We hope to see you on Monday night for the first Connecting Point event of 2014! 
*If you will need childcare, don't forget to contact the Women's Life Office at 919-761-2340 by 4pm on Friday, January 31.*


How have you been doing with your

 New Year’s Resolutions?

Earlier this month, we mentioned the “Empty Shelf Challenge” that John Acuff came up with (see his post here). Many of you have resolved to read more this year, and hopefully our posts this month are helping you accomplish that goal!

Today, we want to re-introduce you all to one more resource that can help you read more in 2014.

Ladies, the Women’s Life Office is proud to present:


We hope you will stop by to check out some of the resources that are available to you! You can also find a list of our resources here.  (Just be sure to choose WLO Library on the “Collections” drop down list.)
Today’s blog post is post from Sarah Woods, a new addition to the Women’s Life family.  If you are looking for another book to add to your New Year Resolution Reading List, check out her review of Linda Dillow’s What’s it like to be Married to Me?

We are usually well aware of our spouse’s flaws and weaknesses.  Most of us could easily name something our husband does that we find annoying.  Maybe we have even attempted to change his behavior by reasoning or pleading with him, to no avail.

When we become so focused on changing him, we can forget that we have flaws and sinful habits as well. 

As seminary wives, we may be quick to affirm the doctrine of sin and the fact that we are sinners, but how often do we take the time to consider the specific ways in which we sin?  Have you ever looked at things from your spouse’s point of view and asked

 “What is it like to be married to me?”

In Linda Dillow’s book What’s it like to me Married to Me? she challenges us to ponder this and other “dangerous” questions.  We are asked to question

* What’s it like to make love with me?
* What is it like to go through times of suffering with me?
* And why does it seem so much easier to hold on to anger than to forgive?

The best part about this book is that it’s written in an honest and extremely practical manner.  After reading many theologically heavy books about marriage, this was a refreshing change of pace that still packed a Biblical punch.  The liberal use of anecdotes makes it an interesting and quick read.  I also really appreciated her distinction between a goal and a desire. 

A GOAL is something we want to change that we also have the power to change.

A DESIRE is something we want but can’t control. 

This distinction helps us focus our effort on changing things we can control (such as our own behavior), rather than trying to “fix” something we can’t control, such as our husband’s behavior.

Four words of caution:

1) The book does contain some detailed discussion of sexual matters, so I would not recommend this for women who are not yet married. 

2) When discussing the importance of love and respect from Ephesians 5, she uses the language of “love gap” which is similar to Gary Chapman’s concept of a love “tank.” Love and respect are very important, but they are not tanks or gaps which must be filled.  (Though Mrs. Dillow did recover from this later by emphasizing that we should respect our husbands because God’s Word commands it, regardless of whether or not they are filling our “love gaps” in return.)

3) The chapter on forgiveness may be misleading.  Dillow presents forgiveness mainly as a one-time decision, neglecting that forgiveness may also be a process.  Many deep hurts require entering a battle, continuously re-surrendering the hurt to God, and renewing our minds with Scripture.  A person who tries to forgive with a simple one-time decision may become frustrated if their anger and bitterness return later.  That’s why it’s important to understand forgiveness as both an event and a process.

4) Several anecdotes may over-emphasize the responsibility of the wife in the marital problems.  While keeping in mind that the point of the book is to consider the log in our own eye before worrying about the speck in our husband’s eyes, sometimes our husbands have their own sin issues that God must convict them of.  For example, one of the stories told of a husband who had become enslaved to pornography.  The wife felt that God’s answer to this problem was to become more sexually available to him.  From this anecdote, one might mistakenly conclude that it was the wife’s fault that her husband had fallen into sin and that she could fix his problem by changing her actions.  On the contrary, her husband was responsible for his sinful choices and the problem could only be fixed by God’s intervention and the husband’s repentance.  (This concern only applied in very few instances.)

However, even after noting these considerations and cautions, I wholeheartedly recommend the book.

What’s it like to be Married to Me? is a great resource, especially if you are experiencing marital conflict, a stubborn grudge, intimacy issues, or emotional distance. 

It would also be helpful if you want to take an already-good marriage to the next level. 

I consider my marriage to be healthy and happy, but I was still convicted about some things I could change. 

I definitely recommend this book
 if you are woman enough to handle it.  
If you are really brave, you could walk through the book with some friends as a 10-12 week bible study.

{What's it like to be Married to Me? is available in the Women's Life Office library, if you would like to come by to check it out!}

Reading and Culture {Hunger Games}

We have been talking a lot about reading in our posts this new year. Today's guest post from Hilary Ratchford reminds us that we can engage even better with those we minister to if we engage culture with a discerning eye. 


Read Recently? Hunger Games

After seeing the second movie in the Hunger Games trilogy, “Catching Fire,” in early December, a girlfriend of mine finally convinced me to read the series. I admit, I was hesitant because:

1) I was skeptical about the plotline – kids killing kids?!
2) I was hoping for a break from reading – after all, I had just finished the fall semester!
3) I was honestly a little concerned about what people would think of me… Wasn’t this book labeled “Juvenile” Fiction (a.k.a. for teens)? Would I just be trying to jump in on the latest fad {a little late}??

But I have to tell you… I really enjoyed reading the series. So much so, that I read them quickly.
Like the whole series in less than a week!  [I think I was still functioning in the efficiency of “school mode”].

Not only was it a much needed dose of fiction and imagination, I finally understood why it appealed to so many people. Women, particularly.

At the heart of ministry is people. And for me, specifically, my ministry is women. I desired to know why  old roommates, missionary friends, college girls that I’ve had the privilege to journey alongside, and even my older sister were so enthralled with the series.

So, to enjoy a little respite from non-fiction and for the sake of just no-longer-being-naive-to-what-is-infiltrating-our-women-though-culture, I dove in.

I realized that…

* Everyone loves a good heroine.
* Women want to feel valued.
* And every heroine {or just regular gal} wants to be pursued and protected.  Right?

Yet {one theme} stood out in particular – both to me, and to the ladies with whom I discussed the series.

After reading the books, we could not help but be touched by the {steadfastness} of Peeta, the protagonist’s (Katniss) tribute partner - turned friend - turned love interest - turned spouse.

Peeta’s {loyalty} to Katniss, his willingness to sacrifice himself for her, to protect her, to continue loving her even when her affections are directed elsewhere… all of this makes us want to root for Peeta, right?

Even those that do not know the Faithful One are naturally inclined to pull for the one who is constant in character.

Don’t you see? That desire was written on our heart-strings long before the Games ever began...

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 [ESV]
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17 [ESV]
“But the Lord is faithful… May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 3:3,5 [ESV]

We yearn for {faithfulness} and {constancy} because we, indeed, are inconstant.

How often have you given up on a commitment? Betrayed a friend’s trust? Sought your own good before that of someone else?

So my recommendation? The next time you pick up a ((fiction)) novel, read it with a discerning eye. 

Enjoy the creativity that God has gifted the author with, but at the same time, recognize the Author of creativity. It all points back to Him.

* If your emotions resonate with a character or if you’re “pulling” for a certain outcome, why?
* Is it because a character trait leads you to a deeper awe & appreciation for the Person of Christ?
* Is it because evil is defeated, victory is won, and good is restored?
* Is it because there is reconciliation in the narrative?

Ponder these questions, and others that you come up with, and then point the story line back to the Gospel.  After all, each story shadows the greatest Story ever told:

A {faithful} God pursued mankind by sending His {selfless} Son, Jesus Christ, to sacrifice His life to bring reconciliation, to conquer evil, and to restore a perfect kingdom. And the Story doesn’t end there…

As Job said in Job 19:25-27 –
“I know that My Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will
stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see Him with my own eyes – I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!”

Don’t be afraid, like I initially was, to read something that is outside of the traditional Christian recommended reading. 

Please hear me, I’m not telling you to be conformed to the pattern of this world – we must be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2). Yet, know the people at the heart of your ministry. They are in the world, and we must reach them with the Gospel . . .  With the Story that has been written on the tablets of human hearts.

As Christ prayed for His disciples in John 17:15-18 –
“My prayer is not that You take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by Your Truth, Your Word is Truth. As You sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world…”

Connect their natural inclination to root for the {faithful, devoted, constant} Peeta in the Hunger Games trilogy to their desire to be pursued & intimately known by the Faithful, Devoted, Constant One. 

Because His Story never ends.

Maintaining your resolutions

Now that the new year is well under way, we wanted to offer you some encouragement as you pursue your goals. Did you make any resolutions this year?

45% of Americans usually make New Year’s Resolutions.
17% of Americans infrequently make them.
38% absolutely never make them.

According to the University of Scranton’s Journal of Clinical Psychology, the Top Ten New Year’s Resolutions for 2014 are:

1)      Lose weight
2)      Get organized
3)      Spend less and save more
4)      Enjoy life to the fullest
5)      Stay fit and healthy
6)      Learn something exciting
7)      Quit smoking
8)      Help others achieve their dreams
9)      Fall in love
10)   Spend more time with family

Whether you are one to make New Year’s Resolutions or not, each new year brings us an opportunity to reflect on the past year and to look forward to what is to come.

As you get in to the swing of this new year, we would like to encourage you to be careful not to over-commit yourselves.  When we say “yes” to too many things, we can also end up saying “no” to time alone with God.  Don’t make the mistake of trying to make God fit into your already busy schedule; instead, build your schedule around your time with God!  This can be quite a challenge for all of us, so let’s encourage one another.  

As we begin the new year, let us be sure to spend more time with the Lord and to be wise when making commitments.  And when we get overwhelmed, let us remember just how much our Father loves us.  We can rest in his care.

“And he said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.  Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them.  Of how much more value are you than the birds!  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?  Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!  And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried.  For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.  Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.’”

Image from http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1330413

Luke 12:22-31 (ESV)

The Beginning of a New Semester

Ladies, the new semester starts NEXT WEEK!  Have you registered for your BWI classes? Check out the list of course descriptions below if you are still trying to decide what to take.  But HURRY!  Time is running out and classes are filling up!

What is your favorite class that you've taken so far? Let us know in the comments!

How many of you have seen John Acuff’s “Empty Shelf Challenge”?  As the new year is getting under way, many of us are making resolutions and setting goals for 2014.  
If you want read more this coming year, this post is for you!

According to Hannah Goodwyn from the Christian Broadcasting Network, the following books are Ten Christian Best-sellers You Should Own:

 Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

Wild at Heart by John Eldredge

The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman

The Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrick

Her Mother’s Hope by Francine Rivers

Choosing to SEE by Mary Beth Chapman

Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado

90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas

Ok ladies, each week you hear from us.  Now we want to hear from you!  How many of these books do you own or have you read?  What did you think about them?  Would you recommend them to others?

What are you looking forward to reading this new year and why?

Looking forward to your responses!
The new year is here!  Every January, many of us make resolutions to read the Bible more consistently.  This year, we wanted to help you carry through with that resolution.  Today’s post comes from the Summit Church.  They have given us a few tips for how to get the most out of your Bible reading.  We pray that you will each follow the Lord as He continues to guide your steps this year!

Photo from http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1339714

Setting the Stage:

o    Set a time to meet with God each day.
o    Get alone in a quiet place to read and pray.
o    Focus on relationship and interaction with God.
o    Make sure you have a journal and a pen, along with your Bible.

Spending the Time:
o    Begin by praying. Ask God to make you receptive to his Word. Pray for wisdom and understanding.
o    Read the passage for the day. Read it slowly, noting any particular verses that stand out to you
o    Look back over the chapter and consider the following:
o    Is there something specific that you believe God is saying to you in this passage?
o    What is the general theme or central truth in this passage?
o    Write the central truth or re-write the key verse in your own words
o    What do I learn about God from this passage?
o    What can I learn about myself?
o    How does this passage help you have greater understanding of the gospel?
o    Consider how you can pray out of this passage
o    What do learn about the character of God, his purposes, and his deeds from this passage? Use those to adore and praise God.
o    Does this passage expose sin that you need to confess?
o    What promises do you see that you can hold back up to God in prayer? What purposes of God can you ask him to fulfill? What truths can you, by faith, claim as your own?
o    Make a plan for action. What steps do you need to take to put into action whatever God has spoken to you out of this passage?

Sharing the Impact:
o    Commit to this with a few others. Twice a week (Tuesday and Friday), email each other. Share something significant from the Scripture you read and a single prayer request. This will not only help you to be accountable for the reading, you will also strengthen and encourage other.
o    Consider making a weekly "date" with your husband or wife to share what God is teaching you. Share your favorite verse and why it is meaningful to you. Let this be a springboard for deeper conversations.
o    Plan a weekly family time where parents and kids can share favorite verses. If your children are too young to do the reading, you can simply share from the reading each week and have a time of prayer. This is an awesome time for you model with your kids a daily commitment to God’s Word.
o    Choose a verse to memorize each week. This can be an individual or family practice. Write the verse out on several index cards and place them strategically around the house, in the car, or at work. Repeat the verse several times a day. As a family, say the verse together at mealtime.

For some great options for Bible reading plans for this year, check out this incredible list compiled by Collierville First Baptist Church: click here.

What about you? How do you make sure that you get the most out of your Bible reading? What plan do you prefer to use? Let us know if you have any tips in the comments!