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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Filtering by Tag: Housekeeping

Ernie Johnson and the Art of "Housekeeping"

We've have recently bought a couple of devotionals for our family: One Year of Dinner Table Devotions by Nancie Guthrie (which is a great fit for the age-range of our kids, 9-16) and The Radical Book for Kids by Champ Thornton. The first, we're trying to read and discuss together at dinner; the second, I'm trying to read with our twin boys whenever we can. (Ryan reads the Bible with them at bedtime.)

Although we've just begun The Radical Book for Kids, I'm finding it to be both thoughtful and accessible, and I especially love, in the first chapter, how Thornton distills the biblical story of creation-fall-redemption into one easy, memorable sentence: "God made it, we broke it, God fixes it." 

I never understood the arc of God's story as this kind of three-act drama as a young child growing up in the church. (We can quibble about the fourth act of "consummation" if you want, but let's not.) Yet I think there's a lot to be said for understanding the Bible as a cohesive story. It's not as if the New Testament is a dramatic departure from the Old, but rather a fulfillment and continuation of God's story begun in Adam, continued with Abraham, carried through Christ.

A Story of Place

As I began writing Keeping Place, my pastor gave me his copy of Craig Bartholomew's, Where Mortals Dwell, for my research. Bartholomew takes the creation-fall-redemption framework and retools it through the language of place. Creation is the act of "implacement." God gives humanity a place—a garden. Fall takes us into the middle act of exile and the judgement of "displacement." And finally, redemption anticipates God's act of "reimplacement" when God will, once again, make his dwelling place with humanity. In other words, God's story begins and ends at home, and we're living in the middle act, one characterized by homesickness.

This is the three-part structure that I originally had for Keeping Place: God made home, humanity lost home, and God is remaking home. But several months into the project, I realized the structure was NOT working. I needed more room for the middle act. I didn't just want stories of exile. I wanted some sort of framework for talking about what we're supposed to be doing in the in-between.

In the not yet.


Hence, the housekeeping—a word for talking about the work of the middle act, this way we take up the work of our places in light of our home story. "Housekeeping points toward the thin places of daily life: where work, however monotonous and menial, becomes worship, witnessing to God's kingdom coming, and his will being done, on earth as it is in heaven." It's work that men and women do—in their homes and neighborhoods and cities–to love God by loving their neighbor. Or, as Marilynne Robinson says (much better than I ever could), housekeeping is "a regime of small kindnesses, which taken together, make the world salubrious, savory, and warm. I think of [these] acts of comfort . . . as precisely sacramental."

I recently came across an interview with a man whose story and faith embodies this idea of "housekeeping," and I wanted to share it with you. Ernie Johnson is a sports broadcaster and a man of deep faith. I was introduced to him by this video after the presidential election, which stunned and inspired our 14-year-old son.


Then just this week, I heard an interview with Ernie on Donald Miller's Building a Story Brand Podcast. Ernie talks about his love for his wife and his six children, four of whom he has adopted and one of whom has muscular dystrophy. But it's not just his family his loves. He sees his entire life as a call to service. "I want to serve. I want to be walking out the door, after having served [my son] Michael in the morning, and have my antenna up. So that I notice the people who need to have somebody to talk to.”

In other words, Ernie is a man committed to the housekeeping—committed to the humble, everyday acts of love that image the incarnate God who pitched his tent in the middle of the Roman Empire more than two thousand years ago.

I look forward to reading (and having my son read!) Unscripted, which Ernie talks about here in this Q&A.

And I would encourage you to listen to Donald's podcast interview with Ernie!

Breaking the Bread of Belief: Death

Death (Today's post is the sixth in a series entitled, "Breaking the Bread of Belief." Read about beginning, dust, home, feast and naked.)

All images courtesy of Joetography.

* * * * *

In anticipation of the release of her fourth novel, Lila, I've been rereading all of Marilynne Robinson's novels.

Housekeeping, published in 1980, is the story of two sisters, who have been serially abandoned. Ruthie, the older sister, narrates the tragedies they've suffered and how they've eventually come under the care (if it can be called 'care') of their mother's mentally-ill sister, Sylvie.

The central focus in the novel's scenery is the lake on the banks of which the town of Fingerbone sits. It's the lake into which Ruthie and Lucille's maternal grandfather plunged by train many years earlier, killing about but two of the passengers on board. It's also the lake into which their mother has driven her car over a cliff, ending her life.

At one point, Ruthie thinks of all the dead people who would be brought to the surface if the lake were dredged. "In such a crowd my mother would hardly seem remarkable."

She continues.

"There would be a general reclaiming of fallen buttons and misplaced spectacles, of neighbors and kin, till time and error and accident were undone, and the world become comprehensible and whole."

"Everything must finally be made comprehensible."

To peer into the lake is to see death. And there is nothing more incomprehensible than that.

Today's word is death.

It has been too much with me, death. I was eighteen when my father died unexpectedly, and the world shifted inalterably, disabusing me of ideas of permanence. We do not last. And even the young can die.

I was twenty-three when my brother died, and there's no sense to be made of suicide. Can a human being die without hope? A cruel and terrible question, one I do not answer.

Death is too much with us.

I see it out the car window, watching them stroll by. First, I notice the elderly woman, managing ably with her wheeled walker. In the basket, there's a tied-up plastic bag from the local pharmacy. I notice the care in the knot.

And then I see he's catching up, slower for his cane. He reaches her, sliding his gnarled, mottled hand over hers. Is it a gesture is to steady himself? A habit of affection he's long practiced?

They smile and talk, lowering their faces as if sharing secrets.

I think of death.

And wonder of my own eventual loneliness, should Ryan oblige himself to statistics. What would it be like to grow old without him? To outlive our marriage? The thought sears, and I pray to be spared.

The foolishness of that.

It is too much with us.

If the gospel has meant anything (and it has meant much), it has reminded me that there need now remain no fear in death. Death is no concluding chapter, no punctuated finale. It will have no last word.

"Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery," (Heb. 2:14, 15).

Death had been too much with us. And the God-Man took upon himself its incomprehensibility, senselessness, and haunting fear.

He died. And felt the god-forsakenness of being mortal. And on the third day—

Time and error and accident began to be undone, and the world started to become comprehensible and whole.

On the third day—

Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?"

On the third day—