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March 1, 2013

And Then There Were None: Farewell to Strangely Dim

A final post from David A. Zimmerman

I'm tired. So tired.

Strangely Dim has been a regular part of my week for nearly ten years now. In that time I've posted over five hundred times and deleted over twelve million spam comments (give or take a few million). I've also written two books and a booklet, started a personal blog and become a columnist at Burnside Writers Collective, with occasional articles at other outlets. Oh, and I've edited over a hundred books. That's a lot of words, and I fear I may be running out.

In the past ten years Strangely Dim has hosted a handful of guest-posters (a combination of authors and interns), and it's been a forum for five bloggers besides me: Suanne, Rebecca, Christa, Ann and Lisa. Four of the five have left InterVarsity Press in the past year and a half; I don't want to quit IVP, so I've decided it's time to quit Strangely Dim.

Stop crying, people! We'll all get through this together. You can still read my stuff here or here, and if you need something more tangible and permanent, you can always buy this, this or this.

Strangely Dim has been great fun for me from the beginning. I tested ideas here, profiled friends and trends here, and played a lot of writing games along the way. Here are a few of my personal favorite posts:

The first post ever to Strangely Dim, posted below, reflects the outlook of a much younger me, but I can still affirm it. I like that: with all the changes, both to the world around me and the world within me, that come over the course of ten years, it's nice to see that God is still there, still not silent, still endearingly ineffable.

Thanks for hanging out with me here over the past decade; even though the blog is now part of our history, I hope we can continue to be strange and dim together far into the future--world without end, Amen.

Oh, and one more thing: Rabbit!

***

Why Strangely Dim?

I have two cats. Wait, I also have a point.

I mention my cats because they, like you and I, are things of earth created by a watchful, careful God. They're also cuter than I am; you wouldn't have kept reading if I had opened with "I have a wart on my third knuckle."

But back to the cats. Such divinely inspired stuff doesn't grow dim without a catfight. And yet, Christians often disregard the things of earth. Some churches even sing about it:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full on his wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace.

The insinuation is clear: nothing else warrants a close look once we've caught a glimpse of God. Fair enough. I can't imagine what could be more compelling than the face of our Maker.

But why, then, all this stuff? Surely a world could be fashioned in which all we could see was God, with no other people, institutions, animals, plants or minerals to distract us. But that's not the reality God created.

The prophet Isaiah once turned his eyes on God in full glory.

"I saw the Lord sitting on a throne high and lofty. . . . The house filled with smoke. And I said, 'Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King.'"

Maybe we're better able to appreciate the glory of God after experiencing our failings and the failings of those around us. Prodigal creations celebrating God with clearer vision--that would be a happy ending. But Isaiah's encounter is far from an ending; in fact, it serves as a beginning for his project: "Go and say to these people . . ."

Isaiah encounters God, and God sends him back from whence he came. Something smells funny.

The apostle Paul tells us that "what can be known about God is plain. . . . His eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made." We see all this stuff and recognize the glory of God. But if we are anything like Isaiah, God will quickly point us back toward the things he has made--the people who rub us wrong, the institutions we support or endure, the creation we steward or pollute.

The things of earth are important to God; they ought to be important to us as well. We each have a perspective limited by our location in space and time, but given that God created each of us from scratch and placed us where we are, when we are, who knows but that we were created for such a time and place as this?

So I propose that we explore the things of earth afresh, searching for what God has for us in them, and for them in us. God has created the things of earth--from cats to kids--for a purpose, and though they occasionally dim in the light of his glory, with his help we can see them more clearly than ever.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 12:35 PM | Comments (2) are closed

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.

coffee.jpg

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 10, 2011

A Countryman Without a Country: Farewell to Christa

I remember the time when Lisa Rieck and Christa Countryman shot around the corner into my office. They made me a little nervous, standing there together, blocking my exit, with that conspiratorial gleam in their eyes. I wondered what they wanted and hazarded a guess to myself: I wonder if Lisa has recruited Christa to write for Strangely Dim . . .

That wasn't it. They both wanted to get involved with an organization run by an author-friend of mine. So I set them up with him, then I recruited Christa myself.

Now Christa is leaving us, after five years at IVP and two-and-a-half years at Strangely Dim. She took a great position writing and editing for Opportunity International, a Christian microfinancing enterprise based just around the corner from us. This is a natural next step for Christa, as she's had a heart for the developing world forever. Her seasonal jewelry sales to benefit an orphanage in Kenya have been a fixture on the IVP calendar for almost her entire tenure here, and her first job for IVP was helping to organize the bookstore at the 2006 Urbana Student Missions Convention. When we decided to write about hospitality during the month of October, her first impulse was to contact Matt Soerens, author of Welcoming the Stranger, to write a guest-post about immigration as a matter of Christian hospitality. She is, as they say, a global Christian par excellence. Add to that her skills both as a writer and as an editor, and you have a clear win-win for Christa and Opportunity International. Win-loss, on the other hand, for Christa and IVP.

Here are some links to some of my favorite Christa posts. I'm grateful to Christa for introducing me to Battlestar Galactica and Florence + the Machine, and I'm hopeful for the work ahead of her at OI. But before they get her, let's show her some love as she heads out the IVP door, folks.

 

 

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 9:55 AM | Comments (4) are closed

May 16, 2011

There's Good New . . . And There's Bad New

It's taken me five years to finally accept that I hate being new.

It's disappointing, really, because I've always considered myself a fan of all things new. I like to learn new things. I like to meet new people. I like to experience new places. I like to try new food. I like to buy new clothes. But somewhere along the way (about the time we moved from small-town Ohio to fast-paced suburban Chicago without the benefit of knowing or being known by anyone), I realized that consuming something new is not the same thing as being something new.

Consuming I enjoy.  Being . . . not so much.

For the last week I've written and rewritten this, my inaugural Strangely Dim post, anxious to come up with the right mix of intelligence and charm, profundity and wit, strangeness and dimness (and apparently edifitainment and sanctitainment) for which my counterparts have become well known. 

But in my quest to strike the perfect balance, I've been reminded once again of my first days in a new city and my first days here at IVP, and the angst, uncertainty and insecurity that comes with trying to find your place in an environment whose edges you're still trying to define.

So I'll say it again: I hate being new. The stress of it all, I've learned, can manifest itself in the oddest of ways -- one of which, for me, was a matter of logistics.

A little known fact about the inner trappings here at IVP: we have fourteen printers in eight different locations. When I started here a little less than a year ago, I'd pull up the list of printers on my screen and scroll over their names -- names like Production Printer, Production Color Printer, Production Color Copier, Production Color Printer Copier. Eventually I'd click on the one I thought made the most sense. Then I'd head out of my office only to wander the halls, unsure of which direction to turn or on which of the fourteen printers my paper would actually end up.

Go ahead, laugh if you must. But when you're new (no matter the context) and everything is new -- from procedures and systems to people and places to personalities and culture -- small things like not being able to find the printer (which has a document containing acronyms you can't interpret, for a meeting whose purpose about which you're unclear, with people whose names you don't know, in a culture whose nuances you haven't yet mastered) is enough to cause a breakdown of monumental proportions.

I've since learned that in business this is called "onboarding." If it were up to me, I'd skip the entire painstaking process.

Somewhere during my anxiety over writing this post and reliving the trauma of my onboarding, it dawned on me that since Easter, my fellow bloggers have been wisely nudging our hearts toward Pentecost. During a time of year in which my soul is musing more about Memorial Day plans, summer vacations and, well, anything that might seep warmth into my cold Midwestern bones, the church recalls God unleashing his something new upon the church. That day wasn't so much about being new as it was being made new.

In the process, I've been reminded that while I really do--truly--hate being new, when I ingest the patience and humility and even grace uniquely present in this new experience, I'm reminded not to simply sit and wait for my confidence to return, but to thank God in every circumstance.  I hope I never forget how it feels to be the new person, but I also hope I'm increasingly aware (and even thankful) that even when I'm wandering the halls, trying to find my way, by God's grace I'm being made new.

Thanks to the Strangely Dim team for inviting me along. I'm excited to see what new things may come our way.

Posted by Suanne Camfield at 2:28 AM | Comments (11) are closed

May 6, 2011

A Fresh Infusion of Strangeness

I believe the question has yet to be answered: How many blog contributors are too many? It's a tricky business: too few, and the content atrophies; too many, and the content changes too quickly, or worse, it loses its consistency, its cohesiveness.

I'm not worried about that here at Strangely Dim. We seem to have cemented our collective reputation for strangeness, if not dimness (although I may be ignoring some feedback); meanwhile, when it comes to mixing it up here, we seem to have plenty of room for more strangely dim thoughts in the mix.

Fortunately for us, IVP has a wide array of creative thinkers, willing to pour themselves out online for your amusement and edification (what I've elsewhere referred to, alternately, as "edifitainment[tm]" or "sanctitainment[tm]"). The latest to join our merry band, taking us from four to five, is Suanne Camfield.

One of our publicity managers, Suanne has also done quite a bit of writing of her own. Her writers collective, the Redbud Writers Guild, turned a lot of heads and generated a lot of buzz when they went live with the goal of "fearlessly expanding the feminine voice in our churches, communities and culture." You have to respect that kind of fearlessness. And be sure to check out Suanne off duty at her blog The Rough Cut. But while you're traipsing about, checking Suanne's bona fides, please don't forget us! Keep coming back for new posts from Suanne and all the rest of us.

Fearlessly expanding strangeness and dimness in our churches, communities and culture--and doing it all for you. You have to respect us for that.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 6:04 AM

August 18, 2009

Goodbye Summer, Hello Rebecca

Summer is winding down, and for all our efforts at escape, it seems we're still here. One of the nice things about working for InterVarsity Press is that, because we're part of the movement known as InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, which operates on an academic calendar, fall doesn't seem like an end so much as a beginning. The fall brings with it a burst of renewed creativity, starting with the blank slate of acquisitions for each editor and culminating in the late-October annual all-company meeting, where we come thisclose to a group hug.

We're feeling that burst of energy here at Strangely Dim in part because we've got a new contributor: Rebecca Larson, our friend and IVP's web editor. Among other things, Rebecca writes the Likewise Notebook, a semiregular e-mail update on the comings, goings and writings of authors in our Likewise line. (You can sign up for it here.) She also tweets and friends and engages in various other online re-verb-erations on behalf of IVP. In her spare time she occasionally designs nifty book covers (like this and this). I had the honor of DJing Rebecca's wedding reception, which I managed to ruin by playing the wrong track as she stepped to the dance floor with her dad. Apparently he's not as big a fan of hip hop (or ska or grunge metal or whatever it was that I played) as I might have imagined.

Rebecca is insightful and creative, and a whiz at Mad Libs. I hope you'll enjoy getting to know her in all her strange dimness.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 8:14 AM

February 27, 2009

The Dimmer the Better

In the beginning, Strangely Dim was a solo venture. I worked alone, and I liked it. Truth be told, I was a bit of a diva about the whole thing, contriving ways of punctuating my conversations with phrases like "I wrote about that ON MY BLOG," or, if I wanted a bit more gravitas, "I'll be addressing that very issue soon IN MY ONLINE COLUMN."

But like many things, over time blogs can get a little stale, and ideas conceived in isolation can forestall in arcane incoherence. It was, eventually, no longer good for the solo blogger to be alone, so Lisa Rieck very graciously joined the Strangely Dim party. The result has been a nice counterbalance between our voices with the occasional silliness framed in a whole fortnight given over to something or other.

So nice, in fact, that Lisa and I recently shouted out to our colleagues at InterVarsity Press the sober-minded, professional equivalent of "Red Rover! Red Rover! Send Christa right over!" And like a bolt of lightning Christa Countryman shot across the field, broke through our tightly locked arms and joined our little blogging entourage. You'll start seeing posts to Strangely Dim from Christa in the next couple of weeks.

Christa came to InterVarsity Press originally to help coordinate our participation in the 2006 Urbana Student Missions Convention, but people here know a good opportunity when they see one, so Christa's temporary position in the business department morphed into a permanent one in the editorial department. She now proofreads books and marketing materials, and keeps everybody up to speed on the Cylon menace chronicled on the TV show Battlestar Galactica--for which I, for one, am especially grateful. She likes to bake and, as you'll see, she likes to write really well. Either way, you're in for a treat.

So there you have it: Strangely Dim is now a troika of strangeness and dimness. Consider yourself warned.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 1:20 PM

July 29, 2008

Grow Out Loud

My momma raised me right: Always try to think of at least one nice thing to say about everything. Here's what I have to say about Internet spam that's nice: every once in a while it gives me something interesting to do. For example, when I'm a lazy blogger and neglect to disable comments from archived blog posts, some well-intentioned spammer posts a comment, and I get a reminder that I need to close the loop on that post. If not for these blanket invitations to try new non-prescription medications or to gamble online, I might never look back on the things I'd once written.

It strikes me lately that if, in an Internet era, everything thought is stated, and everything stated archived, then either everything we think carries the weight of permanence or else we need to rethink the weight we give public statements. For example, a year or so from now some spammer will remind me that I once upon a time typed the previous sentence, and I will wonder what in the world I was thinking.

So I'm lately an advocate of the idea that anything given the permanence of archived data or the printed page should also be given the grace of tentativity. The wild-eyed thoughts posted online by your church's youth pastor, or even the radical thesis of the latest book-du-jour, ought no longer be considered a permanent reflection of their views. We should instead allow people to grow out loud--not to perpetually recant what they've previously stated with great conviction but to speculate thoughtfully and revise freely.

Actually, I think the act of revisiting our one-time convictions reinforces this notion that what we think--and by extension, what we speak or type or otherwise archive--is at best an educated guess, and we should be prepared to one day chuckle at ourselves over it. Thanks, spammers, for reminding us that we are finite works in progress.

Ironically enough, the post I've most recently been reminded of is titled "The Church with Nothing to Say," dating back to March 2005. In it I reflect on a church billboard with nothing on it, and I make a brazen plea for my readers to post effusive comments on the Amazon book page for my first book, Comic Book Character. Which reminds me: Deliver Us from Me-Ville is available from a fine bookseller near you. If you're so inclined, feel free to offer your own speculative thoughts about it on your blog or some other public venue. You won't regret it! (At least not for a while . . .)

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 8:34 AM | Comments (2) are closed

April 15, 2008

Not That You'd Notice

I'm proud to announce that Strangely Dim has been kicked off its first host server. Too many posts, too many comments. My own youth is sorely lacking in such shenanigans, so I feel just a wee bit redeemed in my personal edginess; how many blogs, after all, can say they've overtaxed the Internet? How many blogs have been given this boot?

Anyway, welcome to the new and improved Strangely Dim--now even stranger and dimmer! You won't actually notice much of a change--at least not in the short run. No, the changes here are to the substructure, the endoskeleton of the thing. You may, however, need to redirect your shortcut or reset your RSS feed. Here's the direct link:

http://strangelydim.ivpress.com

Enjoy!

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 7:55 AM | Comments (1) are closed

April 2, 2008

OMG! JK! LOL!

Let me be frank: yesterday was highly unproductive. Yesterday all four IVP blogs offered April Fools' Day pranks; Strangely Dim's entry extended beyond the blog to the Facebook group. Please rest assured that the donkey will stay on the spines of Likewise books, and that "Rabbit" will remain a feature of Strangely Dim on the first of each month. In the meantime, in case you missed them, check out the posts at Addenda & Errata, Andy Unedited and Behind the Books.

Don't hate the player; hate the game.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 10:53 AM

November 8, 2007

Watching the Game . . . Controlling It

Lisa's going to be gone for a while. She and a "Strangely Dim Friend"(TM) are en route to Cambodia with a group from their church to train people in various aspects of publishing. For some reason, I keep thinking they're in Thailand, and so I am constantly tempted to quote the musical Chess. Sing it with me if you know it:

Siam's gonna be the witness
To the ultimate test of cerebral fitness

"Thank God," the American goes on to say, "I'm only watching the game -- controlling it." That would be me. Strangely Dim will return to its spiritual depth when Lisa returns.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 2:31 PM

September 27, 2007

Blizzardous

Not sure what happened, but some fifteen minutes after I closed comments on an old Strangely Dim post, the screen went blank. Maybe it's a glitch in the system, maybe it's the most ill-conceived terrorist attack to date: robbing the world of Strangely Dim may sneaky and underhanded, but it will not bring the U.S. culturo-politico-economy to a grinding halt.

Or perhaps it's a prank designed to wake me and Lisa up to the fact that neither of us has posted anything for a couple of weeks. So sorry--there's more to publishing than blogging, I'm afraid, and we've both been too busy. The IVP-geeks out there might be tempted to respond with a snappy retort along the lines of "Too busy not to blog?!?" but don't bother: that joke is already out of the saltshaker and into the world.

Anyway, sorry for the long silence. Coming soon, rabbits aplenty.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 1:08 PM

July 11, 2007

Sing It if You Know It . . .

Happy birthday to Lisa . . .
Happy birthday to Lisa . . .
Happy birthday to Lisaaaaaaa . . .
Happy birthday to Lisa!

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 10:52 AM | Comments (1) are closed

May 1, 2007

Speaking of Rabbits

Today is the first day of May, which means another frantic attempt by Lisa and me to say "Rabbit" before the other. I think I've won today, but only with Lisa; my friend Web sent an e-mail at 1 a.m. and called at 8 a.m. to get the jump on everyone. At best I can go for second place, so for all of you playing along at home: "Rabbit!"

Speaking of rabbits, we're multiplying like rabbits here at IVP. I've already mentioned the three new IVP blogs: Andy Unedited, Addenda and Errata, and Behind the Books. Reading those blogs gets you deep inside the heads of various folks in the publishing industry. Here at Strangely Dim, this month you'll be introduced to yet another person willing to publicly declare herself both strange and dim.

Ann Swindell is a graduate student, a sales coordinator for the Press and a writer of increasingly great renown. You may have seen her stuff at Relevant Online or in Radiant magazine. Starting this month you'll see her stuff here.

Rabbit fever: catch it!

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 8:03 AM | Comments (1) are closed

April 2, 2007

Counting Rabbits

Lisa got me with "Rabbit" today. That means that so far, for 2007, the rabbit tally is

Lisa: 2
Dave: 1

Just to compound my shame, Jenn with two nns hit me with a rabbit by e-mail. Boy, was that messy. But really, there's no excuse for my losing our little competition this month. April 1 is April Fools' Day, and what's more foolish than a race to say such a random word? Besides that, I'm virtually surrounded by rabbits--hollow ones made of milk chocolate, chocolate ones filled with peanut butter, plush ones made by the folks that brought us Beanie Babies and live ones that are already chewing up my backyard. Nope--it was mine to lose this month, and that's precisely what I did. Pity me. And congratulate Lisa. And Jenn with two nns.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 8:46 AM | Comments (3) are closed

December 18, 2006

Lisa and Likewise

Lisa and Likewise photo
Lisa Rieck, my new partner in all things strange and dim, looks like this--except that she's normally in color and much less blurry. Blame the photographer--which is to say, blame me. Likewise looks like the donkey that's coming out the side of her head.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 4:03 PM | Comments (2) are closed

What a Strange, Dim Trip It's Been

I've been the sole proprietor (and, quite possibly, the sole reader) of Strangely Dim for more than three years now. I've enjoyed having this venue for thinking out loud, soliciting wisdom, critiquing the culture, airing my dirty laundry, what have you. There's something about blogging that is, as a friend of mine recently confessed, addictive.

It's hard to believe that I've managed to be so consistently scintillating lo, these many years, but I've recently come to the humiliating conclusion that (a) there are many more people in the world than just little old me, and (b) they each have their own opinions that merit reflection and conversation.

I've come to such a conclusion at least in part by interacting with some of the folks I work with. InterVarsity Press is, I say with unembarrassed bias, a ceaselessly interesting place to work. I'm surrounded by thinking, feeling, believing people who have all signed on to work with books that engage the heart, soul, mind and strength of their readers' faith. Over the years I've shamelessly exploited some of these folks, turning our offhand conversations into Strangely Dim posts. For the most part, they've been very gracious.

All that is about to change--not that they've ceased to be gracious, but that I've ceased to inhabit Strangely Dim entirely by myself. Soon--and very soon--you'll get to peek inside the head of Lisa Rieck, a poet, editor and youth minister, and my friend. She'll be posting occasional musings on whatever comes to mind and can be justifiably categorized as either strange or dim. I'll still be posting as well, and on occasion we may post in dialogue. But you're still free to comment and spin the conversation in whatever direction you deem appropriate.

With Lisa joining the mix, we'll be making a more pronounced leap into the world of Likewise Books. These are books that explore a thoughtfully active, compassionate faith in real time. I don't get the technology behind the switch that will take place, but trust me: Strangely Dim will be more likewisey without sacrificing any of the strangeness or dimness.

You're also welcome to drop by my personal blog, Loud Time, any time you want.

I'll post a picture of Lisa soon. Be sure to welcome her aboard!

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 3:24 PM | Comments (1) are closed

April 19, 2006

Like, Totally Wise

I enjoy editing first-time authors. They're learning as they go, processing each experience as they put it to paper, keeping their research one step ahead of their writing. It's like switching channels between 24 and The Real World: real life in real time.

This year I'm finding two first-time authors particularly enjoyable. They're reveling in the process, spending their meager advance money, shuddering under the weight of unexpected critiques, bucking up in the wake of unanticipated praise, breathing quickly in and out as they see their cover art for the first time. First-timers are pregnant with their books, and though the conception is rarely immaculate, the labor is always exhilarating.

Each of these two authors, entirely independent of one another, has disclosed an endearingly embarrassing personal story--one about yodeling, the other about hula dancing. Now, just typing these phrases makes me chuckle a bit, but just reading these stories warms me all the more to their subjects.

Self-disclosure is, sadly, a forgotten craft in some publishing, particularly religious publishing. Behold The Age of the Author as Expert, in which authors are, unsurprisingly, experts--flawless, unmoved movers and shakers. Such enlightened cultural gurus can't show signs of weakness, for who would follow a flawed prophet? Personal anecdotes are few and far between in such writings, and where gurus do deign to share of themselves, usually the point of their story is made manifest by their own personal brilliance.

In contrast, perhaps, is the scandal of the evangelical memoir, in which authors still set themselves up as experts, but this time in sin or suffering or both. Tales of woe are told with an eye toward redemption, although the redemption is often a bit too long in coming. You set aside hope when you enter into some such books, and by the time you're finished, it's entirely possible that you'll have forgotten where you set it.

Me, I'm drawn to the middle, where people stumble across the meaning that God has set for their experience, where people learn on their feet and share with the class. When you're trying to keep up with God in a rapidly unfolding life, you'll sometimes do or say things you regret, even things you are ashamed of. Sort of like Paul, the self-proclaimed chief of sinners:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. . . . I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

"All of us who are mature should take such a view of things." It doesn't take maturity to hide or broadcast your flaws. It does, however, take maturity to be able to laugh at yourself and then move on--like Paul, like my friends the first-time authors. It's not surprising to me that one of the great works of theology in the history of the church is titled Confessions: it's only a mature Augustine who could find profundity in the midst of his own absurdity.

IVP Books has recently introduced Likewise, a line of books by people in process. My two first-time friends are two of our first Likewise authors, which is appropriate. Likewise books will deal with issues, exploring such subjects as global poverty and the church's response, but they'll also deal with the complexity of faithful living. So among our Likewise books you'll find a prolonged e-mail correspondence between a Christian English professor and an atheist punk rock hero, and a young woman's tentative entrance into the world of monastic spirituality. Likewise authors, like Likewise books, are an eclectic mix. What links them together is the spirit in which they've written--a spirit of humility, a spirit of truth.

Even the logo of the line is endearingly embarrassing. Check it out at Loud Time (where I actually know how to post something), and feel free to post your jokes here.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 1:35 PM | Comments (1) are closed

January 12, 2006

Off My Archives

I spent about an hour yesterday clearing all the spam comments off my Strangely Dim archives, so I'm afraid that we'll be severely restricting the comment options from now on. Too bad--so sad. My apologize to the handful of regular poster-children and to the legions of spammers whose lives are inconvenienced.

In the meantime, post all you want at www.loud-time.com. Tell your friends too.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 8:26 AM

December 21, 2005

Now Even Dimmer!

Strangely Dim got a new look yesterday. Finally you don't have to look at my glisteny face while you read. I can imagine the process:

That's the stupidest thing I've ever read.

"Whaddaya think, huh? huh? huh?"

"Oh, it's . . . nice."

Yes, now with complete anonymity and privacy you can read and mock Strangely Dim to your heart's content. And don't forget to go mock Loud Time while you're at it. Twice the strangeness at one low price!

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 8:38 AM | Comments (3) are closed

November 23, 2005

Where Has the Time Gone?

I can't believe it's been three weeks since I've posted anything. In my defense, I've been gone a lot.

I went to Alaska on retreat with a youth group, which was awesome.

I went to Indiana for a conference on urban community development, which was cool.

I went out of my mind trying to do everything I've decided it's really important for me to do.

All of which is fertile soil for endless blathering, which makes the fact that I haven't posted in three weeks even more curious. And now this provisional post is the best I can come up with on short notice.

It's like that almost across the board in my life lately. I worked out today for the first time in weeks; I've missed church several times; I haven't talked to my mommy and daddy in ages.

I hope to return to some life rhythms in the coming weeks. Maybe Advent will help--Advent is all about establishing rhythms, persisting in our fervent hope that soon our God will be with us in the flesh. Today I'm listening to Sufjan Stevens sing me Christmas carols and I feel a bit better. Tomorrow I'll stuff my face with turkey and feel sleepy. Friday I'll face Advent square on and see what I can do about making a habit of fervency.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. Don't get it on you.

Dave

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 11:20 AM

September 2, 2005

Happy Birthday to SD

I just realized that this week begins my third year of posting to Strangely Dim. There is, apparently, no end to my capacity to ramble on about nothing terribly important.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 8:35 AM | Comments (5) are closed

February 14, 2005

None of Your Beeswax

by David A. Zimmerman

My latest post will never be posted. For the first time an entry for Strangely Dim has been rejected.

How is that possible? you might ask. Isn't a blog supposed to be the unfiltered expressions of an individual's experience of life? Aren't blogs the last stronghold of free speech in an otherwise hopelessly spun, politically correct and scrupulously market-tested world? Isn't a blog particularly designed to rage against the machine of homogenization that threatens to turn a diverse culture into so much vanilla pudding?

As I've been reminded a few times, Strangely Dim isn't technically a blog. I'm not huddled in my sound-proofed basement like Christian Slater in Pump Up the Volume, sending out messages of revolution to similarly huddled masses yearning to breathe free. I have a sugar-daddy, so to speak: InterVarsity Press oversees Strangely Dim and thus has some input into what I post on its website.

Just to reassure my more revolutionary readers, the entry you won't be reading isn't being censored because it's too controversial or because it challenges an IVP orthodoxy or anything like that. It's been rejected because it wasn't very good.

I liked it, of course, but then, I'm biased--which is one of the best reasons for submitting yourself to an editorial process in the first place. I'm really too close to my own writing to see it as anything less than brilliant.

Of course, allowing readers to comment back on what I've written serves a similar function; if the Strangely Dim emperor has no clothes, all it takes is one snicker from one reader, and I learn my lesson. No offense, dear reader, but I'd rather have that conversation in private, before I prance around showing the world my business.

This wound up being a particularly humbling weekend. After my Strangely Dim entry was shot down I went home and prepared my monologue for our church's presentation of the Living Last Supper. I play Matthew, and I crafted what I thought was a particularly artful and insightful peek inside the mind of one of Jesus' disciples on the night he was betrayed. Our director, very delicately and very privately, deconstructed my whole monologue, pointing out the dubious theology and the anachronistic language that littered my masterpiece. I went home humbler but better prepared.

There are worse things to be than humble and well-prepared, I suppose. So don't ask me to post or e-mail the lost entry to Strangely Dim; we're all better off forgetting I ever mentioned it.

***

My apologies to Rick from Cayce, whose last name is not Cayce, for misrepresenting him in my description of his blog. I got the name wrong, but the rest of it is true: he writes wonderfully and is worth visiting online.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 8:46 AM | Comments (1) are closed

October 4, 2004

To Comment or Not to Comment?

What follows is a conversation between me and an occasional reader of Strangely Dim. I post it because the e-mail I sent bounced right back to me (Alan, I'm not ignoring you!).

You'll see my rationale for not enabling comments (I've discussed it before; see my entry "Born to Blog"), but I have no excuse for staying completely out of touch. For future reference, if you'd like to e-mail me, you can reach me at dzimmerman@ivpress.com.

***

David,

You don't know me, but I've been reading your online column for some time now. There's something about your writing style that, on its best days, strikes a chord in me. That's unusual.

At the same time I can't help but feel like you're missing one of the most powerful aspects of blogging: the dialogue with your readers. Is there a reason why you've chosen to broadcast rather than converse? What kinds of things do you think people might say in response to your writings? Would it make Strangely Dim better or worse? I suspect it would add a dynamic quality, but only you can answer that for certain.

Anyway, I was going to write you with the suggestion that you turn on post comments, but then I realized that not only are comments turned off, but you offer absolutely no way to contact you, anywhere on your site! I had to use my Ultra Secret Inside Sources (I could tell you, but... well, you know the rest) to get your email address.

I hope you find this helpful and not the least bit whiny,

Alan.

***
Alan:

Thanks for the e-mail. You're right, of course, about posting comments; I
have a very selfish, very simple reason that I don't: the only people
commenting (apart from a very small handful) were selling mortgages,
online gambling or body enhancement. I should, however, and will put a
link to my e-mail starting asap. Thanks for the suggestion. I would love
to post comments, and maybe I'll try it again in a couple of months.

Anyway, thanks for the e-mail. It's nice to know I'm not the only one
reading my blog.

Dave

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 11:17 AM

August 20, 2004

Born to Blog

By David A. Zimmerman

Any idiot with Internet access can maintain a weblog. I can prove it.

I'm closing in on my first full year of "blogging"--that's a technical term for navel-gazing online--at Strangely Dim, and though virtually all of the traffic on my site has been curious spammers of the most obnoxious sort, I still keep doing it. I even brag about it in other venues: "Check out my 'online column' [never 'blog']."

Occasionally over the past year someone who doesn't work for an online casino or an online pharmacy or an online porn retailer visited my blog, read it and even commented on it. I would get a notice by e-mail every time such a comment was posted, and I would always follow the link, giddy with dread, wondering whether I was being asked a question about my latest posting or being invited to enhance some underserved portion of my anatomy. When I got a serious post, I'd do a little internal dance, compose myself and then compose a response.

Week in, week out, I slog through the blogging process more for my own entertainment than to make some significant impact on my universe. There are other blogs that are more pointed--driven by political ideology or religious zealotry or some other motivating impulse. Some blogs are even more self-indulgent than mine, with bloggers rambling on about their lunch or their favorite song lyrics or the guy who just checked them out on the subway. Mine is somewhere in the middle.

Believe it or not, I do have deeper thoughts than what I often post here; I just worry that to reveal them might be to announce to myself and all my friends that I'm a heretic or a hopeless sinner or a complete nincompoop. So I play it safe and keep it just shallow enough to not fuel any great controversy, just detached enough to not divulge too much of who I am.

That in itself is a reflection of who I am. Historically I've pursued more breadth than depth in my relationships, to the frustration of those close to me and the irritation of those who want to get away from me. Unilateral discourse about picayune matters has, consequently, proven to be a safe way of introducing myself to the world and inviting the world to introduce itself to me.

There's a song by this singer, Dar Williams, whose chorus says "If I wrote you, you would know me . . . and you would not write me again." What a strange and sad and brave thing for a writer to write. And yet what else can a writer do but to write, and what other fear might exist for a writer than that her words will be her undoing?

Dar Williams should stop singing and start blogging. It may be slow and tiring sometimes, but it's safer over here in the shallow water. Year two, coming right up.

***

Check out archives from the past year.

My book is just weeks away from being in print. Coming soon: a disturbing promotional video . . .

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 11:14 AM

April 23, 2004

My Lowbrow Dinner with André

by David A. Zimmerman

"When you go out to dinner with an influential person, mind your manners." Proverbs 23:1 was on my mind as I drove to the House of Hoity Toity to share a meal with my boss and the editor of two recent thousand-page reference books. I was understandably anxious for a couple of reasons, not the least significant of which is the fact that I'm not the most graceful eater in the world.

I can hold my own when it comes to fast food--I've gotten to the point where I can shift gears without spilling ketchup on myself--but I'm out of my element when they only give you one napkin, particularly when that napkin is made of cloth. True to form, I dropped my steak knife on the floor five minutes into the meal (narrowly avoiding the editor's toe) and spilled my drink onto my steak. True to form, I reused the knife to eat the steak.

All this was survivable though--even charming in a goofy sort of way. The real anxiety for me surrounded the conversation more than the food. Here I was breaking bread with people each twenty years my senior, both having overseen the publication of several seminal works in religious publishing--and I was one degree removed from having my napkin tucked into my shirt collar.

Again, this isn't unfamiliar territory for me. I'm one of the only members of my family without an advanced degree. At work a colleague and I devised a word game to play during departmental meetings because we never understood what anyone was talking about. I have become, you could say, comfortably dumb.

Imagine my relief though when our conversation quickly turned to comic books. Here was sumphin' I could talk good about. We talked a while about the character-shaping influence of superheroes while I chewed with my mouth open and spoke with my mouth full. Then we moved on to discuss--you guessed it--reality television. By the time the check came, I had potato all over my shirt and we had finished a delightful conversation about professional wrestling--which, in case you were wondering, originated in Minnesota.

I can't begin to tell you what prompted such a pedestrian flow of conversation, but I do think it's an interesting commentary on the influence of contemporary mass culture--which I serve happily as priest. I feel bad, though I haven't mentioned their names, outing my boss and my reference editor friend, but in a sense I am unapologetic. If there is a purpose to religious publishing, it surely involves the exploration of meaning in a contemporary cultural context. And that means asking questions of culture. And that means being conversant enough with our culture to know which questions to ask.

I felt at this dinner the way the punk rock group The Ramones may have felt when National Public Radio counted their song "I Wanna Be Sedated" one of America's most important pieces of music: a little embarrassed, a little amused, but otherwise right at home. I've reconciled myself to being strangely dim, and it's always nice to have company.

* * *

Look, look! I'm writing a book!

Check out my secret identity at www.ivpress.com.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 8:10 AM

December 12, 2003

Global Pillage

by David A. Zimmerman?

If there’s such a thing as an original thought, you probably won’t find it in “Strangely Dim.”

I realized this fact while I was looking through the book Imagine by Steve Turner. I was checking some facts for another book and discovered this passage:

If our wish is that the things of this life should “grow strangely dim,” then we
have developed a dualistic way of life. We are not seeing the important
division as that which exists between righteousness and evil but between the
material and the nonmaterial.

That’s brilliant! I wish I’d thought of it.

Wait a minute—I thought I had.

I haven’t read Imagine (you can learn about it at ivpress.com), but I did spend a lot of editorial time with it during its production. I’m sure that at the very least I read this passage then. It’s entirely possible I went around the building telling people how cool it was.

There was a time, I’ve read (my source is none of your business), when unacknowledged borrowing of others’ ideas was commonplace in publishing—probably because few enough books were being published that original ideas were easily traced to their source. There was a time as well when people in two different countries could come up with the same idea independent of one another—such were the limitations of global communication.

But these days are not those days. These days even hapless borrowing like mine of Steve Turner’s idea (imported all the way from England) can get you expelled from colleges, newspapers and presidential campaigns. Ideas in the current economy are saleable assets, and stealing intellectual property (such as MP3s or AIDS medication formulas or, let’s face it, concepts for an online column) is tantamount to stealing stock certificates: they’re worth more than they seem on paper.

And yet, they are only ideas, after all. It’s not beyond plausibility that two people could have roughly the same idea at the same time; you see late-night talk show hosts make virtually identical jokes about the same current event on a regular basis, for example. And where did the “Jinx—buy me a Coke” phenomenon come from, if not the cultural reality that people think along the same lines a lot?

More important, who cares whose idea the AIDS cocktail was when millions of people are dying from AIDS every year because of intellectual property disputes? If original thoughts were such a commodity, the Gospel of Mark could have sued the Gospels of Luke and Matthew for damages a long time ago, and Mark would have won the lawsuit.

Sadly, my own case doesn’t benefit from these arguments. “Strangely Dim” is not a solution to the AIDS pandemic, nor is it holy writ. So I must beg forgiveness of Steve Turner, recommend that you buy his book Imagine, and warn you to never vote for me for president. There’s no telling what I’d say to get elected.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 9:44 AM

September 8, 2003

Why Strangely Dim?

by David Zimmerman

I have two cats. Wait, I also have a point. I mention my cats because they, like you and I, are things of earth created by a watchful, careful God. They’re also cuter than I am; you wouldn’t have kept reading if I had opened with “I have a wart on my third knuckle.”

But back to the cats. Such divinely inspired stuff doesn’t grow dim without a catfight. And yet, Christians often disregard the things of earth. Some churches even sing about it:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full on his wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace.

The insinuation is clear: nothing else warrants a close look once we’ve caught a glimpse of God. Fair enough. I can’t imagine what could be more compelling than the face of our Maker.

But why, then, all this stuff? Surely a world could be fashioned in which all we could see was God, with no other people, institutions, animals, plants or minerals to distract us. But that’s not the reality God created.

The prophet Isaiah once turned his eyes on God in full glory.

"I saw the Lord sitting on a throne high and lofty. . . . The house filled with smoke. And I said, 'Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King.'"

Maybe we’re better able to appreciate the glory of God after experiencing our failings and the failings of those around us. Prodigal creations celebrating God with clearer vision—that would be a happy ending. But Isaiah’s encounter is far from an ending; in fact, it serves as a beginning for his project: “Go and say to these people . . .”

Isaiah encounters God, and God sends him back from whence he came. Something smells funny.

The apostle Paul tells us that “what can be known about God is plain. . . . His eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.” We see all this stuff and recognize the glory of God. But if we are anything like Isaiah, God will quickly point us back toward the things he has made—the people who rub us wrong, the institutions we support or endure, the creation we steward or pollute.

The things of earth are important to God; they ought to be important to us as well. We each have a perspective limited by our location in space and time, but given that God created each of us from scratch and placed us where we are, when we are, who knows but that we were created for such a time and place as this?

So I propose that we explore the things of earth afresh, searching for what God has for us in them, and for them in us. God has created the things of earth—from cats to kids—for a purpose, and though they occasionally dim in the light of his glory, with his help we can see them more clearly than ever.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 10:53 AM

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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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