Tag Archives: God

Distraction

Distraction –

The day has just started and I haave 24 new emails.

I don’t have time to fix that typo…

The Wikipedia entry for distraction is here.  It's basically "divided attention."

File:Veddah_girl"

Here are 2 pics from that page. 

I fought to read today’s entry in Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest. (I at least know this much, that if I don’t establish the “rule” of connecting with God first thing, my freedom from anxiety in this fight will be forfeit all day.)

I do have to engage the battle. But I don’t have to do it alone.

In Quiet, Susan Cain uses the example of Seth Klarman, one of the great investors of our time, who said he’s "a big fan of fear and, in investing, it’s clearly better to be scared than sorry." Klarman is a world-class worrier, according to the NYT, and he owns a racehorse called “Read the Footnotes.” During the stock market crash, he stuck to his guns and bought when everyone else was panicking. His style is an example of the value of waiting quietly when the world seems to be telling you to rush ahead.

There's another great book called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp about learning to stop and write the simple gifts right in front of you. This little book has been my antidote to distraction for 4 years now, like C.S. Lewis, convincing me to slow down and go deeper, but also showing me how to take tangible, practical, daily steps toward the better stuff of life, in the midst of anxiety and chaos.  

Fear and anxiety can make us feel ill-equipped by nature, by God. But according to Cain in Quiet, not rushing ahead in the face of strong potential rewards, i.e. maintaining a strong respect for risk and uncertainty, is a powerful, maybe the most powerful predictor of success.

I should check those emails…oh, 2 text messages now…

We need not see distractions as all bad. In fact, in our morning pages today, Sheri and I decided to try an experiment to hold one thing we wanted insight on today. Mine was "distraction."

My hunch is this experiment might help me avoid getting bent out of shape by life’s (and wife’s) interruptions. 

File:Office_Worker_with_Two_Monitors

Some folks do so many things at once that they have to use two screens.

I don't know when it started or why I forget this so often, but I frequently try to hold too much.

Is it any wonder I get frustrated when a practical matter like kids' violin practice or dinner is more pressing?

And though I’m deeply in love with my wife, when I’m hot on the trail of some flash of lacking insight I think God's offering me, I could even turn down a kiss from the love of my life.

I’m happily married, thank God. But yes, this has actually happened.

Obviously not a happy marriage thanks to me.

It’s only with help from some much more level heads–my wife's, parents', friends', even kids'–that I’ve managed to organize my manic mind into some still-very-loose structure (I'd bust out of anything more restrictive).

Work is calling…people waiting…I really should go do something…

Shhh…it's okay. Even so, it isn’t as though my “Noodlings” file isn’t full to overflowing with the brain batter that flings every which way when I’m hot on the trail of a flash of lacking insight (let’s just go ahead and shorten this cumbersome phrase to “HotToFoLI” to save time–which also conjures “hot to trot,” “hot to fly,” as in, my desire to escape this mortal coil and join the spirit in the sky, and “hot to follow” white rabbits of curiosity…also it rhymes with Hot Tamales which are the bomb even if they're no match for Atomic Fireballs. And yes, all of this is applicable.)

But most of all, HotToFoLI is folly. Of the highest order.

It will ruin me. In fact, it has threatened to many times.

There’s nothing wrong with excitement and passion. But when it isn’t kept in check, it can do unspeakable damage. If this needles you in any way, you probably have some apologies to make like I do (and don’t get distracted from the point, but remember to actually follow through with that conviction when we’re done here–it could be very rewarding).

Not only can our excitement overwhelm some of the great wonders of the universe—people we love, and especially sensitive people we’re probably married to, parent, and call friends—we can so dominate them that we drive them away. You know of what I speak.

Trust me, you don’t want distraction to ruin your life. Learn my lesson and learn to submit. As Chambers says, “Obedience is the natural life of a child.” Stop trying to be an "adult." Accept your limitations.

You are not a superhero and you can't catch all the opportunities raining from the sky.

Listen: you don't have to catch it all. You can not catch them all.

So calm down, Junior Executive. Calm down, Missionary Jane. Relax, Hot-to-Trot Author.

Don’t let the endless shadow missions distract you from your true work—this primary job you were given to be right where you are today, swaddled by your Dad…your flailing appendages tight in his straightjacket of love…

m

Why the world needs you.

Why does the world need you?

I had a thought recently that seemed out of nowhere. It's not the kind of thing I normally come up with. But it was sitting there when I went to write at my usual time, and it sounded like something I've heard for a long time but just never picked it up to look at.

Nothing is fragile. And everything
is.

What kind of crazy talk is that? Not being one to let crazy deter me, I started to think about it. I've been discovering recently that there is nothing outside redemption. I've held the head knowledge of that a long time, but until this year, I've never experienced it and felt it like I have now. Nothing that can’t be
made new. All life is constantly being transformed, revised. Renewed.

I know that the great power holding everything together brings all the
world to life.

And yet it's also self-evident that everything we see and touch, everything we do and
feel and are, all of it is unstable, constantly changing, constantly moving
toward decay.

Nothing is fragile, but everything is.

Even as order and beauty and truth expand exponentially in every direction, the
vast, dark wilderness of chaos is expanding too. You only have to look to see that both these
things are undeniable.

But the question I'm left with as I sat down to write that day was Why does the world need you?

Because I write?

This is what we do, and it's not a small thing. If you think of words as bread that gives life, “As often as you do this,” we serve to remind by our remembering. What if every time we wrote, we remembered as well? We don't live on food alone, but by the words we’re
given, taking part in the transforming work of the truth. We get to make all things new. Redeemed. The words are God’s, the Word that speaks to life is Jesus. And we are the sharers of the Word.

Think of all language as a holy expression of meaning from nothing. A calling out from chaos to ordained order. With every word, the dark marks on paper build, until the whole world is made new. From that angle, anything but awe-struck gratitude feels insufficient.

This is the great work to which we’ve been called. And through the words, we are constantly communing.

So when I write with this as my reality, I naturally
start to speak God’s voice: “You are unconditionally, unfathomably loved. Just for who
you are today, who I made. Who you were and who you are becoming complete the
picture of the beauty you are. But today, you already are the greatest beauty
you could possibly conceive of.”

And that's a voice I love to hear.

So why does the world need you?

Well, do you believe this?

Sometimes I don’t believe it. Or maybe I just get distracted
from it. It’s so easy to forget. But the writing time is also space to wait and
trust. As often as I do this, I sit and the words come and I remember to consider
how big God is. How he knows everything. How nothing is too fragile and
everything is, but the source of all things is the source of my words too. And
I am one who knows and sees and so I must remember and serve the world and make
it new.

Why does the world need you?

Can the world need anything more than this? Do you know this?
And can you write?

How will they know?

Meditation

Psalm 139

 

“Even before there is a word on my tongue,

God, You know it all.”

 

Why don’t we know how beautiful we are to you?

You know our very thoughts.

Why don’t we know how beautiful we are?

You listen for our every sound.

Why don’t we know?

 

“You have enclosed me behind and before,

and laid your hand on me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

it is too high, I can’t attain it.”

 

What have you made in us?

What have you made?

We know such a small piece,

mostly hidden from us by pain,

by experiences that steal,

lost to us through negligence,

unintended neglect,

of our own and others’.

 

But “ …I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

…Your eyes saw my unformed substance

and in your book they were all written,

the days that were ordained for me,

when as yet there was not one of them.”

 

How I grasp to know the planning

to know the care that went into me,

and continually goes into me this day.

How I strive to know,

to put to words the truth of it,

the incontrovertible truth of what you wrought in me,

of what you fathomed and fashioned,

and left for me to fathom—

the intricacies, the organization, the complexity,

the grand infintessimal structures,

emotional expression, reception, and retention,

the gathering of characteristics, of capabilities, of soul,

of dust shaped differently than any other,

of the dust where 200 billion have trod.

 

“How precious are your thoughts to me, O God!

How vast is the sum of them!

If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.”

 

Your thoughts of us are like that.

Like the dust.

Your unquestioning love,

your inexhaustible forgiveness,

All you give is the dust,

as infinite as the light that falls from the stars.

 

I don’t know why you love us so much;

But I believe in your love.

I don’t know why you believe in us;

But I believe what you believe.

I don’t know why you made us;

But I believe in what you made.

I don’t know how you can know all you know of us—

what was, what is, and what someday is—

and keep loving, keep caring.

But I believe in what you know.

 

I see this

and believe

and know.

 

How will they see how beautiful they truly are?

How will they see?

How?

Interview with Wayne Jacobsen, publisher of The Shack

For over a year now, people have been asking me what I think of The Shack. Mostly, I'm fascinated by how it's gotten people talking—believers and regular folks, liberals and conservatives, long-time Christians and the disenfranchised. And it hasn't even gone to mass market paperback yet. As a result of it all, The Shack is the little, unassuming book that continues to sit atop the bestseller lists and create controversy.

No denying it’s a fairly unusual book. Even with all its visibility, it’s difficult to call it a sensation. At first glance, most everything about it—from the book’s style, to its author, to the way in which it was published—looks as common as dirt. Yet its unusual success story belies the unusualness beneath the pages. I admit, I was predisposed to give the book my usual surface treatment and be done with it. But as I started reading, I realized I couldn’t dismiss it so easily. In fact, I had to finish it, not just to see what all the fuss was about, but to experience something I rarely get to—a transporting experience. I read with increasing excitement and emotion. The possibility of something momentous seemed to be opening up between the lines.

So once I finished, I decided I needed to know the truth about all the rumors and accusations I’d heard, so I contacted Wayne Jacobsen, the man William P. Young claims largely inspired the book. Wayne’s own book, So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore is a fictional speculation about what would happen if a disillusioned pastor began getting advice from a modern-day apostle who knew the true Jesus. It skewers much of the same religious baggage Young deliberately sought to unburden himself of in his book, and targets readers Jacobsen calls the “missing middle” who exist between the mainstream Christian book houses and North American publishing. That's significant background because I'm convinced this is one of the biggest and most under-served readerships worldwide: the group I call the "post-religious." How to reach this elusive audience is the subject of much study and debate, but The Shack provides what I think is the best case study to date. Beginning outside both ABA and CBA and succeeding, at the very least, it testifies to the hunger for something beyond the typical Christian fare.

YWG: I understand The Shack underwent fairly extensive revisions and rewriting. Can you talk about that?

Wayne: Yeah. Paul (Young), Brad (Cummings) and I worked for about 16 months bringing out the more dramatic elements, the essence of the story, and cutting back on some of the more theologically loaded or simply curious elements. Through the restructuring, we wanted to be as faithful to Paul’s original idea as possible. The natural result of putting the story first was that the book catches the interest of a spiritually hungry reading public. By allowing the books’ statements about God to be experienced organically as story rather than as propositional truths or systematic theology, The Shack has resonated with a diverse audience, building bridges between all sorts of people.

YWG: What did you see in the original manuscript of The Shack that made you feel you should commit to 16 months of work to it?

Wayne: We actually did a podcast with Paul on this where I talked about that very thing.

YWG: I’ll include the link : "A Visit to The Shack." Was it ever difficult to remain committed to it during that time, especially given your many involvements?

Wayne: It wasn’t a commitment at the outset, but I felt he had a great book here and Paul wasn’t motivated to do the rewrites we thought needed to be done. At one point the three of us and Bobby Downes of Downes Brothers Entertainment sat down to storyboard the movie and suggest changes in the book. Even with that, Paul wanted me to help. Eventually I felt a nudge from the Spirit to do so and rewrote a chapter to show him what I was talking about. Then I did another, and then Brad got involved and it started to grab him, so we kept going. At one point each of us had written a version of the chapter with Sophie in the cave, and we just put them all together and kept the stuff we agreed on. A lot of it was like that. Paul was so generous with his gift, and I was using Paul’s words and working to keep it his vision. I’d never done that as an editor—I’d always just been a writer—so the commitment was more something that evolved relationally.

YWG: How many people in Christian publishing—authors, agents, and editors—have contacted you about working with Windblown?

Wayne: Oh, more than I can count now. Christian publishing people want to do it. The Shack is hitting the middle ground, but transcending it—church people, Jewish people, the spiritually curious, etc.—all having the conversations as it relates to their spiritual interests. It doesn’t necessarily identify that middle ground because it’s more diverse than that. It’s the reality of Paul’s pain and how he deals with it. It’s more an experience not a theology thing. Jesus says, “My sheep know my voice and they won’t follow a stranger.” We don’t have to take on the mentality of gatekeepers. The push-back from the religious Taliban is that they’re making it about “them and us”–like there’s those who are in and those who are out. But that isn’t what Jesus came to do. Jesus came to serve, not to be served

YWG: One of the most exciting things about The Shack to me is that it provides hope to so many people who haven’t been served in the Christian mainstream for whatever reason. This “spiritually interested”  audience is not only receptive, but responding to the truth that God is loving and boldly relational. And the implications—of the message of the book, and the reception it's received—is that He’s forceful in breaking down the very walls the religious establishment wants to build in their preference for safe, non-confrontational literature. I think there’s much to be said about how Jesus used some parables that were offensive to the religious establishment he was denouncing.

Wayne: People are definitely trying to defame and marginalize the message. This argument about feminizing God, for instance. The book explains very clearly that God shows up as a black woman because that’s the image that puts Mack at ease. God could have shown up as whatever he wanted, but the people who say he can’t be a black woman don’t seem to accept that. There are also some people saying it’s promoting universalism, that all paths lead to God. Even though Jesus says very clearly and repeatedly that he’s the only way, the detractors want to insist that Paul really meant something else.

For too long there’s been a fear of offending the establishment. Publishing people don’t love the books they’re publishing. Our publishing The Shack was never about being commercial or pleasing people. It was meant to be honest and truthful, to find passionate readers who were looking for this. We want to do books that resonate with people’s hearts. It was never intended to be the full orthodoxy of the gospel, whatever we may have believed that to mean.

YWG: That's a really important point. When people talk about "biblical orthodoxy" what they're really talking about is a bunch of different historical traditions of interpretation of a bunch of theological concepts that really have very little to do with the uninterpreted Bible. The concept is deceptive and notoriously divisive in the ways it's applied. And I guess when you put words in God’s mouth and have him saying things that sound a little too out of the box…

Wayne: You get whacked! Yeah. People say they believe in things all the time, but they really don’t. Some Christians don’t believe in the Incarnation—the in-dwelling spirit of God in everyone who believes. And it isn’t that they don’t want to believe, they’ve just never experienced it. And I think it’s sad that so many can’t allow themselves to have that experience. But those who want to explore that and experience it shouldn’t be judged for it.

YWG: Well said. It seems to me a big difference between those who embrace The Shack and those who denounce it are divided between understanding faith as an intellectual construct based in the interpretation of theological concepts, and faith as an experience of these things–one is mental, the other physical. And certainly we need a balance there, but how can faith be experienced if the familiar barriers of judgment and condemnation are always there? Do you think this is why there are so many disillusioned Christians and “spiritually interested” folks not finding much in mainstream Christian publishing?

Wayne: I’m sure that’s part of it. There are many reasons. Publishing is slow, expensive, and risky. But it’s pretty difficult to keep true to the edge–of actually living out these theological concepts–while you’re worried about offending the mainstream.

YWG: Can you talk about the way forward for Windblown Media?

Wayne: We’re currently contracted with Hachette to do 4-6 books a year, fiction or non. And we don’t have to do any if we don’t want. That lasts 5 years and then we’ll see where we stand. But we’re not taking manuscripts (see specifics here) and we don’t have a staff. We’re beholden to no one but God. No employees. No sales quotas. No requirement to pay back anyone.

YWG: Wow. Pretty cool situation. Sounds like the way to change CBA.

Wayne: Well I don’t know about that, but we’re going to try to have fun.

YWG: Thanks, Wayne. And thanks for inviting so much challenging discussion through this book. I know I'm not alone in just being grateful for the opportunity to finally explore this stuff in a larger way.

The New Bible: The Books of The Bible

There are many parts of my position as acquisitions editor at WaterBrook that are really cool. One of those things is certainly discussing ideas that have significant potential for publication. The exchange of intellectual capital, so to speak, is invigorating and always interesting. I’m truly amazed at the breadth of skill, talent, and experience of the people I get to call friends. 

But one of the coolest perks is all the free books.

When Mike Morrell of the counter-cultural Christian web journal The Ooze asked me to take part in the reviewing service for their site, I was more than happy to accept. I haven’t had time to write about any of the books—and I don’t really have time now—but one new arrival deserves a special mention.

The Books of the Bible is the new much-anticipated Bible project from International Bible Society and it’s everything we’ve been hoping for from the old bee-eye-bee-el-ee all along. No more artificial divisions and confusing textual structures. Gone are the arbitrary numbers and chapters, the text notes and superscript code language, replaced by the simple, straight-forward story of God and his creation.

Going through Luke-Acts, I kept thinking, Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? It’s truly a delight to read and I’ve made significant headway in my goal to finish reading the entire Bible this year already. If you don’t think it matters, that you’ve always read the Bible as segments of broken statements and disconnected phrases, I’d challenge you to go find one of these inexpensive new Bibles at your local bookstore. Someone’s probably already said it, but this new version of the TNIV brings the reading experience back to the foundational texts—it’s the Bible without the babble.

It changes the order of the books to be more logical and follow the intent of the original books, shedding new light on the history and meaning behind the well-known events. It’s broadens your perspective to include the particular distinctiveness of the authors’ voices and historical context, but also repairs misunderstandings about certain books’ type of writing, like James, primarily a book of wisdom writing like Proverbs rather than a letter like Romans. This creates a freedom to read the books in a new understanding of their theological traditions as well, which will be a completely new experience for most Christians.

Imagine if the Bible started to really come alive.

Now, of course, this is a very controversial Bible as well. Google it. Some Christians aren’t happy about it, and in fact rumors are IBS wasn’t all in on the concept either. But progress can’t be stopped. I’ve written about another controversial Bible here before—the Inductive New American Standard. And in fact, I still prefer that translation. If I could blend the two, I’d probably run off and join a monastery, so God’s preserving my family by keeping that from me. But after a couple weeks reading through this new Bible, I think I’ll probably still be talking about this. It’s that cool.

So check it out. And get into the real meaningfulness of "the word."