The title intrigued me, but the subtitle deterred me.
“What? More than a meek and quiet spirit? Why would I want something more than what Jesus declares to be beautiful in His sight?” (1 Peter 3:4).
I wasn’t interested. I wasn’t going to read it.
But then I flipped to the back cover and saw endorsements from men and women I greatly respect—men and women whose teaching is solid, biblical, complementarian
Hmmm….I thought. Maybe I should check out this book after all.
Well, I’m so glad I did.
In Womanly Dominion, Mark Chanski fearlessly tackles practical and tricky questions related to a woman’s calling; yet, his biblical perspective, winsome style, and inspiring examples make this thought provoking read a pleasurable one as well.
That’s all I’m going to say for the moment—my goal today is simply to entice you to read this book for yourself.
To that end, let me give you just a sample of what you’ll find. In speaking of Abigail in the Bible, Mr. Chanski explains:
“There’s a time for a woman to resignedly sit back and wait for the Lord to change her husband’s mind. And there’s a time for a woman to assertively rise up and take matters into her own hands. Abigail knew how to tell time” (p. 77).
Now are you intrigued? Do you want to learn how to exercise womanly dominion and “tell time” like Abigail did? I hope so.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is wise advice, to which I would add: “Don’t judge a book by its subtitle either!”
Back in October, we took a little break from the book club when so many of you clamored for foodtalk! Then we had a lovely conversation with John Ensor last week. As we returned to the book, we felt the two primary remaining chapters—on submission and a woman’s work—were topics too important to cover in a simple book club post. They deserve a series of their own some day.
So, we decided to close the cover on this book club today. But we want to leave you with this parting thought: read this book! And if you’ve already read it along with us, re-read this book! Doing Things Right in Matters of the Heart is one of those biblical womanhood essentials…along with Let Me Be A Woman and (pardon a little family bias) my mom’s Feminine Appeal and several others. We want each and every girltalk reader to benefit from John Ensor’s wise and winsome book.
But we don’t want to end without recognizing that there may be some of you for whom this topic of relationships—or even just the title of this book ushers in feelings of guilt and despair. Because maybe you’ve traded your dollar bill for five shiny pennies (see p. 159). Maybe you’ve done things wrong in matters of the heart; or, maybe someone else has done things wrong in the matter of your heart.
That’s why we must never forget the gospel. John Ensor makes sure we don’t, when, on the last page of the book He reminds us that God’s “steadfast love is great” (Psalm 57:10). God loves us, not because we have always done things right in relationships or otherwise, but because of His one and only Son, who was our sacrificial substitute when He died on the cross for our sins. We will find peace, help to forgive, and grace to honor God in relationships only when we look at the cross and remember the steadfast love of our Savior.
May the love of the One who has always done everything right be your joy today.
If you were expecting a review of Doing Things Right chapter fourteen today, I have good news and bad news.
The bad news first: we’re postponing this discussion for several weeks. I know. You’re disappointed. But wait, here’s the good news: we’re doing so in order to announce that the author, John Ensor, has graciously agreed to an interview with you, the girltalk readers!
No doubt, as you were reading this book you wondered, “so how does this apply in my situation?” or maybe you wished he would expand on a point that particularly spoke to you. Here’s your chance to ask the author himself.
If Mr. Ensor’s answers (read that outloud!) are anything like his book, we’ll be treated to more fresh, compelling and biblical truths about how guy-girl relationships should work—before and after marriage.
“Sisters, it is hard for you to submit, period, even to a good man, in anything. It is submission itself that riles you….I will add, by way of encouragement that submission is simply not that hard on a day-to-day basis. My wife could tell a few stories where it was a struggle, but those incidents occurred over the course of thirty years! She would tell you that it has been far more a delight and a relief than ever it was a burden.”
What I love most about this book (besides John Ensor’s ever delightful prose) is the winsome and attractive way he presents God’s truth. How the Bible presents it, actually. All too often, we twist God’s gracious plan for marriage into a list of unappealing restrictions. We suck all the joy and beauty out of it and then try offering it to a watching world. No wonder they say, “no thank you!”
Submission is possibly the most misunderstood of all. We can view it as a burden, a punishment instead of a “delight” and a “relief.” But submission is the doorway to a joyful, enduring marriage and a host of God’s blessings.
If you are struggling with a dour or resentful view of submission, read this chapter, and then reread it until you have God’s perspective. Then take John Ensor’s pastoral advice and, “Set aside your fear and exercise faith in this matter.”
“But sisters, the man who will make for you a healthy, tender, passionate, enduring, mutually fulfilling life partner is a man who prizes faith and integrity in himself and goes weak in the knees at your inner beauty too. This beauty ages well—it is an ‘imperishable beauty.’ It is this beauty that men see and appreciate as you grow through the seasons of life.” (p. 128, Doing Things Right)
Here’s a promise all the cosmetics and botox treatments in the world can’t deliver: imperishable beauty. It’s the inner beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit and it only grows more beautiful as the years pass (1 Peter 3:4). It can attract the right kind of man (one with integrity of heart) and it can secure his lifelong devotion.
If you’d like to learn more about how to develop this kind of beauty (and who wouldn’t!), I’d like to recommend several messages by Mom on this topic. In “True Beauty” she exposes the ultimate futility of physical beauty and the great worth of inner beauty. “A Woman’s Beauty Regimen” is an in-depth study of the meaning of a “gentle and quiet spirit” and practical advice on how to cultivate it.
And, in case you haven’t already heard, you can now listen to these (and many other) messages free of charge at the Sovereign Grace Ministries website. We’d especially recommend the messages on biblical womanhood (of course!).
A few days after my engagement, I went to the bridal shop to purchase a gown. When I told the shop owner that my wedding was only four months away, she chided me: “You should have come earlier. Most brides purchase their dresses a year in advance these days. I can’t guarantee you’ll receive it in time.”
It would seem (if this bridal shop owner knows her stuff) that not many couples are in a hurry to get married these days. One reason for this trend may be that many couples are already living together or engaging in sexual immorality before marriage. Thus they feel no immediate need to “make it official.”
Certainly many single women can attest to the truth of Robert Wright’s words at the beginning of this chapter: “If it’s harder to drag men to the altar today than it used to be one reason is that they don’t have to stop there on the way to the bedroom.”
But Christian couples who believe it is God’s will to get married, may find wisdom in John Ensor’s advice:
“…keep the engagement period short (three to six months). I was engaged for nine months. Too long. It was like waiting at a light that did not really look red (we were engaged, after all) or truly green (yet we weren’t married). This muddied middle, interminably long in our culture, is hard on virtue and honor.”
This counsel is drawn from Scripture where Paul concludes “It is better to marry than to be aflame with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:9, NIV). In short, if two people believe it is God’s will for them to be married, virtue and honor should come first on their list of considerations when setting a wedding date.
Now obviously, we are not recommending anyone rush into marriage without having carefully and thoroughly prayed through this decision and received encouragement, counsel and blessing from those around them. This advice is for some of you and not for others. Most likely, you know who you are. And if not, ask your parents, a godly friend or pastor and they’ll tell you.
But let’s value marriage for what God has made it—a “reward for waiting,” and no matter what the bridal shop owners say, let’s “get to it.”
As pastors’ wives, we’ve unfortunately been on the receiving end of conversations with young women that go something like this:
“I’m trying to get him to have consistent quiet times and be more passionate for the Lord. And I know that we’ve crossed the line more than a few times in the area of purity. But he says he really loves me and I love him. I’m sure he’ll shape up once we’re married. I can’t live without him.”
As women, our desire for marriage can be so strong, that we’re willing to settle for what John Ensor calls, “the immature, selfish, ungodly man” or even fall victim to the “deceitful and cunning predator.” But now, we have the “Manhood Test Kit”—the essential tool for determining if a man is ready to be married, or not. And it’s this: does he obey God by leading your relationship in purity?
I can’t say it better than John Ensor has already has:
“Men willing to wait, and wanting to wait, will test positive. It is not a lack of sexual interest; it is a healthy fear of God. It is love, which at this point rightfully expresses itself as protection frm sin and shame. If he weakens, help him succeed. If all else goes well in the development of the relationship, you know you are marrying a godly man, one who has self-control and a clear sense of his calling as a man.
Let me just add that the “Manhood Test Kit” is most effective in the context of community. Make sure you are asking for and seriously considering the counsel of godly men and women around you as you test the maturity of the man you may marry.
May God raise up many godly men who are committed to leading in purity as they walk toward the altar. And may God grant the women they are leading the discernment and wisdom to test their character against the straight edge of God’s Word.
“We do not face intruders, fire, crashes, and drowning on a regular basis. So let me close this chapter with a few mundane examples where manly protection expresses itself on a day to day basis.”
John Ensor goes on to list common ways a man protects—such as how he walks next to a woman on the street, opens the door so she can go in first (or goes in first himself in an unknown situation), and takes the lead in driving.
The question for us is: are we welcoming the protection of godly men? Are we noticing it, commenting on it, thanking them for it, even asking for it? Sometimes these mundane acts of protection are very simple gestures like the ones Ensor listed. We can easily take them for granted, and fail to express our gratefulness.
Welcoming godly protection may seem insignificant. However, it is one way that in a confused society we as women can express our femininity and encourage godly men in their masculinity. By doing so, we acknowledge and affirm that the way God made us is beautiful, good, and right.
In chapter eight entitled, “He Works…She Waits,” John Ensor reminds us of the importance of sexual purity:
“Sisters, there is power in waiting. If you give away this God-endowed power and simply act, as the apostle Paul said, ‘like the Gentiles who do not know God’ (1 Thessalonians 4:5) and satisfy his lusts, you undermine God’s work of maturing manhood. So part company with the crowd. Become a nonconformist. Swim upstream. Those who go with the flow in this matter are more likely to get the flotsam floating down the current. There are potentially good men in the mix, but how will you know the seemingly mature predatory male from the immature provider-protector type of man who is ready to grow up? Purity is the litmus test. Waiting will reveal the heart of the matter.”
This topic of sexual purity has been wisely addressed on a more detailed level in Josh Harris’s book, Sex Is Not The Problem (Lust Is). Instead of giving you the description myself, I’ll let Josh do it for me. Take a moment and watch this video, and if you find yourself tempted to compromise your sexual purity, please consider purchasing this book.
P.S. Please read chapter nine in Doing Things Right by Friday!
“In matters of the heart, it is right that men should lead and women welcome and guide that leadership. She is his helpmate (Gen. 2:18). Her goal is to give her man all the help he needs to lead well….The guidance that she provides him comes mainly in two forms: in helping him think clearly and in encouraging him to act confidently.” Doing Things Right in Matters of the Heart, p. 97
What a wonderfully biblical picture of complementary roles. He leads and she welcomes his leadership; but she also actively participates as his helpmate.
For Brian and me, the stewardship of our finances has been a training ground for our roles. I’ve sought to serve him by keeping track of our finances. He has sought to lead by utilizing my gifts to help him think clearly and act confidently when making financial decisions.
To give you a little window into our lives: I’m the money conscious one, and Brian is the memory maker. I’m saving every penny and he’s giving away every dime. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the picture.
As you may have read on this blog, I recently turned 30. To celebrate my big day, Brian told me he had planned a few surprises. So when my birthday rolled around, I was a bit nervous about where he was going to find the money to fund his set of surprises.
When he mentioned the idea of taking me to Washington, D.C. for an overnight, I anxiously inquired: “Where are you going to get the money for that?” Hardly an expression of gratefulness, support and encouragement for his leadership!
You see it’s not that we didn’t actually have the funds available. It’s just that I would have preferred to save the money instead of spend it on an overnight. And while Brian is committed to prudently saving, he was also determined to bless me on this occasion.
In the end, Brian decided that we would take the overnight. And I’m so glad we did. We had a wonderful trip and made memories that will last a lifetime. Once again I was reminded that this man is called to lead me and that things go well when I follow his leadership. Next time, by God’s grace, I hope my words and heart will better help him to think and act.
“Sisters, all the advice from Vogue, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan that talks about going after and getting your man, all the blather about how in this day and age it is just as acceptable for you to initiate as for him, is just that—blather. Be confident and trust your feelings on this matter. Be confident that if he is the man you hope and wish him to be, he will play the man. You crackle the leaves a bit when he is in the area and let him know you are there. Then wait for him to initiate, or not. In the long run, you will be well served either way.” Doing Things Right in Matters of the Heart, page 94
In their newly converted, youthful zeal, my dad and a group of his friends decided that God had called them to remain single. Dad was uninterested in the efforts of women to attract his attention. Put off by their forward manner, it was easy to think that God wasn’t leading him to get married.
Until he met my mom.
When he walked into the canteen at the Christian retreat center where Mom was working for the week, she didn’t try to catch his eye. Instead, she told him the canteen was closed. After pleading for a hot dog (on the grounds that he’d been serving and preaching all day and was tired and hungry) she finally relented. But to this day, Dad claims the hot dog was as cold as her demeanor. (She disputes this accusation, of course!)
My dad, who only a day before thought he would remain single, was suddenly smitten. Something in him—something that wanted to initiate, pursue, and win a woman’s heart—was awakened. So he asked my mom to take a walk. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Mom used to remind my sisters and me of this story when we were tempted to try to get some guy’s attention. Allow a man to win your heart, she would say. And if he doesn’t want to, then why would you want him?
God created men to initiate and he created women to respond. Or, as John Ensor also puts it, “His power is in the exclamation [of love]. Yours is in the echo.” When we remember this, things will work right in matters of the heart.
(We will discuss chapters seven and eight at the beginning of next week.)
We’ve got a lot to look forward to in the second half of Doing Things Right, and Chapter Five—with it’s apt and beautiful figure skating illustration—sets it up for us. What can we expect from “Section Two”? Practical and helpful advice from Scripture that teaches couples: “how to achieve unity, how two become one” and prepares singles for the marriage relationship. There are also lots of great Shakespeare quotes, which makes me happy.
Your assignment is to read chapters six, seven and eight over the next three weeks. Book club posts will be suspended for two weeks as the entire Mahaney clan heads to Tennessee for our annual vacation. We’ll post on all three chapters during the first week in August when we return.
But don’t you go anywhere, for starting Monday Janelle will post a “Pic of the Day” from our vacation. While we can’t fit the entire girltalk audience into the lake house, we hope you enjoy the view through Janelle’s camera lens.
Finally, for a little weekend reading, you can pop on over to The Shepherd’s Scrapbook for a very kind review of Shopping for Time by a very pregnant Karalee Reinke. While you’re at it, pray for the safe delivery of her little one (if she hasn’t already had the baby by the time you read this post!).
This chapter is a winsome polemic for “A Clear Appreciation of Our Complementarity.” In a culture where biblical manhood and womanhood are not appreciated, but rather maligned, it is vitally important that we fight to maintain our own appreciation of the way that God has made us to glorify Him.
We must also pass this value on to our children.
On page 67, Ensor quotes Wendy Shallit, who observes that her generation learned their distorted view of manhood and womanhood “with our ABC’s.” So, what are our children learning from us?
It’s never too early to begin teaching our children about God’s design for men and women. We’re constantly telling Jack, “That’s what boys do!” Boys hold the door for the girls. Boys play with army men. Boys are tough. And boys aren’t better than girls, we explain. Just different. And we celebrate the differences.
If you are the parent of a teenager, consider reading and discussing this chapter with your son or daughter. Check their “appreciation-o-meter” when it comes to biblical manhood and womanhood and where necessary, remind them of God’s perspective.
In obedience to the opening verse of this chapter, let’s help our children not be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of their mind. Let’s teach them, along with their ABC’s, to love being boys and girls.
I’m loving this book! Over the last week we read chapter three and it was packed full of wisdom and insight. On page 46 John Ensor writes, “When it comes to doing things right in matters of the heart, the first right thing we can ever do, the one right thing we must do, in order to get all the other things right, is to give our hearts to God.” He continues on page 47 saying, “If we do not seek our happiness in God and make him our perfect and everlasting happiness, then every good thing becomes a substitute for God; it becomes an idol.” As soon as I read these quotes I was reminded of the excellent messages my Dad recently gave at the New Attitude conference on the topic of idols. I wasn’t able to attend this conference, but the folks from New Attitude have graciously made the messages available for free online. Thanks, guys! I took some time in my morning devotions a few weeks ago to work through these messages, taking notes and seeking to examine my life. Can I encourage you to do the same? These messages are a perfect partner to this chapter. Click here to get the messages and happy listening.
This week (June 20th, to be exact) marks two years since my daughters and I launched girltalk. For those of you who have been reading this blog from the beginning or even if you’ve been following along only for a short while, probably know this about us: We love to recommend good books! From as early as the second day of this blog’s commencement, we were offering book suggestions for your summer reading. A year ago, as a way to promote the pleasurable discipline of reading, we inaugurated The Girltalk Book Club (of which we are presently reading our third book together.) As recently as yesterday, we were commending a book for your children. And for as long as it is God’s will that we continue this blog, we will advocate buying and reading good books —books that point us to The Greatest Book of all.
All this to say: I have another book recommendation for you today – a must have for your library. Yes, I know… today is Friday, book club day…and we are supposed to be talking about chapter two of our current selection: Doing Things Right in Matters of the Heart. Actually, it was our reading assignment this past week that got me thinking about the invaluable resource of good books. John Ensor makes the following observation in his second chapter, “What the Heart Wants:”
“I am a sinful man subject to temptations and an insecure man subject to the need for peer approval. This need for approval from others (in the Bible it is called the fear of man) is the point of entry for most sin. It is the breach in our nature by which sin recruits and makes new disciples” (p. 34).
The fear of man is “the point of entry for most sin.” Did you catch that the first time? It was easy to miss in a chapter so densely packed with wisdom as this one. And yet, the implications of this truth reach far beyond matters of the heart and affect every area of our lives. The fear of man, the desire for the approval of others, the attraction to those things that “attractive” people say are attractive (even if they defy God’s Word) is a powerful motivator in our lives.
Consider for a moment: Is there any sin in your life—in your relationships, your job, your hobbies, your money, your time, that you are pursuing because of the fear of man—because the world around you gives this desire, its stamp of approval?
If you think this may be so, here’s where my book recommendation comes in. Because this topic of “the fear of man” is thoroughly and biblically addressed in When People Are Big and God is Small by Ed Welch.
Many of you may have already read this book, but even so, may I encourage you to reread it at the conclusion of our book club? Because John Ensor is on to something—if we want to do things right in all matters of life, we must heed the warnings of Scripture and beware the snare of the fear of man (Pr. 29:25).