You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.
This may be the hardest blog post to write! These are my girls! There is so much life and history here. We’ve been to Hell and back and found the deepest joy and love for God and one another through it. We have been together since 2005! I was pregnant with Kimberlyn when the group formed. Jake and I were contemplating moving back to Oklahoma when I was asked to be the final member of the group. (Jake really wanted to move back to Jenks at this point. He was offered a teaching position along with an offer to be the Head Coach of Soccer (he was so homesick), but it is Oklahoma and you know the pay was awful- in the word of John Crist -“For SURE No! – If we were there right now we would be marching with kids out of school due to a LONG OVERDUE Teacher Strike – Go Oklahoma Teachers!!! But this is not what the post is about, I digress) We have only made 1 change to our Book Club, in 2012 we gained Christina! Amberly has left us several times living overseas and is about to again temporarily. So Sad! But we are so happy for her and look forward to her stories from China! Her previous assignments were in the Philippines.
We started the group initially meeting every other month, but quickly changed to every month because we got attached to our Book Club night. I remember the early days as being the best break from life with littles…. to realizing we are having a whole different kind of conversation, one we could not have anywhere else. No subject was off limits and no opinion was mocked or scorned. The books we read started chipping away at everything I was once so certain about. I will list a few books that disrupted us, but will also include the link to all of the books we have read, our summary and rating: “Irresistible Revolution” Shane Claiborne, “Traveling Mercies” Anne Lamott, “Torn” Justin Lee, “Evolving in Monkey Town” (this book is now titled Faith Unraveled) Rachel Held Evans, “Carry On Warrior” Glennon Doyle, “Seven” Jen Hatmaker, “Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint” Nadia Bolz-Weber (I longed for this kind of church), “The Sin of Certainty” Peter Enns – plus reading novels that were not necessarily true, but gave us a story that tore down walls too- reading creates EMPATHY.
We started reading some of our author’s blogs too. We read about their heart and work for justice that seemed more in line with the love of Christ than the cultural christian message we were hearing all around us. They were opening our eyes to all kinds of questions we were afraid to ask, and revealed so much injustice we were unaware of because we were not paying attention. Not to be too hard on ourselves – many don’t see injustice until you see, feel or touch it. They busted our hearts open to everyone, not just the insiders that we were comfortable with. I remember thinking – “Goodness I wish the rest of the world would get this message. What a loss for those who don’t know how good it really is.” I had no idea these authors/pastors were (and still are ) all prophets preparing us for what was about to meet us in America right now.
Here is a journey reading has lead us on:
Early on (2007, I believe) Amberly had a blog mentioning 2 books she was interested in. She ended up picking “Left to Tell” by Imaculee Ilibagiza about the Rwandan Genocide. “Ordinary Man” was her back up choice, also about the genocide. Well, one of the authors of “Ordinary Man”, Tom Zoellner, saw her blog post and commented that he was disappointed his book was not picked, but if we would like to read it at a later date he would chat with us about the book! So the following month we read his book and talked with the author. It was fascinating reading the books back to back also. The difference in faith between the two was eye opening for me. The lived through such horrible and tragic violence. And the UN left them alone—Unconscionable. I want to add Nelson Mandela promoted peace and forgiveness when this finally ended. Enemies came together and many had to forgive the ones who murdered their family. That should be a witness to us in America. Forgiveness is the only way anything can heal and move forward. But we have to sit with those we hurt and listen—Humble ourselves and lament. Repentance means rethink.
After this happened, we started reaching out to every author we could get a hold of – we got to speak with Lisa See “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan”, Susan Ray Schmidt “His Favorite Wife: Trapped in Polygamy” (Ironically this was my 30th celebration, 10 years later (on my 40th celebration) we had her niece Anna LeBaron at our Book Club discussing “The Polygamist’s Daughter), and we almost did a video conference with Kevin Roose who wrote the “Unlikely Disciple” – He was from Brown University and he applied to Liberty University undercover to write about his time there (he is not a believer and Falwell was known for crazy antics claiming christianity). He ended up making friends and revealed some remorse in the book when the friends felt betrayed by him because he went there to write a book. We read this book in 2010 and had no idea this would be useful information in light of Liberty being a source of contention now with Falwell Jr.!!!! We were supposed to talk with him, but when we asked him had he gone to a “normal” Christian college did he think he would get this same message—We never got a reply after that. Not sure if that is why, but that is where the discussion ended. Just sayin. 🙂 If he sees this post and wants to reach out again, we are still happy to talk. Ha! We also skyped with Shane Claiborne in April 2017 to discuss “Executing Grace” (a book about the Death Penalty)- we even brought one of our husband’s to the meeting who wanted to ask further questions on this subject. Jason Reddick who was with the Texas Coaltion to Abolish the Death Penalty was there as well.
Here are some pics of meeting Shane via Skype —look closely Rachel and Christina are on the phone Amberly is holding —and Anna LeBaron at our Book Club meeting on my Birthday – 40th to be exact. Ironically, talking to Shane was on Jake’s 40th birthday (my husband). What a cool 40th birthday we have in common -talking to authors personally. 😉 Anna also looked at me and could tell I had been through something and was coming out of it. She told me “Free people. Free people” I felt like she was telling me I have story to tell. (And this says a lot because she lived through Hell and is one of the most joyful people I have ever met. I am thankful to call her friend too!).
Reading has taken us on quite the journey. When the election of 2016 occurred –it felt a million years long—our group text kept us afloat. Plus eating dinner with one of our Muslim friends to apologize for the rhetoric of Trump and that christians were supporting his awful tone. We were sure he would not be elected. So naive! She also told me a lot more about the Muslim faith that is absolutely fascinating. People need to listen more. Christianity has been used for extreme violence too. Christians need to be honest about this fact – colonization, Trail of Tears, wars, etc. “How is it that for so long American Christianity has had its finger on parsing the language of righteousness but its feet far from fighting injustice.” Charlie Dates
I would also send a million LONG texts lamenting what was happening. We watched our authors evolve and change through the season too (Jen Hatmaker, Glennon – to name 2 who made considerable changes). Jen Hatmaker became affirming of LGBT. This was not a problem for us because we were already there, but were shocked by the backlash she received. Although we did see what happened with WorldVision reversing their decision to let LGBT work with them because of the christian backlash. This reversal happened within 48 hours of the announcement because of financial pressure. I think that is a pivotal moment for many of us because that felt like hate won, and it won through money that would lead to the death of children. It knocked the breath out of us. We knew who Jesus was hanging out with now! We are awake and we see the Evangelical church kicking people and churches out when there is a disagreement on theology. And I personally notice how LGBT gets portrayed in non-affirming churches. It is dangerous and it makes me very sad. I cannot reconcile that philosophy to Jesus at all. Rachel Held Evans is one author we could lament with when the WorldVision fiasco happened. I am telling you reading is not just reading a book, it is connection and a new way of thinking. I believe God still speaks and we are still moving forward. Reading and writing has lead us to embody the Spirit and become more political. We are seeing massive injustice, and it is our system causing the problem. Also, an embodied faith is so important. Disconnecting from our bodies makes us think that here and now does not matter. Reading helped us discover this truth. We have very much experienced this truth as well. Our bodies matter, and an embodied faith matters. Politics matters. The Bible is the report from those who had the foot of the Empire on their necks. We can no longer disconnect from the truth that our systems cause suffering. Reading helped us discover this! “Deep suffering makes theologians of us all. The questions people ask about God in Sunday School rarely compare with the questions we ask while we are in the hospital.” Barbara Brown Taylor – author of “An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith”
I am so thankful I had the book club and our authors when the world fell apart because my life was about to fall apart too. When my world crashed along with everything else – my girls sat with me through the whole ordeal. (And their life had crashed too!) When the tears flowed, they just let them flow. I could write as many texts as I wanted crying out. They never once gave advice or acted annoyed by my pain. They joined me and walked with me. I found even more authors on Twitter who pastored me through the darkness. Then when I was ready to live again, they held my hand as I had to make significant changes in my life so I could move forward. One was changing churches, because I needed to be where women were fully affirmed as well as LGBT. The Book Club has championed my revival. Through this decision I am not the same anymore. I have experienced some kind of resurrection. This is why I write!
When I decided to speak on what had been revealed to me, I knew I would lose people, but I knew I had the backing of the Book Club friends! The FaceBook likes would be less, a far more powerful tool than I would like to admit because I really like being liked. I see the pain of those who have been left out and I could no longer play it safe. I chose to leave the circle because I no longer belonged there anymore. My heart breaks for those on the outside – we all belong. I had a strong support group (Book Club) that let me do this. I also had to find a church that would let me do this too. Jonathan Martin, author of “How to Survive a Shipwreck” gave this advice– Don’t stay on the margins too long resisting. Eventually you will need camaraderie to let you live the fire that is in your belly. I can testify to this truth. Go where you find life.
Our book club went on a cruise this year! In February our long awaited cruise finally happened. We purchased this cruise over a year in advance at such a great rate – but it took so long it always felt like the cruise “one day”. Well “one day” happened! I love this picture of us. There is so much joy and also a great reminder of sisterhood I have beside me – good times, bad times, in between times, and crazy times. All times!