October 13, 2011
Time to Say Goodbye
It was my great privilege and joy five years ago to say hello to IVP and all of the remarkable people who work here. I had just finished grad school, and landing a job here was truly the answer to many prayers and the fulfillment of a dream.
Since then I've enjoyed the blessing and great privilege of working with numerous excellent colleagues, making meaningful friendships, and working on books by people who seem to be writing what I personally would love to write about--but who are infinitely more qualified to do so. Many of the books that have been published in my time here have had an enormous impact on me, and I thought it would be fun to revisit a few of those now--in no particular order.
I remember thinking as I read Rob Moll's book The Art of Dying that our culture sees death and aging very much as final acts of failure--and living in such a way as to avoid them is at best folly. I will always remember this book for changing the way I think about living and dying--about how they are not two separate "stages," but are actually part of a continuum. Knowing this requires us to reorient ourselves so that eternity is in view, a perspective which shifts us from fear of death to embracing life in such a way that living and dying retain their purpose and power. This has implications for issues surrounding abortion and euthanasia as well as for vocation and growing older. You must read this book.
I found Andy Marin's book Love Is an Orientation to be such an act of courage and love that I could not help but be drawn in by it. In fact, more than any other, Marin's book drew me into a world where theory and practice meet on real, and often difficult, ground. His book made it easier for Christians--particularly evangelicals--and the gay community to mutually admit their difficulties with one another and make tangible steps toward understanding, reconciliation and healing. I'd say that it's groundbreaking, but that doesn't even come close to the impact Andy's work has had on countless people. A classic example of the command to "go and do."
Julie Clawson's Everyday Justice and May Elise Cannon's Social Justice Handbook together are two of my favorite resources for engaging in the work of social justice in practical ways for everyday life. The truly wonderful thing about these books is that they make it clear that what we do with our resources (all of them) doesn't merely impact us as individuals or families; the authors illuminate ways in which the global community is hurt and helped by the actions of only a few. I may be alone in this, but I've always seen these books as a collaborative pairing, and I've used them as such. Everyday Justice is full of everyday examples and wonderful narrative; Social Justice Handbook is packed with resources and suggestions to help us engage in numerous aspects of justice work at multiple levels.
My graduate studies immersed me in the history of global Christianity, and since Mark Noll was a professor of mine I've always looked forward to having his books come across my desk. Noll's Clouds of Witnesses, which he cowrote with Carolyn Nystrom, relates the stories of Christians throughout history and around the world whom few of us would ever have encountered in the average Sunday school classroom. My view of Christianity and the world was broadened and deepened through reading the stories of Pandita Ramabai, Shi Meiyu, Sundar Singh and many others whose activism, martyrdom, imprisonment and courage in the face of persecution brings a renewed sense of conviction and respect to my faith.
There are many, many more books that I could mention--among them Margot Starbuck's Unsqueezed and Kent Annan's Following Jesus Through the Eye of the Needle--which similarly made an impact on me. But I also want to add something else especially for my friends and colleagues here at IVP.
One of my favorite poems is Rainer Maria Rilke's "Archaic Torso of Apollo," the last line of which has been with me since I first read it in a college poetry class (translation: quite a while ago). The speaker has encountered an object, a broken bust of Apollo, and is so moved by the force of its inner brilliance, its grace, that he cannot walk away and remain the same. The injunction at the end of the poem is stated so suddenly as to be forceful--"you must change your life." I've always interpreted this last line of Rilke's poem positively. Without doubt, my colleagues here, my friends, the powerful work of our authors and the message of our books have all made this same impact on me. I leave here a better person in every way because of knowing each of you.
Posted by Christa Countryman at October 13, 2011 8:00 AM | TrackBack