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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

June Mash-up: What I've been reading and writing

There are three weeks left of the school year, which of course means that I'm complaining, like every other mother, about how ridiculously busy this time of year is. There are school concerts (and piano lessons to reschedule because of school concerts.) There are writing deadlines and graduation ceremonies, school projects, and speaking engagements. And there was recently a family birthday, which, despite efforts at simplicity, tended toward the pomp and circumstance of a national holiday. Per the usual for this time of year, I struggle to trust God and his infinite resources as life hurls itself mercilessly at me. I have to preach to myself daily that the God who clothes the flowers and feeds the birds will surely not forget me (cf. Matthew 6).

As a kind of mash-up of what I've been writing and reading (because that's about the best I can do right now!), here are some things to draw to your attention:

Books I've been reading:

Trillia Newbell's new book, Fear and Faith: Trillia reminds us that the gospel is the only thing to loosen the grip of fear. If you struggle with chronic fears (ok, who doesn't?), this book is Scripturally rich and full of hope.

Courtney Reissig's new book, The Accidental Feminist: I love this idea from the introduction — "Caricatures of womanhood are what get us into trouble. When we reduce womanhood to the tasks we accomplish, or cultural expectations, or talents or personality traits, we are doing a disservice to women everywhere." I don't have to be Superwoman. And neither do you.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer's, Life Together: I have the privilege of speaking on the chapter, "The Day Alone," at a retreat this upcoming weekend. It's a rich reminder that despite our busyness, we can't forsake a daily time of meeting with God. It is the "day alone," which fits us for participation in the greater community. "Let him who cannot be alone beware of community."

Leslie Jamison's, The Empathy Exams: On why empathy expresses itself as good listening. "Empathy isn't just remembering to say that must be really hard—it's figuring out how to bring difficulty into the light so it can be seen at all. Empathy isn't just listening, it's asking the questions whose answers need to be listened to. Empathy requires inquiry as much as imagination." (Pre-order Adam McHugh's new book on listening. I think it will be good!)

There are many more books on home I'm reading for my second book. In fact, I've recently paid nearly $30 in overdue library fines. Too many titles to include here, although I am really appreciating Witold Rybczynski's, Home: A Short History of an Idea.

Essays I've recently written:

"Is This What Love Looks Like?" This seems to have struck a cultural nerve. I hope you'll find the time to read and even share with someone facing the decision to marry (or the temptation to divorce). "The only biblical model for marriage we have isn't equity; it's self-sacrifice."

"Finding My Place in the Gospel Coalition" I wrote this as a woman sensing the inherent challenges of navigating certain conservative theological contexts. There was fear and trepidation in writing this, but I am glad to have given voice to a struggle that many women have.

"The Bloody Business of Killing Sin" - I gathered some of what I'd learned during Lent this year in this piece, most specifically wisdom I gleaned from Puritan John Owen's, Overcoming Sin and Temptation.

"When 'Sanctity of Life' Includes the Right to Choose Death" - Probably the most important piece I think I've written in the last several months, this interview with Dr. Ewan Golligher highlights an important legal change in Canada and the implication for Christian doctors. I wrote this to serve my church and city.

"How to Find Your Calling" - I offer 5 simple clues for discerning calling. I won't pretend it's a formula, but I do think these ideas bear out biblically.

And an update on the state of my book manuscript:

You may or may not know that I'm writing a book about home. If you happen to be interested in the current state of the manuscript, I liken it to a closet in the state of spring cleaning. I had six chapters written, meaning I had put away a lot of words. But with some helpful feedback from an early reader, I decided the arrangement didn't work, which of course has required taking everything out and reorganizing. It's going to feel SO good when everything is put away again. I feel confident I know where to put it all. But right now, there are piles everywhere, reminding me that:

There are no shortcuts in writing. It takes tremendous courage to revise. Writing is the least economical trade.

If you're a writer and looking for some helpful advice, this piece on William Zinsser, which ran at The Gospel Coalition, is fantastic!