“Humble Roots” – a preview of a book

Usually I wait until I’ve read (and reread and highlighted) a book before giving a review. There is a stack of books waiting to be reviewed right now. [Sidebar – I even have one to giveaway … coming soon, hopefully in the next few weeks.]

But the introduction of Hannah Anderson’s newest release is so compelling to my heart this morning, and speaks right into the midst of our anxiety, that I couldn’t help but pass along a few quotes that are calming my own heart – in hopes that it will also bring peace to yours.

humble-roots-book

Humility frees us to flourish as the human beings we are made to be: to celebrate the goodness of our physical bodies, to embrace the complexity of our emotions, and to own our unique gifts without guilt or feeling like an imposter.

Humble Roots is not a sequel to Made for More [Hannah’s first book which I reviewed in 2014  here], but it is the other half of the conversation. At the same time, it’s also a conversation all its own, one that can be explored and savored for its own sake. If, however, you have read Made for More and it inspired you to think about yourself as a person destined to reflect God, Humble Roots will help you think about yourself as a person dependent on God to do just that. And remembering this simple but essential reality – that “You’re not God” – will lead to the spiritual and emotional rest you long for. 

Happy, restful weekend to you, friends and readers!

[PS – Would love to hear from you about my blog’s tagline if you would complete this one question survey here. Thanks for all of your input so far! I really appreciate it.]

Imago Dei, housework, and writing

“There are value currencies we operate in most of the time. The leading ones for women are beauty, money, status/fame, and – in some circles – domesticity. What complicates our question of value even further is that we live under the belief that value is scarce. So it’s not enough to be beautiful, but for me to be most valuable, I have to be the most beautiful.”

Thus began a thought-provoking evening with Hannah Anderson last Friday at a local coffeehouse, sponsored by the women’s ministry of our church, Trinity Presbyterian. Hannah spoke with deep insight and intelligence, matched to accessibility and candor that I found myself nodding along with many times. Hannah is the author of the excellent book, Made for More, which was my September 2014 book of the month. I’ve also made her one of my long-distance writing mentors (she doesn’t know that) since I met her last summer when I was beginning to get serious about focusing on writing. She was tremendously encouraging then, telling me about her decision to stop running from her calling to write and to devote herself intentionally to writing for a few years and see where  it went. For her, that’s included her first book released last year, and a regular blog at sometimesalight.com. She’s had speaking engagements arise from her writing, and we who heard her were privileged to be part of her circuit. She talks about “stewarding her message” and invited each of us to walk according to our value that’s not scarce but abundant because it flows from an infinite God. 

The theological term is “imago Dei” – made in God’s likeness. And it all began in Genesis, at our creation when humans were breathed into existence by a God desiring to reflect his very nature. This gives every woman (and man) infinite worth and value. Yet it’s a value that’s been marred by sin, and so we are also all desperately in need of restoration. This value has also been given to us in Jesus Christ (not earned).

And therefore, we are to cultivate the earth – our corner of the kingdom entrusted to us by God, using the gifts he has bestowed upon us. The value is the same regardless of the task, because it’s done as a reflection of who we are. Janitorial work and housework are elevated beyond their menial status usually assigned from within the world’s values. “Big” work like being the President and researching cancer are grounded by the humility that these, too, are work assignments received as gifts from the God who created us. We all have different roles.

In answer to a question of how this could apply/transfer to parenting, Hannah answered with a smile that her favorite thing to do is bring each of her children to their room and give the command, “Cultivate!” We all laughed – and made mental notes to do the same. She asked the question of each of us – “What have you been entrusted with to cultivate? In what work are you called to bring forth fruit? Who are your nearest neighbors that you are to help flourish?” 

And personally, I’m realizing the way I’ve neglected “home and hearth” in order to focus on my “big writing project.” Both are equal. Both are needed. I needn’t be apologetic about my writing, but neither am I to overlook the toilet that needs to be scrubbed or the children who need to be bathed and fed. [Disclamor: they have been regularly bathed and fed – the neglect has not sunk to that level … but it sounds more poetic this way.] These are my immediate opportunities to live out of imago Dei – what are yours?

September Book of the Month

photo credit: thegospelcoalition.org

photo credit: thegospelcoalition.org

All of you who follow my blog know how much I love to read and how much I love to write about what I’m reading. I want to try something new and do an online book report of my favorite book each month. For September, I’ve chosen Made for More by Hannah Anderson (2014: Moody Publishers).

Her subtitle says it all: “an invitation to live in God’s image,” and her book delivers just that. I’ve found on every page a call to reexamine what it means personally and relationally that we as humans are made to image God. To literally be a reflection of the divine. Have you considered this lately? What dignity that gives you and me! And how far we fall from our destiny every day! But Anderson’s book invites you back, invites me back. To live out of my identity – who I truly am. She takes what’s a basic theological truth and states it in new ways. No small thing for this raised-in-the-church seminary grad whose biggest downfall is that I know it all while my life is far from the truth I profess. Passages like these have given me reason to ponder and to live differently:

“…we are by nature image bearers. So when we turn from God, when we refuse to base our identity in Him, we are compelled to find it somewhere else because we must reflect something. … And as we image this false god, our very personhood crystallizes around it. … When we center our identity on these ‘lesser glories,’ we become defined by them, and we end up defining reality by them as well.”

A natural question that follows is what am I reflecting if not God? In looking at my life, too often I see my gaze shift to materialism, success, and productivity. When I image these “gods,” relationships become transactional, time shrinks to my to-do list, and failure causes me to erupt in frustration and anger.

Anderson calls me back to who I am created to be – who Christ has recreated me to be – with the following:

“The paradox of personal identity is that once we accept that we are not what we should be, we are finally in a place to be made what we could be. … Once we admit the inadequacy of our lives, we are finally able to discover the sufficiency of His. And this is what Christ offers us. He offers us His identity; He offers us Himself. When we are joined to Him, when our lives are ‘hidden with Christ in God,’ we can finally die to our old selves because as His image bearers, we become whatever He is.”

A close corollary and outflow to identity as those reflecting Jesus more than the god-of-the-hour is that it changes how and what we love. We pursue what we love and “what you love will determine who you are and what you do.” How are we changed into our true selves? By loving truly because we know we are truly loved.

In a word, this will look like grace. Generous grace. Anderson again pierces my layers of cynicism as she writes –

“In a world where we routinely hurt each other and where little is certain, being generous is risky business. So we refrain from giving; we hold back; we protect ourselves. And in the process, we become cynical, hopeless people who cannot believe in grace for ourselves because we refuse to offer it to others. …nothing could be more damaging to a society than walking away from grace. Because when we walk away from grace, we walk away from the only thing that has the power to heal our brokenness. … we walk away from the only thing that can make us human again.”

Amen, sister! I would go on, but then you would miss out on journeying along with Anderson through this exquisite invitation to your truest identity. Made for More is by far the best book I’ve read about identity – both identity lost through our false image-bearing and identity found in the hope and grace of Jesus as he restores and transforms us to who we were created to be.