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Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith Paperback – November 3, 2015
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“There are so many things that Ilove about this book and I know you will too. I love Sarah Bessey and true toform in Out of Sorts she is transparent, vulnerable, thought provoking,and gracious as she wrestles with things we have all wrestled with, or one daywill. Her message of hope, love, and grace is stunning and my heart resonatesdeeply with the thought that ‘we need each other, and we need to learn fromeach stream, because our stories don’t happen alone; our roots are all tangledtogether.’” (Christine Caine, founder of The A21 Campaign and Propel Women)
"Honest, sober, and encouragingly relatable." (Frank Viola, co-author of The Day I Met Jesus)
“This is the truth: Sarah is one of my very favorite writers. The quality of her writing is so inspiring and beautiful and moving to me. And her complicated dance with church and all its tentacles is one that is familiar to so many of us. I love this book.” (Shauna Niequist, author of Bread & Wine)
“Sarah Bessey writes with the fire of a preacher and the soul of a mother, critical thought without cynicism. Her deepest wounds have come from the church and so has her deepest healing. This book is for all of us who understand, we wonderers who long for Jesus and distrust easy answers. Here Sarah is a brave and faithful guide as we all learn to ‘live the questions.’” (Micha Boyett, author of Found)
“Touching a raw nerve in contemporary evangelical experience, Sarah Bessey reflects on the inevitable reality of walking the path of faith without having it all worked out—and at times having none of it worked out. Thoughtful, compelling, moving, and real, Bessey models a faith many are seeking but afraid to voice, a faith released of the obligation to be certain. This is the kind of book you’ll want to read and tell friends about.” (Peter Enns, author of The Bible Tells Me So)
“Out of Sorts reads like a love letter to Jesus and to all those desperate to see His true face. Through her indomitable heart, brilliant mind, and vivid writing, Bessey sets an extravagant, cozy table in the middle of the spiritual desert." (Glennon Doyle Melton, New York Times bestselling author of Carry On Warrior)
"What you will find in these pages is nothing short of a gift. There are plenty of us out here reimagining, rethinking, reevaluating, restarting. You aren’t alone....Thank you, my dearest Sarah Bessey, for helping us find our way back home.” (Jen Hatmaker, author of For the Love, 7, and Interrupted)
“With refreshing honesty and engaging passion, Sarah Bessey reminds us that cheap certitude is a poor substitute for genuine faith." (Brian Zahnd, pastor and author of Farewell to Mars)
"[Bessey] creates a loving, inviting environment from which readers can approach their own questions, beliefs, and maturity." (CBA Retailers & Resources)
"Bessey offers a good forum for Evangelical Christians to question what they believe without getting bent out of joint." (Library Journal)
About the Author
Sarah Bessey is the author of the best-selling and critically acclaimed books "Jesus Feminist" and "Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith." An award-winning blogger, she has also contributed to the "NIV Bible for Women: Fresh Insights for Thriving in Today's World"; "Mother Letters: Sharing the Laughter, Joy, Struggles, and Hope"; "Soul Bare: Stories of Redemption"; and "What a Woman is Worth." Her writing has appeared in The Huffington Post, The High Calling, Conversations Journal, ChurchLeaders.com, CT Women: Christianity Today's Blog for Women, Today's Christian Woman, and she has commented on religion for The Atlantic, The Christian Post, Christianity Today, The National Post, and The Washington Post among others. Sarah also serves as Chairperson of the Board for Heartline Ministries in Haiti. She is a sought-after speaker at churches, conferences, and universities around the world. She lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada with her husband and their four children collectively referred to as "The Tinies" - even though one of them is already taller than her. A self-described "recovering know-it-all," she is an avid knitter, a hockey fan (Go Bruins), a bookworm (guilty pleasure: cozy mysteries and/or women-centered stories set in World War II), a church lady, a total hugger, an INFJ and Enneagram Type 9, and embarrassingly devoted to the television show Doctor Who.
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Sarah Bessey is honest, kind, witty, and warm as she writes about the questions we may find ourselves asking as a participating member of the church body. What does it mean when we don’t agree on everything? How does one stay in community when not walking in perfect sync with everyone else?
I laughed when a friend told me that for a long time he had trouble personally believing in God, but he and his family continued to go to church. He got the value of the weekly ritual even as he struggled with his own questions about the religion of his youth. He knew that if something happened to him, their church family would reach out to support and love his wife and children. He just kept very, very quiet about the fact that he was having doubts. No need to get into “trouble” with anyone from small group…
I smiled because I got it. I wasn’t always up for the hard part of practicing faith – that part where we engage with other flawed and searching people. For many who grew up in religious communities, which for me was a Catholic church, it can be hard to always feel at home among those who seem to be blissfully certain. My questioning and searching didn’t feel truly welcome, I was dismayed at visible hypocrisy or abuse cover-ups, and my politics and priorities didn’t always align with the cultural debate of the moment. I didn’t think I had the time to really connect, get involved, or engage in some grand theological exploration.
If I am honest, I felt a bit too good for it all and walked away from religion with the excuse that I was staying above the fray. It was easier to work from a purely secular standpoint, even though that wasn’t an authentic place of wholeness for me. For too many of us, it is easier to disengage when faith gets human and complicated. I just avoided all the divisive theological questions and took the intellectually and spiritually lazy route. I thought I could hang on to my belief in God without actually being a part of a flawed, human institution. I tried to be a Christian on my own.
A few years ago, when I first read the work of Sarah Bessey, I felt a click of recognition absorbing her words on becoming a parent. Questions of belief that one fumbles around with carelessly (or even brushes aside in frustration) as an independent individualist matter differently when crafting a home for a baby. My path had several false starts, but for me the difference became motherhood. Bessey writes in her beautiful memoir Jesus Feminist, “My mother was drawn to God through my birth . . . her great love for her daughters put her feet on the path toward the empty tomb and the risen Christ and his invitation to recover her true life . . . now I understood.”
My son made a practicing believer out of me the second I knew he was on his way. My annoyed, superior, lazy turning away wasn’t an option anymore. In parenting, I knew I had hit a wall I wouldn’t be able to jump with a simple training program, and I think I for the first time knew I faced a challenge I couldn’t meet in my own strength (that favorite lie I always told myself).
Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is an Assistant Professor of Health Promotion at Charleston Southern University. She is the author of Brave, Strong, & True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance and co-authored the Just Roll With It Wellness Journal. Kate is a former Marine, a fitness pro, and mom to both a fearless baby and the Great Dane who dotes on him. Kate can be reached via her website, www.katehendricksthomas.com or via @precisionwell.
She wrote in the first chapter of this 2015 book, “This book isn’t an argument to make or a point to take… It’s about loss and how we can cope with change. It’s about Jesus and why I love Him and follow Him. It’s about church and church people and why both make me crazy but I can’t seem to quit either. It’s about embracing a faith, which evolves, and the stuff I used to think about God but I don’t think anymore, and it’s about the new things I think and believe that turned out to be old. It’s about the evolution of a soul and the ways I’ve failed; it’s about letting go of the feat and walking out into the unknown… It’s a book about making peace with unanswered questions and being content to live into the answers as they come, It’s about being comfortable with where we land for now, while holding our hands open for where the Spirit leads us next. It’s about not apologizing for our transformation and change in response to the unchanging Christ. Really, it’s a book about not being afraid.” (Pg. 2)
She adds, “I am still wrestling with some aspects of my Mother Church. Perhaps you are too. Resting in the in-betweens is okay for now. You may find, like me, that you are reclaiming more and more, fighting your way through the weeds of over-realization or extreme cases or weirdness or wounding, to find the need of the real that is still there. After the fury, after the rebellion, after the wrestling, after the weighing and the sifting and the casting off and putting on, after the contemplation and the wilderness---after the sorting---comes the end of the striving and then comes rest.” (Pg. 3)
She observes, “We are in a time, much like the Great Schism and the Great Reformation, of sorting through our religion as a universal Church… The Church is being reinvented… We are dying, perhaps, but even death is part of our story; it comes right before resurrection. It’s already happening globally---on the margins and among the disenfranchised, in the outsiders and the grass roots. I’m sure the great bastions of power and leadership within the Church are feeling the strain of the shift.” (Pg. 15-16)
She states, “I read those words---‘You must begin with your own life-giving lives’ [Lk 6:43-44]---and I suddenly understood why Mary spilled her most precious perfumes and soaked His feet with her tears… The more I read the Gospels, the more I got it: no wonder we love the real Him when we meet Him. The more I met people who followed this Jesus, the more I understood why I felt ripped off: I had been a Christian for who knows how long, and yet I had not seen THIS Jesus. Where had HE been all along?... This was when Jesus became the center of everything to me. I began to understand that if I wanted to see God, I needed to see Jesus.” (Pg. 34)
Later, she adds, “I had to learn to read the whole Bible through the lens of Jesus, and I had to learn to stop making it into something it wasn’t---a glorified answer book or rule book or magic spell. I had to stop trying to reduce the Bible to something I could tame or wield as a tool. I had to let the Bible be everything it was meant to be, to cast away the idols of certainty, materialism, and control.” (Pg. 56)
She acknowledges, “As I was writing my first book, ‘Jesus Feminist,’ a strange transformation took place in me: I began to love Paul. Really, truly love him as a brother, precisely BECAUSE I was writing about life on the other side of the gender debates, advocating for the full equality of women… But as I worked my way through the passages of Scripture that I used to hate, I began to see Paul more clearly, to understand Scripture even better. I began to see his wisdom, his subversion, his heart. When I looked at his full ministry---how he praised and esteemed women in leadership in the Church… how he used feminine metaphors, how he subverted the systems, how he passionately defended equality---the verses that used to clobber me began to embrace me. The truth broke through. I wasn’t fighting against Paul---I was fighting WITH him… By reading Paul without any thought for context or place, narrative or history, I had nearly missed a great gift… The whole of Paul’s teaching and beliefs about women in the Church or in society could not be contained in a few lines from an ancient letter. Not when we consider the truth that women were leading, ministering, praying, prophesying, teaching, managing, and financing throughout the Church---with Paul’s full knowledge and blessing.” (Pg. 68-69)
She asserts, “I am reclaiming Church… I am learning to gather up all these disparate seasons and thoughts and opinions and experiences, to hold them in my hands with gratitude. Now I’m able to find something good in them all: in the over-the-top excessive prosperity preachers and the smug theologians and the pot-stirring elitists and the overly passionate kids in the stadium light shows and the disillusioned, bitter cynics. Because here is the truth: I’m all of these things too. Someday I’ll add the woman I am now, the theology I practice, the words I write so earnestly to that list. I know I will.” (Pg. 80-81)
She admits, “It’s not that all my frustrations with Church are over and done… I still struggle with Church, both in the micro and the macro… There are parts of the Church that make me want to deny membership three times over before the rooster crows. I want to… identify myself as the opposite of their beliefs or ideals or passions… Sometimes I wonder what in the world Jesus was thinking with this church thing… It’s a disaster. Talk about an inefficient way to change the world.” (Pg. 86-87)
Later, she adds, “A lot of people in my generation might be giving up on Church, but there are a lot of us returning, redefining, reclaiming Church too. We aren’t foolish or blind or unconcerned or uneducated or unthinking. We have weighed our choices, more than anyone will know. We are choosing this and we will keep choosing each other. And sometimes our way of understanding or ‘doing’ church looks very different, but we’re still here… I have learned to love the Church, perhaps because the Church has so beautifully loved me. I love the Church in all the places I find her now---cathedrals and living rooms, monasteries and megachurches, school gymnasiums and warehouses.” (Pg. 96-97)
She explains, “I got my start in the small, organic faith churches of western Canada… but I needed the kindness of the conservative Southern Baptist pastors’ wives I discovered in my early twenties, and I needed the Mennonites to teach me about pacifism and thrift…. I defy the easy categories for sorting. I’m an Anglican-influenced charismatic, postevangelical with a strong pull toward Anabaptist theology… I speak in tongues and I pray the hours. I dance and clap at church, but I also sit in silence and mediation… I follow the Church calendar… but I worship in community with believers who do not… and I belong there… I don’t want to choose between the people who first showed me Jesus and the people who made sure I got to hold on to Jesus and the ones who keep me even now.” (Pg. 150-151)
She says, “When I have experienced loss of grief or suffering, the well-meaning have tried to comfort me with the idea that it was all God’s plan… I’ve even had some folks tell me recently that clearly my work in ministry these days was why God ‘took’ the babies we lost… I know people mean well, but I don’t believe that… Whether it’s in my own small stories or in the larger and more horrific stories of others, too often we seek to comfort with the platitudes that have held the Church captive for years… The problem with this quick shot of comfort, the predigested talking points spouted in times of unspeakable pain, is that they end up filling our heads with the wrong idea of God while perhaps absolving us of our complicity…” (Pg. 185)
This is another finely-written, heartfelt book that will be of tremendous interest to those (not just Christians!) interested in contemporary Spirituality, as well as more Progressive/Inclusive forms of Christianity.