Nurturing the Nations

I am very much continuing to enjoy the challenge on which I embarked in January — reading 13 non-fictional Christian books this year. That said, the last few months have been more challenging than the first few, as evidenced by the unfinished Keller work I began but didn’t finish, and the *cough* novel *cough* I read in May. Oops. Back on track! And boy, did this book do the trick.

Nurturing the Nations: Reclaiming the Dignity of Women in Building Healthy Cultures, by Darrow L. Miller, was one of the most thought provoking books I’ve read in quite some time. I want to sit down and page through it with each one of you, pointing out every bit that struck me and hoping it strikes you, too. It is timely. It is needed. It is ancient truth that has never been more relevant. So yes, I think you should read it!

It is written very much seminar-style, with graphics and regular reiteration of big ideas. Broken into three sections, Miller first explores the heartbreaking statistics of exploitation, abuse, and murder of women the world over — and also explains the underlying worldviews that result in a devaluing of the feminine identity. I looked at my daughters through new eyes, so grateful for a redeemed perspective that allows them to be received with joy, loving them for who they are.

Amazingly enough, however, the other side of the spectrum was just as illuminating, as he demonstrated the modern worldview in which — wait for it — maleness continues to be valued, the female discounted, and in fact, there is a pressure for all femininity to disappear in a world that values only male! In our efforts to be liberated and equal, but our absolute resistance to a Creator and His design, we have simply exchanged one oppressor for another.

He does not make these arguments in a void, however. I deeply appreciated the layers of theology he takes you through as he presents the nature of God as our model, the laws of first mention (which speak so much direction to a world floundering in a sea of sexual identities), and ultimately, the liberation and beauty promised through the gospel — which in turn affects all cultures, as they value and embrace a huge portion of their population, whose innate giftings and contributions have heretofore been trampled or dismissed.


(Is it just me, or do you get excited just reading that little chart? Isn’t it beautiful?)

What does it mean to be female? Male? A person made in the image of God? And does knowing that potentially change the world? Actually, yes. Read this book and be freshly awakened to the fabulous design God had in mind before the beginning of the world.

home inspiration


Beatrice’s latest cutting, so simple and pretty.

Where do you get your homemaking inspiration from? And by homemaking, I do not mean home renovating or home perfecting. If ever a generation of women has been inundated with perfect images of what a home should be, it is surely ours. It can be overwhelming.

While I certainly have my hopes and plans for improvements here, and keep a list and a few pinterest boards of ideas, those things are sometimes a bit far off. Meanwhile, we’re living here today, and this is my opportunity to make home.

I don’t always feel it, though. Sometimes I just get tired out and it’s so easy to just settle into a rut. And that “sometimes” gets more and more frequent, as I find I must actually make time for cultivating a home environment that comforts and nurtures and functions and inspires.

So I look for regular boosts of inspiration — and I often find it on the pages of children’s books! We gave Fiona a couple of Angelina Ballerina books for Easter, and I am in love with her home. Warm, inviting, pretty, full of the things they actually use, and even — quelle horreur! — signs of being lived in. I also have foxglove envy, if I’m honest. Ha!

What inspires you? Don’t get weighed down by unrealistic expectations or images that don’t really suit you and your family culture. Ask who God made you to be, and what qualities you can cultivate simply through creative care of your home. If you’d love to read and learn more about the subject, I highly recommend Edith Schaeffer’s The Hidden Art of Homemaking.

Two-Part Invention

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April’s book is finished: CHECK!

I decided to read Madeleine L’Engle’s Two-Part Invention next, simply because it was small and short and not intimidating!

This was the first (yes, the first!) book by L’Engle I’ve ever read. It wasn’t my favorite, and I certainly won’t be handing it out to all my friends, but it was enjoyable. People are fascinating, their lives are interesting, and her candid telling of what it was like to walk through cancer with her husband of 4 decades was sensitive without being flowery.

The pace was fluid, never slow, and her writing style was transparent — you get the story without being hit over the head by overly-creative poetic prose. The best part was being inspired to take out my Two-Part Inventions and brush them off. They really are some of the most perfect compositions.

BONHOEFFER: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

We know not what to do; but our eyes are upon Thee.

My book-a-month pace was completely thrown off when I decided to pick up Eric Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy as my read for the month of March. At 500+ pages, I anticipated it being an effort to get through in one month; what I didn’t factor in was the emotional toll it would often take, and how I would read a couple of pages only to put it down, too undone to continue.

It is a deeply human story of Germany in the the 30s and 40s: the agony, painful naiveté, perplexity, suffering. Reading of the unfolding of the Nazi reign of terror from the perspective of a proud, deeply German family was heart wrenching and enlightening.

And against that backdrop, the story of a young man’s faith, which was intellectual in nature, until the Holy Spirit began to beckon him into something deeper. What if we lived like this was true? As the world around him began to unravel, he began to learn what it meant to walk by the Spirit, and the simple decision to obey Christ at all costs set him on a course toward martyrdom, yes, but also deep Kingdom impact.

This is what struck me most: he was not spectacular. He never made a decision to do crazy things. His was not a philosophy of ends justifying means. Rather, he purposed each day to make sure the next step was consistent with the truth of Scripture, as revealed to him. Would I have reached all the same conclusions as he did? I’m not sure, and certainly not every believer around him chose the same path, but even in that, Bonhoeffer’s example of grace and care toward another brother’s conscience was incredible.

He dug deep into life, convinced that God meant to inhabit and redeem our human experience, not take us out of it. He was calm and courageous because he simply did the next thing. The supporting characters in the story mirror the deep conviction and courage that we see in his life. His deeply intellectual, thoughtful faith left me mulling over concepts of conscience, ethics, truth, and obedience.

When I read the last page, and closed the book, I wanted to weep: weep with sadness, weep with inspiration, weep with thankfulness. This gentle man gave his body to be burned, but left a legacy of one whose eyes were fixed on Jesus until the end.

Highly, highly recommended.

Such people [of private virtuousness] neither steal, nor murder, nor commit adultery, but do good according to their abilities.
But . . . they must close their eyes and ears to the injustice around them. Only at the cost of self-deception can they keep their private blamelessness clean from the stains of responsible action in the world. In all that they do, what they fail to do will not let them rest. They will either be destroyed by this unrest, or they will become the most hypocritical of all Pharisees.

The solution is to do the will of God, to do it radically and courageously and joyfully. To try to explain “right” and “wrong”—to talk about ethics—outside of God and obedience to His will is impossible.

Every Good Endeavor

This month I read Timothy Keller’s “Every Good Endeavor.” Hearing a few podcasts of his on the topic whetted my appetite and I was eager to read his deeper thoughts on the theology of work.

Because yes, God has much, much to say about the topic of work. In fact, as I read, I became more and more struck by how “work” is not a topic. It is an intrinsic part of our design. A correct theology of work is so important because it is actually a correct theology on who we are and how we are meant to relate to the world.

Keller is one of my favorite authors and speakers. I am blown away by the lucidity and clarity with which he can convey profound wisdom. I wasn’t disappointed by this book. True, at the end there were several pages that almost lost me, but every time I determined to just follow his train of thought, BOOM, he led me to an amazing idea.

The big ideas in this book are “God’s Plan for Work,” in other words, what Genesis and pre-Fall has to say about work and who we are; “Our Problems with Work,” enumerating the incredibly deep ways in which sin has broken our ability to work or even understand what work is; and “The Gospel and Work” — the amazing news that because sin has broken the world so deeply, a Christian can be a profound light by simply reclaiming the truths of God’s Plan. Not easily, but simply.

Having been taught a very solid theology of work from a young age, I’m not sure there was anything brand new in this book. However, over and over, it was a message that cut through to my heart and challenged me page after page. It’s far too easy, living on this side of the Fall, to grow weary or discouraged, to assume failure on my part rather than seeing that my best work will be plagued by the results of Adam’s choice. (There will be fruit and there will be thorns.) It’s also easy to not consider how holistically we can live for the Kingdom of God — we don’t begin to make a difference when we teach Sunday school, but rather, the minute we rise from sleep and begin to maintain, preserve, and create (wiping down the sink!)

There were too many “best parts” to pick just a few, but for someone who is prone to being a slave to the “work beneath the work” (trying to satisfy some need for production and success and self-worth), the very last segment left me almost in tears — you know, that feeling of your soul being liberated from weight it need not carry?

Remember, God was able to rest in Genesis 2, verses 1-3 only because his creative work was finished. And a Christian is able to rest only because God’s redemptive work is likewise finished in Christ. When the work under the work has been satisfied by the Son, all that’s left for us to do is to serve the work we’ve been given by the Father.

For a read on how all your life’s work can be connected to God’s work on the earth — both your production and your consumption — I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

boundaries

O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
You maintain my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Yes, I have a good inheritance. –Psalm 16

A page from “A Blossom in the Desert” once again arrested my attention and led me down a path of contemplation, this time as I pondered the concept of boundaries.

“…there is a world of difference between a pool and a river. A river is wide open to its source, and as wide open to the needs lower down. We need all barriers down — manward as well as Godward — to believe for the outflowing as definitely as the inflowing.”

I want to be that river, receiving an endless flow of the Holy Spirit’s life, and without measure pouring it out to others. But what about boundaries? That picture of “all barriers down” — what about knowing when to say no, learning our limitations? Aren’t we supposed to know our boundaries and learn to say No?

Where are the boundaries of a flowing, roaring, lively river? (Because that’s how much grace and mercy there is to receive and give.)

Even the mightiest of rivers has boundaries, but those are neither barriers “Godward or manward,” no barriers to the source nor to the needs lower down. The boundaries are on either side, in the river bed carved out for that flow of water.

And so I find that I need to spend less time studying “my” boundaries, and more time studying the ones He has drawn for me. With the first, it is far too easy to say No because it’s uncomfortable, inconvenient, or just plain old not fun for me. With the second, I find my “yes” and “no” is usually rather clear as I determine to stay within the bounds of His calling for me.

I say YES to honoring Him as Lord, living as His representative.
I say YES to loving husband, caring for children.
I say YES to creating home.
I say YES to living in fellowship with my local church.
I say YES to living as a city on a hill.

Those lines fixed, I can boldly say, “Let the river flow.” Open to the source, open to those “below.”

I need not determine my boundaries; I need to simply know HIS boundaries for me. And then live with open hand and heart to the Holy Spirit and all those I encounter. I bring the obedience; He brings the flow of life.

“The glacier torrent — so obedient to its course in its narrow bed, yet just tossing with freedom and swing in every motion. Such a picture of the ‘rivers of living water’—bound and yet unbound.” –Lilias Trotter