Walking with Hagar

JoAnn Streeter Shade chose one of the more shadowy but compelling characters of the Bible for her excellent book, The Other Woman (Exploring the Story of Hagar), a "book for women about hearing and seeing God." From the first pages, the author builds a strong case for Sarah's servant and Abraham's concubine as a character with much to say, even these four thousand years after her story ended:
For starters, Hagar is a gutsy woman who dared run away from an abusive situation, a listening woman who was willing to obey God even when it made no sense, and a seeking woman who named God. As the loser in a one-sided battle seemingly marked by envy and greed, the Egyptian slave-woman Hagar encounters God not once, but twice.
In this well-written book, Major Shade (an officer in The Salvation Army) takes the reader on a memorable and meaningful journey, drawing helpful lessons from Hagar's story--sometimes mining gold out of a short phrase or a single word. She touches on a vast range of subjects, from abuse and pregnancy and revenge to single parenting, abandonment, grief, and more. Some of the chapters ended much too soon or suddenly, I thought, but each chapter offered sparkling insight and application, like chapter twelve's focus on the angel of the Lord's words to Hagar at a well between Kadesh and Bered:
The God who seeks and finds is also the God who stays involved with his people. When the messenger of God speaks, he does two things. He names Hagar, and he defines her by the role she fills in the household of Abraham.

The angel of the Lord knew her name. That is so encouraging to me. God knew the name of an Egyptian slave-woman. God knows the name of every child that was killed in the typhoon and tsunami and every child who wanders the streets of Calcutta, begging for food. He knows my name and your name. And he knows the names of the unnamed, those the narrator doesn't identify throughout the Bible, such as the Levite's concubine, the woman at the well, and the widow who gave her last cents in the temple. Each one has a name, known to God.
There is much to take away from this book--and not for women only. Any seeking soul, any student of the Bible, anyone who is craving hope and encouragement, will profit from it. As Shade writes,
If God redeems the desert places for Hagar and for Sarah, for Isaac and for Ishmael, then we can have hope. Because if God can work in their lives, he can redeem my desert places, both the deserts I am forced into and the deserts I willingly choose.
Major Shade's The Other Woman will delight and inform--perhaps even transform--anyone who takes the journey.

The Other Woman can be purchased for $12.95 via email (use.trade@use.salvationarmy.org) or by calling toll free in the USA (888) 488-4882.

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