Thursday, April 24, 2014

How to Interact with Hollywood

In this segment of The Table podcast, Darrell Bock and actress Naima Lett begin by talking about "Noah," but what they have to say about Christians approaching the movies is timeless.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Creating Children's Picture Books

One of the workshops I attended at the Calvin conference was a panel discussion on publishing children’s books. Because my friend Angela has a children’s book blog and a great idea for a kids’ book, I went to hear what they had to say. The group consisted of Richard Cowdrey, Barbara Herndon, Kristine Nelson, and Michele Wood. 

Cowdrey is the illustrator of the Marley books; Herndon is the picture book acquisitions editor for HarperCollins Christian Publishing; Nelson serves as senior art director for Zonderkidz; and Wood is the illustrator of several children’s books, including I Lay My Stitches Down: Poems of American Slavery.

Some takeaways:
  • The art is what makes people buy the books; the story is what brings them back.
  • Authors should start by knowing what’s out there. Gobble up picture books and study kids’ books.
  • Join SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers andIllustrators). If you attend their conference, editors are more open to your work.
  • Purchase Writing withPictures. It’s the bible on how to publish a picture book.
  • Follow the blogs that deal with publishing kids’ books.
  • Subscribe to Children’sWriter newsletter.
  • How much text is ideal? For a thirty-two page book, anywhere from 250 to 1,000 words. The market trend at the moment is “less.”
  • Target the 4 to 8 age range. But make it your goal that the adult will enjoy the book as much as the kid.
  • Amateur alert: When you submit a book manuscript, publishers prefer that you not bring your artist choice with you. (They called it a “no-no.”) Let the publisher handle that part.
  • Don’t expect to have much input on the production process. Publishers often don’t want writers talking to illustrators. The artist is the expert on “art.”
  • Know that the process from the time of manuscript acceptance to publication is generally about two years.
  • Let this encourage you: You can’t pass your app to your kids, so eBooks will never replace hard copies. Still, there’s a huge eBook market to be exploited. Nelson (Zonderkidz) said her company is definitely in the fixed-format eBook market.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day List

What do you still need to do?

 1. Lower your thermostat in the winter, raise it in the summer. 
 2. Stop drinking bottled water and opt for a reusable bottle. 
 3. Check out your bathroom. Do you have low-flow faucets, showerheads, and toilets?
 4. Start a compost pile.
 5. Buy/use compact fluorescent light bulbs.
 6. Turn off lights and electronics when you leave the room. Unplug your cell phone charger from the  wall when not in use. Turn off energy strips and surge protectors overnight.
 7. Car pool. Share the ride.
 8. Ride a bike.
 9. Walk, jog, or run.
10. Go to your local library or buy used books. Old is the new new.
11. Get off junk-mail lists.
12. Buy products that use recycled materials whenever possible.
13. If you use plastic grocery bags, reuse them as small trashcan liners.
14. Bring your own bags to the grocery store. Given a choice between plastic and paper, opt for paper.
15. Recycle your trash.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Is Your State Infertility-Friendly?

Follow the link to see an infographic about what states have the best policies relating to infertility.

You Can Fight Human Trafficking

Want to help fight human trafficking? A new app for iPhones, Android phones, and Blackberry phones —iFreedom! (with the exclamation mark)—allows you easily to identify and report suspicious behavior. Here is the Apple store link to Freedom! for iPhone

This is a video link that takes you to info about the organization that created the Freedom! app. The founder is a former FBI agent who shares good info, even if you don't get the app.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Sunrise This Morning in Dubai

Happy Easter! He Is Alive!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Silent Saturday

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday

Why do we call today Good Friday, when it's the day we remember Jesus' death? We call it "good," because we remember it in the context of the big picture. If God can turn the murder of his Son into the greatest picture of love in all of history, what lesser evil can he not also redeem?

Then they led Jesus from the house of Ca'iaphas to the praetorium. It was early. [The Jewish leaders] themselves did not enter the praetorium, so that they might not be defiled, but might eat the passover. So Pilate went out to them and said, "What accusation do you bring against this man?" 

They answered him, "If this man were not an evildoer, we would not have handed him over." Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law." The Jews said to him, "It is not lawful for us to put any man to death." This was to fulfil the word which Jesus had spoken to show by what death he was to die.

Pilate entered the praetorium again and called Jesus, and said to him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?" Pilate answered, "Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me; what have you done?"

Jesus answered, "My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world."

Pilate said to him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice."

Pilate said to him, "What is truth?" After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again, and told them, "I find no crime in him. But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover; will you have me release for you the King of the Jews?" They cried out again, "Not this man, but Barab'bas!" Now Barab'bas was a robber. Then Pilate took Jesus and scourged him. And the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and arrayed him in a purple robe; they came up to him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" and struck him with their hands.

Pilate went out again, and said to them, "See, I am bringing him out to you, that you may know that I find no crime in him." 

So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, "Behold the man!"

When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, "Crucify him, crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no crime in him." The Jews answered him, "We have a law, and by that law he ought to die, because he has made himself the Son of God." When Pilate heard these words, he was the more afraid; he entered the praetorium again and said to Jesus, "Where are you from?" But Jesus gave no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, "You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?" 
Jesus answered him, "You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore he who delivered me to you has the greater sin."

Upon this Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, "If you release this man, you are not Caesar's friend; every one who makes himself a king sets himself against Caesar." When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, and in Hebrew, Gab'batha.  Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, "Behold your King!"

They cried out, "Away with him, away with him, crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar." Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

 So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Gol'gotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the cross; it read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. The chief priests of the Jews then said to Pilate, "Do not write, `The King of the Jews,' but, `This man said, I am King of the Jews.'" Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written."

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus they took his garments and made four parts, one for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was without seam, woven from top to bottom; so they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be." This was to fulfil the scripture, "They parted my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots." So the soldiers did this. 

But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Mag'dalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. 

After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfil the scripture), "I thirst."  A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, "It is finished"; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Since it was the day of Preparation, in order to prevent the bodies from remaining on the cross on the sabbath (for that sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him; but when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.  But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.  He who saw it has borne witness -- his testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth -- that you also may believe. For these things took place that the scripture might be fulfilled, "Not a bone of him shall be broken." And again another scripture says, "They shall look on him whom they have pierced."

After this Joseph of Arimathe'a, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him leave. So he came and took away his body. Nicode'mus also, who had at first come to him by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds' weight.They took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb where no one had ever been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, as the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there (From John 18-19).

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Maundy Thursday Reflection

Today is Maundy Thursday. "Maundy” is derived from the Latin word mandatum, or commandment. Jesus’s great commandment is "Love one another as I have loved you.”

Tomorrow is Good Friday, when the church across the world observes the day that Jesus died. But on Thursday night of Holy Week, we remember the night when Jesus was betrayed, our Lord observed the Passover meal with His disciples, and he and instituted what Christians know as Communion (or the Lord’s Supper, or the Eucharist). He also washed the feet of His disciples, demonstrating his great humility and love. Here’s the story:

Before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 

During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. 

He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 

When he came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”

Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 

Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” 

Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 

Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” 

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you (John 13:1–15).  

Confessions of a Film Critic: The Washington Post

A friend who supervises installations at the Dallas Museum of Art and who always provides excellent movie recommendations sent me a link to a good article. After a group of us attended a workshop at the Dallas International Film Festival, we went out to eat, and over Mexican food we discussed the difference between "faith-adjacent" and "faith-based" films. With that in mind, my friend sent me a URL that took me to "Confessions of a Film Critic." It's by a Christ-follower who reviews movies for The Washington Post. Interesting stuff. 

Reflections on "An Interview with James McBride"

At the Calvin conference, I had several opportunities to hear James McBride, whom I've previously mentioned on this blog. He brought the first keynote I heard, but he also allowed himself to be interviewed before a live audience in "An Interview with James McBride." 

He is a writer, musician, and screenwriter who wrote The Good Lord Bird, which won the National Book Award for fiction. He's also well known for The Color of Water. 

The Good Lord Bird is about abolitionist John Brown. McBride has written—a times a bit irreverently—about other historical characters, as well. One was Frederick Douglass, whom the author described as having a black wife and a white mistress: “You [still] can’t do that in Brooklyn.” A historian describing McBride’s treatment of Douglass predicted the latter's “gonna be stewing in his teriyaki sauce when he reads it.”

McBride admitted making fun of all his subjects—except Harriet Tubman. He puts her on the same level as Lincoln. He admires her because she didn’t make speeches. She never told how she got people to freedom. She. Never. Told. And the fact is, we still know little about African-American life during her time.

In The Good Lord Bird, he said, he recounted the mayhem on the Kansas border in Brown's day, which he described as “sheer craziness.” He spent time on location in Kansas doing research, and afterward he “ruminated, pontificated”—resulting in his award-winning novel. He told us, “What slavery made white people do to each other is enough to fill thirty novels a week.”

He continued, “I love Westerns and the notion of the wild west." And in that vein, "The Good Lord Bird was a ready-made story. John Brown truly had religion. That’s what I respected about him, though he was a man of conflicting impulses. [The story] was ripe for humor because he was serious. Today he’d be called a terrorist.”   

McBride presents the narrative from the point of view of Onion, a black kid posing as a girl—anything for self-preservation. “The truth has many faces,” he said. McBride told us he borrowed the character’s name from a kid who stole his bike.

Reflecting on Brown’s life before Harper’s Ferry, McBride said slaves were terrorized at the thought of being sold to New Orleans. He quickly added that today “there’s a new kind of slavery. It’s called hip-hop.”

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, were lined with banks of still-melting snow. The locals seemed 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. (On the way back we ended up on the same flight again, and she told me the publisher wants her first book!)

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, “TheMore Earnest Prayer of Christ,” in which he said the divine in Christ contracted to an ache. In “Threnody,” a term for a poem/psalm for the dead, Cairns imagined his deceased 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