Raising Successful Kids, Powerful Evangelical Women, Don Cherry, and Dolly Parton

October's Field Notes Part 4: Links, Clicks, and Too Many Tabs Open

Hello, my loves. I’m at the Seattle airport, waiting for my flight to Vancouver en route from California after a quick getaway weekend with a group of women I’ve been friends with for eight years now. It is hard to justify being away from one’s family when you travel for work as frequently as I do. But it has been a few years since I was able to make our yearly gathering and at my family’s urging, I cashed in my airline points and showed up. And even though L.A. traffic made me nearly lose my salvation (seriously, no wonder the planet is dying), I was so grateful to be in their presence for two days. They bundled me into bed early every night with their blessing.

These women came into my life the year before Jesus Feminist was published - we initially started as a blogging mastermind group which is adorable - and they have stood beside me and at my back for years now, holding up my arms when I have faltered in work or life. As I said to them during our “Circle Time” (listen, women retreats are A Whole Thing), there aren’t too many people I’m just plain old Sarah to anymore - for most people, I’m “SarahBessey” now and it means a lot to me to have these witnesses as loving friends and callers-of-bullshit in my life. As life has gotten more complicated, their friendship has been a refuge.

I know not everyone has a group of friends like this and so that makes me more appreciative. And yet this hasn’t happened by accident: we have to keep showing up, we have to keep connected, make the calls, be honest, ask for what we need, speak up, and adapt for each other’s changing capacity and seasons. We forgive a lot. We check in often.

But after nearly eight years of committed friendship, I’ve also seen the payoff of sustained long term friendship with women. We’re all growing older. Life is more complicated both in work and in personal lives. We’ve weathered some major storms together. We have disappointed each other. Some don’t believe in God anymore. Others have gotten more woo-woo. One turned to Catholicism, another to crystals. We have broken down and built up. We have popped champagne and celebrated We have laughed until we wept and eaten Walmart white sheet cake with forks while watching beauty pageants. But we are still walking together. I often joke that if I ever need to bury a body, these are the girls I would call.

Finding the few spots in this world where we can be fully seen and fully safe even as you are fully yourself are rare and they deserve our time, energy, money, and attention. Like all good relationships, it’s not easy but it’s worth it. They’re my crowded table.

And there is that moment when we’re laying around in our jammies, bras off, cackling and watching Lizzo videos, talking about everything from the incarnation to beauty products that you realize making magic like this doesn’t usually happen by accident: it’s been one part faithfulness, one part honesty, one part intention, a shared language for laughter, and one part sheer holding on tight.

Come what may, hold onto each other,


This is the final issue of this month’s Field Notes - I won’t see you again until November 20th - which will be our Christmas Gift Guide to Empower Women. I’m also seriously considering doing a whole new weekly Advent series during December so let me know in the comments if that sounds like something you’d like to have for December’s Sunday evenings.

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Now grab your cuppa coffee and settle in to read these links that caught my eye this month - you’re in for some thoughtful and provoking conversations here.

Links and Clicks

Forgotten: The Things We Lost in Kanye’s Gospel Year by Ashon Crawley for NPR :: We are always mixing the political and economic with the religious. Kanye West has used the concept of salvation to obscure that — to disallow thoughtful engagement with his politics. His salvation conceptually supersedes his political messaging about enslaved people in the past, or about sitting presidents today. Such superseding is supposed to make the messaging unimportant. It is a kind of tongues-speech that is disconnected from, and breaks with, critique.

The Gospel of Being Human by Laura Jean Truman :: Working at this tavern is not the same as doing ministry. The sacred space that pastors and chaplains hold is slow, intentional, and gentle, and restaurants are not slow, or intentional, or gentle. But while ministry is important – God, I’m grateful for the pastors and chaplains and campus ministers and spiritual directors who have loved me back to life – sometimes it’s OK to  not be doing ministry. Sometimes it’s enough to just be human with our neighbors.

Stop Trying to Raise Successful Kids and Start Trying to Raise Kind Ones by Adam Grant and Allison Sweet Grant for The Atlantic :: Of course, we should encourage children to do their best and to take pride and joy in their accomplishments—but kindness doesn’t require sacrificing those things. The real test of parenting is not what your children achieve, but who they become and how they treat others. If you teach them to be kind, you’re not only setting your kids up for success. You’re setting up the kids around them, too.

Finding Peace with your Ghosts: Advice from a Funeral Director by Caleb Wilde for Salon :: There is this liminality between the living and the dead, an in-between where the bonds of love can still dwell. Liminality is something that makes us uncomfortable. We like binaries, like yes or no. On or off. But some things exist in the in-between. They are yes and no. Dead and alive. Present and absent. The liminality of our dead is like a ghost, like Halloween. Because our loved ones are gone and they’re still here with us.

Barbara Brown Taylor: Reformation is a ‘delicious’ wilderness but lonely by Roxanne Stone for Presbyterian Outlook :: But, when I pay attention to the Exodus metaphor, people didn’t know. The Promised Land — where the hell is that? You just keep wandering in circles and you say, ‘Haven’t we seen that mountain before?’ That was not a straight-forward pilgrimage, even a straightforward hike. We don’t see the destination. So faith comes into a realm of trust that something new is being formed, but it doesn’t have enough shape yet to aim for it.

Female Evangelical Leaders Have a Hidden Predecessor to Thank by Grant Wacker for Christianity Today :: …her masterful biography of Kathryn Kuhlman, a charismatic healing evangelist who emerged in the post-World War II era alongside Oral Roberts. It’s hard to say whether Roberts or Kuhlman was the most prominent healing evangelist of the day, but it’s easy to say that she was the most prominent woman in the field. At the height of her ministry, many people considered Kuhlman “the best-known woman preacher in the world.” Very few female religious leaders of any theological stripe were famous enough to snare a berth on a network talk show like Carson’s.

If you’ve been part of our work in Haiti through Heartline Ministries, no doubt you’ve been watching the news out of the nation with the same mixture of worry, grief, and dread. If you’ve been supportive of the Livesay family, you need to read this update from Tara - she and their kids have been evacuated. Troy remains in country. Operations are mostly still up and running. Full story is here.

The Perilous Power of the Preacher’s Wife by Kate Bowler for The New York Times :: A female Christian celebrity is part of a greater industry of disclosure. She must give something away, but not too much. For this reason, women usually “confess” to almost nothing at all, offering the appearance of vulnerability without the substance. A woman who is a “slave” to eating too much bread or “convicted” of sniping at her husband surrenders little and gains much. Despite her perceived flaws, she must remain a Christian Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way. Missing are those deemed too fat, old, gay, ugly, sick, single, childless or liberal to stand in the spotlight. The world of megaministry is a fragile enterprise with careers that hang like a spider on a web of thousands of filaments. These women’s power is relational, conditional and unofficial, requiring a monetization of their private and public lives. Every step of their rise has to be carefully planned and perilously maintained.

Peace Lutheran Staved Off Death by Taking ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ to a Radical Extreme by Pete Kotz for CityPages :: “I got interested in religion because the biblical stories were about families like mine,” he says. “There were single moms and dads who were in prison. There’s not a functional family in the whole book.” Peace was the ideal fit, in full rebellion against its conservative past. Congregants wanted someone who would perform gay weddings, baptize Hindu kids and atheists. “They wanted all this stuff,” says Greenlund. “They didn’t want to get someone who wasn’t radically open, who would hold anyone back.”They would place their faith in a simple prophesy: “If the neighborhood needs us, we’ll stay open.”

Dolly Parton May Look Artificial But She’s Totally Real by Véronique Hyland for Elle :: “It was about me knowing who I was, being happy with me, and feeling comfortable in the way I presented myself. If I was happy, I could make other people happy. That’s how I’ve always looked at it: that I look totally artificial, but I am totally real, as a writer, as a professional, as a human being. A rhinestone shines just as good as a diamond.”

It Really Should be Game Over for Don Cherry This Time by Bruce Arthur for The Star :: We’re finding out in the wider world now, in all kinds of places. And Don Cherry is still on TV, still saying what he thinks. He shouldn’t be. It should be over. But whenever it ends it will be a cultural battleground, a proxy war over Canada, and a part of it should be this: People often say hockey, and Canada, is for everyone. But the doddering old high priest of hockey keeps saying that isn’t true.

A Christian Comedian’s Alleged Sexual Misconduct Prompts a Reckoning in the Evangelical Press by Ruth Graham for Slate :: “I knew when these women trusted me enough to tell me their stories, I had a responsibility to use our platform to make this public and bring justice,” he said. “I wanted to honor God with my reporting and bring darkness into light.”

What Dorothy Day Can Teach Us About Prudence and Discernment by James F. Keenan for America Magazine

My Friend, Mr. Rogers by Tom Junod for The Atlantic :: And that’s it, really—his message to doctors was his message to politicians, CEOs, celebrities, educators, writers, students, everyone. It was also the basis of his strange superpowers. He wanted us to remember what it was like to be a child so that he could talk to us; he wanted to talk to us so that we could remember what it was like to be a child. And he could talk to anyone, believing that if you remembered what it was like to be a child, you would remember that you were a child of God.

Jezebel Isn’t Who You Think She Is by Nyasha Junior for Dame :: Jezebel has become synonymous with evil and licentiousness, but like other powerful women, her reputation is based largely on what her opponents have said about her. 

And now for something lighter

How Noel Fielding Went From Hedonist to Host of the Great British Bake Off by Eleanor Stanford for The New York Times

The Cozy Snowbound Sweater-Wearing Guide to 2019 Holiday Movies by Linda Holmes for NPR :: We know that for devotees of this genre, it can be hard to keep up. Therefore, we have prepared a helpful guide to all the new movies we're aware of that are on tap for the season, complete with notations for which tropes they offer.

30 Motherhood Moments Illustrated by Paula Kuka at deMilked.

We have a proper trailer for The Crown! And whew, this looks INTENSE.

14 Ways to Make the Most of Your Slow Cooker This Winter over at Chatelaine

The Five Most Uplifting Tiny Desk Concerts at NPR Music (personal fave: LIZZO!)

This was the Bob Dylan song a friend sang at our wedding and this original arrangement with Kelly Clarkson and Ben Platt had me all up in my feelings.

Thanks for reading and subscribing! If you missed it, here are the first three issues for this month:

Part 1: Nope, Not Going Home plus an update

Part 2: Books: Pilgrimages, Womanism, and Tozer plus Podcasts

Part 3: The Good Things - Land Acknowledgements, Icons, and Knitting + more

There was a bonus essay this month, too: When We Are Despairing

REMINDER: this was the month when everyone who subscribed gets the full Field Notes experience but if you want to keep receiving the full e-newsletter in November, December, and into the new year, you’ll need to sign up for the paid subscription.

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