Together through the Doorway of Marriage

For Martin Luther’s fifty-seventh birthday, his wife designed, commissioned, and then presented to him a carved doorway for their home.  It’s elegance incorporated numerous features that demonstrated Katharina’s knowledge of and devotion to her husband; however, there is no way that she could have realized how completely appropriate her gift would be.  Michelle DeRusha’s biography demonstrates that the radical marriage of Katharina and Martin Luther was itself a threshold into a new way of understanding marriage, and it opened the way toward a more biblical expression of the life of two-shall-become-one.

By the time Martin and Katharina began their unlikely life together, Martin’s theological shot heard ’round the world had already set off the Reformation in Western Europe, and both the bride and the groom had already logged decades of life in cloistered communities.  For Martin, this had been by choice and against the wishes of his family, while Katharina had been placed in a convent by her father at the age of six.

Leaving the monastery was controversial for Martin, but there was no question that his gifts and background would pave his way into a well-defined role within his new freedom.  Things were not so simple for a 16th-century woman. In addition to the fact that single women were not even recognized as citizens in Germany, Katharina was, by birth, a member of the landed-gentry and, therefore, ineligible to pursue employment of any kind.  Her only option for survival was marriage — at the ripe old age of twenty six.

Desperate times may call for desperate measures, but Katie von Bora showed no signs of of caving to desperation, and she made it abundantly clear that she had no intention of marrying just anyone.  At one point she even boldly suggested that she would consider marrying Luther . . . if she were asked.  Why she considered a forty-two year old man (who, at any moment, could be found guilty of heresy and burned at the stake) to be a good catch is anyone’s guess.

From the groom’s perspective, Luther’s decision to tie the knot with Katharina was as reasoned and deeply theological as his basis for untying the knot with the Catholic church.  While he cited pleasing his father and antagonizing the pope as desirable outcomes of marriage, it seems that, primarily, he chose marriage out of love for Christ and a desire to model “the redeemed Christian’s relationship to God.”  With such an unusual beginning, it is not surprising that the Luther’s marriage paved new ground.

From Martin’s Perspective

Marriage ousted Martin from his ivory tower.  Michelle DeRusha records many of the idealistic or cavalier statements from his single days, and they were clearly made by a curmudgeonly man with no idea how to manage life on this planet. He waxed eloquent (and inaccurate) on topics ranging from the role of women in the home to something he called “bridal love,” but when married life began in earnest, there was no sign at all that he could actually live by his own tenets.

From the outset, Katharina dealt with all things practical including the management of and the procurement of supplies for the abandoned monastery the Luthers called home and which functioned more like a bed and breakfast than a family dwelling.  Martin trusted Katharina with the delivery of his manuscripts to the printer, and he left most of the business side of his work in her capable hands.

Marriage tested and clarified Martin’s theology, for this marriage of convenience actually grew into a relationship based on love and mutual respect, showing him “again and again that a love for others, as much as a love for God, was at the core of his beliefs.  The Protestant Reformation would have happened without the marriage of Luther and Katharina.  But Luther would not have been the same Reformer without Katharina.” 

From Katharina’s Perspective

Katharina’s escape at age twenty-four from the convent where she had lived since the age of six gives us a clue as to the mettle of this woman for whom,up to this point, every single life decision had been delivered to her as a fait accompli.  While marriage to Martin Luther handed Katharina the key to citizenship and an established role in society, it was her own determination by which she walked through the open door of their home and immediately set things in order.

The new Mrs. Luther took some getting used to in Martin’s circle of friends and colleagues, and, while she spoke with respect to her husband, she would not be bullied into becoming a shadow in her own home.  Her curious and lively mind found its way into participation in the theological discussions that were standard fare around her table — while she prepared and served what must have been huge quantities of food.

Martin and Katharina were a parenting team, and the death of their oldest daughter nearly undid them both.  Michelle DeRusha shares numerous clarifications about life in early modern times, but the most poignant is the harsh reality that 16th-century parents formed bonds with their children that were every bit as deep as those of 21st-century parents — even though their children died at an alarming rate.

It is revealing of attitudes of that day that only eight of Katharina’s letters were saved — none of which were addressed to Martin, but which, sadly, document the hard path of her widowhood as she wrote to friends and acquaintances to “call in favors” or to remind people of their responsibility for her and her children after Martin’s death in 1546.  Katharina’s final years must have been haunted by a sinking sensation of deja vu, for the very same traditions and expectations that had made her life as a young single woman so perilous were still in place to make her life as a widow untenable.  The era’s idealized model of a meek and silent widow assumes that someone would have already made practical provision for her.  Unfortunately, Martin failed to do that, so it was up to Katharina to make her own way, and she did — but it wasn’t easy, and the stress and privation likely led to her demise at the age of fifty-three.

It is timely to consider this biography of a marriage in the year that marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation, for the truth from Romans 1:17 that fueled the up-ending of Martin Luther’s theology continues to leave its mark on the way we view marriage within the context of the Gospel to this very day.  When Martin and Katharina, “his rib,” walked together through the doorway of marriage, Martin wrote that they had embarked upon “a chancy thing” for “marriage does not always run smoothly.”  Five hundred years later, that’s still true.  And it is also true that there is grace for this — and that the righteousness which is “of God, by faith” is available in Christ for those who commit their lives (and their marriages) to Him — by grace alone.

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This book was provided by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Intrigued by the author?

This is Michelle DeRusha’s third book, and came about as a result of a chapter devoted to Katharina Luther in 50 Women Every Christian Should Know.  I’ve reviewed the book here, and you can get further information about Michelle’s faith journey and writing life through listening in to this podcast episode of Living a Redeemed Life in which my friend, Holly Barrett, interviews Michelle.

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I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

The Radical Simplicity of Looking Up

It’s nearly time.
Even two weeks ago, standing thigh-deep in snow beside the bush, I could see that the buds had begun to swell large, and so it won’t be long until I lop off some of the bush’s waywardness and then arrange the bare branches in a vase of water.  I will begin watching every day for the delicate, vivid yellow flowers to announce that spring is happening in my house — no matter what’s happening in the great outdoors on this country hill in Maine

It was for this:

  • the intimate observation of seasonal changes;
  • the beauty and joy of a handwritten letter in which grace comes in the letting go;
  • the thoughtful glance skyward;
  • the face-to-face rebuilding of a broken marriage — it was for this very thing that Esther Emery unplugged her life from the Internet in November 2009.  For one year, she lived a life without email, without a cell phone, and without a debit card.  No Google, no on-line shopping, no text messages.  She walked away from her blog, an encouraging Facebook community, and any trace of an on-line presence in a leap of Stop-doing-everything-you-know-and-start-doing-everything-you-don’t-know Faith.

What Falls from the Sky shares this journey in four parts that correlate with four glorious gifts from the sky:  snow, rain, sunshine, and fog.

  1.  In the season of snow, Esther quit her job and made a cross-country move to Boston with two small children in support of her husband’s career. This obvious high-intensity-tumult actually pales in comparison with the angst of her Internet withdrawal. Against the backdrop of a snowy New England winter, she began to stop looking for her significance in terms of her electronic self.  This unplugging left Esther with plenty of space for wrestling with her ambivalence toward her non-traditional up-bringing and for discovering that “the alternative to screen time is table time.”  She cut her ties with the bulimic teenager she used to be and turned her eyes away from the theater she loved; and then tied on a striped apron and began trying to decipher her husband’s recipes for cranberry muffins and lentil soup.  Like a snow globe turned upside down, her values swirled, but then re-settled into new patterns in which compassion trumps achievement and humility suddenly has equal footing with leadership.
  2. It was from this humility that Esther traced her spiritual re-awakening.  Words from the Bible fell like rain on parched ground as she gulped down the Revelation first and then watched spring come through the lenses of Genesis and Thoreau.  A celebration of Easter in community introduced her to the  beauty of “borrowed” power from the crucified and risen Christ and the truth that this is “not theoretical at all.”  The vulnerability of Good Friday left Esther defenseless against the claims of Christ upon her life, and she was captured by the forgiveness that conquers fear, the “Jesus of the brokenhearted, the Jesus of the suffering.”  Ironically, as her spiritual life came into focus, the material world also became sharper, and she and her husband, Nick, took on the joint task of digging themselves out of debt and handling their finances as a team.
  3.  Under the bright light of summer days, Esther began to examine her motives for stepping away from the Internet.  Is this really about spiritual formation?  Or is it about self validation?  As her life changed and she and her husband grew closer, they began to feel as it they were on a boat, moving further and further from the shore — and further and further from the other people in their lives.  Esther’s perspective on the church is refreshing:  I read and re-read with a smile her assessment of church meetings as “jovially disorganized.”  Too, her tenacity in sticking with her commitment to fellowship is a grace sadly lacking even in more seasoned believers.  To her surprise, “the God she believed in” directed her path to Nicaragua with its enculturated gospel and its unmitigated poverty, where she slept in a room in which the ceiling was carpeted in bats and concluded that “this is what you get, I guess, if you say ‘anything’ somewhere where God can hear you.”
  4. The fog of reverse culture shock was waiting at the airport for Esther when she returned to her ecstatic family, deepening her realization that it would not be possible to drag others, still in the center, out to her “edge” because they had not traveled her road.  Ironically, when her family’s apartment is burglarized, one of the items stolen is the laptop containing all the notes and files she was in the process of recording during her disconnected months.  A tentative foray into gardening, and a commitment to inter-dependency and to the growing health of her marriage all began singing into Esther’s life the same song in different keys: “things grown again.”

With the structure of a memoir and the tone of an Old Testament prophet, What Falls from the Sky kept me reading and curious simply from the sheer impossibility of the experiment.  How does a woman who has “walked away from her faith” and become an “outspoken critic of Christianity” with a significant online presence (and a husband who is an atheist) make a journey away from the internet and toward a following life?   How can the experience of “looking up” for an entire year — noticing the sky and the seasonal changes, delighting in the company of her children and the deepening of her own inner life — how can this bring about a transformation that heals the ragged edges of a heart that needs to forgive and to be forgiven?  Esther Emery has crafted a travelogue for any heart that longs to recognize itself from the inside out, without the aid of the electronic mirror, and to embark upon a life that has been transformed by the resurrected Jesus Christ.

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This book was provided by Zondervan through the BookLookBloggers program in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

An Unexpected Love

Here in the U.S., we’ll be celebrating Valentine’s Day this week.  With that in mind, I’m sharing my re-telling of this love story from Old Testament times.  For all David’s ups and downs, he knew what it was to be mightily loved by God — and he was fortunate enough to have the love of one very wise and very strong woman . . .

Oh, how she had grown to hate him. Ten thousand offenses, both small and large, had accumulated over the years since their arranged marriage.

Practical and traditional, Father had seen a prosperous match:  “Abigail, you will marry a descendant of Caleb,” he had exulted. Abigail had found no delight, no dignity in the homeland of this husband whose given name would be forever lost beneath the wreckage of his character:  Nabal –“The Fool.”   

Playing hostess to his drunken friends and enduring his loutish company, the loneliness was excruciating. Even so, she thanked Yahweh every day that there were, as yet, no children from this unfortunate match. “I am your servant,” she prayed each day at sunrise and found, over time, that the God of Israel had become her comfort in this desert-life.

When hope for love has left a marriage, what remains?

. . . unless the rattling husk becomes a place for something new to grow.   Slowly, Abigail began to notice the workings of Nabal’s household. Her quick mind took in the details of the livestock business, the buying and selling, the shearing and marketing of fine wool. She had long ago stopped hoping for love, but one day, she realized that the respect and confidence of the family servants had become her consolation, a gift from Yahweh. 

The season of shearing was upon them with its steady hum of activity, but Abigail welcomed the challenge and the stimulation, planning meals for the shearers, managing the bountiful output, and arranging for its transport. During a lull in the chaos, she was catching a breeze in the doorway when Othniel, her faithful steward, appeared, wild-eyed, breathing like a frightened creature.

“What is it, Othniel?” she asked.

“You know that David, the chosen of God, and his men have been protecting our flocks and our shepherds for some time.” 

Abigail nodded.  “Go on.”

“They have been like a city wall to us and to our herds, and so David sent his messengers to request protection money and provisions, a part in our feasting . . .  They were taken to the master.”

Abigail dropped her face into her hands and listened, knowing that what followed could only be bad news.

And it was: 

Disrespect.
Greed.
A refusal to provide reasonable compensation for services rendered.

When Othniel’s words confirmed her fears, she asked, “Have they gone?” 

Perhaps it was not too late to undo The Fool’s damage.

“The master has sent them away empty-handed.  They promise revenge, that everyone in the household will feel their anger.  . . I have said nothing to the master.”

“That is well,” she replied, flying into action. “We must move quickly.”

From shearing season’s full larder, Abigail rattled off a hurried and portable menu and directed Othniel to load it onto donkeys and to lead the way to David and his men.

“I will follow close behind,” she assured him.

Hurriedly, she changed out of her work clothes, mounted her own donkey, and followed. But suddenly there they were, rounding a corner with strapped-on swords like a military detachment – headed toward her home.  David was in the lead, but he stopped in his tracks when Abigail dismounted and fell on her face at his feet.

Her words tumbled out:

“Do not listen to my husband, The Fool;
As his name is, so is he;
If your men had only come to me,
they would have found a welcome and feasting.”

Abigail lifted her eyes in time to see surprise register on David’s tanned face.

“Therefore, I have brought the feast to you.”  She gestured toward the loaded caravan.  Was it just her imagination, or did David’s eyes move reluctantly away from hers?

Emboldened by his attention, she continued with words that she scarcely recognized as her own:
“Please do not let your name be associated with revenge and bloodshed, but accept these gifts. Because you have fought Yahweh’s battles, He will wrap up your life with His treasure and will certainly make for you an enduring kingdom. He will cast aside your enemies like a stone hurled from a sling. When Yahweh has brought these words to pass, remember me His servant.

Then, tearing her gaze from his, she turned to leave.

With one hand, David stopped her, for the other hand was raised in blessing – a blessing over Abigail.

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She did not recall mounting the donkey.   She did not recall the journey home, for her ears and her heart were full of David’s words:

“Blessed is your advice, your good sense.

Blessed are you for keeping me from murder, for looking out for my reputation.

I hear you.

I respect you.”

Not since coming to the House of Nabal had she heard such words, and they carried her into the house. They sustained her through the night as The Fool slept off his evening’s wine.

At first light, Abigail approached Nabal, eyes on the floor, reporting mechanically:  “You recall that David’s men were sent away from your presence yesterday . . .” 

Describing David’s promise of revenge and her own actions, Abigail was startled to hear choking sounds from Nabal’s throat, but she continued with her report until a thud and sounds of alarm from the servants caused her to her lift her eyes. 

There lay The Fool, on the floor.

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The ten days between his fall and his death passed quietly, and Abigail wondered how the demise of her own husband could affect her so slightly.  She had been aware of the shriveled condition of her heart, but marveled at the cool poise with which she had wrapped up the end of shearing season and notified Nabal’s near kinsmen.  They would be arriving soon to take over his property.

And what was to become of his widow?  The memory of David’s blessing fanned a small hope that perhaps one day she would find a place of love and respect, but she did not know how that could be.  She only knew that she must flee before The Fool’s family arrived and engulfed her as if she, too, were a possession.  Gathering a small packet of provisions, she made ready to depart. 

Hearing footsteps, she whirled, ready to bolt from the room, but instead she froze. 

Othniel stood in the doorway, announcing the servants of David:

“David has sent us to you – to ask you to become his wife.”

Rising, Abigail bowed, and her words to David’s men were also a prayer to Yahweh:

“I am your servant.”

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And such is the glory of unexpected love. 

Each of us in our turn has been married, in some way, to foolishness —
but then redeemed by an unexpected love so strong and so wild
that all we must do is rise and follow,
placing our hand in His
and trusting for a better future.

“Behold, what manner of love the Father has given unto us . . .” (I John 3:1)

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Be sure to check out the context for this Old Testament love story!

Photo credit:  Tiago Muraro

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

No Sanction for Domestic Abuse

Ruth A. Tucker is a story teller.

I have vivid and fond memories from my experience of reading her Dynamic Women of the Bible when it was released in 2014.  As she unfurled and then analyzed the story of each Biblical woman, tiny shards of her own story would poke through the narrative fabric:  an abusive husband, the humiliation of his ministry gaffes and trail of deceit, an unwanted but life-saving divorce.  All of this contributed to Ruth’s sensitivity in sharing the ancient tales, and I closed that book with an enriched understanding of God’s female protagonists — but there was a nagging curiosity, a sense that there was so much more story-behind-the- story that had contributed to Ruth A. Tucker’s strong voice and convictions about the importance of every woman’s story.

Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife tells Ruth’s  frightening tale:  an intelligent, well-educated young woman marries a charming but deeply dysfunctional man who, almost from the very beginning of their marriage, uses the Bible’s teaching on marriage as a club with which to beat her (and all women) into submission.  Alongside this personal memoir, Ruth steps back to provide historical and theological perspectives that she has gained, and to ask startling questions about how and why she and other women in her position and with her resources would have hidden their husbands’ abuse beneath long sleeves — and lies.

Statistics show that more than 30% of “all women murdered in America are killed by their husbands, ex-husbands, or lovers,” and yet women continue to receive counsel that they should “submit” to their abusers — or hints that the abuse they are experiencing may be the result of their own lack of submission.

Careful research probes case studies as diverse as Catherine Dickens (wife of Charles) and Meredith Vieira (television personality).  Actual accounts of court cases and stories of battered wives reveal that present-day unhelpful thinking is built on a history of weakness in defending women from domestic abuse.  Even some of today’s most discerning leaders and thinkers are finally realizing that they have missed the boat.

Ephesians 5 provides a blueprint for family life that is frequently distorted by abusive males or controlling and fearful church leaders.  A careful reading will reveal the truth that:

  1. Patriarchy is not about power.
  2. Leadership does not involve domination.

Truly Biblical teaching will not silence a wife who cries for help, and it will not sanction inappropriate behavior by men who use Scripture as a cloak for their sin.  The issue that hangs like a barbed question mark over the entirety of Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife is whether a complementarian reading of Scripture actually leads to abuse of women, or whether the theological abuse and misinterpretation of legitimate Scriptural guidelines are merely a convenient cover for men who would abuse women within (or without) any faith context.  Having been on the receiving end of this misuse of Scripture, Ruth Tucker is understandably leery about “the ‘s’ word.”  My own experience of Ephesians 5:21 mutual submission within marriage from day one has formed my thinking about and reading of Scripture in a different direction, so while I may not agree with Ruth on every point, at the same time, I’ve never had to defend myself against an enraged, Scripture-spewing, out-of-control husband.

Balancing the Biblical scrapbook of family dysfunction, Ruth shares examples from Scripture of strong and decisive women and of men who, like the Apostle Paul, much-maligned “misogynist,” who actually praised his female co-workers for their faithfulness.

Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife is a call to grapple with and to evaluate motives behind theological positions on the family, to provide support to women who are experiencing abuse, and to speak out publicly against domestic violence.  Upheld by a high view of the sovereignty of God, Ruth found hope, and her strong voice rings out with the tough questions that will spark conversation and challenge leadership to look squarely at the issue of the respect and safety of women.  I applaud Ruth for reliving the painful years in order to share in and hopefully to dispel the shame and humiliation of other women who are enduring the “often silent epidemic of domestic abuse” — and its aftermath.  Whatever conclusion one reaches about roles and relationships within the family, there is no Scriptural sanction for domestic abuse.

 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God . . .  21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:1,2,and 21)

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This book was provided by Zondervan through the BookLookBloggers program in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from Living Our Days delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

The Art of Being a Wife

“What’s that, Mum?” asked my son, pointing to a small plastic something-on-the- ground.

“That’s just a barrette,” I replied, off-handedly.

“What’s a barrette?” he asked — framing in one simple question the deeply entrenched boy-culture and the essence of the testosterone-laced air that I have breathed for the past two decades.  With this as background, I approach Barbara Rainey’s Letters to My Daughters with a degree of awe and irony, for I am in the process of solving the other half of the marital equation by raising sons who will also bring to their marriages a high view of the sovereignty of God and a determination to make things work.

Mystery is a major theme in the Bible’s treatment of marriage, and this mystery is tied in with the image of Christ and His bride, the church.  Barbara helps her readers to see through her written replies to questions from her daughters and daughter-in-law that marriage is NOT  a mystery to be solved, but, rather, a mystery to be lived — through great faith and a steady flow of grace and forgiveness, which “keeps the windows clean and clear.”

Drawing on metaphors from art, music, gardening, and even cooking, the Rainey family dialogues on a wide range of subjects including the pros and cons of egalitarianism vs. complementarianism; intimacy and lack of desire; respecting a husband who is not acting respectable; and the gritty process of living a hard-scrabble life beside another sinner.

  • Having logged forty years of marriage, mothered six children, and lived most of those years in the spotlight as a ministry wife, Barbara has earned the right to speak out against “fairy tale” theology in which God owes us a happy ending.  She has learned the hard way that it is possible to offer helpful input to one’s husband without becoming his mum.  Ending every disagreement in their marriage with a restatement of their promise to stay together has been glue that has held them in love, along with the truth that the wife is NOT her husband’s moral custodian.  Husbands are responsible for their own hearts before God – and we wives have plenty of our own junk to take care of, anyway.
  • Having endured through some wintry years in her married life, Barbara offers the encouragement that spring can come again.  Without syrup or sentimentality, and with sensitivity toward those who truly are in unhealthy (or even dangerous) relationships, Letters to My Daughters comes alongside young wives with encouragement to believe in their husbands, to exercise verbal self-restraint when tempted to criticize or bad-mouth, and to understand that as dark shadows anchor the objects in a painting, so our shadowed experiences of struggle, and sacrifice anchor us to the God who is solid and unchanging.  He does not send difficult circumstances to “see how much you can bear, but so that you can experience His sustaining strength holding you up.”

As I read this heartfelt exchange between a wise mum and her dear girls, I became even more thankful for the daughter-in-love who has become a precious part of our family.  As daughters of Eve, each of us needs a daily recommitment to trust the Choreographer as we move in harmony with our partner, to embrace the glorious differences between men and women as we follow God’s recipe for reflecting His image so that our marriages can become “a statement of wonder to the watching world — statements of the goodness, the power and the beauty of God.”

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This book was provided by Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from Living Our Days delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Divine Design

“As Christian women, we desire to honor God by living countercultural lives that reflect the beauty of Christ and His gospel to our world . . .”

These powerful words lifted from the True Woman Manifesto are a wake up call to women, an invitation to enter into a life based on truth, and to view womanhood as a glorious gift that puts the creativity and wisdom of God on display.

In True Woman 101:  Divine Design, Mary Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss (now Wolgemuth), share their own very unique stories of following God into ministry —  Mary as a wife and mother, Nancy as a single woman at the time of the book’s publication.  Certainly, marital status is no barrier to active and meaningful ministry.

While many in the church waste valuable time quibbling over what women should do or may do, the word of God is clear in its teaching that, although marred by the fall, the role of a godly woman is to exhibit wholehearted devotion to Christ, to display purity of heart and a quiet spirit in her use of the unique ministry gifts that God has granted.

When Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as the Helper, he forever exalted the role of those who come alongside to assist. This is a powerful message for women who want their homes to be launching pads for the next generation of world-changers, for women who are called to meet the needs of others outside their family circle, and for women of all ages and of all giftings who desire to be intentional and purposeful in living a countercultural life that puts others first.

The words of Elisabeth Elliot are a magnificent mission statement:

“We are called to be women.  The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian does make me a different kind of woman.  For I have accepted God’s idea of me, and my whole life is an offering back to Him of all that I am and all that He wants me to be.”

True Woman 101 is an eight-week study that serves as an invitation to throw away the cookie cutters and delight in the differences between men and women as well as the differences among women of diverse temperaments, at various stages in life, and with different callings.  We live our lives before God “to the end that Christ may be exalted and the glory and redeeming love of God may be displayed throughout the whole earth.”

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This book was provided by Moody Publishers in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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10 Words to Consider Before Becoming a Husband

In matters of relationship, a teaspoonful of doing is worth more than a bushel- basket full of knowing.

We’ve all read Dobson and Chapman and Eggerichs until we’ve become so accountable before God with all our knowledge that we are clearly without excuse.  So, while it’s become a tired cliché, it is no less true:  love is an action verb.  Darrin and Amie Patrick have given us a collection of ten more active verbs to get marriages moving in the right direction — more specifically, to get husbands (and future husbands) thinking about the skills that are needed in order to love a wife.

The Dude’s Guide to Marriage is bound to make the rounds here in the Morin compound — we have four beloved “dudes,” and one has already launched into marriage and a family. ** (You should be impressed that I have exercised restraint and not put a picture of the adorable grandboy here.) ** Marvin Olasky summarized the book well in his review for World Magazine:  “Despite the silly title, [it] isn’t a silly book.  The maxims it offers in 10 chapters with titles like ‘Listen,’ ‘Provide,’ ‘Serve,’ and ‘Pursue’ are sensible.”

Yes, sensible.  With a light touch and a big brother’s wisdom, Darrin Patrick shares active wisdom while Amie chimes in with womanly advice (her words are italicized in the book).  Their combined counsel is a call to the male of the species to get off the couch, to own some adult-level aspirations, and to stop living “beneath your masculinity.”

With tips as simple as “pick up after yourself” and as profound as “self worship gets boring,” The Dude’s Guide to Marriage has all the marks of a book that was written from the cauldron of everyday living.  Darrin and Amie were high school sweethearts and have parented four children in the midst of an urban church planting ministry.  They share honestly about the melting pot of their own marital conflicts.  Appendices A-D are an arm around the single guy, the guy who is spooked over counseling, the spiritual light-weight, and the four people who haven’t read Chapman’s book on the love languages.

It is not for nothing that Paul’s teaching on marriage in the book of Ephesians is quickly followed by teaching on spiritual warfare.  God’s design for marriage involves two sinners who enter into an agreement to deny their selfish tendencies for the good of a relationship that is intended, mysteriously, to portray the perfect unity between Christ and His bride.  But, as with all things pertaining to the Christian life, we live out these huge verities in little moments through tiny deaths to self, and we find that the ability to do what needs to be done comes at the moment that we admit our helplessness and reach out in faith to the One who designed marriage in the first place.

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This book was provided by Thomas Nelson through the BookLookBloggers program,  in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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