The Freedom is in the Falling

Because I’m a planner, I carry a planner, but the truth is that my planner carries me.  All pristine and un-besmirched, the 2017 edition holds out the promise of glorious accomplishment and blessed organization in a life that often feels like spinning plates and chaos management.  Shannan Martin started her marriage and motherhood in much the same way.  Plan-the-work-and-work-the-plan as a way of life had secured for her and her husband their dream farm with a cute little family and a life that had all the trappings of security.  In a journey that began with the hunch that God might be leading them to move — literally — outside their comfort zone, the Martins said good-bye to predictability and hello to an address that had always seemed to them like “the wrong side of the tracks.”

Memoir meets manifesto in Falling Free, for Shannan not only shares her story, but also describes the safety she found in risk and the stunning realization that when we say, “God is all I need,” we may be asked to make good on those words.   The Martins’ income plummeted to make space for ministry in a life that became centered around a community that included a struggling public school and a circle of friends who had done jail time, who struggled with addictions, and who continually battled poverty.

It is no understatement to say that Falling Free challenged some of the assumptions and guiding principles of this homeschooling mum who can just barely see the smoke from her neighbor’s chimney. Reading about Shannan’s “rescue from the life she always wanted” allowed me to consider some fairly uncomfortable concepts:

  • God reserves the right to do the unexpected and to move His people in unlikely directions.  He is unpredictable and has not “settled down” since Old Testament times.
  • True family transcends DNA and mirrors the welcome that God extends in the gospel.
  • It’s hard to pine for heaven when you already believe you’re there.”  For North American Christians, our stuff is a serious obstacle to living an authentic Christian life.
  • Our most valuable offering to those in need is our “good standing.”  One of the greatest needs of the poor is a future: a way to secure employment, stability, and a permanent address.
  • Missional living makes for missional parenting and produces missional kids.  If God calls a believer to ministry in an area with failing schools, He is asking her to trust Him with her children’s education.

It was delightful to read about Shannan and her family bonding with their newly adopted community around plates of pasta and garlic bread (often well-done).  She testifies to the efficacy of the “unfancy dinner table” and to this stunning truth:

“If community is the heartbeat of the gospel, hospitality is the hand that opens the door and waves it in.”

Falling Free unpacks the biblical image of Jesus “moving into the neighborhood” by first inviting readers to picture someone on the lowest rung of their social ladder — a homeless, meth-addict, for instance.  Shannan first nails the pity and lack of respect that I would feel toward her — and then suggests that my trading lives with that addict would not even begin to approach the utter humiliation of the incarnation.  Embracing my own smallness is more than a matter of having less.  It is about being less, like Jesus, when He “took the form of a servant and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” — less, last, and ordinary.

In a culture that encourages all of us precious believing snowflakes to “shop” for our “perfect church” that “meets our needs,” Shannan reminds her readers that the Kingdom of God is full of surprises.  God may ask us to sink our roots deep into a community that wounds us and exacts a deep cost to our souls while satisfying nothing on our personal wish list.  This is Jesus’ invitation, made explicit in the Beatitudes, but inexplicable to my preferred business plan that’s built around “blessed are the sensible and those who serve dinner on time.”

Not everyone will be called to join the Martin family in the weightless free fall, but the principles that guided their choices and the insights they gained in the process are choreography for my own choices and priorities in this world where I am called to dance the love and the life of Christ.

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This book was provided by Thomas Nelson through the BookLookBloggers program in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

An Announcement for January

Most of us have a favorite C.S. Lewis book, whether it’s the incisive practical theology of Mere Christianity or the glorious story-telling found in The Chronicles of Narnia.  It turns out that C.S. Lewis’s favorite of all his books was Till We Have Faces.  One Lewis scholar calls it his “most subtle treatment of the relation between good and evil.”  It’s a novel, based on the mythical tale of Cupid and Psyche, and in it, Lewis explores themes such as the selfishness of human love, the limits of reason, the corrupting effects of self-will, and in Lewis’s own words, “the havoc a vocation or even a faith works on human life.”   I’m planning to lead a discussion group about the book starting in January, and am hoping that many of you will join me, so here’s a quick overview of the plan:

  1.  The pace will be leisurely at three chapters per week (about 30-ish pages), which will take us into the beginning of March.
  2. I will be posting weekly starting January 5 (Thursdays) with introductory material and a detailed reading schedule.  My hope is that the comments section here at Living Our Days will become a comfy living room where we can discuss our thoughts on the book.  If you blog, PLEASE plan to include a link to your post about the week’s reading so that we can all benefit from one another’s impressions with more detail than is possible in the comments.  If you don’t blog, no worries.  Just share your thoughts in connection with the weekly reading here, and be sure to visit and respond to others.

More details to follow!

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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for over 25 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

38 thoughts on “The Freedom is in the Falling”

  1. Shannan’s personal story sounds challenging and pretty compelling, Michelle. I’ve been seeing her book here and there and after reading your thoughtful review now I know why people are talking.

    It’s going on my must-read list. Thanks …

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! What a quote: ““If community is the heartbeat of the gospel, hospitality is the hand that opens the door and waves it in.”

    I’m going to be thinking about this for days … hospitality is such a struggle for me.

    Like

    1. I loved how Shannan makes hospitality about something other than “the perfect table.” Of course, we know this in our heads. It’s just a matter of swallowing my pride and opening my door. . . and my heart.

      Like

  3. Michele, I was excited to see you were reviewing this book today. 🙂 This is one that’s been on my list for a few months now. Thanks you for sharing your thoughts. What exciting January plans you have! Hope you have a great Christmas and look forward to seeing you in the new year. ((Hug))

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What an interesting, challenging-to-my-comfortable-faith read this must be. It’s bristling me in a good way simply through your review here, Michele. It may very well go on my “to read” list. #livefree

    Like

  5. The book looks great! I’m going to have to add it to my wish list, my ever-growing book list. I might have to just start a book budget;)
    I’m intrigued by the C.S. Lewis book, just not sure if I can keep up with the pace. I will have to pray about it.
    Have a wonderful Christmas Michele!
    Julie

    Like

  6. I think the planner in me that longs for security would be a bit bristled too at the thought of falling free, Michele. But her words that she was rescued from the life she always wanted causes me to ponder and wonder where my security lies.
    Thank you for challenging my thinking, friend. Wishing you sweet Christmas blessings!

    Like

  7. I liked the quote, “It’s hard to pine for heaven when you already believe you’re there.” Those I know who are suffering are often the ones who long for heaven. The late J. Vernon McGee used to say our Western comfort lulls us into complacency. This book sounds very challenging and something I’m sure we all need to hear.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. After many, many years, this was the year I quit carrying even a calendar in my purse. I feel naked. But I use my phone’s calendar for everything on-the-go, which syncs with my laptop. And my wall calendar in the kitchen is the paper version for the big things. I want to let go more and more of my own plans and let God do the unexpected like you say. It is all a dance we’re learning, yes? Merry Christmas, Michele!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What an amazing and inspiring story the Martin’s family has lived. Sounds like Shannon is living and pursuing the life we all should lead, Michele. Thanks for telling us about her story and reminding us that we need to live missional lives among those messy folks who God loves just as much as the clean and tidy.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. These books that make our hearts skip and challenge us are a blessing, really, because they make us look deeper at our situation and learn to be both grateful and no longer complacent. That is something that I have been trying to impress in the hearts of my kiddos lately…no more complacency. And this book looks like a great family book to inspire us to seek more than our status quo together.

    Thanks for sharing this Michele!
    Blessings,
    Dawn

    Like

  11. Oh goodness this fits me! This sounds like a wonderful book! “when we say, “God is all I need,” we may be asked to make good on those words” – this, THIS, is my experience and while it’s not easy going through those moments, it’s a blessing to know God brings something from it!

    Liked by 1 person

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