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Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life Hardcover – April 9, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (April 9, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0787976911
  • ISBN-13: 978-0787976910
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #457,816 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this deeply theological, welcome book, Peterson (Sing Me to Heaven) argues in favor of the idea—no longer fashionable—that Christian service and spiritual growth are inherent in the acts of keeping people fed, clean, housed and comfortable. Housekeeping, she says, is akin to a litany, a long public prayer to announce needs and requests. A litany is repetitive and focused on the basics: food, health, shelter. Similarly, housework is ongoing and incarnational, teaching us about Jesus' earthiness and decision to live among us; it requires perpetual tending, much like God's active sustaining of the world. "All the more is this so when our homes are not all we might wish them to be," Peterson points out. "God's world is not as he wishes it to be, either." Addressing such topics as laundry, cleaning, shopping and cooking, Peterson offers persuasive biblical interpretations and incisive theological and cultural commentary. The two chapters on food and its preparation are especially groundbreaking, with Peterson enumerating helpful criteria for how Christians in a food-obsessed culture might determine whether a particular food is worthy of eating. At times, her domestic opinions have the whiff of superiority, as when she speaks disapprovingly about microwaves and dishwashers, but these moments are far outweighed by the book's well-researched and generous approach to domesticity. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

In this deeply theological, welcome book, Peterson (Sing Me to Heaven) argues in favor of the idea—no longer fashionable—that Christian service and spiritual growth are inherent in the acts of keeping people fed, clean, housed and comfortable. Housekeeping, she says, is akin to a litany, a long public prayer to announce needs and requests. A litany is repetitive and focused on the basics: food, health, shelter. Similarly, housework is ongoing and incarnational, teaching us about Jesus' earthiness and decision to live among us; it requires perpetual tending, much like God's active sustaining of the world. "All the more is this so when our homes are not all we might wish them to be," Peterson points out. "God's world is not as he wishes it to be, either." Addressing such topics as laundry, cleaning, shopping and cooking, Peterson offers persuasive biblical interpretations and incisive theological and cultural commentary. The two chapters on food and its preparation are especially groundbreaking, with Peterson enumerating helpful criteria for how Christians in a food-obsessed culture might determine whether a particular food is worthy of eating. At times, her domestic opinions have the whiff of superiority, as when she speaks disapprovingly about microwaves and dishwashers, but these moments are far outweighed by the book's well-researched and generous approach to domesticity. (Apr.) (Publishers Weekly, February 12, 2007)

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 19 customer reviews
I know Margaret Kim Peterson personally, and this book is as gentle and informative as she is herself.
Vashti 99
In reminding us of the true (and eternal) purposes of our work, Peterson gives us permission to eschew perfectionism and delight in the simplicity of good-enough.
C. Sparks
"We fix lunch because it is lunchtime...We pack away coats and boots...because winter is over and summer is coming.
FaithfulReader.com

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Morgan on April 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I have had the privilege of being Margaret Kim Peterson's academic colleague as well as a frequent imbiber of her culinery skills, so I can say with some authority that this book is NOT a prissy primer of Christian huswifery. In fact, inspite of the aesthetic perfection of Margaret's gourmet "presentation," her house expresses the creative chaos of one who lives in five small rooms with a very lively five year old, a husband in a wheel chair and two "wind-up" dogs. In short, she very well knows the difference between seeing the sacred in the mundane and supposing that the state of her home reflects the state of her soul. I love that in Margaret and in this book.

"House Keeping" is for anyone who truly believes that the things of everyday are good, true, and beautiful -- that they can be done with the kind of care that befits preparing a table for communion. But we don't all have to reverence the same tasks. As for me, while I hope to become a good cook in retirement, I love decorating my home as an offering to family and friends. This book is an invitation to stop and savor the moment. One reviewer disdained Margaret's disdain for dishwashers. While I confess that I have one, I love eating dinner at the Petersons' home not only because the food is succulent but because I get to put my hands in warm sudsy water and wash the dishes in the kitchen while catching up with Margaret through stories of students and parents and, well, life. Can washing dishes be a sacrament? Why ever not!

Margaret Kim Peterson is a fluid and witty writer. She infuses theological thinking into the everyday and makes the reader want to live in both worlds. That is a fine thing.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Ruth A. Tucker on July 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
People will be turned off by the title of this book because they are turned off by keeping house. How unfortunate! I'm an academic whose days are spent reading books and staring at a computer screen----except for keeping house, which I use broadly to include gardening, painting siding, and just puttering. "Ora et labora" was the motto for the Benedictines--a term as fresh today as it was centuries ago.

Margaret Peterson pulls wonderful anectdotes and readings and poems from a wide range of histories, biographies, and magazines. It's a fascinating book. It would serve as a wonderful text for courses on culture or gender----or a course invented just for the book. I'd find a way to use it for a seminary course if I hadn't been booted from my teaching position ("My Calvin Seminary Story"). The vast majority of my students were men, and they need this book most. The central thesis of the book is: "A Christian home, properly understood, is never just for one's own family. A Christian home overflows its boundaries; it is an outpost of the kingdom of God, where the hungry are fed and the naked are clothed and there is room enough for everyone."
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By E. Anthony on May 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Margaret Kim Peterson's newest offering, Keeping House: A Litany of Everyday Life, is a surprising breath of fresh air. With Biblical truth and poignant examples from her own life and the lives of those around her, she boldly reframes the usual perspective on the work of the household. Feeding, clothing, and sheltering our families are important tasks. Yes, the tasks are repetitive and often generate little feedback, even when done well. Nevertheless, Peterson reminds us that keeping house is really the creation of an environment that fosters peace and relationship, within the family and spilling into the world beyond the threshold.

Peace and relationship and service are the goals, not a perfect home or a gourmet dinner. As a full-time professional and a mother of 3 with a chronically-ill husband, I especially appreciated Peterson's realism; in reading her book, I did not feel burdened by an unattainable standard. Instead, I felt freed--to say "no" to things that sacrifice the important, even if mundane. Certainly, there are seasons of life when meals are less healthy and the house is cluttered. Peterson does not criticize but speaks to the underlying attitude that makes a season into a habit. We crave "real simple" solutions to the busyness of our lives, as offered by the popular magazine; Margaret Kim Peterson highlights for us the whys of keeping house so that we can make choices for our homes--sometimes against the grain of the world--without guilt.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As a SAHM and a Christian, this book was a pleasure to read and encouraged me to continue the challenging but valuable work I do to keep our home running smoothly. But it was not written just for the full-time homemaker. The author addresses the basic physical care we all need as human beings, how the work of homekeeping has been devalued over the last century, how the absence of that care affects so many modern households, and what Christianity has to say about its importance.

This was more of a why-to book than a how-to book.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By C. Sparks on May 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Margaret Kim Peterson embraces keeping house as important, and even sacred work, without sentimentalizing, idolizing, or denigrating it. Those who do the work of keeping house will find their lives enriched and their morale boosted by her sensitive theological perspective on the ways we "live out our dependence on God and our interdependence on one another."

This isn't the kind of book that will help you get ahead in the Most Impressive Home competition. Rather, it helps us appreciate the inherent, spiritual value of hospitality in all its practical forms. A bed made with fresh, clean sheets, a simple meal of vegetables in season, a drawer opening to reveal a stack of neatly folded laundry; these things feed the bodies and souls of those we love. And because this is so, the creativity and work that go into them are a sort of sacrament to the Lord, wherein we love Him by loving those He has placed around us.

If our homes are to be places of refreshment, nurturance, and beauty, then they must also be places where someone has purposefully set aside the time and energy required to provide for the bodily needs and comforts of others. And this, Peterson reminds us, is decidedly different from pursuing perfectionism. Perfect houses are about us; hospitality is about everyone. In reminding us of the true (and eternal) purposes of our work, Peterson gives us permission to eschew perfectionism and delight in the simplicity of good-enough. She addresses questions like whether cleanliness really is next to godliness, and helps us re-evaluate our tendency to collect more and better stuff, and a bigger house to put it in.
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