If I left right now, I could make it to any of the six places that I’ve called home in less than half an hour. Two of those places — my childhood home, and the bungalow where we started out as newlywed kids and left as middle-aged parents — are in my bones. I know those places. They’ve shaped me in ways I barely understand.
In her new book Keeping Place, Jen Pollock Michel helps me understand why. We’re all homesick. “Home represents humanity’s most visceral ache — and our oldest desire.” Since Eden, we’ve never really been home. But our places still shape us. We serve a homemaking God, and the church is called to follow his example.
A Book for Men and Women
Some men might bristle at the thought of reading a book on home. Jen recently had coffee with a young woman who said she looked forward to her book on “homemaking.” “I wondered later if she imagined a book of recipes, table setting ideas, and the best way to organize a linen closet,” Jen notes.
This isn’t a book about housekeeping, at least in that sense. It’s a book about our longings for home, as well as the role that God has given us in this world. It helps us understand the story of Scripture through the lens of place and home.
I wouldn’t have thought I would be interested in reading a book on home, but I’m glad I did. It helped me understand my own longings for home. It deepened my understanding of the theology of home, and helped me understand God’s care for our places, as well as the church’s role to be housekeepers in the world.
Jen has a keen theological eye. One of the reasons I appreciated this book is because it’s so theologically rich. My copy is dogeared and marked, and I plan to go through again and index some of the insights I gleaned. In almost every chapter I found myself thinking that I’d never quite seen things that way before.
It’s only been in the past few years that I’ve begun to think about the importance of place, guided by books like Imperfect Pastor and The New Parish. Jen’s gone even deeper. She shows us how this theme is key to Scripture. She teases out the implications for how we live as individuals, families, and the church. We need a theology of home, and Jen’s done us a great favor in guiding us.
It’s rare to find a book that’s theologically rich and beautifully written. Keeping Place is both. Jen shares from her experience, interweaves her insights with church history and Scripture, and does so with style. One of the reasons my copy is dogeared is because she manages to express truth so beautifully.
I’ve said similar things, but never as beautifully as this: “When heaven meets earth, earthly marriage will cease the moment Christ raises his glass and drinks to his bride, the church.” Seriously. I could read that sentence for days and still marvel at both the beauty of the sentence and the truth it expresses. I’m grateful that Jen has worked so hard to not just express truth, but to express it beautifully.
I haven’t yet watched the DVD video series that goes with the book, but it looks like a great teaching companion. I’m looking forward to using it.
Jen’s pastor calls her “one of the fine voices emerging in our generation.” I agree. I’m grateful for Jen Pollock Michel, and I’m going to read pretty much anything she writes. Keeping Place is a book that deserves to be read and treasured. Just don’t ask to borrow my copy unless you promise to give it back.
P.S. If you live in or near Toronto, please join me at our June Theology Pub. Jen will be there to talk about her new book.
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