Tag Archives: women

Book Review: Reformation Women by Rebecca VanDoodeward

It isn’t every day that I get an email asking me to review a book and I say “Hey! I know her!” about the author. I know some people live that sort of life, but I don’t. So imagine my delight when asked by a third party to review a book written by another minister’s wife within my small Presbytery. That isn’t, however, what made me jump at the chance to read this. My summer time reading has all been on a theme of faithful women serving the church biblically, so a chance to read another book on the theme, set during the Reformation, was an easy yes.

Reformation Women is a collection of biographies. Each chapter focuses on the complete life of a woman who served the protestant Church during the period of history known as the Reformation. While the lives of some over lap, each woman is covered in her own right. In the preface, VanDoodeward expresses the methodology with which she selected the women in the book. Each woman was chosen in the hopes of introducing Christian women of today to Christian women of the past with whom we are not as familiar. In that vein some of the most famous names of Reformation women are absent from this work, because of the excellent works already available on their lives. Instead, the author chose lesser known, but not less deserving, women to highlight.

The collection is fascinating. Other than a connection to the Reformation, these women have very little in common. Some are married, some widowed, one remained single. Some had many children, some few children, one grieved having no surviving children. Many were born into some form of nobility, but not all, and several of those who were found themselves in poverty because of their protestant views. Some were quiet, some outspoken. Some served primarily within their home, while others served in different spheres. What interested me the most, however, was that several of these women were published authors, and only a few of them were married to ministers. A reader coming to this book with a view that all “biblical women” fit into a narrow criteria will be shocked at how diverse in gifting, calling, and life experience these women are, while all remaining faithful to the word of God, and devoted to the Church.

This is not an academic work. I intend to read these chapters to my children this school year, and I have no doubt they will be able to follow and understand the content. The chapters are relatively short, and easily read, but that is not to say it is a simplistic or shallow work. Every chapter is meticulously footnoted, with not only bibliographical citations (a fascinating list of works in themselves) but also additional historical and research information. The attached timeline at the end of the book is also helpful, and each chapter is capable of standing alone without a deeper understanding of the larger events in Reformation history. Still, there is an assumption of broad Reformation knowledge here that the average reader may not have. I hope that this will be an introduction for many – an appetizer of sorts – into a fascinating time in church and world history.

I found Reformation Women to be a personally encouraging, and intellectually satisfying book. More than that, I think it is a necessary book. The ongoing and diverse conversations regarding what makes a “biblical woman” need the historic grounding that this sort of book provides. I hope Rebecca, or another author, also offers us similar biographies of women from other times and places in church history.


Book Review: Freeing Tangled Hearts by Dolores Kimball

The tag line on Freeing Tangled Hearts is “Only by taking our eyes off of ourselves and focusing on God can our tangled hearts truly be freed.” It is a fitting, if counter cultural, summary of the content you will find within.

Kimball opens the book by clearly laying out her worldview and defining how that will shape the chapters that follow. She is clear in her assertions that the root of our emotional turmoil is the curse of sin, and as fallen humans we can do nothing to untangle our own hearts. Having laid out these foundational premises, Kimball enters into her “five point cure for a tangled heart.” 1. Examine to see if you are separated from God. 2. Recognizing that we are in a spiritual battle. 3. Manage our emotions instead of letting the manage us. 4. “Refuse to think of ourselves” – a quote from Martin Lloyd-Jones and finally 5. Put on the truths of God.

I found myself in hearty agreement with Kimball and her early presuppositions. Because we approach the subject of emotional care with a similar worldview I found myself skimming over the passages in which she defends it. That is a weakness on my part, not on hers. Filled with personal, poignant illustrations, and excellent biblical instruction, this is an easy read, but not an easy read -if you know what I mean. Witten clearly and laid out in a straightforward and easily progressing manner, the words themselves are easy to read; but I am afraid that too many women who desperately need this book will find the ideas too challenging and refuse to continue to read the words.

I have only two reservations about Freeing Tangled Hearts.

The first is with her first point, handled in the first two chapters. While calling women to seek the fruit of the Spirit in their lives and examine their lives for the works if sanctification that would give evidence of a redeemed heart – the only kind of heart that can be untangled – Kimball fails to give any counsel or direction to the woman who may be unsure if she is, in fact, separated from God. The middle of chapter 2 contains this startling transition: “. . . no amount of advice or counseling will solve your problems if your biggest problem is that you are separated from God. . . But once salvation is reasonably assured, you can begin the process of moving forward with the understanding that you do have the power of the Holy Spirit. . .” (P. 30). Now, please understand that I completely agree with all of these concepts, but surely we must also include the encouragement that if we believe we are separated from God we can surely call on the name of The Lord to be saved (Romans 10:13).

My second reservation is with less with concept, and more with placement. Kimball’s final point is to put on the truth of God. Again, I agree completely with the concept, and found her illustrations in the chapter to be completely fantastic. In fact I think it is the strongest chapter of the entire book, and I wish it had appeared far earlier. The chapters on managing our emotions would have been so much stronger with the concept of putting on truth to replace the emotional tangles interwoven throughout.

Those two points aside, it is a strong book, with a much needed message for today’s increasingly narcissistic, emotionally tangled society. If the “listen to your heart and do what feels right” brand of emotional care is leaving you more tangled than ever, this is your book. But read it all, right to the end, because Dolores Kimball saves the best for last.

I received no compensation for this post. I was provided a paperback edition for the purpose of review. I was not required to provide a positive one. I keep a disclosure statement here.