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Blog

These are just a few of my musings about faith, formation, culture, and life.

 

Recommended Advent Resources

Jen Michel

Advent Resources - Blog.jpg

By now, you know that I’ve written a free Advent devotional for subscribers to my regular content. The first day’s reading will arrive to inboxes on December 1, which isn’t, of course, the first day of Advent, but . . . (If you somehow missed the announcement about this free resource, you can subscribe here.)

There are many, many wonderful resources to use during Advent, and I’d love to suggest others to you. To curate the list below, I polled people on Facebook and Twitter, including the Facebook group associated with The Pelican Project. (If you don’t know what The Pelican Project is, you’ll want to learn, especially as one of our primary goals is to connect churches, lay leaders, and individuals with theologically rich content.)

Whatever you do, don’t let Advent pass you by as you keep yourself busy with shopping lists, holiday parties, and school concerts. As I write in the reading for December 1:

“If December has its way with us, it will leave us too distracted to look up, as the shepherds did, and notice the blinding glory of the Lord.”


For Purchase

Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Jesus Christ by Fleming Rutledge

Come, Lord Jesus: The Weight of Waiting by Kris Camealy

God Is In The Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Waiting on the Word: A Poem a Day for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. A Collection by Malcolm Guite

The Advent of the Lamb of God by Russ Ramsey

Give Me the Word: Advent and Other Poems by Laura Fabrycky

Advent 2018 Study Book from She Reads Truth

Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas by Nancy Guthrie.

Light Upon Light: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany by Sarah Arthur

Come, Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional by Paul David Tripp

Celebrating Abundance: Devotions for Advent by Walter Brueggemann

Watch for the Light: Collected Readings for Advent and Christmas

Love Came Down at Christmas: Daily Readings for Advent by Sinclair Ferguson

Search “Advent” at Englewood Review of Books to find more titles!

For Children

The Advent Book by Jack and Kathy Stockman

The Littlest Watchman: Watching and Waiting for the Very First Christmas. An illustrated children’s book by Scott James

For Free 

The Advent Project by Biola University

Finding Holy Holidays by Ashley Hales

Advent—An If:Equip Study

Advent Devotional 2018: Blessed Son of God by Philip Ryken, President of Wheaton College

Advent: Christ is Coming! Reading plan on YouVersion

Family Advent Scripture Readings by Courtney Ellis

#IsaiahChristmas: A reading schedule through the Book of Isaiah by Tony Reinke

Seasons: Enter the Story of Jesus by The Village Church

4 Advent Readings by Rebecca Brewster Stevenson

 Advent Meditations by Shannon Baker

An Advent Reading Experience

Jen Michel

My first published writing was devotional writing for Today in the Word,a donor publication of the Moody Bible Institute (also available online). After I had quit my high-school teaching job to stay home with Audrey, my friend, an editor at Today in the Word,asked me to do some very occasional editing for them. Eventually, the team asked me to submit a writing sample. After my first submission, I was very courteously rejected ; a year later, the team asked me to resubmit, and in 2005, my very first devotional was published with Today in the Word—a 31-day walk through the book of Esther. (If you’re interested in reading that month’s study, you can begin here.) Since then, I’ve written one or two issues each year for Today in the Word, sometimes on books of the Bible (Judges, Ruth, the Minor Prophets, Luke) and sometimes on various topics (Fear, Home, Desire). Every assignment has been the best kind of excuse to study Scripture and find succinct ways of relaying its truths. 

More recently, Moody Bible Institute has decided to have Moody professors write their devotional. This ends my devotional writing responsibilities for them, but it opens up some new invitations elsewhere.

Tell me a story..jpg


With some of this restless energy in me, I’ve written an Advent devotional for my regular content subscribers, taking them through the month of December (through the 25th) and through the story of Jesus’s first coming. It’s my gift to you and one way I hope to help you spend intentional time throughout December reflecting on the story of Christ’s coming to earth.

 The days’ readings will be short (400-500 words), and I hope they’ll focus us on God in a distracted season. I’ll also offer a short prayer as well as a portion of Scripture to read. It’s not meant to be an onerous assignment but rather a quiet way to keep time with the time-keeping God who, “when the fullness of time had come, sent forth his Son” (Gal. 4:4).


You can subscribe to receive these daily Advent emails here.You’ll also be subscribed to my monthly-ish newsletter, which is the most regular content I’m providing for my readers these days. 

 

 

 

On Reading the Bible

Jen Michel

I didn't know the habit would become a lifetime's work. But I'm grateful..jpg

I was sixteen when I started to read the Bible daily. I can remember visiting the Christian bookstore after summer camp and choosing The Quiet Time Companion from the shelves, a systematic reading guide with interpretive helps, questions, and applications. I was a new Christian and had been encouraged to read the Bible every day for the next six months in hopes that the habit would stick. And though I was committed to the task, I also felt as every new reader of the Bible feels: daunted by the immensity of this ancient book.

I’ve been reading the Bible regularly now for more than twenty years. This isn’t to say that I haven’t missed days and weeks, sometimes even months, but it is to say that this book, more than any other, is responsible for forming me. In fact, it keeps delighting and surprising me—even confounding me (as I talk about it my next book, Surprised by Paradox). The Bible has become, as Jesus said it would, food on which I have come to daily depend. Which is why, as often as I have opportunity to say it, I try saying this: reading the Bible regularly is my most important spiritual habit. I don’t believe that we can know God, ourselves, or the nature of the kingdom coming without regular intake of this book. 

But what does the regular habit of intake look like?

I’ve thought to share with you what it looks like for me to read the Bible and actually take it in. I don’t believe that my way is the best way or the only way, but it is way. And sometimes you just need a way to get started, just as I did at 16 when I picked up The Quiet Time Companion at my local Christian bookstore. In his book, Hearing God, Dallas Willard wrote that “it is better in one year to have ten good verses transferred into the substance of our lives than to have every verse of the Bible pass before our eyes.” And that’s really the point of this post, to ask you about your habits, not just of reading the Bible, but allowing the words of God to be transferred into the substance of your life. Because Bible reading isn’t about accumulating arcane facts that will help you win at Bible trivia (although I do know the name of Moses’ mother). Rather, it’s a habit that forms us into the desires of God: we begin to love as he loves, even hate as he hates. 

In these final days of October, I am coming to the final pages of my Bible reading journal, which I started April 9, 2017. Tucked into the middle of my Bible (I read the NLT translation of the One Year Bible) is a small post-it note where I’ve scribbled down some reminders of how Martin Luther read the Bible. First, he looked to the Bible for instruction.Then, he looked to the Bible for thanksgiving.Third, he looked to the Bible for confession.And finally, he looked to the Bible for prayer. In other words, he saw the Bible as:

-      “a school text”

-      “a song book”

-      “a penitential book”

-      “a prayer book”

Although I discovered Luther’s ideas long after I had been a regular reader of the Bible (I found this is Tim Keller’s excellent book, Prayer), I realized that I, too, tended to write down similar observations from my Bible reading: what I’m learning about the nature of God, what I’m discovering about my own sin, what I’m learning about the redemptive work of God through history, what I’m learning about my own calling.

A quick glance through the pages of my journal reminds me of all the life we’ve lived in the last year and a half: I released a book, help coordinate major church initiatives, bought a house, started a house renovation, wrote a third book, continued raising five children.

  • Reading my reflections remind me of the angst I’ve had these many years of impermanence in Toronto—and how I found consolation in the fact that the Levites, too, had no permanent land holdings. (Numbers 18:10: “In their land you shall have no estate, and no portion shall you have in their midst.”)

  • As I turned pages, I read prayers for suffering friends—and the promises of God that I’ve claimed on their behalf. (Ps. 56:8: “You have kept count of my tossings, put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?”)

  • As I’ve faced difficult career decisions, I’ve been reminded, again and again, that the true vocation of the Christian is praise. (Ps. 33:1, “Praise befits the upright.”)

  • There have been anxious, worrisome times where I’ve asked to stand guard. (In Robert Alter’s translation of the Psalms, “guard” occurs six times in Ps. 121: “Your guard does not slumber,” v.3; “He does not slumber or sleep, Israel’s guard,” v. 4; “The Lord is your guard,” v. 5; “The Lord guards you from all harm,” v. 7; “He guards your life,” v. 7; “The Lord guards your coming and your going, now and forevermore,” v.8.)

  • Halfway through the journal I switched to writing with the lovely fountain pen, given to me by a friend, the ink itself serving as reminder of God’s goodness.

  • I even occasionally read prayers of resolution—like this one, after we’d purchased our house in Toronto. “This is a gift: this house, these answered prayers, this permanence; this lukewarm shower, this hard-to-regular thermostat, this smaller space, these close quarters, this detached garage.”

The journal is a written record of conversation: God talking to me, me talking back. It’s nothing extraordinarily deep because that’s not the point.

The point is keeping company with God.

Maybe that’s a longing you have, but you’re not sure where to begin. Here are a couple of thoughts for getting started regularly reading the Bible:

1.    Find a plan. There are any numbers of ways of systematically reading the Bible. (You can find some here.) Get yourself a plan, and stick to it. It takes the thinking out of “What should I read?” And trust me, it’s the thinking that’s harder than the actual reading.

 2.   Find a partner. Tell someone that you’re starting a goal of regular Bible reading. The best thing is to enlist them to do it with you! The next best thing is to ask them to check in with you, to see how you’re doing. Accountability is key to meeting goals.

 3.   Find a purpose. Go to Scripture and expect God to speak. Then write down what you discover!

a.    What does he say about himself?

b.    What does he say about humanity?

c.    How does the passage illuminate the gospel?

Jen Wilkin offers a number of excellent questions in her book, Women of the Word.

4.    Find a prayer. Remember that God speaks to us, and faith is the act of response. Talk back to him!

a.    If God shows you his generosity, ask him to provide.

b.    If God shows you his faithfulness, ask him to help you trust.

c.    If God shows you his holiness, ask him to forgive.

d.    If God shows you his mission, ask him to commission and send!

I was sixteen when a pastor at summer camp told those of us who had committed our lives to Christ to commit to some new spiritual habits, including reading the Bible 10 minutes every day. I didn’t know the habit would become a lifetime’s work—but I’m grateful. 

I wonder what God might have for you: if you started giving him 10 minutes of your day’s attention.

Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.


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