Disquiet Time Q&A with Cathleen Falsani

Hello everyone,

A bunch of my friends and some other people I admire have a book coming out tomorrow. It's called Disquiet Time, and it's a collection of devotional essays that are frank, irreverent, skeptical, and honest. If you've ever rolled your eyes while reading a Bible Study, this is the book for you. I've read it, and I learned a lot. I also found it inspirational. You can learn more about the book and place your preorder here.

Cathleen Falsani is not only a dear friend, but also one of the people who have been most instrumental in the book I'm working on. She and I discuss Disquiet Time below.

Disquiet Time Book Cover

Disquiet Time Book Cover

Me: Daily “quiet time” is widely viewed as a pillar of spiritual growth and maturity in modern Christianity. What inspired you to shake up such hallowed ground in Disquiet Time?

Cathleen: You know, it honestly started as a joke between Jen and me stemming from the fact that, despite growing up in and around a religious milieu where “quiet time” was de rigeur, neither one of us had ever been particularly good at it. If memory serves, we discussed how nervous-making that requisite “quiet time” was and how much of the time, in our experience, it was anything but spiritually/emotionally/mentally “quiet.”

Hence “disquiet,” which is, I believe, if we’re truly honest about it, the experience many of us have when we study or reflect on the Bible. It’s not to knock “quiet time,” it’s simply to cast it in a different, and for many of us more genuine, light. If you read the Bible - really  read it - there’s a lot in there that’s confounding, unsettling, and, yes, disquieting. And that’s OK. That’s not necessarily a bad thing at all.

Me: Disquiet Time has an impressive and diverse set of contributors. What did you learn about God as you compiled these essays into a single tome?

Cathleen: The macro-level lesson for me, at least, was just what we say at the end of our introduction: God is BIG and God can take it. You can’t “do it wrong” if you’re honestly and open-heartedly engaging with holy writ. If you have questions, ask them. If you have complaints, voice them. I remember Elie Wiesel telling me once about how he still reads and studies the Bible every day and that he has lots of questions and complaints and that he expresses them, to God. Professor Wiesel told me that there’s a great tradition in Judaism (and the Bible was their’s first, obviously, so it’s not a bad tradition to perpetuate) of prophets shaking their fist at God. Rather than storm off offended in a huff, God engages with the questions and the complaints. God wants a relationship with us, warts and all. So bring your doubts, fears, joys, hopes, misunderstandings - all of it - bring it with you when you are with the Bible. It’s OK. You have permission. Really. We promise.

Me: Is there a place for cynicism or skepticism in the lives of Christians?

Cathleen: Whether there’s “a place” for it or not, it’s there. I guess the question is should it be? And I think skepticism - questioning the veracity of “truth” that’s taken for granted in some quarters - finds purchase in the Christian mind and that’s probably healthy. Just because the status quo or prevailing culture or zeitgeist says something is so doesn’t mean it is. To question that is not a bad thing. Cynicism, on the other hand, is, at least to my mind, corrosive. Cynicism is a posture that says people are motivated by self interest, period. To view the world that way is a pretty dark place to live. Constantly starting from a place of general mistrust doesn’t reflect the hope, grace, and mercy that Christians by definition embrace.

And while we’re at it, a word about doubt: Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith. The opposite of faith is certainty. Or as St. Freddie of Rupert (aka Frederick Buechner) says, “Whether your faith is that there is a God or that there is not a God, if you don’t have any doubts you are either kidding yourself or asleep.”

Me: You're one of the most talented authors I know. Any words of wisdom for aspiring writers who want to get better at the craft?

Cathleen: Write. Keep writing. Write all the time. Write SOMETHING every day. Even if it’s a carefully-worded email. Just do it. And read. Read all the time. Read the work of people you like. Read something that inspires you. Read writers who have cultivated their voice in the way you hope to cultivate yours. Also read something completely different - something outside your comfort zone/realm of expertise/general interests. You never know what will spark the creative fire until you go there. Trust your gut. Find your voice. Get out of your own way.

New, Improved Doubt Series Navigation

Now that I've wrapped up my series on doubt, several people let me know that the old posts were hard to find. To solve that, I've created a new page that lists all the posts on a single page, with brief explanations of what can be found in each post. You can see the whole doubt series here: The Doubt Series.

Faith Lost and Found

I tell my story so much I assume everyone's who follows me has heard it. I live with a near-constant fear that people are tired of hearing the same thing from me over and over (and I'm sure some are). For that reason, I've pushed back on Michael every time he's suggested we do a podcast where I share my story.

So, when Michael suggested an episode where we both share our stories, and in doing so explain the genesis of The Liturgists, that sounded like it would be more interesting to our listeners. I was still worried people would be bored, but I thought that about our Spiral Dynamics episode too.

I was wrong. This episode is generating a lot of messages from people struggling through doubt and fear. Several people have told me that this is our most powerful episode so far.

You can listen to the episode here: The Liturgists Podcast: Faith Lost & Found.

Zimzum of Love - Rob & Kristen Bell

I had the good fortune to sit down and talk about the brain and physics with Kristen and Rob while they were working on this. The Bells have a remarkable marriage, and this book shares their insights into how to do marriage well. I read an early version of the book, and I can see they've really dialed the ideas after seeing the trailer below. You can preorder The Zimzum of Love here.

The Zimzum of Love: A New Way of Understanding Marriage By Rob and Kristen Bell. As he revolutionized traditional teaching on hell in the phenomenal New York Times bestseller Love Wins, Rob Bell now transforms how we understand and practice marriage in The Zimzum of Love, co-written with his wife, Kristen.