Years ago during a challenging season of life, I decided to attend “Youniquely Woman,” an event that brought together three well-known authors and friends to encourage women in their faith, family, marriage, and home. It was somewhat amusing to me that it was billed as “finishing school,” but even in my early 40s, I understood no matter how old I was there was always room to grow. What a treasure to have Kay Arthur, Emilie Barnes, and Donna Otto living out Titus 2, investing in younger women by sharing their lives. They delivered actionable content, mixing humor and experience with biblical wisdom and practicality. A few examples of the lighter moments:
On marriage: What’s sexy about feet in your pajamas? How’s he gonna get to you?
On children: You can always pray you’re adopted because then it means your parents never really did it.
What a surprise to hear those things coming out of their mouths. Their candor see-sawed between giggle-inducing gift and wisened counsel. One memorable and special highlight? The trio’s birthday serenade from center stage. I’m not sure how they discovered it was my birthday, but as a girl who loves to celebrate the way I do, no other present could’ve been more perfect.
Over a decade later, a few lessons from each woman linger:
Donna Otto deliberately selected a black and white wardrobe, simplifying life and laundry but equally classy and timeless. She also was the first person to invite me to consider whether I was a “Here I am!” or “There you are!” person. Her challenge made me a better noticer of people by encouraging me to see people in the margins and to muster enough courage to be the one to reach out.
Emilie Barnes led a session on purse organization that had the audience rolling. Apparently the jungle of a woman’s bag is tamable. Emilie was the leader with whom I was most familiar going into the conference; her lovely book, An Invitation to Tea, had been an intricate part of our Mother-Daughter Valentine Tea Party tradition, a cherished, annual event hosted by my mother-in-love, my daughter, and me.
Kay Arthur’s surprising answer during an audience Q&A challenged me then and still challenges me today. When asked for book recommendations, she didn’t suggest one of her 100+ books or Bible studies (over 10 million in print), which would’ve been expected and certainly understandable. She could’ve taken advantage of the opportunity to sell a few more copies to the women in attendance, or she likewise could’ve supported her co-leaders and recommended some of their books.
She didn’t do either. Instead she recommended only one book: the Bible.
It wasn’t the answer we were looking for, but this is what she told us: “I wish I had spent more time studying Scripture.” An author who had written over a hundred books, pioneered inductive Bible study, spoken to hundreds of thousands, and who can recall Scripture faster than Google can find it, made much of God when given the opportunity to make much of herself.
Kay’s answer was convicting. If I had been her, I would have mentioned the Bible, of course, but I would have also drawn attention to a couple of my 100+ books.
I’m not hoisting her on a lofty pedestal because of her answer, and I’m not here to drop buckets of guilt or condemnation if you would’ve responded more like me. I’m also not handing out atta girls if your natural inclination is to cite the Bible as your number one book recommendation of all time.
Instead, I simply want to invite you to ask the same question I asked myself that day and ever since: Am I spending more time reading God’s Word or reading books about God’s Word? Do I value Scripture first and most? I want to encourage us to spend time with the Lord in His Word and never let reading other books crowd out time for reading Scripture.
Thankfully, it’s not an either/or proposition; we can read Scripture and great Christian literature. His Word is truth and life, and all these years later, Kay’s remark has inspired me to value God’s word more than anything else I read.
All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (CSB)