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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Filtering by Tag: Found Wanting

Found Wanting: Brook Seekins, "I never wanted to be a missionary in Africa."

jenmichel@me.com

I am curating stories for a blog project called, “Found Wanting.” (If you’d like to submit a guest post, learn more here.) During Jesus’ earthly ministry, it was not uncommon for him to approach the sick and sin-sick with this question: “What do you want?” In John 5, he speaks with a man lying next to the healing waters of Bethesda, a man who has been an invalid for 38 years.

“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’”

The man seizes an excuse. “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.”

Was it too much for this man to hope for healing? What is too great a risk to invite the responsibility for walking again?

There can be fear in desire: fear that we will want what God will always refuse to give; fear that we will not want whatever God, in his sovereignty, chooses to give.

Ultimately, we are profoundly afraid of ceding into the hands of God our trust.

I’m grateful for those willing to share their stories of desire here. In my book, Teach Us to Want, I claim that:

“Desire takes shape in the particularities of our lives. We cannot excerpt desire from the anthology of our stories. Our desires say something about us – who we have been, who we are and who we are becoming. They tell a part of the story that God is telling through us, even the beautiful and complicated story of being human and becoming holy.”

Adams. And Abrahams.

“Genesis is a book of beginnings and blessings. And if it is a book about unfaithful starts – Adam – it is also a book about faithful endings – Abraham. I trust, by grace, that my story (and yours) will, at the end of [our] days, have traveled that distance.”

Today, read a story from Brook Seekins, a missionary in Africa.

* * * * *

I never wanted to be a missionary in Africa.

(Never say “Never!” to God.)

After high school, I spent a school year in Europe as a short-term missionary, and while I was there, I learned to surrender to God and submit myself so that His desires for me became my desires.

I knew exactly what I wanted to do when I returned home from this trip: I wanted to study to be a missionary.

So off to Bible School I went. My goal was to prepare for the mission field. I’d go anywhere but Africa. Many friends thought I was crazy to go into missions. They couldn’t understand this deep-set desire in my heart. Every time a missionary came to speak at school or church, I would drill them with questions.

Finally it was time to graduate and get to work. What to do and where to go? So I waited for the Lord to open doors to mission fields, but nothing opened up. In fact, the only thing that seemed to be glaringly obvious was the need in my home church to work in our Christian School. There I went, following the door that God had clearly opened. Yet, in my heart I was longing to go overseas. I struggled to understand how God would let me sit here in the States, when I desired to be a missionary. So many people would never go overseas, and here I was, ready and willing.

But He wasn’t sending me.

Those four years were confusing and hard. I kept myself involved in several local ministries, but always, my heart was longing for the mission field. I devoured any missionary prayer letter that came my way and hounded any missionary that came to speak in our church.

All the while I was wondering why God wouldn’t let me go and serve Him.

I began to doubt my desire, thinking it was not from the Lord. Maybe this desire for missions was just the sense of adventure to see the world and not a call to serve Him. At one point, I started communicating with a young man whom I had met at a Bible Conference. He was studying to be a pastor, and we became long distance friends. I got to the point that I surrendered this “mission desire” to the Lord and began to consider serving God in the States as a Pastor’s wife. Shortly thereafter, the relationship ended before it had gone very far. But in my heart, I had surrendered the desire of missions to the Lord.

Within a year I could see that He was opening the door for me to go. I began contacting organizations about opportunities to serve, and within months, the Lord quickly opened doors for me. It was like an avalanche of events that all rushed me forward to my departure date --to Africa.

Now, more than ten years later, I am still serving as a missionary in Africa. The Lord has granted me the desire of my heart. In hindsight I can see how much of what I learned during that time when I felt “stuck” in the States are being used in my ministries today.

His desires became my desires. And they were fulfilled in His perfect timing.

My name is Brook Seekins, I serve in Tanzania in Youth Ministries. You can learn more about me on my blog: Yieldtogod.blogspot.com.

Giveaway winner is. . . (and third and final revision to back cover)

jenmichel@me.com

Thanks to everyone who commented on the two potential versions for the back cover of Found Wanting. Your feedback was immensely helpful, and I've tried to reflect much of it in the changes I've made below. As a writer, I know I certainly can't please everyone. (For more evidence of this, scroll through the 106 comments on my political piece from Her.meneutics.) I also know that I may not be ultimately responsible to write the back cover for this book - even to title it, for that matter. But whether or not this back cover copy survives, I'm grateful to have gone through the process of trying to narrow the scope of the book in a few, short paragraphs. And I'm glad to have given you the glimpse at what I'm attempting to do!

Now, onto our giveaway winner: thank you, Mike Venetis, for your comment and amazing marketing advice! I pulled your name this morning and will be sending you a $10 Starbucks card. (By the way, if Hurricane Sandy has taught us anything, it's the importance of emergency preparedness. Check out Mike's website for all you need when catastrophes strike: The Prep Room.)

And here's the third (and final for now) version of the back cover:

Found Wanting: At the Intersection of Faith and Desire

Is desire sinful? Is it selfish to pray for the things I want? Do my desires matter for following God’s will?

We’re confused.

Psychology’s newest experts are now available for hire: wantologists. They are certified to help clients identify what they want and how to get it. But can wantologists clear up the theological complexities of desire? Can they help us understand if desire belongs in a life of surrender?

Devotional author Jen Pollock Michel nudges us toward the risky business of wanting - and praying. Although she knows that life doesn’t always turn out as we want or plan, she believes our willingness to want from God enriches our implicit trust in Him.

This book is meant to increase your faith. You’ll grow more certain of God’s generosity towards you. At the same time, you’ll understand your own tendencies to want - and pray - selfishly. In the final section of the book, you’ll explore the language of the Lord’s Prayer as a template of holy desire and a means for making God’s desires your own.

Teach us to pray, the disciples asked Jesus. And we ask: Teach us to want.

Back Cover Copy (Revised): Tell me what you think!

jenmichel@me.com

First giveaway EVER here on the blog: this is fun for me. I am grateful for the comments I've already received. You can still comment today on what might be the back cover copy for my book. (If you've already commented, you can comment again on the revised copy and have your name entered TWICE.) You're on your way to winning a $10 gift card to Starbucks. Here's take two of the back cover copy: tell me what you think!

* * * * *

Found Wanting: At the Intersection of Desire and Faith

Wantologists are psychology’s newest experts. They help clients identify what they want and how to get it. We’re paying them because we’re confused. And if average Americans are puzzled over questions of desire, imagine the bewilderment of Christians. Isn’t desire selfish? If I’m supposed to find and follow God’s will, can it matter what I want?

Jen Pollock Michel knows that life doesn’t always turn out as we want - or plan. She was 18 when her father died suddenly, 23 when her brother committed suicide. Years later, when she was the mother of three young children and planned for graduate school, Jen learned she was pregnant - with twins.  Her life, with its hatful of surprises, looks a lot like yours and mine. Whether we’d planned to be married, hoped to be parents, or counted on the next job promotion, we’ve met disappointment. Jen admits that life is beyond our control, yet she nudges us toward the risky business of wanting - and praying.

Of course not all we want is good. As a devotional author, Jen brings theological clarity to the complex subject of desire, helping us to identify potential missteps and misunderstandings.  In the final section of the book, she explores the language of the Lord’s Prayer as a template of holy desire and a means for making God’s desires our own. Teach us to pray, the disciples asked Jesus. Jen Pollock Michel adds: Teach us to want.

Back Cover Copy: I'm revealing details about my book!

jenmichel@me.com

I've been talking for months now about the book.  And I've decided that writing a book is a lot like pregnancy. There are months of invisible growth - of gestation  - that advance before anything is visible to others. You, the mother - the writer - are always conscious of how the baby - the book - is growing strong, taking on a movement all of its own. You share secrets - you and the baby, you and the book - that you cherish and nurture with silent awe.

Writing this book hasn't all been secret work. There are a small handful of friends who have been reading what I've been writing. I am grateful for them. And of course Ryan is always my best critic, and I trust him fully to tell me when something is unclear or cliché. He's generous with the tough stuff.

Although I haven't told you much about the book here - just sketched it in bare generalities - today, I'm posting what could be the back cover copy of the book. I want to know what you think.

A back cover, as I'm sure you know, should give a general sense of the book's topic and approach. It should also make you want to read the book.

And that's where I want to you weigh in.

Today, would you do two things for me?

1. Leave a comment here on the blog, giving me some feedback. Be as specific as possible: if you feel like I left out an important dimension of my book's topic, tell me. If a certain sentence packed a punch and grabbed your attention, show me which one. Don't be afraid to criticize. You're the real audience. 

2. Share this post with friends. People who don't know me and haven't been reading here may be my most objective critics. And certainly it can't hurt to gain more exposure as a writer.

I will be shameless and do something I've never done before. Because I'm sitting here in Starbucks (and this is the easiest giveaway I can think of), I'll pick a name randomly from the commenters at the end of the day tomorrow (Nov. 2), and send you a $10 Starbucks gift card.

That's just my way of saying thanks. Now, on to the real task at hand.

* * * * *

Found Wanting: At the Intersection of Desire and Faith 

“We spin, catch, break free, drown and surface, all the while driven by the fickleness of time’s wind and weather. Whatever awaits us tomorrow, it is quite possibly not a scene we have expected, nor an act for which we have prepared.”

Jen Pollock Michel knows that life doesn’t always turn out as we plan. Jen was 18 when her father died suddenly, 23 when her brother committed suicide. Years later, when she planned to begin a second graduate degree, Jen learned she was pregnant - with twins. Jen admits that life is beyond our control, yet she nudges us toward the risky business of wanting - and praying. She illustrates how exploring our desires can deepen our intimacy with God and inspire our participation in his kingdom.

Of course not all that we want is good. While many affirm that we have deserved everything we have wanted, Jesus has called his followers to carry a cross. Lose your life to find it. As a devotional author, Jen brings theological clarity to the complex subject of desire, helping us to identify potential missteps and misunderstandings. In the third part of her book, she explores the language of the Lord’s Prayer as template of holy desire and a means for making God’s desires our own.

Teach us to pray, the disciples asked Jesus. And Jen Pollock Michel adds:

Teach us to want.