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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Filtering by Tag: Rachel Held Evans

On being double digits: Happy 10th birthday, Nathan!

It's been a good year. Between the ages of nine and ten, Nathan has returned to hugging and kissing me. He's not even wiping off the wet ones. I do not know to what I owe this this tectonic shift of affection, but I certainly won't complain. It's a beautiful thing to say that you enjoy your child's company - and mean it. And I can say that it's true that I am enjoying Nathan and the young man that he's becoming. It's become routine in the last several weeks that he come and find me before bed, appease my request for a kiss, and head upstairs. He disappears around the corner, only to peek his head back into view after a few seconds.

"Bonne nuit!" he says with a grin, then disappears again.

"Bonne nuit!" He has reappeared: an apparition with a grin. "Bonne nuit!"he says with emphasis, as if this time, it's for real.

And there may be five or ten more repetitions of this goodnight charade (which, most nights, I find amusing) before finally, I hear him obediently climb the stairs. Upstairs, his door creaks open, and I imagine him climbing high into his bunk bed, keeping watchful eye over his little brothers below.

Over the last year, Nathan has grown into the love and loyalty of that are characteristic of big brothers. With Andrew and Colin, he's especially helpful, kind, and patient. (I can't comment on his treatment of his sisters here. This is a birthday blessing, you know.)

Andrew and Colin mirror his every move. If Nathan takes a morning shower and combs his hair flat, Andrew must have his hair combed in exactly the same way. If Nathan wears soccer cleats, Colin wants soccer cleats. If Nathan forgets to kiss the twins at school drop-off, they run after him. He always obliges

Andrew and Colin desperately want Nathan's love and affirmation - they need to know how to do the big boy thing.

Nathan will continue to be the best kind of teacher.

If there is a memory I might cherish most from the past year, it's from earlier this fall when we went together as a family to a special prayer gathering for our church. Ryan was out of town; a sitter kept the twins. We were just four that night, but it was a critical mass for the smaller groups into which they split us for the evening.

Huddled together and hearing my children pray that night - especially Nathan - with Scripture as their guide and earnest requests as their supplications, I, like Moses, felt the need to remove my shoes.

This speaks to how mothering really feels. It is often this kind of holy work - only you stand aside, apart from the real event.

Something's ablaze; it's just not a fire that you ignited.

Father, continue your good work in our son, Nathan. He has been a gift, and we are grateful.




Eshet Chayil: Good news from Rachel Held Evans

There is much to say about Rachel Held Evans’s recently released book, The Year of Biblical Womanhood. So much, in fact, is already being said that I’m reticent to add more noise to that - spirited - conversation. (In full disclosure, I've pitched a piece to another blog that addresses some of the misguided assumptions of that conversation. Stay tuned.) But in case you’re not up on the debate and want to be, here are some fabulous reviews to read about Evans’s yearlong experiment at womanhood according to (what she calls) the standard of biblical literalism.

I may not agree with everything that these reviewers have said, but I think they present important points and represent some of the major dimensions of the debate.

New Testament Scholar Ben Witherington finds praise for The Year of Biblical Womanhood

Kathy Keller, at the Gospel Coalition blog, disputes Evans's approach

Rachel Held Evans responds to Kathy Keller

Matthew Anderson's even-handedly review at Mere Orthodoxy

Of course, what I suggest most vigorously is not that you read reviews but that you read the book. And why? Because if you're a Christian woman, you have a stake in the debate over Biblical womanhood. Evans doesn't say all there is to say; in fact, there is much she leaves out, and there are real problems with her approach and conclusion. But whether or not I agree or disagree with Evans, I concede that she figures importantly into this conversation.

And there are winsome and beautiful parts to what I would describe as an otherwise theologically troubled book. I find much on which I can agree with Evans. And most of all, I want to publicly thank her for assuaging the guilty Proverbs 31 conscience of many contemporary Christian women, under whose prescriptive weight we have flagged.

By exposing the myth that Proverbs 31 has meant to prescribe biblical womanhood, Evans reclaims its original intent: to praise women.

"Eshet chayil [woman of valour] is at its core a blessing - one that was never meant to be earned, but to be given, unconditionally. . . In Jewish culture, husbands commit each line of the poem to memory, so they can recite it to their wives at the Sabbath meal usually in a song.

I dig this interpretation - probably because I, like you, know my own failures intimately. I see weakness, rather than strength. I am attuned to my failures more than my successes. My inner voice chides and corrects, scolds like the finger-wagging mother that my mother never was but that I have become.

We need blessing, all of us, and this is fundamental to the gospel project. When God came to Abraham and preached the gospel, he said this: "I will bless you, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."

Public blessing  - especially for the members of our very own families - is a great gift of love. It is an expression of the gospel of living water - it slakes our thirst for affirmation. We need to hear that more is true of us than failure and deficiency and falling short. We need grace.

Tomorrow, I'll continue a blog tradition and will bless a child who is celebrating his birthday.

"Mom, will you write on your blog about me tomorrow?" Nathan asked last night as he headed up to bed.

He must be looking forward to those words of blessing.

As would I.

Eshet chayil!



eBook review: What Christian Women Want This Election

Mitt Romney has “binders full of women” that he’ll need to open in a couple of weeks -  because it’s likely American women who are deciding this presidential election. The gender pay gap, abortion, access to contraceptives: these are only a handful of the issues that the candidates are talking about in their efforts to win women voters.

But the issues I care about aren’t limited to those I’ve cited, largely because my faith as well as my gender influences my vote.

This is why I chose to read Her.meneutics new eBook, What Christian Want This Election Season -  and why I recommend it to you. First, I appreciated that the book captures the real tension of voting “Christianly.” In the essay entitled, “What Do Evangelical Women Want This Election Season,” author Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra explores the ongoing political tension for Christian voters. Is fighting poverty and other social ills more important than standing against abortion and gay marriage? Appreciating the Christian convictions that undergirds both Democratic and Republican political commitment challenges us not just to tolerate one another, but deeply honor each other despite our political differences.

And Rachel Held Evans implores women to follow a honor code this election season in her essay, “Why We Can All Opt Out of the War on Women.” “The decisions we make – for ourselves, for our families, for our churches, for society – rarely fall into neat and tidy categories of liberal or conservative.” Evans argues that politicians want to divide women, exploiting us as “spoils in a political war.” “While we should certainly speak up for what we think is right, as followers of Jesus, war is not an option.” This is a message that resonates with me, a woman embattled by the Mommy Wars. I’m grateful for her reminder.

What I may have gained most, though, from What Christian Women Want This Election Season is historical perspective. Elesha Coffman writes, “A Brief History of the Evangelical Woman’s Vote,” which explains the historical trends of both the female and evangelical vote. (Did you know Billy Graham was a registered Democrat?) Historical evidence confirms that we as voters are products of our era, regional culture, and race, and that is properly sobering when we’re ready to go to blows over political “principles.”

Anna Broadway’s essay, “Health-Care Reform and the God of Salvation” was of particular interest to me, especially now that I live in Canada, where government-funded health care is available to everyone. If there is a political issue that is driving me this election, health care is it. Broadway provides theological perspective for a very complicated issue and reminds us more broadly that, “Orthodoxy is not defined by what positions we or others take on the law, but by the creeds. Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” I might have wished, however, that Broadway considered the real failures of our current system, rather than simply identifying the weaknesses of the Affordable Care Act.

Another essay of interest was Trillia Newbell’s piece, “Why This Black Christian No Longer Toes the Democratic Party Line.” She challenges us to consider how race often trumps our Christian identity when we vote, and she cites her reasons for breaking with the Democratic party. Alongside Newbell, the editors may have done well to include a similar story of demographic breaking with the Republican party. (Maybe that’s the essay I should have written.)

Sarah Pulliam Bailey ends the book with her interviews with Condoleeza Rice, Nikki Haley, and Michele Bachmann. I don’t know that you’d hear these speak so candidly about their faith elsewhere, which is another reason for acknowleding What Christian Woman Want This Election Season as a unique and important resource.

I found Her.meneutics first eBook helpful and even-handed, and I’ll look forward to more like it in the future. While it can do only as much as a short eBook can do, it manages to succeed in framing some of the bigger political complexities facing Christian women as they vote. For women like me who are eager to dig further into the details, they may be think in future eBooks to include a list of additional resources. Overall, What Christian Women Want This Election Season is a book I recommend, as it is well worth $4.99 and a couple of hours on the couch.

And if you're interested in knowing how I'll vote this election, catch me at Her.meneutics Monday, October 22.