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REVEALED: Spiritual Reality in a Makeover World
Linda Clare and Kristen Johnson Ingram
Christian Living
ISBN: 0800759354

Makeovers are popular these days. Everyone and everything is open for reinterpretation --- faces, closets, backyards, relationships --- in one hour or less via the magic of television. But as authors Linda Clare and Kristen Johnson Ingram point out in their new book, such transformations are often superficial and temporary. What women really long for is a total transformation that stems from an understanding of their spiritual identity.

REVEALED: Spiritual Reality in a Makeover World takes a focused look at the issues that affect a woman's soul and sense of being --- beauty, status, desire, stress, and community to name a few --- via essays, poems, and stories from a cadre of insightful women. Each topic is introduced by a conversation between Linda and Kristen that sets the honest "just between us girlfriends" tone that pervades the book. About wanting things they write:

Linda: People often look back on their "poor years" as the best times in their lives, but when they're going through those times, they feel awful.

Kris: Uh-huh. I remember when my husband and I were both finishing college, and we had three small children. He worked nights at an aircraft plant and I taught piano. Sometimes I cried at night because the kids didn't have the toys they wanted, and I bought my clothes at a thrift shop. Now that time is perfumed by sweet nostalgia.

Linda: What I don't get is why God lets us struggle and suffer to makes ends meet, and yet Jesus apparently wants us all to give everything to the poor and follow him.

Kris: I think the struggle is what brings you to God. To your knees. You don't understand, so you pray. And when you pray, you realized someone is making a demand on your attention.

Linda: The Rolling Stones sing that you get what you need.

Kris: I think I often choose what I need, without knowing it. I think God guides you to what will round out your life and personality --- not necessarily money.

Linda: Shh! I think I hear God whispering right now.

Contributions to the conversation by writers including Vinita Hampton Wright, Marlee LeDai, Melody Carlson, and Luci Shaw are also worth noting. In her essay about allowing herself to be totally spent in the service of God, Vinita writes candidly about how her marriage and sexual relationship with her husband was her first lesson in being consumed. "Sometimes now, twelve years into my marriage, I still fear the consuming intimacy of it. Sometimes now, several books into a writing career, I still walk wide circles around my writing chair and laptop. It's always a choice to approach the flames. To submit to the altar, the torch, and the burning will always be a supreme form of submission to not only a God who loves me but to a life that is truly mine and no one else's. As I lie down in the fire, I am entering some sanctuary of soul that is bright and bold and filled with beauty."

In one of her essays, Linda describes the first group of Christian women she met when she started to attend church. They were earnest and loved God. But they read the Bible --- and not much else. While Linda longed for more intellectual stimulation, she sensed such pursuits were suspect. Thankfully, she's clearly come to incorporate her liberal arts (and pop culture) education with her faith as REVEALED makes references to everyone from Plato to Thoreau to Jung. As such, it's a broad-based, thinking woman's guide to evangelical Christian spirituality.

The idea for this book came out of a writers' conference, but the authors say they were in the process of actually writing the book when the ideas really started to flow. "We gained a heightened awareness of God's presence and felt the need to reach more deeply into our own spiritual lives. We've seen how some of the chapters became very expensive, for they cost us and the contributors something --- comfort, privacy, even sleep," they write. The fruit of these labors is on the page and undoubtedly will grow in the hearts of many of the readers who take the time to honestly engage the ideas presented in REVEALED. It will take longer than an hour, but the results could last a lifetime.

   --- Reviewed by Lisa Ann Cockrel

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