Book Review - Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home
I listened to the audio version of “Keeping Place” while I painted the kids’ bathroom in our home in Parker, Colorado. Parker—the town that has been my reluctant home twice now. But I’m warming up to it, as the Lord has been so faithful and gracious to us here.
Who It’s For
Jen Pollock Michel’s reflections on the meaning of home made me weep more than once, as her words resonated deeply with my own experience. This is a book for every person who has left home, experienced homesickness, or longs for their eternal home. I urge especially my friends who are cross-cultural workers, military members, and expats to read it—you will be nourished.
It is also a powerful work for those who have made a lifestyle of providing a home to others. Our family lived in Okinawa, Japan for 10 years, creating and opening a home to service members stationed there. Our ministry served as a home for hundreds of transient men and women over the years. “Keeping Place” gives voice to the very reason for that calling: as Jesus dwelt amongst us, we are called to make a welcoming dwelling for others. As Jen says, “A table is central to the kingdom of God…a feast makes a home.”
“Keeping Place” is a substantial work. Jen shows the reader that our story as humans began at home and ends at home and we are now in the wandering middle. To be more specific, the Lord created us in the garden, at home with him. One day, we will be united in heaven—our eternal home—with him. But for now, we wander and long for home. In the midst of this middle, we make our own homes, we move from home to home, we keep house and open our homes to family and strangers, and the people of God—the church—is home.
This book is rich with references to literature, as well as the Bible. I felt a kinship with Jen as she mentioned some of my favorite authors—Marilyn Robinson, Isabel Wilkerson, Andy Crouch, Nancy Pearcy, C.S. Lewis, and an absolute childhood favorite, Don Freeman. Hearing the many references to books that have shaped my life deepened my understanding of her message, as well as my emotional response to the theme of home. And the book is saturated with scripture. Jen sheds new light on familiar stories from both the Old and New Testaments—again adding weight to her message, as we see God’s design and intention for home, both temporal and eternal.
“Keeping Place” explores themes that are near and dear to my heart: homemaking, the mobility of our age and the transience of home (especially for refugees, migrants, and those in globalized work), hospitality and opening one’s home for both family and stranger, the church being home for the sojourner, feasting together, and sabbath rest. Jen is a very gifted writer. Hearing and reading her words was a pleasure. She skillfully weaves together the beginning, middle, and end of home (creation, wandering, and heaven) with witnesses from literature, scripture, research and social studies, as well as her own poignant memories. Really, it’s such a pleasure to take it all in.
After listening to the audio version I skimmed the printed version, which I checked out from the library. I will be purchasing this book for myself, though, as I want to read it and savor it again and mark it up with all kinds of personal notes and reflections. Jen also offers a 5-session DVD for those who want to go deeper. I will be hunting for a group of friends to do this with.
I’ll close with one of my favorite quotes, “Because of the cross, wanderers get home.” Isn’t that good? That sentence—like much of the book—says so much. Thank you, Jesus, for enduring the cross and for making a way for us to finally go home. In the meantime, may we not only make our home in you, Lord, but also create a warm, inviting home that draws others to you.
Endnote: I would be remiss if I didn't mention another favorite work of mine on this theme of home: Josh Garrel's album entitled "Home." His song "At the Table" inspired me to make this wall hanging for my dining room.