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!

How one church kicked off a series of ‘Small Things’

The Year of Small Things is at its essence a church story. The Arthurs and the Wasingers, who committed to a year of small things, don’t operate independent of Sycamore Creek Church. Our prayers and other spiritual disciplines don’t replace worshiping with our people in Lansing and Potterville. So, you can imagine the energy fueling our five-week series.

Fun part: the energy didn’t come from having me and Sarah preach each message. (We didn’t.) Our fellow Sycamore Creek-ers love us, but they are not impressed by us. They’ve seen us trip over a minuscule patch of ice in the parking lot. Spill our coffee. They’ve heard us sing off-key. We have zero celebrity cred.

The energy fueling the series came from a group of people — small groups of people — who are together reading the book and meeting to talk about the small things they’d like to see in their own lives. Imaginations are quicker to spark when discussions are happening in community.

The book makes a great study or series because of its community-oriented nature. So — interested in plugging in a sermon series? Here are the nuts and bolts: The Year of Small Things series is a five-week study of the themes of the book by the same name (we chose covenantal friendship, hospitality, vows, kid monasticism, and self-care). Because our churches are wonderfully diverse (and most don’t know what new monasticism is), we centered our sermons around Hebrews 13, which touches on just about every theme.

Audio sermons can be heard via the Sycamore Creek website and Potterville’s website.

And, finally, if you’d like to have Sarah or Erin speak on Small Things where you worship or meet for small groups, contact us!

4 ways to get the most from a Small Things book group

One of the crucial components of The Year of Small Things is starting your own year of small things with other people. In the book we use the phrase “covenantal friendship” to describe the kind of relationship where you and another person (or a couple people) promise to hold each other accountable to certain practices.

Hoping to get out of debt? Your covenantal friend’s going to ask you how that’s going.

Struggling to discern what hospitality looks like in your life? Your covenantal friend is going to pray about that with you and offer some ideas. Then he’s going to circle back in a month and ask again. And again.

Get the idea? A Year of Small Things is more doable when you’re not a lone ranger.

A great way to kick-start a conversation that can lead to a covenantal friendship is a book discussion group.

Don’t overthink this — this can be as organize as a small group (a life group) through your church or as casual as talking about the book on your couch with your best friend. Whatever your discussion group looks like, here are four ways to get the most out of your time together:

  1. Listen more than you speak. Take a note from us – if someone’s venting about how hard it is to get out of debt, don’t interrupt with seven ways they could boost their income or that story you love to tell about the time you went debt-free. That’s an awesome story, but save it for later. Practice the art of listening: respond with a suggestion, a gentle correction, or a word of encouragement as the Spirit compels you, but be slow to interrupt. Active listening wins points, too: sum up what your friend’s said before continuing on so they know you’re understanding their intentions (or they can clarify when you’re a bit off).
  2. When you’re thinking about your small things, remember to keep it small. For instance, don’t make the mistake in the Just Living chapter of making your goal to end world hunger. I hear you, but I’m wondering if it’s instead a better idea to give a grocery store gift card to that family you know who is struggling?
  3. Go back and read the full stories in the bible that we reference. Scripture’s a powerful way to keep the focus on what God’s doing through and saying to you, and not on how impossible your small things might seem.
  4. Go slow. The book covers a year. Reading the book quickly and expecting to start a bunch of new habits and practices isn’t going to be sustainable. Instead, read it all at once if you want, but pace yourself for starting new projects or goals. A calendar can help; so can returning to your book club throughout a year to check in.

    And hey, if you’re encouraged by the book, would you kindly leave a review about it on Goodreads or Amazon? We appreciate you sharing the love.

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.)

5 Small Things you don’t want to miss

Friends, we present you today with 5 small things you won’t want to miss sharing, reading, listening to, or participating in before The Year of Small Things‘s launch day (in two weeks!!).

The feeling of “is this really happening” met its apex last week when at our weekly dinner with the Arthurs, YoST marketing guru and our project editor surprised us with dessert and copies of The Year of Small Things: Radical Faith for the Rest of Us. The! Real! Book! Soon you’ll have your own in hand … Ah, that new-book smell.

 

Erin’s mom, Phyllis, cradled her latest grandchild last weekend on a visit to Lansing. Erin made her leave the book here. #buyyourown #jk #ErinalreadyhasaMothersDaygiftidea

OK, small talk over. Let’s get to those 5 things:

    1. Dudes, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s on the NEW Small Things podcast! Sarah and I interviewed him about his upcoming visit to our home church, Sycamore Creek Church, in Lansing, Mich. Listen to a preview of what he’ll be sharing with our church and guests at the link above or in the player to the right —>

      JWH picture
      Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
    2. Plan on joining Sycamore Creek in a workshop on this new monasticism thing, community, and hospitality! The basics: Sunday, Jan. 29, 9:30 and 11 AM worship service with Sarah & special guest Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. Then, 12:30 — Lunch and Jonathan’s workshop. Be there! (More details here.)
    3. Join the discussion about the Year of Small Things with our Facebook group. Fill that puppy with questions, conversation starters, your #yearofsmallthings photos and more. Sarah and I frequent the page and we love to interact with our readers.
    4. We’re just beginning to get requests for book signings and author events. We’re keeping you in the know on our calendar here (and below). To request us to speak, visit, smile-and-be-friendly, talk, etc., fill out this Year of Small Things Speaker Request form.
    5. Have you pre-ordered your copy (and asked friends to)? All our pre-ordering folks get a special gift from our team: a Small Things companion calendar. Details here.

Year of Small Things takes over Instagram

Small things — 12 small but radical faith practices — are much more likely to grab my imagination than big stuff at this stage, amiright?

But I lose my mind when files take too long to download.

Here’s the problem: discernment, community-building, and growing ever closer to Jesus take time. Like a lifetime.

So — here’s one of my favorite phrases: incremental progress.

One of my (Erin’s) favorite things to do is witness with my own eyes incremental progress over time in my Instagram feed (Erin: @SomeWonderland & Sarah: @HolyDreaming). Last year my youngest was a chubby 3-year-old; my third-grader was missing her top teeth. We forget how far we’ve come when we only look at where we are now. And that’s just physical growth: if I scroll back to 2014, I sense my own anxiety over things I now see God’s hand in. Whoa.

I’m telling you, social media can be deep.

So. Join me in documenting incremental progress. Take our Small Things photo challenge.

We invite you, advance readers and fans, to join other Year of Small Things fans in posting pics on Instagram/ Twitter/ Facebook (using the hashtag #yearofsmallthings) as you reflect or are inspired by the book.

Use your own ideas of stuff to snap a photo of, or simply follow some prompts we’ve suggested below. (Post as often as you’d like — no pressure. Only fun.) We’ll feature some #yearofsmallthings photos on here as we’re underway!

One more small reminder: #yearofsmallthings. 

 

 

 

 

Year of Small Things: Graphics to share

About a month from now The Year of Small Things: Radical Faith for the Rest of Us will hit bookstores and mailboxes (eep!). To celebrate, we present this — our first set of shareable graphics for you to paper the Internets in.

Send these graphics whirling around the Twittersphere, bloggosphere, Facebookland, or wherever else you cool cats are hanging out nowadays. Heck, print one and tack it on your fridge. Or your church’s fridge. We have faith your creativity will guide you.

We appreciate your help spreading some of our words. May they spark conversations and imaginations in others as we start to think about our 2017s.

To use: Click the image you want to share — a new page will open with just the image you chose. Right-click and save. Share. Repeat!

Remember to use the hashtag #yearofsmallthings wherever you’re posting! 

 

Thanks for sharing the Small Things love!

Erin & Sarah

Preorder, watch trailer for ‘Year of Small Things’

Preorder, watch trailer for ‘Year of Small Things’

The Year of Small Things: Radical Faith for the Rest of Us — releasing Jan. 31, 2017 — is almost here! Want the book in your hand or on your Kindle when it releases? Preorder your copy from a favorite retailer and The Year of Small Things will be yours on the same day it’s released into the wild.

Preorders also make great Christmas gifts — and to give someone something to unwrap on Christma295583_yearofsmallthings_calendars morning, we’re offering an incentive.

BONUS: Those who already have or will preorder our book receive in January a free download for a printable, artistic-quality calendar! Simply fill out the form with your purchase information below.

Consider the calendar our invitation for you to embark on your own Year of Small Things in 2017!

(At right is a “conceptual preview,” meaning the image and typography might be slightly different.)

Watch our book trailer above to hear more about the authors’ year of small things — and start imagining what God might have in mind for your small things!

 

Year of Small Things: 10 things to know

Year of Small Things: 10 things to know

Where did the idea for The Year of Small Things come from?

As Sarah tells in more detail in The Year of Small Things: Radical Faith for the Rest of Us, when she and Tom transitioned from a “new monastic” community in the inner city (a Christian household that included homeless guests) to a suburban parsonage, they struggled to translate their former “radical” practices into their new not-so-radical setting.  

Read more