IVP - Strangely Dim - October 2012 Archives

October 31, 2012

As Franciscan (or Jewish, Or Muslim) As We Wanna Be (#francisforpresident)

My name is David A. Zimmerman, and I approved this post.

My friend Jon Boyd turned me on to the following story from a recent IVP publication.

When Abraham sat at his Tent-door, according to his custome, waiting to entertain strangers; he espied an old man stopping and leaning on his staffe, weary with age and travell coming towards him, who was an hundred years of age; he received him kindely, washed his feet, provided supper, caused him to sit down; but observing that the old man eat and prayed not, nor begged for a blessing on his meat, asked him Why he did not worship the God of heaven? The old man told him, that he worshiped the fire only, and acknowledged no other God: At which answer, Abraham grew so zealously angry, that he thrust the old man out of his tent, and exposed him to all the evils of the night, and an unguarded condition: When the old man was gone, God called to Abraham and asked him where the stranger was? he replied, I thrust him away because he did not worship thee; God answered him, I have suffered him these hundred years, although he dishonoured me, and couldest not thou endure him one night, when he gave thee no trouble? Upon this, saith the story, Abraham fetcht him back again, and gave him hospitable entertainment and wise instruction[.] Go thou and do likewise, and thy Charity will be rewarded by the God of Abraham.


You might reasonably assume that this story would be found in one of our Likewise books, which has as its theme Jesus' punctuation of the parable of the Good Samaritan: "Go and do likewise." It's actually from a recent release in our IVP Academic line--The Unfolding Mystery of the Divine Name, by Michael P. Knowles. I suppose it's worth reiterating that Likewise Books has not trademarked the phrase "Go and do likewise"; the more in the public domain the phrase is (along with its allusions to loving your neighbor), the better, I always say. (I've never actually said that.)

Here we see the phrase attributed not to Jesus in the first century but to the voice of Yahweh, in conversation with Abraham, the original patriarch. Knowles traces the provenance of the story, quoting t from a 1657 book by an Anglican cleric, who had apparently lifted it from a 1651 publication by a Jewish writer in Amsterdam, Solomon Ibn Verga. He in turn had borrowed the story from Muslim poet Saadi, who lived and wrote in the thirteenth century. The broad utility of the story demonstrates the common lineage of Jews, Muslims and Christians. Father Abraham, it seems, did in fact have many sons.

Jon thought I would like the story because of Likewise, and I do. But I was also a little bummed, because I really wanted the story to trace back to the Franciscans, so that I could tie it in to my campaign to get St. Francis of Assisi elected president next week (#francisforpresident). But what is a campaign without a little spinning of facts? Change the name Abraham to Friar Angelo, perhaps, and change God to St. Francis, and the whole story would fit quite comfortably in Little Flowers.

Such deception is a tactic with considerable precedent in presidential campaigns. But I don't suppose we have to resort to it. The truth is, the spirit of the story is transcendent: as we've already seen, Jews, Muslims and Christians alike have repeated it approvingly, and it certainly aligns comfortably with Francis' approach to hospitality. I alluded to it in an earlier post, but here's Jamie Arpin-Ricci's full retelling from The Cost of Community.

Once, while Francis was away, a group of bandits confronted and threatened the other friars, demanding that they give them something to eat. Brother Angelo boldly stepped forward and rebuked them: "You wicked men! It's not enough that you would shamelessly rob others of the fruits of their hard labor, but now you have the audacity to demand food from us friars--food designated to support the servants of God! You should be ashamed!"

Angry and insulted, but ultimately fearing God's judgment, the bandits left empty-handed.

Later that day, when Francis returned, he was carrying a sack of bread and a jug of wine that had been given to him to share among the brothers. When Angelo proudly told Francis of his brave rebuke, he was shocked to find that it made Francis very upset. "How could you have acted so cruelly to our brothers?" Francis demanded. "You know that sinners are more likely to return to the Father though meekness than a harsh scolding. Have I not made it clear? 'Let whoever may approach us, whether friend or foe, thief or robber, be received kindly.' "

Taking the sack of bread and jug of wine, the only food available to the brothers that day, Francis gave them to Angelo and commanded him to find the robbers. He was to offer them the bread and wine, begging on bended knees for their forgiveness for his cruel rejection. Once he had done that, he should then admonish those men to refrain from thievery and violence, to fear God and to love their neighbors. Francis commanded Angelo to tell the robbers that if they would cease their wickedness, he would take care of all their needs in the future. While Brother Angelo went in search of the bandits, Francis prayed and begged the Lord to soften the hearts of the bandits and turn them toward repentance.

Upon finding the robbers, Angelo did all that Francis had commanded--he fed them, repented of his cruelty, encouraged them to change their ways and promised that if they did, Francis would care for all their needs. As they ate their food in front of the humbled and hungry friar, the men were convicted of their selfish and violent ways. They returned to Francis with Angelo, ready to start a new life of obedience to God to the astonishment of all the brothers.



So, attribute it to St. Francis and call it a Christian story. Or attribute it to God and call it a Christian story. Or a Jewish story. Or a Muslim story. It really doesn't matter: the point is to read a nice little story of loving your neighbor, whoever that neighbor may be, and then go and do likewise.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 1:55 PM | Comments (2) are closed

October 29, 2012

Friends Are Friends Wherever #francisforpresident

A sappy little post by David A. Zimmerman

My friend Sarah Cunningham is running a nice little campaign right now that she's called "The Great Big Friendship Blog." Its premise is simple: We get too busy (often with our own self-promotion) to celebrate or even acknowledge the impact of people on our lives, so why not schedule it?

This little experiment of Sarah's was on my mind when I got together with Ben, an old, old friend--a former roommate and part of my wedding party--whose life no longer regularly intersects with mine. Turns out Ben has been thinking about friendship a lot lately too. In fact, I told him he should get in touch with Sarah, because he and she are thinking in similar ways, and he might want to get in on the neighborhood-by-neighborhood movement she's trying to start. And then he and I brainstormed some ways our lives might start intersecting more regularly again.


I've always thought friendship was weird. It's such a loaded concept--"Friends are friends forever," and all that--and yet it seems so ephemeral, tied as it is to where we happen to live, how our time happens to be scheduled, what circles we happen to be running, how heavily our work and family and other demands weigh on us.

Friendship is particularly ephemeral now; we change jobs and churches and neighborhoods and even states or countries a lot more these days than our parents and grandparents used to. When we hear friend anymore, we don't think of a noun meaning "someone engaged in a deep personal relationship"; we think of a verb meaning "to network; to extend one's personal brand." Thanks, social media.

In that respect, a blog--technically a social medium--seems a strange place to celebrate friendship. But subversive acts often seem strange. To celebrate friendship via social media is to defy the gravitational pull of superficiality that social media seem to exert. It is to colonize territory that has been hostile to our classic concepts of friendship. It is to shout a new rallying cry from the rooftops: "Friends are friends wherever!"

So I'm happy here to celebrate some of my wherever friends--including Sarah, whose clever brain came up with the whole experiment.

I'll celebrate Ben, who reached out to me for no other reason than he thought of me, because he's like that.

I'll celebrate Dan, whose friendship goes decades further back and who stays current with me by sheer force of will.

I'll celebrate Christa and Rebecca and Lisa, all alumni of Strangely Dim whose regular contributions to the blog I always enjoyed reading, and whose conversations in the hallway at InterVarsity Press always brightened my day a bit--no small feat for a melancholy cynic like me.

I'll celebrate Suanne, who is still my co-contributor here, who still pops by now and then to say hi and inject a little humanity into an otherwise task-oriented day, and who was kind enough to tell me to break a leg recently when I was feeling nervous about a presentation.

These friends and more are distributed all over the place, and some of them I may never see face to face again. But they're still friends--wherever, whenever, forever.


How about you? Any friends you want to brag on?

Get the full details on Sarah Cunningham's Great Big Friendship Blog campaign here.

Since we're still campaigning for St. Francis of Assisi to be the next president of the United States (join us: hashtag #francisforpresident), let me here suggest that friendship is a significant plank in Francis's platform. Francis values friendship so highly that he refers even to people who robbed his order as "brothers": "Let whoever may approach us," he told a fellow friar, "whether friend or foe, thief or robber, be received kindly." (Jamie Arpin-Ricci tells the story behind this quote in his book The Cost of Community.

Also check out Lynne Baab's lovely little book Friending, which explores the challenges and opportunities facing friendship in the digital age.

And finally, to colonize the divide between economic classes in the name of friendship, read Friendship at the Margins by Chris Heuertz and Christine Pohl.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 3:09 PM

October 25, 2012

Team Francis! #francisforpresident

You've seen the ads, gone to the rallies, heard the debates. The clock is ticking, all you undeclared and undecided out there: who's going to get your vote?

Let me make a modest suggestion: St. Francis of Assisi for President!

Sure he's long dead, but Francis would have made a great president. He had good credentials:

  • He was born into a wealthy family but he didn't rely on his family's wealth to make his way in the world.
  • He started an organization that recently celebrated its eight hundredth anniversary, so he knows how to build something that lasts.
  • While he didn't exactly end a war in the Middle East, he demonstrated remarkable diplomatic skills in his dealings with a foreign leader of an enemy state--the ultimate reaching across the aisle.
  • He's good on the environment.
  • He doesn't accept money from special interests.
  • And even though the institution he is most closely associated with has undergone a number of public scandals and controversies, he remains one of the world's most celebrated, even revered figures.

That's Francis: the Teflon Kid.

Meanwhile, the time is right for a Franciscan presidency.

  • Post-prosperity seems to be the new normal. Francis knows how to make a community flourish beyond prosperity 
  • Everyone wants peace, but no one seems to know how to achieve it. Francis has a plan to make people channels of peace.
  • Everyone wants civil discourse and irenic debate, but really, is anyone currently on offer better at that than Francis?

Francis's platform is available online, or you can read it in the tell-all book The Cost of Community by Jamie Arpin-Ricci. I hope on November 6 you'll remember Francis as you head to the polls. Between now and then, you can help our campaign by telling your friends and followers about Francis's platform, using the hashtag #francisforpresident. Sure, he's got a weird name and his American citizenship is in dispute, but pesky details like that shouldn't get in the way of a leader whose time has come.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 12:47 PM

October 19, 2012

Walking into a Strangely Dim Future

A farewell post from Lisa Rieck

Way back in June, July and August, when the trees were not the beautiful reds and oranges that they are now and the Halloween decorations were not yet out (thankfully), we did a series here at Strangely Dim on calling. I intended to write a personal post, reflecting on my own sense of calling as I have discerned it/am discerning it thus far. But alas, that didn't happen; all you got from me was reflections on mourning (so fitting, no?).

I suppose this, my last words as an official Strangely Dim blogger, is that post. As Dave mentioned, I've taken a job as a writer/editor/proofreader at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in Madison, Wisconsin. This admittedly large step has come out of my sense of God's calling on my life at this time and place, as I've paid attention to my soul and to what makes me feel alive, and as I've sensed God speaking to me about fear and trusting him and writing and community and change (among other things). And I think, when it comes to calling, that's really how it is: we pay attention, we listen, we explore, we step out in faith.

I make it sound so easy, I know. Change and stepping out in faith and trying new things never are; following God's leading rarely is. But even in the midst of the stress of wrapping up at IVP, the sadness of all the goodbyes, the deep concentration it's taking not to pack my car keys in a box--it's good. I sense God's presence and leading, and have seen his confirmation and grace in so many ways in the process.

I don't think every change will be that way. Sometimes, perhaps, the road is not as clear, and our sense of God speaking and leading is not as tangible. Those steps are even less easy. But even in those changes God is good, as he is now, and we can trust him to be near, to lead, to hear us when we cry for help. The goodness of God I'm experiencing so richly now will be a stone of remembrance for the times when I can only believe--but perhaps not sense--that he is near.


My prayer for you, sweet readers, is that you too would know God's goodness and nearness--always by faith, but also in tangible ways as you pay attention and come to see him at work more and more in you and around you. Here's to living and moving and having our being as we're called and led by God. One last time, I'm raising my cup of hot tea to you.

Posted by Lisa Rieck at 9:49 AM

October 15, 2012

Acid Free Forever?!? In Search of a Book Lover's Rallying Cry

A rant and broad appeal by David A. Zimmerman

How is it, twenty-some years now since the rise of digital music, that you can say "Viva Vinyl!" to a teenager and they'll know what you're talking about? Sure, you can show a kid a picture of a record or a record player, of an LP or a 45, and they'll stare blankly at you, but shout "Viva!" and wait for them to fill in the blank, and dollars to donuts they won't shout back "la Revolu├žion!" They'll shout "Vinyl!" in a defiant and self-congratulatory tone. You might even get a fist bump out of them.


For whatever reason, musical purists have been able to keep the dream of analog musical recordings alive long past their supposed time of death. Maybe some cabal of music snobs got their heads together early enough; maybe they played so many records backwards in search of satanic messages from their favorite rock bands that the march of progress through time ceased to have any power over them. Maybe there was enough fear of the rise of the machines, enough rage against said machines, in the zeitgeist that they were able to drop a needle on this anachronistic technology and keep it spinning. However it happened, you can still find LP records, still find 33-1/3 record players, still find people of all ages who prefer their music delivered via petroleum byproduct rather than bits and bytes. 

High time you took a lesson from this, all you literary purists out there. Enough waxing eloquent about the smell of books, the feel of bound pages, the utility of dog earing and whatnot. The early adopters of ebooks are far too busy and distracted by their tweets and pinterests to listen to you go on and on about it. You don't need odes and jeremiads; you need a rallying cry.

Trouble is, books don't lend themselves to rallying cries. "Acid Free Forever!" for example. What does it mean? It's an allusion to the industry standard that all books be printed using paper with a pH value of seven or greater, which extends the life of each printed book and the machines that make them. Acid-free books don't yellow the way really old books do; their pages don't get brittle the way really old paper does. But ask the average person on the street what "acid free" means and they'll be highly unlikely to talk about book manufacturing. They'll probably talk about drug rehab.

So, I'm at a loss, book purists. But at least I'm trying. And now I'm providing a forum. Take your best shot:

What's your rallying cry to keep print books alive? 
Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 8:15 AM | Comments (4) are closed

October 12, 2012

Lament for a Lyricist: The Best of Lisa Rieck

lisa and dave at ryman.JPG

Our little Lisa Rieck is leaving our little nest. She's taken a job in a whole 'nother state: Wisconsin, home to cheese, fireworks and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Lisa will be writing and editing for our parent organization (working closely with Adam Jeske, coauthor of the recent Likewise book This Ordinary Adventure), and we wish her well in it. We'll miss her here, of course, but we're hoping that we'll still get to enjoy a post from her every now and again. In the meantime, here are some of Lisa's greatest hits, focusing on her unique poetic stylings.


Good readers, I want you to know
I've missed your bright comments, your glow.
I cried for a while
I missed your great style
and my heart was filled with much woe.

But joy fills my heart up today
and beams out like a soft sunny ray (which, I might add, we haven't seen here in a while)
Yes, I can't wait to read
your own rhymes, for I need
to know what you all have to say!
--from "There once was a girl who missed blogging . . ." October 27, 2009


Ode to Boca Chik'n Meatless Patties
Versatile, versatile,
easy and quick,
of frozen food options
these are my top pick!

They're tasty, and healthy,
and kind to the chicks
(not a feather was harmed
when these patties were mixed!).

They go well on salad,
in wraps or on bread.
Add dressing and cheeses,
or mustard instead.

Packed full of good soy,
then breaded and cooked,
just one taste of these and
I bet you'll be hooked.

Ninety seconds on high
in a good microwave
and you're ready to eat--
oh the time you will save!

So rush out and buy some
they're worth every buck.
(If I beat you there,
you might be out of luck.)

Try them with couscous,
make one for a friend,
the options are endless.
Soon you will depend

on Boca's fine patties
for dinner each night.
Even if you can't cook
they'll turn out just right!

I'm confident soon
with me you'll agree
they're simply fantastic--
just try them and see!
--from "We Interrupt Our Lenten Reflections . . ." March 12, 2010


Sum folks may claim (I wont name names)
that editing need, we don't
I; ofer you hear
ode an that makes clear
why survyving without it--we won't

Things are A miss (I promise u this)!
without a good editor's eyes
we labour for. You
to make errorrs few
so all of your books are good buys.

Idaes shine threw and words becomme new
when editing! work is done well
And what the is test
of an editors best  ?
Reader, you are the one who can tell!
--from "Ode to Editing," December 3, 2007


Oh moto, you charm me:

threading through Phnom Penh streets
with grace and ease, your rubber meets
both cement and dirt, sidewalk and road
with ease and grace, whate'er the load
(you carry mattresses, balloons,
five men at once 'neath suns and moons,
or babies in their parent's arms,
papaya, ladders, rice from farms--
there's almost nothing you don't hold,
this, more than once, our team was told.)
Your riders drive with confidence 
(and generally with less expense.)
You hardly ever have to stop
unless you see a watching cop;
at red lights you can simply slow
and weave amidst the coming flow
of traffic, people, ox-pulled carts.
Your feats did stop our sheltered hearts
more times than I can here recount.
For you, moto, respect did mount;
you're moving up among the ranks--

but I'll still drive my car with thanks.
--from "Kudos to Motos," November 27, 2007


Please post your farewell odes, limericks, free verse or even prose to Lisa as she heads to the great cheesy north.
Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 10:47 AM | Comments (1) are closed

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a writer and copyeditor on the communications team for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. She likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky.

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 founder of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs occasionally 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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