About Michelle Van Loon

What Are You Reading? January 2017 Edition

One of my go-to questions of both friends and new acquaintances is, "What are you reading?" It's really another way of asking, "Who are you hanging around with these days? Maybe I can hang around with you guys, too." I'm always looking for book recommendations. As you can see, I'm a little light (as usual) in the fiction department, so feel free to leave your recommendations in the comments section below.Maybe you're in the market for a book to add to your stack, too. Here's what I've read … [Read more...]

Three Gifts of Women’s Ministry

Last week in this space, I wrote about a flawed Proverbs 31-focused approach one congregation took when they decided to rethink their ministry to women. Even as I raised concerns, I noted that I’ve been enriched by time spent in prayer, study, fellowship, worship, and service with women’s-only groups.Do these single-gender groups reflect who the Church is? Paul highlighted diversity within the Church, even as he reminded us that there is one Savior for all: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, … [Read more...]

Epiphany: One Thing To Learn, One Thing To Taste

It's still Christmas.Yes, I know. The sparkly decor that looked so welcome in early December looks tired and dreary now that the holiday festivities are done. The gingerbread cookies have been eaten, the wrong-sized gifts have been exchanged. It's hard to think "Christmas" once we replace last year's wall calendar with a new model.But on the liturgical calendar, Christmas lasts for 12 days, beginning December 25th. This brief season spent contemplating the incarnation ends with Epiphany … [Read more...]

Learning to Write in Pencil

For the first 56 years of my life, I welcomed each new year with a blank calendar and an abundance of fresh hope. The heroic words of architect Daniel Burnham emboldened my Type A penchant for scripting my life: “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized.”I crafted big goals out of big dreams, broke them down into actionable bits, and scrawled them in pen on each new calendar, along with the “little plans” of my daily life: meeti … [Read more...]

Designing Women’s Ministry

The new women’s ministry director invited all adult women to a brainstorming meeting. “We want to help you become the women God is calling you to be,” she explained as she passed out sheets of paper with each phrase of Proverbs 31:10-31 on a separate line. She read the passage, then did a bit of contextualizing to help us re-imagine the language of the Ancient Near East in our suburban experience. For example, the director noted, “She selects wool and flax, and works with eager hands” (vs. 13) co … [Read more...]

2016, You’ve Been A Handful

This year is being dubbed a true annus horribilis (year of disaster) by many. I'll be frank. It hasn't been my favorite for a variety of reasons, both cultural and personal. As it often does, the horribilis has the odor and consistency of fresh bat guano. In other words, it can serve as some Grade A fertilizer.I'm not given to putting together end of year recaps, but it helps to step back a few paces in order to see the growth sprouting from the guano, I thought I'd do a bit of reflection … [Read more...]

Blue Christmas

Contrary to the song lyrics, it’s not the most wonderful time of the year for many of us. The jingle bell merriness of the season is like an out-of-tune gong for those grieving the deaths of family members or friends, struggling in the wake of a divorce, suffering the effects of broken relationships, experiencing financial hardship, or dealing with the effects of physical or mental illness in themselves or their loved ones.My family has been marked in recent years by each one of these l … [Read more...]