Finding Holy in the Suburbs: Living Faithfully in the Land of Too Much

Finding Holy in the Suburbs: Living Faithfully in the Land of Too Much


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Suburban life—including tract homes, strip malls, commuter culture—shapes our desires.
More than half of Americans live in the suburbs. Ashley Hales writes that for many Christians, however: "The suburbs are ignored ('Your place doesn't matter, we're all going to heaven anyway'), denigrated and demeaned ('You're selfish if you live in a suburb; you only care about your own safety and advancement'), or seen as a cop-out from a faithful Christian life ('If you really loved God, you'd move to Africa or work in an impoverished area'). In everything from books to Hollywood jokes, the suburbs aren't supposed to be good for our souls."
What does it look like to live a full Christian life in the suburbs? Suburbs reflect our good, God-given desire for a place to call home. And suburbs also reflect our own brokenness. This book is an invitation to look deeply into your soul as a suburbanite and discover what it means to live holy there.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780830845453
Publisher: InterVarsity Press
Publication date: 10/23/2018
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 607,837
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Ashley Hales is a writer, speaker, pastor's wife, and mother to four. She holds a PhD in English from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and she lives in the southern California suburbs helping her husband plant a church, Resurrection Orange County. Her writing has been featured in Books and Culture, Think Christian, (in)courage, The Well, the Englewood Review of Books, and at The Mudroom.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Emily P. Freeman

Introduction: A Story to Find Home in the Geography of Nowhere

1. Worshiping Granite Countertops: Consumerism

2. When Your Worth Is Measured in Square Footage: Individualism

3. Circling the Suburbs in My Minivan: Busyness

4. Beyond the Gated Community: Safety

5. Where the Sidewalk Ends: Repentance

6. You’re Not a Barbie, You Belong: Belovedness

7. This Isn’t Pinterest-Worthy Entertaining: Hospitality

8. Open Hearts and Open Hands: Generosity

9. The Opportunity of Cul-de-sacs: Vulnerability

10. Paper Birds and Human Flourishing: Shalom

Conclusion: Coming Home


Discussion Questions


What People are Saying About This

Dave Goetz

"Hales takes on the near hopeless cause of waking up suburbanites like me to see God’s larger story for our lives. Finding Holy in the Suburbs is both thoughtful and practical, and I admire her fierce writing, challenging me to seek out what’s holy in my unremarkable suburban life."

Christie Purifoy

"I live on the encroaching edge of suburbia, but, like many readers, I prefer to read books about country life. I opened Finding Holy in the Suburbs assuming it would be a book I needed more than I wanted, but only a few pages in, it became a book I couldn't put down. Ashley Hales writes about life in the suburbs with gentle wisdom, intellectual depth, and refreshing honesty. She offers hope where so many have offered only criticism or cynicism. By weaving clear advice and transformative practices with engaging personal stories, Ashley Hales helps us to become reoriented toward our true spiritual home while sinking our roots more deeply into the ground beneath our feet. Finding Holy in the Suburbs is good news and practical encouragement for all of us, in every place."

Dorcas Cheng-Tozun

"With poignant clarity and expansive grace, Ashley Hales assures us that God works powerfully in the suburbs. She lays out the pathway toward a holy and purposeful existence in our neighborhoods, one that is full of wonderful paradoxes: risk in safety, sacrifice in abundance, and shalom in busyness. Finding Holy in the Suburbs will encourage anyone who desires greater, eternal riches far beyond the American dream."

Scott Sauls

"In a time where there is so much talk about opportunities and challenges related to life and ministry in cities, the suburbs can become an almost forgotten afterthought. And yet, if the heart and mission of God are focused on every single square inch of his universe (and they are), then the suburbs remain an important, not to mention strategic, place for Christ’s kingdom to be planted, germinate, grow, and bless the world. Ashley has done a wonderful job in this volume laying out kingdom opportunities and challenges in the suburban space. I have learned a lot from her ideas. I trust that you will too."

Tish Harrison Warren

"For all of us, the Christian life must be embodied and lived in a given place. Even for those of us (like me) who have never lived in the suburbs, Ashley Hales's examination of her own location and context help us explore how we are formed by our own concrete community and geography. Her honest struggles with the false promises of consumerism, busyness, worship of safety, and other idols of our day will resonate with many, including us city dwellers. This book isn't just about the suburbs; it is about a woman who finds herself in a place she would not have chosen and seeks to learn what the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus bring to bear on her own home, neighborhood, time, money, parenting, friendships, and life in this moment in history. With warmth, humor, and wisdom, she helps her readers—in their own lives and context—to do the same."

Marlena Graves

"Finding Holy in the Suburbs is manna for those who believe suburban living is akin to living in a shallow, plastic wilderness devoid of beauty and inspiration. And it is manna for those of us who don’t find ourselves in the suburbs but who, nevertheless, have an insatiable longing for meaning and for home. Hales is chock-full of wisdom, gifting us with a beautiful theology of place. Hales is a theologian of our time—heed her."

Hannah Anderson

"Scripture tells us that God uses the places we live to draw us to him. In Finding Holy in the Suburbs, Ashley Hales connects the dots for those living in the abundance of the developed world. Drawing on theology, sociology, and her own story, Hales shows how houses, streets, stores, and even playgrounds can reveal our hopes, goals, and deeper longings. Whether you live in the suburbs or are responsible for the discipleship of those who do, this book will challenge you to think holistically about the spaces we inhabit and how those spaces ultimately shape our souls."

Sharon Hodde Miller

"As a suburban dweller myself, I confess I had never given much thought to how my location was shaping my faith. Thankfully, Ashley Hales's book Finding Holy in the Suburbs opened my eyes to both the pitfalls and the possibilities of following Jesus in suburbia. Through a combination of theological depth and simple, practical steps, Hales provides a much-needed path of spiritual formation. I am both humbled and delighted to say I will never look at my community the same again."

Shannan Martin

"Not just for suburbanites, this book is for anyone who wrestles against competition or control. Finding Holy in the Suburbs inverts our suburban sensibilities, nudging us away from self-preservation and toward the beautiful catastrophe of kingdom living. Masterfully weaving personal reflection, research, and robust theology, Ashley Hales takes our hand and walks us home."

Seth Haines

"Ashley is the rare sort of writer, imaginative yet concrete, prophetic yet gentle. She only cuts where she can bring healing. She brings just this sort of writing to Finding Holy in the Suburbs. And whether you're a suburban dweller, city slicker, or rural resident, this book has a powerful word to say about place and belonging."

Jen Pollock Michel

"Ashley Hales stands in the bold tradition of the ancient prophets. In her book Finding Holy in the Suburbs, she exposes the tinseled temptations of the suburbs and calls us to Christ and his ways of generous self-sacrifice. The book’s vivid storytelling, biblical reflections, unabashed truth telling, and practical applications make it a worthy read for anyone no matter where they live."

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