About the Guest
Barbara RaineyAfter graduating from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, Barbara joined the staff of Cru® in 1971. With her husband Dennis, whom she married in 1972, the Rainey’s cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry committed to helping marriages and families survive and thrive in our generation. Barbara is a frequent speaker and guest on FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s award-winning nationally-syndicated daily radio broadcast. She is the author or coauthor of...more
Jen Pollock MichelJen Pollock Michel is the author of Teach Us to Want (winner of Christianity Today’s 2015 Book of the Year), Keeping Place, Surprised by Paradox (winner of Christianity Today’s 2020 Award of Merit for Beautiful Orthodoxy), and A Habit Called Faith. She holds a BA in French from Wheaton College and an MA in Literature from Northwestern University, and she is also a student in Seattle Pacific's MFA program. Jen is a wife and mother of five and hosts the Englewood Review of Books podcast.
What comes to mind when you think of home? Barbara Rainey and Jen Pollock Michel explain the value of making Christ the foundation of a stable, godly home.
Michelle: When you sit at your kitchen table in the morning—usually for me, it’s with a cup of coffee—do you find yourself longing for something more? Here’s author, Jen Pollock Michel.
Jen: Even for those of us who believe the gospel and call ourselves Christians, there is still this very deep longing in us; because we know this world isn’t yet our home. We’re kind of in this tension of the already and the not yet: that right now, we enjoy a communion with God through His Spirit because of the work of Christ; and yet, this world is still just a fragile place.
Michelle: We’re going to explore the truths of home—our fragile earthly one and the perfect one waiting for us in heaven—on this edition of FamilyLife This Week.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. I want to try something here. I want you to picture home: “What do you see?” “Is it a structure, or is it people?” “Is it a place of belonging/a refuge?” “Are there certain smells or feelings?”
I grew up in a log house, set on a hill, and surrounded by corn fields for as far as the eye could see. Home, for me, smelled of wood smoke and pancakes; we ate a lot of Norwegian pancakes. Home should evoke feelings of belonging and trust. I realize there are some of you who don’t have those feelings of home. I’m really sorry because home, for me, was a place of encouragement and unconditional love.
Today, we’re are going to explore what home is. I’m going to talk with author, Jen Pollock Michel, in a little bit; but first, Barbara Rainey.
Michelle: You are the cofounder of FamilyLife®, and you are the founder of Ever Thine Home®.
Barbara: I am; that’s right.
Michelle: Now, I’ve had the privilege of being in your home for a meal. Your home is so inviting; and it’s warm, and it’s welcoming. I think Joanna Gaines would probably give you a high-five and say, “Well done.”
Barbara: Oh, gosh! That would be a compliment. [Laughter]
Michelle: But it evokes a feeling of just welcome, and warmth, and love. What does home mean to you? Why have you tastefully done your home the way you have?
Barbara: Well, it’s interesting you would describe it that way; because that was always what I wanted. I remember, as a young woman, when I had really small kids, I wanted my home to be that way. It didn’t feel that way to me because: it was busy; and it was loud; and it was messy, because of spilt apple juice and toys everywhere. It didn’t feel/it didn’t have that kind of a feel, but I think that evolves over time.
What I have come to learn is that a home that feels that way—it feels that way because of the people—not because of the way it’s decorated or because of the temperature in the room. I wrote about this not too long ago. I remember when my kids were—say four, and three, and baby; I don’t remember—but under five, we went to visit this woman, who was a member of our church, in her home one day. She was a widow. My little son, who was about three or four at the time, said, “Mommy, I like Miss Kitty’s house because it’s warm.”
I remember thinking, “Oh my gosh! A four-year-old” or “three-year-old”—whatever he was—“picked up on the atmosphere of her home.” He wasn’t talking about—
Michelle: It wasn’t because of the heat, yes.
Barbara: —temperature. It’s because of Miss Kitty’s character; it’s because of her heart; it’s because of her warm welcome that he felt that warmth in her home. It really gave me a vision, at that time—way long time ago—that that was what I wanted my home to be. It was my first introduction to understanding that a home is not just a house—
Barbara: —but it is the atmosphere in the home, whether it’s a tin shack or whether it’s a mansion. It’s the people: it’s the warmth of their relationships; it’s the commitment that you have in the home to the people that live in that home; it’s embracing the people that are in that home that: “These are the people that God has given me to love. These are my people.”
I’m delighted to hear you say that our house, when you came to have dinner, felt warm—because that has been my goal for years—is that people would sense the love of Christ/the comfort of being in His presence in our home.
Michelle: Yes; what did you want home to represent for your kids as you were raising them? Did you want it to be that warmth, or was their some other idea that you were helping them walk away with?
Barbara: Well, I did want it to be warm; but I also wanted it to be a safe place for my kids, when they were struggling with something or where they made mistakes. I didn’t want them to feel like they had to go—they had to keep it buried, or they had to go tell a friend or somebody else—because they couldn’t come to us. For the most part, I think that was the kind of environment that they felt from us: that they could confess their sin; they could talk about what they were struggling with.
Michelle: —which is so important. It’s so important because I think, if you don’t have that, you struggle through life with how to build that—
Michelle: —that type of foundation.
Which brings me to my next question: “You had a blog post a while back on the ‘40 Reasons Why Your Home Matters.’ One of those reasons was your home is the foundation of who your children will be. Unpack that a little bit and help us understand why home is so important to who your children will be.”
Barbara: Well, honestly, I think it is a great mystery; because each of us is born to parents. Each of us, therefore, then, has a home. Homes are vastly different in size, and shape, and location, and the way they feel. Every set of parents is different from every other set of parents.
Our children grew up—I mean, in God’s sovereignty—He gave us the children He gave us; and I don’t know all the reasons why He did that. They became who they were/who they are today: because of the home that they grew up in, because of the parents they had, because of the experiences that 4we brought to our parenting style, because of the things we wanted to do differently with our children. Every parent comes in, saying, “My parents did this well. They didn’t do this well; I’m going to do better on that one.” Yet, when you just stop and think about the variety of homes around the world—good homes, and bad homes, and nice homes—but God is sovereign over all of that. I think that He knows what He is doing—
Barbara: —when He places children in families. That particular family is going to shape that child’s life: the parents are going to shape it; their experience is going to be shaping; their siblings are going to help shape them. God has intentions/He has purposes in all of that for what He wants to do.
Every home, I think, is foundational in a person’s life. My home was foundational; your home was foundational. Our home was foundational for our six children, too. It is the place, where memories are made, where habits are learned, where you come to know Christ or you don’t come to know Christ. Even that is all a part of your story. It’s very formative in all of our lives—every single one of us—therefore, I think it reminds us that our home is really an important place. It’s important for us, whether we have children or whether we don’t have children. I think home is an important piece of who we are/what God wants to do in our lives.
Michelle: It is so interesting that you say that; because if you ask somebody what home is, some people will say, “It’s cherry pie; it’s the smell of cherry pie”; or someone else will say, “It’s the warmth of my mom’s smile.” It’s always back in time a little bit and remember. Very few times do I hear—when you ask, “What is home?”—“The place where I’m living right now.” You always go back in time.
Barbara: I think we do; you’re right. I think that illustrates that our home of origin is the place where we first decide what home means, and I think it is shaping. I think that is why we go back in our memories: “This is what I remember, and that’s what home is to me.”
Michelle: Now, you have coined the phrase: “Home is an embassy.” What do you mean by that? Why is home an embassy?
Barbara: Well, it occurred to me one day that, if we are ambassadors for Christ—and Paul makes that very, very clear in 2Corinthians; he says, flat out: “Therefore, you are an ambassador for Christ,”—well, when you think about an ambassador, where does an ambassador live? What has he been tasked with? What is his job?—his job is to represent his government/his home country.
It talks about, in the book of Hebrews, that we are aliens in this world. I think that’s a great concept for us to begin to think about, in our places of dwelling here on this earth, that: “My home is an embassy of the King. This is not my home. This is a temporary stopover on our way to our eternal home in heaven with Christ. As I live my life on this planet, in the structure that God has graciously given us to live in, I want that to be more than just a house. I want it to be more than just about us and the place that we come to in the evening, and have dinner, and crash and do whatever we do. I want it to represent Him. I want it to be about Christ as if I were living in a foreign land.”
Michelle: You know, and I’ve heard you say, “Home is an embassy,” for a while; but until I’m here, talking with you right now, just reminded me of this weekend. My roommate’s parents came to visit us. On Sunday, I cooked a meal for them and for another lady that we call Nana, who would probably be a lot like Miss Kitty. On Saturday, I was just a little bit in my own circumstances and thinking, “Why am I cooking this meal? It’s taking me too long; I’m having to get it ready. It’s Sunday afternoon—it’s going to be after church—it’s is a long day.” I just was like, “Why am I doing this?”
But then, when everybody came for the meal on Sunday afternoon, Nana was like, “Your home is so inviting,”—
Barbara: Good for you.
Michelle: —“and it’s so welcoming.” I just, afterwards, was like, “Thank You, God.
Michelle: “You pushed me out of my comfort zone. You got me out of my funk”—or whatever I was going through—“and had these people over, who just sat there and said, ‘We love your home.’”
Barbara: Yes; and they felt loved.
Barbara: Obviously, they felt loved; they felt cared for.
I think, when we take the time to cook a meal like you did, it is an investment. You spend a lot of time, and you probably spent money on it and energy; but it communicates that you cared about these people. I think that’s what our homes can do. Our homes communicate care and love for those who come in, whether you live there or whether you are just visiting.
I think that’s important, because I think that’s what Jesus’s home is going to be. I mean, He said, “I have gone to prepare a place for you.” He’s been working on that place forever. I just have to believe that He is putting all kinds of individual touches so that, when each one of us shows up, there is going to be something that was just for us; because He knows us so well. We’re going to walk in, and it’s going to be home.
Michelle: Oh, that’s a good word.
Barbara: Yes; I think we will walk in, and it will feel right. It’s because He knows each one of us so personally. He is going to the trouble to make it unique for us. I can’t wait.
Michelle: I can’t either.
Barbara: I mean, I really can’t wait! [Laughter]
Michelle: Well, Barbara, it’s always a joy to have you join me. Thank you so much for taking the time. I appreciate it.
Barbara: Well, it’s always a delight to do this with you. Thank you for continuing to ask; I appreciate it.
Michelle: You’re welcome.
We have a link on our website to Barbara’s article, “40 Reasons Your Home Matters.” That’s at our website, FamilyLifeThisWeek.com; that’s FamilyLifeThisWeek.com.
Hey, we need to take a break; but after the break, I’m going to chat with Jen Pollock Michel. She has some interesting thoughts on the perfect home waiting for us in heaven. Stay tuned.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. We’ve been talking today about the importance of home and the significance in building a welcoming home to our family and friends. It was awhile back that I was asked to speak at my alma mater about home. A book that helped me think through home and what it meant was Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home by Jen Pollock Michel. I asked Jen if we could have a video chat on home.
Michelle: Jen, thanks so much for joining me.
Jen: Well, thank you for having me.
Michelle: You are a busy mom and a wife, of course. You live in Toronto. You are a writer: you’ve written two books, and you also write for Christianity Today and Today in the Word; is that right?
Jen: Yes; that’s right; yes.
Michelle: Okay; so I want to talk about Keeping Place. I loved the Jesus Storybook Bible. That book has opened my eyes to how every story whispers Jesus’s name. Now, you’ve captured my thoughts and musings when you said, “The entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is a story on home.” As I’ve been reading, I’ve been trying to just pick up on home. How is that?—explain to us—how is it that the entire Bible is a story on home?
Jen: It’s a beautiful idea; isn’t it?—just to think that the Bible tells one story; you know?
Jen: Especially to those of us who have grown up in the church—I can, at least, think of it myself—we didn’t really talk about the one story that the Bible is telling; but when I was writing this book, I was really thinking that the greatest human longing—for all of us—it’s for home. There are reasons for saying that; other people think that, too. But then I thought, “Well, what then/what does the Bible have to say about home?”
When I started to think about this kind of three-act story of the Bible—a lot of people will talk about the Bible in terms of these three acts: creation, being Act 1; fall, Act 2; and redemption, Act 3—so I thought, “Well, let’s look at that through the lens of home. Is there anything to learn there?” I thought, “Well, creation: ‘What’s happening in Act 1 of creation?’” God is making a home for His people, and He is actually making a home for Himself as well; He is intending to share it with us. This inaugurates this story of God wanting to be with His people and dwell with His people.
But then, of course, we know that lasts for only two chapters; you know?—
Genesis 1/Genesis 2—then, we get into Genesis 3, where Adam and Eve disobey the one commandment God’s given them. Of course, we know that the consequence for their sin is death, but it’s also exile. We see, at the end of Genesis 3, they are kicked out of the garden; and they are sent wandering. Then, you skip forward, all the way to John, Chapter 1: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,”—“tabernacled among us”/”pitched His tent in our neighborhood.”
We see this like Act 3 of this story, where what’s happening in the life of Jesus—His person, His work, His death, His resurrection—God’s restoring home to His people, which is, of course, a place. We have a home to look forward to—the new heavens and the new earth—but it’s also about a communion with God. There is no home in the Bible except for the home where God is, so this reconciled relationship that we can have with God through Jesus.
That’s what I mean when I say the Bible tells the story of home. I’m looking at those three acts: home is a gift to humanity; home is something that we lose because of sin; and then, home is something that we regain because of the person and work of Christ.
Michelle: I want to go back to that longing piece, and just the fact that you can see the Israelites longing, for so long, for home and a comfortable place. I mean, when you think of home, you think of words like “warmth and welcoming,” and “rest and refuge”; and they were looking for that for so long.
I think of my ancestors, who came over on the Mayflower; and they didn’t stop moving. They just constantly continued to move; there was this longing and this restlessness. Really, we’re still seeing that, even though we know what God has wanted for us, we’re still seeing that restlessness.
Jen: We absolutely are. Even for those of us, who believe the gospel and call ourselves Christians, there is still this very deep longing in us; because we know this world isn’t yet our home. We’re kind of in this tension of the already and the not yet, that right now, we enjoy a communion with God through His Spirit because of the work of Christ; and yet, this world is still such a fragile place. We think about all the ways that the world is fragile. It leaves us longing for a deeper rest and a greater permanence. I think that is always going to come back to Jesus.
Michelle: So Jen, as you have been thinking through this—just about keeping place/this longing for home—what does the real home really look like? Give us some hope for what we’re shooting for.
Jen: Oh goodness! Well, there’s home now—right?—and home to come. I really do want to say that, while we’re sort of the saints of hope—you know saints—we can call ourselves “saints”; that’s what Paul calls us—in Hebrews, they are always sort of looking forward to the world that is to come. They know they are waiting on a better world. They’re/in one sense, this home to come is so important; but this home here and now is, too.
I always think that the Garden—we could say the Garden and the new Jerusalem—these are sort of our templates for what real home looks like and how we long for it. There’s, as we’ve talked about, this connection with God that we could have a house with four bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths. We could have a wonderful marriage; we could have wonderful things about an earthly home; but if we do not have a reconciled relationship with God, we’re not going to feel satisfied in those things. So that’s number one: a relationship with God.
Number two: I think home really does speak to place—that in the Garden, God gave His people a place; in the new Jerusalem, we have a city—there’s something about geographical belonging and connection, which is really hard in our world, if we were to all be honest. I mean, I’m the product of like corporate transfers; and we moved a lot there. But I do think that, as human beings, we long for connection to our place: that could be to the people on our street; it could be to our neighborhood; to our city. I think that’s a really important part of home.
Then, of course, a non-negotiable of home is also just our relationships with other people. We see that in the Garden; right? Adam and Eve were given the gift of communion with God; they were given the gift of place; and they were also given the gift of just community. We experience home so much in our relationships with other people. It’s why you can make home in a new city as a Christian—in the sense that, well, you might not feel the geographical connection to a new city—you make your home by becoming part of the church.
Michelle: Well, it makes me think of how the church really is foreshadowing our future home. I mean, we’re bearing with one another—just like the “…one anothers” in the New Testament—we’re bearing with one another; we’re forgiving one another; we’re serving one another; we’re loving one another. We’re linking arms with one another, and we don’t get to ditch our friends in the congregation/our friends in the church; we won’t get to ditch them in heaven.
Jen: No. [Laughter]
Michelle: In keeping all of this in mind—that our future home is in heaven—how do you raise your children to keep the idea of home here on earth loosely: “We’re living for heaven, but we’re living here on earth.” How are you unpacking that for them?
Jen: Here would be such a simple example, actually happened this morning. When my son opens the cabinet, and looks for the cinnamon sugar to put on his toast, he is frustrated because it is empty. He thinks that somebody else should have filled it up. Of course; right? I said to him, “You know what? You can fill it up, too.” He said, “But that’s not fair; whoever emptied it should have filled it.” I said, “But you know what? You can serve your family just by filling it up.”
It’s such a simple example; but within our family, it’s just like practicing the work of welcome: “How do we welcome each other?” “How do we love one another?” All those “…one anothers” you were talking about—encouraging one another, bearing with one another, forgiving one another, confessing to one another—these things that we do within the four walls of our family homes are the things that we, then, do in our church and the things we try to do in our neighborhoods.
It’s usually in very simple, ordinary ways—that this work of housekeeping, like I like to talk about it—that we long for home, but nobody longs to do the housekeeping; right? We want homes to be made for us: we want to be received; we want to belong. But how do we look out into the world and say: “How can I help others be welcomed, received, recognized?” “How can I make others feel safe?” Those are just some easy ideas of how I think about it within my own home life and how I even, beyond that, think about it in my own neighborhood.
Michelle: Well, Jen, I have appreciated your time. Thank you so much for joining me and encouraging us to remember that our ultimate home is in heaven, but not to forget that our home on earth points to that.
Jen: Yes; thanks for having me.
Michelle: You’re welcome.
As we’ve learned today, there should be a certain beauty in our homes on earth; and as I said before, they should offer refuge and safety, a place to welcome and love visitors, a place of belonging. I don’t know about you; but as much as I enjoy my home now or fondly remember the little log house on the prairie that I grew up in, there is still a longing for more/a feeling of lack that a cable show about the perfect house just can’t fix. It’s a longing for my perfect home in heaven, and that’s a good thing.
Hey, next week, we’re going to dive into the Easter story. There is going to be bunnies and eggs and soft colors—okay, maybe not—but I’ll be chatting with my favorite children’s author, Sally Lloyd Jones, about sharing the Easter story with little ones. I hope you can join us for that.
Hey, thanks for listening! I want to thank the president of FamilyLife®, David Robbins; along with our co-founder, Dennis Rainey—and our station partners around the country—a big “Thank you!” to you guys. And a big “Thank you,” to our engineer today, Keith Lynch; our producers, Marques Holt and Bruce Goff. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer, and Megan Martin is our production coordinator.
Our program is a production of FamilyLife Today®, and our mission is to effectively develop godly families who change the world one home at a time.
I’m Michelle Hill, inviting you to join us again next time for another edition of FamilyLife This Week.
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