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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Filtering by Tag: pride

Found Wanting: Kris Camealy, "I've wanted to be known."

jenmichel@me.com

I have been curating stories for a blog project called, “Found Wanting." This series will end in several weeks, and I am thankful for each person who has submitted a guest post. If you've only just arrived, I hope you'll catch up on the stories below. 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. I'm neither applauding nor condemning their stories: rather, I am amplifying their desires - and reminding each of us that to be human is to want. In my book, Teach Us to Want, I write, “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.”

To catch up on the series, read these featured stories: Amy Chaney, "I didn't want to be a coach's wife." Beth Bruno, "I've wanted beauty." Wendy Stringer, "I didn't want to move to suburbia." Steve Burks, "I've wanted to produce entertainment." Faydra Stratton, "I didn't want a child with Fragile X." Brook Seekins, "I never wanted to be a missionary in Africa." Sarah Van Beveren, "I have always wanted to be strong." Holly Pennington, "I didn't want to find out what I wanted." Larry Shallenberger, "I wanted to know what I wanted." Hannah Anderson, "I didn't want - because I couldn't afford to." Megan Hill, "I want your blessing." Bronwyn Lea, "I wanted a boyfriend, college scholarships, permission to sleep over at the popular kid's house." Jennifer Tatum, "I've wanted to be a woman of faith, but . . ." Sarah Torna Roberts, "I didn't want to be broken." Suanne Camfield, "I want a bigger house." Courtney Reissig, "I wanted a baby." Cara Meredith, "I've wanted it all." Anonymous, "I want to not want marriage anymore." Deborah Kurtz, "I wanted a husband." Ben Jolliffe, "I wanted nothing." Charity Singleton Craig, "I wanted to get married." Hannah Vanderpool, "I didn't want to stay in America." Dorothy Greco, "I don't want to doubt." Natasha Sistrunk Robinson, "I wanted security."

Today, Kris Camealy shares her story of desire.

* * * * *

I've wanted to be known.

I flush with embarrassment to admit my intense desire to be known, and not merely to have friends, or to be well liked (though those are part of it). Rather, the desire to be known that shames me was an ugly lust for notoriety. I wanted to be known for what I accomplished, craving both recognition for me as the accomplisher, and admiration for the mighty works of my own hands.

It is most honest to say that I fashioned an idol out of fame and worshipped heartily at its base. This admission of where I've been makes me sick with grief, but I share it now, because in this way, I can give testimony to the good mercy of God.

I believe we all have an indwelling desire to be known. We are created in the image of God, who himself desires that all of His creation would know Him. Adam and Eve walked in communion with God, fully exposed, fully known, lacking nothing. I found myself hungering for this same intimacy, this kind of pure fellowship, and believed, for a time, that the world's recognition of me, would serve to satisfy a heavenly hunger.

The redemption of this in my life came only by way of a hard humbling. When God brought me low, his gentle, persistent mercy and blatant outpouring of grace coupled with His instruction, by way of His inspired Word, redefined what this desire ought to look like in the Christian life. God passionately pursued me into a wilderness of my own making, where He himself fed and nourished my heart, broken by shame and regret. I had gotten it wrong, but God's jealousy brought my desires into their rightful place.

Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. "For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; For how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another," (Isaiah 48:11).

It was in this desert, where God showed me that He bears intimate knowledge of who I am. This realization transformed my desires to be known. Knowing that I am deeply known by God changes everything. When a soul is matched with its Maker, and the passionate love of God fills the human heart from within, being known by man proves itself to be a shallow, vapid desire that cannot possibly fulfill with any lasting meaning or hope of satisfaction. My desire to be known has been replaced with a passion for making HIM known.

Because I know my natural bent, when I fear my desires I only need to surrender them to God. He gives wisdom and transforms my human hunger into a spiritual one. I crave the things of God, because in them I find soul-satisfaction. My delight in being known by God binds my heart to His, and in this communion with my Maker, He aligns my desires with those that are pleasing to Him.

* * * * *

kris in greyAs a sequin wearing, homeschooling mother of four, Kris Camealy is passionate about Jesus, people and words. Her heart beats to share the hard, but glorious truth about life in Christ. She's been known to take gratuitous pictures of her culinary creations, causing mouths to water all across Instagram. Once upon a time, she ran 10 miles for Compassion International, a ministry for which she serves as an advocate. Kris is the author of, Holey, Wholly, Holy: A Lenten Journey of Refinement, and the follow up, Companion Workbook. You can read more from Kris at kriscamealy.com.

On being derivative - and finding pleasure in work

jenmichel@me.com

Roasted summer squash, okra and onions; arugula, baby spinach, buffalo mozzarella, and grape tomatoes; flaky tomato tart with basil; turkey burgers; ripe cantaloupe and strawberries: last night’s dinner was the first proper summer meal I’ve had - and it was delicious! The meal was prepared by the wife of a college friend, whose family is hosting ours while we visit Memphis. I hope Lissa took it for compliment (and not rudeness) when, as we brought in dishes from the porch and began rinsing them, I helped myself to a second turkey burger, grabbing it with my bare fingers and tearing it apart without the courtesy of a fork. Audrey, too, dug her fingers into the bowl of the leftover strawberries and cantaloupe. (We’re an ill-mannered crew, I guess. Or just love food.)

As the cook, I love that pleasure of seeing that people have really enjoyed a meal, that they’ve enjoyed it enough to want more. Maybe that’s why I love kitchen work. What can feel like the mindlessness of peeling potatoes, chopping basil, and skewering meat to grill gains visceral meaning the moment people gather to eat and enjoy.

I’ve been thinking about my kitchen work as a metaphor for my book, which has recently released. People have begun reading – and eating. Some are finding the food delicious. And to be quite honest, I feel uncertain about how to feel about that reaction. What do you do when people clap you on the back and say, “Well done,”? How does that praise not immediately blow hot air into you? Should you resist your first response, which is of course pleasure?

I don’t ever feel guilty about the pleasure I feel at serving a good meal. Must I feel guilty about the pleasure of having written what some may call a good book? Should there be a difference between my reactions? And most importantly, what response is most Godlike?

Of course a return to Genesis 1 reminds us that pleasure over work done well is ultimately Godlike. God calls all of his work good, and there is a satisfaction he enjoys when surveying his work. He names the seventh day a day of rest in part as an expression of his satisfaction and enjoyment: he had finished his work, and he rested from it, calling it complete and good.

Every human work of creation (or culture-making, to borrow Andy Crouch’s term) is mirrored after these first creative acts of God. We are called to make something of his work, to “fill the earth and subdue it.” As those who bear the image of God, we are creative and will delight in doing creative work. That work may be making a tomato tart or writing a book, but whenever we make something of the world, we are living into our Genesis 1 mandate. This is good and right – even pleasurable.

However, there is an essential difference between what God did in Genesis 1, and what we do now. God made something from nothing. God’s creative acts were ex nihilo: he had no raw materials with which to work. He didn’t pick tomatoes from a garden to make a tart, and he didn’t select words from a lexicon to write a book. He made the tomatoes. And he made the words.

Which is to then say that all human creative acts are fundamentally derivative. We make something from something. We exhibit no ex nihilo cleverness, and as Solomon said, there is nothing new under the sun. We arrange and rearrange. We combine old parts to make new wholes. But everything is ultimately borrowed from someone: the tomatoes from the farmer, the words from other books. (And everything ultimately from God.)

So how does this help me reconcile my reaction of pleasure to what has been some warm reception to my book? Pleasure does not have to be pride (although it often is). Pleasure, in fact, can become praise when it’s remembered that our work is derivative from God’s. If I’ve made a delicious tomato tart, I can take no credit for the sweetness of a ripe summer tomato or the freshness of garden basil. I can love that you’ve loved it – and credit your pleasure to the One who made summer tomatoes and fresh basil. And if I’ve written a good book, I can take no credit for the compelling truth and beauty of the gospel, which is central to that book. I can loved that you’ve loved it – and credit your pleasure to the one who sent his Son to die for our faithless desires and redeem our wandering hearts. If that is the hope upon which readers seize, it is not a hope I have authored.

In Christianity Today, Laura Turner calls Teach Us to Want “a book that, on the whole, is so smart and instructive and engaging. We must trust that God gives us desires for a reason, and that if the desire is not, on its surface, good and selfless, there is something underneath it that might be. This is the task of desire—to bring the flourishing of the family, the town, the school, and the soul.”

I’m thankful for her review: and would love for you to read it.

what to do when you're proud

Ben Goshow

What do I want? I'm growing convinced that this is an important question for all of us to be asking - even if asking it means open ourselves up to a host of threatening possibilities: the disappointments we've had from God, the self-suspicions we try to smother, the process of change (and necessary repentance) to which God is leading us.

What do I want? This is no tame question. It's a bit like letting the lion out of its cage.

And yesterday, I needed this question. I needed it after having had a difficult conversation with someone I love. Worse, I know they love me, which is always the problem with difficult conversations. Why can our humanity be so hard? Why are we each so fragile? Why, when I love people, do I so easily misunderstand and feel misunderstood?

(P.S. Joe, this is NOT about you.)

I left the conversation feeling sad, discouraged, afraid. I even cried when recounting the conversation to Ryan. But I now realize that my ego was bruised more than anything else. This man - my friend - hadn't hurt me: he had hurt my pride.

I picked C.S. Lewis up this morning, turning to chapter 8 ("The Great Sin") in Mere Christianity.

"There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it in ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.

The vice I am talking of is Pride."

Pride, says Lewis, is the root of all other vices. It's essentially competitive in nature, he concludes.

"Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, of better-looking than others."

Then Lewis exposes the worst of all pride - that which grows in religious people.  Here's a test he proposes for determining whether we are among the smugly spiritual set:

"Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good - above all, that we are better than someone else - I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil. . . It is a terrible thing that the worst of all the vices can smuggle itself into the very centre of our religious life."

"If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step," writes Lewis, "is to realize that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed."

I am a desperately proud woman. Recalling the conversation that had left me reeling for the better part of an evening, I saw this: that I had been hurt by a slight, bruised by someone's disinterest. I came unglued because I had not been recognized as extraordinary enough.

What do I want? Oh, the truth is that I want your admiration. And I must it in greater degree than you give it to others. And when it comes to the book I've written? What do I want? I realize that it is not enough that the words get said. It matters to me that I have said them.

What do I want? Yes, a lion indeed, prowling and ravenous.

What are we to do when our desires are skidding off course? When we want something that can only be had by disaster? When we do not want as God wants? When our desires have been misshapen, as mine have, by selfish ambition and vain conceit (Phil. 2:3)?

First, we see. And in seeing, we confess.

And then, we ask God for better desires and new prayers. We don't put them on and immediately feel they fit. We put them on and ask God to make them fit. For me, it looks like this prayer, which I wrote in my journal:

"Father, move your church to a fuller understanding and appreciation of desire and its role in spiritual formation. Help us to no longer exclude questions of wanting because of fear, and move us into greater authenticity, allowing ourselves to be seen, known and by Christ. Desire feels like something feral: it is easier to deal with cognition and behavior, for these feel more under our control. But our hearts—in all of their wild unbelief and rebellion, their melancholic discontent and bottomless greed? What can be done about that? Father, we need brave conversations beginning in the church. We need greater grace—for the willingness to admit our sin and confess it, even to despise it.

I pray for more good theological work to be done in the area of desire. Thank you for the recent renaissance of interest. Thank you for James K.A. Smith and his work. I pray for more female voices in this conversation, and I thank you for the ways in which men and women are so different in their capacities for listening and for speaking. I celebrate whoever is speaking on this subject, and I want to confess my desperate need to be singular and special, to be the absolute best. Forgive me for the egotism of this project and this book. And teach me (gently, Father) the ways of humility."

This is my new desire and my new prayer: that more able voices will be able to challenge the church toward a conversation I feel is so necessary for the church. That it will begin to matter less to me that I have said the words and matter more that they are being said.

I am proud. You are, too. And by grace, God will illumine this in each of us, leading us out of the cramped space of our small ambitions and into the spaciousness of living for his glory.

 

 

Your Strong No

Ben Goshow

This is a godforsaken place, and I've now spent four hours here. I'm speaking of the waiting room at the place where we get our car serviced. It smells of stale coffee, and the television is on blare. I've asked them to put on my snow tires, and you would think I had asked them to make snow. I need nothing cosmic. Just put on my snow tires.

The consolation is my laptop, my iPad and my iPhone, which I need to generate internet juice, and this will make me sound like a sorry 21st-century sack, who can't survive five minutes without connectivity. But I assure you that what I can't survive is this colossal waste of time. My self-importance gnaws, grows greedy and impatient. There will never be enough time for the all-powerful I and her feats.

Dear LORD, deliver me from this greed for more time, this inability to say no, which is why I must have more time for the overindulged yeses. It's on this day that I NEED the words I read from Emily Freeman in A Million Little Ways.

A million little ways

“People may love you, respect you, look up to you, want to be with you, but they will not say no for you. They will let you work and volunteer as long as you are willing. They will let you lead and be strong and move ahead if you want to. Don’t get mad at them for letting you continue to say yes. Only know your boundaries. If you don’t, might I encourage you to find them out? Because yes can be brave, but it can also be bossy. It can become an addiction. Before you realize it, all your yeses are to obligation and duty. And because of those obligated yeses, you are forced to look passion and intention and desire in the eye and say, ‘No, I don’t have time for you. Weight the cost your yes will have on your spirit, your soul and your body. You may have to search for your brave yes, but you will have to fight for your strong no.

I had been praying for discernment for a particular yes I've been weighing. I'm thinking I have it.

NO to the self-importance that drives the YES.

No to the greed for more time.

No to the anger and irritability that everyone refuses to say what I must: NO.

 

Calling and the Art of Sandcastles

jenmichel@me.com

Ryan got home last night from a four-day business trip. When his plane had landed and he'd caught a taxi, he texted to say that he was on of his way. "You OK?" he wanted to know. "Today's post was a sad one." He was of course referring to yesterday's blog post where I lamented that I was a failure and nothing but a failure. I know it may have been hard to read, but that was a good post to write - as many posts are. Having to pin words onto what would otherwise remain vague feelings is a really helpful exercise. And generally the whole routine just helps me see how ridiculous I can really be.

But on one final note of the whole "performance" dimension of calling, I wanted to post an illustration from Ian Falconer's ironic children's book, Olivia. I think it depicts what many of us feel - ok, maybe only me.

Olivia's gone to the beach with her family, and her mother has taught her to build sandcastles.

She got quite good. (The illustration is of Olivia's sandcastle - which is a replica of the Empire State building.)

I sometimes think that this is how I imagine my co-labor with God. He puts a bucket and shovel in my hands, and voilà. I'm building the Empire State building.

And of course the real irony is: it may be beautiful, and it may be impressive, but let's not ignore the simple fact that it could be a sandcastle.

It will not resist the reach of the tide.

"The grass withers, the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever."

The Scripture is pretty clear about the eternality of things. Human achievement and accomplishment, apart from Christ, are sandcastles: they go the way of summer's grass and flowers when the days shorten.

The purposes of God stand. His word is eternal.

And that's something to take with me into calling.

Failure may bruise, but it could be the severest of all mercies. It may be the only thing to warn me of self-congratulations on my sandcastles.