Originally created 08/31/02

By the book



When Multnomah Publishing approached Jani Ortlund a few years ago about writing a book, she turned them down.

To her mind, she was better at "talking than writing," said Mrs. Ortlund, who has spent years speaking in classrooms or at women's conferences in the United States and abroad.

Besides, what did she have to say that hadn't already been said by her in-laws, Christian authors Anne and Ray Ortlund Sr.?

But after counseling another woman who was searching for direction, Mrs. Ortlund was convinced she had something to say, particularly woman to woman.

Her 2000 release, Fearlessly Feminine, advocates a traditional Christian view of womanhood. It is not about rules but rather a disposition to "nurture, affirm and receive the resources of masculinity surrounding us," she wrote in her introduction.

It is a perspective obscured by too many choices in contemporary life or one lost because of a lack of role models, she said.

"There is a call to pass on to the next generation what God has given to us - we are always one generation away from destruction," Mrs. Ortlund said.

But people don't have to come from a Christian family to receive the legacy and pass it on - "that is what the church is for." When people become Christian, they inherit a spiritual legacy, she said.

Mrs. Ortlund, who holds a master's degree in education, came to Augusta about four years ago when her husband, Dr. Ray Ortlund Jr., became pastor of First Presbyterian Church.

She was drafted to teach at Westminster Schools after another teacher left at the start of the school year - "I was a safe fill-in," she said. Wanting to devote more time to her husband's congregation, though, she decided not to return to the classroom the next year.

As the pastor's wife, she can encourage other staff wives and attend church events more easily. She and her husband "love that about this ministry as well - being together," said Mrs. Ortlund, who led women's small groups at the Chicago-area seminary where her husband taught Hebrew before coming to Augusta.

She and her husband offered premarital counseling at the seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill. Engaged couples "five states away from their pastors" could not go home for premarital counseling, she said. "So they would come to Ray and me."

One young woman told her the idea of being a pastor's wife scared her to death - her own mother had divorced twice before moving in with a female lover and rejecting her, Mrs. Ortlund said.

She wished then she had something in print to give the young woman, Mrs. Ortlund said. She was "the one who tipped the scale."

The young woman "was searching for a legacy that she could trust, the legacy of her own family had proved painful ... unbiblical ... and gave her no guideposts into the Christian life or what it means to be a Christian woman," Mrs. Ortlund said.

Women look to other women for courage and strength - that is how the spiritual legacy is passed on from generation to generation, she said. That is why the notion of writing a book "burned in my heart. And the Lord helped me with it."

Preserving the spiritual legacy is also the subject of the second book she is working on, His Loving Law ... My Lasting Legacy - Living and Giving the Ten Commandments to the Next Generation.

"It will take a page just to write the title," she quipped.

After her first book caught the eye of editors at Moody Press in Chicago, the company approached her last summer about another book. Negotiations are still going on, she said.

The book is for people - teachers, mothers and grandmothers - who are working with children. Mrs. Ortlund wants to show them how to let children see the Ten Commandments as God's love and protection, not a list of prohibitions.

The Old Testament says God brought the Hebrews out of slavery, then gave them the Ten Commandments, she said.

"Many people think the Ten Commandments are 'slavery,' but that is not what God meant. ... The Ten Commandments are freedom to live life well."

Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or vanorton@augustachronicle.com.