Three E-books Now Available For You

Through the generosity of my Patreon supporters and with the help of my sweet friend Chandler (who has been helping me with all the minutia of Sayable), I'm super excited to offer three e-books for your perusal. Right now they're only available to Patreon supporters, so we'd love to have you join the fold over there. You can give a dollar a month, two dollars, ten dollars, fifty dollars—really, whatever Sayable is worth to you and you can afford. Every bit helps and it also helps me to know who's vested in what happens here. 

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Kissing the Wave is named after the often mis-quoted Charles Spurgeon who said, “The wave of temptation may even wash you higher up upon the Rock of ages, so that you cling to it with a firmer grip than you have ever done before, and so again where sin abounds, grace will much more abound.” It is a book of essays written through the years on suffering, storms, faith, and doubt. 

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Sleeping Alone is named after the first essay I ever wrote on singleness many, many years ago. It is a book of essays on singleness, dating, guys, girls, and waiting. Writing through my singleness was one of God's best tools of sanctification for me and I hope this ebook encourages you as you read. It encouraged me to write. 

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Two Become One is a book of essays from my first year of marriage. A lot of folks say the first is the hardest year and some others say it's the easiest. I don't know that I could say either, but I do know it was full of lessons about leaving, cleaving, and clinging to the cross. 

If you'd like to get your hands on one or more of these, hop on over to the Patreon page and pledge as much or as little as you like. Once you do, you'll be able to access the links to the ebooks on my latest post there. And, as always, thank you for making what I do here a joy and a blessing to me. 

The Wilbert Household's Favorite Fiction/Poetry of 2017

Our friend Barnabas Piper relinked to one of his old posts this morning on why men should read stories. Since I'd asked Nate last week to compile a list and a few sentences on his favorite five (he picked six) fiction/poetry reads of the year, I thought today would be a good day to post them. I've also given you my favorite five fiction/poetry books I read this year. 

Before we begin though, I'd like to add a few words to Barnabas's, namely that reading stories is important for all of us, not just men. We are becoming more and more of a sound-byte culture, basing our opinions, facts, and even fiction, on quick hits of beauty, truth, or goodness—or not. Stories help us listen again.

A friend of mine told me yesterday she reads fiction faster than non-fiction and I think most of us might find that true of us too. Once we are engrossed in a story—especially a well-told one—it is difficult to stop. And I think this is actually what more of us need, to listen and to keep listening until the story is finished, and then to think, for days or weeks afterward if we can. Yesterday I wrote about listening with the intent to listen on my Facebook page and I think some of what I wrote there might apply to how we approach fiction and poetry (Don't forget poetry!).

Now, below, are Nate and Lore Wilbert's favorite fiction/poetry reads of 2017. 

Nate

The Buried Giant. Kazou Ishiguro (author of Remains of the Day and Nobel Winner) wrote a story that left me incredibly satisfied. Many of his themes such as aging, bitter memories, forgiveness, and family hit me close to home, and I appreciate how he dealt with them. 

My Name is Asher Lev. Chaim Potok gets into the intersection of faith, family and a calling that did not fit the norm of a conservative religious community in mid 20th century New York City. It's a coming of age story I found moving, challenging me both cognitively and emotionally. 

Peace Like a River. Leif Enger writes with a rhythm about miracles and tragedies, faith and its leadings, childhood and maturity. His characters form a family from the Dakotas and the story is driven by one act of the oldest son which changes everything for them. 

Underground Railroad. Colson Whitehead mingles truth and fantasy to show us a life under the severe affliction of American slavery. He describes many aspects of this terrible sin of our history weaving them all into a haunting story. 

The Day the Angels Fell. Shawn Smucker brings us a young boy who has tragically lost his mother and would do anything to get her back. The story darkens even more when a fantastic, spiritual battle is revealed. 

Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel, was something Lore and I listened to on our trip to the East Coast this fall. I love post apocalyptic stories but finding one with good writing can be challenging. This one has it all, including a recognition that survival alone is insufficient. 

Lore

The Moviegoer by Walker Percy. Friends told me for years to read this one and this year I finally did. It was more than I could have imagined and left me marked. It was the kind of book one holds their breath reading, not because it is edge of your seat action (the contrary), but because time slows in a deep south crawl. 

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I honestly haven't known where to put this book in my mind. I cannot tell if it normalizes the Nazis or not. I think what it does most is show us the conflicted nature of every human to do right and good and wrong and evil, regardless of nationality or party. We are complex individuals and this book is nothing if not complex. 

Lila by Marilynne Robinson. I have just finished Lila and I have found it to be the most perfect of Robinson's Gilead stories. I choked up several times while reading because it is just a story but it is also the story of the gospel, and therefore the story of all of us if we will let it be. 

New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver. Never forget poetry when you veer from academic and informative reading, and into creative writing. Oliver, in particular, will always be a favorite of mine and this collection is brimming over with reasons why. 

New and Collected Poems by Richard Wilbur. Richard Wilbur has died. It pains me to write those words because he has always been my favorite poet and I am sad the world has only what marks he left with it and no more. I supposed none of us could ask for more, though, so I recommend you start with this volume and move around within it until you find a poem that reads you thoroughly, as poems are wont to do. 

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Films, Books, & Music for your Autumn

One of the beautiful parts of this writing life is the friendships and fellow artists I've gotten to know over the years. I'm physically unable to read and recommend everything I get sent or am asked to recommend, but there have been a few projects recently I am so excited to share with you. Some by dear friends, some by acquaintances, and all by people being faithful with their gifts. 

Several years ago the folks behind The Heart of Man reached out for help in getting their Kickstarter out. I was all too happy to spread the word then, and haven't heard much about the project since then. Recently the trailer was released and I saw why: because they were busy doing everything with excellence. I cannot encourage you enough to gather a group of people together to view this film. 

Here's a film about the life of one of my personal heroes, Wendell Berry. It also has a limited release, but maybe it's playing near you somewhere. Our plan is to purchase the film, fill our living room to the brim, and project it on the wall. Maybe you could do something like this. I know it will provide food for thought. 

You might remember a few years ago Stephen McCaskell directed a documentary on the life of Spurgeon. It was spectacular. He has recently completed another documentary, this time on the life of Luther. I haven't gotten a chance to view it yet, but it looks fabulous and would be a great way to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Gather a group together to view this one too. It's available here on Amazon streaming

A few months ago my friend Jared Wilson released his book The Imperfect Disciple. The night I got it in the mail a friend came over and was interested in reading it. Since I had a stack of other books I was trying to get through, I lent it to him. I just got it back a week ago and have devoured it during my morning reading time. Not since Zack Eswine's Sensing Jesus (now The Imperfect Pastor) have I encountered a book so freeing for imperfect Christians. If that's you (and that is you), I recommend it. 

A few weeks ago my friend Ruth released her art in the form of painting and words in her book Gracelaced. It is truly a masterpiece. Ruth is one of my favorite people to follow on social media for her vulnerability, faithfulness, and always present love of the word of God. I hope you'll check out this book (and its accompanying journal). 

Years ago Shawn and his wife Maile came over for dinner on their way through Texas and told me about the book that would eventually become my favorite. They named their son after the title character so I knew then they must be serious lit-nerds. Shawn's appreciation of good writing is the foundations for his book The Day the Angels Fell, which is great literature! Nate picked it up and read it in one afternoon, citing its similarity to Peace Like a River, Chaim Potok, and Ray Bradbury (three of his favorites), so I knew it would be good. And it is. It's a young adult novel, and would make a great read-aloud for discussion as a family. 

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Caroline Cobb's new album is releasing today, A Home and a Hunger. I first learned about Caroline years ago when I heard her song Passover Song. I was mesmerized. I told everyone I knew about her album, The Blood and the Breath, then. Now, I cannot wait for you to listen to her new work about the kingdom and our longing for the new heaven and hew earth. Get it today. 

 

 

Sowing in Tears: Vulnerable Bloggers and the Crushing Whirlwind of Fame

Nate and I first heard Andy Crouch talking about the relationship between authority and vulnerability on Mike Cosper's podcast, Cultivated, several months ago. I ordered Andy's book, Strong and Weak, immediately, Nate finished it a few weeks ago and I finished it this morning. If you've read anything by Andy, you know he's remarkably talented at communication and articulate in a way the church culture today needs. Today's thoughts are born from what I'm learning through Andy. 

In the past decade or so we've seen an uptick of tell-all, self-described Christian bloggers and storytellers, particularly women. There are some common themes in their writing: they're funny, they're sacrilegious in the sense that they'll talk about anything, they seem common, relatable, real. It's something that was missing in the buttoned up culture of Christianity most of us came from. And it's refreshing in a way. It also tastes like sewer water in a way. But it's refreshing until the sewer water aftertaste comes. Most of these tell-all bloggers have gone from Christian-lite to Universalism or embracing new doctrines, and eventually being famously farewelled. 

What is refreshing about it is there is a kind of vulnerability present in the beginning. Sure, it's from behind a keyboard in a house far away, but the writer is tapping out her treatise dressed in last night's pjs and yelling at the dog to stop barking and ran out of coffee yesterday, but plunks on with her piece. There's a vulnerability that's appealing about that: they're real people with real problems and probably have bed head too.

There's also a vulnerability that can be manipulative though. It's the sort that only opens the shades enough so the mess can be seen, but not enough that the writer is actually vulnerable. It costs nothing to tell you I'm writing this in my pjs with the dog barking at the neighbors and drinking chai tea wishing it was coffee. To be a tell-all blogger costs virtually nothing. We can wax eloquent about our reputation and how painful some people's comments can be, but most of us well-adjusted adults can still go to bed and sleep fine because all that cost is out there, not in here. 

To be truly vulnerable, there must be risk involved, and risk comes with the people closest to us, the ones who matter most to us. If we use vulnerability as a tool, or even a shield, the world sees us wield and we get our jollies from it, it's not real vulnerability. It's manipulation—gaining approval, gaining a following, gaining a title by being real, authentic, etc.. 

John says this, "He must increase, I must decrease," and that's an awfully difficult thing for any communicator or faithful worker of any sort in this world to do today. By virtue of our work, we run the risk of increase. How does one decrease—embrace true vulnerability, the sort that involves risk with those closest to us and never becomes a platform on which our ministry is based, because our boast is Christ alone—and yet also be faithful? Especially because one of our callings as Christians is to show the world we are not better than them, that Jesus came for the sick, and that we all are in equal need of Jesus. How do we be weak and in our weakness become strong, without outshining the strongest One of all? 

I don't know the answer to that, not fully. But I think it looks a little like saying "I don't know" when asked questions we really don't have the answers to. It looks like saying less when we might be expected to say more. I think we can expect some growth, perhaps explosive, perhaps incremental, but we should also expect to be able to say "I can't be faithful to love Jesus and people, and have things in my life I refuse to lose." I think it means never getting to hob-nob with the big folks and maybe never getting noticed by anyone but the Master of the house (Who's waiting, with joy, to say "Well done, my servant."). 

If you're reading blogs or books or going to conferences and gushing over how vulnerable the communicators are being, ask yourself what the cost to them truly might be. You probably don't even know, and might not even be able to see until decades later when their kids are grown or their marriages have been through hell or they confess they've become an addict of drugs or alcohol or their ministry falls out from underneath them. 

. . .

There was a period last year when everywhere I looked in my life there was pain and loss and I could barely breathe as I walked through it. Yet I kept writing through it, trying to find redemption quickly. I thought it I could redeem something bad quickly enough, then it would become good. But a wise friend and fellow writer said this to me: 

"I have often marveled at how detachedly you write about all you're going through on your blog. Seriously, though, I wonder if writing about all this for the public while in the middle of it serves to exacerbate the emotional distancing. Writing inherently distances us from our inner life simply through the process of externalizing and reifying it. I wonder if this might contribute to that kind of detachment."

The cost to my writing vulnerably was unseen except to those who knew me personally. It might have seemed to you that the cost was in people knowing my junk, but that's never felt like much of a cost to me. The real cost was to my soul. Writing quickly about what was going on was taking a great toll on my emotions, spirit, and mind. I had to take a break. And I did. And it was really helpful to me, and I hope, really helpful to you, the reader. 

If you read and love a blog, a book, an author, or a speaker, and marvel at how much they just get you, they feel kindred to you, ask yourself at what cost is their story coming. You're not responsible for how they wield their gifts, but you are responsible for how you wield your listening and worshipping. The truth is real vulnerability takes time, a lot of it, and there probably won't be a celebration but a crucifixion that follows it.  

One of my new favorite writers is Anne Kennedy, and she said this about these sorts of leaders: "Don’t be fooled. The woman reaps what she sows. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy, but those who sow the wind won’t get anything back but a destructive whirlwind on the last day." 

I want to be one who sows in tears—quiet, real, deep, agonizing, and vulnerable tears. 

 

Is Blogging Dead?

Someone said blogging is dead, but what I hope they meant is the rat race of push button publishing and flurry response to response to response to response blogging is dead. No one can survive on that sort of writing, nor thrive, not the writer or the reader. I hope that kind of blogging is dead. But back in the early hours of the 2000s, when blogging still felt like a secret from the rest of the world, it felt so alive and made me feel so alive and I've been hoping to find that spark again. I emptied out my subscription/feed reader and started fresh, slashed my Instagram follows by more than half, stepped back from Facebook and Twitter (Forever? For a time? Who knows?), and in an orchestrated attempt to listen to the sounds I love most, I cloistered myself with the living bloggers. And by living bloggers, I mean the ones who are still writing about real life, waking to the perpetual morning, who could write a whole chapter about the way to slice an onion or the leaf they found while walking.

I used to think a writer was just one who writes, but I have become less generous, I think, and believe now that a writer is one who withholds words from the public until they have gotten them right in the private. Having something to say doesn't mean it ought to be said, but saying it, like the poet said, makes it real. The sad predicament of all the saying happening is things which oughtn't have become real have become so and we have ushered ourselves right into a tragedy, just by the words we write and say and publish. We may disagree and I find I am okay with that too. Opinions are in plenty but listening is rare.

I met a woman a few months ago who wanted to be a real writer, to publish on the sites that circulate among the brand of evangelicals within which we both find ourselves. Those in the know would tell her to write for more, grow her platform, but I told her to be faithful with her small space, her blog. It has become a dirty word in many ways, coupled with churlish comments about "mommy" or "niche," while I think the problem is that blog became a word at all. I prefer to think of it as an invitation, read or don't. Your choice. But I want out of blasted pressure to perform tricks and jump through SEO shaped hoops. I told her in ten years those sites she wanted to write for would be forgotten, but the exercise of daily writing on her blog would yield fruit ten-thousand times—not just the book writing sort either, but the working out of her salvation sort. Be faithful, friend. I called her friend, even though I didn't know her because I knew the churning in her soul as near as I knew my own.

When I looked at the "blogs" I felt I had to be reading, I found a common thing among them: they were all instructive in some ways. Instructing me how to think, how to pray, how to be a church member, how not to be, how to think about the election, how not to think, how to be a friend, how not to be a friend, how to train kids, how to think about everything in the whole world that can ever be thought of. I was suffocating in the hows of life and forgetting to simply love, enjoy, and cherish the life right in front of me. Not to hedonistically drown myself in the throes of whatever today brought, but to stop and think, not of what everyone else thought I should be doing or thinking or saying, but what did God want to teach me in this single, solitary life?

This whole year feels like a waste when I cut and paste it next to the How Tos of most articles and blogs I was reading. I was a failure from start to finish. I did not think right, treat right, walk right, hear right, or see right. I measured my success by how much shame I felt when I went to bed at night and this is no way to live, and yet this was the way I saw many of my sisters living. Surrounding themselves with Pinterest and Blogs and Articles and Books and People and Photos and Friends and Ideas, but never stopping to think: within my home, within my family, is this helpful? Does this work?

Last winter a friend of mine told me if I ever wasn't sure what my calling was, or if I lost sight what I was supposed to be doing as a wife (since this has been the besetting struggle of my year: how do I do this?), to stop, look at my home, my husband, and say: what does it mean to look well to the ways of my household right now? And then to do that. It might mean caring for my husband actually means believing him when he says he loves me or says I'm beautiful. Or it could mean reading the Word rather than doing the laundry. Or it could mean making him healthy dinners every night and packing his lunch every day. Or it could mean weeping when I am hurt and laughing when I am happy. This concept has recalibrated me every day this year, sometimes in big ways and sometimes in small ways.

All of this I suppose is just a way to say to you that if what's in your eyesight when you look up is what everyone else is doing or thinks you ought to be doing, clear the way, friend. Clear the paths around you, unmuddle the simplicity of the gospel. It is Christ who cares for you and cares for your provision, far more than you can ever care for it. So let the dead things drop, find out what they are and let them drop. Maybe Sayable is one of those dead things for you. Go ahead, unsubscribe. I won't be offended, I promise.

I'm slowly, slowly coming back to a way of writing that I used to love. Sharing links to beautiful writing. Sharing books I love. Writing quietly in the still dark morning hours. Caring for the needs of my household means writing and reading what stirs my soul and mind, not draining it. Maybe blogging is dead. Or maybe it's just the frenzied way it's done that's dying. Screen Shot 2016-11-16 at 7.59.18 AM

Here are some places I've subscribed to recently:

Food Loves Writing: Just some everyday things, words, photos, recipes. Thistle and Toad: Beautiful writing on really hard things in life and culture.  The Beautiful Due: Poetry and Letters to Winn.  The Rabbit Room: A smattering of music, poetry, fiction, and non.  Cloistered Away: Homeschooling mama with simple suggestions for life.  Deeply Rooted:  Words on faith, life, and family.