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 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 after years away, she's back in the southern California suburbs helping her husband plant a church, Resurrection Orange County. Her writing has been featured in Books and Culture, The Gospel Coalition, ThinkChristian, (in)courage, The Well, The Englewood Review of Books, and other places. A member of Redbud Writers Guild, she's also an editor and contributor 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
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book is a pleasure to be read, but be clear: it is very convicting! Ashley’s beautiful, rich words are relatable yet full of rich truths, a call to be God’s people no matter where you live. Even if you don’t live in the suburbs per se, if you have more than you need, are stuck in a cycle of busyness, or find it hard to connect with your neighbors (whoever they may be), this book is for you. It will stretch you and challenge you, but it is so good, friends. Each chapter mixes our culture and Biblical stories so well. It's hard for me to decide which chapter was most influential in my life (probably only time will tell--what will change in my life after re-reading this book?) but I think Ashley's chapter on busyness hit home for me. She asks great questions like, what is the purpose of our busyness? What are we trying to fill/achieve/be as a result of how we choose to use our time? YIKES. My copy is full of underlined passages and notes... this won't be a book I loan out to others, but one I buy for them to ponder as well. I'm not much of a re-reader but I think this will be a good one to come back to on a regular basis. I did receive a copy of the book from the publisher to read in advance as a member of the launch team, but I received no other compensation and was not required to write a review or share my thoughts online in any capacity. But I loved the book so I'm doing just that!
Takeaway: As Christians who believe in embodiment, we are Christians in a place, not just abstractly. When I was in college I thought I was called to the city. I had a mentor prophesy over me that I was called to the city and pray that I would fulfill that calling. That mentor was later found in significant sin and left (quietly) in disgrace. I loved Chicago, where I spent more than than any other place in my life and where I still work. But in 2006 I moved to suburban Atlanta and now have lived in this house longer than any other home I have lived in. I honestly doubt that I will ever live inside a city like Chicago again. In large part because I have family. It isn’t that I would not take my children to a city, but that extended family structures matter and I am in an extended family structure that is suburban. Over the past few years I have been changing in my attitude toward suburbs. In part DL Mayfield has given voice to some of why I have changed. She lives in community with recent immigrants and those in poverty in suburban Portland OR. In Portland, and much of the rest of the country, the suburbs are increasingly where the poor live. Nationally, more poor people live in the suburbs than either urban or rural areas. In addition, suburbs are becoming increasingly diverse. My county school district is now predominately minority. And while that is not reflected in the population as a whole, the population as a whole in my county is also booming more diverse. As DL Mayfield has said, she is in the suburbs because that is where the poor, the immigrant and the needy are likely to be found. It is this suburban atmosphere that Ashley Hales is writing Finding Holy in the Suburbs. She was a reluctant suburban dweller. I was not reluctant in quite the same way. I was happy to move and really did think that God was guiding us to one back to family when we moved. But that guidance did put to death a (false) sense of calling that I had felt. When I had lived in the city and participated in urban life joyfully, I read extensively about being Christian in an urban place. The 1990s and 2000s were a point when Christians were rediscovering the city. Much of that was very good because theologically those Christians were rediscovering the importance of place. There was negatives as well. Christians, particularly White Evangelicals, had mixed motives. They thought of themselves as White saviors bringing Christ to a community where Christ had not been, instead of joining in to what Christ had been long doing among people that actually were very likely to already know him. And with even the good motives, came gentrification, white supremacy and colonialism and a lot of ignorance, especially cultural ignorance. I have thought a great deal about place and what place means to our faith. So I am probably not the target audience of Finding Holy in the Suburbs because it is more of an introduction to the concept of being Christian in a particular place. But even as an introduction, this is a very good book on what it means to be Christian in the suburbs, taking account of the particular strengths and weaknesses of the culture and geography of the suburbs. There has been a legitimate critique of some of the city Christian books because they denigrated the suburbs as less than. Hales avoids that trap because she also avoids the trap of assuming that God is not in the suburbs. So Finding Holy in the Suburbs rightly notes how suburban competition and privacy
For those of you living in suburbia, or something like it, this book will remind you of the powerful opportunities you have to see the kingdom of God wherever he plants you. It’s beautifully written, and offers wisdom in abundance. As her words lead you from Target to the cross, Hales will remind you that Jesus can bring the power of his presence to your place.
"He has shown me how a life in the suburbs does not absent us from the problems of other places, even if the suburban idols fashioned here are different, more insidious, and harder to root out." - Ashley Hales In Finding Holy In the Suburbs, Ashley Hales discusses the unique challenges of ministering to communities of affluence - the biggest challenge being that Suburbanites often don't appear to have any immediate "needs" that churches meet through typical outreach ministries. With that in mind, Hales demonstrates about how spiritual brokenness can be in all of us regardless of our place in the world, and brings out the idols people residing in the insulated life of the suburbs can use to try to mask their deeper needs, such as consumerism, individualism, busyness, and safety. By drawing awareness to how seeking "stuff" and "things to do" and cutting ourselves off from the uglier aspects of the world won't fulfill our deeper spiritual needs - she compares it to running a treadmill and getting nowhere - what we can seek out for more substantial, lasting fulfillment. I read this book after I received an advanced copy from the publisher, and enjoyed it so much that I not only decided to review it, but to share it "in real life," and will be leading a "Finding Holy In The Suburbs" book club at my church.
"Finding Holy in the Suburbs" is an introspective, challenging read. Ashley Hales gives readers a glimpse into her current home: the suburbs of California. As we continue through the book, we see the hurdles faced by living in an area that should be the quintessential California existence: sunshine, beautiful views and happy people. But guess what? The hurts are still there, hiding under the façade of a lovely place, sweet kids and a life many dream of. As a fellow pastor's wife, I can relate to Ashley's story of finding what 'home' really means, learning how to serve the community around us--even if it seems to be better than the place we've come away from. Each chapter of the book shares either a "counterliturgy" (ways we can avoid or change habits that aren't leading us home) or "practices" (ways to do a better job at the things we already know we should be doing), as well as discussion questions for group study. If you've wondered how making a difference in your neighborhood could really matter, "Finding Holy in the Suburbs" is for you. It is an engaging, affecting read that will cause you to question why you haven't been doing more with what you already have in front of you. The movement of coming out of our "safe zones" is one I am ready to jump in with! One of my favorite quotes from the book reads,"Like grace, shalom is a gift and the home we are headed to, even when we live in exile." I received an advanced reader copy and chose to share a review. All opinions are my own. I would recommend this book to anyone seeking to find ways to as Ghandi said, "Be the change we wish to see in the world."