Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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What Makes a Woman Truly Beautiful?

Leslie Basham: Anne Ortlund asks you to imagine the end of a wedding ceremony.

Anne Ortlund: What if when the wedding is over we say, “Hey, that was cool. Let’s get together some time. I’d like to see you again. Maybe we can have lunch some day”? That would be a pretty dumb marriage.

If we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and say, “Well, that was great, one of these days I’ll get together with You, Lord.” That would be a pretty dumb relationship, too. We need Him. We need Him. We need Him, over and over and over and over. The more we feed on Him, the hungrier we get, and the sweeter it gets.

Leslie: You’re listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, March 3.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We’re having a conversation this week on Revive Our Hearts with my longtime friend, Anne Ortlund.

Anne, thank you so much for joining us and just sharing out of your heart, out of the wisdom and insights that God has given you in 86 years of life. Thank you for sharing that with us.

Anne: A lot of those years I’ve known you, Nancy.

Nancy: We have, since I was a junior in college at the University of Southern California. Your husband Ray was the pastor of Lake Avenue Church where I had the privilege of attending my last two years of college. I was so blessed during those years, and now I’m a grownup, and we’re all a little older but still encouraging one another in our walk with the Lord.

Anne: Yes. It’s wonderful to be with you again.

Nancy: You were married to Ray for 61 years. You’ve now been widowed for three years. You’ve written 26 books, you’ve written hymns, and you and Ray spoke all around the world in many different countries. You had different seasons of your life and ministry, and it’s a joy to be receiving from you some of the things God has taught you in these years.

Scripture talks about older women teaching, training younger women in the ways of God so that the Word of God will not be blasphemed. So I love the chance to sit down with an older woman and just say, “What has God taught you, and can you teach me and those who are even younger about the ways of God?”

This is really just a conversation. I’ve picked several topics that I know have been of interest to you and things that have been a part of your life message. We’re just dialoging about what things have been on your heart over those years.

One of your best-selling books over the years, and I know it was a great influence on my life early on, was The Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman. Now, I don’t know any woman who doesn’t want to be beautiful. Our society has a lot to say about what is beautiful and what constitutes true beauty, but we know from God’s Word that God’s definition of beauty has mostly to do with the inner heart.

You’ve had so much to say, Anne, over the years about what it means to be a beautiful woman. When we think about God’s beautiful woman, what does that mean? What does that look like to become a beautiful woman from God’s perspective?

Anne: Well, Nancy, you and I were talking about this just before we went on the air. You said, “Well, you’re going to talk about three priorities, aren’t you?” That really is pretty much the bottom line of what any woman needs to focus on if she is going to become God’s beautiful woman.

The three priorities are Christ, the Body of Christ, and the world Christ died to save. When we make those three pre-eminent in our lives, our spirits do become more beautiful because we’re not focused on ourselves anymore. We’re focused on Him and then on His concerns.

I’m looking at John 17. It could be the holy of holies of the Bible. In all Scripture, this is the only place where you have a lengthy conversation between God and God. The Son is talking to the Father. When God talks to God, what do they talk about? Well, you find that they talk about three things:

In the first five verses of John 17, He talks about the glory of the Father and the glory of the Son. That’s what we must give ourselves to through the power of the Holy Spirit—the glory of the Father and the glory of the Son. That’s got to be what makes us beautiful women, if anything in this world does.

Then He starts in verse 6 and changes the subject and talks about “those you gave Me out of the world.” He talks about believers. From verse 6 through 19, He’s praying for their joy, for their protection, for their unity. He prays a lot of things for these ones who belong to Him, believers in Christ.

Nancy: He prays for their sanctification.

Anne: Several times, yes. And then starting in verse 20 to the end of the chapter, He prays for the world, “that the world may believe that You have sent Me,” verse 21, and verse 23, “that the world may believe that You’ve sent Me,” He repeats that, “and have loved them even as You love Me” (paraphrased). 

I don’t think many non-believers realize that God loves them as much as He loves His Son Jesus. That’s awesome.

So we’re to love the Lord. We’re to glorify God—the Son, the Father, the Holy Spirit. We’re to love our fellow believers and pray for their wellbeing and minister to their needs, and we’re to witness to the non-believers.

If you turn back a page to John 15, you’ve got the same thing. Around the Upper Room table, He gives His final discourse and says some of the sweetest, deepest things of all after Judas has left the room and He could talk freely.

In chapter 15:1-11, He talks about abiding in the vine, and the branch must abide there. That’s priority one; just settling down, making yourself at home in Him, making Him your most familiar surroundings. “In Him we live and move and have our being,” in that intimate fellowship.

Then in verses 12-17, He begins and ends the same way: “Love each other. This is My command: Love each other.” In between He talks about friendships, and that’s priority, two.

Then in verses 18 through the end of the chapter, He’s talking about the world. “The world will hate you. Don’t be surprised. It hated Me, too,” and so on about the world, and it ends “when the Counselor comes—that’s the Holy Spirit—He will testify about Me and you must also testify.”

So three priorities in John chapter 15: abide in Christ; love each other in the body; and witness to this needy world.

There’s a three-fold job for the beautiful woman.

Nancy: I can still remember when I first arrived at Lake Avenue Church where your husband was pastoring back in 1976. I heard him preaching and teaching on these three priorities and realized that he had called that whole church and all the believers in it to order and organize their lives around these top three priorities. . .first, your commitment to God; second, your commitment to God’s people; and third, your commitment to God’s work in the world.

The whole church was thinking this way. It just permeated everything. I know you remember this. You and Ray have written and spoken on this so many times. But this really is counter-cultural. It’s not the way we naturally think. My number one priority is me, naturally.

This is a call to live a life to the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom that is not centered on me, but it’s centered around Christ and His kingdom purposes. This is something that you’ve taught that is to apply to every purpose and every believer in every season of life. So, if we have a young mom listening, a college student, an empty-nest mom, it’s still a call back to these same three top priorities.

I want to just challenge our listeners to evaluate: Am I living out those three priorities—my commitment to God—my relationship with Him, my commitment to God’s people, to the family of God, and my commitment to God’s work in the world as the number one priorities in my life. If we don’t have those three priorities as the top three priorities in our lives, then something’s out of order.

It all has to start with our relationship with God. So, as a woman, how do you cultivate your relationship with God as the number one priority of your life? What does that look like?

Anne: Two of my favorite words, Nancy, are eliminate and concentrate. If we’re focused on me, we’ll get all filled with clutter. Our schedule will be cluttered. Our homes will be cluttered. Our closets will be cluttered. Our minds will be cluttered. We’ll be full of many things.

That was the difference between Mary and Martha. Jesus wasn’t opposed to cooking. He didn’t think the kitchen was a bad place, but He said, “Martha, you are worried and upset about many things.” She was multi-directional, and that’s why she hadn’t focused, and Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet. She had eliminated and concentrated.

That’s for each of us to do, and when we do, discipline naturally comes into our lives. That’s what I wrote about in The Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman.

Nancy: Let me just back up a second. Eliminate and concentrate. Let’s make that practical. You’re not talking about eliminating your kids.

Anne: Sometimes you’d like to. (Laughter)

Nancy: But we’re not advising that.

Anne: No.

Nancy: You can’t eliminate cooking if you’re in a season of life where you have a family that is needing to be fed and wanting meals. So, practically, what are we going to eliminate, and what are we going to concentrate on to become this beautiful woman?

Anne: You need a big back door, and you need a big front door. Suppose somebody says to you, “Would you teach this third grade Sunday school class?” You think, “Oh, good night, I’m so busy. I can’t. I’d love to, but I just can’t do it. My life is full.”

A woman who knows how to eliminate and concentrate, she’ll say, “Wonderful. I think the Spirit is calling me to do that. What must go in order that I can take that on?” She’s got this big back door that she’s letting things leave from when she takes new things in the front door.

It’s the same with your closet. Suppose you buy a new blouse. Okay, then give one blouse away. Or you buy a new pair of shoes. Give away a pair of shoes so that you always keep the same number of clothes in your closet. This is talked about in Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman. Then your closet doesn’t get stuffed and cluttered the way your time can get stuffed and cluttered.

We need to see what’s most important and say, “Lord, I will give myself to that,” and that means letting go and letting go and letting go of stuff, of time-consuming things. You won’t believe what I’ve lot go of recently.

Nancy: What’s that?

Anne: This is going to blow your mind. You may think I’m nuts. I have let email go.

Nancy: And you’re still living to tell it?

Anne: I am. Email takes about a couple or three hours of each day while I was at the office. When I moved my office to home, I thought I would rather have more time for prayer and for this intercession that I’m into these days as well as worshiping Him, and I want to read my Bible more deeply and have more time for it. I don’t need those two or three hours a day emailing anymore.

Until 10 or 15 years ago we had telephones, and we had writing mail. I can go back to those. So people can still reach me, but it’s fabulous to have eliminated email so that I can concentrate more on the Word and prayer and fellowship with my friends.

Nancy: I’ve actually been a little bit envious since I learned that you had let go of email. I don’t think I’m yet at a place where I can do that, but it sounds awfully attractive. I wish I only had two or three hours a day on email. It’s a lot more on that.

Anne: When you’re 86, work on it.

Nancy: I’m looking forward to that.

It’s a matter really of being sensitive to the Spirit and knowing what God wants for me in this season of my life. One season may look different than another when it comes to eliminating and concentrating.

Anne: Boy, they do. And sometimes it will mean eliminating things that we actually love.

Nancy: Good things.

Anne: I heard a pastor say one day, “Quit something today.” He said, “It won’t be hard to quit something you hate. Quit something you really love but you know is keeping you from mission.” That challenged me. I’ve been seeking ever since to pare down and pare down more and more of the things I can do without, things that I might even love but that are keeping me from the best.

We Christians probably aren’t going to rob any banks today. Those are not our temptations. But it’s the good that keeps us from the best. So we discipline ourselves.

Nancy: What are some examples of things? You’ve ministered to a lot of young women and young moms. What are some of the good things that often keep women from having God’s best?

Anne: I’m not opposed to garden clubs. I’m not opposed to golf clubs, and all the things that can be a lot of fun in life, and indeed we do need some fun along with everything else. But the fact is, say, if you’re being challenged to disciple some young women in your life, and you’re too busy with your garden club . . . well, I know which one I’d get rid of. I think it’s probably true of each one listening. On a scale of one to ten, what are you going to eliminate?

This is a funny thing: I think about 1Timothy when it tells about Paul giving orders to his young disciple Timothy on what’s important and what’s not important. He says, “Train yourself to be godly. [train yourself] For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value both for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (4:7-9, NIV). 

Now there’s a contrast between something that we . . . If you’re going to eliminate, eliminate some of your physical training. Oh my goodness, do we need that in Southern California. We are nuts over our bodies, and we are forever out running or playing tennis or having personal trainers and working out. It goes on and on and on. The bodies are beautiful, but the Spirit is maybe dead or undernourished.

Here it says—and this is the only place in Scripture that it actually talks about physical training, as far as I’ve ever discovered—he uses the illustration of athletics, but this is the only time he’s actually talking to the Christian about it.

Train yourself to be godly. Physical training has little value, but nothing like training yourself to be godly. So there’s an example: eliminate and concentrate.

Nancy: And as you go back to the illustration of Mary and Martha, the thing Mary was concentrating on was listening to the Word of the Lord. I know that you have practiced for many years just the discipline of getting that time alone with the Lord and in His Word.

In the years when you had four small children and you were a busy pastor’s wife, you were traveling, you were writing books, you were serving with your husband, how did you manage to keep that first thing first, getting your time with the Lord?

Anne: You get accountable to other people. Since 1970 I’ve had a small group every year of usually five gals, I make the sixth, that meet weekly. One of the things we do is write our quiet times. We write what we learn in the Word. The two things that Paul asked on the Damascus Road—Saul, actually—“Lord, who are You?” and second, “Lord, what would You have me do?” So I write everything that I see He is to be . . . I’m learning to know Him better. Then I write all the ways I could obey what I am seeing.

Then we write our prayers. We use A-C-T-S: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication, when you’re asking Him for things. We write them out.

Every week when we come together—this sounds juvenile—but we have “show-and-tell time.” They show what they’ve written that week, and if they’ve skipped days, it shows, and if I’ve skipped days, it shows.

Before I started writing my prayers and my quiet time, I really had the impression that I was having more quiet time than I was. But when I see it on paper, I say, “Oh, my goodness. I missed Tuesday altogether, and Wednesday was really in a hurry there, and Thursday was great. I spent more time with the Lord.” It measures what I’m doing.

Nancy: When did you start having that daily consistent practice of a quiet time?

Anne: Oh, I was in my 20s. I’m so thrilled to see these girls in their teens and younger who have a daily quiet time—and the guys, too. It was when I got married and Ray was having his every day that I started having mine with him.

Nancy: How did you manage that with four children?

Anne: Three especially. It was pretty bad when we had three in a row. We had little Sherry when we’d been married ten months, and we had Margie 11 months later, and we had Buddy 17 months after that, and my life was suddenly crazy. Back in those days you boiled all the diapers and washed them yourself, and you boiled the bottles, and you made the formula. It was a lot of work.

I discovered that when little Buddy, number three, started sleeping over between his 10 o’clock feeding at night and then 6 o'clock the next morning, he was sleeping through his 2 o’clock, my days were totally jammed full. I said, “Lord, You know what a sleeper I am, but if You’ll help me, I’ll get up at that usual 2 o’clock time, when I used to feed him his bottle, and I’ll be with You for my quiet time.”

It didn’t last forever, and, to tell you the truth, I can’t remember a thing I learned or a thing I asked the Lord, but it makes me very happy, it’s a good feeling in my tummy that as a young mom I was that desperate, and I did give that 2 a.m. time to Him until I could work it in later.

Nancy: We’re not saying that any mom who is not getting up at 2 o’clock to meet with the Lord should be on a guilt trip or that it makes you more spiritual to do that. I think the key word there is you were desperate. You realized how much you needed the Lord and that you couldn’t manage without Him.

Anne: I was being a shrew. I was yelling at Ray. I was a mess. I knew what I needed—a quiet time.

Nancy: So that’s one key discipline of a beautiful woman that is really foundational.

Anne: It really is. When we get married, we stand there at the altar, and we pronounce these beautiful vows before the people of God and before God Himself and before the minister of God, and that’s wonderful.

What if when the wedding is over we say, “Hey, that was cool. Let’s get together some time. I’d like to see you again. Maybe we can have lunch some day”? That would be a pretty dumb marriage.

If we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and say, “Well, that was great, one of these days I’ll get together with You, Lord.” That would be a pretty dumb relationship, too. We need Him. We need Him. We need Him, over and over and over and over. The more we feed on Him, the hungrier we get, and the sweeter it gets.

Leslie: It seems like everyone is chasing after beauty only to find disappointment. Anne Ortlund has been talking with Nancy Leigh DeMoss about the disciplines of a beautiful woman, showing what true beauty is and how we can get it.

We’d like to send you a copy of Anne’s book, the one Nancy talked about as an influence on her life. When you donate any amount to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts, we’ll send you the book Disciples of the Beautiful Woman. Ask for it when you donate by phone. The number is 1-800-569-5959, or go to


Nancy: I’ve been so encouraged today, Leslie, by the example of Anne Ortlund. One of the things I’ve loved about her over the decades I’ve known her is the way she fills her mind with the Word of God.

Over the past couple of years I’ve been really burdened to encourage our listeners to memorize God’s Word, and many of our listeners have responded. They’ve been memorizing the same passage together and cheering each other on and providing some level of accountability.

So each month we’re encouraging our listeners to memorize a new passage. During the month of March, our listeners are memorizing a passage from John chapter 1, focusing on the person of Christ.

We’re gearing up for a major new series called, The Incomparable Christ, that starts next week. These verses in John are preparing listeners’ hearts in what I think is going to be a very meaningful way.

If you’re not already memorizing Scripture with the Revive Our Hearts listening community, now would be a great time to start. When you sign up at, you’ll receive a new Scripture memory challenge each month. Just go to for more details.

Leslie: Anne Ortlund has written a lot about living a disciplined life, but that doesn’t mean living a boring life.

Anne: Our God loves to party. When you think of Him in the Old Testament, those 72 elders went up on the mountain and saw the Lord and didn’t die, that was awesome, and they ate and drank. And the story of the prodigal son . . . my goodness, when he comes home, they have a big party. He even gets new jewelry, and there’s dancing.

“In His presence there is fullness of joy.” When our lives are spent practicing the presence of God, there will be so much joy that we can hardly stand it.

Leslie: Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.


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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.