Sabbath in the Suburbs was released exactly one year ago!
Yeah… that was a party horn.
What a fun, harrowing, joyful, tense, and fascinating experience it is to write and publish a book. I’m so thankful for the folks at Chalice Press and The Young Clergy Women Project for believing in the book and supporting it.
I’m especially grateful for the cast of thousands—that’s you guys—who have supported me by reading the book… and for those who have reviewed it on Amazon (one of you as recently as this weekend), told friends about it, and shared it with book groups and Sunday School classes.
Speaking of groups…
In honor of this milestone, I’m giving away a Sabbath Book Group Study Pack to two lucky winners. This includes five signed copies of the book, a printed copy of the Sabbath Supplementals discussion materials, and hi-def versions of the five Sabbath videos on flash drive. I’ll also throw in a couple of fun extras to help your group have a great time together.
(But wait, some of you may say. I’m not connected to a church or group! That’s cool. In fact, many of the book’s fans are non-religious or otherwise unaffiliated. If you win, I’ll send you the five books for you to give to friends or distribute as you wish. And you’ll still get the fun mystery extras.)
We’ve got a discussion guide, suggestions for group activities and retreats, and other goodies for book clubs, Sunday School classes, and other folks making their way through Sabbath in the Suburbs. Huzzah!
We’re especially excited about the videos, designed to complement the themes in the book. The written materials include suggested ways to use them, or just show them to your group and have at it. Each video is below, and here’s the whole album.
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.
The whole thing has been surreal and fun and wonderful. (Read more here.) I’m humbled by everyone who’s shared the links with friends on Facebook and elsewhere. And I’m grateful for emails and messages from people I don’t even know—including a rabbi who shared some of his own Shabbat resources. Lovely.
I’ve watched the segment once. If I could watch just the parts with my kids, I’d watch it again. It’s fine, don’t get me wrong. The PBS folks did an excellent job. I just can’t bear watching myself on video. (Me and Daniel Radcliffe.)
But even with a single viewing, one moment from the segment stuck out. Robert and Iaughed and exchanged a knowing look when we saw it:
Do you see what caught our eye?
It’s the lamp. It’s missing a lampshade. You may not have noticed, but for us, it is The Iconic Image of the whole piece. That lamp tells you everything you need to know about Sabbath.
I broke the lampshade in a fit of cleaning. I was sweeping and the whole thing fell over and shattered… requiring me to sweep a second time, by the way, because it’s a cruel cruel world!
The thing is—and here’s the vital piece; here’s what I need to explain about Sabbath—I broke it a good four, five months ago. Seriously, that lamp’s been a bare bulb since… well, since 2012. Turns out it’s stupidly complicated to replace. IKEA doesn’t stock the shade separately. So we’re stuck either replacing the entire lamp (which is wasteful) or hunting around for a lampshade that’s the right size, attaches in the same way as the old one, etc. Which involves time we don’t have. OK, I’ll be precise: we do have time to do that, we’ve just done other things instead.
And I can be all philosophical about that. We choose to carve out some time each weekend to rest and play, which means we are not on top of the home projects. But I’ll be honest. I don’t like that bare bulb. Its glaring light reveals everything that’s unfinished and chaotic about this period of our lives. Life with kids is one long bare-bulbed existence. The stain in the carpet that won’t come out. The perennial jumble of stuff on top of the dresser. The wet beach towels slung over the doorway that don’t ever get put away because after all, swim practice is gonna come around again. And that’s the way life is.
The problem is, we don’t show the bare bulb to each other. We’re embarrassed by the bare bulb. I am. But the bare bulb is real. Maybe the bare bulb is the truest thing about ourselves.
I recently watched a promotional video for a book that’s coming out, written by a wildly popular mommy blogger. Let me say that I will probably buy this book. I like her stuff. The author is wise. And her message is: Let’s get real with each other. And she delivers this message while sitting on an impeccable white couch.
A white couch.
What lunacy is this! I can’t even wear a white shirt without inviting pen marks, chocolate milk and blueberry smears. But white furniture? That is varsity, baby. That is ninja motherhood.
As she talks about how hard parenting is—and it is, and I have no reason to doubt it’s hard for her too—we see some B-roll of her stocking a dresser drawer with a stack of diapers. And I think about the seven years we had kids in diapers and how the diapers never, ever made it into a dresser drawer. They went straight from bag to butt.
I wish her all the best. This isn’t a me v. her thing. This is about packaging. This is about getting caught in that thing we all get caught in sooner or later, between what we allow other people to see and what is authentically us.
So let my bare-bulbed lamp be my truth in advertising, my Good Housekeeping seal. If I ever give the appearance of having it all together, just remember the light bulb. And if I ever resort to superficial half-truths about this wildly complicated world we live in, remind me of the light bulb.
Because yes, Sabbath is a practice that can save our lives. It can help us savor time, to see it as a gift, and not as a thing to be julienned into manageable pieces.
But Sabbath will also wreck your life, because Sabbath is an act of love, and love wrecks your life. Things will go undone—things you care about. Stuff might even break, and be hard or impossible to replace. If you’re lucky, it won’t happen on national television. But if it does, maybe Sabbath will give you the space to laugh and exchange a knowing look with someone who gets it.
It’s Easter Monday, which means clergy catch-up, or rest, or both. I’m still getting over being sick. So today we have a guest post of sorts, a wrap-up email I received from a good friend who leads an adult Sunday School class at his church:
We finished our Lenten study of Sabbath in the Suburbs
this past Sunday. Your book was overwhelmingly well-received (we’re
ready for the next one – “Sabbath in the Suburbs with Teenagers”?) We
had lots of good discussion and your study questions provided good
jumping-off places, not that we always needed them. Our main
takeaways as a group were: (1) You can’t do and be everything, Sabbath
should be the time when you’re free to admit that and be your
authentic self; (2) No “J.O.Y.”; (3) God wants us to be rested and
happy. Everyone liked the Sabbath hacks.
We had a really good debate about abundance vs. scarcity in our last
session, that to me was one of the strongest ideas in the book. We
also talked about “play” in the Bible. Remember the cute video of the
Christmas story with the kids from New Zealand (“They woon’t be
ixpicting that”)? I used that as an example of the playfulness of the
Gospel. We really like the section about Moses as the overworked
manager who doesn’t know how delegate.
I’m actually not familiar with that Christmas video. I wonder, is this the one?
Not everyone embraced the idea of setting aside a block of Sabbath
time every week – a minority said their families weren’t overscheduled
all the time and didn’t necessarily need a weekly respite. They
didn’t seem to buy in to the idea of Sabbath as a time of rest and a
religious practice, not just the former. That may be due to my
limitations as a moderator, not the text.
I doubt it was him…
As I go around talking to groups, I meet folks who don’t struggle for Sabbath the way many of us do. They often don’t see a need because their lives have a natural balance of work and play (what’s their secret?).
But I also meet people who seem to love their jobs so much that they literally work every day. A pastor of a large church admitted to me recently that he hasn’t had a regular day off in several years. Vacations, yes, but not days off. And I met an imam several weeks ago who shared that Islam does not have a provision for the Sabbath like Judaism and Christianity do. In fact, he admitted he has not taken a vacation in three decades. I was astounded in both cases, but in talking to him it was clear that he was deeply committed to his work. Neither is on the verge of burnout. Both are functioning well in their jobs. Both seem to be perfectly healthy psychologically.
And last night Robert and I watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi. (BTW: what sumptuous, simple pieces of sushi. Trip to Japan, anyone?) Here is a guy who’s 85 years old and who still pushes himself (and his apprentices) to new heights in the craft. He hates it when he’s not working. He only takes a day off when he has to. And as the title implies, when he’s not working, he’s thinking about work. Yet he’s kept this pace for 75 years (yes, he started young).
What makes the difference? Are people like that just wired differently? Or have they found such a perfect intersection between their deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger (thank you Buechner) that rest is not needed?