September 29, 2010
Shalom, Anyone?A week or two ago I babysat for two fantastic boys, ages three and four, so their parents could go on a date. I was feeling great about how the evening was going. But then, out of the blue, an innocent question from the eldest: "Do you know Hebrew?"
This from the child whose teeth I'm helping to brush, whose Cars pajamas I will help him into momentarily--and whose father, a coworker of mine, does know Hebrew and is teaching it to these very boys. Do I know Hebrew? Well. Shalom is Hebrew, right? "Shalom your pajamas on!" I should have shouted in response. "Shalom to bed now!" Somehow I don't think they would have been impressed. What I said instead was a very demure "No, I don't." It's hard to admit to the pre-K crowd what you don't know.
"My daddy knows Hebrew," he replied (again, so innocently).
"I know," I humbly responded. "I've asked your daddy Hebrew questions before." (My teeth-brushing chant that got them from the kitchen into the bathroom to start the bedtime routine no longer seemed like such a remarkable accomplishment.)
But then the conversation was done, and they seemed fully accepting of me and my lack of Hebrew as I read Bible stories to them in English (the only measly language I know, in case you've forgotten).
After they were safely nestled in bed, I settled down on the couch with a light, easy-reading, very nonscholarly (read: no Greek or Hebrew knowledge needed) magazine. Humbling as their question was, I have to admit that it was one of my favorite parts of the night. It's why I think it's so good for me to be around children. They remind me of my limits but accept me anyway, which helps me laugh at all I don't know.
And really, our own limits, whether physical, spiritual, intellectual, emotional, spatial, verbal or what have you, are why we need relationship with others: I need you to do what you're able to that I can't (like, say, translate Hebrew), and you need me to do what you can't. I need to hear (or, by extension, read) your perspective, see through your eyes, learn from your knowledge--and not just from you, but also from my coworkers and my friends and my family and my church and the woman I'm behind in line at the grocery store.
Moreover, our limits also turn us toward God by reminding us of our own humanness. Though we don't always see it this way, needing God and needing others is part of the beauty and genius of how we're made. Contrary to popular opinion and well-known songs, we are not rocks, or islands, or the one, solitary sailboat afloat on the great lake that is our world . . . (Ahem. Sorry.)
Letting our limits lead us to--instead of away from--God and others is a choice, however. I, for example, don't have much experience working closely with and tangibly helping the poorest of the poor. If the opportunity or desire to do that comes up for me, I can either run from it because it feels too big, too hard and too overwhelming, or I can admit the limits of my experience and knowledge and ask for help, by talking with people I know who are doing it, or by reading about the experiences of those who are serving in Third World countries. When I see my own sin, for another example, I can turn away from God because I'm afraid he'll reject me, or I can ask for his--and others'--forgiveness, and let the grace he shows form me more into his likeness. We can choose to let our ignorance make us fearful and defensive, or we can let it move us to learn. We can wallow in our limitations, or we can seek out people--and people's books--that help us live and think more faithfully in this world we dwell in.
I admit, this is hard for me. Being an introvert, I'd often rather do things on my own. Being single, I've learned to do a lot of things on my own, and generally like the independence I feel as a result. And having some pride in me (unfortunately), I'd rather not admit what I don't know or make myself vulnerable by asking for help. But the richness of all that others have brought to my life, and the innocence and humility and acceptance of children as they learn and grow, and the grace of God that I'm only just beginning to know the depths of, make me want to keep trying. So ask me for help when you need it. I'll ask you for help. And, uh, shalom to us all in the process.
September 27, 2010
The Wright Time of YearIt's that time of year again. Which is to say, it's the time of year when schools and fall sports are in full swing, apples are becoming abundantly available, the smell of leaves burning lingers in the air, and the aforementioned leaves (before they're burned) turn brilliant shades of orange, red and yellow (though they do, also, turn a rather brilliant orange as they're burning . . .). Also, if you're a squirrel, it's the time to gather acorns (which I've heard are falling from trees in droves this year).
Which brings me to Tom Wright (the time of year, of course, not the acorns). It was back to school for him too at the start of September when he officially started his new post as Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland (so, all you seventh and eighth graders, if you want to study at St. Andrews under Tom, you better start filling out your application--and memorizing your Greek--now).
It's also an apt time of year to be talking about Tom Wright because fall is a very popular time for church small groups to start back up after a little vacation over the summer, and Tom just happens to have authored some excellent small group guides for IVP, based on his New Testament for Everyone commentary series. (I'm not a paid actor or marketer, either; I speak from actual, real, unscripted small group experience using his guide on Mark. The group I was in had great discussion!)
So, in honor of fall and IVP's longtime friendship with Tom, check out a clever (and funny) tribute of sorts to both Tom and a decidedly different kind of fall.
Posted by Lisa Rieck at 2:08 PM
September 24, 2010
Checking in from the Story Conference
Conferences in Chicago, where I live (OK, you got me, the suburbs of Chicago), are a mixed blessing. No flight costs? Blessing. No hotel costs (not to mention no roommates from the office blurring your boundaries)? Blessing. Some sense of confidence about where you're going and how to get there? Blessing. However, I'm finding that conference schedules don't mesh well with office- or homelife schedules; meanwhile, guilt sensations have an easier time finding me in Chicago than, say, in St. Louis, so I agonize more acutely over the work left undone at the office, and the life left unlived (and chores left unchored) at my house.
On balance, though, the right conference on the home front is worth the guilt feelings and complex coordination. I've been to three such right conferences lately: a retreat for editors; the twentieth annual conference of the Christian Community Development Association; and this week, the Story Conference--a conference for the creative class. (One more next week, then I'll mow the lawn. I promise.)
The Story Conference pulls together people in arts ministry, innovative church planters and leaders, and lay Christians in arts industries for encouragement and expansion of the imagination. The speakers have ranged from wildly successful novelists and filmmakers, to culture leaders among right-brained evangelicals, to pastors and activists. Two of our authors--Sean Gladding (The Story of God, the Story of Us) and Princess Kasune Zulu (Warrior Princess) are on the bill.
I'm struck by how often arts and justice work among evangelicals are commingled. The exhibitors here oscillate, almost booth by booth, between creative expression and justice/mercy ministry. IVP, as usual, sits somewhere in the middle: Princess is an AIDS activist; Sean is a storyteller. Each of them regularly feeds and acts on both their creative and their justice impulses. Out of everyone at this conference (I include myself in this) they're probably the two people easiest to pick out of a crowd.
I don't have much insight into this apparent collusion of the arts and social conscience. Maybe you do. I do know that as I look around at Story, I think we came to the right place, and there are probably folks here who appreciate that we came. Almost makes me forget that I owe my boss some paperwork.
Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 6:11 AM
September 17, 2010
Adam Taylor's Race to the Bottom
Adam Taylor's new book, Mobilizing Hope, has made it to some pretty high places already in its short life. Yesterday it was #82 on Amazon's bestseller list (not that we pay attention to such things). It's been given to the likes of congressman John Lewis and senior presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett. A signed copy has even been given to President Obama himself, who knows Adam from his recent stint as a White House fellow. Yes, Mobilizing Hope is traveling in some pretty powerful circles, but I think ultimately Adam's hoping for some serious downward mobility for this book. He knows that the most effective movements don't start in the halls of power--they end there.
So while Adam is probably very gratified to know that his book is in the hands of the president, I have a feeling he'd be even more excited to put his book into your hands, because he truly believes that you are the people who will ultimately make the biggest difference for the kingdom.
Check out Mobilizing Hope on Amazon (It's #199 as of this post, not that we pay attention to such things). And you can read Adam's thoughts about why he wrote the book at his recent One Campaign blog post.
Posted by Rebecca Larson at 10:42 AM
September 2, 2010
Defining the Relationship--An Editor's Perspective
"You don't expect your editor to become your friend." I was a little embarrassed, a little impressed with myself, when Adam Taylor (his book Mobilizing Hope is just back from the printer) mentioned that in passing to a group of my coworkers. I was also, I can admit now, a little offended.
Why in the world wouldn't you expect your editor to become your friend?!? Do editors have that bad a reputation? I mean . . . OK, I know we can be a bit nerdy, and we are in the habit of telling people what they've done wrong and how we think they should do it better. I know we sit in little cells passing judgment day in and day out on the quality of other people's ideas, their capacity to communicate, their ability to engage an audience. So yeah . . . sure . . . editors can be awful, awful people--truly horrid--and not the ones you'd hole up with in a corner at a party, forsaking all others to hang out with. (OK, now I'm a little depressed.)
But friendship isn't just a matter of assessing compatibilities. Friendship is a trust, and trust is inherent to the editorial process. I seek out authors whom I can trust with my own faith and character and intellect; these folks have ideas and insights about things I'm willing to invest the next year or two learning, because that really is what the editorial process is for me. I seek out authors whom I will be proud to affiliate myself with, because for better or for worse, their life's work becomes part of my portfolio--part of how I understand and represent myself to the world. I attach myself to authors the way remoras attach themselves to sharks--hopefully not dragging them down or leeching their lifesource, but undeniably poaching their passion and borrowing liberally from their wisdom. When I go looking for an author, that's what I'm looking for, and when I find it, I befriend it. Sorry if that creeps you out.
Hopefully I'm able to offer some trust in exchange. An author's manuscript is in many ways his or her baby: something that's slowly gestated in the mind, demanding nourishment and special attention, resembling the parent at the most essential levels, carrying immediately--by virtue of its existence--a portion of the parent's legacy. You hand your baby to a stranger or an acquaintance as a nicety, because they love babies; when you're looking for the truth about your baby, you take it to a doctor; when you want to hear the truth enveloped in love, or love that is committed to truth, you turn to a friend.
I'm overstating it, of course, and many authors have managed to shake free of these intense exaggerations of the publishing process. (That's what agents are for--OMG! JK!) The editorial process for those authors remains largely transactional--contracts signed, services rendered, money exchanged. And that's entirely appropriate, I suppose. But the game changes entirely when you open yourself to the possibility that this isn't just a transaction but a relationship you've entered into; this isn't just a mechanical process you've undertaken but a potentially quixotic mission you've set out on, with your editor happily serving as your nerdy Sancho Panza.
On the way home from dinner with Adam and my coworkers, I checked my voicemail (sorry, Oprah) to find a message from another author-friend, Sean Gladding, whose book The Story of God, the Story of Us returned from the printer the same day as Adam's. Sean was on his way out with some friends, and he and I hadn't talked in a while, so he wanted to just say hi. Like a friend would.
Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 7:03 AM