on this issue. And in spite of my disclaimer above, I believe this book will still be helpful encouraging to individuals who work in industry economies, as well, particularly with the emphasis on using their work to promote human flourishing.
In connection with his current writing, Perman has shared resources from the The Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, and I found this short video to be fitting within part of the scope of What's Best Next.
If you enjoyed the pace and non-stop action of a book like Unbroken, you'll likely enjoy Catch Me If You Can: The True Story of a Real Fake. Sound confusing? This book is the true story of Frank Abagnale, who stumbled into a life of fraud at the young age of 15 years. When his parents unexpectedly divorced, Abagnale's life was put into a tailspin, and his hunger for money pushed him to find creative ways to make some. Sadly, his own father was the first individual he swindled.
Soon after that, Abagnale discovered that if he played it right, he could cash faulty checks and then move on before the banks or hotels caught onto him. He also looked much older than his age, and in the process of creating an identity that would match the checks he was cashing, Frank faked many identities. His most frequent alter ego was a Pan Am pilot, which allowed him countless free flights; but from age 16 to 21, he also posed as a medical doctor, sociology professor, airline recruiter, and law attorney (he even passed the bar exam in the process!). What makes his story so amazing is that he actually did such a good job pretending in some of his impersonations that he was highly respected by those interacting with him.
Although Abagnale's life of fakery also included a number of sexual relationships, the book doesn't not glamorize his escapades or share explicit detail. The language is also clean. (While it certainly doesn't excuse his crimes, I also found it intriguing that Abagnale took great effort not to personally rob any individual, but rather to steal nearly all his funds from insurance-backed institutions.)
Tired of living on the run, Abagnale eventually settled down for retirement in France (at the young age of 20!), but was soon after caught and imprisoned in France, where prison life was so rough that he barely survived. And eventually, he was sentenced to prison in America, as well.
Abagnale's story, like that of Louis Zamperini's in Unbroken, also ends with redemption. But unlike Unbroken, his redemption was not as public, nor as overtly Christian, and nor was his early life so heroic.
In a rather strange twist of irony, the FBI hired Abagnale just four years into his twelve year prison sentence, at first without remuneration. Perhaps even more amazingly, he's been with them ever since, has been married for over thirty five years, and has three sons who have all had great life success. Today, he is a highly respected expert in the field of forgery and fraud.
While the book and the movie (yet to be seen by me) end at different points following Abagnale's criminal career, I was fascinated to find and watch this speech by Abagnale, in which he recounts his early life, but also answers a number of questions regarding his life since. (Near the end, he also gives some helpful info on avoiding identity theft.)
I have not yet seen the film version of Abagnale's life, but hope to compare the story later this year. Somewhat interestingly, when the movie was made, federal regulations on Abagnale's former crimes meant that the film writers and actors were not able to consult Abagnale on his life, mannerisms, or role studies. But Abagnale has said multiple times that he felt the film did a good job in its portrayals. ...more
This book seems like a rather lengthy tome to say, "attachment between children and parents is important in establishing and maintaining long-term relThis book seems like a rather lengthy tome to say, "attachment between children and parents is important in establishing and maintaining long-term relationship." However, the final portion of the book was particularly and practically helpful. Probably the most valuable once you're a few years into parenting.
I found it interesting that this book essentially stressed many of the concerns about American culture and family that the NFIC (National Family Integrated Church) does, yet without some of the baggage accompanying that movement. ...more
(More comprehensive review forthcoming. Excellent, excellent book encouraging American parents, in particular, to step back and look at the range of p(More comprehensive review forthcoming. Excellent, excellent book encouraging American parents, in particular, to step back and look at the range of parenting practices across societies and over the course of history, rather than simply holding up the current American norm as best (or even normative for humans) simply because it is the American way. The American psyches that we esteem so highly (such as self-reliance, independence, and toughness; and that do indeed benefit us in other realms) play into how we treat our children and what we expect from them and ourselves far more than we realize. This is not a parenting book; but if you can read between the lines, this is a good book to cross-pollinate societal parenting observations into actual, practical parenting practices. This book combines so many of my passions, which earns it as place as a well-marked, heavily highlighted, paper copy resource for years to come.) ...more
2014 is proving to be a good year for newly published Christian women's books, a genre whose weaknesses and shallowness I and many others have oft lam2014 is proving to be a good year for newly published Christian women's books, a genre whose weaknesses and shallowness I and many others have oft lamented.
Without even using the word hermeneutics, this book is a guide to exactly that. (But no worries, lovers of and trained students in hermeneutics, the author still pulls out and articulately teaches words and concepts such as metanarrative, exegesis, and Bible literacy.)
Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds is a clarion call to today's Christian women to lay aside poor Bible study habits and to dig deeply into patient, purposeful intake of the full scope of Scripture, examining God's Word word-by-word, and within context of The Big Story. Just like our culture is currently learning that this the case with food, the more processed your Bible study is, the less healthy it is for you.
Jen Wilkin encourages women to "put the ruffles in the back," (you'll have to read the book to learn the specific meaning of this one :)), to put away flaky bible study, and to realize that simply "doing devotions" or a "spending time in the Word" are often merely buzzwords that have not been further elaborated or adequately demonstrated.
Yet she writes without intimidation; her own words are neither lofty nor inaccessible. Instead, Jen writes as a skilled teacher, articulating with precision and simplicity, giving her readers a helpful framework for studying God's word. This guide gives the reader specific steps to follow while simultaneously allowing freedom for individual seasons of life, speeds of learning, and the relinquishing of poor study habits. Framework for Studying the Bible After addressing the need for Bible study, Jen dissects several common, yet ineffective, ways we tend approach Scripture within the American Christian subculture: the Xanax Approach, the Pinball Approach, the Magic Ball Approach, the Personal Shopper Approach, the Telephone Game Approach, and the Jack Sprat Approach. (Check out this article for a more in-depth examination of each of these approaches.)
In going through each of these mistaken ways to approach God's Word, Jen not only discusses how easy it is to treat Scripture carelessly, but how important it is that we take a careful, studious approach.
(While this is certainly not a diatribe-focused book, it is nonetheless important to address these errors. Because these approached have subtly become the standard and accepted methods, extra time and explanation must be given to evaluating each of them. Many of us have habitualized these methods to the point of needing extra effort to eliminate them from our Bible study methods.)
Jen builds a framework for good Bible study using her alliterated five-point outline. She urges her readers to study with:
Although alliteration is occasionally symbolic of shallow Bible study, in this case it's a well-crafted pneumonic device.
Under these five foci, Jen addresses the importance of understanding metanarrative (the big-picture story of the Bible) and understanding the Bible as literature (focusing on an understanding of specific authors, the time of writing, the intended audience, the style of writing, and the purpose of writing).
As she explains within the section on Study with Process, Jen then gives the reader specific steps for approaching a passage and studying it in detail, listing the three main stages as:
Comprehension - "What Does It Say?"
A Printed Copy of the Text
An English Dictionary
Other Translations of the Bible
Interpretation - "What Does It Mean?"
Application - "How Should It Change Me?"
What does this passages teach me about God?
How does this aspect of God's character change my view of self?
What should I do in response?
While she does give specific instructions, Jen nonetheless is teaching her readers to fish, rather than simply handing them pre-selected fishes. Or in the words of Jen's opening analogy, she gives her readers a spoon to move their "mountains of Biblical ignorance."
At the end of the book, Jen walks through James as an example of studying a smaller book of the Bible. (This is extremely beneficial, particularly for those who may not have had previous exposure to this type of Bible study.) For the Hungry Women of the Word is easy to read (can be read in just a few hours), but is also valuable as a Bible study companion — using it as a reference and tool as you learn to navigate exegesis of individual passages.
Christian women are hungry for God's Word. In the absence of being taught how to feed ourselves or where to find the healthy food, women are turning to the ineffective approaches listed above, to false teachers, or to anyone who will claim to feed them. Others have been told that "spiritual meat" isn't food for women, and some have become content with a diet of milk and watered-down Word. Yet we can't expect a quick-fix: studying God's Word takes discipline, persistence, and patience. And as we labor through the text, we soon realized we are being filled, we are growing, and our hunger is increasing.
Regardless of where you are in your spiritual journey or how much Bible study training you have under your belt (or your fluffy tights :)), I can guarantee that anyone who has a desire to study God's word will walk away from this book better equipped to do so. Does Every Passage Have Personal Application? One minimal concern with Jen's instructions for Bible study is found in the final step of making application.
(Specifically, my concern is grown out of the application she draws from Genesis 1-6. It would seem that her particular application from that specific text is a bit forced: "A person who applies the creation story can tell you that because God creates in an orderly fashion, we too should live well-ordered lives..." While we may indeed be called to live well-ordered lives, I do not believe this is something that can be drawn out as specific application from this text.)
Because her teaching is so specific and corrective elsewhere in the book, I think further clarification on this particular detail is warranted. Not every passage is going to contain specific personal application or even merit a specific, immediate response. Sometimes, the most specific application that can be wrestled out of certain texts will be to simply step back in awe of Who God is. Sometimes, and Jen does address this elsewhere (also listed in excerpts below), we are simply storing up a savings account of Biblical literacy for the Spirit to apply specifically at a later time.
Jen is careful to repeatedly point out that Scripture is not a book about finding ourselves, but about learning who God is. She is even careful to note that while, yes, we will learn more about ourselves the more we study God's Word, it is only under the umbrella of coming to know who God is. When I understand who He is, I can begin to understand who I am in light of that.
And so, teaching or believing that personal application can be made from every passage can potentially lead to forcing the Scripture into a mold it wasn't intended to be in, going back to the very error Wilkin is so concerned about in the first place.(The particular example that stands out as forced; I think Wilkin would agree with the previous sentence, but perhaps could do a better job in articulating this, especially in light of the ineffective approaches she lists.) The Truth Will Set Us Free This book is empowering for women who have been told that theology is the man's work, or who have been relegated to studying only the "pink passages." (Hannah Anderson's Made for More, review here, also has a great, in-depth examination on this subject.)
The truth is that God desires all people — male or female — know Him for who He is.
A proper understanding of Scripture (and how to study Scripture) is absolutely essential for Christian women. Why? Because our Biblical theology affects our practical theology — how we live out what we believe before God and humankind.
Our understanding of who God is directly affects our understanding of the world around us, of ourselves, and how we view and treat the countless other people created in God's image. And until we can dig deeper to understand who God is, we often leave ourselves with a very shallow interpretation of each of those areas.
If we've been taught that it's okay to cherry pick the Scriptures, we end up twisting the Bible to say whatever we want it to say. If we haven't understood the metanarrative of the Bible, we are unable to discern what is truth when we hear Bible teachers teach opposite positions.
It would behoove those in a position of teaching God's word to others or leading a Bible study to read this book. In fact, Jen devoted her last chapter to addressing the particulars of teaching Bible study.
While this book is addressed particularly for women, this would also be a valuable resource in any man's toolkit for studying Scripture. Given the dearth of Bible study teaching for women, my hope is that many pastors and other men would seriously consider reading this book, both to sharpen their own understanding of being people of The Word and for increasing their knowledge of available resources.
For those who are in a season of life that allows for only minimal (or, even no) interaction with the Bible, the author empathizes and is careful not to make rules that Scripture itself does not make. Rather, she writes with encouragement to endure and wait during such seasons. (A portion of such encouragement is included below, as the final excerpt.)
After reading this book, my hunger for further and deeper Bible study grew. This is a book I have long hoped would be written, and am thankful for this important resource in Women of the Word. Assorted Excerpts:
"It seemed obvious that if God had given us his revealed will in the Bible, I should be spending more time trying to know and understand it. But the task seemed overwhelming. Where was I supposed to start? And why weren't the things I was already doing making the problem discernibly better? How was I supposed to move my mountain of biblical ignorance?
The answer, of course, was gloriously simple. The answer was 'one spoonful at a time.' Thankfully, someone gave me a spoon...
On the other side of the mountain of my biblical ignorance was a vision of God high and lifted up, a vision stretching Genesis to Revelation that I desperately needed to see. I have by no means removed that whole mountain from my line of sight, but I intend to go to my grave with dirt beneath my nails and a spoon clutched in my fist. I am determined that no mountain of biblical ignorance will keep me from seeing him as clearly as my seventy or eighty years on this earth will allow."
"Within our Christian subculture we have adopted a catch-all phrase for our regular habit of interacting with Scripture: 'spending time in the Word.' Church leaders urge us to do so. Authors and bloggers exhort us to value it. But what should take place during our 'time in the Word' can remain a vague notion, the specific habit it represents varying widely from person to person.
The potential danger of this vagueness is that we may assume that our version of 'spending time in the Word' is moving us toward Bible literacy simply because we have been obedient to practice it. Not all contact with Scripture builds Bible literacy. Learning what the Bible says and subsequently working to interpret and apply it requires quite a different practice than many of those we commonly associate with 'spending time in the Word.' We cannot afford to assume that our good intentions are enough."
"For years I viewed my interaction with the Bible as a debit account: I had a need, so I went to the Bible to withdraw an answer. But we do so much better to view our interaction with the Bible as a savings account: I stretch my understanding daily, deposit what I glean, and patiently wait for it to accumulate in value, knowing that one day I will need to draw on it. Bible study is an investment with a long-term payoff. Rather than reading a specific text to try to meet an immediate need, give the benefits of your study permission to be stored away for future use. What if the passage you are fighting to understand today suddenly makes sense to you when you most need it, ten years from now? It has been said that we overestimate what we can accomplish in one year and underestimate what we can accomplish in ten. Are you willing to invest ten years in waiting for understanding? Are you willing to wait a decade for an application point to emerge? Be encouraged that you are storing up treasure, eve if you don't see or feel it in the short term."
"For me, these seasons [of not being able to devote long periods of time to Bible study] have sometimes lasted for years — sermons and podcasts were a lifeline. Having a structured group study to go to helped keep me in contact with the Bible, but some months even that was too much to take on. Some months, just keeping body and soul together for myself and my family seemed to occupy almost every waking moment. I don't consider those months to have been lost time or setback to my growth. They were times to employ patience, not with active learning of the Scriptures, but with waiting on the Lord. They deepened my desire for study. Some of my most fruitful times of teaching and writing occurred immediately after just such a period of waiting."
Table of Contents
Disclaimer: I received an electronic advanced reader's copy of this book in exchange for my review. But all opinions are my own.
I'm afraid I may have gone into this book with a slight bias: I've read Hannah Anderson's writing (via blog and contributed articles elsewhere) over tI'm afraid I may have gone into this book with a slight bias: I've read Hannah Anderson's writing (via blog and contributed articles elsewhere) over the last few years, and have almost always profited from her writing and thinking. When I heard and read reviews for her upcoming book, my heart skipped a few beats with excitement, both at the topic and my knowledge of her gift for writing.
As I immersed myself into Hannah's forward, I again felt the same excitement.
Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God's Imageis an invitation for women to step back from our culture's myopic view of life (both inside and outside the Church), and to take in the full scope of our identity in Christ. In the front portion of the book, Getting Started, Hannah states her purpose in writing this book:
"This book is not a call to deny womanhoood in order to embrace being made in His image. But it is a call to understand that womanhood, and everything that comes with it, serves a greater purpose. It is not a call to abandon labels or categories, but it is a call to step back in order to lay a solid foundation before we build those categories. It is a call to wrestle with what it means to be made in His image and to believe that you are made for more than what you often settle for."
Ensconced within the final sentences of that paragraph, I believe, is what makes this book's message so crucial. So much of today's "Biblical womanhood" teaching has not been laid as a solid foundation, but instead upon bricks of flaky theology and a chronistic view of womanhood. Sadly, many of us with such a foundation under our feet have indeed settled for far less than what we were created to be and to do.
The scope of this book is primarily a one of providing a foundational overview of living imago dei, yet under that umbrella, Anderson also offers a robust and corrective theology of vocation and education (learning).
Under the realm of vocation, I particularly benefited from this aspect that Catherine also brought up in her review of the book, and appreciated Catherine's articulation of this:
"[P]erhaps the most profound section[s] of the book (and I hope the author writes more extensively on this topic in a future book, because I think she nailed it) is Anderson’s description of integrated identity. That is, rather than chasing the have-it-all thing, or attempting to compartmentalize different facets of our identity, Anderson advocates a convergence and flourishing that comes from seeing our different callings and roles–from personal to professional, expressing our giftedness to accomplishing mundane tasks–as a chance to be the hands and feet of Christ, and to reflect the unity and wholeness of the Trinity. And, she writes, when we love God with the fullness of our identities, and seek Him in every aspect of our lives, we will enjoy His peace and see those seemingly disparate parts of who we are “work together in beautiful coordination for our good and His glory.” I love the way she puts this:
The fact that I am a woman, that I am a mother, that I am a writer—even where I live—all work together to enable me to image God in a more complex, more brilliant way than if my identity were simply one-dimensional. So even as we strive for wholeness, we do not reach it by diminishing the multidimensional nature of our lives. We find it through the complexity of them. We find wholeness as each facet is cut to capture and reflect the radiance of Christ Himself."
As God has shifted my paradigms of theology of vocation and Biblical womanhood over recent years, I've come to accept and appreciate this sort of "integrated identity" in myself. Because of my many interests (not all of which can be explored during this particular season, or even during any one particular life season, really), I've come to terms with seeing myself as a "renaissance soul," a concept explored in the secular book by the same name (my review here). And in reality, we are all renaissance souls, as perhaps no one is gifted or called to simply one realm giftedness and ability over the course of a lifetime. But this exploration is particularly helpful to Christian women who have often been relegated to seeing their identity as a "one-dimensional caricature" of a rather superficial view of womanhood, at that. Written for More As Matthew L. Anderson shared in his back cover blurb, "Here is a book for women that has something to teach men. Made for More is wise and well-written, and I heartily commend it to everyone made in the image of God, male and female alike."
This is a book that I want my children, both sons and daughters, to read. This is a book that I want my husband to read. (Thankfully he already has a good grasp on imago dei, and has not been afraid to learn theology or otherwise from women, either! :))
This book was healing and hopeful, freeing and spiritually challenging, edifying and empowering, and bears an important message for all those who bear God's image, which is all of us. Anderson writes with theological precision and academic accessibility, and demonstrates her own giftedness for writing in a way that promotes the human flourishing she speaks of in the book. Assorted Excerpts
"Thankfully, He's the kind of God who welcomes our questions, who can wrestle with us through the confusion and still bless us in the process. He is the kind of God who desires true faith, even at its weakest points, and looks for mustard seeds instead of mountains. He is the kind of God who delights in the plea, "Help my unbelief" and then holds on to us because we can't hold on to Him anymore. He is the kind of God who can handle all our doubt, all our fear, all our questions if we will simply commit to letting Him." (27)
"Instead of being fully formed, multi-dimensional people who radiate the complexity of God's nature, we [mistakenly] become one-dimensional caricatures, as limited and superficial as the thing we have devoted ourselves to." (50)
"Our God doesn't bear grudges. He doesn't hold Himself back to punish us. He doesn't "teach us a thing or two." Instead, in the face of unbelievable rejection, even as we turn from Him again and again, He patiently, generously, abundantly extends Himself to us. And when we finally return to Him, and to each other, He faithfully, freely forgives and makes us whole once again." (91-92)
"And yet Scripture does not differentiate between sacred wisdom and secular knowledge. In Psalm 19:1, David sings that even "the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork." Everything you could possibly learn -- from the physics that enable a suspension bridge to straddle San Francisco bay to the social habits of whales to the tenderness of a mother's touch -- everything reveals the majesty of God 'who established the world by His wisdom.'"
"Because of this, imago dei knowledge is by necessity more than a dry, crusty intellectualism; it is more than a 'worldview.' At its root, imago dei knowledge means searching for Him with childlike curiosity, wide-eyed and eager to discover who He is and the world He has made." (99-100)
"Too often as women, we have restricted ourselves to the 'pink' parts of the Bible. When we identify first and foremost as women, we can begin to believe that knowledge of ourselves will come primarily through passages that speak to women's issues or include heroines like Ruth or Esther. But when we do this, when we craft our learning and discipleship programs around being "women," we make womanhood the central focus of our pursuit of knowledge instead of Christ.
And we forget that these "pink passages" were never intended to be sufficient by themselves. We forget that we can never understand what it means to be women of good works until we first learn about the goodness of a God who works on our behalf. We forget that nothing about them will make any sense if they are not first grounded in the truth that we are destined to be conformed to His image through Christ.
Because you are an image bearer, you must allow the entirety of Scripture to shape your sense of self. You must begin to see every verse as a "pink" passage because every verse speaks to who God is and therefore who you are as His daughter. You must begin to believe that theology and doctrine are not men's issues but that they are imago dei issues because they reveal the God in whose image you are made." (103)