IVP - Strangely Dim - November 2010 Archives

November 29, 2010

Remembering Dorothy Day

Thirty years ago today the great Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement, breathed her last. I was ten and Catholic when she died; now I'm forty and evangelical. I miss her, and I never knew her.

Born into the middle class and indoctrinated in her early adulthood into a radical bohemian lifestyle, Day put off Catholicism till the birth of her daughter introduced her to the transcendent. Long an advocate of the labor movement, her conversion only strengthened her passion for the needs of exploited and marginalized people. Thanks to her gravitas and candor, she perplexed and intrigued people of various political, religious and social convictions throughout the turbulent mid-twentieth century. If the 1900s had any legitimate American candidates for sainthood (and I'm sure it did), she's certainly in the running.

Brian Mahan, in his book Forgetting Ourselves on Purpose, describes what he calls Dorothy's "epiphany of recruitment"--that moment when she knew, viscerally, that her life had to be about people in need. She was enjoying, of all things, a doughnut, when her mother offhandedly observed that not everyone in the world has enough food to eat. Dorothy was stunned and moved to tears, half-eaten doughnut in hand. Think about that the next time you find yourself doing something inconsequential: God may be recruiting you in that very moment to something profound, something lasting, something great.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 1:18 PM

November 24, 2010

The Gospel of John Is So Hot Right Now . . .

In case you missed it, yesterday we were on the edges of our seats here at Likewise Books, watching the recently released Resonate volume on The Gospel of John by Paul Louis Metzger climb the charts at Amazon.com. The highest I saw it go was #284, which means 283 other books sold better than it yesterday, whereas some several million books sold worse. For a while at least, Paul on John bypassed even the Pope on Jesus. 


amazon ranking.JPG

It's not about the units here (it's totally about the units), but it is encouraging to see people rally around a book we're proud to publish.

If you're interested in hearing more about the series that Gospel of John inaugurates, check out the Resonate video posted at the Likewise Books page on YouTube. You'll also find recent conversations with Adam Taylor on his book Mobilizing Hope (which itself cracked the top 100 on Amazon), teasers from the Story of God, Story of Us video curriculum, and a preview of what to expect from Kent Annan's forthcoming After Shock.

Making your Black Friday just a wee bit easier,

Your friends at Likewise Books

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 8:56 AM

November 23, 2010

The Scholar and the Scum of the Earth, Part One

Lots of IVP's authors know each other. A few of them attend the same churches. But there's probably no odder mash-up among our author list than Craig Blomberg, Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary and author of six IVP books (including two of the acclaimed New Studies in Biblical Theology), and Mike Sares, author of the Likewise book Pure Scum and pastor of Scum of the Earth. Here (over the course of three posts) Craig explains the divine logic behind his odd journey to membership at a church called Scum.  


It was the last church move I would ever have predicted I would make. I am disproportionately left-brained. I live in the suburbs. In general, I relate better to people closer to my age than to those of entirely different generations, either older or younger. I have more in common with professionals than with blue-collar workers or the unemployed. I have comparatively little experience throughout my life of relating to the homeless. So if a decade ago you had given me the profiles of ten churches (each very different from the thriving, suburban megachurch we were attending, with both my wife and me in leadership roles and our two daughters thriving in student ministries), and if you had told me that we'd be joining one of those different churches a few years later, the tenth and last option I'd have guessed you meant was Scum of the Earth Church.

Scum, as it is abbreviated, was founded in 2000. The first thing that piques people's interest is its name--chosen from 1 Corinthians 4:13 and Paul's self-description by the young adults who dreamed of the congregation. At the heart of those founders were a Christian ska rock band named Five Iron Frenzy and a middle-aged Presbyterian pastor, Mike Sares. Early on, they developed a motto, or slogan, that encapsulated a lot of what was happening and what they prayed would continue to happen: reaching "the right-brained and the left-out."

Pure Scum: The Left-Out, the Right-Brained and the Grace of God is the story of the church and its ministry after a decade of existence. Mike Sares writes in a fun, easy-to-read style. The book is comparatively short; you can read it rapidly in an evening. But the vignettes Mike has chosen to include, to characterize key episodes, stages and people in Scum's short history, are riveting. They provoke reflection. They incite critique and second-guessing. They show God at work in very unpredictable ways, at least as often in spite of the plans and strategies employed as because of them.

The book is not one more how-to manual for a new kind of church; it's a celebration of God's grace that cannot be manufactured, formulated, packaged or imitated. But there are attitudes of the heart, kinds of decisions, and approaches to people and to God that should be emulated, even if the results in other contexts might turn out to be radically different.

Check back soon for part two.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 12:16 PM

November 15, 2010

Editing as Community Organizing

My job puts me in touch with a lot of crazy people--crazy enough to try to change entrenched patterns of behavior and societal standards. Likewise publishes a lot of activists; in fact some of the most notable books in our history have been the sustained reflections of people who spend most of their days pushing hard for more justice, more mercy, more shalom in their given contexts. I get a little envious sometimes, I can admit: while they're saving people, I'm condemning commas.

When I'm feeling particularly inadequate--usually after a phone conversation with one of these people (I should add that not once has one of my authors told me anything like "Why don't you get off your butt and do something significant for a change?"--even the ones who are well aware of the enormous amounts of free time I spend on my butt doing something insignificant)--I try to console myself by imagining the role of publishing in the greater effort of what I suppose we could call "cultural discipleship": how does what I do join with what they do to better represent the kingdom of God throughout the earth?

Or something like that. It's a self-serving exercise, to be sure, but I think generally it's helpful to me and to our authors; and really, what's wrong with imagining yourself in the kingdom of God?

The bible of most activists at a grass-roots level (apart from the actual Bible, for the folks I work with) is Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals, published in 1971 as an attempt to channel the chaotic rage of 1960s revolutionaries into more effective, sustainable social change. In this book Alinsky lays out some of the essential qualities of a community organizer, the things he needs to see in a person before he will trust them with the real needs of a community. You can train on tactics, but these are temperamental values that can only be acknowledged and encouraged. I'd say we look for them in authors too, as well as in publishing professionals such as myself. Ahem.

  • Curiosity. "Life is for him [always "him"; the 1970s were still a wee bit unenlightened] a search for a pattern, for similarities in seeming differences, for differences in seeming similarities, for an order in the chaos about us, for a meaning to the life around him and its relationship to his own life--and the search never ends."
  • Irreverence. "He . . . rebels against any repression of a free, open search for ideas no matter where they may lead. He is challenging, insulting, agitating, discrediting. He stirs unrest. As with all life, this is a paradox, for his irreverence is rooted in a deep reverence for the enigma of life."
  • Imagination. "There was a time when I believed that the basic quality that an organizer needed was a deep sense of anger against injustice. . . . I now know that it is something else: this abnormal imagination that sweeps him into a close identification with mankind and projects him into its plight."
  • A sense of humor. "Knowing that contradictions are the signposts of progress he is ever on the alert for contradictions. A sense of humor helps him identify and make sense out of them. . . . The organizer has a personal identity of his own that cannot be lost by absorption or acceptance of any kind of group discipline or organization. I now begin to understand what I stated somewhat intuitively in Reveille for Radicals almost twenty years ago, that 'the organizer in order to be part of all can be part of none.'"
  • A bit of a blurred vision of a better world. "Sooner or later he will react with 'What am I doing? . . . I quit.' What keeps him going is a blurred vision of a great mural where other artists--organizers--are painting their bits, and each piece is essential to the whole."
  • An organized personality. "It is vital that he be able to accept and work with irrationalities for the purpose of change. . . . He should be able, with skill and calculation, to use irrationality to progress toward a rational world. . . . He is always learning, and every incident teaches him something."
  • A well-integrated political schizoid. "Men will act when they are convinced that their cause is 100 per cent on the side of the angels and that the opposition are 100 per cent on the side of the devil . . . and yet both parts have to live comfortably with each other. Only a well-organized person can split and yet stay together."
  • Ego--"clearly differentiated from egotism." "Ego is unreserved confidence in one's ability to do what he believes must be done. . . . The thought of copping out never stays with him for more than a fleeting moment; life is action."
  • A free and open mind, and political relativity. "Because of these qualities he is unlikely to disintegrate into cynicism and disillusionment, for he does not depend on illusion. . . . He conceives of creation as the very essence of the meaning of life. . . . The organizer finds his goal in the creation of power for others to use."

That strikes me as a pretty good description of a good book: "power for others to use." A book--particularly the type of book we publish--is an author's proxy, a way for the author's insights to be present when the author herself (see what I did there?) can't be present. It's a distillation of a person's embodied ideas and ideals, to be considered and adapted for another context. Maybe it's my ego talking, but that makes publishing a creative process--which makes me, as a publishing professional, a creative person.

Ahem. How you like me now, activists?

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 8:10 AM | Comments (2) are closed

November 2, 2010

How You Like Them Apples

I was pretty sure that my Strangely Dim coblogger Lisa was sporting the biggest apple ever this morning; her plate runneth over, as they say. But unlike me, she's unsatisfied with anecdotal evidence. Her research turned up an apple harvested by Chisato Iwasaki, from his farm in Hirosaki City, Japan. You can see a picture here. Looks like a Red Delicious.

This leads to the inevitable followup question: Where might you find the world's smallest Red Delicious?






Wait for it . . .




Minneapolis! Har har snort.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 8:39 AM | Comments (2) are closed

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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