Decoding the Beauty in the Universe

Partners in Revelation: Bringing Beauty into View

If it is true that, as we age, we become even more of whatever we have been all our lives, then Luci Shaw is becoming more and more difficult to “shelve.”  A poet and essayist well into her eighties, she continues to tackle topics ranging from quantum mechanics and the incarnation to the haecceity** of things and what it means to “doubt faithfully.”  Thumbprint in the Clay examines these themes and more within the context of Luci’s decoding of the rich presence of purpose, design, and beauty in the universe in which we see God’s fingerprints and His invitation to become part of the creative process.

In four places in Scripture, God is identified metaphorically as a potter, and, made in His image, we also delight in the creation of useful and beautiful things. This response to beauty should not surprise us, for it is a “mark of the Maker,” and Luci Shaw has concluded that “beauty doesn’t reside simply in what we observe or the fact that we can see and take note, but in how we perceive and distinguish with all our senses.”  The glory of this is that as seers, we become “partners in revelation to bring beauty into view.”

A collector of pottery through the years, Luci invites her readers to consider the beauty that results when something is imprinted or stamped upon clay — or upon a life.  Impressions are made and influence has its “in-flowing” way with us and we are changed.  As reflectors of the image of a creative God, all believers (and artists in particular) are called to reflect that image authentically so as to impact culture.  By way of illustration, Luci shares a heart-warming story in which she helps a homeless woman, and the happy-ever-after just doesn’t come true.  The help of one person was not enough to fix the “sad, smeared print” of a whole life, and yet out of that untidy tale of disappointment has come a more informed community of believers who are working together to help the needy.

Luci’s generous sharing of the sting of inadequacy (“Oh, God of living compassion and tender mercy, what could we have done differently?”) gives me courage to view my own failures with more grace, perhaps as part of God’s marking and molding of this lump of clay.  Certainly God used various methods in Scripture to mark His people:  Jacob’s limp from wrestling with God never left him; Miriam was marked with leprosy and Moses with radiance in direct correlation to their demonstration of faith; Zechariah was stamped with a nine-month silence.

Most joyful and inspiring is Thumbprint‘s underlying narrative of Luci’s own yielding to the Potter’s shaping and molding.  Her heritage of “missionary blood” with all the baggage and expectations that cling to it, her wrestling with faith and doubt (something she reminds me that one cannot do from a distance), and her ever-curious approach to life through travel, outdoor adventures, and asking the questions have all marked her.  Poems sprinkled liberally throughout the pages serve to document her progress and to pull me into the quest for fresh ways of saying the ancient Truth.  I’m challenged by this observation about words and The Word:

“. . . we must be prepared to open our eyes, to move from what has become a well-worn bit of dogma in our minds to a vivid picture vigorous enough to freshen a relationship with God.”

I can just barely imagine the experience of being present when THE wardrobe from C.S. Lewis’s home arrived at the Marion E. Wade Collection in Wheaton, of finding his coat still hanging inside, of looking for tufts of Aslan fur.  Insights into Luci’s formative relationship with Lewis scholar Clyde Kilby and Luci’s creative collaboration and friendship with Madeleine L’Engle are a treat for those of us who have followed Luci’s career (and say that we want to BE Luci Shaw when we grow up!).

“Generativity” is a word that shows up in one of Luci’s books, a word about growth and pushing forward into the future, and the reality of that word emanates with blazing brightness from between the lines of Thumbprint in the Clay.  Having been imprinted by Christ, the questions to His followers hang in the air like a challenge:

  • Can we live in awareness of the rich evidence of purpose, the fingerprints of God upon His world, and then invite others into the creative process?
  •  Can we listen and respond to the voice of God as He speaks Truth to the world (and directly to our searching hearts) through beauty, order, and grace?
  • Can we view the circumstances of our lives (whatever they may be) as the continual reshaping and remaking of our Potter God?


** I never read a Luci Shaw book without gaining a new word.  Naturally I had to show this one off.  It literally means “thisness”and refers to “the essential unique quality of every created thing.”  The idea was proposed by 14th century philosopher John Duns Scotus and is demonstrated well in the poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins.

This book was provided by IVP Books, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, 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.”

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50 thoughts on “Partners in Revelation: Bringing Beauty into View”

  1. Good Morning, Michele!

    You had me right at ‘A poet and essayist well into her eighties.’ Wow. That’s the kind of life I want to live. None of us wants to be put on a shelf and wisdom seems to bloom even more vibrant in older-age.

    Thanks for sharing this new-to-me sage!


    1. Oh, Linda! If you’ve not read Luci yet, dive in! Her God in the Dark was an annual read for me during my thirties. So much wisdom and refreshment for the years when the babies were coming and I could barely write in a journal. Writing the River is my favorite volume of her poems, but they’re all good.


      1. Hi Michele, I don’t know her but this review makes me wonder if you were the author yourself 😂😁you bring so much passion into your reviews you will make one click buy button everytime😀😊😅😉
        So you know I wrote my readers a mail and told them how grateful I am you agreed to read my upcoming work. Though I am yet to pass it along to you. Funny but I am more than grateful friend for your encouragement.
        God bless


  2. I love what is said here about resounding to beauty with all of our senses. I actually did some of that today over at my place. The imprint we leave in clay and how our life reflects God’s life is such a beautiful way to look at things. We are not just a piece of clay but the image of our Creator. Blessings and glad to be your neighbor at RaRa today.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve never heard of that word either, Michele. Sweet meaning though. Love the description of “Mark of the Maker.” Thanks for sharing! ((xoxo))


  4. I love the idea of God leaving His thumbprints and marks upon us, Michele. I’ve even gone so far as to thank God for the scars (due to my sins) I have in life because He carries His scars (not because of His sin’s, but carrying mine for me) into eternity. Beautiful review, my friend. Thanks for sharing so many great gems of inspirational literature with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for this review. I have been wanting to read Luci Shaw for awhile just don’t know where to start and can’t find books in the library… Your suggestions welcome.
    I love the thought that God marks us in direct correlation to our excercise faith. Have been mulling related aspects of faith the last couple weeks-evidences of its presence or absence… As always your words are thought provoking and inspiring. I need to read Luci Shaw and I need to get down to the hard work of putting my ponderings in words! Thank you!


    1. My favorite collection of her poems in Writing the River, but on our trip across country, I carried Postcard from the Shore in my backpack. She has written a memoir of her husband Harold’s (of Harold Shaw publishers) illness and death from cancer, and for while I was reading it every year just because of the wrestling she did with God and the beauty of the writing. Sorry to sound like a fan girl. She’s one of my favorites.


  6. I definitely would love to be productive well into my eighties!

    Love the idea of “thisness” and “the essential unique quality of every created thing.” Our God amazes me with His creativity. I also like the idea of beauty, order and grace revealing Truth .. because He is all those things.

    Thanks for sharing at The Loft today!


    1. Jerralea, Luci Shaw has also published a collection of poems this year called Sea Glass. I haven’t read it yet.

      So glad that you enjoyed her thinking on “thisness.” Me too. I’ve never fully recovered from the joy of college philosophy classes.

      Thanks for stopping by for a chat!


  7. You are always introducing me to new authors, Michele. I am especially captivated by the wisdom and productivity of someone in her eighties. That gives me great encouragement. The topic is of interest as well as I have reflected on it often. We are imprinted and shaped early in our lives in many ways and by many people. My years as a Christian counselor gave me many images of molding of the malleable clay of a child resulting in wounds, brokenness and a life of bad choices they have carried with them into adulthood. Such persons lives have been difficult to reshape given a common lack of trust in the Potter based on the early imprints which are very hard to eliminate. Does the book look at that perspective as well as the one you note which I agree with as well and is so rich and positive?


    1. Luci does touch on this in her chapter about the homeless woman she tries to help. Her description is “a sad, smeared print.” She spends a fair amount of time talking about the “scars and stains” that life brings to us, either by our choices or just by life’s circumstances. Jacob comes up a lot in the book – his wrestling, his hip injury.
      As usual, Pam, I appreciate your insight here!


      1. Thanks, Michele! I think I have been especially thinking the many women I worked with who have been sexually abused as children by family members.


  8. Can we view the circumstances of our lives (whatever they may be) as the continual reshaping and remaking of our Potter God? ~ A great reminder of how God is continuously working in our lives. Another wonderful review and book I’m adding to my list. Thank you for linking up with Thankful Thursdays.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a fantastic choice of words. May you see the fulfillment of all the many nuances of that word in your life this year as God continues to put His mark upon your life.


  9. Believe it or not, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of Luci Shaw! I will definitely have to check out some of her books! Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday on!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Michele,
    What are you doing to me? Because of your phenomenal reviews, my shelf next to me stacked with the books I want to read is getting taller and taller! 🙂 I agree with Ifeoma! You could be Luci 🙂 Your writing so often gives me goosebumps. It is such a work of art. I’m honored God has crossed our paths and I am so thankful you join me each week at #MomentsofHope!
    Blessings and smiles,


    1. Lori, your words to me are a gift. I hope that you will enjoy reading through your stack slowly and thoughtfully, and that you will be blessed in the reading of it. Happy weekend!


  11. Sounds like such an important book. I met Madeleine L’Engle in college. She inspired me so much with her speech. I love the books you review too. Thanks for being a regular contributor to the #LMMLinkup. 😉


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