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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Filtering by Tag: blogging

6 Reasons This Blog Has Gone Cold

jenmichel@me.com

Fall leaves Well-known Christian blogger, Tim Challies, recently posted his list of favorite blogs by (and for) women. At the end of his list, he noted how many of the blogs had gone cold.

In response to Challies, three women (each of whom I sincerely admire) wrote a response to Challies, explaining the reasons female bloggers tend to publish less consistently than their male counterparts.

Hannah Anderson: "One reason that conservative female bloggers struggle to publish consistently is because we tend to blog outside organized ministry while our male counterparts write from within it. Certainly, not every male theological blogger is employed in ministry, but many do serve as full-time pastors, directors of para-church organizations, seminary professors, and students preparing for a theological career. You don’t find many male engineers, doctors, mathematicians, or police officers blogging in this same niche.

On the other hand, the majority of conservative female bloggers do not blog from a ministry context. Rarely are they employed by a church; they are not even pursuing a “career” in this field. By and large, they are lay women—homemakers, teachers, graphic designers, and writers who simply have an aptitude and interest in theology."

Courtney Reissig: "Women are confronted with [the constraints of their life seasons] more acutely. So much of our writing in the blogosphere is born out of our life experiences, and though helpful, there are some life experiences that do not afford the time needed to write about them (i.e. small children, pregnancy, caring for aging parents, etc.) . . . There are a myriad of other daily responsibilities that also require their full attention. Even if they are compelled to write out of their experiences, those very experiences keep them from putting the proverbial pen to paper."

Megan Hill: "Why do women’s blogs go cold? I suspect that sometimes they don’t go cold so much as they go warm—their burners turned down to low, slow-cooker-style, while a thought or an experience bastes in the juices, to emerge tender and flavorful after a time.

But the blogosphere is better suited to value-meal burgers than twelve-hour pot roasts. . . [Its] pace, daunting for the most unencumbered single man, is killing for multi-tasking women trying to balance it all."

* * * * *

There is not much to add to what Anderson, Reissig and Hill have already said quite well. But if only to clarify to readers around these parts why I haven't blogged in an eon (or two), let me list the reasons I've been finding it difficult to make time for this aspect of my writing life.

1. I've been promoting my book, Teach Us to Want. This year, between April and June, I wrote an enormous amount of material. Little of it showed up here. I created a Bible study for my book, wrote answers for written interviews, and developed essays for various outlets on the subject of desire in the context of faith. I spoke to radio hosts and traveled for (just a few) book signings. This was, and continues to be, a major part of the current writing that I'm doing. As you might imagine, it has crowded out the time needed to develop blog content.

2. I've been working at my church. One thing I've felt to be important, as I've transitioned to more regular, public writing, is continued presence and participation in my local church. When I finished the first draft of the book in August, 2013, my pastors approached me about becoming the Director of Children's Ministry for our church. I said yes. It's been enormously rewarding, and I've been thrilled to serve alongside our faithful volunteers. But I won't lie and say that it hasn't been time-consuming. Only recently have I decided to officially resign my position and create more space - first, for my family, and second, for my writing. I'm glad for the year's experience. I'm also happy to be settled into a more focused approach to life.

3. I have five kids. This is the terrific reason I'm afforded much grace in my life. I won't deny that being the mother of a large brood of children handily excuses you from forgetting things (like orthodontist appointments), arriving late, and in this case, blogging too infrequently. The truth is, our lives are always changing around here. The kids are needing me in different ways, and I'm continuing to try to make myself available to them. This takes time, and I can't see my way around that. I want to be faithful in serving my family.

4. I'm a writer, not a blogger. This is something I'm only more recently coming to understand. Over the last several months, I've been prayerfully discerning what need to be my strategic yeses and my faithful nos. The truth is, I really can't be both a blogger and writer, at least not in the most traditional sense. The best bloggers, as it seems to me, are reliable. You count on them being there. Often they're pragmatic and practical, and you look to them to be helpful in important ways. And sometimes they're just incredibly provocative, meaning they're engaged in what just exploded on Twitter and have a ready response. Their value, in large part, is their ability to say something good and to say it fast.

I don't say anything good fast. That's the truth. And I'm not overly eager to implicate myself in the latest controversies in the blogosphere. I want instead to cultivate the necessary time to read, think, pray, meditate and mull. I'm convinced that good writing, at least writing that can live beyond my own generation, will necessarily be slow, and I'm absolutely happy to produce less content, even if it disappoints some readers.

5. I'm lazy. Not unrelated to #4, as a writer, I am serious, slow, deliberated, and careful. As a blogger, I am hurried and sloppy, even lazy at times. I never want to give lots of time to blog posts, at least not the time I once did. When I first started blogging, I was trying to make daily writing a spiritual discipline. It wouldn't be overstated to say that I felt called to blogging. Three years ago, when I started blogging, it was the only writing I was doing, outside of the devotional writing I've long done for Moody. I had the time and attention to give it, not least to mention the will. But now that I'm writing for a number of online and magazine outlets, I'm not able to devote as much care to my blog content. This leads me to conclude that it's better to write nothing (or very little) here rather than produce content that is sub-standard. We're all busy, and you don't need me blathering on about nothing.

6. Finally, I'm a little afraid. The truth is that I've just written a really vulnerable book, and now I feel a bit like the insect that wants to scurry out of the light. I have no doubt that the writing I will continue to do (especially in future books) will be confessional and personal because that's the kind of person I am. I value authenticity. But I simply can't come to the blog over and over again with the stripped down, vulnerable stories of my everyday life as I once did. It's simply too much exposure.

* * * * *

So what will be the future of this blog? To be realistic, I won't ever return to the blogging schedule I once had. I simply don't have the time. But I would like to show up here a bit more regularly than I have been. Maybe I'll update you on articles I've written elsewhere. Maybe I'll round up what I'm reading, both in terms of online content and books. I'm not entirely sure. I do have a series that I started back in May and shamefully never finished. I'll be returning to it in the upcoming weeks. (Read the first, second, third, and fourth posts to catch up.) My apologies to Joe Dudeck, who's probably been wondering what I intended to do with the beautiful images he's allowing me to use for the series.

If this blog goes cold (or colder than readers' preferences), it will not be because I've given up writing. No, I've settled firmly that this is what I am meant to do. I hope to have book #2 in the works soon, and I also hope you'll be reading me where I've been regularly writing: Her.meneutics, Gifted for Leadership, InTouch, Today in the Word, Relevant, and Today's Christian Woman.

And finally, my warmest thanks to those who have written and been reading in the Found Wanting series. Thanks to them, we haven't had complete radio silence here!

Jesus knew what he was called to do, and the needs around him did not determine the call for the day. And, if the Messiah himself is limited in this way, how much more are we.

We will not be able to [fulfill our vocation] unless we learn to say no. We will not have this privilege unless we come to clarity about who we are and what we are called to do. This requires focus, discipline and courage. But the result is freedom - freedom from ambition, freedom from the pressures and expectations of others, freedom to be who we are before God. It is a freedom to embrace the call of God upon our lives with joy and hope."

-Courage and Calling, Gordon Smith

Love the Church. Because Jesus does.

Ben Goshow

Donald Miller, popular Christian author (Blue Like Jazz) and blogger has recently acknowledged he doesn’t go to church. (Check out his post here if you haven’t read it.)

I’ve read neither of Donald Miller’s blog posts – not the confession of truancy and not the follow-up to the backlash. I know of them from two sources: Twitter (whose feed, on good days without traffic lights, I blissfully ignore) and Facebook (because I belong to several writers’ groups, and we talk about these things).

I am obviously NOT the one to specifically address what Donald Miller has and has not said, but if you’re curious, here is a good critical piece in response: Donald Miller and the Culture of Contemporary Worship by Mike Cosper. (Anyone who cites James K.A. Smith and his book, Desiring the Kingdom, is ok in my book.)

I cannot speak directly to the Donald Miller brouhaha, nor do I want to. In fact, I think Donald Miller is a great writer, and I'm thankful for his voice. But I do want to say this.

You need the church. I need the church. And she is beautiful.

End of story.

But let me also say that I understand how our experience of church can be incredibly hard. Though I have not been among the most seriously wounded by the church (and mourn deeply for those who, at the hands of their pastors and fellow Christians, have suffered egregious sins), I, too, know the difficulty of church.

Years ago, there was, I believe, a sin committed against me and Ryan by the leadership of our church. I wish it were the kind of sin that love could have easily and quickly covered – but it wasn’t. There is no point to the details now. In fact, though it wasn’t immediately forgiven and is still not forgotten (I don’t always think forgiveness has to work like that), it has, by God’s persistent and redeeming grace, healed.

And it healed because of the church. What happened years ago in the leadership of another church has been restored by the leadership of our current church. And I marvel at this: that all those wounds, all the self-doubt that scarred over years ago, they are healing because of the church.

Wounded by the church. And restored by her. This is the reality of Church today, in a world that is suspended in waiting – waiting till Jesus returns and “presents the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish,” (Eph. 5:27). Church is messy and impossibly human, but I love her and believe that we cannot understand ourselves apart from the Church.

Which is why Donald Miller has it wrong.

We need the Church.

It is a great sin that bloggers commit against their readers when they pretend that they can do what only the Church can. And we are implicated in their sin by attempting to nourish our spiritual lives through blogs and podcasts while week after week, we avoid the local gathering of God’s people.

You need the church more than you need Donald Miller or Rachel Held Evans or fill-in-the-blank blogger/author/online pastor whose podcasts you adore.

And you need the church for more than the electricity you feel when the worship sets are good and the pastor preaches well.

You need it for so many reasons I couldn’t begin to explain here. (But how about just one?)

You need it to learn to love God – because your love for God will be proven most real (or most tenuous) as you interact with his people.

“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen,” (1 John 4:20).

I don’t know about you but I love God so well when the children are off to school, the house is quiet, and I’m writing words like these. Ooooo, the good feelings and the certainty that I’m in the spiritual groove.

But then it’s Sunday morning, and an important children’s ministry volunteer has arrived late (despite numerous reminders). Because of her terribly insensitive actions (which I rehearse indignantly in my mind), the Sunday morning program runs askew, and instead of attending the service (which I’ve missed the previous five weeks), I’m putting out fires behind the scenes.

For the past six months, since I took the position of Director of Children’s Ministry at my church, I’m often not in church in the most traditional sense. It’s not likely a position I’ll do long-term for any number of reasons. But I can say this: it’s been a great way, for me, to put my money where my mouth is.

Love the Church. Because Jesus does.

* * * * *

“It is true, of course, that what is an unspeakable gift of God for the lonely individual is easily disregarded and trodden under foot by those who have the gift every day. It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us, that the time that still separates us from utter loneliness may be brief indeed. Therefore, let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome!

Ben Goshow

Welcome to my new author site. As I wrote recently, I found my pulse and have no more need for a site dedicated to finding it. Thank you, though, to those of you who have cheered me along the way the past year and a half in my blog project, findingmypulse.com. Additionally, thanks to those of you who reassured me that, unlike my husband, you felt fondness for the name. And for those of you who offered up no consoling remarks like, "I don't think it's cheesy at all!", I appreciate your skills of discretion.

Some of you have expressed regret that I won't be blogging anymore. I'm not going to pretend that there was a collective roar of disappointment, but a few of you did ask, and that made me feel good.

Two things continue to surprise me about the writing I do: first, that anyone reads it; and second, that I occasionally get paid. Benefits, to be sure. I am grateful.

I want to reassure those two friends you that I will continue writing in this space. As I've always done, I'll try to make sure that I'm pointing you to the other pieces I'm writing elsewhere in the vast virtual world. But I will also use this space to draft and to muse and to do the (necessary) imperfect writing that plows the fields for planting better prose. Thanks for patiently enduring what sometimes turns out to be a hack job. If you're interested in subscribing, you know the drill.

I'll admit that I haven't had much time or energy to write much beyond the book I'm writing. I have squeezed in some great reads (ok, yes, some of the books I've listened to rather than read), and I hope to be writing about those soon here. And if you poked around a bit here, you'll also find a glaring blank page under the tab, "I follow." That, too, needs drafted. I've promised it's "coming soon." (I did not, however, indicate what I consider to be soon.)

The good news is that I've finished drafting the book manuscript today. It's certainly far from done, but having the contours of a final chapter now in place feels like a rush of adrenaline. I typed those last sentences with tears streaming down my face. Relief, yes, but also tremendous joy.

Joy, I suppose, in this unbelievable marvel that God allows us to participate with him and in ways that bring to us a deep sense of satisfaction. Here is the last paragraph in draft form:

"I have risked. I have risked wanting. This book now embodies all that is bent and tangled in that process. I concern myself less now with fear, having found more sure footing in the words of Jesus to take the paths of desire."

Thanks again for reading here. And again, welcome.

 

 

 

 

Under Construction: Why you won't find me at Finding My Pulse much longer

jenmichel@me.com

I have been writing furiously. You wouldn't know it from the looks around here, though. I have nine chapters and a half chapters drafted for the book, and once I've written the final chapter, I'll finish up footnotes, revisions, and the discussion questions the publisher has asked for. (Yes, I'm ending that sentence with a preposition. So there.)

I'm feeling grateful to be this far along in the process with a little more than a month to go until my deadline. Unlike other people who do their best creative work under pressure, I have to put elapsed time between me and what I write. My writing is like sediment as it settles. I don't ever immediately know what will stay or what will go of what I've written: only time tells me that, and I'd be a fool to procrastinate. And have I mentioned that it's officially summer here, and our house is restored to its hived state of activity? I knew that once school ended, I'd be snatching elusive hours in the early morning before anyone was awake and anywhere else I'd be lucky enough to find them. I had to have as much finished as possible on the book before the monkeys children were home.

It's summer now and you won't find me often in these parts, but I did want to let you know about some upcoming changes around here on the blog. No, rest assured, I won't be blogging any less that I am. (Can you blog less than almost never?)

But the changes do involve both good and bad news. I'll give you the good first.

The good news is, I've found my pulse.

The bad news is, I'm not going to be looking for it anymore.

Finding my pulse was the name I chose for my blog almost two years ago now. And can I just tell you that naming your blog is a bit like naming your baby? Someone's always going to hate the name you pick. (Especially if you're Kim Kardashian, and you name your baby, "North." I mean, really?) My husband, Ryan has never really loved the name for this blog. Ok, so he's actually mocked it openly. And I'll admit, there's definitely a cheese factor in the name. May I simply say that finding my pulse was SIGNIFICANTLY better than other names I'd entertained? If I took less care for my dignity, I'd tell you one of them.

But I do. And I won't.

I can say that I named my blog without my usual hand-wringing perfectionism. Back then, I just knew I needed to write. And I have been writing ever since. In this way, blogging has been good to me. Finding my pulse became the space where I could challenge my fears of writing personally and writing publicly. It forced me into the discipline of writing regularly. There's no doubt that without this blog, I wouldn't be publishing a book. I don't mean this because I've garnered a huge audience here (I haven't). But it's almost impossible not to improve upon a skill you deliberately choose to practice nearly every day.

So here's to you, finding my pulse: I say thanks.

But as we know, all good things must come to an end. For the record, blogs with cheesy names expire quicker than the rest of God's benevolent gifts.

What's more, since I have a book coming out with InterVarsity next summer, I figure it's probably time for me to do an author page. Straight up professional. No cheesy moniker. Just Jen Pollock Michel. (P.S., I use the Pollock, not because I've recently gone feminist on you, but because it's a tip of the hat to my father and writing mentor, Michael Pollock.)

I don't love the idea of having a public face or a website named after me. In fact, the notion of a book with my name on it can make me want to disappear into the icecaps of Nunavut. (You don't even know where that is? My point exactly.)

I can't promise you that I won't someday obey that impulse. But if I do, you can always find me at www.jenpollockmichel.com, and expect there the same content you're used to finding here - with the same disturbing infrequency.

There will be also be a picture of me on the home page. This will have me wondering who else notices that my neck is getting fatter as I age.

Those hesitations aside, the boat is launched, and I'll see you on the other side!

 

 

Woodchucks and a Year without Fear

jenmichel@me.com

Scott Adams, the Dilbert cartoonist, wrote in last weekend's Wall Street Journal about his 2011: he'd dubbed it My Year of Living Dangerously. Adams recounts his spectacular motorcycle crash at the age of 15 when his front tire sinks into the den of a family of woodchucks, sending him 25 feet in the air.

Three paragraphs are entirely devoted to the seconds he spent mid-flight. It's a laugh-out loud article, alberit irreverent at times. "About three-quarters into my aerial rotation, I accepted Jesus Christ as my lord and personal savior, just to improve my odds. And I made a promise to myself that, if I lived, I would follow in the footsteps of my ancestors and lead a timid life, far from danger's reach. As far as I know, there has never been a hero in my bloodline - not one solider, police officer or fireman. . . From that day one, I kept my promise to myself and avoided all unnecessary physical risk. My strategy got easier when I became a syndicated cartoonist; I told anyone who would listen that I couldn't risk injuring my drawing hand."

He calls it his "low-risk strategy," and it works well until he meets his wife Shelly, who hails from a family of adventurers. He admires the way they live life to the fullest and wonders if he's become too cautious to enjoy life. He commits his 2011 to more adventuring.

The article continues with more belly-shaking hilarity: Adams tells the story of their travels, first to Costa Rica. Think white-water rafting and waterfalls. After having being plunged to the bottom of the river yet again, he "crawled to shore like a rat that had been trapped in a washing machine. You know how people say you shouldn't drink the local water in some places? Well, apparently you should also avoid snorting a gallon of bacteria-laden Costa Rican river water."

Their Costa Rica trip leaves him surmising, "So far, my strategy of being more adventurous was producing mixed results. My life seemed richer and more interesting - but it also involved a lot more groaning, clutching my sides and intermittently praying for death."

Adams is funnier than I'd ever be. His article concludes: "My advice for the coming year is that before you say no to an adventure, make sure it's you talking and not the woodchuck who bent the front fork of your motorcycle.  You won't enjoy every new adventure, but I promise that you will enjoy being the person who said yes."

So who's talking in your life: you or the woodchuck?

It's not always easy to know. Fear lives on the underbelly of life. It lurks in the shadows, avoiding recognition, operating incognito. It's a kind of unmanned drone, depending on its invisibility. It operates like that because it must. Like the kind of translucent, albino insects that take cover under rotting logs, fear is sent scurrying in the light.

I wrote about fear for this month's issue of Today in the Word. I met my own woodchucks during the process.

Before writing that issue, I don't know that I'd seen how powerfully certain fears managed me. Fear kept me safe, made me cautious. Because of fear, I was avoiding exposure and responsibility.

This blog has been for me my adventure, my remounting life and braving its rocky terrain.

I don't do this writing as well as I should.

I am not the woman I want to be.

A blog leaks out the secrets. It's a penetrating kind of light.

But it sends the fear scurrying. Risk is a means to growth. And while failure is inevitable, it's no more sure than grace.

So who's talking: you or the woodchuck?

2012: Here's to a year of courage.

 

How-to Friday: Find the Courage to Fail

jenmichel@me.com

Blogging was a good idea. For about five days.

Only four people knew that I was at it again. When I decided to close up shop and quit this whole blogging thing, I imagined my husband and three closest friends nodding knowingly. I had a track record for flings. My momentary crushes were familiar. And so was my cheating.

Then The Nester posted this video on her site, and I watched it early one Saturday morning as I leaned against the kitchen counter, water falling on burnt toast.

http://vimeo.com/24715531

I decided that the coward in me was getting way too much airtime.

So what if I failed? And what was the point really? Hadn't I committed to this whole blogging thing as a way to grow as a writer? And sure, there would be days that the ideas would shrivel up, and the words would skip town, but the real trick was committing.

Practice. Experiment. Risk.

And find the courage to fail.