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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Filtering by Tag: Toronto

Breaking the Bread of Belief: Feast

I drive - and find epiphany. Epiphany is, of course, a sudden and surprising bolt of illumination. Sudden and surprising are fitting words for describing Toronto’s skyline, especially when viewing it from the Don Valley Parkway.

Recently, I am on the Eastern side of the city, traveling the DVP, which, true to its name, descends and climbs out of the Don River Valley. I’m heading south, descending into the valley and hugging the curves of the valley, and then I begin to climb. I make the curve.

Unannounced, Toronto, architecturally soaring above the treeline, blazes its hello.

Every time, I catch that view, I catch my breath and feel strangely proud of this skyline, this city where I live. Yes, I’m a stranger here, and strangely impermanent. But I feel, unexpectedly, unwittingly, the tenacity of my belonging to Toronto and its belonging to me. And belonging feels a lot like love, because Toronto, stretched across the horizon, stirs me to pray.

I surrender myself to whatever you choose to give.

This is a version of the prayer I pray in the ultrasound appointment when, nearly seven years ago, I learn I am unexpectedly carrying twins. This is the prayer that has sustained a long season of waiting - hidden years when it has seemed most necessary to me to give my fullest attention to my family and lay aside desires for other kinds of ministry. I have loved those years. I have been grateful for what they have done in me.

But that intense season of mothering is giving way, and while I still feel actively involved in the lives of my children, I am finding time for this new calling to write.

This brings me to the fourth word in my “Breaking the Break of Belief” series.


First, beginning. This word reminds me of the purposeful architecture of my story – and yours. In him, we live and move and have our being, wrote the Apostle Paul.

Second, dust. This word situates me in the story. I am human. Frail. Small.

Third, home. This word orients me toward the ache of homecoming – and eternal hope.

And now, for the fourth word.



(Image courtesy of Joetography)

I love to eat. And can think of almost nothing better than my family and friends gathered around a table, where the hour and love grow long and we discover, in the plenty of food and conversation, the deep satisfaction of our pulsing, aching desire to know and be known.


Genesis opens with a feast. God spreads a table for his first guests, Adam and Eve, with the plenty of the garden and the cool night conversation they share.

Revelation ends with a feast, where the conversation around the table rises to a roar of praise.

“Hallelujah! . . . for the marriage of the Lamb has come.”

Feast. It’s a picture of the consummation of faith and of the plenty those will enjoy whose appetite has been for the unseen.

Heaven is this: a feast, where, at the end of the table, Jesus will stand, bruised and beautiful for us, and raise his glass, toasting His Father and the finished plan of redemption.


It's a word of looking forward, a word to galvanize the courage of whatever surrender today asks of us - Father, whatever you give, we choose to embrace.

Feast. Nothing we give up or lose in this life will compare to the plenty prepared for us.

It's not always that far, this mission of God

I believe in keeping our stories. I believe in the great good of inspiration that comes when we sweep over the broad landscape of our lives and mine the divine artifacts that confirm Who’s been along for the ride The present sometimes offers no more than faint, dim impressions of God with us. But the past has a way of clarifying that picture, of bringing it into better focus.

Sometimes God’s goodness is most clear in the rearview mirror.

Yes, keep your story. Please. Don’t forget.

And blogging is good for this. I regularly tell people to blog. It forces your attentiveness towards life. It makes you do the work of reflective living, which is more than just living and more than mere reflection. I like that both-and proposition of blogging.

But then, of course, there can be real fatigue you begin to feel when all you hear is the sound of your own voice ringing inside your head. Can someone, SOMEONE please interrupt this monologue -because I’ve already said a lot, TOO MUCH, and I’m all worn out on these words, bored straight through by my own wooden thoughts.

I wonder when it is I’ll meet Joan Didion’s fate, which Caitlin Flanagan illumined in her Atlantic piece, “The Autumn of Joan Didion.”

“Ultimately, Joan Didion’s crime –artistic and personal – is the one of which all of us will eventually be convicted: she got old. Her writing got old, her perspective got old, her bag of tricks didn’t work anymore.”

I’m ecstatic to say that today, I get to tell a story that’s not my own.

I’ve written a piece that runs today at Christianity Today’s “This is Our City” blog. At TIOC, they feature stories of “the new generation of Christians [who] believes God calls them to seek shalom in their cities. These Christians are using their gifts and energies in all sectors of public life – commerce, government, technology, the arts, media, and education – to bring systematic renewal to the cultural “upstream” and to bless their neighbors in the process. No longer on the sidelines of influence, emboldened by the belief that Jesus loves cities, they model a distinctly evangelical civic engagement for the 21st century. . . They all have stories worth telling. [And] wherever we live, we can learn something from these cities about faithfulness to our own place.”

I love the premise of “This is Our City.” I love that it prompts us to think about our place and what it means to be faithful to Christ in that place. Because can’t we overthink what it means to be people who love Jesus and are committed to the gospel? Can’t we get all tied up into knots of uncertainty, finding ourselves paralyzed by inaction because the WORLD IS SO BIG AND WOUNDED? Just where are we supposed to find our place in all that global hurting? Maybe we fail to see that so often, what God has for us to do and be is just beyond the front door. It’s not always that far, this mission of God.

It might even be local.

“This is Our City” captures those local stories – big and small – of people who are being faithful to their place. And these stories remind us that when the gospel came to Abraham, it was the grand and surprising announcement that he would be blessed and become a blessing.

What would happen if all of us took that proclamation into our place? If we could discover the confidence that God wants to bless us? If we could receive our blessings as the means by which to bless others?

I’ve written the story of Ins Choi who, as an artist, in partnership with his church, has blessed the city of Toronto. You can read it here. And it’s without reluctance that I ask you to share this story from the TIOC site because I think it’s a story meant to inspire the re-envisioning of the gospel for the city. It’s a story of particular interest to artists, who aren’t often discipled in what the gospel can mean for their vocation.  And it’s a story that can be important for pastors as they think about how to help the artists in their congregations move forward with confidence into their calling.