8 Women of Faith

What do the likes of Jane Austen, Esther and Sarah Edwards, Lady Jane Grey have in common? The book Eight Women of Faith by Michael A.G. Haykin. It is important. As a Christian woman that loves church history and stories of faith and has a burgeoning love for theology and getting acquainted with our church fathers I often think about the women that stood in the pages of our faith history with resolve and dignity. How many stories of women of faith are there that we will never know but that have touched the lives of so many souls all around them? How joyous is it to think of and how merciful is it that we have so many that we can read about.


Christian women could do much good to look back on the stories of women that although through very different circumstances loved the same God as we do in this year and learn from their wisdom and faith. Proverbs 31 is a beautifully daunting passage that exemplifies a Godly woman but we know how reality and poetry are not always the same. The gospel changes all of that and allows us to see the poetry in the mundane and how we may not be Queen or great novelist but how the intermingling of past story and faith can speak to us in our present circumstances as we realize the gravity of the call in the “celestial lines” of our present story.
I learned a many new things about women of the faith that I never knew, from this book. I am only inspired to learn more about the theological works of Anne Dutton and to listen and learn from the beauty in the hymns of Anne Steele. In addition, I can’t help but admire the heritage of Jonathan Edwards and family and the faithfulness of the women that belonged to it, and I hope to read more about Sarah Edwards and Esther Edwards Burr in the near future. I was personally touched with Esther Burr’s sweet female friendship with Sarah Prince and long for that sort of friendship for myself and one day for my daughters. In addition, I was happy to learn more of the Faith of Ms. Austen from Michael A. G. Haykin. Some have tried to mar her name with rumours of why she never married but truthfully she was always known to be a woman that loved God. The Jane-ite in me appreciated readinf it and although I know there is much mystery about her life her written prayers in this chapter show more truth than speculators could even know.

And about Anne Steele, it took me a few tries to find a hymn in one of our collected hymnals but as pictured above, I did (389). And read it as I loved on a sweet, sick baby. Again, I urge you to read Eight Women of Faith in your reading time and be encouraged. Here is Father of Mercies by Anne Steele, in full, (the methodist hymnal I found it in must have only cared for 3 verses :p ) :

1 Father of mercies, in thy word
What endless glory shines!
For ever be thy name adored
For these celestial lines.
2 Here, may the wretched sons of want
Exhaustless riches find;
Riches, above what earth can grant,
And lasting as the mind.
3 Here the fair tree of knowledge grows,
And yields a free repast,
Sublimer sweets that nature knows,
Invite the longing taste.
4 Here, the Redeemer’s welcome voice
Spreads heavenly peace around;
And life, and everlasting joys
Attend the blissful sound.
5 O may these heavenly pages be
My ever dear delight;
And still new beauties may I see,
And still increasing light!
6 Divine instructor, gracious Lord,
Be Thou for ever near;
Teach me to love thy sacred word,
And view my Savior there.

I received a review copy of this book from Crossway but all opinions are my own. You can visit purchase online or at Crossway.org.

Praying Together


IMG_8855I meant to sit down and write this review before Sebastian was born. I’m just now getting to it. Thankfully with the help of caffeine and finally some decent sleep I’m able to talk about this precious book, Praying Together by Megan Hill. Know that I read this during some very sleepless, anxiety-filled nights and I found it a great comfort.

“People who know their God are before anything else people who pray.” – J.I. Packer

In the beginning of Praying Together, Megan Hill quotes J.I. Packer “People who know their God are before anything else people who pray.” It’s a mic-dropping quote, I feel like Megan is saying “I’m just going to put this right here” but does one better  and continues to elaborate the point for the rest of the book. It is an excellent overall sentiment for the book, That God’s people pray, and people being plural…pray together. We aren’t islands for our own prayer, yes we pray in our prayer closets and by our bedsides and our early morning devotional corners but we were not meant to do life alone and for the believer that means prayer becomes a very important priority to being a part of the body.

In Praying Together, Megan Hill first shows us the foundation for praying together through the example of scripture and helps us to understand where we fit in this context.

“And so we come at last to the direct commands—the explicit imperatives—of the New Testament Epistles. Again and again these Scriptures tell us to pray together. With everybody. Everywhere. About everything.”

 

I love this simple and beautiful quote that sums up some why’s, when’s, where’s, who’s and how’s. Prayer with one another IS a beautiful gift of God and as we build on the foundation of scriptural prayer we see the fruit of that prayer. Praying Together has helped me to see the bigger picture of prayer in regards to the body. That not only is the desire of prayer, answered prayer, but it also the love, discipleship and the genuine revival God provides to believers that pray together. The fruits of prayer, Megan Hill calls them.

“In a glorious circle, as we love each other we cultivate one harmonious voice—with which we delight to pray together all the more.”

What better way can we become best knit together as we live in a world that breaks us and causes godly grief to form in our hearts at every turn, than through prayer?

I particularly enjoyed the portion of Praying Together that delved into the practical practice of prayer. Megan quotes Diedrich Bonhoeffer “It is, in fact, the most normal thing in the common Christian life to pray together.” and asks us to consider if this is true for us in our church, groups, and homes. I would love to say that it always is but I know that would be a lie. I am thankful though that Meghan Hill outlines some practical examples for us so succinctly to ponder the point. When I struggle with my prayer life, and just my life-life, I need to read of the godly wisdom of believers that first turn to prayer instead of the worries and anxieties alluringly laid before me.

“It is, in fact, the most normal thing in the common Christian life to pray together.”

If you would love to understand the larger picture of prayer in the life of the believer, I so encourage you to read Praying Together and allow it sit on your mind and heart as you begin to use the wisdom written in it.

The Women’s leadership group at my church will be heading to hear Megan Hill this Fall and I very much look forward to hearing her thoughts on prayer in person.

“Brothers and sisters, let us pray together wherever we can—in back rooms and backyards, in empty classrooms and in deserted stairwells, at picnic tables and pews and subway platforms—asking the Lord to gather a great harvest to himself”

The image here is such a beautiful one. In Psalms 42, which I have been studying this month for a teaching session, we see an image of great brokenness, great thirst for living water. It acknowledges our great need. We are broken, we are thirsty, our only hope is in a holy god that transforms us, our hearts, our minds and our desires. So let us pray and draw our hearts toward him, TOGETHER.


I received a review copy of Praying Together from Crossway. The review is my own.

Habits of Grace

IMG_6641

This book, Habits of Grace by David Mathis, although not lengthy has some powerful recommendations for anyone that would like to shape their habits and disciplines on the Word of God especially in modern lives of busy schedules and social media noise.

habitsofgracebook“We might get alone and be quiet to hear our own internal voice, the murmurs of our soul that are easily drowned out in noise and crowds. But the most important voice to hear in the silence is God’s.” – David Mathis

Why I am interested in Habits? Well, because I have a lot of bad ones. As we homeschool in the Charlotte Mason method christian habits are vital and a theme that we are discussing weekly. I am confronted daily with the fact that I cannot expect good habits if I don’t model them myself. But it’s not something to fret and compare one’s self to others because that defeats the power of grace in our lives, what we can do is study and learn along with our children what a life of grace-influenced habits looks like. Charlotte Mason felt that we act on habits all through our days and we definitely fall into our habits good or bad in times of trouble. Looking at my life of habits, I tend to agree.

“And the little emergencies, which compel an act of will, will fall in the children’s lives just about as frequently as in our own. These we cannot save them from, nor is it desirable that we should. What we can do for them is to secure that they have habits which shall lead them in ways of order, propriety, and virtue, instead of leaving their wheel of life to make ugly ruts in miry places.” – Charlotte Mason,  Home Education

So let us also apply this to ourselves. This is why I was intrigued with the title Habits of Grace; What does it look like as an adult to pursue “grace-empowered” habits?

Firstly, I enjoyed the break down of this book into three primary sections: Hearing His Voice (Word), Having His Ear (Prayer), and Belonging to His Body (Fellowship), and part four (Coda) that brings it all together in terms of Evangelism and Stewardship.  

Simply put habits begin first with the hearing and meditating on his word, making time to pray and seek him and being refined through the fellowship of believers. I, myself can speak as a testament of all those things having impact in my life towards slow but moving transformation and Jesus being the center of it all, through his spirit all believers are being transformed.

“Not only is enjoying Jesus explosively transforming in the way we live; it is also essential for making Jesus look great. And that is why we have the Holy Spirit. Jesus said the Spirit came to glorify him (John 16:14). The primary mission of the Spirit—and his people—is to show that Jesus is more glorious than anyone or anything else. It cannot be done by those who find this world more enjoyable than Jesus. They make the world look great. Therefore, the ultimate aim of the Christian life—and the universe—hangs on the people of God enjoying the Son of God. But this is beyond us. Our hearts default to enjoying the world more than Jesus. This is why the hinge thought—enjoying Jesus—is bracketed on both sides by grace and spiritual.” – John Piper

Habits of Grace walks us through many practical and accessible ways to develop these habits. David Mathis even outlines how to pursue them on the “Crazy Days”, which might be every day for many of us.

“The crazy days will come. And there are seasons of life, like with a newborn at home, where all bets are off and it’s just a crazy season. But with a little intentionality, and with a modest plan in place, you can learn to navigate these days, and even walk with greater dependence on God, knowing full well that it’s not the ideal execution of our morning habits of grace that secures his favor and blessing. You can commune with Christ in the crazy days.” – David Mathis

I encourage every believer to read this book, some of the suggestions might help in cultivating your daily habits or maybe it changes your routines drastically but I believe it is very beneficial for the believer as we all center ourselves on the Cross in the midst of busy lives and worldly noise.

I received a review copy of this book from Crossway. The review is my own.

You can purchase a copy here and at Crossway.


 

elliewithgirlsEllie Benson is Mother, Artist and Lover of Jesus. She blogs here at  ellieeugenia.com about faith, art and family and shares resources for all of those things. You can also find her at Charlotte Mason Living , a large growing online inspiration community for Charlotte Mason homeschooling families that she created.

The Romantic Rationalist

Lewis There is no secret, if you know me, that I have a love for Lewis, C.S. Lewis. I was raised on the hills of Narnia and drunk from the shore of Cair Paravel through his books and they will forever hold a special place in my heart. The many places and tales C.S. Lewis wrote about kept me longing for more, more than here, more than this current plane of existence. It moved me to believe that this world is a half life, a whisper ghost of things to come. I can’t help but get a bit emotional when I speak of Mr. Lewis because of the great impact his writing has had on my life and the gentle prodding toward the Gospel in my early years.

I love C.S. Lewis for his fiction, the characters that feel like real people and friends, that I empathize and root for and many times grieve over. The multi-dimensional way that even the most un-human of them seem the most and best human, namely a little mouse called Reepicheep or how my heart burns bittersweet for Orual in Till We Have Faces. Even in their failings some of the most broken see truth and dragon scales fall off to true new life, Eustace discovered that and we all know how unpleasant he was to begin with.

I first loved Lewis for his fiction but I best loved him for his non-fiction. I will say that the influence of Mere Christianity is what soothed many doubts and indifferences to Christianity and the Church, it was a tool toward deepening faith in my life. His essays, books, his prodding us toward joy in suffering, his loving correspondence with children, the way he wrote about and sought truth, the way he spoke of and loved the wife of his late life, Joy Davidman, all of it made him my best-loved author. But this is not an essay about his influence on me this is a review of the book the Romantic Rationalist, edited by John Piper and David Mathis

First I will admit that a book about C.S. Lewis already has a plus in my mind but of course it could be a bad book about Lewis then that would definitely make me change it. This book, the Romantic Rationalist is a plus, plus, plus. The book is a compilation of well-written essays by very intelligent men about Lewis and his influence, his writings, his insight.

I was thoroughly impressed by the amount of knowledge that the essayists had about the writings of Lewis and their insights became valuable as I compared my own thoughts I’ve had over the years. C.S. Lewis was, in my mind, an great example of Matthew 22:34 in his life and through his writing.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” – Matt 22:34, ESV

I believe this is what the title of this book represents. Someone who sees the bigger picture of the Gospel practically but not only that loves with a sweet affection that big picture story and can express it with words that flow beautifully from deep love and a moved and forever changed soul. I believe that if you are a fan of C.S. Lewis and love theology you will love this book. My favorite Essays were Undragoned by Douglas Wilson, which may have convinced me that C.S. Lewis was an undercover Calvinist ( joking). By John Piper and by Randy Alcorn. All essays are a wonderful and I would love to have witnessed the panel discussion that occurs in the back of the book. So read this book and if you are only slightly familiar with Lewis you may also find a benefit here while you look into some of his deep thoughts. I dare to say it would help you embrace his writing more. So I recommend this book wholeheartedly and love it for what it says about Lewis and the connections it makes.

So for the Lewis fans and all, I’m including some of my favorite quotes from the book to sway you.

 

Quotes:

When Aslan is killed on the Stone Table, it is for one person—the traitor Edmund. The great lion gave his life for one grimy, little boy. Now it is true that Tirian in The Last Battle says that it was by Aslan’s blood that all Narnia was saved, but while glorious, this is an application, an extension, an afterthought. The nature of the lion’s death as told in the foundational story is seen as a very definite atonement. It really has to be—Lewis held to substitutionary atonement, and as Garry Williams has clearly shown in From Heaven He Came and Sought Her, the two doctrines are logically intertwined. He who says A may not have said B, but give him time.
-Douglas Wilson, Undragoned

 

In Romans 8:28, Paul wrote, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good.” This verse tells us what we will one day see in retrospect. Lewis, in The Great Divorce, wrote that “both good and evil, when they are full grown, become retrospective. . . . Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.”13 The curse will be reversed. Lewis has Aslan explain the deeper magic the witch didn’t know about when he died for a sinner: “The Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.”14 Retrospect enables us to see everything differently. It’s why we can call the worst day in all of history “Good Friday.” Faith is like a forward memory, allowing us to believe as if what is promised has already happened. One day we will see how Romans 8:28 was true all along, even in those moments we most doubted it. Joseph saw this in Genesis 50:20, the Romans 8:28 of the Old Testament: “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Notice Joseph didn’t merely say, “God made the best of bad circumstances.”) -Randy Alcorn, C.S. Lewis on New Heaven and the New Earth

 

Lewis came to Christ on the converging paths of romanticism and rationalism. And as a Christian, he became a master thinker and master likener. This is who he was, and this is what he knew. And so this is how he did his evangelism. He bent every romantic effort and every rational effort to help people see what he had seen—the glory of Jesus Christ, the goal of all his longings, and the solid ground of all his thoughts. -John Piper, Romantic Rationalist

 

The sad truth is that many of us are, at best, only half awake. We think we’re engaged with the real world—you know, the world of stock markets, stock-car racing, and stockpiles of chemical weapons—but in fact we’re living in what Lewis calls the “shadowlands.” We think we’re awake, but we’re really only daydreaming. We’re sleepwalking our way through life—asleep at the wheel of existence—only semi-conscious of the eternal, those things that are truly solid that bear the weight of glory. We want to believe the Bible—we do believe it, we confess the truth of its teaching, and we’re prepared to defend it—but we nevertheless find ourselves unable to see our world in biblical terms, and that produces a feeling of disparity, an existential disconnect. If faith’s influence is waning, as two-thirds of Americans apparently now think, then it is largely because of a failure of the evangelical imagination. We’re suffering from imaginative malnutrition. -Kevin Vanhoozer, In Bright Shadow

 

You can purchase this book here: The Romantic Rationalist or from Crossway

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Crossway, my opinion is completely my own.


elliewithgirlsEllie Benson is Mother, Artist and Lover of Jesus. She blogs here at  ellieeugenia.com about faith, art and family and shares resources for all of those things. You can also find her at Charlotte Mason Living , a large growing online inspiration community for Charlotte Mason homeschooling families that she created.

God Made All Of Me

Talking to our kids about certain issues such as our bodies, what is appropriate and what is not and what God has designed for his children, can be difficult. We have increased conversations in our home about growing, changing bodies, appropriate touch and intimacy because of my oldest who is almost as tall as me now. I actually measured her yesterday and she is two inches from five feet, at 8 years old.

Read More

Faithmapping

Most of us emphasize one aspect of Christianity over another. Competing voices tell us that the Christian life is all about this or that: missions, discipleship, worship, the cross, or the kingdom. It’s as if we are navigating the Christian life with fragments of a map—bits and pieces of the good news—rather than the whole picture. If we put those map fragments together, we discover a beautiful, coherent picture. Faithmapping invites Christians to see that map, exploring a whole gospel that forms a whole church who carries that glorious news to the whole world. 

Read More

Accidental Feminist

At one point in my life I may have fallen into identifying with Feminism and not really knowing it and some of that may still remain. Not the “bra burning”, anti-men feminism but the more subtle “rights for women” feminism, the Susan B. Anthony’s of the world. I still love Susan B. Anthony, I still identify with her a lot but the problem when as a believer I allow my identity to be something other than the Gospel. See, in my personal opinion Feminism is not the cause of all of society’s ills, like some would have you believe. Sin is. And, I believe that Feminism in all it’s permeations is one way the world tries to put bandages on brokenness, but maybe Feminism’s ideas of brokenness are skewed too by their ideas of right and wrong, it’s a moral imperative based on a sliver of knowledge based on dim glasses. So, along the way things go all topsy-turvy. We do not need feminism to be the gauge for what is wrong and right in the world. We have God for that.

The book Accidental Feminist is a really good read for anyone that struggles with “adopting and incorporating what the world has to say about women instead of what God has to say about women in Scripture.” At first I struggled reading it because I am an accidental feminist and God is dealing with me slowly through these areas of my life. It was a good book in that it had me questioning whether I could really trust God’s authority in all aspects of my life. It’s just the beginning of Christ dealing with my intimate heart matters of submission and identity and more. Courtney Reissig addresses all of these things and I encourage you to read the book and allow it to challenge you likewise.

Feminism ultimately exists because sin exists—male sin and female sin. As Christians, we have a better answer. We don’t need to go back to a 19th and 20th century movement to put our stake in the ground for equality. We simply need to go back to Genesis 1. What many don’t understand about the beginnings of feminism is that it wasn’t just about basic equal rights; for some feminists, it was also about reimagining God and his Word. The belief that God’s Word couldn’t be trusted started the slow erosion that has led us to the feminism of today. Because my generation has grown up in a feminist world, we need fresh eyes to see how this ideology, while laced with good results, is actually damaging to our view of God and his Word. – Courtney Reissig in an interview with Crossway

This book was a complimentary copy from Crossway.


 

You can purchase Mrs. Reissig’s book from Crossway. Additionally, here is a post to help if you wonder if you are an Accidental Feminist: 6 Signs You Might Be an Accidental Feminist. 

 

Practicing Affirmation

Image from Dual Design

The book Practicing Affirmation by Sam Crabtree is a very practical guide to Gospel centered affirmation. The title might make you believe that this is some sort of how-to manual or self-help guide but it is more about showing how Jesus affirms us and how we should affirm others in the church, our homes and beyond. There is a very useful list in the back to to help brainstorm ways to affirm others if you are having a hard time doing so and can’t break that mold. I am cynical and critical by nature and affirmation is not always the first thing on my mind. I’ve started trying to implement the rule of thumb that Sam Crabtree shared from John Piper about C.J. Mahaney’s ministry that states “three for one”. Three affirmations to every criticism and well when I do do it, I can see immediate change. Thankful for this book that can help me practically affirm and encourage others when I’m not so good at it by nature.

I will be coming back to this as I need to really flesh out affirmation in my life. Have you read this book or are interested? I’d love to talk with you about it.

purchase the book through Crossway: https://www.crossway.org/books/practicing-affirmation-tpb/

This book was a complimentary copy from Crossway.

Women of the Word

There are many books I am reading right now, I won’t go into the whole list, it makes me anxious just thinking about it. I have more books than time or mental capacity some days. Some books stay with you for quite a long time though and hopefully forever. I used to think fiction was the only type of book that had staying power. I remember vividly beautiful words from Narnia that never left. As I grow older and I read more religious non-fiction in hopes of gleaning wisdom I realize there are certain truths written by wiser people than myself that have that staying power.

Two books right now that I am reading/ or have read, Praying with Paul  by D.A. Carson and Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin have been added high on that internal list of books I will recommend to others. I am so glad that I was able to read both of them simultaneously, God is teaching me a lot about Prayer and delighting in the Word recently and it’s been a very harmonious pairing. I’ll talk more about that Praying with Paul in a different post.

I started reading a review copy of Women of the Word independently and by happy fate our church began a Women’s Bible study of the Minor Prophets, using Women of the Word as a spine to further our understanding of how to study the Minor Prophets. So, I was excited that I was already ahead in my reading and have loved learning with other women through this book.

To be honest, I don’t think I understood how to read the Bible and hadn’t grown in the process of doing so, well, since ever. I suppose I wasn’t reading it properly. Maybe I should say “thoroughly” instead, because some might not enjoy the use of proper. I did do bible study, I would usually do a book or guided study of scripture and then I would just have some type of bible reading plan as well. It was a food fight in the hopes that something would stick. The habit is being slowly worn down as well. Jen Wilkin outlines some misguided approaches early on and I identified with a lot of them. I think it was a form of rule following for me, to read the word rather than taking pleasure in the scriptures and even though there were small pleasures to be had when something stood out I was not as intentional about seeking it out. Truly, I didn’t understand what it meant to be Bible Literate. I am happy to be making small steps toward Bible Literacy because I do love seeing those red strings that intertwine throughout all of the Bible and point us to Christ. This book has helped immensely. I want that “Delight” that the Psalmist speaks of in Psalm 1.

Everything is outlined very clearly as Jen Wilkin walks us through the 5 P’s she uses to study the word; purpose, perspective, patience, process, prayer. I really liked having a guide to lead me through all these steps. How much will your bible study change if you are identifying your purpose to study the word and digging for the truths while praying diligently that it will transform you and being patient through that process? Every “P” mentioned in Women in the Word has been helpful for me to see the larger picture. Jen Wilkin says this in regard to perspective but I think you can connect it to all of the P’s:

“It is not surprising that the Bible compares the acquisition of wisdom to the finding of gold, silver, and hidden treasure; all three require digging to obtain. And digging is hard work, especially when it must be done with respect to historical and cultural context. We live in a time when the Bible is largely regarded as a book for our own edification, through which the Holy Spirit will simply reveal truth to those willing to give it a few minutes’ attention a day. The intellectual muscles that our faith ancestors once used for digging have grown atrophied in the modern mind. Not many of us are willing to do the hard work of digging, preferring to inhabit a modern-day understanding of the Bible with no regard for its original audience or purpose, tailoring our modern reading to suit our own ends. Because we lack a sense of how small we are in the grand scheme of history, we are quick to circumvent the sound practice of “calling in the archaeologists” to help us dig responsibly when we read and study.

The digging and drawing out the treasures, the “Exegesis” is my personal desire when I study the word. I don’t want to make so much of myself that I forget that there is a much larger story and I should desire to see it and be a part of it and I must enter into that process and prayerfully consider it and be patient that God will use it. I want to not only be a reader of the word but I want to be literate in it.

I definitely think that women that have a strong theological background or not and desire the knowledge that comes from diligent study might really benefit from Women of the Word. The Process chapter alone highlights steps of comprehending, interpreting and applying the word that have already drastically changed my studying. I am now studying Romans and doing so more methodically than I ever have. I am writing in my Bible, making a ton of notes and outlines and I am chasing after those beautiful cross references. Basically, just dwelling awhile with the Word and the process is just tiny piece of the puzzle.

I don’t believe that Women’s Bible study needs to be flowery, low on gospel and high on feelings and full of anecdote after anecdote. I shudder at many items geared toward Women of Faith. Bible Literacy is attainable even in my daily circumstances. I think we can delight in the Word as it is written when we see that the Bible is for everyone and it applies to me as well, where I am, in the pile of unfolded laundry and whiny kids.

This book was a complimentary copy from Crossway.