welcome to my world of words.

Writing can be noisy business, and I can regret adding to the clamor. Nevertheless, I hope to write as one who listens.

"If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow. We should die of the roar that lies on the other side of the silence."
- George Eliot, Middlemarch.

Vote for your favorite 2014 IVP Title

I’m thankful for those of you who read whatever I write here. You have been extraordinarily patient with me, especially as I write less frequently here than I used to. On the eve of Thanksgiving, I am remembering you in my prayers.

I also know many of you have read and recommended my book, Teach Us to Want, and I’m grateful for that as well. If there are prayers that I have been praying for those readers, they are these: that God gives growth to each person (cf. 1 Cor. 3:5-9), and that God gives himself glory.

InterVarsity Press is running their first ever Readers’ Choice Awards, and I’d encourage you to visit their site to vote for your favorite titles of 2014. Sure, a vote for Teach Us to Want would be great, but I love so many of the books listed there and would be happy to see any of them win. (Do cast a vote for Slow Church in the IVP Praxis category, as it’s probably my favorite!)

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Breaking the Bread of Belief: Table

The garage door opened early Saturday morning, and the van disappeared down the driveway and around the bend. I was left to an empty house and the cavernous silence. Ryan was taking the children to Chicago for the week so I could work without interruption on a book proposal. By Sunday night, I was falling asleep with thoughts of The Shining: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

I am not Thoreau.

An empty house is a thing of reverie for so many mothers. (And I complain?) We spend the lives of our young children wishing that the clamor of rearing them and the never-ending noise of family would play out—at least long enough for us to inspire a long breath of peace.

I have more quiet these days. The children are older. They attend school. Most days, I’m home, keeping company with my thoughts, but sometimes, the solitude isn’t nearly as satisfying as I’d imagined.

Maybe for this reason—we are made for the table.

Table

I can’t believe the prominence the meal plays in the Scriptures, and I’ve written enough about my fascination with God playing host, we guest. It will be, I hope, the subject of my next book.

But I wanted to draw your attention here to an article I’ve recently written for Desiring God that centers the table in the story of God.

“Welcome is a metaphor for Christian salvation, and this is most visible portrayed in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. A wealthy father is affronted by his youngest son who, as if wishing him dead, demands his inheritance in advance of his father’s death. The son splits town, gambles the money on guilty pleasures, and before long, is hungry enough to feed himself from the troughs of the pigs.

Not daring to imagine he’ll be restored as a son yet hoping to be received as a servant, the son returns to the father. The welcome-home is extravagant.

A robe!

A ring!

The fattened calf!

Sparing no expense, the father throws the wildest party the village has ever seen in celebration of his son’s return.

“My son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found!” (Luke 15:24).

If welcome is so fundamental to the nature of God, hospitality is one practice for growing into our likeness of and desire for him . . . [It] allows us to enter into what God has been doing from the beginning of time: loving humanity by his welcome.”

God loved each of us at the table. On the night he was betrayed, Jesus broke bread in the company of friends and of betrayers. They would not outlast the night of his arrest. They would scatter, and Jesus would be left alone.

But the invitation—to the table—would stand.

This is what faith means. It means beginning to believe that you, the betrayer, have no place at the table. Like the Prodigal Son, you’re estranged from the Father. But He—the One who from the beginning of time has been keeping house—invites you back. Your meal is paid, and you become an honored guest. There is celebration at your return, of course. But the real honor is reserved for the Host: the guests lift their glasses to Him and remember that His goodness and lovingkindness set—

The table.

* * * * *

Today’s post is the final meditation in a series entitled, “Breaking the Bread of Belief.” Read about beginning, dust, home, feast, naked, death, altar, stars, and laughter.)

All images courtesy of Joetography.

Winning essay, Sarah Torna Roberts: “I didn’t want to be broken.”

Congratulations to Sarah Torna Roberts, whose essay was voted blog readers’ favorite in my guest series, Found Wanting.

Sarah Torna Robers

I hope you’ll check out more of Sarah’s writing online. When you have the chance, pop over to her space, and leave some encouragement. You can’t imagine what that does for writers who linger long inside the hollow silence of their own minds.

Congratulations also to Larry Shallenberger, for his runner-up post, “I wanted to know what I wanted.” Find more of Larry’s writing at larryshallenberger.com.

And finally, congratulations to Megan Hill, for her bronze-medal finish with, “I want your blessing.” Megan writes frequently for Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics.

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Blog Giveaway: VOTE for your favorite “Found Wanting” essay

If you’ve been reading here over the past several months, you are familiar with the “Found Wanting” guest series that I began at the end of May and ended this week. If you haven’t read any of the essays, this is your chance!

I’m inviting you to reread essays and pick your favorite! You can either vote by emailing me (jenmichel@mac.com) or by commenting on today’s post.

I’d love to give away some books today, both for commenters and those writers whose guest posts “win”!

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I’ll chose the top three essays and send them a copy of, Teach Us to Want, as well as one of the three books pictured here: Mark Labberton’s, Called; Marlena Graves’s, A Beautiful Disaster; and Bonnie Gray’s, Finding Spiritual Whitespace.

I’ll also (randomly) choose 3 commenters to win a copy of Teach Us to Want. Just comment below, naming the essay you’ve chosen and say your reason for choosing it.

*Giveaway ends Monday, November 3rd at midnight (EST). Books will be mailed the following week.Continue Reading