Back to the Bonfire
Introducing our new deep dive theology series + help me choose the topics
You may remember that a few weeks ago, we had a Field Notes survey and then I shared with you how I’m integrating your feedback into the newsletter moving forward (you can read that whole post by clicking here). One thing you told me that is that many of you would really like space to talk about theology more often and more deeply.
As I shared there, “you’re feeling the lack of good writing and good teaching on things that really matter to your spiritual formation. You’re particularly hungry for theology that is progressive but also still deeply rooted in Jesus and in the good news of the Gospel. You are ready to start rebuilding what has been torn down but need someone alongside you in that work. It’s clear those of us who identify as more progressive in our faith are desperate for more resources and conversation on our theology for us ordinary folks just trying to follow Jesus these days (seminaries are doing a great job here, of course but that content or style isn’t accessible for most of us and we’re looking for something for us Normals).”
Our New Upcoming Series: Back to the Bonfire
So I’m starting a deep dive series here at Field Notes for paid subscribers this fall called Back to Bonfire. The title is a nod to my first book Jesus Feminist, which began this way:
“Here, let’s do this. Let’s try to lay down our ideas, our neatly organized Bible verses, our carefully crafted arguments. Let’s take a break from sitting across from each other in this stuffy room.
Let’s head outside. I want us to sit around a fire pit ringed with stones and watch the moon move over the Pacific. I want us to drink good red wine, dig our toes into the cool sand, and wrap up in cozy sweaters. We’ll feel the cold of the evening steal across the water soon, and the mountains are resting with their hands folded.
And I want us to talk about this…..
“This night, by this bonfire, I want to wrap us up in the warmth of good stories, of strong love, prophetic callings. We’ll wrestle with deep biblical truth, tell a few everyday-hero stories of regular people like you and me, down through the ages, whispered and shouted in the truth of freedom found, and our love of a Church whose only goodness is found in Christ alone, walking in the unforced rhythm of living loved by God.”
In the spirit of Jesus Feminist, going back to the bonfire together means that we’re going to talk about some big - even controversial - theological questions but we’ll do it in a way that hopefully invites us to love God and love the world better.
To be honest, I have zero interest in theological sparring. I could care less about bros arguing over an IPA in a pub about penal substitutionary atonement. None of us need another round of apologetics or statement to sign or line in the sand or purity test. I’m not setting myself up as an authority or expert. Ivory towers wouldn’t even have me. I’m just a scrappy, stubborn, self-taught disciple who loves Jesus.
I do love to think about and wrestle with theology because I believe it matters to our real, walking around life. Theology isn’t an intellectual exercise - if it is, we’re doing it wrong - but a whole life practice. What we know and believe and think - or even hope - about God changes how we live our lives right now.
So with that in mind, let’s return to that bonfire and explore theology together. I’ll share where I’ve landed on particular things - and sometimes where I’ve landed is “I’m not sure yet” - along with resources for a deeper dive yet but the conversation will also be open in the comments for you to share your wisdom, your experiences, resources or teachers you’ve found helpful, that sort of thing.
I see it as an ongoing thing with maybe one new Bonfire a month, starting in September when my kids are back in school and I can maintain a more regular rhythm for this kind of deeper work, but we’ll see how it goes.
What do you want to talk about at the bonfire?
Today I want to invite you to help me figure out which topics we should explore together around the bonfire. For instance, I once mentioned on an Instagram AMA that I don’t believe in eternal conscious punishment or hell as many others do and my email was bombarded by folks wanting me to talk more about that. What else? What are the theological topics you’d like to explore together? What questions about God or church or reading the Bible or faithfulness are bothering you? What are the beliefs you once held that don’t make sense anymore but you’re not sure what you think now? What are you curious about?
Share with me by clicking the green “Leave a Comment” button. I’ll directly be pulling our big Bonfire topics from this comment thread so speak up! Read the other comments and like or respond to the ones that you’d like to see us explore together, too.
If you’re already a paid subscriber to Field Notes, thank you and you’re all set - you’ll receive these Bonfire missives starting this autumn as part of your subscription, no extra work or sign-ups needed.
If you’re not already a paid subscriber, you would need to become one for access to the Back to the Bonfire series. In addition to this upcoming series, I send a weekly email with book chat, good things, links, exclusive essays, and more plus there’s a whole archive of exclusive essays and devotional series already waiting for you there. A monthly subscription is $5 CAD - or just about $4 USD - a month or $40 CAD - just over $30 USD - a year.
As always, if you can’t afford a subscription, I promise: I get it and we’ve got you! Email email@example.com and it is our absolute joy to hook you up. The whole subscription thing is never meant to be a barrier but simply a way to support me and my work since it takes a lot of time, energy, and work to create this kind of content. It also creates a warmer, more humane little neighbourhood on the Internet for these types of discussions.
Let’s learn to be critical thinkers without critical hearts
Years ago, I practiced anger and cynicism, like a pianist practices scales, over and over. I practiced being defensive - about my choices and my mothering, my theology and my politics. And then I went on the offense. I repeated outrage and anger. I jumped, Pavlovian, to right every wrong and defend every truth, refute every inflammatory blog post, pontificate about every question. Any sniff of disagreement was a dinner bell clanging to my anger: Come and get it! Rally the troops! Like many of us, I called it critical thinking to hide my bitter and critical heart, and I wondered why I had no real joy in this ongoing search for truth.
Then, I wanted to be done with that grand piano performance of my own greatness and righteous anger, along with the glossy stage. So much for the concert proficiency at being right; I’m ready to be Beloved instead. Out here, on this same shore, those years ago, I imagined that I found a battered old thrift-store piano. As I saw it, I was clumsy and awkward, learning to practice goodness and truth, like scales all over again. I am still practicing gentleness and beauty, over and over again. Someday perhaps my fingers will find those keys without thought.
I want to practice faithfulness and kindness; I am learning to fill my ears with the repetitions of wide eyes and open hands and innocent fun, holy laughter. I want to practice with intention, joy. I want to tell the truth but first, I want to live the Truth.
I won’t desecrate beauty with cynicism anymore. I won’t confuse critical thinking with a critical spirit, and I will practice painfully, over and over, patience and peace until my gentle answers turn away even my own wrath. I will breathe fresh air while I learn, all over again, grace freely given and wisdom honoured; and when my fingers fumble, when I sound flat or sharp, I will simply try again.
We’ll practice the ways of Jesus, over and over, until the scales fall from our eyes and our ears begin to hear. And someday, I believe, our fingers will be flying over the keys of that old piano, in old hymns and new songs, and when we look up, I bet there will be a field full of people dancing, beside the water, whirling, stomping their feet and laughing, and babies will be bouncing, and we will be singing the song we were always and ever meant to sing. The rocks will be crying out, and the trees will be clapping their hands, and the banquet table will be groaning with the weight of apples and wine and bread, and we will all sing until the stars come down.
Ready for the discussions and the dancing,
Learn more about my books:
The NYT and International Bestseller A Rhythm of Prayer
In case you missed these Field Notes:
The Good Things of July - for subscribers
It turns out I love my stuff - monthly round-up for everyone
Book Corner for July - for subscribers
I always thought that I would be one sort of person: but now I’m someone else. Or, Off Brand (for everyone but audio is just for paid subscribers)
Answering your questions about creationism, deconstruction, guilty pleasures, weeknight meals, and more 🙋🏻♀️ - AMA for June - for subscribers