November 28, 2011
Welcome to IVP! (May I Take Your Order?)
It happens so infrequently that I have occasion to toot my own horn, that I really must take the opportunity when it arises. Such was the case with some recent kind words from John Pattison, editor at Burnside Writers Collective and coauthor (with Chris Smith of the Englewood Review of Books) of the blog and forthcoming book Slow Church. I had inadvertently and unceremoniously outed John and Chris as having signed a contract to publish with IVP/Likewise Books, and John very graciously embraced the outing and announced the partnership on Facebook:
Chris Smith followed it with a similar post:
The first comment posted to John's status included a request and a question: "define 'slow church'" and "why InterVarsity?" I'm happy to sketch an answer to the request: "Slow church" is a gestating movement--inspired by the "slow food movement" to recover the art of mealmaking and dining from the fast food industry--to resist the "McDonaldization" of the church and explore practices and perspectives that keep the church living and life-giving. That's my take; check out Chris and John's blog for the full story. As for "Why InterVarsity?" I'll leave that to John.
In all honesty, I was happy and relieved that Chris and John didn't shop the book around, because I loved the idea of the book and thought it was a perfect fit for Likewise, and I didn't want any other publisher sniffing around it while we were processing the proposal. The plot thickened when, while John and Chris were reviewing the contracts, IVP happened to purchase the book-publishing program of Biblica Worldwide (read my post on that bit of news here), the publisher of Besides the Bible, which John coedited. So I was equally relieved to read John's comments on that development.
IVP is conscious of the sometimes complicated dual nature of our publishing program--we are a ministry that does business and a business that does ministry; our mission takes place in the arena of the publishing industry, and our publishing program speaks into the arena of the church's mission in the world. Navigating those tensions requires frequent introspection, and we welcome all the help we can get. So as much as I look forward to introducing Slow Church to the marketplace, I also look forward to letting it inform our publishing mission.
In the meantime, to John and Chris and Biblica Books I offer once again a hearty welcome to IVP, and to them and to you I promise never to ask, "Would you like fries with that?"
Chris Smith has begun a series of daily Advent reflections at the Slow Church blog. Get started here and check back daily for posts throughout Advent.
Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 11:48 AM
November 23, 2011
The Beauty of Being Present
In case you haven't noticed, we have a little hospitality theme cooking here at Strangely Dim. To be honest, I've struggled for more than a month to come up with something (okay, anything) that I thought might enhance the theme. Last week, I scribbled two lousy first drafts, drummed my fingers on my keyboard to "Wheels on the Bus," chewed on my bottom lip for a while as joggers and dog-walkers passed by my office window, and waited--and hoped--for a moment of inspiration. Almost absently, I glanced at the copy of The Gospel of Matthew by Matt Woodley sitting on my desk, and I started thumbing through. When I hit the subtitle of Matthew 8 ("The Beauty of Being Present"), I chastised myself.I should have known that Matt--both of them--would come through. My soul exhaled. (You might even say it resonated). I finally had my thing.
In today's over-scheduled, over-stimulated, over-industrious, over-distracted culture, being present with people is a monumental accomplishment. I mean, most of us are with people all of the time, but how often would we describe the presence we offer as beautiful? The kind in which our minds don't wander, our eyes don't flutter, our hearts don't waver and in which we never have to say, "Now, tell me your name again?" The sad truth is, we have to work pretty dang hard at being present with people.
In "The Beauty of Being Present" Matt recalls a time when he spent ten hours a week for thirty weeks visiting chronically sick hospital patients. His most memorable patient, an amputee named "Bill," had spent 160 days in the hospital without diagnosis or cure, "listening to doctors and residents endlessly discuss his case" right in front of him. Bill ultimately landed under the care of a psychiatrist who, in a nutshell, told him he was grumpy.
"After completing my three hundred hours of visitation," Matt writes,
Healing presence. Maybe it's not often something we consider ourselves conduits of, but as followers of Jesus, we probably should.
Last Saturday night, I had just nestled my head into the pillow when I heard my phone buzz on the kitchen counter. A friend of mine had been admitted to the hospital. She was physically okay but shaken and lying in a hospital bed nonetheless, so I was dressed and walking out the door before I hung up the phone. Halfway to the hospital, I wondered if it was silly that I go. Had she known that I was on my way, I'm certain she would have pointed a stern finger in the opposite direction. But when I stepped around the curtain and stood at the end of her bed, watching her tears flow openly at the sight of my face, I knew I had my answer. There is no substitute for the beauty of being present.
Midnight phone calls are one thing, but often the more difficult task is to provide healing presence in the midst of our everyday lives, stopping our "doing" long enough to be present in the brokenness of the world. And not only in the parts that are so obviously broken, but those that look like the state-of-the-art hospital Matt describes--efficient, bright and sterilized. And in desperate need of an undivided touch.
"As those who are connected to Jesus, trusting him in our spiritual poverty, we can offer others the personal presence of Jesus," Matt says. "By touching others we offer them the touch of Jesus. In our impersonal culture marked by deep loneliness, this ministry of presence--offering the presence of Christ, God with us, to others in their isolation and pain--is an amazing privilege and calling."
Hospitality is often associated with doing--entertaining, opening, welcoming--but I wonder about the healing touch we could provide others if we'd stop doing for them and simply start being with them.
When I think of the best dinner parties I've hosted, for example, I think of the ones that were rich in conversation: where politics, religion and money were all fair game, where surface-level was a bore, where the TV remained off, where dishes sat dirty in the sink, where wine turned into coffee and back into wine again. Where people engaged one another free from distraction and provided a healing presence by simply being themselves. I think the beauty of being present might just be the most beautiful kind of hospitality there is.
I had lunch with Matt last spring. I often ask authors about their experience writing their book; answers vary from "challenging" to "exhilarating" to "never again." But like his memorable time with "Bill" in the hospital, Matt's answer to my question stood out above the rest. After four years of delving deep into the book of Matthew--after being in the healing presence of Jesus--Matt couldn't help but walk away changed. It's fitting then, that the full title of the book is The Gospel of Matthew: God with Us. After experiencing the beauty of being present with Jesus--God with us--none of us, not one, can walk away unchanged.
In less than a week, we'll settle into Advent, perhaps the most poignant season of "God with Us." We're looking forward to sharing our thoughts with you and hope to hear from you as well. Until then, we hope your turkey is juicy, your football teams victorious, your hospitality undistracted and your heart overflowing. But most of all, we pray the beauty of God's presence in and through your life.
Happy Thanksgiving . . . from our house to yours!
Posted by Suanne Camfield at 8:20 AM
November 18, 2011
The Work of Welcome
I've never been especially corporate-minded. I remember a conversation with my brother and my dad in which each of them shared some examples of their company's culture that made me spit out my gum. Then I shared some examples of IVP's corporate culture that made their jaws drop and their eyes glaze over. IVP is a different kind of publishing company, in many respects: not-for-profit, accountable to the board of a campus ministry, process-oriented and relatively flat in its heirarchical structure. I've not experienced the vicissitudes of corporate America that some of my friends have experienced; I know our CEO and he knows me; I've had an office door since my first day on the job; and from me to the big-big-boss, it's pretty much an open-door kind of place.
So I think it's a first in IVP's history (at least in my memory) that we've done something as old-school corporate as organizational mergers and acquisitions. But earlier this week we did just that, announcing our purchase of Biblica Books, a line of books from Biblica Worldwide. (Read the official press release here.) Biblica translates the Bible into languages spoken by 1 million-plus speakers, has completed more than 100 languages, and is the translation sponsor and ministry publisher of the New International Version of the Bible. The missions of our two organizations have a lot of overlap, and our book-publishing interests align nicely, so we were seen from the beginning as a good landing spot for their books program.
Now comes IVP's happy challenge of taking over the work of Biblica Books, both in selling and distributing 170 titles currently in print, and editing and producing thirty titles currently in process. It's a lot of work, but honestly, it's the fun part--new relationships with authors, new ideas moving from our warehouse into the marketplace, new strategies for promoting our books collectively and individually. The books we're taking on include
It's difficult, when thinking about so classically corporate a move as an organizational acquisition, to think of so quaint an idea as welcome. But we've been talking about hospitality lately here at Strangely Dim, and this really is a matter of that. Publishers are referred to as "houses" for all sorts of reasons, but particularly because the work of a publisher is inherently relational, inherently personal, inherently missional. What happens at a publisher is illuminated helpfully by what happens at a house. You don't invite people (authors, endorsers, coworkers, other organizations) haphazardly; you welcome them, which is to allow them to become a part of you, to be shaped by you even as you are shaped by them.
So we welcome Biblica Books in the fullest sense of the word, and we commit ourselves to the work of welcome. And we invite you to do the same, to help us celebrate the joining of these two publishing efforts and to pray for the fruit of our work together.
Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 4:41 PM
November 17, 2011
Behind the Booklet: My Heart--Christ's Home
In 1947, among such earth-altering events as the partitioning of Palestine to incorporate the modern state of Israel and the formal establishment of the United Nations, two relatively inauspicious events took place:
Like I said, relatively inauspicious. A few years later an editor at IVP contacted the sermon's author, Robert Boyd Munger, asking for permission to publish it in booklet form. Munger said yes, forgoing such nagging details as a written contract, and IVP's most enduring publication began its now nearly sixty-year run in print.
The beauty of My Heart--Christ's Home is its simplicity. The concept comes from a recurring theme in the New Testament: in Christ God makes his home in our hearts.
But of all these notable players in the game, Munger is arguably the MVP. Sixty years after he delivered just another Sunday evening sermon, people are still reading it, talking about it, thinking about it, playing with it, struggling with it, praying about it, living it. Munger's story begins simply, with a relatively naive invitation:
It ends simply too, although with all (or at least most) of the naivete evicted:
Simplicity on both sides, with the commensurate complexity tucked in between. Such is the story of any story, from "Once upon a time" to "happily ever after." Such is also the story of any life, from dust to dust, from strength to strength. Munger ends his sermon with yet another invitation, this one to each of us, to make the story of My Heart--Christ's Home our own story:
May Christ settle down and be at home as Lord of your heart also.
Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 6:50 AM
November 7, 2011
Behold--I've Come to Fix the Sink
Well, I've learned a few things over the past couple of weeks.
I learned this last point, thankfully, soon enough for it to matter. Let's see if I can explain this. My furnace stopped working, so I called my furnace installer to take a look. He couldn't make it, so he sent his brother, who ascertained that the furnace wasn't working because the water heater was siphoning off its gas to heat our water. This was due to years of neglect of basic water heater maintenance, as well as decades of bad do-it-yourself decisions made by the house's previous owner. Three thousand dollars later, my water heater and a fair bit of piping were replaced, and my furnace was working again.
But then the main water pipe started leaking. I called the hot water heater guy, who told me that my now uberefficient water heater was exposing a systemic flaw caused by yet another poor do-it-yourselfer in my house's history. This fix would run me $1500, and if I didn't act soon I was risking a burst pipe and a houseful of water.I decided to call my plumbing guy, a fellow I used to go to church with. (His name's Chris DeLuca, and I will gladly give you his phone number if you'd like it.) I felt a little bad, since we had discussed having him replace my water heater sometime in 2012, after I had given enough blood to pay for the installation. So I felt I at least owed him a bid. He came by the house, stared at the leak for a few minutes, turned off the water and uncoupled the pipe (I'm totally guessing what "uncouple the pipe" means), stuck his finger in it, turned around and told me, "You need a new washer." So we drove to the local hardware store and bought two washers (just in case). Two dollars and twenty-eight cents. We drove back to the house and he stuck the washer in the pipe. Then he recoupled the pipe (see above), turned on the water, stared at the pipe, and then turned around and told me, "That's it."
That's it? I asked him how much I owed him. He checked his watch and told me, "Thirty bucks." For those keeping score, that's roughly 2 percent of the other bid. I paid him $150 and very nearly gave him a hug. If I ever let anyone other than Chris DeLuca touch my plumbing, somebody smack me.
There's something inherently risky about letting someone into your house, especially if they're coming in response to an expression of need. Hardly a week goes by without news reports of home invasions, fraud and robbery that began with a knock on the door in the wake of calamity--people claiming to be sent by your insurance to fix hail damage on your siding, people dressed as city workers claiming to need to check your gas or water or electricity, people dressed as police claiming to be investigating a crime only to perpetrate one once you let them in. Communicating need and opening your door are alike acts of vulnerability, and there's a world full of people only too happy to take advantage of you right when you're ready to trust.
But we continue to communicate need, and we continue to open our door, because really, what other choice do we have? And every once in a while someone comes to the door and responds to your need who knows what he or she is talking about and actually has your best interests at heart. So we continue to risk vulnerability, and sometimes we're rewarded for it.
Hospitality is a spiritual discipline, I think, precisely because it's an act of vulnerability. The apostle Peter encourages us that we may well entertain angels simply by opening our door, and the Bible bears him out with various reports of angelic and even divine visitations. But there are other examples of scoundrels paying visits, which itself is an opportunity for us to grow in our spirits. It was the scoundrel Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, after all, who visited and robbed a vulnerable bishop, but it was the vulnerable bishop who redirected Jean Valjean on a more redemptive journey.
When we stop opening our door to those offering help, we effectively stop communicating our need--even if, as is often the case, we get more and more needy from behind closed doors. I've found that it's much easier to complain about troubles than to actually seek deliverance. That affects our relationship to God--we keep God locked out of our daily needs and so refuse to let him be God--but it also affects our relationships with one another. And our souls (and really our whole culture, which is as needy as we are) suffer for it.
This whole experience with my leaky pipes has reminded me that I'm a person in need, and I live among a people in need. It's reminded me that my God shall supply all my needs, and the needs of all those around me, and that sometimes God will do so by putting us in touch with each other. And while there are scoundrels waiting to catch us at our most vulnerable, even they have needs that maybe God has us in mind to address. And all these encounters hinge on whether or not we'll open the door.
That reminds me of a little cartoon from my childhood. I hope you enjoy it.