Tuesday’s Read, Read, Read! (a book review and a synchroblog to celebrate Sarah’s new book!)

First, the book review:

Every once in a great while, a voice arises that speaks truth in love for an entire generation of Jesus-followers. Sarah Bessey is such a voice. I began reading her blog three years ago, and quickly discovered a Soul Sister. Sarah has the heart of an artist, the skill of a surgeon, and the grace of a dancer when she begins weaving words together. And she has woven them into a masterpiece with this beautiful, heartfelt, lyrical book. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

With a foreword by Rachel Held Evans and a stunning manifesto by Idelette Mcvicker leading the way, Sarah dives into her topic with an extended version of a popular blog post, “A Bonfire on the Shore.” All of us — egalitarians, complementarians, feminists, non-feminists — are invited to join her around that bonfire, to listen to one another in love and to share stories, life lessons, observations, and most especially, questions and answers that we have lived in the everydayness of life as well as wrestled with in our minds. “I want to tell the truth, but first I want to live the Truth,” she says; “I won’t confuse critical thinking with a critical spirit,” she promises.

And then she dives into the whole Big Topic, declaring that yes, she is a feminist — but only because she is following after the ways, words and actions of Jesus, her savior and friend. She is learning from Jesus what it means for each of us to be a human person, whether male or female. Never discounting the differences between men and women, Sarah makes a strong case for her position without alienating those who might disagree with her. She stakes out her place: “Patriarchy is not God’s dream for humanity. It never was; it never will be.” But she leaves room for conversation: “I don’t think God is glorified by tightly crafted arguments wielded as weaponry.”

Telling pieces of her own story all along the way, Sarah looks at the whole of scripture first, most especially at the words and work of Jesus in the gospel narratives, refusing to allow the ‘problematic passages’ to take precedence over what she sees happening in Jesus’ relationship with women. She does this, however, without ever discounting the power and authority of the biblical message. She works hard to sift out the cultural specificities from the timeless truths, always with an attitude of appreciation and respect for the Word of God.

Sarah gives testimony to the partnership she enjoys in her own marriage, making a beautifully strong case for mutual submission. She makes room for single women at the table of full-personhood without diminishing the joy she has found in being married and birthing babies. And she calls the church to open-handed, open-hearted sharing in the work of kingdom living, inviting us to reconsider traditional ‘women’s ministries’ in the light of all that needs doing in the wider world.

This is a joyful book, an honest book, a welcoming book. I don’t know if you will find yourself proudly wearing the, “I am a Jesus feminist” badge when you finish it. I hope so. But I do know that you will be glad you read this book, that you will wrestle with the questions she asks and the stories she tells, and that you will stand up and cheer when you read the opening invitation and the closing benediction. Because Sarah writes truth, with a capital “T” — but she never tells it without love. And YOU, yes, you, are so very welcome here.

I received an advance release digital copy of this fine book from Simon & Schuster Digital Sales, Inc, in exchange for my honest review. This is it – and it is an honor. But I highly recommend that you purchase a hard copy of this one – it needs dog-earring and marking up. I compiled a 7-page document of favorite quotes and ideas, some of which are my own response to Sarah’s thinking in these pages. Now, that’s a good book.

And now, the synchroblog — my own reflections on why I am who I am:


 They came streaming down the center aisle on Sunday morning.
Men, women, children.
Students, grandmothers, professors;
building contractors, retirees, babes-in-arms.
Down they came, moving slowly beneath the chandeliers,
bending low over the basket,
taking a morsel of bread
and dipping it into the offered cup.

“The body of Christ, broken for you.”
“The Cup of peace, given for you.”

And, once again, I remembered who I am.


 It was All Saints Sunday, a day of remembering.
And we did exactly that.
We re-membered ourselves,
all of us — past and present — in litany,
in prayer, in memory.
The presence of those who led the way
to where we now are was palpable,
breathing out of the wood and stone and stained glass,
echoing in the guitars and piano,
standing right there in the worship center with us,
shoulder to shoulder.


 We lit candles to help us remember.
And we thanked God for friends and family
who have left this physical realm,
this place-in-space that only partially reveals the truth of who we are.

And we sang!
Oh, how we sang,
joining our 300 voices with the sound
of saints and angels
around the world and across time,
remembering who we are.


 This is our home, these are our people,
this is our song.
I am a woman, yes, I am.
I am glad to be female,
grateful for the power of my body,
the gift of child-bearing,
the ability to nourish.
But I am also a human being.
First and foremost, I am that.
And I am blessed to be part of a community
that celebrates both truths,
that doesn’t hesitate to acknowledge
the ways in which my femaleness
brings wholeness to the image of God
in the midst of the sanctuary.

 For the last forty years, this is the truth my husband and I have lived:
we are partners.
We are equal before God.
We bring different gifts and abilities
to our shared table,
but we are, each of us, seen by God for
who we are,
ALL of who we are:
redeemed by Jesus,
gifted by God,
called and filled by the Holy Spirit,
commanded to love God, others and ourselves,
sent to a world that hungers for grace.
Both of us.


The candles were still gleaming Sunday evening,
as a small group of us gathered to worship Taize style.
Sung prayer, lectio, and once again,
a shared table.

But this time, a litany of silence.
Deep enough to hear the bread tear,
quiet enough to hear the purplish fluid being poured out,
every last drop.


Dark enough to exhale.
To fully exhale all the worries of the day,

the carbon dioxide of doubt,
the staleness of fatigue.

It is within this context that I can say yes,
I am a Jesus feminist.
In the center of worship,
in the midst of the congregation,
in the place where I am known.

And in that powerful, life-giving truth,
I rejoice!

My deep thanks to those who lead our congregation in worship that is real and rich – Don Johnson, Jon Lemmond and Bob Gross. It is Bob’s voice that you hear, along with his composing and arranging skills, in the Taize songs I have linked in this piece.

I am joining this post with Sarah’s synchroblog, with Michelle’s weekly invitation and with Jennifer’s storytelling.