I first saw a devotional at the age of twenty, I had been a Christian for one year and my hunger for daily lashings of bible reading had yet to abate. I saw the small book with the choice of a short bible verse, which was taglined ‘orange juice’, a brief exposition tagged as ‘cereal’, and a longer explanation tagged ‘the big breakfast’. What kind of person has no time for more than a little verse of the bible? I thought, childishly and in my first year at University, living with my parents.
A month ago, about 18 years in the future, I looked at my husband’s devotional which he opened faithfully every morning and I suddenly said “I need one of those”. I had used the Murray M’Cheyne bible plan for years in earlier days, but I had somehow managed to lose the habit. How did it take me 6 years to notice? Three days later he went away on a trip and as he left he said over his shoulder, ‘Oh, I signed you up to review a devotional, it should come on Monday’. I waited in trepidation and hope, thinking that this might be the thing that got me back on track, remembering Jesus every day and feeling more equipped to keep my mind where it should be, knowing the hope to which I had been called all those years ago. I have to say it has done that and more.
Her Story takes you through the women of the bible first, giving you a new insight and enthusiasm for the ‘Woman at the Well’ (the first evangelist, she calls her), and progresses on through the early church, ancient world, middle ages, reformation and onwards into the 1980’s. While a proper review of this book would include a day by day yearly walk through it; reading two or three devotions a day, I have found my heart lifted, my mind challenged, inspired, and refreshed. It’s a thinking woman’s book and a feeling woman’s book, if you are a bit intellectual, there is material for you, if you love moving stories, you can also drink here. If you love church history, you will love it, if you don’t yet love church history, I think you will soon. If you have lost your joy, I hope you will remember it as you see vulnerable women face tyrannous haters of God and stand firm. If you have started to love the world, I hope you see its tawdriness when you meet these women, who thought Jesus worthy of losing all things for.
It’s also fascinating to read as a woman, facing the deconstruction of gender in our current liberal marketplace and where churches are divided on the role of women in the church. What is a woman? What does Christian faith look like for women? How should women serve in secular society and in our churches and parachurch organisations? The diversity of the Christian worship of these women speaks vital truths and refreshment into a culture where women could be a president, get a doctorate or raise 10 healthy kids and homeschool them. What freedom, joy and strength we have to serve God in different ways! What a great cloud of witnesses surround us as we seek to serve God in whatever our vocational worship will be. Many of these women had little choice but to suffer pain and torment and yet to refuse to renounce Jesus. How much more can we be empowered in our daily lives to lovingly raise our children, to do our work, to have that conversation, to put to death that sin, to lovingly hold a view that society detests?
Buy a copy for your mother, mother in law and all your sisters, it is that good.
Her-Story: 365 Devotions from from 21 Centuries of the Christian Church
Diana Lynn Severance
Find it at The Wandering Bookseller