Housewife Theologian

The Gospel Interrupting the Ordinary

Book Review (Part 1):

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Jul• 06•12

Living God’s Story of Grace, Elizabeth Reynolds Turnage (P&R, 2012)

Lately, some of us ladies have been fighting for our right to have real theological studies. We are insulted by the mamby-pamby, theologically-lite women’s studies that seem to open up with silly games, involve crafting, and end up handing out goody bags. We crave depth not only in our studies, but also in personal ability to articulate our faith. Men don’t have to read countless books on more Christian approaches to car repair and taking out the trash, but we seem to have been flooded with so-called Christian ways to get skinny for God and organize our houses. My Real Simple magazine gives me plenty of tips for homemaking. When it comes to theology, I want the same prime rib the men are having, please.

And yet, I think women’s small groups are very valuable in the church. In this information age that we are living in, many women are finding the conveniences of technology cutting us off from meaningful, mentoring relationships that shepherd us in our unique role. In Titus 2, Paul points out the importance of women teaching and learning from one another. Intentional small group studies are a purposeful way for women to both share and grow in their faith. While it’s certainly prudent to talk about some of our distinctive roles as women in these groups, that doesn’t mean we want the low-calorie version.

Thankfully, there has been more on the menu for us women lately. And I say, keep ‘em coming, because we are hungry.

While the cover design of Living God’s Story of Grace seems a little froofy, I think you’ll find that this is another great addition to our meaty menu. It is the second of a three-book series. I have not read the first, Learning God’s Story of Grace, and the 3rd, Loving God’s Story of Grace has not been released yet. This book can be read on it’s own, but I feel like its impact would be much stronger for the study if the group would read book one first.

Turnage believes “Scripture calls us to learn and rehearse God’s story of grace, because doing so calls us to live a life of faith, hope, and love—the essence of worship:

Faith means trusting in God for life and hope rather than other Gods.

Hope means believing that God is doing brand-new things in the midst of a wrecked shalom.

Love is living in and telling our story to a broken world sorely in need of a life-transforming story” (73).

I really love her theme of story that is woven throughout the book. In each chapter, there is a different Bible study that looks into God’s redemption of his people. As we look to see how our own stories share in some of these themes, we see that each story of redemption in the Bible ultimately points to our Ultimate Redeemer, Jesus Christ. This amazing metanarrative (the life-changing story which I’m sure is even more emphasized in her first book) gives meaning and purpose to the “therefores” that direct our living.

Another major theme that I especially appreciated is Turnage’s encouragement to invite wrestling into our Christian journey. God does not promise us a life without suffering, but he does promise himself. We have a sovereign, loving God to turn to, even when we don’t understand how he is working in our lives. She emphasizes that there is much tension and struggle that accompanies hope. The very word hope demands waiting—and well, no one loves waiting. This is such a relieving encouragement for women today, who feel the pressure to uphold the image of a seamless, magazine-like life of immediate gratification. This kind of teaching shows us that it’s okay to be vulnerable and honest with God and one another. For that I am thankful.

The organization of each chapter is very conducive for learning. Each chapter begins with its “Key Themes” before introducing the week’s “Bible Study.” There is an “Entering Your Story” section that helps the reader engage in the work God is doing in their own life. A “Theological Theme” is introduced, which I found especially helpful since I had my nearly 13-year-old daughter reading along independently.

The “Living Story” section gave practical application to the lesson. While this is certainly an important element to the book’s message, I did find some of the suggestions here a bit forced. For example, in Chapter 5, after reading Revelation 21 & 22, we were to plan a day of joy and rest. It was followed by a quote from Dan Allender, “Sabbath is our re-creating the garden and recreating in the new heavens and new earth” (Loc. 665). Jesus is the one who has earned the new heavens and the new earth for us. We aren’t the ones doing the re-creating. On Sunday, I can have a taste of what is to come, basking in the Lord Jesus Christ’s redemptive rule. How do we convey something so marvelous as the temple of God in our common, everyday life? How does God convey to us Christ and all his benefits as we live as sojourners in this world? He gives us Sunday. Our Sunday worship service best points to our heavenly worship and rest. That isn’t something I can manufacture in some other activity. I found myself having this conversation in my mind a couple of times throughout the book. Even with the title, I really want to add one little word to make it: Living In God’s Story of Grace, just to emphasize that we are cast into this drama.

After the “Living Story” is the “Praying Story,” which is very enriching. Ending each chapter with a “Moving Forward” point emphasizes that “faith and hope do not exist in that abstract, only lived do they become a reality” (Loc. 201).

Whew! I didn’t realize I had so much to say, and I’ve barely scratched the surface. I have yet to discuss the greatest strength of the book, where Turnage skillfully teaches us the importance of sharing our own stories, and how to skillfully do this. Stay tuned for Part Two!

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18 Comments

  1. I think your new title, Living IN, describes our journey perfectly.

    You are so right about technology (I might add conflicting schedules) robbing us of our mentoring time face to face with others. We ladies at my small church haven’t met in quite a while and I feel cheated by not having that study/fellowship and face-to-face prayer time.

    One day I will be mostly confined to home with my hubby and will need that Internet connection with blogs such as yours. Technology shrinks our world as well. I know more how to pray for others and can have that ministry because God is not limited by distance. Others look for faith, hope and love in my Plant City blog about my husband’s Alzheimer’s so like you I keep blogging.

    Looking forward to Part Two as well as Tunage’s PRAYING STORY book or section.

    • Aimee Byrd says:

      Carol, I can only imagine how you must need the extra encouragement that a biblical woman’s study can provide. You and your situation are in my prayers. The Internet can be very helpful in your situation.

  2. Kim Shay says:

    One of the reasons why I have personally have found more affinity with women online at times is because my women’s ministry group is very focused on “how to” mentalities and an unbalanced emphasis on social events. I stay on the committee hoping that we will focus more on discipleship at some point. I am hoping that ultimately, I will have more meaningful relationships with the women in real life around me, but when a lot of them want to share their latest tidbit from Dr. Oz or Oprah, it’s not always easy.

    Thanks for this review. I look forward to seeing the second part.

    • Aimee Byrd says:

      Kim, I can sympathize with your situation. That’s why I turned to writing myself. And it is also why I am excited about better resources like this one. Keep on!

  3. Melissa says:

    Hi, Aimee. I found you through Lisa Writes and I love your blog. Like Kim, I’ve developed an affinity with women online because I NEED like-minded women in my life! I don’t have any in the life around me. Thank you for bringing this book to our attention. I’ve put the first one in the series on my Amazon Wish List.

    Looking forward to reading more of what you have to say here…

    • Aimee Byrd says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Melissa. Hopefully, we can get some more women involved in studies like these so they can see what they’ve been missing.

  4. Doc B says:

    I fully agree with your first paragraph, but I think your description is not limited to women’s studies- it describes most of what is passed around as Sunday School literature as well. And as for men’s devotional magazines, I don’t see them all, but of the ones I do see, the only one left out there that I still find challenging is Tabletalk. And it’s not really a men’s magazine, but is written for all.

    Keep squeaking. You’ll eventually get some grease.

    • Aimee Byrd says:

      Good point, Doc.
      I have been blessed with great Bible studies in my church. We are currently doing Acts in Sunday School, and our Women’s Bible study is studying Hebrews. Our members get group subscriptions of Tabletalk.

    • Melissa says:

      I agree about the SS material. I’m part of a Southern Baptist Church and am delighted to find that LifeWay has finally come out with some new material. I’ve only previewed the youth version, but I really like it. It’s called The Gospel Project. The website is http://www.gospelproject.com

  5. Thanks again, Aimee, for prodding us on toward more depth in our pursuit of God (and His pursuit of us!). Just added this book to my “to-read” book list. Looking forward to reading Part Two!

  6. Tim says:

    Aimee, I agree with Doc about this being an issue for men’s studies as well. That ice-breaker thing in particular really gets me. I now choose not to particpate in them because frankly I just don’t have to and no one can make me do them.

    Also, I appreciate so much this sentence: “God does not promise us a life without suffering, but he does promise himself.” Preach it, Sister!

    Tim

    P.S. New guest piece up at Kim’s place: http://kingdomcivics.com/2012/07/06/o-canada/

    • Aimee Byrd says:

      Tim, way to take a stand on the ice-breakers :)
      Turnage’s section on suffering is very good. Here’s a reflection she shares from a friend’s story of suffering:
      “‘I was astounded by my friend’s faith-the faith of the Psalm 88 writer who ended his lament with ‘darkness is my closest friend.’ The faith that knows words of life given in Scripture invite wrestling. The faith that knows God may ask anybody to walk the hardest path. But God! The faith that knows there is nowhere else to turn but to the sovereign God who took their precious son. The faith that believes the Father knows the depth of their heartache.’”

  7. Angela says:

    I live in an area with few truly reformed churches. Although I attend a Bible study at a local church for fellowship, I find more in common with the women I can connect with online. I try to do some of the truly Biblical women’s studies on my own, but something is lacking when you don’t do them with others. Thanks for your review and encouragement.

    • Aimee Byrd says:

      Angela, I am hearing your story echoed from many other women hungry for good teaching and enriching conversation in the Lord. It is a blessing to find others online, & I am thankful for more resources to get the Word out!

  8. Aimee,
    Amen and so very amen! I practically clapped my hands at the perfectly-fitting word ‘froofy’ regarding the cover – I thought the very same thing. Unfortunately, it wasn’t my call, so I guess God’s humor and humbling to cover me in pink:-)!
    Thank you for all of your well-thought out comments, and I agree with the addition of the word ‘in,’ as indeed we are – cast in this drama. What a joy and privilege to walk with others from faraway, and I do pray that many will gather to delve deeper into His story of grace, as you have done!

    • Aimee Byrd says:

      Elizabeth, so happy that you stopped by. I always wonder how the author pictures the cover of their book as they are writing.
      I am posting Part 2 of your review tomorrow (7/11). Looking forward to reading the 3rd book in the series.

What do you think?