Everyone’s raving about Nadia Bolz-Weber’s book, which I’m sure is awesome… or maybe I should say “f***ing amazing” since it’s Nadia. But here are three books and a blog I hope you’ll check out, written by friends and colleagues:
Saffron Cross: The Unlikely Story of How a Christian Minister Married a Hindu Monk, by J. Dana Trent. The particulars of Dana and Fred’s story are unlikely, but the larger issue of interfaith marriages is quite common and becoming more so. This would be a great book to help couples (or even just groups of friends) navigate an increasingly pluralistic world. I also learned a lot about Hinduism. Dana has a self-deprecating humor and it was fun to follow them through the world of dating, courtship and marriage. Mutual respect, lightheartedness and devotion (to one another and their respective paths) seem to be the key to their success.
The first time Judith Valente arrived at Mount St. Scholastica monastery, she came prepared to teach a course on poetry and the soul. Instead, she found herself the student, taking lessons from the Benedictine sisters in the healing nature of silence, how to cultivate habits of mindful living, and the freeing reality that conversion is a lifelong process.
I breathe more deeply just reading the description!
Who’s Got Time? Spirituality for a Busy Generation by Teri Peterson and Amy Fetterman. The title says it all. This is going to be a great resource for young people and the church leaders who work with them. (Heck, what generation isn’t busy?) Teri and Amy are both friends from seminary and beyond and I am so excited at this, their first book. I’m anticipating good theology, straight talk and lots of sassy humor. This is the latest title from the Young Clergy Women project through Chalice Press, and I’m so thrilled the imprint is continuing.
As for blogs, check out Michael Kirby’s new blog, 250 to 50, in which he writes toward the impending half-century mark… but his blog promises to be about all kinds of great and fabulous things. Michael is a dear friend for many decades now, and a gifted minister to boot.
After many months in the holds queue at the library, I finally got the e-copy of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In on my Kindle.
I’ve been hearing about this book for months, and it’s possible I’ve read more words about it than there are words in it. Some of the reaction amounts to high fives and attagirls; others criticize Sandberg’s supposedly limited and naive perspective, as if centuries of patriarchy will magically evaporate if enough of us raise our hands in meetings.
I don’t think that’s Sandberg’s thesis, and it’s disingenuous to criticize a book for not being some other book. Yes, there are systemic problems that make it hard for a woman to lean in. (She addresses those, by the way.) And yes, Lean In is very socioeconomically specific. But it’s still an empowering, worthwhile read.
The research about how men and woman are perceived differently in the workplace is jaw-dropping. Both sexes will downplay a person’s achievements if you attach a female name to them; the same résumé with a man’s name at the top will be judged more favorably. An assertive woman is seen as a bitch; an assertive man is just, well, a man. I was encouraged by the changes corporations and business schools have made to their cultures that have helped give women an even playing field to compete and thrive; those stories deserve to be heard widely. (One doctor changed his approach to rounds; instead of relying on people to raise their hands, he alternated calling on men and women, and of course found that women knew their stuff as well as or better than their male colleagues.)
Her section on negotiating for yourself was useful. Research suggests a simple two-pronged approach: be scrupulously nice in a way that builds community, and back up your negotiation with strong supporting info. (I’ve often said that my formula for being taken seriously as a woman in leadership is 1. being humorously self-deprecating, 2. giving people the benefit of the doubt, and 3. really, really knowing my stuff.) And I liked the story of the woman who was seeking a job and asked her, “What’s your biggest problem, and how can I solve it?” Sandberg had never heard that approach to a job interview.
Her chapter on mentoring was of particular interest since that’s a growing passion of mine. Sandberg writes, “We have sent the wrong message to young women. We need to stop telling them, ‘Get a mentor and you will excel.’ Instead, we need to tell them, ‘Excel and you will get a mentor.’” Love that. She also urges women to be specific when asking for help. Asking for a lunch date to “catch up” is a bad approach; people are too busy for that, and it communicates that you haven’t done your homework to know what this particular mentor might be able to provide to you (and you to her, because the best mentoring relationships are mutually beneficial). She tells a few stories of young women who received mentoring advice from more senior women but didn’t consider it mentoring because they didn’t meet for an hour a week. “That’s not a mentor; that’s a therapist,” Sandberg quips.
The discrepancy in how women approach mentors makes sense in light of Deborah Tannen’s classic work on how men and women communicate. Very broadly speaking, men tend to be action and task oriented; women are relationship oriented. So it makes sense that women are going to ask for an hour-a-week, catch-up-and-be-friends kind of relationship… and then be disappointed when busy executives (or senior pastors) can’t fulfill that role. If we can be more specific and task-oriented when engaging a mentor, we’re more likely to be successful.
I’ve met so many women who’ve lamented the lack of [female] mentors. The same story gets told again and again with different names and details: [Potential Mentor] let me down, she never called me back, she wasn’t helpful at all, she saw me as a threat, etc. etc. I now wonder if part of the problem comes down to how we ask women to mentor us, and to what end.
On the complexities of leaning in when you have kids: Sandberg tells a story about one of her teams that was deadlocked on some issue. One of the men on the team spent the weekend crunching some numbers that broke the logjam on Monday. Sandberg wonders why more women don’t go and do likewise. Well, if you have kids, it’s probably because you’re running soccer carpool, buying the birthday gift, getting a long-overdue haircut, etc. etc. (Fathers who are involved with their kids’ lives will face similar challenges.) Sandberg diagnoses women’s inability or unwillingness to be that “weekend warrior” as a lack of confidence, but if you’re a parent, more often it’s the simple chaos and unpredictability of home life. Yes, we can and should lean in. But the times we can drop everything on a moment’s notice are rare. Our lives don’t turn on a dime.
My book and a cuddly kitty… what could be more Sabbathy than that?
Yesterday I did some corresponding with a church that wants to order 25 copies of Sabbath in the Suburbs for a group study this fall. Conversations like those make me very happy indeed!
Friends sometimes ask, “Where should I order your book in order to be most advantageous to you as the author?” That’s a very kind thing to care about. Ultimately, whatever method gets the book into your hands is the method I want you to use.
That said, there are a number of options:
Chalice, my publisher, has the cheapest price online, at $15.99. I make more per book that at other online retailers. But shipping is additional, so you need to factor in that cost when you order.
Many people likeAmazon for the Prime shipping, although they just raised the price of my book this week to $17.99. (I can’t make heads or tails of what they do.) I make somewhat less per book through Amazon than through Chalice, but ordering through Amazon increases the book’s rank, which (I think?) raises its visibility on topical searches and such. It’s also possible that for a book as ‘small’ and specialized as mine, rank doesn’t matter.
I also ship directly for orders of 10 or more. I’ll sign them and include an invoice, or you can pay me through PayPal. I can usually do this for about $15 a copy. Email me at [email protected] if you want to pursue this.
As I said, it’s kind for people to ask where they should order the book in order to yield me the maximum profit. But book writing is not a big money-making enterprise for most of us. And that’s OK. My aspiration is to write and to be read. If you visit this blog regularly, then I’ve met my goal. If you buy the book and read it, that’s icing on the cupcake.
Houston friends! You are invited to a reception at Rice University next week, honoring members of the Rice University community who have written a book, composed a piece of music, etc.:
I won’t be able to be there, but as a proud graduate of Rice*, I’m excited to be on this list.
I wouldn’t have even known about this event, except that I got an email from someone asking for the discussion guide. She wanted it for her Sunday School class, but I noticed in her email signature that she worked at Rice. We struck up a conversation—she didn’t know I was an alum when she first wrote me—and when this Friends of Fondren event came up, she was kind enough to forward me the information.
People are so lovely.
*”Those who say Rice is Houston’s Harvard should be told that Harvard is the Rice of the Northeast.” -George Will, in a moment of clarity.
Actually, let me be more accurate: she’s written hundreds of thousands of lovely, honest and true words over her years as a pastor and writer. But this week, we celebrate a particular achievement, the publication of Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land. Ruth’s work is part travel writing, part memoir and part spiritual reflection.
Her book confronts the questions that confront us as we engage in pilgrimage—whether through travel or during our everyday journeys as people of faith–and the unexpected places we land in those journeys. Given recent current events, the book could not be more timely. That said, it is not a political book. It is a personal book, but in that wonderful way that the particular becomes universal.
Ruth is one of my Writing Revs—in fact, she and I are the only two charter members still in the group. (You can read about our group here.) My copy of Chasing is on its way to me, but I’ve had to joy of reading and digesting the book many times over the months and years. It’s gotten better and better through Ruth’s hard work and fine craftswomanship (I just made that word up). But what has been there from the beginning is a dogged willingness to ask hard questions of her faith and this land we dare to call Holy—steeped as it is in tradition, religion, conflict and grace.
Author Clyde Edgerton puts it well in his endorsement of Chasing the Divine:
I can think of only two reasons to buy this book:
1. You are not going to the Holy Land.
2. You are going to the Holy Land.
In these pages Ruth Everhart writes eloquently about her trip into the dust and beauty of Christianity’s cradle — about her wrestling with her beliefs, her faith, and her past. If all pilgrims were as curious, insightful, introspective, firm, and openhearted as Ruth Everhart, our old world would roll more happily and safely through the universe. In her story you’ll find bloodshed, humor, and — most importantly — love.