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Searching for Sunday

As I’ve travelled and met so many readers over the past two years, I kept hearing one question, over and over from people in every context, every denomination, every city. Obviously, we would talk about Jesus Feminist or writing or whatever I had just finished preaching about but then after that, every time, there was one subject everyone wanted to talk about: people want to talk about how I’ve managed to hold onto my faith or what gives me hope as part of the global church. People want to talk about how my faith changed, evolved, and yet strengthened somehow.

Specifically? people have wanted to know why I still go to church.

Usually people ask with tears in their eyes or anger in their voice or a story on their lips. (And if you’ve been at any event where I’ve spoken you already know that I’m a total crier and a hugger so we end up having a big old cry and hug.)

After all, I’ve been open about my struggles and questions with church over the past ten years. I have left church over and over, only to return. I’ve been angry and hurt, I’ve felt excluded and shamed.

And yet I am committed not only to the Church globally but actually really committed to a local church body. Yep, I go to church and the more I go to church, the more I wrestle with church, well, it seems the more I become committed to these small outposts of God’s grace and mercy and kingdom-living.

My greatest wounds have come from church and so it makes holy sense that my great healing has happened there, too.

Imperfect and glorious, frustrating and transformative, I’m a local church girl and I think I always will be. And that baffles some people.

I get that.

I think that’s why I write so much about church here on the blog. I’m still wrestling, still figuring out my place, still figuring out what it means, still reclaiming my heritage while rewriting and trying to live prophetically into what God is doing now.

Like so many of us, I’m still searching for Sunday.

So today I want to tell you about a new book releasing today – Rachel Held Evans’ new book for other searchers, Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church.

Rachel has not only been a dear friend to me but she’s saved my faith a time or two (or eight). I believe that her influence and voice in the Church is not only needed right now but, in the future, many will celebrate and honour her as the revolutionary woman of valour she truly is. She’s one for the history books.

Three or four years ago, I happened to hear about a book called Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions.

Humph, rather weird title, I thought. I clicked over to the author’s blog. Well, hello there, Rachel Held Evans, nice to meet you.

Little did I know how that one small click would enrich my life, challenge my faith and intellect, spur my own writing career, introduce me to new thinkers and believers, and  bring the gift of a true professional-and-personal friend.

I started off as a commenter and reader, and every comment I left was some variation of “Oh, gracious, you, too? ME, TOO!” Somehow, Rachel found my little corner here on the Internet, we began to correspond, develop a relationship, and now, I consider her a friend and an ally. We often write about similar topics – womanhood or church, for instance. She even wrote the foreword to my little yellow book.

When we met in person last year in Nashville, it was like a reunion.

Yes, we re-enacted a Thelma and Louise photo in the washroom because we’re cool like that.

Rachel and Sarah

On the outside, our current daily lives and histories are very different, and yet we had a soul-connection and theological sisterhood. (And a shared snarky sense of humour. And views on marriage.)

Rachel has always genuinely cheered me on with a generous heart. Anyone who likes to harp on the intrinsic jealousy of women needs to meet my friend, Rachel. She’s unselfish and truly believes that her influence comes with responsibility; she makes room for other voices, other experiences, and celebrates freely. She makes me work harder at my craft. She believed I had a voice that was worth hearing, and then she gave me a bit of space on her platform. She makes me think. She makes me laugh. She makes me feel less alone, and less crazy. She points me to Jesus. She’s witty, wise, loyal, and fearless.

I am so blessed by her friendship – professionally and personally.

searching for sunday

And as I read her new book, I knew I was in the presence of a great teacher and thinker, contemplative and minister.

I’m not over-stating things when I tell you that this is Rachel’s best book yet—and that’s saying something.

In this beautifully honest, hopeful and wry book, Rachel speaks for so many of us. I believe that her hard-fought words will heal many wounds.

It is a must-read for all who love Jesus but struggle with loving or understanding or finding their place in the Church.

And today is the day Searching for Sunday releases to the world!

I can’t recommend it highly enough and so I’ve decided to give away three copies here.

To enter to win one of three copies of Searching for Sunday:

1. Leave a comment on this post about how you’re searching for Sunday yourself. It can be as long or short as you like, just share a way that you’re finding “church” as you understand it these days.

2. Make sure you leave an email or a way to contact you if you win!

This weekend, I’ll choose three random winners and send you a copy of Rachel’s new book, Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church.

Eshet chayil, Rachel! Woman of valour!

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Introducing my new book, Out of Sorts

Out of Sorts Cover

Well, my friends, here she is!

Meet Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith. If all goes as planned, it will release on August 11 of this year.

This book has been a wrestle to write in many ways. I remember when I was writing Jesus Feminist three years ago, people would ask me “How are you doing that with a four year old, a two year old, and a baby!?” and now I know the answer: naps and early bedtimes and quiet days. I have found it much more of a wrestle to find the time and energy to write this book with an 8 year old, a 6 year old, a nearly four year old and being pregnant with our fourth, I’ll tell you.

The other reason why it’s been a bit of a battle is perhaps because of the subject matter itself. As I’ve traveled and met so many of you over the past two years, after we’ve talked about Jesus Feminist or whatever, I kept hearing one question, over and over from people in every context, every denomination, every city.

People want to talk about how I’ve managed to hold onto my faith or what gives me hope as part of the global church. People want to talk about how my faith changed and yet strengthened somehow. Particularly, people have wanted to know why I still go to church.

Phyllis Tickle often talks about how the Church is in the midst of the “Great Emergence” or a major change right now – or as she calls it “a big rummage sale.” We’re figuring out what to keep, what to toss, and what to reclaim as a global Church. But as I thought more and more about that metaphor over the years since first encountering it, I began to realize that that was exactly what I had done and, to be honest, I am still doing right now.

I’m still sorting through my faith. I’m always doing that. I imagine I will always be doing that. 

Jesus  doesn’t change. There isn’t some new-and-exciting Jesus to discover here. He’s the same: yesterday, today, and forever. Rather, it’s we who change or grow or learn. If you feel a bit out of sorts, you’re not alone.

I believe we are all sorting things out on some level: we’re weighing our heritage, our inheritance, our stories and figuring out what needs to stay, what needs to go, and what needs to be either repurposed or reimagined. If the Church as a whole is going through that, then aren’t we all?

I believe if our faith doesn’t change and evolve as we go through our lives, then we simply aren’t paying attention.

So I began to write this book out of that deeply personal journey.

In our family, we use the phrase “out of sorts” to describe our heart or mind or self when we are in the midst of shifting or changing or even just growing or feeling disoriented. For this book, I am using the phrase to describe our sense of self at a time when you feel like everything that you once knew “for sure” is being figured out all over again. Caught in between what-was and what-will-be. Walking away from something perhaps but not quite at the final destination yet either.

This book isn’t an argument to make or a point to take, this isn’t a single story with a plot and a climax and a denouement, and there isn’t a single three-step program to follow with nicely spaced headers and boxes to check off.

I sincerely doubt that anyone could turn this book into a calendar for the gift shop.

Out of Sorts is about loss and how we cope with change. It’s about Jesus and why I love him and follow him.

It’s about church and church people – why they both make me crazy and yet I can’t seem to quit either.

It’s about the stuff I used to think about God but I don’t think anymore and the new things I think and believe that I’ve discovered are actually rather old things.

It’s about the evolution of a soul and the ways I’ve failed.

It’s about letting go of the fear and walking out into the unknown.

It’s about the beautiful things I’ve reclaimed and the stuff I kicked to the curb.

It’s about making peace with my unanswered questions and being content to live into the answers as they come.

It’s about knowing that this is where I’ve landed for now but holding my hands open for where the Spirit may lead me next, it’s about not apologizing for transformation and change and critical thinking.

(Some parts of the book are making me nervous, I’ll admit.)

But really, it’s a book about not being afraid. This book is my way of leaving the light on for the ones who are wandering.

This book is about my own sort, my own rummage sale, the grief that came with the sorting and the healing that was ushered in.

What I had to weigh and discard and evaluate will be different than what you will have in your own house, we all have our own legacies and baggage, family heirlooms and hoarders. It is not about convincing you to end up in the same place as me – how could that even happen when we start from different places?

The book will be released on August 11 - which feels very soon to me since I have our new baby due in just a couple of weeks. I’m sure there will be more to share as the weeks go by and we draw closer to the release. I sent in the manuscript last month to my editor so I could just focus on having another baby in the next few weeks or so. (Don’t you love the “just” in that sentence? Just have a baby. NBD.)

In the meantime, thank you so much for your prayers and support as I’ve written. It means more to me than you could know.

Since this book arose from so many of our conversations over the past couple of years, I can’t wait to offer it to you.

 

And Out of Sorts is already available for preorder!

Amazon.com

Amazon.ca

Barnes and Noble

Chapters Indigo

You can also ask your local bookstore to place their order now, too. (Readers outside of North America, I don’t know about distribution or publishers for you yet but as soon as I find out, I’ll pass it along.)


 

Here’s the official blurb from the back of the book:

From the popular blogger and provocative author of Jesus Feminist comes a riveting new study of Christianity that helps you wrestle with—and sort out—your faith.

In Out of Sorts, Sarah Bessey—award-winning blogger and author of Jesus Feminist, which was hailed as “lucid, compelling, and beautifully written” (Frank Viola, author of God’s Favorite Place on Earth)—helps us grapple with core Christian issues using a mixture of beautiful storytelling and biblical teaching, a style well described as “narrative theology.”

As she candidly shares her wrestlings with core issues—such as who Jesus is, what place the Church has in our lives, how to disagree yet remain within a community, and how to love the Bible for what it is rather than what we want it to be—she teaches us how to walk courageously through our own tough questions.

In the process of gently helping us sort things out, Bessey teaches us how to be as comfortable with uncertainty as we are with solid answers. And as we learn to hold questions in one hand and answers in the other, we discover new depths of faith that will remain secure even through the storms of life.

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What I’m Into :: January 2015 edition

What I'm Into

books worth reading

Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters by Mallory Ortberg. Oh, man, I needed this book. I laughed until I whooped over the text convo between Heathcliff and Cathy from Wuthering Heights in particular. Mallory Ortberg is not only brilliant, she’s wickedly funny. For the book lover/English Lit nerd in your life, this is the book to cackle over.

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews. My sister is a reader of serious literature, particular Canadian lit. She is always my dealer for the good stuff: she’ll give me the lowdown on the Giller Prize nominees and the Canada Reads contenders. Plus we both have A Thing for books about the bond between sisters – those books just hurt so good. So she gave me this one for Christmas and I called her up after finishing it, sobbing, asking why she did this to me. It is a book of two sisters, beautifully written, devastating, and I BAWLED through the last quarter of it. Who gives books like this to their hormonal pregnant sisters anyway? It was the best kind of cry though. (And for what it’s worth, I think it should have won the Giller.)

Station Eleven: A novel by Emily St. John Mandel. Another Christmas novel, this one from my husband. I have a weakness for apocalyptic/dystopian literature and this didn’t disappoint. It’s dark and yet brilliant, beautiful and sad. It’s also strangely believable, a perfect read for a weekend.

A Thing of Beauty by Lisa Samson: Lisa Samson is almost the only novelist from the Christian market that I read anymore. (Only exception: Nicole Baart, too.) This is apparently her last novel as she’s quitting writing so I really wanted to love it. And I did like it – it was a good read with her signature quirky characters and love-without-sentimentality. It’s not my favourite though. I’ll miss her writing. (My favourite of hers? The Passion of Mary-Margaret)

The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It by Peter Enns. Fantastic, fantastic book. Can’t recommend enough.

television worth watching

All my shows (all three of them) are on their year-long hiatus now and so I have finally started watching Gilmore Girls. I have lost track of the long list of people who tell me that I will love this show so I figure I might as well get started while I work on baby sweaters in these last weeks of pregnancy. So far I’m about 7 episodes in and I quite like it – don’t love it yet, but I like it.

I watched the series finales for Miranda over Christmas. The Christmas special was a big old let down but the New Year’s special for the finale was vintage Miranda. I loved that show. It just made me so happy.

I still owe my few-and-proud Whovians the recaps for the season finale and the Christmas special. I have it on my Gigantic List of Things To Finish Before Baby Arrives so I’ll take one for the team and watch a lot of Doctor Who in a bit here. Better late than never.

movies worth seeing

We went to see Interstellar in the theatre recently. We couldn’t remember the last time we went to see a movie in a theatre so it was quite a treat to watch on the big screen. Otherwise, movies and I are barely passing in acquaintance these days. I can’t seem to muster the energy for a two-and-a-half-hour commitment in the evenings. When all the award nominees were announced this year, I realised I hadn’t watched a single one. And I’m just fine with that.

music worth hearing

I’m not a huge music person. I prefer silence or quiet to music – particularly since we have three loud tinies in our home already and silence is a rarity. So I rarely listen to music and pretty much exclusively listen to CBC Radio in the car. But I will say that I have been listening to John Mark McMillan’s most recent album Borderland sometimes and I LOVE it.

stuff worth reading on the Internet

Christian Women Were Made to Lead by Karen Swallow Prior – Propel Women launched this week! If you’re a woman who leads, check it out.

Things I’ve Learned in 40 Years of Living by Kristen Howerton

Since I’m just a few weeks from giving birth again, these photos obviously made me cry. So beautiful! 30 Canadian Birth Photos that Will Make You Want Another Baby.

They Say the Church is Too “Feminine” by Kate Wallace

6 Great Studies on Women in the Bible for Groups at The Junia Project (please tell me you follow this site? Amazing resource for the church)

In case you hadn’t heard, we are shutting down Deeper Story. This letter from our founder explains why. I’m both proud and sad about it.

Good news! Jonathan Martin is back online and his writing is better than ever. I stalk his preaching podcasts, I admit it. Dude can PREACH.

Tsh Oxenrider has launched a new e-course that I think looks fascinating, Upstream Field Guide. If you’re wanting to live your live more simply and with more intention, I can’t think of a better guide than Tsh.

Relevant Magazine listened my new book, Out of Sorts, as one of the twelve books they are most excited about this year which was very cool!

I am planning on finally talking about the book itself – what it’s about, why I wrote it, all of that fun stuff – in the next week or two here so make sure you sign up for my e-newsletter to get the scoop first.

And finally, this short video is pretty much the best thing ever.

pins worth re-pinning

This quote.

This Beatrix Potter alphabet print for a baby room

This is my fashion philosophy and no apologies for my black.

I’m completely obsessed with brussels sprouts lately and this is only enabling me.

These women in science that you probably don’t know about – and should.

Tina Fey’s and Amy Poehler’s Golden Globes opening dialogue is absolute perfection. Only they could make me laugh so hard at absurd truth. Best joke: George and Amal Clooney.

And finally, Mr. Afternoon T.

 

So, friends, what about you? What’s on your nightstand? What television show or movie or music has captured your imagination?

Linked up with Leigh Kramer for What I’m Into.

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My 10 Favourite Books of 2014

It’s time for the end of the year lists. I love to read about what other people are reading and so I thought I’d just do a quick round-up of my 10 favourite books in 2014. (I wasn’t able to read as much as usual this year – it’s been a busy one – but what I did read, I thoroughly enjoyed across the board. So much good work from so many.) I read a ton of popular novels this year – I think I was looking for an escape, not only from the world but even from my own mind or my own book writing. It served me well. And of course, I did a lot of research-reading in the non-fiction genre but that’s not quite the same as reading for the fun of it, is it?

So here are my 5 favourite fiction reads and my 5 favourite non-fiction reads of the year – so difficult to narrow it down! Let me know what you read and loved this year, too….

Sarah Bessey's Favourite Books of 2014

Favourite Fiction Reads

Lila by Marilynne Robinson :: I wait for a new Marilynne Robinson book like kids used to wait for the new Harry Potter. I loved Home and Gilead so much but this one was something else, a bit more of an edge of danger to it, a bit more real somehow. I loved Lila as a character and the book is her side of the story but the writing is quintessentially midwestern, simple and straight forward and then staggeringly beautiful.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman :: It’s odd to me how much I enjoy fantastical novels like this since I’m not a huge sci-fi or fantasy fan (with the notable exception of Doctor Who). But Neil Gaiman is such an incredible writer with such a spooky and lovely imagination. This book is weird and creepy, sad and beautiful. It stays with you long after you turn the last page.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty :: I have loved Liane Morarity’s novels since “What Alice Forgot” (still one of my favourite novels to recommend to women in the tired thirties with me.) Such a great un-put-down-able story. The characters were beautiful and real and flawed, I love each one of them and actually missed them when the novel was over.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (the Year of Jojo Moyes) :: Thanks to a recommendation from Shauna Niequist (who never steers me wrong on novels), I decided to pick up my first Jojo Moyes novel. And then I disappeared for 24-hours while I devoured it. DEVOURED. This book was so good. It was definitely my favourite of hers – the heroine of the novel and her family were so dear. And the questions it brought up and the conversations it sparked were so interesting. I ended up devouring all of her other novels, too.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd :: What a fascinating book. I love Sue Monk Kidd’s work and style – I think it’s that strain of the mystic to her work that I love or perhaps how she can write such complex women so well – but this one was an interesting story, compelling characters, and filled with empowerment and passion. It’s intense and complicated and brave. It makes me appreciate so much more deeply the women who came before us all.

 

Favourite Non-Fiction Reads

Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor. I know, I know, I’m a total BBT fan-girl. But this book was so vitally important to me this year. She articulates the liminal spaces of our lives so beautifully and turns the narratives of dark-light on their head in a way that made total sense to me. I got this book – anyone who has ever found God in the dark or in the in-between will get this book.

Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of St. Francis of Assisi by Richard Rohr. I’ve been fascinated with St. Francis for a while now but this book takes us beyond the usual stories and biographical details, into the heart of Franciscan life. (Perhaps it’s because of Pope Francis that we’re all so dazzled by the idea of a Christian who actually seems like a Christian?) I found this book brilliant and challenging.

My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer by Christian Wiman. Oh, man. This book. This book! It reads more like poetry than spiritual memoir genre (which makes sense since Wiman is a poet). It blends theology with poetry, faith with doubt, edges with beauty. It’s luminous and devastating, worth a slow read.

Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer by Micha Boyett. You might have missed this unassuming book but goodness, Micha can write about prayer and motherhood like no one else. Every word is earthy, loving, and present. It made me feel a little less alone in how I wrestle not only with prayer but with the performances of prayer or the old habits no longer fitting.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler – I’m not usually one for reading humour books or books by comedians in general, but I loved Tina Fey’s Bossypants and so I decided to grab this one from the library as a bit of light reading one weekend. I ended up howling with laughter and texting my sister certain lines. It’s profane, accessible, hilarious, fearless, and strong. I think I need to find my inner Amy Poehler.

For more about the books I love, click here.

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