Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Feminists We Forgot: My Post for Her.Meneutics

Last week Christianity Today's women's site, Her.Meneutics, ran my piece on women's history to close out their extended focus on Women's History Month. Check out The Feminists We Forgot.

On Poetry

I just returned from the Calvin Festival of Faith and Writing. This time around, I enjoyed the company of four people—two students, a former student, and a fellow editor. I stayed with the latter two at a bed-and-breakfast in Grand Rapids, while the students stayed with a host family.

The parking lots at Calvin College, where the event took place, had banks of still-melting snow. The locals seemed quite ready for warmer weather, some of which we were blessed to enjoy.  

My friends all arrived on Wednesday (it started Thursday morning), but I had to teach till 9:30 P.M. Wednesday night, so I took the earliest flight out the next morning. When I arrived at the Dallas airport, I ran into another former student headed Calvin way. The festival provided the option of submitting a manuscript for review, and she told me she’d landed an appointment. (I 
sat behind her on the way there, and she ended up sitting behind me on the way home. On the way back, she told me the publisher wants it!)

Poet Scott Cairns (@ScottCairnsPoet) spoke at the first session I attended. His topic: “Writing as a Way of Knowing.” His poetry and essays have appeared in Poetry, Image, and The Atlantic, and his most recent book is Idiot Psalms: New Poems. He read from some of his brilliant work. I'm not big on poetry, but I loved his stuff. 

Some takeaways:

In approaching scripture, rabbis have often sought out the dark sayings, the difficult places, searching for truth rather than going after the happy, motivational texts. Verses that have failed to fit their scheme, they’ve pursued in order to have their “scheme” corrected. These scholars pore over a difficult text, pray over it, and come up with a way to grapple with it. 

In Luke 22:44, we read that Jesus in Gethsemane “prayed more earnestly.” Cairns asked what our Lord was doing before he got earnest? These little “oddnesses in the text,” as he described them, can provide “much fodder for pondering.” After making this observation, he read us his work, “The More Earnest Prayer of Christ,” in which he said the divine in Christ contracted to an ache.  In “Thrinity,” a term for a poem/psalm for the dead, Cairns imagined his dead father appearing. The comment I wrote in my notebook about it was simply “Wow.”

I must get a copy of St. Isaac of Syria/Nineveh’s Homilies. Dostoevsky had a copy, and in The Brothers K Father Zosima’s beloved character delivers lines straight out of St. Isaac.

Cairns’s favorite poets are St. Simeon the Theologian, W. H. Auden, Coleridge, St. Isaac, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, and Eliza Bishop. He exalted Frost for lines that say more than one thing: “Even the syntax shifts when you change lines. What I think is an adjective isn’t one on the next line.”

About poetry: A poem is that through which we gain a glimpse, but not a conclusive one. That’s why we can read again and acquire more. We aren’t even fully aware of ourselves. The thing about the endless life (theos) is that we’ll be made holy. Mostly I’m excited about that,” he said. “He is endless in capacity... He will always exceed us.”  

When someone asked, “Is there a point at which the language becomes opaque, too dense, putting the burden entirely on the reader to ascertain meaning?” he said, “That’s what we’d call bad writing. Poems are not coded messages. The goal is not to crack the code... I want a poem to be a scene of meaning-making... Have your best friend read it. If it makes no sense to that friend, that’s bad!” Poems should make sense. 

Stay tuned for more stuff from the conference. 

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

My Chapel Message: Following the Son of Man(ly)



God's wisdom elevates complementary male and female partnerships in ministry.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Why Authors Are Dumping their FB Author Pages

This article about FB author pages has made the rounds among many of my writer friends of late. Worth a read for all who think about "platform."

Friday, April 04, 2014

FInding Peace after Genocide: NPR

This weekend marks the 20th anniversary since the start of the Rwandan violence. This evening the NPR Faith Matters host, Michel Martin, interviewed my friend Celestin Musekura, who lost his father, brother, sister-in-law, and other family and friends in the genocide. His topic: forgiveness, grace, healing and Christian identity. Reconciliation is for everyone. Have a listen to this powerful seven-minute segment.

In Which I Talk with Good News Radio about Infertility



Follow the link. The segment with me starts at 20:18.  

Thursday, April 03, 2014

My Thoughts on the Noah Movie (In Spanish)

Me gustó el libro de John Grisham, The Firm (la tapadera/la fachada). Pero mi esposo, Gary, nunca lo leyó. En consecuencia, cuando vimos juntos la película, me disgustó lo que Hollywood hizo con la historia. Gary, sin conocer la trama original, realmente disfrutó la versión para cine. En realidad, por alguna extraña razón se molestó cuando constantemente interrumpía para murmurar: “¡Así no ocurre en el libro! ¡El libro es mejor!”; finalmente me pidió amablemente que me callara para poder disfrutar de la película.

Adaptando el viejo dicho: “Nunca juzgues un libro por su película”

La forma que tiene Hollywood de relatar de Nuevo una historia y masacrar algo del original en el proceso no es nueva. No es persecución, no es irreverencia intencional. Es el desafío de tomar una forma de narrativa que permita un trasfondo, un dialogo interior y moverlo hacia una forma que permita proyectar, proyectar y seguir proyectando. Ah, también tiene que ver con hacer la mayor cantidad de dinero posible.

Complicando la dinámica en el caso de la película Noé, se encuentra el hecho de ser una historia con miles de años de antigüedad. Lo cual quiere decir que el escritor del Génesis no contaba las historias de la forma como lo hacemos actualmente. La estructura a la que estamos acostumbrados hoy de tres paneles, inicio, nudo y desenlace es tan antigua como Aristóteles, quien vivió en el siglo IV antes de Cristo. Es decir, miles de años después de Noé –y Moisés que registró dicha historia.

¿Pueden ver el problema? Tomar la historia de una manzana y convertirla en la narración de una naranja requiere algunas “decisiones creativas” que no gustarán a quienes aman la versión escrita. Y son muchos, especialmente porque el libro en cuestión no pertenece a cualquier autor, es El Autor por excelencia.

Pero pensemos un poco más… aun cuando los cristianos producen historias bíblicas, suspiramos y deseamos que dejen de alterar el texto. Consideren por ejemplo todas las objeciones a la serie de televisión “La Biblia”. O mas aun, cuando Dorothy Sayers escribió para BBC la versión de la Vida de Cristo (dijeron que hizo ver a Pedro y Andrés como pescadores iletrados ¡Qué horror!)

No solamente la estructura típica de narrar en la película requiere cambios al original para adaptarlo a la estructura contemporánea. También requiere llenar algunos detalles que la historia escrita no provee. Por ejemplo, la identidad del padre del príncipe de Egipto; ¿alguien proveyó paños a la madre de Jesús para limpiarse después del parto?; ¿Cuántas veces mencionó Noé la palabra “Dios”?

Podemos argumentar todo el día acerca de si tal dinámica debe ser. Es una realidad, así que ¿Qué haremos con ella?

Esto es lo que no debemos hacer: No asumamos que somos perseguidos porque alguien cambió nuestra historia. No lloramos y lamentamos porque la película no menciona la palabra “Dios” (el libro de Ester no menciona a Dios y aun así obtenemos la lección). No escribimos una larga lista indicando dónde se equivocaron los productores; y no nos quejamos, como alguien hizo, diciendo que el escritor tomo a un buen hombre y lo hizo ver como un borracho (ojo: la borrachera de Noé se relata en la historia origina).

Esta es una mejor manera: Si podemos hacerlo con buena conciencia, apoyamos las artes cuando cuentan nuestra historia, aun cuando lo hagan de forma imperfecta. La versión de Mel Gibson de la Pasión de Cristo tomo cierta licencia creativa y aun así es la película de mayor ingreso financiero de todos los tiempos en otro lenguaje que no sea inglés –y es la película clasificación R de mayor ingreso financiero de todos los tiempos en EE.UU. De pronto, la codicia de Los Ángeles ha obrado en nuestro favor, porque el éxito financiero de la película hizo que Hollywood pidiera lo que los cristianos quieren. Y recuerden, Hollywood no había hecho algo así en mucho tiempo, al menos no desde la época de Ben Hur. AL menos eso es lo que reportó la revista TIME en su edición de marzo 31. Time también reportó que Jonathan Bock de Grace Hill Media “considera que el impulso detrás de las películas basadas en la fe es más que un capricho en Hollywood… es el regreso de la comunidad cristiana como patrono de las artes”.

En términos de nuestra interacción con otros acerca de la película, también recomendamos altamente la versión original. Decimos: “Si, la película es buena, pero la versión escrita es mucho mejor –especialmente si se lee el trasfondo comenzando desde el principio ¿Quieres mi copia?”

Pero no digas eso mientras disfrutan su película, espera al menos hasta salir del teatro

Por: Sandra Glahn

Traducido por: Diego F. Cruz G., D. Div

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Customer Service Experience

Christopher S.: Welcome to AT&T online Sales support.  How may I help you with placing your order today?

Sandra: I don't need to place an order. I went to the Mesquite TX store tonight to buy an iPhone. They said to take a number. Minimum wait 2 hours or come back tomorrow.
Sandra: I tried calling ATT and was told the wait time was very long.
Sandra: So I went to Best Buy and bought my phone there. That is the second time I've gone to that ATT store and had the negative surprise of no one being available. ATT charges me a lot. They need to have more folks available at stores and on phones. Just wanted to lodge that complaint.

Christopher S.: I will be happy to assist you with your order today.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Warrens Open Up about Son's Suicide

"Matthew had a tender heart and a tortured mind. He was a brilliant kid." 

By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST Ministries
LAKE FOREST, CA (ANS) -- Almost a year ago megachurch pastor Rick Warren and his wife, Kay, received the unimaginable news that their son, Matthew Warren, 27, the youngest of their three children, had killed himself. The cause of death was a self-inflicted shotgun wound at his Mission Viejo, California, residence.
Rick Warren lost his son, Matt, to suicide 
about a year ago. Recently Rick spoke publicly 
about the tragedy and his enduring hope. 

Matthew had bought the gun illegally over the Internet and used it to shoot himself and yet, amazingly, the pastor, was able to forgive the person who sold Matthew the gun.

“Someone on the Internet sold Matthew an unregistered gun,” Pastor Rick, the senior pastor of Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, California, tweeted to his nearly one million followers shortly after he received the terrible news. “I pray he seeks God's forgiveness. I forgive him.”

Warren then linked to Matthew 6: 15 (NIV), which says, “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  

Now, the couple felt able to share their innermost thoughts about their late son. They did so during an extraordinarily moving interview last Friday at a special event at Saddleback that was spurred by the suicide of Matthew.

Called “The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church,” the event included the couple, joined by a host of mental health experts and clergy, which included the Most Reverend Kevin Vann, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, and members of the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Orange County (NAMI-OC), who all joined together to host this special (and packed) gathering.

When asked to describe his son, Rick replied, “Matthew had a tender heart and a tortured mind. He was a brilliant kid.”
Kay and Rick Warren talked with the media 
about losing their son, and about mental 
illness in the church.

The author of the best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Church, went on to say that when his son started seventh grade, he lasted about two weeks. "They said, ‘Matthew’s not going to last junior high because you have to change teachers every period, rather than having the same teacher.’ But they said that we could take him out of school for two years, and ‘he’d still be smarter than any kid here.’”

Warren added, “He was probably the most courageous man I’ve ever met, because, at seventeen, he came to me in tears and said, ‘Dad, it’s obvious that I’m not going to get well. We’ve gone to all the best doctors, we’ve had the best therapy, we’ve had the best prayers, and so why can’t I just go to heaven? I know I’m saved. I know I’m going to heaven, but why can’t I go to heaven right now?’ And I told him, ‘Matthew, you may want to give up, but, as your father, I must always have hope and believe that there is an answer out there. So you might give up, but I cannot give up.'

“He made it for ten more years and was very courageous. And if he were able to talk to me today from heaven—which he can’t—I know he would say, ‘Dad you were wrong.’ And I would say, ‘What do you mean?’ and then he’d say, ‘It’s so much better than you explained it. I can’t wait for you to get here.’"

Pastor Warren went on to say, “Trying to understand heaven is like an ant trying to understand the Internet. They don’t have the brain capacity. So if I didn’t have the hope of heaven, I’d be in ultimate despair, but because Matthew knew the Lord, and put his hand in the Lord’s hand many years ago, and walked with Christ for many years, I have this hope. He just had a tortured mind.”


When asked if Rick thought he would ever get over losing his son in this way, he said firmly, “No, you never get over it—you just get through it. In fact, I did a whole six- week series here at Saddleback on ‘How to get through what you never get over.’”

Standing close by was Kay Warren. When asked to share something about Matthew that people might not know about him, with a faint smile she replied, “He was so compassionate.” Rick interjected, “He was also witty.” Kay continued, “Witty, funny, but deeply compassionate. He was a compassionate warrior. He tried to help people, even though he, himself, was so depressed. He would be on chat rooms and he would respond back to others with problems. He would try to get me to help people and say, ‘Would you financially help this person?’”

She said that Matthew also “had a wonderful demeanor” and added that he’d always stop on the side of the road if there were people in need to try and help them. “He just had a heart for other people who were hurting and fought really hard for others who were struggling,” Kay said. “He’d come out of a hospitalization, and have a list of people that he wanted to be praying for. So he was extremely compassionate for those who were suffering in the same way that he was.”

When asked if there was any evidence on that last day he was with them that Matthew was contemplating taking his life, she replied, “He was massively depressed all the time, but not on that day. We knew that it was a possibility that he would take his life someday, but not that particular day. It was actually a good day, and we he had dinner at our house.

“The thing about mental illness—having a borderline personality disorder, which he had—is impulse. [For] people who are suicidal, impulse and opportunity can sometimes come together in a fatal way, and that’s what happened with Matthew. Impulse and opportunity came together.”

Kay's advice for others who have lost a loved one in such a tragic way: “You think you’re not going to make it, but you will! You have to find again where the hope is, because it can be crushed by suicide. Give yourself lots of time. Don’t be in a rush to try to move through it, move past it. It’s traumatic and it takes time. You’re never the same, and that’s okay. Just accept that, and wait for life to flourish again. I’m only a year out, but I believe it will.”

Go here to listen to an audio interview of Rick and Kay Warren talking about their son's suicide, as well as their ultimate hope.  

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Noah Film: How to Respond



I loved John Grisham’s book, The Firm. But my husband, Gary, never read it. Consequently, when he and I watched the movie together, I disliked what Hollywood had done to the story. But Gary, unfamiliar with the plot in the original, really liked the movie version. In fact, for some strange reason it annoyed him when I constantly interrupted the film to whisper, “That’s not how it happened in the book! The book was way better!” In fact, he finally, kindly, asked me to be quiet so he could just enjoy the film.

As the saying goes, “Never judge a book by its movie.”

Hollywood’s new telling of a story and butchering some of the original in the process is nothing new.  It’s not persecution. It’s not intentional irreverence. It’s the challenge of taking a form of narrative that allows backstory and interior dialogue and moving it to a form that allows only for show-show-show. Oh. And it’s also about what will make the most money.

Complicating the dynamic in the case of the Noah film releasing today is the fact that this story is thousands of years old. And that means the writer of Genesis didn’t tell stories the way Westerners do. The story structure of the three-paneled beginning-middle-end, to which we are so accustomed, is only about as old as Aristotle, who lived in the fourth century B.C. That’s thousands of years after Noah—and Moses, who recorded Noah’s story.

See the problem? Taking an apple story and making it into an orange narrative requires making some “creative decisions” that those who love the book version will dislike. A lot. Especially because the book in question is not just some author’s story. It’s the author’s story.   

But think about it…even when Christians produce Bible stories, we sigh and wish they’d stop messing with the text. Consider all the objections to The Bible TV series.

Not only does the typical movie structure of storytelling require changing an original to shoehorn it into the contemporary structure. It also requires filling in some details the written story didn’t give. Like the identity of the Prince of Egypt’s faither. And whether someone gave Jesus’s mother a cloth to wipe his blood. And how much Noah said “God.” 

We can argue all day about whether such a dynamic ought to be so. It's the reality. So what do we do with that reality?

Here’s what we don’t do: We don’t assume we’re being persecuted because someone changed our story. We don’t wail because the film doesn’t mention God. (The Esther story never mentions God, and we still got the point.) We don’t write long lists of where the producers got it wrong. And we don’t complain, as one person did, that the writer took a nice man and made him out to be a drunk. (Ps-s-t: That drunk part’s actually in the original.)

Here’s a better way: If we can do so in good conscience, we patronize the arts when they tell our story, even if they do so imperfectly. Even though the Mel Gibson version of The Passion of the Christ took some creative license, that movie is the highest-grossing non-English-language film of all time, and the U.S.’s highest-grossing R-rated film ever. Ever. And suddenly LA’s greed has worked in our favor, because the film’s financial success got Hollywood asking about what Christians want. And remember, Hollywood hadn’t done that for a while. Not since about the time of Ben-Hur. Or at least that’s what TIME magazine reported in its March 31 edition. TIME also reported that Jonathan Bock of Grace Hill Media "believes the momentum behind faith-based films is more than just a blip in Hollywood… It's a return of the Christian community's role as a patron of the arts."

In terms of our interactions with others about the film, we also highly recommend the original. We say, “Yeah, the movie was maybe a good start. But the book version is way better—especially if you read the entire backstory starting from the beginning. Want to borrow my copy?”

Just don’t say all this while they’re watching the movie. At least wait till they get out of the theater.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

TIME Magazine on Faith-based Films

Jonathan Bock* of Grace Hill Media "believes the momentum behind faith-based films is more than just a blip in Hollywood. In fact, he thinks it's a return of the Christian community's role as a patron of the arts."  —"Films Are His Flock: Jonathan Bock Explains Christians to Hollywood," TIME magazine, March 31 issue

*An earlier version cited the film's writer-director. TIME's antecedents weren't altogether clear.


Why Ancient Noah's Faith Still Matters: Guest Post

The world’s abuzz about “Noah” opening tomorrow. So, how do we discuss the movie with family and friends? In this guest blog post, my friend David Sanford points the way.

Today, many people live by the polls. The opinions of others guide their beliefs and votes and choices, as if majority rule could possibly set the standards for right and wrong.

If Noah of “Noah and the Ark” fame had been interviewed by Gallup on issues of ethics and morality, he would have found himself completely outnumbered. To his credit, that did not stop Noah from living a blameless life. For the first 500 years of his life, Noah kept on doing right in a world that was going very wrong.

Even after God called him to make a boat that would be his means of rescue from the coming judgment, Noah endured another 100 years of standing against the tide of growing violence and hatred (Hebrews 11:7).

He became a public spectacle, building a ship that no one but his family and the animals would choose to enter, no matter how diligently Noah warned his fellow citizens (2 Peter 2:5).

No one listened, and no one cared, and Noah and his family were the only ones left when the Great Flood swept the inhabited world away (Luke 17:27).

In the end, Noah received the only approval that really mattered: He found favor with God. Because of this, he and his family were spared from otherwise certain destruction.

Like Noah, you and I are never so outnumbered that it is impossible to live by faith, pleasing God.

Tip: You can read the ancient biblical accounts of Noah (Genesis 6:1–9:17) for yourself in about 30 minutes.  

Noah’s 17 Faith Affirmations
·         I am heartbroken by the evil of people around me (Genesis 6:6).
·         I seek to find favor with God in the midst of a wicked society (6:8).
·         I live a righteous and godly life, no matter what other people are doing (6:9).
·         I believe God will provide the means to obey His commands (6:20).
·         I use God’s way of escape from judgment (7:7).
·         I believe God never idly threatens to bring judgment (7:11).
·         I seek to bring my family under God’s protective hand (7:13).
·         I believe God judged the wickedness of the ancient world by sending a massive flood, just as He said He would (7:23).
·         I wait for God’s direction before moving forward into a new situation (8:15).
·         I move ahead when God tells me (8:18).
·         I worship God for His rescue, salvation and deliverance (8:20).
·         I thank God for His mercy to humanity, even though we are all sinful from childhood (8:21).
·         I accept God’s gifts of meat, fruit, and vegetables for food (9:3) even if I don’t eat all of them.
·         I thank God for His promise to never flood all the earth again (9:11).
·         I thank God for the rainbow, a sign that He will remember His promise to Noah (9:16).
·         I believe that all people now living are descended from Noah and his family (9:19). 

David Sanford serves on the leadership team at Corban University in Salem, Oregon. Among his many publishing credits, David is executive editor of Holy Bible: Mosaic, general editor of Handbook on Thriving as an Adoptive Family, managing editor of the IVP Resonate series, co-author of How to Read Your Bible, and author of If God Disappears: 9 Faith Wreckers and What to Do About Them.

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