I’ve been getting more questions than usual lately about this topic, so I wanted to do a quick post. Plus, I got to ask my husband (my favorite person) about his top pick of books in this area (both of our favorite things).
Just an FYI, when I use the term culture in this post I mean the holistic process of educating a maturing human being able to live up to their highest potential for the Lord (this includes adults and children). Think *Christian discipleship.* Leave no area of your life untouched. Don’t believe the lie that there’s some parts secular, some parts spiritual. It’s all integrated with Christ at the center. This includes every single area of life: the talk that happens at the breakfast table (full of grace, hopefully?) to the clothes we put on our bodies to the way our time is spent to books we allow to take up room on our shelves. That being the case, let’s get to the good parts! 😀
Also, since all parent’s are dealing with eternal souls placed in human bodies when raising their children, these books are great for homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers.
Q: What are the books that you feel have helped shape oyur family culture?
Personally (Lexy speaking here), I stand by the opinion that sometimes we need a little bit of black and white snark to reveal the hilarity, absurdity, and offensiveness about our culture’s own idols and ideals. Food snobbery is disguised way too often as a means of “Christian stewardship.” Believe me, I like my ancient, traditionally prepared grains. I’m a brewer all all things wild yeast and bacteria. I prefer home cooked food. But food fussing is no longer a hill I’m going to die on if it separates me from fulfilling the Great Command to love others. Translation: I’m going to eat those processed meats my friend served me for the glory of God. Because, after all, what God made is good and the only real command we are given in regards to food is to be thankful for it and pray over it. This also introduced me to the beautiful idea of using food for feasting and the great impact that has on solidifying relational bonds and family culture.
B’s thoughts: “Food Catholic is a book for the hungry refugees of the great food wars, the wife who thinks buying organic is a footnote on the tablets Moses carried down from Sinai, and the husband sneaking to McDonald’s on the way home from work without telling that wife. Recommended pairing: half a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts.”
Since I have yet to finish this book, here’s B’s own thoughts on why he picked this: “You Are What You Love will help you understand both the ubiquity and power of the liturgies you live and move in, as well as help you grab onto them and mold them into more helpful shapes.”
From what I have read, this book made me realize, memorization or no memorization, we are creatures made to be catechized. If you don’t catechize your kids, someone will. Be it Netflix, the lady selling your daughter clothes in American Eagle, or their history teacher. Also, don’t fear indoctrination. Indoctrination is only wrong if we don’t show the other sides. And when we have Truth on our sides, we have nothing to fear in wading through the swamps of other worldview and cultures, as my husband likes to say. And, occasionally, maybe we will get sightings of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in our reading the pagans (Harry Potter, anyone? 😉 )
We both had this book on our list. I actually think this was the first book I ever read, aside from books by the author’s mother (Edith Schaeffer…which I read before kids, so, completely different ballgame and era of my life and thoughts about this) that opened my eyes to being actively shaping our children’s childhood as well as our family rhythms and culture. I read this when Ira was a few months old. I am so, so grateful that our kids were still so tiny when I read this. I feel like that was a major grace for them. This book quickly revealed how most decisions I was making in my life were fueled by efficiency. That’s ok if you’re end product is a machine, but if your goal is loving and relationships with God and others, what’s most efficient may look much messier to most practical Americans. 😉 Part of why this is the topic my heart wrestled with was because the topic of biblical personhood and how we should respect humans in how we seek to educate them was dealt with.
This is another one we both chose. God knew I needed this snarky book to, yet again, reveal the ideals of Charlotte Mason education that I was clinging too alllllll too tightly. This book showed me, again, that wisdom for living, raising kids liberated to be all that God created them to be, all for His glory, is Truth derived from God Himself, and not a person. I love everything this book had to say, and I needed to hear it in the way the author wrote it (satire) in order to break through my personal struggles. Aside from that, this book does such a good job at looking at where we’ve gone so wrong with today’s culture as it relates to how we raise children. Our children no longer know how to look at the sky or preserve attraction to the opposite sex or discipline their mind for hard, memory work.
My personal choice:
This book was another book that dealt with efficiency and food idolatry in my heart. I’ve often described it as a systematic theology of the material world and how Christian’s should actual view the gifts God’s given us: like donuts (my husband’s favorite food item), books (he-he…), children, snowy days, technology, etc. Christians are not Gnostic who wish you abstain from the physical world, but we are creatures made to worship God with and through the things in the world He created and called GOOD (by the way, that world included great minds to think up things like GMOs and corn syrup). My Amish loving Wendell Berry reading roots will always need books like these.
Also, thank you, Brian, for making me read this book. To date, I think this is the only book you’ve ever placed in my hand and made me read. I’m so thankful you did. ❤
What have been your family’s favorites? 🙂
2017 will forever be remembered as the year Brian decided we should get rid of Netflix and Amazon Prime video for good. He certainly succeeded in meeting his reading goals, but it was only towards the end of my year (like…a month ago maybe?) that I decided to challenge myself with my goals. Reading is not hard for me. Not reading is more of a discipline. That being said, I enrolled in Classical U a few months ago to pursue becoming certified as a Master Classical Teacher. This meant saying bye-bye to two hours of reading a day, but it’s been a great exchange. Through my studies at CU I saw a great deficiency in my reading. I’ve read almost zero of the great books! Since this realization, I’ve resolved to follow C.S. Lewis’ suggestions with what kind of books to read:
“It is a good rule after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.”
Right now I’m still becoming acquainted with what the great books even are, in addition to which ones would be most profitable for me. That being said, I’m reading about one classic for every two modern books, in addition to disciplining myself to read the books that will be most helpful in my newest hobby of figuring out how to get a Classical Christian school open in Ogden, Utah. 😉
Like always, my goal in writing this list is to help other readers get ideas for books and goals in their reading pursuits. Enjoy!
P.S. As usual, if you don’t know where you begin, I’ve * the books that are must reads. And pictured is the only book you should read if you only pick one from this list of for the entire year. Start there!
*Sensing Jesus by Zack Eswine
I read this book the first of the year because I had a feeling it would set the mood for 2017. My suspicions were correct. I needed this book to correct some major pride in my life in regards to living beyond the human limitations God created me with. These limitations are indeed good and noble and not something I need to scheme up a way to overcome with efficient means. I needed to hear that God chooses to leave things undone and he does NOT call Lexy to tie up all the loose ends. This is the book that caused me to write my New Year’s resolution: “Lexy will start nothing new in 2016.”
In reading this I was also challenge to learn how to love the locals under my roof and make my home a more beautiful place for their lives to flourish. I also loved his look at the times of days in the Psalms and what feelings those times of day were associated with. It was good to see that by dinner time the Psalmist got tired too and called on the grace of God for help. 😉
China Court by Rumer Godden
Reading more fiction was another goal of mine this year. I believe I found this suggested on some Charlotte Mason reading group. She writes many books for children, but this was more of an adult reading. The form of how it was written would maybe be too complicated for a child. I actually wasn’t a huge, huge fan of this book, but there were some beautiful descriptions of how large families function in day in and day out mundanity.
My Life For Yours by Doug Wilson
This book walks through the home and talks about how each room relates to living out the gospel. Great book to give you ideas on how to evaluate wether or not your home is functioning to it’s largest capacities.
*Confessions of a Food Catholic by Doug Wilson
Brian has been one of the biggest instruments of grace in my life in regards to disordered thoughts about food. He suggested I read this book early in the year and I’m so glad I did. The ability to laugh my way through a book discussing food idols showed me how silly my fears often are. Many of my friends have not enjoyed his frankness on this topic, but it’s what my heart needs over and over again when I get caught up in my old foolish ways of food idolatry.
The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis
My all time favorite C.S. Lewis quote comes from this short book of essays.
Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis
This book was just wow! I so related to Lewis’ spiritual journey as he found himself pursuing the feelings of joy in places like miniature gardens and literature. This book takes a deep dive into the pursuits of the soul as we fretfully search for Christ. Also, as a mother pursuing non-conventional methods of education, I found it so reassuring learning about Lewis’ education.
Charlotte Mason Volume 2
Another goal of mine this year was reading straight through Mason’s personal writings. These books are a treasure trove of wisdom. I truly think every parent should read through these books, as Mason has a grip on working out a Christian anthropology through methods of education, or, more accurately, methods of living in ways that develop all our human capacities.
For the Children’s Sake by Susan Macaulay
The first time I read this book was in 2015. It changed my life and family forever. This book revealed my idol of efficiency most clearly to me and, by the grace of God, challenged me to live in new ways. While this book is about education, again, I think it’s so important for pretty much everyone to read this book since living a *real* life, outside of laptop and phone screens and movies and television binges, is what we should all be doing at every age and stage of life. And it’s this kind of living that it true education.
For this who may be interested, this book was written by Francis Schaeffer’s daughter. I like to reread regularly because of what an impact these ideas have on me.
Practicing Affirmation by Sam Crabtree
Affirmation does not come naturally to me, so this book was something I read by discipline. I am so glad I did! I loved reading about the verses that undergird the practice of pointing to evidence of God’s grace in the life of others.
“Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” Proverbs 11:25
Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson
This book was along the same lines as Sensing Jesus.
When Children Love to Learn
This book is a series of essays by various Charlotte Mason educators. I loved the section in here that talked about the Old Testament and Hebrew understanding of childhood. We simply don’t talk about these things enough (ok, maybe I do…and you’re thinking, “Shut up about it already!”).
Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
I read this book as encouragement to get my kids outside after having another baby! We greatly value being outdoors in our family. Louv coins the term which he calls Nature Deficiency Disorder. He believes a lot of cases of ADD, ADHD, and autism would disappear if children spent so much more time in nature than they do. I loved reading about various great thinkers childhood’s outdoors and how he debunked common myths in regards to the outdoors (ex: we will get murdered if we wander too far).
“Unlike television, nature does not steal time; it amplifies it.” pg. 7
“Nature inspires creativity in a child by demanding visualization and the full use of the senses.” pg. 7
“Hands-on experience at the critical time, not systematic knowledge, is what counts in the making of a naturalist.” pg. 150
Did you know that medical school professors are having a hard time teaching their students about the heart? Why? Because they try to compare the heart, something most people never lay their eyes on, to a flower, something most people should lay their eyes on. Professors are finding their students unequipped for the studies before them because they have such little hands on experience with the created world. More and more children are not interacting with nature, and it’s severely damaging academic pursuits. Get your kids in the mountains.
Martin Luther Had a Wife by William Petersen
This book helped me see that the emotional turmoil that often accompanies having babies is a real thing. I know that’s an odd response to have to a book like this, but it helped me have more grace for those around me as I learned about the many troubles of women and marriages of the great saints of the Christian faith. Seeing how they handled their emotions with faith was a great encouragement to me.
Harriet Beecher Stowe Had a Husband by William Petersen
If you want to be challenged in your life, read about all the work these saints accomplished. I loved reading about the writing wives/moms because I can easily relate to that.
*Death by Living by ND Wilson
I was so, so sad when this book ended. I literally was getting up extra early just to read this book! Wilson is one of my best creative Christian writers alive. His own words capture the heart behind his words better than I could.
“May my living be grace to those behind me.”
“Grabbing will always fail. Giving will always succeed. Bestow.” (Oh, these words hurt my heart!)
A Severe Mercy
I don’t think I’ve cried so much in reading a book since I read crappy Nicholas Sparks novels in early high school years. This is an autobiography of sorts of a young husband and wife in their early marriage. They get saved after becoming married. I believe this is a book every engaged couple should read. It shows the many idols and struggles young couples may struggle with. A good portion of the book includes personal letters between C.S. Lewis and the author.
Little Men by Louisa May Alcott
Oh my! This book was a hoot! I loved knowing my little boys are normal, maybe even normal than most boys being pumped out these days. This is like the male version of Little Women, as Jo undertakes the education of a whole group of boys. Also, great read for more unconventional education ideas.
Silence by Shusaku Endo
A literature loving friend suggested I read this. I hated it when I read it, but when I discussed it with him afterwards, I loved it. It’s a book I should have read in a reading group. (Hmmm…should I start one of those since my 2017 resolution of “not starting anything new” is almost up? 😉 )
Charlotte Mason Vol 3
The Art of the Commonplace by Wendell Berry
We are divided on our Berry love in this home, for good reason. I will always be thankful for the ways Berry has challenged me to find joy and thankfulness in humble, quiet places. Also, this was the most I have ever read on agricultural practices! haha Seriously! This thing could be a textbook in colleges of agriculture. I actually think some of the essays were speeches given at colleges. I enjoyed reading about feminism and the economy and work of marriage. This was another book I had to discipline myself to read due to the heavy farming content.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
I feel like this book got a bit more hype than it deserved, although it was a good read. Very sad.
Keeping Place by Jen Michel
I loved this book! It’s like a systematic theology of homemaking. My biggest takeaway was how Michel pointed to the fact that we are contingent on housekeeping. That made me feel less frustrated that laundry is always there, food always needs to be cooked, toilets will always need to be cleaned. We are dependent on these things for our life and God actually created us that way and called it good!
The Harry Potter Series
Everyone who knows us knows Brian rereads this series two or three times a year. After I had Daphne I was up most nights nursing and my mind simply couldn’t track through the non-fiction I was reading, so I took up Harry Potter through the night time nursings. It kept me off my phone and I could easily track a narrative. I’m so glad I reread this series as an adult! I highly recommend you read these books yourself, and when your kids are of age, they read them too. The redemption story is simply so rich in the last few chapters.
Sabbath by Heschel
This was a very interesting book to read. It’s written by a Jew, and although I wish the author saw the fullness of his “religion” in Christ, I found some practical tips on how to practice Sabbath a little better. As a type A, everything must be cleaned/organized personality, I need to grow in the discipline of Sabbath often. Others may not, but if you’re like me, you’d enjoy this book!
Fruit of Her Hands by Nancy Wilson
This is the only book I’ve read by Nancy, and so far, I won’t lie…I find her writing somewhat boring. Although, I’ve studied a lot on gender roles, so others may find this information new and helpful.
*10 Ways to Destroy Your Child’s Imagination by Anthony Esolen
A friend who read this book at my recommend told me it was harsh. Written as a satire, it shows how foolish we’ve been with our stewardship of education. I sometimes think we need the stark contrast with these topics to reveal where we’ve gone about pursuing things in wrong ways. I loved, loved this book.
*The Case for Classical Christian Education by Doug Wilson
This is a must read for any parent in our stage of life (littles about to enter in to the formal education years). My two biggest takeaways: Ephesians 6 leaves education in the hands of the father. Learning to hear and act on my husband’s thoughts in this realm has been a game changer for me this year. It’s much different from what I initially imagined for our family, but, Lord willing, it’s going to be so, so much better.
Also, the Greek word Paul uses for instruct, paideia, is a loaded concept. The early church practiced this essentially be creating schools in their church. I thought for so long that the regular pattern for educating kids was at home, but it wasn’t. It was in a local church community content. Even in Old Testament times the young kids were sent to the synagogue to be truly educated in all their God-given human capacities. This is the initial purpose of a liberal education: an education that frees you to be truly human, not just a machine being prepped to make more money than the person sitting in the cubicle beside you.
Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl by N.D. Wilson
This book is along the same lines as his book Death by Living. I prefer the later more.
Standing on the Promises Doug Wilson
I wanted to learn more about the Covenant Family concept, so I read this book. While I don’t agree with everything that term encompasses, I do find quite a bit of hope in the biblical promises Wilson covers in this book. This book, along with the Why Children Matter series has drastically changed parenting in our home. A big takeaway: We are called to restore those who have fallen into sin with a spirit of gentleness. When approaching discipling our kids this way, if we can’t do it in a spirit of gentleness, we are’t qualified to discipline. If I don’t want to discipline, if I’m feeling lazy and want to let the disrespectful remark go, I’m probably actually qualified to discipline.
The Odyssey by Homer
I had read this book twice before, once when I was homeschooled in high school and once in college, but reading it for myself was a different experience. It was way more readable than I remember. I think my biggest takeaway was just how courageous and different from most teenage men Telemachus is. He went out on a search for his father in order to preserve his legacy. Most young men today would never leave the comfort of their parents home for the preservation and long term desire of protecting one’s legacy and future generations. I was impressed by the honorable example he was in this book.
Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning by Doug Wilson
This book was more of an elaboration on what has gone wrong in public, Progressive education over the last 100 years. He also talked more specifics of Classical Christian education. This is a great follow up to A Case for Classical Christian Education, but I don’t believe it’s a must read.
Jabber Crow by Wendell Berry
I love Berry, but I didn’t like this book. I think I would’ve liked it better had I read this in a group.
Flannery O’Connor’s Anthology of Short Stories
Ugh. Never again. I really don’t like O’Connor. Again, maybe I need to read her pieces in a group setting. I probably definitely need to read them more than once to mine out the dark grace.
On Christian Teaching by St. Augustine
This was my first introduction to reading a full length piece of Augustine’s. I was struck by his humility and how much I learned from this. I was also shocked at how much he covered topics that seem to be common and universal to Christians of all ages. For example, he talked about the abomination of becoming caught up in food/health idolatry issues. So applicable today!
I also found this fabulous gem:
“A scandalous accusation was leveled by readers and admirers of Plato, who had the nerve to say that our Lord Jesus Christ learnt all his ideas – which they cannot but marvel at and proclaim – from the works of Plato since, undeniably he lived long before our Lord’s coming in the flesh. After examining secular history the aforementioned bishop [Ambrose] discovered that Plato went to Egypt (where the prophet was then) at the time of Jeremiah, an demonstrated that it was surely more likely that Plato had been introduced to our literature of the Hebrew race, in which monotheism first made its appearance, and from which our Lord came according to the flesh, was not preceded even by Pythagoras, from whose followers they claim that Plato learnt his theology. So as a result of studying the chronology it is much easier to believe that the pagans took everything that is good and true in their writings from our literature than that the Lord Jesus Christ took his from Plato – a quite crazy idea.”
Why does this matter? It matters because the underpinnings of all of Greek and Roman philosophy about what is true, good, and beauty seemed to find it’s origin in Christian truth: the hope in Christ Himself as was proclaimed by the prophet Jeremiah! Jeremiah and Plato having a coffee date? Apparently! This shows just how little I know about my historical timelines. Yikes!
Therefore, this makes me more confident in school according to a classical tradition. Christian truth helped shape this tradition way of cultivating human beings.
The Abolition of Man C.S. Lewis
These are Lewis’ essays on education and an extended evaluation of modern textbooks.
The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch
Since Brian has done a lot of thinking, teaching, and talking about becoming more low tech this year I kind of thought this was a pointless book to read, but it really wasn’t! It continued to challenge me in news ways on why and how to pursue the use of technology in it’s proper place in our family. I specifically loved the author’s distinction between rest and leisure. Leisure is often a fretful and unfruitful waste of time that doesn’t allow us to return to work in a more productive fashion. Rest, on the other hand, is productive in it’s nature, as it turns our gaze upwards towards Christ and allows us to turn back to our work in a more fruitful fashion. He also talked about how the law of Sabbath was originally given not to bind us unto death, but as a means of God’s good intentions in creating healthy patterns for our life. He went in to the history of why we are so terrible at resting in our homes, which I think is why less and less Christians fall in to the Sabbatarian group these days. Up until the Industrial revolution most people’s work was accomplished in the home. This made it so people simply had to cultivate healthy patterns of work and rest. They had to put down the pen before dinner, refuse to take up the dishtowels in the evening, for more work was coming with the new sunrise. Today, work has mostly been moved to outside the home, which means the home is mostly looked at as a place of leisure. But, as I already said, leisure is not the same as rest.
Well, there ya go! Happy reading in your new year!
As I start this post, I want to make it very clear that I am talking to women who are Christians. Maybe even Christian women who dabble in Feminism. I say dabble in because I simply don’t believe in “Christian Feminism.” That being the case, I’d love to engage in open dialogue with people willing to discuss this point from scripture. I am not at all interested in discussing these things from an unbelieving perspective because it’s ludicrous for me to expect spiritual things to be discerned by the unspiritual (1 Cor. 2:14).
Also, single-believers who may be reading this, these same principles can be applied to your season, but those you are serving with your talents may not share your blood. I can think of a number of single gals I have known who have used their singleness fruitfully for hospitality, mothering, and pouring themselves out for Christ and His bride. Get creative. Don’t waste this time on selfish pursuits. Make an investments for your future by being faithful with the gifts you have now.
I respect woman-kind as a whole and believe God has given us brains to engage with these topics in a productive way. That being the case, let the ruffling of feathers begin.
I’ve been annoyed for a while now at various clothing companies touting female empowerment behind the purpose of their brand, products, mission, etc. To give an example of this, I saw a post on Instagram awhile ago that was a female athlete in little-to-really-no clothing with some snarky saying on the shirt. The catch phrase to go with the product they were promoting was something vague and catchy, along the lines of: “Empowering women everywhere!”
As feminism truly is become more mainstream, this is a common line companies are using, from gyms telling women they can be just as strong as men, to clothing companies like I mentioned above. At first I thought, “Well, I’m just annoyed because I can’t make it to the gym everyday to look like that.” And quite frankly, I can’t. Nor do I want to. (Plus, aside from that, how shallow must we be as women to put on display a form of empowerment that is only skin deep and for the elite few with extra time, money, and resources to make it to the gym every single day? Isn’t this the exact opposite thing women are fighting for? Being seen as more than a sexual object?) It is absolutely true that chasing three active children around right now is my daily workout. Being the mother of Ira is my Ironman, all joking literally aside. And I occasionally squeeze in some jump rope when they’re all occupied outside, but other than that I look nothing close to these scantily clad goddesses of Instagram. Gone are the days of bounding back to my six pack within months of giving birth. But who cares. Like Paul, I agree that physical exercise is indeed of some value, but we must not neglect engaging in these activities in an ungodly way, because godliness is of much more value to God’s girls (1 Tim. 4:8).
But as I was listening to this episode of the What Have You podcast, I realized why I’ve really been annoyed with these faux forms of empowerment.
Ya’ll need a quick summary of what they were discussing on this episode in order to understand the connection. In talking to the author of this book (that I can’t wait to receive in the mail!), one of the ladies mentioned how women don’t realize we don’t have to carve out and create a place of power for themselves, “making room at the table”, but they are already in a place of power given to them by the Lord. They were reflecting upon the lady-saints of old during the Reformation and the incredible means of influence that they were within their families, faith, and the impact they had on the entire world and history itself.
What they were saying reminded me of the cultural mandate in Genesis given to both men and women.
“And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.'” Genesis 1:28
God told men and women to go out a make a fabulous culture, starting with the family as the backbone of society, as a means to show other people how blessed God’s children are and how glorious their Father must be. This is why God commanded His children to feast over and over and over again in the Old Testament. This is why we are commanded to rejoice in God always. He is not a God of the Gnostics and asceticism. He is the God of the brilliant shades of Autumn and the brain that invented the ice cream cone. He is a God who holds all pleasure in His hands and generously shares it with His children. And we are a group of children that have been so graciously and richly blessed that we have no reason to hold back our hands from those around us.
This is also why God asks us to use our talents. There is no waste in using our gifts to bless others. We should use our cooking, our homes, our time, our money, our hobbies (think quilting, decorating, medical knowledge, canning) in ways that look absolutely profligate to the more pragmatic among us.
All that to be said, women were included as half the people in the command to give birth to culture. No doubt all people agree that culture, environment, atmosphere, has a profound influence over the lives of people.
Therefore, women are already, by God’s design, in a place of influence.
If you saw my post on Facebook this morning, you may know where I’m going now…
Ladies, when you woke up this morning, if you were like me, you probably turned on your coffee pot then turned your mind to thoughts of how to fill hungry bellies that were about to wake up. You woke up already in a place of power given to you by God Himself and it didn’t take getting to the gym or your 9 to 5 job to get there. He made you this way. He gave you this influence. You don’t have to fake it or curate it.
And the reason I’m so annoyed with clothing brands tickling our ears about what it means to be sexy, wanted, and empowered is because those are the empty cisterns we are carving out for ourselves, ladies.
Because a lot of Christian woman are actually turning their backs on the God given power and weight of influence in the home, they are forced to create these shoddy versions of it elsewhere. And they will always fail to yield true power. Why? Because they are overly tailored to the imaginary woman who doesn’t exist. Only’s God’s means of influence is lasting.
Let’s think about this a little longer. What’s the problem with these worldly and procured versions of empowerment? As I’ve said, they leave us famished. While telling us simultaneously to starve our bodies to fit in, our souls are left even hungrier. But not only do they leave us wanting, they enslave us. We think we’re pursuing freedom, but we’re pursuing bondage. Why? Because the second we fail to meet up to the Goddess of Empowerment’s standards, we are crushed. And because in loving and treasuring our life more than God, we lose our life. Again, applying my real life example, I felt annoyed because I knew as a result of giving birth to a child, one of the most powerful, constructive acts a woman could ever do, I was failing to meet the world’s standards of empowerment. Since I’m simply unwilling to put my body, my children, my time, and money on the altar that rock hard abs demands of me, I must be weak. But God’s ways are not our ways, ladies.
The way up is down.
The way to strength is through humility. Not selfies you feel proud to post. Or single digit dress sizes.
So, what does this mean?
Well, really practically and in domestic terms that may annoy most of you, put down the weights for once and pick up your soup spoons, and vacuums, your books and paintbrushes, and sewing needles. Use the full weight of your strength to pour yourself out for people. Keep educating yourself (and no, I don’t mean the type of education that makes you into a more efficient worker for the Man, but the type of education people for thousands of years pursued as a means of cultivating your soul and bettering yourself for the sake of loving others and enjoying God more fully). No, I am not saying it’s wrong to work out (trust me, I can’t wait until the day my kids don’t wake before me so I can get back to some pilates) but ladies, we need better and truer definitions of empowerment. Ones that don’t make us slaves to anything but Christ.
I fear some may call me a legalist at this point. Rest assured that your ability to perform as a helper has nothing to do with your favor before Christ. Where you disobey in your call to be a giver of life, Jesus gives you His perfect righteousness. What I am asking of you is that the faith you have in the same grace you’ve been given to be washed, renewed, and regenerated is the same grace and Savior that you would trust in to fulfill your part of a woman of God. Notice I don’t give specifics on what this looks like in your home and family, but I am reminding you that God has asked you be a culture maker and life giver, and you are disobeying if most of your years are wasted on Pinterest.
Go out a create a culture in your home, church, and community that you are proud of. One you can stand before the Lord and present and here Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
More than likely, I promise you, this will include baking the occasional tray of cookies.
“…unattained positive ideals are the death of the legalistic spirit, which can only flourish in an atmosphere of negative restriction where abstinence is regarded as the essence of virtue.” – pg. 119, “A Quest for Godliness”
“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” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.”
In the name of wisdom and good stewardship, Christians often restrict themselves from certain things. Indeed, Christ’s Word is our very life. But when fear causes misplaced abstinence, should we label it “wisdom?” Really, it’s a lack of trust in God. In short, sin. I had a friend just yesterday point out this very sin to me as I reflected on our weekend’s ambulance ride and hospital visit with our oldest child. “So, do I worry now? I mean…is it ok to keep thinking about this? Asking the, ‘What if’s?'” She reminded me that fear of anything except God cannot induce productive wisdom.
My only aim in this post is to provide a few questions for you to pray through to see if you have misapplied wisdom or misplaced abstinence.
First, what things do you restrict yourself from?
As a contingent (look the word up if you aren’t certain of it’s meaning) being, have you been created with a need for this thing you’ve chosen to abstain from? [And, no, you aren’t going to die if you don’t have sex with your boyfriend.] P.S. Unless you will literally DIE if you eat meat, drink milk, eat bread, etc…then you have some sort of need that food *could* meet given desperate circumstances.
Do you have a specific verse telling you to restrict yourself from this behavior, attitude, etc? [Ex: sexual immorality (Acts 15:20)] If not, do you feel guilt, shame, frustration when you partake?
The fear of God principally and alone leads to true wisdom. Are you fearing God’s thoughts more? Or are you fearing partaking in that food, activity, etc more?
Could you actually partake of the things you’ve chosen to abstain from with thankfulness to the Lord in your heart?
Does your abstinence cause thankfulness in your heart? Or fear? a view of God that leads you to think He tempts people to sin (James 1:13)?
10 p.m. doesn’t afford longer and more in depth writing. Neither does a newborn. 😉
I really hope this short thoughts will lead you into greater freedom and gratefulness to God. After all, it’s the least we could do in response to all His good gifts.
My husband and I are both creatives of sorts. This means we often look at various forms of word-art (poetry, song writing, books) with an eye for learning, appreciation, as well as an eye for critique. That being the case, I won’t lie, we both hate listening to KLove. The supply and demand of most mainstream music these days doesn’t leave much time or room for creativity. Mass production seems emphasized over the product.
Thankfully, we both feel like there’s a true resurgence among truly creative Christians learning to use the gifting and personality God has given them. Writers like N.D. Wilson and Lore Wilburt are rocking it these days. Chad Bird writes some fantastic, modern-day hymns (as well as my husband, for that matter). We have a personal favorite in-home Renaissance artist of sorts at Refuge who’s pieces have at times been on display around our house. And once (ok, twice) upon a time, we were blessed to have Brandon Bee as our worship pastor.
Brandon moved to Ogden, Utah with his lively family (now a fun family of nine, because, yes, his wife is a superwoman!) just after I graduated college with my degree in creative writing. It was hard for me to figure out how my creative giftings fit into the church body and I kind of neglected them for a while. In getting to know Brandon and seeing how his unique gifts showed the reality and active personality of God I realized God has created and called creatives into His body for a purpose: to glorify Him with our gifts. To show others some aspect of who He is that only they are uniquely equipped to do.
My job at Deeply Rooted includes reviewing and crafting content for our print issues, as well as online blog. This means I spend a lot of time reading Christian creative writing. If all on geek out over content. I love dreaming up entire issues around themes. I love getting to know a writer’s strength and then seeing them edify the body of Christ through their words. All this being said, I’ve spent quite a bit of time getting to know what makes a truly unique, creative writer, and Bee is definitely one of the best creative songwriters and musicians out there.
I’ll never forget the Sunday when he first sang the line, “The bloody hands of yours cleaned the dirty hands of mine. Eternal scars of yours, healed the eternal scars of mine.” I knew there was absolutely no way a song like that could end up on the radio, elevating the gore of the cross to a place of praise. I made sure to tell him how much I loved the words and the visual it gave in inducing worship in my heart. He laughed and said something like, “I thought of you when I picked that song for today.” Creatives get other creatives.
Aside from the above song, I think one of my other absolute favorite of Bee’s, which is on his new EP album, and it’s titled Remain. If memory serves me well, this song was written while his family lived out here and we still sing it often on Sundays in our church. I love that Bee ties the meaning of the name Emmanuel into the fact that God chooses to stay by, with, and in His children.
I Celebrate the Lord is another upbeat favorite. Bee brought all the kid’s in our Christmas Eve service up on stage one year and sang it with them. Come on! Only a dad of seven kids would think of something as adorable and genius as that!
So, if you’re bored of Christian car radio music and you’re looking for something new thought provoking, please pick up Bee’s newest album, Songs from the Sky.
I made the mistake of listening to some millennial, hipster-type folk discuss their reasonings for not wanting to have children. This is a topic I hear discussed often, but as I make my way through the end of my third pregnancy, struggling really for the first time with the intensity of physically laying down my life for the sake of another, I am genuinely nettled as I listen in on the wisdom of the world.
We hear it all the time: Kids wreck your life. Your body. Your home. Your sleep. Your vintage, green and blue dinner plates. The strawberries you just transplanted. Your ideal vacations. It’s true, you can’t go to the bathroom without some little person sending out a search party. And then celebrating right in front of you when you’ve been found. While you’re sitting, sighing, and still on the toilet.
When viewing it one way, parenting is a full frontal offensive on cherished parts of yourself. It’s an offense on my ability to do what I want, when I want, and how I want. It’s an offense on my desire to get nine hours of sleep at night. It’s an offense on my dreams of having a curated, minimalist home. It’s an offense on my goals to have leisurely mornings. It’s an offense on my grocery budget and the inner Nutritional-Priestess that never wants to see a box of Goldfish or Graham Crackers behind our cupboard doors. It’s an offense on the many writing projects I’d love to accomplish and books I’d love to read.
The heart of the problem? It’s an offense on my selfishness.
When viewing it appropriately, in light of capital-T Truth and the help of God’s grace (and not what culture is telling you), parenting is one of the most beautiful pursuits a person can have.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
My generation isn’t having as many kids as previous generations. But my generation also doesn’t have appropriately ordered affections: for Christ, as well as for other eternal things (like people). The reason the idea of becoming a parent is so horrifying to some is that it’s a call to come and die. Now that I’ve been one for a few years, it really is the clearest picture, aside from marriage, of the gospel I will have this side of seeing Jesus face to face.
Thank God—literally—that He is not a parent who valued hobbies that made him feel satisfied more than He valued the cost of sending His son to die for enemies. (Some days, yes, kids do feel like enemies.) I’m so glad He didn’t abandon me in my sin for some better career opportunity. Or a fun Instagram-able trip to Iceland. Or getting to the next level on his Xbox game.
My generation thinks real life and accomplishment lies in the art and design degree. Writing a book. Making a platform for ourselves. Reaching our next level of ideal success, be it whatever your heart can desire or imagine. If you call yourself a Christian, this is a problem. Why? Because in no way does this reflect the mind of Your Savior.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Phil. 2:5-8
Feminists, what you call your strength, your empowerment, I call your weakness.
Consider these two thoughts:
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13
“Your Liberty will flourish, protected by God and man, so long as you hold it – not as the right to use or abuse your faculties in the direction it may please you to select – but as the right of free choice . . . of the means of doing good.” -Mazzini
My problem with so-called “Christian” Feminists who talk about female empowerment that informs their decisions on childlessness and lengthy career pursuits, etc, is that what’s really going on is slavery to self. (And by the way, I am a mom and I have my dream job. I have had a paid position on staff as the Content Editor for Deeply Rooted Magazine for going on four years now. I travel for work. I write what I want, when I want. I get to chat with, write with, and physically hang out with “Christian celebrities,” if you will. I have enough work, paid and unpaid, that I regularly turn down projects. Honestly, this doesn’t matter, but my point is that I’m not “wasting” my brain as a stay at home mom). You’re enslaved to the newest version of female power that culture has created. Enslaved to sinfulness. (Also, in this particular conversation not once did any of the men or women I heard talking say they were forgoing having kids for the sake of reaching the nations with the gospel. That may be the only viable reason in my mind to, for the lifespan of a marriage, resist having kids. And even then, you should probably just be single if that’s the case.)
The strongest women in my life are those who have taken it upon themselves to reflect the beauty of the gospel through childbearing. They are beautiful because they are spending themselves for others. They are those who put in the literal twelfth load of laundry on a Monday afternoon, folding and putting away clean clothes with prayers, while dinner is bubbling away on the stove, that this hard work of faith (parenting) is making a difference for future generations. It’s a walk of faith because a lot of the time things do look like Hurricane Chaos came through the door, even if the victims (and inventors) of the storm are running around with huge grins on their faces.
But, I really can’t say it anymore bluntly: Sister, but if you actively chose to forego having kids, you are missing out on so much life, joy—and yes, mess—but beautiful mess. Jesus Himself said there is a certain type of life one can only walk in after a person has died (John 12:24). Remember, death is offensive. It’s supposed to be. Jesus died to break the claim and offense that death and sin had on us. But the joy that Christ offers us in Himself is not even worth comparing to the things we lose when the new subway tile gets cracked or you lose a few hours of sleep this week.
Christ’s Kingdom is a paradox. Ladies, this means that those who are least among us, who get down on their knees and clean up the oatmeal from the hardwood floors morning after morning, who stay up late into the night listening to troubled teens, who give themselves to caring for sick kids, and yes—who set aside a career for the mind-challenging, strengthening, and growing work of raising humans for the Lord—will be honored with glory in God’s Kingdom.
So, Christians, husbands, and wives: please pursue the most dynamic life and marriage you can, and that comes by means of creating other unique humans, and personalities, to learn about, to challenge you, to serve, and to make you more of who you actually are than that twenty year career ever will. Go with the abundant grace Christ offers you and let the offensive calling of parenting be the very means by which God brings about holiness in you.