New Testament Women and the Piercing Embrace of the Following Life

Flannery O’Connor is known for her short stories, but she packed images large and alarming into her economical word count. Murder, road side ambushes, and the cast of grotesque characters who populated her writing reinforced her oft-quoted credo:

“You have to make your vision apparent by shock — to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind, you draw large and startling figures.”

In Pierced and Embraced, Kelli Worrall borrows one of O’Connor’s “large and startling figures” to write in bold script a parable of the gospel. The story of a defenseless old woman being violently gored by a bull portrays the shocking nature of grace as O’Connor’s protagonist is stabbed through the heart with one horn and encircled about the waist by the other.

It was the piercing that grabbed Kelli’s attention in the midst of her struggles with infertility and the heartbreak of three miscarriages. She raged against the unfairness and felt abandoned by God until He helped her to see the embrace of His love that came alongside the piercing. She began to study the lives of women in the New Testament and was startled to note that Jesus’  manner of dealing with women was a uniquely gentle pursuit of their hearts.

One by one, Pierced and Embraced recounts the stories of seven New Testament women, their encounters with the Savior, and His impact upon their lives. At the same time, Worrall weaves in her own story of a challenging childhood, her marriage and career, the adoption of two children, and a growing faith and obedience.

  • Prophetically warned that a sword would pierce her heart, Mary of Nazareth embraced and was embraced by the call of God to a one-of-a-kind journey that put the power of God on display in a humble, faithful life.
  • The woman at the well found, at the end of Jesus’ piercing questions, a grace-filled embrace of her need and her longing — and then a new identity as “an instrument of change in the lives of many others.” (80)
  • Pierced physically, emotionally, and spiritually by life, we all hurt. The woman with the hemorrhage had experienced life’s piercing, but received the embrace of acceptance and healing when she placed desperate and believing hands upon Jesus’ garment.
  • Used as bait in a moral and theological snare for Jesus, the woman caught in adultery was about to be executed by a cadre of the self-righteous.  Jesus turned the tables, and skewered her accusers with His piercing interrogation. Expecting death and shame, the guilty received forgiveness and hope for a new beginning — a hope that encourages this present-day believer to come quickly for the embrace of forgiveness and the all-important words:  “Neither do I condemn you. Go and from now on sin no more.”
  • Worrall experienced the piercing anguish of God’s waiting room in the six year process of an international adoption. Mary and Martha waited on pins and needles for Jesus to heal their dying brother Lazarus. When Jesus shows up, He works in ways that no one could have predicted, but the lesson reveals that the jolting embrace of a wild and powerful Savior leaves His followers convinced of His presence and His love.
  • The woman with the alabaster jar pours out her worship with abandon and beauty and yet experiences piercing disapproval. Jesus’ rebuke of the scolds in the room is an embrace to all the beauty-lovers, the lavish prais-ers, and the devoted followers who put the glory of God ahead of practical concerns and even their own reputation.
  • Chosen to know Jesus and to make Him known, Mary Magdalene has been the subject of much speculation through the centuries since her eye-witness experience of the resurrected Christ. Pierced by sorrow and then embraced by a commission to be Jesus’ “apostle to the Apostles,” Mary received the privilege of being the first herald of the resurrected Christ.

Because He is timeless and immutable, Jesus continues to work in the lives of women, drawing us into conversation, commissioning us to share His message of Truth, and piercing our hearts with the conviction that His words are true and His path worth following.  May we find grace in this following life to lean into His gentle embrace as we are transformed and empowered for our own beautiful offerings of service and worship.

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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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Old and New Testaments: One Great Story

Shrouded in mystery, the ways of God are stitched into stories, carried on the smoke of a burning sacrifice, and sung from the heart with both joy and tears. Through promises and prophecies, God hints at a plan that will reel in rebellion and undo death and loss — until the silence of four hundred years falls like a veil between heaven and earth.  Open to the page that falls between the Testaments and ponder long, for the Old prefigures the New, and the New reveals the Old in a way that could only be true if their message and their Object were one.

Nancy Guthrie traces the point and counterpoint between the Old and New Testaments with sixty devotional readings, each one demonstrating the Old Testament origin of a single concept and then following the dotted line of Truth directly to Christ.  In Seeing Jesus:  Seeking and Finding Him in the Scriptures, the reader lifts off in Genesis with its plural pronouns attached to a Creator God; touches down in John’s Gospel for the unmasking of the Living Word; and then arrives at the stunning conclusion (aided by the Apostle Paul) that Origin and Object are one, for everything that the Living Word spoke into being is shot through with the ultimate purpose of glorifying God. (1-4)

Filling All Things Everywhere

It should be no surprise, then, to find the psalmist’s certainty that God would fill the hungry is echoing anew in the Gospel writers’ assurance that God the Son would fill the wine casks and the fish nets, and then, again, in the Apostle’s confidence that He would “fill all things everywhere,”  and that, one day, Jesus will fill and complete His Body, the church, filling the entire universe with Himself. (153-156)

Each reading traces the actions of God  — at work to show Himself powerful through his protection of and provision for a tiny nation state — and then follows the narrative arc into a larger story that becomes massively redemptive and globally significant. Old Testament promises are fulfilled in Christ only to ricochet off the hard-packed streets of first-century Jerusalem and land in the Revelation with a majestic white horse ridden by a Messiah-King in an unshakable Kingdom where He is both Temple and Lamb.

Until we have seen Jesus in both the Old and the New Testaments . . . I wonder.

Have we really seen Him at all?

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This book was provided by Tyndale Momentum, an imprint of Tyndale House 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.”

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.

Hebrews — “Be Confident!”

Reading Warren Wiersbe, I understand how my kids feel when I glance into a closet and pull out the basketball they “can’t find.”  It was there all along, but they just didn’t see it.  In his writing Dr. Wiersbe pulls outlines and alliteration out of Scripture — rather than imposing them upon the text — and I realize, too, that it was there all the time.  I just hadn’t seen it.

There’s a class on Hebrews in my future, and since I have a profound respect for that book [Shall we be honest and just admit that I’m intimidated by it?], I’m beginning my studying early with Warren Wiersbe’s Be Confident (part of the “Be Series” with over four million books in print).  Dr. Wiersbe calls me out on my uneasiness and offers reassurance that Hebrews has a clear message, and “there is no reason why you and I should not understand and profit from it.”  He got me started on that positive train of thought with his overview of five characteristics of the epistle to the Hebrews:

  1. It Is a Book of Evaluation — Using the word “better” thirteen times, the word “perfect” fourteen times, and emphasizing Christ’s eternal nature, the writer of Hebrews emphasizes that “Jesus Christ and the Christian life He gives us are better because these blessings are eternal and they give us a perfect standing before God.”
  2. It Is a Book of Exhortation — We’re not to be intimidated by the warnings in Hebrews, but to be formed by them in our devotion to God’s Word.
  3. It Is a Book of Examination — Using the word “established” eight times in Hebrews, the author reveals that the only secure foundation for life is faith based on God’s Word.  Hebrews asks, “In what are you trusting?”
  4. It Is a Book of Expectation — Focused on the future, Hebrews turns the believer’s eyes to the world which is to come.  As A.W. Tozer said, “Every man must choose his world.”
  5. It Is a Book of Exaltation — Jesus is superior to the prophets both in His person and in His work.  He is God’s final revelation.

I see now that for all the very same reasons that Hebrews is a challenging book to read and to study, it is likewise an important book to understand and to apply.   Be Confident strikes a lovely balance between formal, outlined structure and informal, anecdotal accounts.  In addition to stories based on historical figures, Dr. Wiersbe shares from his years of pastoral and counseling ministry.

Unraveling the mysterious Melchizedek, rightly revealing that the “five terrible warnings” found in Hebrews are truly for exhortation and encouragement, and always demonstrating scriptural reasons for confidence in living the Christian life, Be Confident is a resource for teachers as well as a reference for questions that arise in personal study.  A thorough study of the book of Hebrews is an invitation to enter fresh heights (and depths) of worship as we ponder Christ, His superior person, and  His superior priesthood.


This book was provided by David C Cook 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.”

Looking for more resources on Hebrews?  I’ll be using Lifeway’s Group Bible Study Guide on Hebrews and HeBrews a Better Blend by Leah Adams over the next several weeks to prepare for teaching a class on Hebrews with my husband at our church.

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