Dear Sarah~ Jesus Made a Feminist out of Me

Yesterday was the official release date of my blogger friend’s new book , Jesus Feminist. I’ve been reading Sarah Bessey’s blog for over 2 years and from the very first word I was drawn in by her tender spirit, her poetic bent and and her love of Jesus. But I will admit, when she announced that the word “feminist” was going to be in her book title I cringed a little. But that lasted about half a minute and then I wholeheartedly embraced the term. Not because I relate to it, but because I don’t.

In true internet blogging fashion, let me continue my story in a letter to Sarah. ( I figure if I can do it for Jen Hatmaker and TroubleFace Mom, why stop now?)

Dear Sarah,

The word *feminist*  used to scare me and not because I’m scared of much of anything but because as are all things we fear- I didn’t understand it.  When I was a young girl I remember conversations overheard about  “those feminists” and “how the feminists have ruined us all”.  I didn’t really understand why or how ; all I knew was that feminism was as dirty a word as slavery or adultery.  It was bad and I should stay away. Far, far away.

But here’s the thing- I grew up in a family full and rich with love and grace. From my Grandma Thiessen who wore her heart on her sleeve, widowed while I was only a baby to my Grandpa Parke who never shied away from telling you how to get to Jesus- his words strong and mighty at the dinner table.   I come from diversity of trades and skills to diversity of life and love. And never did I feel that because I was a girl, I had less than the most important seat at the table.

I never felt worthless or less than equal to my male counterparts  but my entire life was always surrounded with a silent, almost invisible line that I dared not cross: that of being heard in church. I don’t know where it came from. I don’t know who said it or how it was said. It was just there. Women were never to be in authority in a church.

Fast forward to my 18th year.  A new church was being planted across town and they needed volunteers ready to do the work and show up and be counted. I raised my hand. Single, young, a woman. Oh, did I mention this was a Mennonite church? I didn’t know if I would “count” as a family unit- they needed five. They had families and couples..and then they had me.

Biggest surprise to everyone including me was when a *meeting* of the *men* in charge decided that yes, indeed, little Juanita Dueck who was just finishing high school would actually be considered one of the five. So there it was. I beat the system. That’s really what I thought. I had done something revolutionary.

And not only that, but my mom- divorced(actually separated for 10 years) was invited and elected to be the first woman on the church board.  Maybe I was wrong. Maybe there was a place for women to be heard.

I’m all grown up now. I’ve moved more times than I can count on 2 hands. I’ve had babies and been the token housewife. I’ve been shushed and silenced. I’ve been introduced into a family where women are lesser and lower and treated as such. I’ve seen things and I’ve learned a lot.

The other day I told a friend that 30 year old me would pray down rivers of mercy and Jesus’ return on 42 year old me. I’m not afraid to say the things that I was always told “women should never say in public” . I am a rule-breaker and a peace-maker. And yet, I’ve prayed for meekness.

Actually, Sarah, you have only enforced my desire for meekness. You wear it well. It’s okay, throw back your head and laugh out loud- Jesus hasn’t answered that prayer for me and I’m beginning to doubt He ever will. I don’t think I was cut from the cloth of meekness. But thanks to you, Jesus is making a feminist out of me.

I’ve often thought there has to be more to women’s ministry than cute crafts and Wednesday morning Bible studies. I haven’t always felt comfortable with the intercessors or the kitchen clean up. I’d rather be listening to stories of love, loss, tragedy, triumph and share mine too.  Maybe that’s why I love blogging- it is in the stories of women that I am finding Jesus.  I’m finding realness and wholeness in the broken bits that once were shushed into apron strings and women-only parties.

From your book- your words….these ring so true for me: ” Women are hungry for authenticity and vulnerability, real community- not churchified life tips and tricks from lady magazines.”  AMEN!

Thank you Sarah for your words. Thank you for standing in the wide gap that has been uncrossable for so many of us. Thank you for your stories and your wonderings- for asking the hard questions and pointing us straight to the Source of all the answers: Jesus. Thank you for graciously opening the door and inviting us all to the table.

Your friend ,

Little Juan on the Prairie

(I count it only joy that I get to drive down the streets daily where your little family found Jesus).

Whenever I drive by Styles Cres here in Regina, I say a little prayer for you, Sarah.

Whenever I drive by Styles Cres here in Regina, I say a little prayer for you, Sarah.

If you haven’t already done so , please , PLEASE order Sarah Bessey’s book Jesus Feminist. It’s not what you think it is- really. And it’s not scary or judgmental. It is a love story of a prairie girl who found Jesus and Feminism.

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Mennonite Girls Can Cook- Celebrations { A Book Review}

This book could not have landed in my mailbox on a better week than this! Mother’s Day is fast approaching and I can almost guarantee that this is THE go-to gift this year. Let me tell you why.

First of all, I’m going to change up how I review books. I would like to break my posts into three sections:

The Bones(the physical appearance and structure of the book)

The Flesh( the content and meaty portions)

The Soul( this is the part where I give you my honest opinion)

The Bones:

I have never owned a MGCC book before so I wasn’t sure what all the fuss is about. After all, they have a website(it’s fabulous) and who really needs another cookbook in their collection?  Well, this is somewhat different than a cookbook. It is about 8 1/2 ” wide by 10 1/4″ tall. It is a hardcover and the photography on the cover is absolutely stunning. The inside is equally as beautiful: full colour photos, 2 page layouts, step by step instructions all meticulously chosen for their inviting warmth.

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I love how this is a book about celebrating ALL of the seasons of life. Whether it is a Christmas family dinner or camping around a fire, there are recipes and ideas for how to make each occasion simple yet special. But I digress:

Broken into “Celebratory” sections like  Celebrating Birth, Family, Community, Hospitality, Milestones and more, there are recipes for every occasion.

The final sections of the book focus on Gluten-Free Cooking, Hosting tips and a thorough index.  There is even a nice little biography about each of the contributors in the MGCC group.

Each recipe is very clear and easy to follow and the book opens nicely to allow you to read while you work. Photos are so important to me and this book has TONS!

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The Flesh:

I touched on this above a bit, but the recipes are definitely the star of the show in this book. And you may wonder who really needs another cookbook? The way this book is broken into life celebrations really adds to the value for me. Who of us doesn’t have a community picnic, potluck, anniversary, holiday or gathering to plan something for? The recipes are so easy to follow and use ingredients you already have on hand or can access easily. This is a major plus for me!

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The added bonus in this book is that each section begins with a memory, an essay, an encouragement from one of the authors. Gentle reminders of how gathering around a table is so important in every family and also how we pass these simple traditions on to our children and grandchildren.

The photos are inspiring enough to make this a coffee table book ready to browse, filled with stunning photography and inspiring messages.

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I particularly love the personal touches each author adds to her recipes.

You will find recipes from Taco in a Bag for the hiking trail to Chocolate Sheet Cake to Gluten Free Baked Rice Pudding. This book has it all!

The Soul:

With online sources like Pinterest and All Recipes it might be easy to ignore another cookbook on the shelf that may or may not ever get used. I certainly feel that way about my recipe book cover.  But this book will make you put down your smartphone or tablet, walk away from your computer and sit with a solid, beautiful book in your hands and be inspired. It truly is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever seen in the ‘cookbook’ category.  Useful for empty-nesters and new brides-to-be, oozing with encouragement and wisdom and inspiring enough to make even the most timid cook want to try something new. Soul-full with just the right amount of faith-induced messages of comfort and hope for your journey, whatever that may be.

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And if that isn’t enough of a reason to buy this book, the royalties from the sale of this book will go to provide safe,clean drinking water in Africa.  These women embody what it means to give and be hospitable, celebrating all things around the table!

You might still have time to order one from Amazon and have it arrive for Mother’s Day. The price is worth it~you won’t be disappointed! (hint, hint, family reading this) .

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“Book has been provided courtesy of MennoMedia and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Available at your favourite bookseller from Herald Press, a publishing imprint of MennoMedia”.

Lifelong Love Affair~Jimmy Evans {Book Review}

I love hardcover books. Somehow, when a book is in hardcover with a beautiful dust cover it just feels special. It feels important and worthy of cherishing. That’s this book.  A beautifully put together book; thoughtful in content and layout, eloquent and detailed.

Jimmy Evans shares stories. Stories of marriages that nearly failed, including his own. Marriages that have triumphed. Marriages that were heading down the wrong tracks.  And all of these stories are linked by the grace of God and a common commitment to do better and to have passionate marriages that last.

The title’s tag line says “How to have a Passionate and Deeply Rewarding Marriage” .  This is not  a short read or a quick fix. This is a book for the journey of life. I would suggest working through this book as a couple as there are many scripture references and talking points. There are also questions in a study guide at the back which would make it appropriate for a small group discussion.

If you are at your wits end. If you are worried you’ve made a mistake or if you feel like giving up, this book will steer you back on track.

“We gave up.  At some point in time, we both realize that we simply could no longer make it on our won. We finally came to grips with the reality that we were completely incapable of putting our marriage back together again~at least on our own power~so we gave up trying. We put down our weapons and raised the white flag. We surrendered.”~p.34

“We start remembering what it was that first brought us together, and those giddy feelings we felt the first time we met start to resurface. We find ourselves falling love all over again……and that’s not all God does.” ~p53

 

Most men have four basic needs that they want met by a marriage partner: (from page109)
1.They need to feel honored and respected by their wives.
2.They need sexual intimacy.
3.They need friendship~a wife who enjoys doing fun things together.
4.They need domestic support~a wife who takes care of the home.

The final chapters in the book discuss covenant and what that means. Why is the Biblical version of marriage so special? And what steps to restoration do you need to take in order to achieve that love that lasts?

 

Truly a lovely book and well written. This would be a great gift for a newly engaged couple , wedding gift or anniversary gift. The kind of thing appropriate for gift giving as we come up to Valentine’s Day in the next couple weeks!

 

“Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group”.

The Marriage of Your Dreams~Rick Johnson {Book Review}

I read three books on men and marriage in the last 2 weeks. It’s kind of hard not to compare them to each other. I’m one of these women that will read everything and anything on marriage because I want mine to be better. I am not satisfied with where we’re at in our marriage and I don’t think any person ever is. It’s always growing, always changing and always challenging.

That’s why this title intrigued me.  Who doesn’t want the marriage of their dreams? The tag line on the front cover says ” A Woman’s Guide to Understanding Her Man” which piqued my curiosity too! However, I had just finished reading What Your Husband Isn’t Telling You which I thought was the most concise, complete commentary on men I had ever read. Certainly there isn’t more, is there?

From the publisher’s website, here is a quick bio on Rick Johnson:

Rick Johnson is a bestselling author of That’s My SonThat’s My Teenage SonThat’s My GirlBetter Dads, Stronger Sons; and Becoming Your Spouse’s Better Half. He is the founder of Better Dads and is a sought-after speaker.

 

The synopsis of the book(as written on the back cover) :

The marriage of your dreams may be closer than you think

It may surprise you to find that men are fairly simple creatures with fairly simple needs. Understanding and responding to his needs is a positive step that can help him realize and fulfillyour needs. And when both of you meet each other’s needs, your marriage becomes stronger–and a lot more fun.

Relationship expert (and fairly simple creature himself) Rick Johnson gives you an open and honest look inside a man’s world. With candor, humor, and insight, Rick shows you how to understand your man, including

  • his need for respect and admiration
  • his sexual desires
  • his communication style
  • his work
  • his emotions
  • his relationship with the “other woman” in his life (his mother)

With Rick’s help, you’ll learn how best to use your considerable influence in his life to have a satisfying and exciting relationship that lasts a lifetime.

First of all, I will say that there were sections and passages of this book that I felt were redundant and repetitive. The point is made and it’s clear and then the author re-states it and re-words it~but it’s still the same point.  I found that to happen periodically throughout the book and I figured it might detract from the message. But honestly, the first couple chapters had my attention. Why? Because they jumped into the topic of a man and his relationship with his own mother and his mother-in-law as telling indicators of how he may or may not treat his wife. I found them fascinating. Perhaps because my husband’s relationship with his own mother is somewhat of a mystery to me and yet this was extremely enlightening. For the first two chapters alone, this book is worth the read and worth buying. I think we often underplay how our husbands were raised and how they view their own mother.

“A wise(and healthy) mother realizes that a wife supplanting her role as the most important woman in her son’s life is the natural course of life, and she allows her son to go without clinging to that queen bee status she has held in his life since birth. A mother who won’t willingly relinquish this role frequently resorts to emotional manipulation to control him. She attempts to subtly undermine or sabotage his relationship~all very innocently of course.” ~p.27

The other thing that makes this book stand out is that Rick Johnson uses years of counseling and speaking experiences where he has gathered common questions that women ask. This is actually the foundation of the book and what moves it along.  The questions run the gamut from childhood abuse to pornographic use to adulterous affairs to spiritual leadership. Women have questions and we want answers. The author does a great job in pointedly answering these questions and it is a valuable resource.

This book, is kind of like an encyclopedia for women about those things that bug us and threaten our marriages and our relationships with our husbands.

I would recommend this first to mothers of sons(if only just for the first 2 chapters) and then for women planning on getting married soon, those who have been married for a short time and are confused about  what is going on and for women who have been married for many years.  Even if you think you’ve got your husband figured out, it never hurts to have an outside viewpoint of the influences on our men.  And there are many.

“Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group”.

What Your Husband Isn’t Telling You~David Murrow {Book Review}

Wow. Let’s get right to it: this is THE BEST book I’ve read on men. Ever. Blunt. Revealing. Profoundly enlightening.

I’ve been married for almost 21 years and I’ve learned a lot about men that I never knew or understood. I have read a lot of books on marriage and men and our relationship with them.  But I have had questions and some things have never been clear. This book, written by a man, is the answer to pretty much all of those questions.

Written from the viewpoint of a man who was deeply wounded by a difficult past that threatened all of his relationships and who is not shy about addressing a broad range of topics, I found it easy to get into, extremely captivating and thorough in every respect.

Warning: some of this book may come across sexist or even chauvinist.  I would urge all women to read it with an open mind and hear the voice of a man. The fact is, we are different creatures and trying to fit us all into a universal non-specific gender role is NOT working. Read this book and hear the heart of a man.

From the introduction: If the shrinks are right, about 80 percent of a man’s thought processes are opaque-even to him.  This is why committed family men suddenly leave their wives for no reason. Why deacons smile at church and then scream at their children in the car all the way home. Why men who are normally wise with money sink their cash into ridiculous Ponzi schemes. Why men who truly love their families suddenly abandon them- if not physically, then emotionally. -p.7-8

The most telling chapters were those written in the first person perspective of Provider and Protector.  Women, we might have had a clue but we didn’t really understand.

“When your man is secure and balanced as a protector and provider, he’s happy. So is everyone around him. Life is good. But when he’s out of balance in one or both, expect trouble. And that leads us to the great problem with me: most are either over- or underdeveloped as providers and protectors.” ~p.18

This book is a must on every home book shelf. For every woman in a relationship with a man, married or not, I cannot recommend this highly enough.  And yes, there are sections on sex but more so the chapters that reveal the heart of our men are priceless. Women are initiating divorce two-thirds of the time and over 90% of those divorces are not related to abuse but rather, discontentment.

“If you penalize your man each time he tells you his true feelings, here’s the message you are sending: ‘if you want your life to be hell, tell me the truth.If you want things to go smoothly, lie to me; tell me only those things that will keep me happy in my delusions.’ ” ~p.130

The last third of the book addresses something that I rarely gets talked about: a man’s spiritual aversions and his discontent with organized church.  I will admit that there are places where some women may take offense to the generalizations that David Murrow makes but he is careful to not lay blame solely on either men or women but rather on misunderstandings.  Church leaders would do well to read and understand why men are falling away from church in record numbers.

My book is ear-marked, highlighted and written in. I’ll be keeping it close by.  I’m a woman and I need reminders …often.

“So ladies, here’s the big secret to getting the man you want: Stop trying to improve him. Stop trying to fix him. Start trying to free him.” ~p.159

 

UPDATED: From my FB page came this comment from Jenna: “On your urging I read it tonight and liked it a lot. I appreciated that he was direct and to the point, without being wordy and redundant. I find a lot of Christian books on marriage, gender and family that are written by men to come off as patronizing, by this one wasn’t like that.”

“Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group”.

I receive no monetary compensation for reviewing books.

Debt-Proof Your Christmas {Book Review} by Mary Hunt

This book is a golden-nugget in a sea of monochromatic stones.  There are literally thousands of books on debt-proof living and how to manage finances when money is tight. I’ve read a lot of them and truthfully, there’s a lot of redundancy.

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In this book, Debt-Proof Your Christmas, Mary Hunt goes to the heart of the matter.  Because let’s face it, most of us give at Christmas because of societal pressure and guilt.  We do. Admit it. I love Mary’s soft heart. She’s been there. She feels it and she totally lays out the honest “talking to” and makes you sigh with relief.

This is not a 10 step program or list on how to get out of debt or how to spend your money for Christmas.  This is a book about attitude and changing our perceptions of why we spend the way we do.

Page 27:  “No one can force me to spend money I do not have in order to pay for Christmas.  No one.  If I feel pressure to do that and then cave in, it is my fault. I am the one who did the forcing. “‘ …..did you just have an ah-ha moment like I did?  Wow.

What I particularly love about this book is all of the practical advice and tips Mary shares.  She gets right into the trenches with her readers and walks us through giving at Christmas with heart-felt affection , making the gifts meaningful, without spending a lot.  Take for example gift baskets; yep, she actually walks you through putting one together for a neighbour or friend!

Page 49: ” A note of caution for you:  Come Christmas, as you are putting your baskets together, a little voice may start whispering in your ear. It will suggest your gifts aren’t good enough, you need to go buy some real gifts, and your biscuits and jam them is silly. You know it’s going to happen, so plan on it. Then determine that you will not listen, choosing rather to trust yourself and to believe in your plan.”

Or what about the guilt associated with giving at all? We’ve all been there; giving when we really didn’t want to.

Page 61: “Gifts are messengers. They are tokens of the esteem we hold for people we care about. They deliver our love and our best wishes. Gifts express fondness we have for another person. Without the care, love or concern, the gift is empty. Giving a gift just so you can mark a name off a list is a hollow effort that is likely to fall flat no matter how much money you spend. “‘   Wow. I just love everything about that!

Later in the book Mary shares list of gifts to give to teenagers ,adults, kids and whomever you may have on your list. She shares recipes! Yes, really! This is not your average financial advice how-to book.  This is practical and right on target for the Christmas season.

The primary focus of this book is targeting those who may have or still do use credit for getting through the Christmas season. If you are struggling with this or have struggled in the past, by the end of this book you will never go back to paying for gifts, travel, food with credit again. Mary’s use of her own family’s struggles and anecdotes makes this a personal journey and so you know that you are getting advice from someone who’s been there.  I only wish I would have had this book many years ago.

Full of ideas. Full of testimonies. Full of hope for having a debt-free holiday.  A great book!

“Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group”.

C is For Christmas {Book Review}~D. & W. Wiersbe

I haven’t done any book reviews for quite some time.  November is busy transitioning from fall to winter; from busy to busier!

So, when I had the chance to read and review TWO Christmas-themed books I jumped at it. I love Christmas and my 31 Days to Redeeming Christmas series in October has opened my eyes and my heart to the desires of so many of you out there to do Christmas differently than you have in the past.

That’s where this book comes in.  C is for Christmas is an A to Z guide to find the real meaning of Christmas,which could sound fairly daunting.  But it’s not. This is a paperback book, not any bigger than most books you are already reading, but it is broken down simply and efficiently to allow for maximum knowledge in minimum time spent reading.

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Back of the Book synopsis:  David and Warren Wiersbe cut through the fancy wrapping paper and pretty bows to give the background of the events surrounding Jesus’ birth.  They also explain the reasons for our various Christmas symbols and beliefs. From angels and Bethlehem to yuletide and Zechariah, the authors shed light on a wide variety of Christmas-related topics.

And by “wide variety” , they’re quite literal.  Just look at some of these topics: Advent, Epiphany, Gifts, Rush, Tidings, “Unto Us” and Xmas.    What I love is that each topic is no more than a page or two long allowing this book to be a great companion to your December Advent devotionals, sermon prep, Bible Study or even just interesting coffee table reading. You certainly don’t have to start at the beginning;  you can open up to any topic and find out something you may have never known or be challenged to think of Christmas in a new and exciting way.

One of my favourite topics is the one on gifts.   This is what they write: ” When we give gifts to others at Christmas, we are imitating God. Of course those who don’t know God do it unconsciously.  God’s giving was intentional…….A good starting point is why we give. What are our motives? Giving should be a joy, not a burden. When we give because it’s tradition or because it’s required, it can get to be a seasonal expense that we resent……..(The wise men)’s gifts were appropriate for a king, and they gave according to their means(going into debt to give Christmas gifts is not good stewardship).  Their gifts were planned long before they found the Child.  ….When we actually present the gift, we should do so thoughtfully, deciding ahead of time what we will say to the person as we place the gift in his or her hands.”

The section on the wise men is enlightening. Why have we always thought there were only three? That’s not in the Bible. Debunking some of our perceptions about the Nativity story is a great place to begin to make Christmas real again. It’s a real story with real characters set in a real place.  Like Bethlehem.  Have you ever stopped to consider the significance of Bethlehem throughout history before Jesus was born there? It’s fascinating and you begin to see this story over centuries rather than in the light of one silent night.

If you love Christmas as I do, if you are looking for some deeper food for thought this Christmas season, if you don’t know why we use Yule Logs or what role Elizabeth plays in the story, if you’re seeking and wondering….this book is for you.  And if you’re a young person or have children or teens in your home, you’ll be pleased to know that this book is something for everyone.  It’s a great tool and a great literary addition to your Christmas library.  Go out and get one today!

“Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group”.