Book Review: Washed & Waiting, Updated Version

Washing & Waiting, Updated Edition” is book #23 of books read in 2020.

I listened to this book several years ago, as many of the guys in the ministry I lead recommend it. We just read it in one of our groups, and so I read the updated version.

I’ll start with the positive. Wesley Hill is extremely honest! If you’re looking for a book where your feelings of loneliness and intense struggle are validated, look no further! I think one of the reasons so many people like this book (David Bennett mentions it in his book) is the brutal honesty and vulnerability with which Hill writes.

By the way, Wesley if you read this review, 2 of my cousins and 1 of their husbands go to seminary where you teach 🙂

Each chapter reads like a long psalm of lament. Hill shares transparently about many of his struggles! He eventually comes around to the hope that Christ has to offer believers who seek to walk in obedience as it pertains to their same-sex attraction.

Hill is absolutely spot on concerning one thing: the life of those who are same-sex attracted can be very, very lonely. One of the things I appreciate the most about this book is his talk about community and how the church needs to rise up and surround those who are living celibate lives in the midst of their struggles with sexuality. I think the church likes to pat people like Hill on the back and say, “Good for you for walking in obedience” and leave it at that.

The antidote to this is to be part of intentional community, whatever that might look like for each individual. What the same-sex attracted or gay celibate Christian really needs is the church to surround them and invite them into their daily lives. I’m not talking about just having someone in your small group; I’m talking about having them over for Sunday dinner and maybe Monday dinner and Tuesday dinner as well. I have a friend who is same-sex attracted, and she lives with a family. I think that’s an awesome idea! I see from Wesley Hills’ Instagram that he is a godfather. Fantastic! This is exactly how the church should be being intentional about including all single people in everyday life.

All that said, I found the book to be rather depressing. OK, really depressing. I will say as someone who struggles with hopelessness, it was difficult for me to get past the depths of despair that Hill describes. He also (like many others his age) does not seem to believe that transformation is possible in his sexuality (which I expected). But I see a couple other reasons the book felt depressing to me:

The first thing I see is that Hill seems to buy into what Russell Willingham refers to as “romantic orthodoxy.” Willingham defines this as a belief that “romance or sex will meet my deepest needs.” Hill eventually comes around to the truth that only Jesus can meet these needs in all of us, but it seems clear to me in how he views marriage and romantic relationships and how often he comes back to this belief that this is truly a core belief he holds (you can read more about core beliefs in Willingham’s book or in my book Learning to Walk in Freedom).

The second thing I see is that Hill seems to believe same-sex attracted Christians are uniquely lonely. Loneliness is a core theme throughout the book. Hill seems to fail to recognize that many opposite-sex attracted Christians never find a spouse (I can think of many in my circle of friends), that some Christians are stuck in unhealthy marriages that (I believe) are likely far more lonely than singleness, and that many others are lonely for a whole host of reasons.

All that said, I can absolutely see why this book is a good starting point for many same-sex attracted and gay Christians. That said, I feel “The War of Loves” by David Bennett or “Born Again This Way” are better reads in this genre of books in the category of same-sex attraction being a fixed orientation/books that lean away from transformation being possible.

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“Born Again This Way” Book Review

“Born Again This Way” by Rachel Gilson is book #15 of 2020.

This was a fantastic book about Rachel’s journey of coming out as gay, coming to know Jesus Christ as her Savior, and how those two things impact her life today. I read a lot of books in this topic, and appreciated how many new and fresh ideas she brought to the conversation. She also brings a theological depth that other books lack, but she writes in a way that makes those concepts accessible to anyone.

A couple concerns brought up and several addressed:

Conversion Therapy

She speaks against conversion therapy without ever thoroughly defining it (to the best of my recollection, she only gives a general idea on pg. 83). Why is this concerning? When conversion therapy is not defined, many things are lumped into that term that don’t even resemble therapy or conversion. Many in the type of ministry I do are accused of doing “conversion therapy.” Recently, when Massachusetts proposed a ban on conversion therapy to minors, there was not a single Massachusetts resident testifying who actually had undergone conversion therapy (the ban passed). So I am VERY leary of this catch-all term, which feels like a red herring in the conversation for me.

Transformation

A concern I heard from others is that Rachel does not believe in transformation (i.e that God is able to change one’s sexual attractions if He so chooses). Because I heard this concern prior to reading the book, I kept my eyes open to what she did – and didn’t – say. On this point, the overarching theme of the book is 0n obedience, not sexual orientation change. I actually commend her for this. I have seen WAY too many people give up this fight because God did not take away their struggle. As I state in my book #learningtowalkinfreedom, same-sex attraction (SSA) is a form of temptation. If we expect to live a life free of temptation, then we expect to be more free than Jesus. So I actually appreciate very much her focus on obedience rather than sexual attraction change. She does share a story from a woman who was same-sex attracted and is now opposite-sex attracted. I also do not recall her speaking against transformation. I actually write in my book that if we focus only on sexual attraction change, we are missing the point (freedom step one).

On-Going Same-Sex Attraction

Another concern was that Rachel wears her on-going SSA as a “badge of honor.” I did not give this one much weight, and here’s why. I speak openly about my on-going SSA. I share about the presence of on-going temptation in my life because I feel it’s important. Church leaders need to know that someone who experiences SSA is just as free and healed and changed as the person who know claims a heterosexual identity. I state that I “experience” SSA rather than I “struggle” with it – because it’s no longer a struggle. Rachel and I also agree that calling oneself a “gay Christian” is problematic. Here is my post explaining why.

I highly, highly recommend this book, despite a few concerns. It’s one of the best I’ve read in a while.

Buy “Born Again This Way” here.

Surprised by Satan

During my short stint in seminary, I once found myself arguing with the teaching assistant for a class I was taking. What were we arguing about? Satan.

Why on earth were we arguing about Satan? We were arguing about what Satan’s purpose is and whether or not he has a plan for our lives.

Twice today I found myself reminding two different friends that we have an enemy. I remember a conversation from last week as well. Our enemy doesn’t walk around dressed in red, with horns and a tail as some would depict him. He’d be so easy to spot if he did!

There seemed to be no question in the minds of the early followers of Jesus that Satan exists, as demonstrated by these passages:

 “News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.” Matthew 4:24

 

“When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him.” Matthew 8:16a

 

“Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see.” Matthew 12:22

 

“A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.’ ” Matthew 15:22

I could go on. Suffice it to say that the word “demon” is used 66 times in the 4 gospels alone. It’s clear to me that the early believers understood there was a real enemy.

Why does it seem so unclear to us?

I was out of town for the weekend, and at the church I visited Sunday, we sang this powerful song, “Lion and the Lamb.” I sang as loud as everyone else when we got to this line:

Our God is a Lion
The Lion of Judah
He’s roaring in power
And fighting our battles!

Do you guys know the song? I bet you’re singing it right now!

I absolutely love that imagery! But I’m not sure it’s 100% accurate.

Something I think many of us struggle to grasp is that Satan came to steal and kill and destroy the abundant life that Jesus came to give (John 10:10). The enemy came to steal your overflowing life – as in the specific plan and purpose for which God created you.

So why did the line from the song bother me?

Most Christians live as if Jesus defeated the devil once and for all at the cross. Therefore, there is nothing else we need to know about Satan or need to be concerned with. If this is the case, why does Paul write to believers about the possibility of being taken advantage of by Satan? Why does he also admonish the church in Ephesus to take a stand against Satan’s schemes? Why does Peter remind us that the enemy is prowling around, seeking someone to devour?

If God is fighting all our battles for us and all we need to do is sit back and watch, why is Paul telling us to put on battle armor?

As I prayed for a friend this week, I felt led to remind her that she has a real enemy, an enemy who lies in wait, looking for a weak moment. You also have the same enemy. We are not to live in fear of him, but simply with an awareness that he exists.

I can’t say I completely understand spiritual warfare, or what power or authority Satan does have today in the post-resurrection life of a believer. I’m still learning. I’ve been reading about this in Intercessory Prayer by Dutch Sheets, and Waking the Dead by John Eldredge has an entire chapter on this idea. But I’ll just close with this one line from Eldredge’s book: “You don’t escape spiritual warfare simply because you choose not to believe it exists or because you refuse to fight it.”

Have you been surprised by Satan recently? How so?

What Are You Reading These Days?

What books are you reading these days? What is encouraging you and challenging you?

Two biographies I recently finished:


High Adventure in Tibet: The Life and Labors of Pioneer Missionary Victor Plymire by David V. Plymire


David Wilkerson: The Cross, the Switchblade, and the Man Who Believed by Gary Wilkerson

I’ve read High Adventure in Tibet before, years ago, but then I had trouble locating a copy of it. They have it at CBD for $2.49. I found David Wilkerson while searching through the virtual “sale rack” at CBD. Really loved both these books and their honesty about the lives of these two heroes of the faith, albeit one well-known and one unsung.

And slowly working my way through this with a friend:

Intercessory Prayer: How God Can Use Your Prayers to Move Heaven and Earth by Dutch Sheets

What are you reading? I’m looking for good biographies of Christians in particular.

My Favorite #EmptyShelf Books of 2014

I finished 20 books in 2014 as part of the #EmptyShelf challenge. You can see them all lined up below.

This was difficult to do, as I read a lot of great books this year. Click the link below the book’s image to hear my thoughts on each.

Looking back on my choices, I see I didn’t pick a lot of variety! I didn’t read any fiction. I also didn’t pick much non-fiction than wasn’t a religious book, or that had a faith component (not all that surprising, I guess!). I definitely read more biography/autobiography than usual, which I enjoyed.

So here are my top 5:


The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears


If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat


Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption


Please Don’t Say You Need Me: Biblical Answers for Codependency


The Red Sea Rules: 10 God-Given Strategies for Difficult Times

And honorable mention:

The Cross and the Switchblade

Here are all 20:

           

Empty Shelf Challenge Book #20: “What Happens When Women Say Yes to God” by Lysa TerKeurst

I finished my 20th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.


What Happens When Women Say Yes to God: Experiencing Life in Extraordinary Ways by Lysa TerKeurst

This New Year’s morning, I have been frantically trying to finish listening to the Lysa TerKeurst book Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions. I really wanted to reach 20 books in 2014! I figured since I listened to most of it in 2014, I could count it. But as my husband asked me if I had read any other Lysa TerKeurst books, I realized I had listened to “What Happens When Women Say Yes to God,” but I never recorded it here.

The main speaker at a recent conference I attended is a missionary to India. She works in the Red Light District with the girls and women who are trapped in prostitution. Something she shared at the conference has stuck with me: every time we say “yes” to Jesus, it lays the foundation for the next “yes.”

Since I listened to this book about 8 months ago, I’ll just share a short review. Lysa had me in tears as she shared various stories of God’s faithfulness. It is amazing what can happen when we respond “yes” to God’s call. Not only does it give us the opportunity to bless someone else with our obedience, every “yes” declares that we will follow God wherever He leads.

An enjoyable and challenging book.

I plan to aim for 12 books in 2015. It’s a bit more challenging with a baby to get reading in, but I think this is a reasonable goal.

The books I read in 2014 as part of the #EmptyShelf challenge:

           

Empty Shelf Challenge Book #19: “Run to Overcome” by Meb Keflezghi

I finished my 19th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.

Run to Overcome: The Inspiring Story of an American Champion’s Long-Distance Quest to Achieve a Big Dream

Everyone reading this knows I’m a runner. I talk about it quite often.

But what you might not know is I’m a running fan girl 🙂

I’m one of those people who thinks the Boston Marathon is the biggest sports event of the year. I had to work in the afternoon of Marathon Monday in 2013, but I was home long enough to see the elite athletes come in. Once at work, I was receiving text messages and Tweets from my friends as they crossed the finish line. My friends Robin & Colleen had already finished when my friend Dani started tweeting about a possible explosion shortly after crossing the finish line.

You likely know the rest of the story.

Thankfully, Dani and her family, as well as all my other friends, were safe. Many others were wounded and killed on that day. So on Marathon Monday in 2014, I knew where I would be: parked in front of my computer, watching the Boston Marathon.

As the elite men neared the finish line, my 6 year-old and I were jumping up and down, yelling, “Go Meb! Go Meb!!! Ggooooooo MMMMEEEEBBBB!!!!!”

Meb Keflezghi, a man who would turn 39 in just a few days (that’s “old” in the running world), became the first American man to win the Boston Marathon in over 30 years.

That was one of many reasons I was excited to get this book from the library.* I knew Meb was a man with a strong Christian faith. I also knew he overcame much hardship in his life (from Amazon.com):

Meb is the living embodiment of the American dream. His family came to the U.S. to escape poverty and a violent war; 12-year-old Meb spoke no English at the time and had never raced a mile.

This book takes the reader through Meb’s life with its victories and defeats. While the book does not have the captivating writing style of Unbroken, the simple way Meb describes the ups and downs of his life draws the reader in. His gratitude at the sacrifices of his parents challenged me. And the perseverance that brought him back from major injuries to win the Boston Marathon the year after such tragedy inspires me.

This book is definitely worth reading.

My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:

           

*I read the original edition of this book because that’s what the library had. It was updated this year to include his Boston win.

Empty Shelf Challenge Book #17: “Please Don’t Say You Need Me” by Jan Silvious

I finished my 17th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.


Please Don’t Say You Need Me: Biblical Answers for Codependency by Jan Silvious

Please Don’t Say You Need Me was mentioned in the back of a little booklet entitled Emotional Dependency, another resource I was reviewing for the ministry. Since emotional dependency and codependency are common struggle in the people I work with, I figured this book would be worth reviewing.

I’m so glad I read it! This was another book that I dog-eared like crazy. It’s truly a powerhouse of wisdom. It covers the roots and symptoms of codependency, as well as how codependency manifests itself in different types of relationships, including friendship, marriage, parent-child, and even in the workplace. It also has a chapter on how to maintain healthy relationships once you have recognized these patterns in yourself. The author does a wonderful job of weaving biblical truth into this struggle and healing from it.

If you have struggled with codependency or work with people who do, this book is for you.
My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:
           

Empty Shelf Challenge Book #16: “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” by Laura Hillenbrand

I finished my 16th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken is the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who later enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces and served as a bombardier. In 1943, he and his crews’ plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean, killing eight of the eleven men aboard. One of the crash survivors died after over a month at sea, but Louis and his friend Phil survived for 47 days, only to then be taken as prisoners of war in Japan.

I read this 400-page book in just over 2 days. It certainly helps that I’m on maternity leave 🙂 But the story is so compelling that it was difficult to put down. It is also excruciatingly painful to read. The abuse that Zamperini endured in the various POW camps was astounding. Story after story of injustice and suffering as Hillenbrand, the author, recounts Zamperini’s two long years in captivity. Even after the war ended and he was freed, he endured nightmares and fears that drove him to use alcohol to cope.

This book certainly put my problems in perspective, and challenged me as I considered all that one man can endure and still come through, forgiving.

The story does have a happy ending 🙂 But you will have to read it to find out! I got this book through Paperback Swap (of course!), but I’m sure it’s available at the library.

My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge: