Why it’s not ‘The Year of Safe Things’

Everywhere we go talking about our book The Year of Small Things: Radical Faith for the Rest of Us, we get questions about what it’s like to practice hospitality with those on the margins. After all, Tom and I have offered housing to the homeless, in our actual homes, on and off for over 15 years. Naturally, people are curious how that works. Isn’t it risky? How do you keep your kids safe? Have you ever been taken advantage of? Do you “screen” people ahead of time?

(In fact, one person wanted to know if there was some agency or other that screens people for being hosted in homes. I almost asked, shouldn’t possible host families be screened too? Because who’s to say we aren’t crazier than average? Another post for another time …)

You need courage to open up yourself to hospitality, covenantal friendship, sharing about your struggles. (Photo by Dave Wasinger)

Something we’re hearing from readers is just how “risky” so many of these small things sound. Sharing about your finances with covenantal friends… that requires real vulnerability. Sharing about your own struggles with mental health, including depression … that’s harrowing. And of course opening your life–whether it’s sharing meals, offering rides, helping with laundry, watching small children, providing housing to those on the margins–breaks every rule about privacy and self-protection that Americans value.

But this is not “The Year of Safe Things.” As C. S. Lewis reminds us in The Four Loves, “There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable.” Safety is not one of the fruits of the spirit, nor is it listed in scripture among the promises of God. If anything, the call of the gospel is to risk outrageously for the sake of Jesus and for the vulnerable whom he loves.

What we propose in our book is to start making the turn. To move in baby steps away from the false promises of the American Dream–safety, security, independence, privacy–and to move closer to Jesus. And moving closer to Jesus moves us inevitably closer to (1) his Body, the community of faith, and (2) to those on the margins (and don’t think for a moment those two groups are separate). Because that’s where we find him hanging out.

So is this year of small things risky? Yup. Is it worth it? Well, here are some of our thoughts about that.

How about you? What are your thoughts on safety versus risk?

We’re coming to West Michigan! (& other fun updates)

In the flurry of activity that was Holy Week (Arthurs & Wasingers temporarily gave up trying to slow down, get ourselves out of the way, take the long view–which is probably what the disciples themselves felt like at that point in the story, anyway…), we have been nonetheless excited to spread the word about some upcoming author events. 

  • Tuesday, April 25th7 PM Author event at Potterville Public Library in Potterville, MI. We can’t wait to join some of our favorite friends in our new favorite small town for a FREE author talk & book signing! We’ll do a drawing for a free book too (choose from any of Sarah’s titles or The Year of Small Things). NOTE: Please call the library to reserve your spot: (517) 645-2989. 150 Library Ln, Potterville, MI 48876.

  • Thursday, April 27th7 PM Book signing at Baker Book House in Grand Rapids, MI. We’re hitting one of our all-time favorite bookstores in West Michigan for a fun author talk & signing — and yes, our signature drawing for a $10 store gift card is in your future! Let us know you’re coming/interested on the Facebook event page. This event is FREE, so bring your friends & family. (P.S. The children’s section is FANTASTIC.)

Some other Year of Small Things goodness: 

  • Don’t miss Erin’s Think Christian article on radical finances. Do you let your covenantal friends review your bank account? Why not?
  • The full text of SOJOURNER’S review of The Year of Small Things (from the print mag) is available online for a limited time. Many thanks to poet Abigail Carroll for her kind, thoughtful reflections.
  • Sarah interviews the famous chicken farmer Joel Salatin on the Small Things podcast.

Eastertide blessings, all!

Happy book release day, Year of Small Things!

Welcome to the world, The Year of Small Things: Radical Faith for the Rest of Us!

Sarah Arthur and Erin F. Wasinger are proud to announce that The Year of Small Things (Brazos Press) is in stores/ online today! The bundle of new monastic, love-your-neighbor, follow-Jesus-right-where-you-are joy could be in your hands now.

Yes, you can hold her.

The conversation’s just beginning:

Subscribe to our blog — especially for a chance to win a copy of our book — to stay updated about events related to the book.

Remember that as you read the book, you can talk about it in the public Facebook group! Join us today and start posting your reactions, questions, stories, encouragements for others, and more.

Remember, too, that as you tweet, IG, or talk about it anywhere online, you’ll find fellow readers through #yearofsmallthings. 

One more thing: we pray that God begins in your life your own small things. All our small things together — that’s something.

Now, cupcakes for everyone*!

(*So to speak.)

Book giveaways & other free fun

It’s hard to believe we’re in the home stretch! Our official book release is just around the corner (Jan 31, 2017), and here are some FREE things to help you party:

1) Book giveaways! Yep, we’re giving away free copies of The Year of Small Things, both here on our blog and on Goodreads (more info soon, Goodreads fans). Here’s how:

  • Subscribe to our blog between now and Feb. 15 by entering your email address in the handy little subscription button on the right of this page. Scroll down the page–see that cute little button? Right there. That’s where the magic happens.
  • The winning email address will be selected at random by someone small & illiterate so you know we’re not playing favorites.
  • The winner will be notified Feb. 16. Even if you’ve already preordered a copy, you can give the extra one to a friend, your local library, your state reps–heck, even the new president*!

2) Time is running out to get your free downloadable Year of Small Things calendar from our publisher! Once you preorder from your favorite online retailer (a great list is here) be sure to hang onto your receipt number, then fill out & submit the form you’ll find on our preorder page.

3) Special book-related events THIS Sunday, Jan 29 in the Lansing, MI area, including:

  • 9 & 11 AM – Erin preaching to kick off the Year of Small Things series at Potterville United Methodist Church in Potterville, MI (105 N. Church St.).
  • 9:30 & 11 AM – Sarah preaching to kick off the same series at Sycamore Creek Church in Lansing (1919 S. Pennsylvania), joined by special guest Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.
  • 12:30 – 3 PM – Free workshop on New Monasticism with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove at Sycamore Creek Church (freewill offering will help cover expenses). Free lunch & childcare. Book-signing proceeds will help kids go to camp for free.
  • 6:30 PM – Teen Fuel Cafe for 6th-12th graders meets at SCC, where Sarah will be bringing the YOST-related thought for the day. FREE pizza, snacks, & activities!

SO MUCH FREE-NESS!!

Stay tuned for other updates via our Year of Small Things Facebook group, which–yes, you guessed it–is also free.

Consider this our thanks for being such supportive fans! 

*suggested inscriptions include Lev. 19:34, Deut. 24:17-18, and/or Matt. 25:43.

Mapping out the Year of Small Things

Mapping out the Year of Small Things

Early summer, two years ago:

I (Sarah) pitched an idea to our two families: what if we all took some of the “radical” Christian practices touted by folks like Shane Claiborne and his community The Simple Way and spent a year growing into them? Can downward mobility for Jesus actually happen with debt and diapers and dishes–in suburbia?

Here’s what this looks like on the ground:

Read more

How to find other “ordinary radicals”

How to find other “ordinary radicals”

During my husband Tom’s final year (my first) in seminary at Duke Divinity School, he sent out an email to our ethics class. We knew that once I graduated we would be leaving Isaiah House of Hospitality and everything we had learned in community; Tom would become a United Methodist pastor in Michigan, where we came from. Within Methodism’s appointment system, we would not get to choose our zip code, much less our community. And we could be moved annually thereafter.

So Tom’s email was both a question and an invitation.

The question: How do we live out a vision for community, downward mobility, and radical hospitality within the itinerant (and sometimes subtly upwardly mobile) system of mainline denominations?

Read more

This was new monasticism before ‘The Irresistible Revolution’

This was new monasticism before ‘The Irresistible Revolution’

Lunch. Simply lunch, spurred into being by that announcement at Asbury Temple UMC.

Innocuous enough, and yet life-changing for the Arthurs. I won’t go into how we fell in love with not only the household but the vision, how we prayed, and talked, and came over for more meals. Suffice it to say, by fall semester we did not renew our lease on the one-bedroom near Duke.

We moved into the ‘hood–and stayed. For three years we shared a household with other community members committed to simplicity, hospitality, sustainability, and reconciliation—as well as with women and children in transition out of homelessness.

Read more

One lunch, one mission: desegregate ourselves by race and by class

One lunch, one mission: desegregate ourselves by race and by class

You know that feeling of regional vertigo, when you’ve been traveling so long that when you climb out of the car or step off the plane you can barely remember your own name, much less what state or country you’re in?

Maybe you’re hungry, and you think, “I’ll just grab a burrito from Cosmic Cantina on the way to the hotel,” and then you realize that Cosmic Cantina is roughly 867 miles away, and you haven’t a clue where to get food around here. Yeah, that. In addition to the bodily weirdness of traveling so far, there’s now a mini existential crisis, a spiritual displacement, as if your very identity, including the God you worship, is now up for grabs.

All because you walk on unfamiliar ground. Which is another way of saying that place matters.

Read more

From the inner city to a suburb the Arthurs would call ‘home’

From the inner city to a suburb the Arthurs would call ‘home’

“I think we’re almost there,” I (Sarah) said, hands at ten and two on the wheel of the moving truck we had called home for the past thirty hours. As we eased down the suburban-country road south of Lansing, Michigan that Memorial Day morning seven years ago, our rusty Subaru trailering behind us, Tom and I gazed with interest out the truck windows. A newish subdivision, a church or two. Two farm stands (hooray!), followed by a barn with pygmy goats, and then more subdivisions. Garage sale signs by the dozens. Bus stops. Most properties well-manicured, even picturesque. And then–unexpectedly–a trailer park, across from which we read the sign for yet another subdivision, “English Meadows.”

 

Read more