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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

I got a job

Ben Goshow

This is my big news. I'm officially employed (15 hours/week). This does NOT change my intention to write. In fact, I'm hoping the work I do enhances what I write.

I find there is a delicate balance to the writing life. On the one hand, you can let life get so surly that it forces you to relinquish the discipline of quiet so critical to the writing life. You become too busy to attend to the deeper questions and curiosities that (well, at least for me) drive these words. On the other hand, you get become so isolated in search of quiet that you have little to nothing to say. You wax eloquent about real world problems when the only real world you experience is the view from your desk into your backyard. (Annie Dillard once explained that writers write so often about their childhood because it's the only "real" experience they can remember having.)

I suppose I didn't need a job to keep my life from getting too isolated. And true, there is little fear that I have too much quiet in my life, at least not now, not with summer days and a house full of children who's newest game is running through the house, using the intercom system on our cordless phones to play a version of hide-and-seek where the ultimate goal is to keep hidden from the five-year-olds.

And still, I need my writing life to find a backbone of praxis, or practice, which can give these words meaning. God forbid I dole out advice that I myself refuse to follow. God forbid I become the noisy gong or clanging cymbal of the blogosphere that has fallen in love with the sound of her voice and forgotten the real reason we ever speak at all. God forbid I write and forget to love.

If I want to continue writing (and I do), I've decided I need life in its most robust sense: people and their problems, a network of relational obligations, a team to which I contribute. If I want to write (and I do), I have to connect myself profoundly with Christ's body, resisting every virulent strain of self-sufficiency and self-reliance. If I want to write (and I do), I need to fight the lurking arrogance of needing no one.

I can't write alone.

I need the church.

And so it is that I've joined the staff at my church as Children's Ministry Director: the circumstances were providential. If there's time this week, I'll detail them more specifically. But let me simply say taking this job feels beautiful and prophetic and reassures me that I learned something as I wrote my book, Teach Us to Want. I've argued there that praying the Lord's Prayer forms in us holy desire for God and his kingdom. I've written that book - and found that I've grown more deeply into my love for Christ and His church. Thank you, Father. That will have been worth it.

I'll except from the manuscript in closing today.

"To live in and for kingdom is an grace-inspired effort to recycle the blessings of God, “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10, 11). Living for the kingdom can be as simple as the willingness to extend a cup of cold water to whomever God wills, and the gospel can be reenacted in our small acts of love .

 The kingdom test—is what I want good?—centers less on the content of what we do. Each of us can live kingdom lives as plumbers and preachers, mothers and writers. A more helpful criterion may be intention: whose name? whose glory? Kingdom is for Jesus, to Jesus, in Jesus, and with Jesus. It’s the way out of Babylon.

And even though each of us has a role to play in the advancement of Christ’s kingdom, it does not ever fully depend on us - thank God. “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come” (Mark 4:26-29). The kingdom is established by God’s work, not ours. We’re just invited to play.

And playing—and praying for the kingdom to come—we learn to want it when it arrives."