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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Filtering by Tag: New Year's Resolutions

Books to read in 2013

Feeling ambitious as I do in the first week of January, I've written the list of books I'd like to read in 2013. There is absolutely no guarantee that I will stick to this list or finish it. In fact, the only guarantee is that I'll do neither. BUT, I still think it's a helpful exercise (or so I tell myself) to make a list like this. I suppose the goal is to orient me toward deliberately good reading: deliberate because I've given myself in this list a reminder of those books I've heard or read about, good because all of these books are worth reading either for their style or content. And the final reason for writing and posting this list is that I hope you'll keep me accountable to reading them! In fact, if you're interested, I can certainly post a short blurb after I finish each of these books - but I dare not call them "reviews" or else I'll have a project bigger than I want to tackle.

Happy reading in 2013!



Raising Cain: Dan Kindlon, Michael Thompson

The Meaning of Marriage: Tim Keller

Grace-Based Parenting: Tim Kimmel

No Ordinary Home: Carol Brazo


Spiritual Growth/Theology

The Fruitful Life: Gerald Bridges

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness: Tim Keller

After You Believe: N.T. Wright

Counterfeit Gods: Tim Keller

Desiring the Kingdom: James K.A. Smith

Radical Hospitality: Benedict’s Way of Love. Father Daniel Homan

Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer. Eugene Peterson

The Lord and His Prayer: N.T. Wright


Anthropology/History/Cultural Commentary

unChristian: David Kinnamon

Death of Adam: Marilynne Robinson

Bad Religion: Ross Douthat:

When God Talks Back: T.M. Luhrmann

Dearest Friend: A Life of Abigail Adams. Lynne Withey

Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community: Wendell Berry

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction: Alan Jacobs



The Girl in the Orange Dress: Margot Starbuck

Still: Lauren Winner

One Writer’s Beginnings: Eudora Welty

Walden: Henry David Thoreau

The Confessions of St. Augustine

Man’s Search for Meaning: Viktor Frankl

The Seven Storey Mountain: Thomas Merton



Middlemarch: George Eliot

The Second Coming: Walker Percy

Wolf Hall: Hilary Mantel

Bring Up the Bodies: Hilary Mantel

Caleb’s Crossings: Geraldine Brooks

Housekeeping: Marilynne Robinson

Saint Maybe: Anne Tyler

Moby Dick: Herman Melville

Cutting for Stone: Abraham Verghese









Time in proper perspective: What the Bible says about the past

Getting time into proper perspective is one way to live life well.  “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom,” prays Moses in Psalm 90:12. Modern society is hustled by time: we feel the burden of it in ways that generations before us haven’t. And despite all our priorities for “saving time,” we are oriented in all the wrong ways toward it: we may save our minutes, but is this any guarantee that we aren’t wasting our years? What does the Bible have to say about time, and what does this mean for a New Year? Today, I’ll consider what the Bible has to say about the past.

In Biblical time, the past only matters as a record of God’s faithfulness. We aren’t meant to live tethered to our yesterdays, especially when they become for us a source of self-accusation.

The long list of our past failures – the record of the moral debt that we all owe to God and to neighbor – is, if we are in Christ, nailed to the cross from which He hung. This is immensely good news. 2012 is under our feet, and if we want to look back, it should not be to rehearse our sins and tear open the wounds of guilt, which the Scriptures teach Someone has died to heal:

“[Jesus Christ] wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities and upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace.

By his stripes we are healed.”

Because of Christ, God’s memory is deliberately short when it comes to keeping record of what it is we owe Him (Psalm 103:11, 12). And if God chooses to erase yesterday’s record, why would we insist upon rewriting it?

No, the only real reason to look back is to rehearse the acts of grace. God has been faithful, active, and present in the past. And this is always true, whether we believe it or not, feel it or not.

2012 may have carried with it some unwelcome news, a host of disappointments, even deep and profound sadness. It may seem like the biggest leap of faith to proclaim the presence of God in a year of barren darkness.

But it is always by faith that we proclaim God’s redemptive work.

And if 2012 has inaugurated a season of joy, if the past year has ushered in accomplishments, answered prayers, new friendships and more blessed change, may we each with gratitude receive the good gifts, which to us from Above have fallen.

Because whether life has been good to us or not in the past year, it is by faith that we embrace and proclaim the goodness of God.

“You are good, and what you do is good,” (Psalm 119:68).

This is the theological certainty we need for all dimensions of time.









Reflection: The necessary preliminary for New Year's Resolutions

We've home from our holiday travel, and this evening, we'll welcome guests for the next four days. Today is our day to grocery shop, unpack and generally get life back together after our ten days away. And because it is December 29, I'm in the mood for making New Year's Resolutions. It's probably more true that I don't make resolutions so much as I attend prayerfully to the desires that I have for the coming year and how God has been at work in me and in our family in the recent past. A New Year isn't always so much about momentous change as it can be a recommitment of purpose (and the incremental transformation that happens as a result). The real question to be asking, whether it's a New Year or not, is: how do I commit myself more deliberately to participating with God and His current activity in my life?

Before setting goals (and I believe in goals), I think an important preliminary is to reflect on the year we've put under our feet.

Before we determine where we might want to go, let's first consider where we've been.

I've found a really helpful set of questions at written by Tsh Oxenreider of I've been journalling through the questions myself, and I'd encourage you to create some space and time this weekend (before you jump into your resolutions!) to reflect on your 2011. I'll write more next week on the themes of commitment, purpose, and goals, which are all ways that we advance forward with God. But first, do this:

Pause. Linger. Listen.

Attend to the year that's behind you, in all of its joys and disappointments, expectations and achievements, losses and loves.

Some of my favorite questions from Tsh's inventory are:

What was an unexpected joy this past year?

What was an unexpected obstacle?

What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?

What was the best way you used your time this past year?

You can find the complete list of questions here. And let me know what you learn from your look back!