April 23, 2013

A Year of (a) Biblical Woman(wearing a)hood

Today was a really special day for me. Today I took the time to walk around downtown and wander into my favourite (two story) used-book store: The Owl's Nest. It was one of the first of the city's treasures that I discovered when I moved to Fredericton four years ago. The store has funny comics, interesting posters, countless creepy owls to watch you peruse their books, and the store is even home to a cat named Pepper; talk about character! Anyway, today was a special day, because while walking through the store I recalled the last time I made the same trail to the Christian Non-fiction section. Way back in November I had made a solo trip similar to today's and found myself staring at, what looked to be, with a few additions or subtractions, probably the same books. November's visit to the shop had me captivated, but interestingly enough it was not because of the shelves upon shelves of gold worthy stories waiting to be explored, but it was largely due to the story I was hearing

The radio was tuned in to CBC, yet another reason to be fascinated with this place, and an interview was airing about a new "Christian book" (I use the term so that you know what I mean, and I use the quotation marks because a book cannot decide to follow Jesus, and I have a pet peeve of things being declared 'sacred' or 'secular' and the like) by a Christian woman who decided to live a year of biblical womanhood. What really caught my attention was the fact that it was banned in most Christian bookstores, because it contained the word vagina. (Well there goes my hopes of this blog ever being promoted at one of the 5 bookstores in the city.) I thought that was rather crazy seeing as Christian women have the same anatomy as non-Christian women, and you know what, bookstore owners? That word you're banning had a part in your coming to be, just so you know. 

Any who, back to what's important. I was instantly filled with the "people should read it for themselves and discern if this book should be read. I should read that book!" I paid for a copy of Eugene Peterson's The Message (so that I have one to lend), and rushed home to google the CBC interview, and scramble to remember the author's name...err Rachel something. I decided I would read this book. So, schoolwork happened, months went by, and then I came across this author's blog. Right! I want to read that book. I ordered it through my university library's documentary delivery service...and a couple weeks later I caught news of the book from a library in NJ waiting for me. 

I couldn't put it down. Seriously. The past couple days have been nothing but book for me. Book in the sun, book on the bus, book walking downtown while people dodged me on my way to The Owl's Nest. You have got to read it. By the way have I mentioned that the book is called A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans? Yeah, you should probably know that. 

It's about a woman who looks at passages of scripture addressing or pertaining to women about lifestyle, dress, and everything in between. Each month she focuses on a different virtue of biblical womanhood: January was valor, April -purity, June -submission, etc. For 365 days she didn't cut her hair,  she devoted herself to the duties of the home, and dressed modestly. You might be thinking she's crazy, but it truly is good to subject ourselves to things like this (at the very least reading about them) so that we may be aware of what it meant/means to live a life of biblical womanhood, and so that we may decide for ourselves what is relevant today for our individual lives. 

What I liked best about the book was how everything was backed up with scripture, and it wasn't one of those flip and find kind of books it was a "I'm doing this, because in this verse it says ......". I liked that the book read like a story...err...a compilation of blog posts. Rachel was honest with what she struggled with, what she didn't want, and the times that she spent crying on the kitchen floor, because yes, it happens to the best of us. Not only does she dig deep about scripture directed towards women, but she also includes stories of women from the bible who can often be overlooked. 

I'm going to be honest...there was one thing I didn't like about the book, and it was through no fault of Rachel's; there were more than a few references to the consumption of guinea pigs. My little M&Ms (Mary and Martha) have such a special place in my heart that I some how managed to forget that in some countries my little girlies would be supper. I'm going to have to work on forgetting that. 

I left The Owl's Nest and came home to finish the last few pages of A Year of Biblical Womanhood that I was savouring. Just as this journey to and through Rachel's book began with my favourite bookstore, with that it ended. 

I feel as though I know Rachel. I'm pretty sure we'd be good friends. (She retweeted me, thanking me for reading the book, so that signifies friendship...right?) I felt as though I was right along side her throughout the steps of her journey. Many of the things she was thinking, I often think. Many of the things she struggles with, I struggle with, and her river of writing is quite similar to that of mine. A good author leaves readers feeling full, but a great author leaves readers overflowing. This is what I am, overflowing. I feel so encouraged to write, so excited to read, and so inspired to live,-live a life of biblical womanhood that is, a life of figuring out exactly what that means to me. 

In other news:  "Read A Year of Biblical Womanhood" is now in my bucket.  
You can buy the book is on sale for 12ish dollars and you can buy it here

Here are some great quotes from the book:

"We all wrestle with how to interpret and apply the Bible to our lives. We all go to the text looking for something and we all have a tendancy to find it. So the question we have to ask ourselves is this: Are we reading with the prejudice of love or are we reading with the prejudices of judgement and power, self-interest and greed? 
      If you are looking for Bible verses with which to support slavery, you will find them. If you are looking for verses with which to abolish slavery, you will find them....This is why there are times when the most instructive question to bring to the text is not, what does it say? but what am I looking for?" (296). 

"The apostles never meant for their letters to be interpreted and applied as law in the same way that the Torah had been, so careful readers must do the hard work of sorting through which instructions might continue to illuminate and guide the modern church, and which are more specific to the context..."(260).  In the same letter to Timothy that Paul writes about women not having authority over men, he also writes that 'men everywhere should pray, lifting holy hands..' (1 Timothy 2:8). There's all kinds of good stuff and historical context in this book about women and leadership in the church...which, incase you didn't know, I'm all for if they feel called by God. 

"Some rabbis say that, at birth, we are each tied to God with a string, and that every time we sin, the string breaks. To those who repent of their sins, especially in the days of Rosh Hashanah, God sends the angel Gabriel to make knots in the string, so that the humble and contrite are once again tied to God. Because each one of us fails, because we all lose our way on the path to righteousness from time to time, our strings are full of knots. So the person with many sins but a humble heart is closer to God" (303). -What a heart-warming way to look at repentance. 

"But according to Ahava, the woman described in Proverbs 31 is not some ideal that exists out there; she is present in each one of us when we do even the smallest things with valor" (90). 

"For Brother Lawerence, God's presence permeated everything- from the pots and pans in the kitchen sink to the water and soap that washed them. Every act of faithfulness in these small tasks communicated his love for God and desire to live in perpetual worship. 'It is enough for me to pick up a straw from the ground for the love of God,' he said" (29). 

"The apostle's elevation of singleness as the ideal stands in stark contrast to the modern Church's fixation on marriage and family. Singles were celebrated in the Church then, and should be now" (107-108). 

"In fact, it seems that most of the Bible's instructions regarding modesty find their context in warnings about materialism..(128). She earlier mentions that modesty is about so much more than clothing. A large part of it is presenting ourselves in a way that our inner self is allowed to shine through. It is a state of mind. It is order, self control, and simplicity. 

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