My Interview with PBS

photoI’m back from Chicago, where I led a group of lovely Presbyterian pastors in a Sabbath retreat on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. I learned while I was there that next year’s speaker will be Phyllis Tickle. Boy howdy! As I told the participants, I do not have anything close to Phyllis’s depth of historical knowledge and insight. Rather, I am a generalist. With me you get a weird synthesis of Bible, art, theology, folk music, brain chemistry research, low-impact crafts, and clips from The Office.

We had a good time.

The retreat had a strange dimension to it. A couple of our sessions were filmed by a camera crew for Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, a public television show. (Check local listings.) I’m very grateful to Judith Valente, a correspondent for the show, whom I met at the Festival of Faith and Writing and who saw the potential for a story about Sabbath-keeping in our 24-7 world. I’ll let you know when the segment airs—it’ll be a while, since they also plan to come to our house and film our family on one of our Sabbaths. I find this ridiculously fun, although I’m worried about Caroline—apparently it is one of her life’s goals to appear on television, and I don’t know what it does to a kid to achieve a life goal at the age of 10. Anyway.

In addition to filming parts of the retreat, I was also interviewed about Sabbath: how our family does it and how others might take it on. It was, frankly, harrowing. The inner critic was on the prowl, taunting me with a voice that sounded suspiciously like the mean girls in my fourth grade class. Oh my God… who cares what YOU have to say?

Ah well. I did it, and during my run 30 minutes later I was SO much more brilliant, but at least I didn’t die, so there’s that.

After we finished the interview the audio guy said, “Time for room tone. Everyone be still for 30 seconds.” They explained later that room tone is a recording of the room, which they use when they need to edit dialogue together.  They record the quiet room using the same mic configuration so that the sound has the same quality to it.

After talking for almost 40 minutes non-stop, it felt downright contemplative to sit, and be quiet, and listen to the silence that was not really silent. I began to wonder about room tone as a spiritual practice.

In fact, I looked up room tone later that day and learned that it goes by another name:

Presence.

Friday Link Love: Flying Houses, Being a Mystic, and Mighty Girls… One of Whom with Toilet Covers on Her Head

First, if you haven’t already heard me shouting from the rooftops about it, here is my interview about Sabbath in the Suburbs on Huffington Post Books.

Another note. I share links to interesting, inspiring, curious content all week long at my Facebook page. Feel free to subscribe to the public updates, even if we’re not FB friends!

Lots of images in Link Love this week, and a few meaty quotes. Onward…

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Flying Houses by Laurent Cherere — Colossal

Wonderful. Like something out of Roald Dahl:

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Top Read-Aloud Books Starring Mighty Girls — A Mighty Girl

This is one I shared on Facebook. Great list! I want to read them all.

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Christian Wiman on Faith and Language — Andrew Sullivan

Another one I shared earlier this week, but dang, I like it:

To have faith in a religion, any religion, is to accept at some primary level that its particular language of words and symbols says something true about reality. This doesn’t mean that the words and symbols are reality (that’s fundamentalism), nor that you will ever master those words and symbols well enough to regard reality as some fixed thing. What it does mean, though, is that you can ‘no more be religious in general than [you] can speak language in general’ (George Lindbeck), and that the only way to deepen your knowledge and experience of ultimate divinity is to deepen your knowledge and experience of the all-too-temporal symbols and language of a particular religion. Lindbeck would go so far as to say that your religion of origin has such a bone-deep hold on you that, as with a native language, it’s your only hope for true religious fluency. I wouldn’t go that far, but I would say that one has to submit to symbols and language that may be inadequate in order to have those inadequacies transcended.

This is true of poetry, too: I don’t think you can spend your whole life questioning whether language can represent reality. At some point, you have to believe that the inadequacies of words you use will be transcended by the faith with which you use them. You have to believe that poetry has some reach into reality itself, or you have to go silent. – Christian Wiman, “Notes on Poetry and Religion,” from Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet.

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Stoic, Addict, Mystic — Andrew Sullivan

Another one posted on The Dish this week:

We are rarely presented with an authentically fulfilling trajectory for our desires… If we are created for infinite satisfaction, we really only have three choices about what to do with our desire in this life: We will become either a stoic, an addict, or a mystic. The stoic squelches desire out of fear, while the addict attempts to satisfy his desire for infinity with finite things, which, of course, can’t satisfy. That’s why the addict wants more and more and more. The mystic, on the other hand — in the Christian sense of the term — is the one who is learning how to direct his desire for infinity toward infinity,” – Christopher West, whose new book is Fill These Hearts.

For infinity, toward infinity. Nice.

Winners of the 2012 National Geographic Photo Contest — National Geographic

A cat picture won! Sort of. Go to the link to see the grand prize winner, as well as all the other top picks. My favorite in the “people” category:

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Unleash Your Unconscious: How Switching Tasks Maximizes Creative Thinking — 99U

Incubation breaks boosted creative performance, but only when the time was spent engaged in a different kind of mental activity. Participants who in the break switched from verbal to spatial, or from spatial to verbal, excelled when they returned to their main task – in terms of the number and quality of their solutions. The change in focus freed up their unconscious to spend the incubation period tackling the main challenge.

Highly recommend running, for people with the knees for it.

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Embracing Mystery in the New Year: Ten Essential Practices — Christian Valters Paintner

Follow the thread. Each of us has a unique unfolding story and call in this world. We don’t “figure this out” but rather we allow the story to emerge in its own time, tending the symbols and synchronicities that guide us along.
Trust in what you love. Following the thread is essentially about cultivating a deep trust in what you love. What are the things that make your heart beat loudly, no matter how at odds they feel with your current life (and perhaps especially so)? Make some room this year to honor what brings you alive.

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Airplane Lavatory Self-Portraits — Sad and Useless

h/t Keith Snyder.

Nina Katchadourian whiles away long plane journeys by locking herself in the lavatory and pretending to be a 15th century Dutch painting. The project began spontaneously on a flight in March 2010 and is ongoing…

I do think about the line forming outside the door while she’s doing this, but:

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Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday Link Love: Birthday Horn-Tooting Edition

In a just world, this would be my birthday cake today. YOU HEAR ME UNIVERSE?

In a just world, this would be my birthday cake today. YOU HEAR ME UNIVERSE?

I’m back from a wonderful time of vacation with the family in Massanutten. We found a sweet little farm house to rent that had comfy rooms and no wifi. Perfect. We lazed about and did the indoor water park. By the way, there are two kinds of people in the world: people who shoot complete strangers with water cannons, and non-a**h***s.

We also enrolled the kids in a morning of ski school, which (after seeing James zip down the mountain) I’d call frighteningly effective.

It was great to be on the slopes and off the grid. But apparently I was quite busy on the Intertubes while I was away. Today’s bonus edition of Link Love is MAMD-specific. It’s my birthday, so you will indulge me:

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Things Not Seen is a radio show devoted to “Conversations about Faith and Culture.” Last month I had a lovely conversation with David Dault about Sabbath, which you can listen to here.

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This coming year I’ll be an occasional contributor to The Hardest Question, which is a weekly resource on the Revised Common Lectionary. I’ve got the texts for this Sunday, and wrote about the Gospel and the Old Testament texts.

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Landon Whitsitt compiled many sermons and responses to the Newtown tragedy into an e-book, called A Good Word. I’m in there along with a huge number of others. What an undertaking!

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And finally, my book is listed on Ministry Matters as a “must read” for 2013.

Happy New Year…

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Image: CakeWrecks, where else?

Sell Sabbath in the Suburbs, Support Your Church’s Ministry

booksaleAttention DC/Maryland/Northern Virginia friends:

Does your church have an alternative gift market this month?

I’m offering copies of SABBATH IN THE SUBURBS for churches to sell on consignment during December.

I’ll give them to you at cost—you keep the profits for your ministry and return the ones you don’t sell.

Let me know pronto if this is of interest, and we can work out the deets.

Advent blessings…

The Meeting I Almost Didn’t Go To

Buttermilk Cookies… sooo good. Guaranteed to help you sell books.

Six years ago, I was on my way to a gathering of Presbyterian clergywomen here in the DC area. I was running late. I took several wrong turns and got lost. There was bad traffic. And I had baby Margaret in the backseat, who was letting me know how eager she was to get wherever the heck we were going.

We were both hungrumpy. Plus I was in that overwhelmed, sleep-deprived state. Maybe you know the one? I almost turned around and went home. But I didn’t, and there was still plenty of food from Lebanese Taverna when I arrived.

After lunch, we went around and introduced ourselves. A friendly-looking woman I’d never met introduced herself as Ruth Everhart and said, “By way of networking, I would be interested in forming a group of writers. So if any of you write, talk to me after we’re done here.”

I got a sharp elbow in the ribs from the friend sitting next to me. After the meeting ended, I introduced myself to Ruth. Others did too. Before we left that day, we had a group of 5.

We are the Writing Revs. And I can say with near certainty that there would have been no book without them.

Now granted, Presbyterian clergywomen are a peculiar subset of society. Still, it’s kind of amazing that it worked as well as it has. We didn’t vet each other. We didn’t try it out for a while. We just dove in and started meeting. Those original 5 met for quite a while. Sadly, one passed away. Two have moved away. Happily, others have joined us.

Ruth and two other Wrevs hosted an event for me yesterday at presbytery, and it was so delightful. Ruth wrote about it here at her blog. It’s called “A Writing Group Can Wave Your Flag.” It’s a post about friendship and accountability and how hard it can be to promote our work, so it’s nice to have others help you along.

Ruth was a great carnival barker: “Come in! Congratulate the author! Have a cookie! Buy a book!” I sold and signed and gave out post-it notes. I can’t wait to reverse roles in November as we celebrate Ruth’s book, Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land. Ruth’s book is part travelogue, part theological memoir. It’s funny and deep and eloquent.

I’m very glad I didn’t give up on that clergy meeting six years ago.

And not just because my Wrevs make THE best cookies.

It’s Here!

Look at The Boy's surprise!

And look at the nice things Publishers Weekly said about it:

Dana, a Presbyterian pastor, brings a fresh voice and energy to the familiar topic of time management as understood by people who would describe themselves as either religious or spiritual but not religious: Sabbath-keeping. She writes from a perspective that many can relate to, that of a suburban mother of three who works part-time. Bringing the gift of self-awareness and irony, Dana notes that a four-minute difference in school bus rides ought not to prompt a letter-writing campaign from anxious parents. She also brings theological awareness of the historical practice and meaning of Sabbath-keeping. Dana writes in a distinct voice about making a traditional religious practice meaningful to contemporary families…

Order here or here. Or, if I’m going to see you in the next few weeks, I would be overjoyed to unload one or more of my advance copies.

A Gentle Reminder for My Gentle Readers: Free and Discounted Stuff

Just a reminder that my book, Sabbath in the Suburbs, is available for pre-order from Chalice Press. Yes, it’s also available at Amazon, but Chalice will give you a 30% discount if you order before September 30!

Go to Chalice’s site and use promo code EPromo812.

You may be able to get it cheaper elsewhere, but you’ll definitely get it faster through Chalice! I also make a smidge more money that way. Thanks for your support.

Also, the first 250 pre-orders through Chalice will get Sabbath in the Suburbs post-it notes. C’mon, spiritual inspiration, a peek into the sordid life of the pastor and her family (cough), AND office supplies—you can’t miss.