IVP - Strangely Dim - January 2011 Archives

January 18, 2011


You may or may not be aware of this, but InterVarsity Press is about as geeked out as an organization can get over Bible study. Our very first homegrown book, back in 1947, was Discovering the Gospel of Mark by Jane Hollingsworth, and we've pretty much never stopped. Our commitment to being rooted in the Scriptures gets expressed in overt ways, as we publish commentaries like The Gospel of John (Resonate), and in subtler ways as we publish books for personal reflection and group discussion like The Story of God, the Story of Us. The Bible problematizes everyday living and cultural issues in books like Unsqueezed; it orients stories of spiritual growth and turbulence in books like Pilgrimage of a Soul; it catalyzes social change in books like Living Mission and How to Inherit the Earth. We even did two fortnights of reflections on donkeys in the Bible right here at Strangely Dim. So yeah, we like the Bible here.

We like it so much that we continue to publish new Bible studies, on topics and characters and biblical books, every year, as part of our LifeGuide line and in other forms as part of our IVP Connect imprint. And as if that weren't enough, we like Bible study so much that we give one away every day for free. A new Lifeguide study is posted daily at our Quiet Time Bible Study page; it gets you into a passage from Scripture and, if I may be cliche for a moment, it gets that passage from Scripture into you.

So, if you've got a little time to kill and you feel like doing some soul searching and some Bible reading, find a quiet place and give yourself a little "quiet time"--a quaint little term meaning "time alone with God," most often occupied with prayer, meditation and (you guessed it) Bible study. Before you know it, you'll be as geeked out about it as we are. And I'm pretty sure, if I may be presumptuous for a moment, that being as geeked out as we are was your new year's resolution.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 8:03 AM

January 17, 2011

On the Blemished and Scarred Body of Christ

An observation by Martin Luther King Jr., from a cell in Birmingham, Alabama, on the history and responsibility of the body of Christ.

I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

There was a time when the church was very powerful--in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators."' But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent--and often even vocal--sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment. I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 7:18 AM

January 12, 2011

A Conspiracy of Neglect

A year ago today my friend Kent let me know that he was safe.

I had seen him just a couple of weeks prior--a treat, since most of our interactions are necessarily by phone; he's in Miami or Haiti, while I'm usually at my desk in suburban Chicago. We'd talked regularly over the course of the previous year as I edited his book Following Jesus Through the Eye of the Needle about living and learning in Haiti. In November we had a release party with him on the phone; in early December I saw him at a retreat; and at the end of December 2009 I caught up with him, along with his friends Enel and Edvard, at the Urbana Student Missions Conference. And then the earthquake. And then the quick notes letting us know he was safe, he was in Miami, and that he'd be out of touch for a while as he tracked down friends and loved ones on the ground in Haiti, and as he traveled there to deal with the aftermath.

Word came in later from Kent that my new friend John, his codirector at Haiti Partners, was safe along with his family. Enel and Edvard were harder to track down; eventually we learned that Edvard was fine, that he'd been across town from his family but that they were well, but Enel had been on the third story of a university building that collapsed. His experience escaping the building and eventually reuniting with loved ones is recounted in Kent's second book, After Shock, released just last week by Likewise Books.

I freely confess that I thought very little of Haiti before working with Kent on his books, but since the earthquake it's never far from my mind. I went last May with a team selected by Likewise; we worshiped on Pentecost Sunday in a leveled church building in Darbonne, and I was encouraged to see that Haiti has not forgotten God, and God has not forgotten Haiti.

Sometimes I think that the unstated logic of the world, the logic that allows us to persevere over time, the logic that keeps major world powers on top and the rest of the world resigned to it, is a sort of conspiracy of neglect: we all agree to pay attention to some and systematically forget others, and then we stick with the plan. We fret over the clear and present danger of Cuba; our cruise ships stop at the Dominican Republic; we buy time shares in the Bahamas and follow the music scene in Jamaica. But Haiti we overlook, over and over again.

I'm probably projecting. But in any case, Haiti remains on our minds, in our prayers, a year after one of the most devastating natural disasters in world history. This past fall I was at a conference where the plenary speaker invited us to sing along with "Waving Flag," a song of defiance that became an unofficial anthem calling us to break with the unspoken conspiracy, to defy the unspoken logic, to stand with and pray for and, by God, remember Haiti. We do so again today.


Listen to "Waving Flag" here; to get updates on the work of Haiti Partners, click here.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 7:54 AM

January 4, 2011

Kierkegaard on the Editor as Succubus

This came to me via my boss's boss, and to him via Robin Parry, and to him via Soren Kierkegaard (in the Hongs translation of his Either/Or, pp. 245-46). If the prevailing cultural opinion is that information longs to be free, the editor steadfastly maintains that information longs to be edited--which is to say, in the opinion of Kierkegaard at least, that information (along with its provider) longs to be commodified:

"The conversation of editors is very seductive, and soon one is in their power; but they deceive only us poor children, and then--well, then it is too late. Watch out young man, and do not go too often to the caf├ęs and restaurants, for that is where editors spin their webs. And when they see an innocent young man who talks straight from the shoulder, fast and loose, with no idea whether what he says is worth anything or not, but merely rejoices in letting his words freely flow forth, in hearing his heart pound as he speaks, pounding in what is said--then a dark figure approaches him, and this figure is an editor. He has a subtle ear; he can hear immediately whether what is being said will look good in print or not. Then he tempts the young fellow; he shows him how indefensible it is to cast his pearls away in this manner; he promises him money, power, and influence, even with the fair sex. The heart is weak, the editor's words beautiful, and soon he is trapped. Now he no longer seeks solitary places in order to yearn and sigh; he does not hurry eagerly to the happy haunts of youth to become intoxicated with talk; he is silent, for one who writes does not talk. He sits pallid and cold in his work-room; he does not change color at the kiss of the idea; he does not blush like a young rose when the dew sinks into its cup. He has no smiles, no tears; calmly he watches the pen glide across the paper, for he is an author and not young anymore."

Consider this the counterpoint to our earlier post on "the writer as lollygagger." Bottom line: never trust an editor--unless, of course, that editor works for InterVarsity Press, the leading publisher of thoughtful Christian books. We'll take good care of you here, and you can check out any time you like . . .

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 1:48 PM

January 2, 2011

P. J. O'Rourke on the Writer as Lollygagger

This came to me by way of friend of Likewise Tabitha Pleudemann. It's a confession from the great P. J. O'Rourke on what writers really do when they say they're writing.

Usually, writers will do anything to avoid writing. For instance, the previous sentence was written at one o'clock this afternoon. It is now a quarter to four. I have spent the past two hours and forty-five minutes sorting my neckties by width, looking up the word "paisly" in three dictionaries, attempting to find the town of that name on The New York Times Atlas of the World map of Scotland, sorting my reference books by width, trying to get the bookcase to stop wobbling by stuffing a matchbook cover under its corner, dialing the telephone number on the matchbook cover to see if I should take computer courses at night, looking at the computer ads in the newspaper and deciding to buy a computer because writing seems to be so difficult on my old Remington, reading an interesting article on sorghum farming in Uruguay that was in the newspaper next to the computer ads, cutting that and other interesting articles out of the newspaper, sorting--by width--all the interesting articles I've cut out of newspapers recently, fastening them neatly together with paper clips and making a very attractive paper clip necklace and bracelet set, which I will present to my girlfriend as soon as she comes home from the three-hour low-impact aerobic workout that I made her go to so I could have some time alone to write.

Happy new year, writers. Now get back to work.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 6:32 AM

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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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