Archive of ‘Anything Goes’ category

Meetups & Book Reviews

lake

It’s raining. The grass is wet. Little dimples fill the lake. Water coats the deck and driveway with a slick, glossy finish.

The backyard is growing at mach speed.

To make up for the lack of summer outside, we’ve been painting and play-doh-ing, reading and playing so many double headers of living room kickball. And occasionally, when the rain breaks, we sneak out to kayak which is mostly our boys’ vehicle for spotting snakes, frogs, lizards, deer, crane and other wildlife neighbors.

Summer is synonymous with family here. The days are slow and long, the to-do lists are kept purposefully short. It’s a simple time when we clean, and bake, and eat and play together.

Together is one of my favorite words.

Next week, I’ll be venturing out of lake country to co-host the first of a series of meetups about disillusionment and faith related to my newly released book, Beyond the Broken Church. If you live in Michigan, and would like to join us, we’re gathering for ice cream and sunshine at a historic Jackson park.

You can find out more here.

Also, if you haven’t read The Well Balanced World Changer yet, here’s a few words from a review by blogger Suzy Oakley.

 

 

I finished a book last night that took me a few months to read – not because I’m a slow reader (although I am) or that my life is too busy (again, guilty) but because I needed to spend time reflecting on each and every chapter. And I went back and read some chapters a second time. As I said this morning on Facebook, the book is filled with encouragement, insight and wisdom – so much so that I not only read some chapters twice but I highlighted lots of passages. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

The book – The Well-Balanced World Changer: A Field Guide for Staying Sane while Doing Good by Sarah Cunningham (see links below) – is broken into 10 sections, with several short chapters in each. Every single chapter had something profound to say to me. The author was speaking my language.

To say that the book is strictly about “changing the world” is to do it an injustice. For me, it’s more about changing myself from within, of aligning myself with God’s purposes in the world. After all, to make a better world you have to start with yourself.

 

Read the rest of the review here.

May you find blessing in the sunshine and rain alike.

 

Parenting > Blogging

My oldest, Justus (also known as The Emperor), turned 5 on Earth Day.

While five years is a relatively short time-span, it’s nothing to sneeze at when you’re the mom of said creature. They grow old in the blink of an eye, you know. (Or if for some reason you don’t know, everyone who has ever had a kid, will tell you.)

Due to the lightning fast growth of children, I am sticking to my previously declared blogging-hiatus of sorts…posting just once a month (or so) until Justus starts kindergarten in the fall.

But there are updates to be had…

I’ve thanked-but-no-thanked every speaking engagement that has come my way lately with one super-fun exception. I will be launching the fully-illustrated hardcover version of The Donkey in the Living Room at the D6 Conference this fall.

The book which helps families celebrate the real meaning of Christmas. And it was my somewhat sporadic and almost accidental entry into children’s publishing.

Though the book was initially a self-published venture, parent friends and friends-of-friends were quick to support the project and to spread the word, which led to the book being picked up by a publisher. Where it’s going in September…still hasn’t been fully announced, but is way cooler than I ever imagined.

If you have kids in your life, or on your shopping list, I hope you’ll consider inviting them into this tradition.

Secondly, Zondervan is generously publishing an updated version of my first book, originally titled, Dear Church: Letters From a Disillusioned Generation.  The new just-released version which is called Beyond the Broken Church: How to Leave Church Problems Behind Without Leaving the Church, contains about 35% new content plus an expanded guide for church and denominational leaders in the back.

To celebrate this book, which takes an honest look at church-related struggles but invites readers to well-being beyond bitterness, I’ll be co-hosting a series of fun, casual, conversation-style meet-ups in the tri-state area. (For me, that means Michigan, Ohio, Indiana…although we may throw in some Illinois or Canada just to spice things up.)

Stay tuned for meetups to be posted next week!

In the mean time, join me in spending these long spring and summer days loving the 5-year-olds *or-whatever-age people-you-value* in your life all you can.

Sarah

Love Will Be What You Let It Be

egg

Fuzzy blond-haired boys roll into my kitchen every day around 7:00 and proceed to order food as if they were regulars at a local breakfast dive.

More often than not, they opt for eggs, not because of taste or nutrition, but because little boys rarely get the chance to break small fragile objects or unleash gooey yellow globs…legally.

I know posting about mundane kitchen tasks like cracking eggs is choosing to memorialize a little bit of daily nothing. It doesn’t solve social injustice, it doesn’t right bad theology, it doesn’t produce landmark books or art or events.

But the substance of that moment is ripe with the sort of things that do.

Feelings of love and family. Happily embedded in moments of “home.”

My toddlers, of course, don’t know that MH370 has been declared lost, or that the U.S. is freezing Russian leaders’ assets. They don’t know that Mark Driscoll has been accused or that he apologized or that the entire Christian spectrum is up in arms about Noah or Hobby Lobby or World Vision’s hiring policies. Somehow, though, in spite of the more meta social strains, these kids are whole and well and know deep in their little cores that they’re loved.

As much as this sounds like the set-up to a mommy blogger post, let me insert here that I think the work that goes on in my kitchen every morning is the exact same work I’m drawn to everywhere else.

That, at life’s core, the challenge is always about assembling and reassembling family from the people and circumstances I find myself in. About gathering people. About loving like it matters, like it’s needed, like if we loved boldly enough it’d create more moments of “home”–where we move toward wholeness and well-being in walking this planet (despite all its strains) together.

This has been a good, full month that way.

I’ve escaped to dates at giant plastic playlands, not only to watch toddlers scurry around plastic tunnels, but to talk to the various moms perched around me. To make scattered eye contact, over toddler spills and tantrums, with Tracy–a friend I first grew accustomed to talking to while laying out high school yearbook pages or performing in spring plays 22 years ago. Or with Bethany–mother of Eli–who together with her sister Jennie, have played dozens or roles in my life over the last 15 years–roommates, fellow small group leaders, co-workers, bridesmaids–and beyond all that sisters.

There was our third annual writing retreat–a hyper-small collection of friends who hole away in a giant hunting lodge to eat and talk…and to lay the foundation for our next year of writing. All while tucked away in the icy woods.

There’s sneaking out to meet our neighbor, Jamie, from down the way to wonder aloud together about career and family and friends and personal growth…and the piles of snow that have plagued our neighborhood for far too long.

There’s the conferences that rise up like little temporary towns, gatherings of tribes returning to bits of the homeland. That bring with them the chance, for at least fleeting moments, for their attenders to be with people who spend most moments believing toward better worlds from their separate, more distant corners of this one.

There was a single, calming and orienting conversation over lobster rolls with college friend Joe and two indulgent meals with a couple of 20-something siblings who snuck into my heart as children many years ago.

There’s been family birthday parties, where little sister-in-law Jill gifted me with a healing box of chai k-cups–not because it was my birthday, but because the 18 month old had crashed and been surgically glued back together just that morning…and chai makes at least a small dent in fixing everything.

There were three straight days of March Madness, days I absorb like a recycling of Thanksgiving or Christmas, where my brothers–my real genetic, flesh-and-blood, look-like-me brothers–take up residence in our house, lugging in with them multiple TV screens and copies of NCAA brackets and food with scary amounts of preservatives. And we all lay around in sweats, just barely talking, and then heatedly talking, in cycles, as we go to great lengths to do something we could do alone…together.

And for sure, yes, there were moments of career climbing and producing, producing, producing, woven through all of these. I signed off on the back cover copy of a book that’s being re-released in April. I smiled like a little kid as a I flipped through mock-ups of a children’s book and toy that will hit the shelves in September. I plotted who knows how many campaigns to help advance who knows how many projects I believe in.

But in the end, I guess, the ordinary, bits-of-nothing moments that mean nothing to blog readers or to agents or to movers-and-shakers in this or that industry, seem just as worth telling as the others. Because as much as we try to pull the pieces of the world together through big ideas, philosophies, theology, and so-much-plotting *which clearly I do*, I am pretty sure we stir wholeness and well being just as boldly in the softer more ordinary moments. When we look at everything spiraling around us–the lost planes and Russia, Driscoll and World Vision–and we choose not to relegate our active fostering of love to meal-making with toddlers around kitchen counters.

When we extend vulnerability and belief to those who weren’t born to us, but who are bound to us by our daily experiences just the same.

When we choose to be the one who takes responsibility for loving people, whoever they are, who we find standing next to us. Not because we’re the parent, but because we believe–as deeply as any belief we hold–that the world needs more of it.

When we adamantly refuse, in the face of ongoing cycles of disappointment and accusations of idealism, to become so detached from hope that we stop being known as people of… faith.

When we decide that reality is too harsh, and society is too apathetic, that we can’t afford not to foster family wherever we go.

As adults, knowing all the dysfunctions and realities of this world that our children may sometimes be blissfully naive to, it’s so easy to become numb and emotionally afraid creatures with muted hope.  To look at the world mostly through lenses of cynicism or bitterness or loss–lenses forged and continually validated through our suffering. It’s easy to shore up around self-protection and busyness, in the determined advancement of ourselves and whatever fierce battles we wage with all things wrong.

But what awakens a sometimes sleep-walking world to feeling again, to sifting out meaning again, to moments of spiritual “home” we could live alone but we choose to live together…I think it’s choosing to extend the same sort of unapologetic, fierce, everyday love often relegated to our homes to the people who come to us outside of them.

That’s what I’ve been thinking about in March anyways.

Making Friends in Adulthood: What’s the Trick?

friends

In high school, you sat for hours in the same classrooms or ran the gym for hours on the same sports teams. In college, you lived in the same buildings–”dorms”–where for four years, you didn’t need to do anything but walk out the door to find yourself surrounded with friends and acquaintances.

But many people are taken by surprise how the nature of friendship can change as they age. Alex Williams recently took on this phenomena in his New York Times piece, “Why Is It Hard to Make Friends After 30?”

It was like one of those magical blind-date scenes out of a Hollywood rom-com, without the “rom.” I met Brian, a New York screenwriter, a few years ago through work, which led to dinner with our wives and friend chemistry that was instant and obvious.

We liked the same songs off Dylan’s “Blonde on Blonde,” the same lines from “Chinatown.” By the time the green curry shrimp had arrived, we were finishing each other’s sentences. Our wives were forced to cut in: “Hey, guys, want to come up for air?”

As Brian and his wife wandered off toward the No. 2 train afterward, it crossed my mind that he was the kind of guy who might have ended up a groomsman at my wedding if we had met in college.

That was four years ago. We’ve seen each other four times since. We are “friends,” but not quite friends. We keep trying to get over the hump, but life gets in the way.

Read the rest of the article here.

Tony Campolo Retiring? I Don’t Know If I Buy It.

tony campolo retiring, retired, EAPE closing, Red Letter Christians

“Tony Campolo, a progressive evangelical leader … announced Tuesday (Jan. 14) that the organization he founded nearly 40 years ago will close on June 30.”

So began an article chronicling Tony’s step away from the organization that has been his public face for longer than I’ve been alive.

I have to admit, I receive the news with mixed feelings. I am happy that Tony may be able to move more freely in this stage of life, unencumbered by the burdens that come with administering an organization. But, too, it felt sad to see the EAPE waving goodbye. It feels like the beginning of an end of a Campolo-marked era that is coming all too soon.

Of course I, like anyone who knows Tony, was not surprised that his definition of retirement included the words “…he will continue to write and speak, with nearly 200 engagements scheduled for 2014.”

200 engagements in Tony Campolo’s retirement year? Yeah. That sounds about right.

For about five years now, I’ve had the privilege of being involved with Red Letter Christians, the organization where Tony spends most of his time now according to the article. And I have to tell you, to go from a save-the-world teenager listening to a colorful evangelist tell churches to stop buying $100,000 sound systems when people are starving…to go to sitting in a room with him every winter, to having him endorse my books…has been a beautiful, meaningful, unforgettable turn of events.

The Church should be the only club in the world that exists for the benefits of its non-members. In this book, Sarah Cunningham spells out concrete, practical ways to make that happen. Using Biblical directives she lays out how the local church can be THE CHURCH. – Tony Campolo, PhD. Eastern University

So I sit there with Tony and the others he has gathered. And we circle up to listen to him tell favorite, cherished stories that we’ve heard him tell before…about Clarence and the casket, for example. And we, many adults with our organizations and published books, are rendered grandchildren around a table listening to a patriarch tell family stories we’ve grown to love. We lean forward as if it is the first time we have heard the story, we listen intently, and we mouth the words with him, “Good night, Clarence!” as the finale of his familiar narrative breaks.

And we applaud not because we are being kind, but because something in his spirit has been planted in ours. So when he asks us to sing Joy to the World for the third time that day, we sing it as if it is the first time, because we know these requests are bits of his legacy of the hope for this planet he intends–very intentionally–to leave behind in us.

Tony Campolo is, for sure, a gust of wind at many backs, including mine.

Which is why my favorite part of the article was this:

“Too often, we old guys hang on too long and steal the spotlight from the new, bright, shining stars emerging as speakers and leaders,” Campolo said. “We keep occupying leadership without stepping aside and getting behind these speakers.”

And I just want you to know that when he says this, about stealing the spotlight, you might think it goes against the grain of the lively, attention-grabbing voice you’ve known and loved, but I want you to know that it is real.

Tony Campolo has repeatedly told me, with the kind of sincerity that brings tears to my eyes, that he wants to end well. That he wants to disperse influence to those coming up under him, to help them get the speaking engagements he once took more of, to help them find their voices in the publishing industry, to help them work together to accomplish more.

And he has put his energy behind that.

Whether the EAPE closes or not, parts of it will continue on with us. After all, I aspire to be controversial as Jesus was controversial. But I also aspire to end well as Tony Campolo is ending well.

Read the rest of the article about Tony’s retirement here.

 

Thank You, Readers

LifeDoesntComeWithAManual

This is a season of sharing for me. Sharing a new book I believe in or posts I’ve written. But today is a good day to take a break from all that and tell you how much your real life and online support mean to me.

Writing is like a lot of your own occupations and hobbies. It is personally meaningful, but sometimes the writer is greeted with criticism or silence that make it tempting to stop taking risks and putting themselves out there.

But every time someone leaves a note that they read one of my books or related to a post I wrote, every time they ‘like’ or ‘share’ here or comment on my blog, it makes me feel like my voice doesn’t just echo through empty chambers but that it stands a chance of touching people. Of stirring something good in the world.

So many of you have demonstrated time and time again that you are those rare kinds of people who know how to be selfless, to offer support rather than competition, and to be glad for someone else’s successes. That says so much about my real life and online community. And it makes me feel like everything positive I’m given the chance to do, in part also belongs to YOU.

Thank you. Really.

The End of Summer

JUSTUSANDMAC

Summer has been full of so much of the right thing.

Sunshine and much loved people…and, when we were lucky, both at the same time.

We drank in days upon days of family.

With me working from home and my husband off for the summer, it made for a sweet, slow stretch of kayaking and pontooning that stretched on so long, it all–looking back–seems like one beautiful, endless summer day.

There was mountains of quality time both with our two boys and the extended family beyond it.

And we were able to sporadically catch other friends, not hardly ever for as long or as many times as we wanted, but still got the chance to connect in spur of the moment meet-ups between various traveling.

I even re-connected with some awesome and uniquely funny friends I used to work with while waitressing in high school, which–despite the reason we knew each other being a lowly Denny’s restaurant–still ended up being one of the highlights of the summer.

And now, things are folding up again for the fall.

We have a couple more trips, a Labor Day weekend to survive, and then I’ll be back here on this blog–rested and refreshed and thankful for those of you who will keep reading even though I of course spent the whole summer doing exactly what bloggers are not supposed to do: taking time off the blog.

Just so you know, I highly recommend it.

I don’t regret summers with my children for a minute.

But I am looking forward to reconnecting better this fall.

So, please, go and find some goodness over your Labor Day weekend and I’ll see you back here bright and early some time after.

 

 

 

 

Back to the Beginning

dearchurchsummary

Today, I spent the longest chunk of my day on the back deck, tilted back in a gravity chair, sun hat flopping around my face, iced tea within reach and laptop in front of me.

It was a peaceful way to revisit my early twenties, when I first put together the content of my first book Dear Church: Letters From a Disillusioned Generation.

Zondervan, the publishing company behind the title, has decided to release an updated version (likely with a new title) next May and for me, that meant taking a good long look at where I’ve been and what I can add based on who I’ve become since then.

Rewrites are a delicate balancing act.

The original manuscript of Dear Church is angst driven, vulnerable and in some places, marked by what seems like glaring immaturity in retrospect.

So of course my temptation is to go back and revise and add information in a way that polishes my previous weaknesses and injects 35 year old Sarah’s perspective over top of her younger self. (I’ll probably want to rewrite it again when I’m 50.)

But in most cases, I resisted that urge.

What made Dear Church successful as a book was its ability to join a reader in the highest point of their disillusionment, when they could most easily relate to my occasionally cynical commentary as I sort through my disappointments with organized religion. It was that mutual understanding that allowed them to see me as a relateable voice when the book moved to talking about moving beyond disillusionment as well.  And to strip that emotion or frustration away, even if to present a more polished version of myself, would subtract the real heaviness that makes it ring true to disaffected readers.

So instead, here’s what’s happening with the new edition:

  • I’m broadening the focus of the book so it no longer drills in on disillusionment as a “young person”l issue, but rather treats it as a multi-generational one.
  • I’m adding material–a few stories and metaphors–that grew out of the speaking engagements at conferences and churches that followed the release of Dear Church.
  • I’m adding a bonus resource section for church and denominational leaders and/or parents and other mentors of those disillusioned with faith. This is based largely on my experiences interacting with people, churches and denominations about this topic since the book came out.

And we’re right now thinking about how to rework the title to best match the language and needs of those searching for resources on disillusionment, as well as choosing some new images that might capture the state of the ideal reader–someone who maybe wants to leave the church, but at the same time doesn’t want to leave the church.

Most of the time, I don’t want to revisit years past. The more I grow as a person, the more satisfying my life becomes, so the drama of youthfulness becomes less and less enticing. But I have to admit, it’s been nice to take a trip or two down memory lane lately–to engage some old friends and old projects and to remember that no matter what age we are now, we always have to thank the younger versions of ourselves (however angst-filled!) for their investment in making us who we are today.

This is the last deadline for a book for adults I have on my radar before I’ll be transitioning to writing on what I hope is a whole new topic, which aligns even more closely with some of the values driving this blog, what lies on the other side of disillusionment for me.

I hope you’ll follow along. I’m hoping the best is yet to come.

1 2 3 48