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.

Thank You (Acknowledgements)

I’m sharing the acknowledgements for Teach Us to Want here, with the permission of InterVarsity Press. I want people to know the community that birthed this book.

Indeed, it was a birth. By caesarean.

I was thirty-five weeks pregnant when the doctor performed the last of my ultrasounds on a Friday morning in the middle of January. “You’re ready to go anytime!” The twins were born the following morning, both fully cooked at five pounds.

Andrew slid first through the birth canal — before the doctor was fully scrubbed up. “Stop laughing!” he chided. But then the minutes ticked by, and the assembled team of doctors and nurses for Baby B stood silently by, listening worriedly to his heart rate. We held our collective breath when the pace slowed like a tired mule — thump . . . thump . . . thump. We exhaled relief when it galloped again – thump-thump-thump-thump. But an hour of listening, an hour of tense, quiet conversations between my obstetrician and the anesthesiologist (conversations from which I was unapologetically excluded), and finally Colin was born by C-section, the umbilical cord looped around his waist and over his shoulder, his little fingers clutching it with characteristic intensity.

* * * * *

The writing was cooked. And yet, it took a team of strong hands to deliver it.

First, I want to thank Tom Bennardo, pastor of Life Community Church, in Hilliard, Ohio. When, in 2003, I caught the wild idea to write and suggested to him a project I might undertake for the church, he heartily agreed. It was badly written, but Tom never let on. I am grateful.

In 2004, that devotional project provided a writing sample for the wonderful team at Today in the Word, whose Managing Editor, Heather Moffitt, has now been a longtime friend. Without the generous encouragement from the editors and readers of Today in the Word, this book simply would not be.

Still, a near-decade of devotional writing, and I lacked confidence and clarity for this calling. The good people at Grace Toronto Church provided the theological understanding—and community—I needed to reconcile the holy desires for art and worship. Thank you, Ian Cusson, for your important work with Grace Centre for the Arts. And thank you, Dan MacDonald and Kyle Hackmann, for the serious theological reflection you bring to our congregation each week. We are blessed.

Wendy, whom I met at Grace Toronto Church, has not only received many of my confessions: she’s also read many early (and bad) versions of this book. This trusted friend is also a fantastic writer, and I can’t wait for you to read her book.

It is my great joy that Katelyn Beaty agreed to write the foreword to this book, for it was her patient help, when I first began pitching Christianity Today, that provided much needed encouragement—to try and try again. Also, Chris Smith, author of Slow Church and Editor of The Englewood Review of Books, has been an invaluable friend and source of professional advice. It was he who made my introduction to Dave Zimmerman, IVP’s editor extraordinaire. When Dave agreed to review my proposal, and further, helped improve it, I received it as unexpected grace.

To me, each of you has been Christ. And he is the one I long to honor in these pages.

But before the list grows infinitely long, let me thank the people whom I cherish most, my husband and my children. Audrey, Nathan, Camille, Andrew, Colin and even now, James: you have eaten your fair share of store-bought rotisserie chickens in order that I might finish this work. I thank you for your patience and your full-hearted enthusiasm for this project. Ryan: as you are the man I most admire, yours is the confidence I most need. Thank you for your steadfast love these eighteen years. And whatever we agree together to call my writing life, with you, I look forward to calling it good.

Taken from Teach Us to Want by Jen Pollock Michel. Copyright (c) 2014 by Jen Pollock Michel. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515, USA. www.ivpress.com

Big News!

Christianity Today has announced its 2015 Books Awards, and so many wonderful books have been commended, including works of fiction (Lila by Marilynne Robinson) and biography (Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer). What’s In a Phrase? Pausing Where Scripture Gives You Pause by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre won the Spirituality Category, and I’m especially looking forward to reading this book. Also, I’ve heard great things about The Measure of Success: Uncovering the Biblical Perspective on Women, Work, and the Home, which won the Award of Merit in the Her.meneutics category. Of course there are great books that didn’t make the list, too. I’ve written about two of them here and here.

And then there’s this: Teach Us to Want won 2015 Book of the Year.

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Learning to long with the poor and the powerless


“More so than anything, this community, its people and even this pastor are tired. It is a challenge to be hopeful.” Willis Johnson, African American pastor of the Wellspring Church in Ferguson, Missouri, spoke with NPR’s Audie Cornish after a grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson, the officer who fatally shot Michael Brown on August 9.

Tired. That one word from Johnson’s reaction has clung, like a burr, to my Advent reflections. Advent is a season of longing and expectation, a time for cultivating patient faith. Johnson’s fatiguing hope reminds me that nearly two thousands years ago, God delivered on his promise to a tired people, who, though they had returned geographically from exile, still waited. The Messiah had not yet come. They languished under Roman oppression and wondered when God would put the world to rights. Their hopes were on hold—in ways not dissimilar from African Americans today.

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Wholehearted: Jennifer Grant’s new book of daily reflections


It’s the plain-speak that I notice—and admire—immediately in Jennifer Grant’s new book, Wholehearted: Five-Minute Reflections for Modern Moms. Grant, a writing colleague and friend, has written a collection of 365 meditations, and they succeed in being thoughtful and wise without being overly ponderous. I like Grant’s sentences in the way I like crisp, freshly ironed sheets. Of course I don’t iron my sheets, and neither does Grant, if the introduction, entitled “Good Enough and Perfectly Okay” says anything. But perhaps I mean to say there’s simple beauty and hospitality in her words, without all the pretension. “[We] are wrought with contradiction,” Grant affirms on January 2, and that seems like a surprisingly simply but most assuredly graceful way to begin a year. Let’s tell the truth about who we are.

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