We’re starting something fun and we’d like to invite you to participate. We’d like to post photos of people reading Zondervan Bibles and books, listening to Zondervan audios, or viewing Zondervan videos in as many different venues as possible. For example, when you visit the Eiffel Tower, stand in front of it holding a Zondervan book so the cover is visible and take a photo of yourself (make sure the cover of the book is visible). Or snap a shot of yourself sitting on a park bench viewing a Zondervan video on your portable DVD player. You get the idea. Then send it attached to an email to email@example.com. Include with it your name (first name only is fine if you prefer), date and location of the photo, and title of the book, Bible, audio, or video. As we review them, we’ll post photos to our new Flickr site, http://www.flickr.com/photos/zondervan. (Once received, the photos become the property of Zondervan. By sending us your photos, you agree to allowing Zondervan to post them online and that they become the property of Zondervan.) Where in the world do you read Zondervan?
From Zondervan’s UK Sales and Marketing Manager, Ian Matthews:
On Tuesday, I go off on tour with Rob Bell on the "Calling All Peacemakers" tour. The first stop is in Belfast on Tuesday at the Spires Conference Centre, followed by Dublin on Thursday (14th). We then fly back to the UK, with Manchester on the 15th — I then disappear off to Grand Rapids (Michigan, in the States) for a few days — before two London dates on the 19th and 22nd, Southampton on the 25th, Cardiff on the 26th, Wolverhampton is the 28th, Glasgow the 30th and finally Cambridge on the 1st July. Whew!
It’s exciting — we’ve exceeded ticket sales already on the first half of the tour, and the second half looks like it will follow suit.
So … with this in mind I do plan to keep blogging during the tour giving a ‘backstage’ view of the events.
See you soon!
I just received word that The Bible Experience New Testament has been named Audio Book of the Year—the most prestigious award for excellence in audio books—by the Audio Publishers Association (APA). This is a secular organization, mind you, naming a Bible as the top audio book of 2007.
An award like this will undoubtedly encourage people who may have never considered reading the Bible to listen to God’s word. And we know God’s Word does not return void (Isaiah 55:11)!
In case you haven’t heard it yet, I invite you to listen to a sample or two:
Christianity, God, The Bible Experience, Audio Book of the Year, Zondervan, Bible
Zondervan author Dr. Benjamin Carson, director of the division of pediatric neurosurgery and a professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery, and pediatrics at John Hopkins Medical Institutions, will be honored as the 2007 Ford Freedom Award Scholar at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History in Detroit on Tuesday, May 22.
The prestigious Ford Freedom Awards were created by the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and Ford Motor Company in 1999. The program celebrates and recognizes African Americans whose contributions and sacrifices have paved the way for important and lasting changes in society.
Past Ford Freedom Award Scholars include actor Morgan Freeman (2006), jazz-pop great Al Jarreau (2005), entertainer Bill Cosby (2004), NASA astronaut Dr. Mae C. Jemison (2003), and others.
As a bestselling author, Dr. Carson has written several books including Think Big and Gifted Hands. Dr. Carson regularly shares his true, motivational story of how he rose from the troubled son of a single mother in inner-city Detroit to the heights of the medical profession to audiences of inner city children and corporate executives alike.
[Guest commentary by Jonalyn Fincher, author of Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home]
God thought planet Earth needed a woman, not to do the laundry or to give Adam another dependent, but because all his creation needed a female. Both men and women are image bearers, two-ways of being human. And it was God’s idea to have us work together. God didn’t think women were more suited for Venus or men for Mars. He made us both for this planet.
Every year we get a chance to celebrate women who mothered us. We honor them because they’re smaller pictures of our God, because our mothers, like our fathers, tell us more about God.
God told Isaiah that his love for Israel could be compared to the love of a mother. God said he nursed and comforted Israel like a mother comforts her child (Isaiah 66:9-13). God talks about writhing with labor pains for Israel (Isaiah 42:14). God was not and is not ashamed of being identified with femininity. Even in the stereotypical "womanly" tasks of laundry, home-making, cooking and sheltering, God is the first one we find doing each of these. God was the first tailor, clothing Adam and Eve with skins. God was the first to clean up the earth with water. God makes earth fit for life, giving water to every beast of the field, providing food in due season (Ps. 104: 10-13 and 27-28). God is a great housekeeper. You could even say God does interior decorating, spreading out the heavens like a tent, covering the deeps with water as with a garment (Ps 104: 2 and 6).
There are hundreds of ways mothers show the world more of what God is like. Not only in the things mothers do, but in the very fact of them being female. It doesn’t matter if our mothers are pretty or frumpy, exhausted or peppy, every mother reveals something about God.
Much like Dorothy with her ruby slippers, sometimes mothers don’t realize the gift they own. Maybe they go through life gathering friends for their journey, fearing lions, tigers and bears, hoping they don’t get captured by the Wicked Witch, but always follow-follow-following their yellow brick road. Maybe someone will tell them about that glimmering gift they’ve had all along, their unique capacity as women.
Mothers everywhere need to know that their femininity is more significant and necessary in this world than their completed "to-do" list. Instead of all the things our mothers have done for us, perhaps this year we can thank them for who they are as women, for being living cameos of our God.
[Guest commentary by Jonalyn Fincher, author of Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home]
Before Ruby Slippers was published, I remember how skeptical people were about my writing project. I’d hear things like, "Wow! You’re writing about the woman’s soul?" I’d see a doubtful glance at my youthfulness and then a slow smirk, "Good luck!" Some would tease, "Nice, small project!" The more outspoken gave unsolicited pointers, "Women are emotional, make sure you put that in your book." Others would counter my enthusiasm with, "I’d be very interested to see what you find." Some would just state that women are complicated and mysterious and change the subject.
Ruby Slippers is now out there, living, moving, and having its being. While the comments keep coming to my inbox, they’ve changed their tune. Recently a friend from seminary days now working as a church leader called. She told me that she was planning to buy her mother and mother-in-law a copy of Ruby Slippers for Mother’s Day. I wanted to know why.
"It’s got a great cover!" she said laughing. "But, really, your book is going to give both my moms a new perspective into their womanhood. For their generation this is not a very familiar topic. They haven’t thought a lot about what it means to be a woman. You’ve respected femininity here, giving it new life, breathing purpose, value and dignity into something that the church doesn’t know what to do with. You’ve helped women see they don’t have to be smashed into one place. They can have full life, now. I just can’t wait to hear what they think, to talk with them after they read it."
Last week I got an email from a middle-aged woman who told me that Ruby Slippers had given her this indescribable feeling. "There is just no way to describe the feelings of HOPE that I feel about the SOULS of Women. It seems, with your words, you have reached right in to touch the very SOUL of me…and reminded me that inherently, I am Pure, Whole, Light & Life……JUST AS IS."
I sat at my desk amazed at her words. This smirked-over manuscript was bringing Light and Life. Those two pregnant words are the things so many women think they’ll find in a romance or in Wicca or boutique spirituality or from Oprah. They are the two things Christ came to give. He gives abundant life to women, now. He brings light to women, today. God finds us valuable even as fallen women.
When God chose to curse woman in Eden, he treated her as if she was responsible. When God chose to redeem the earth, he dignified Mary as if she, though no older than a seventh grader, was capable of bearing God in her womb. There’s something to women that goes deeper than the typical labels (beautiful, romantic, helper, better-half, weaker sex, baby-machine). God thought Woman offered more than a hot body or a romantic sensibility to planet Earth. As it turns out, women, like men, are made in God’s image, with all the rights and privileges thereof.
That means that our mothers are image-bearers of God, and that alone, regardless of their good or bad mothering, is worth honoring.
Robert E. Webber, a theologian well-known for his work on worship and the early church, died of pancreatic cancer April 27 at his home in Sawyer, Mich. At the time of his death, Bob was the William R. and Geraldyn B. Myers professor ministry at Northern Seminary in Lombard, Ill. He was also the president of the Institute for Worship Studies in Jacksonville, Florida, and professor of theology emeritus at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois.
Paul Engle, Zondervan executive editor and associate publisher, says, "We at Zondervan feel privileged to have worked with Bob on Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches, what ended up being the last book of his released while he was still alive. Bob was a delight to work with on a project in which he pulled together a diversity of young leaders in the emerging church. To the end he remained conversant with some of the twists and turns of the emerging church and was able to connect with leaders many years his junior. It was fun to sketch out the vision for the book with him in a restaurant in Los Angeles on a warm spring day and then over many months exchange emails and phone calls until the final product was given birth in February of 2007.
"Bob’s concluding assessment of the emerging church at the end of Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches was vintage work that reveals his wisdom and warm Christian faith. His final words of the book say, ‘rather than perpetuate the divisions that exist between the traditionalists, the pragmatists, and the emergents, the best we can all do is to join the conversation and learn from each other, affirming that we all stand in the historic faith as we seek to understand it and apply it to the new world in which we minister. Who knows where that might take us?’"
Zondervan will pay tribute to Bob at Emergence 2007: Seattle (June 1-2), the first of three events to open to regional audiences the discussion started in Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches.
[The Zondervan Blog interviews Rich Wagner, author of The Myth of Happiness: Discovering a Joy You Never Thought Possible]
Rich Wagner is the author of The Myth of Happiness and The Gospel Unplugged. He’s also author of 3 For Dummies books, written with the goal of making biblical truth easily accessible for modern-day readers. These books include Christianity For Dummies, C.S. Lewis & Narnia For Dummies, and Christian Prayer For Dummies. Rich lives in New England with his wife and three boys. He can be found online at www.digitalwalk.net.
Q: Why do so many Christians fail to experience the joy promised in the Bible?
A: I’m convinced it’s because we’re confused by what biblical joy is and how it can be fully experienced in our lives. All too often, joy is simply another word for happiness. We treat this spiritual gift like cotton candy — sugary on the outside with no substance inside. But, as a result, we’ve become a church of happy Christians who look good on Sunday morning, but live the rest of the week strapped to rollercoasters, rising and falling based on situations in our lives. In the end, we find ourselves pursuing happiness instead of joy.
Q: What’s the difference between the two?
A: On the surface, joy and happiness look almost identical. But as you dive deeper, the two often reveal themselves as opposites. Happiness is all about the here and now, but biblical joy is rooted in eternity. Happiness depends on circumstances. Joy is independent of anything that happens to me. Happiness draws me inward, while joy turns me outward to God and others. Happiness seeks temporary peace with myself, but joy embraces lasting peace with Jesus Christ. Pain kills happiness, but joy soothes it. That’s why, in pursuing happiness, we easily get defensive and bent on protecting the things in our lives that makes us happy. Biblical joy, by contrast, is open to God’s will, even when he takes us down unhappy roads and gloomy alleyways.
Q: James 1:2 tells believers to "count it as joy" when we face hard times. Why do we have such a hard time living this out?
A: When we face a crisis, it’s easy for us to look upon joy much like Indiana Jones would. It’s a smirk in the face of disaster. A gritty determination to persevere no matter the odds. Donning a fedora and a leather jacket, we memorize James 1:2 and become bent on being joyful in a crisis. Then, in true Indiana Jones fashion, when the tidal wave comes our way, we grab a life raft and attempt to ride out the storm. The fundamental problem with this view of joy, however, is that it becomes something attained by willpower alone. We stay afloat for awhile, but eventually sink. As I explain in the book, we choose joy, not will it.
Q: Can joy transform our Christian walk?
A: Absolutely. Happiness is available to anyone, but joy is distinctly Christian. It’s dynamic proof of our future hope as believers and our greatest distinguisher to a cynical world held hostage by life’s circumstances. Once we begin to choose this spiritual gift, then we can jump off our rollercoasters and experience the freedom and transformation that Christ so clearly promises us.
[Guest commentary by Jonalyn Fincher, author of Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home]
"It was an attack on women first," Essence Carson, team captain of the Rutgers University women’s basketball team said. The focus on shock jock Don Imus’ words has been primarily racial. I’d like to share my emotional reaction as one woman watching this team of women warriors.
Both body and soul make a woman. Don Imus’ comment cut down both.
I have a lot of hair, it’s full, it’s got lots of body and it’s eye-catching. Most of my childhood I wore it back. One morning when I was 12 I decided to wear it down. I walked into my junior high Homeroom and felt eyes on me. I lowered my gaze, a bit afraid to meet their glances, taking my seat quietly. Then one boy laughed, pointed and said, “What a fro.”
He said it loudly and publicly. I tried to ignore it, but I instantly knew that my hair made me unappealing, coarse, unfeminine. It wasn’t just my appearance he was attacking. It was the person who owned the body. It was me. I had chosen to wear my hair down. I had been vulnerable.
The Rutgers women were even less at fault than I. They entered athletics for the express purpose of using their bodies in a sport. They were not in the lime-light to share hair tip secrets or with an expectation of being fawned over. Their appearances as they play their sport, should have been judged by the way they integrated their bodies into their work. And for the record, their bodies were lovely examples of how women work and play well.
To label their hair unattractive is like attacking a pregnant woman for sweating. It’s to poke at the soft-underbelly of women in sports, to ridicule their willingness look like real athletes. Part of real life sports is to pant, to look sweaty, flushed, disheveled with clothes-wrinkled, nose-flaring, feet-straining, abs quivering. And none of these make a woman unfeminine. If they do, something is wrong with our definition of womanhood. This definition can’t even include a woman giving birth. Many commercials make sporty women look sexy, but most female athletes will tell you that sexiness is not their priority. Imus conflated these women’s sex appeal with their gender, basically saying that if their hair wasn’t smoothly sculpted, curled and conditioned to his satisfaction, they were grossly unappealing.
When my hair was attacked it changed something in me. I realized that I would be judged by things I could not change. I began to believe that “real” women didn’t have hair like my hair, or if they did they never wore it down and au naturel. It didn’t matter that the belief was a lie. I incorporated it into my worldview.
Unsolicited by me, I had attracted judgment. I assumed that anytime I made an appearance I was participating in a ranking contest. I didn’t want to impress that junior high guy anymore than the Rutgers women’s basketball team want to impress Don Imus. But the self-appointed judges often claim that lofty ground. I felt the pressure to impress them. The publicity of the comment made it a label I couldn’t easily peel off. Where I had tried to be open and vulnerability I was publicly shamed.
He named me with the arrogance of any person who takes dominion over another human being. He named me as the girl with the fro and it stuck there for no other reason than he picked apart a real aspect of my body.
I remember the boy’s name, both first and last. As our ten year high school reunion is coming up I actually grimaced when I saw it on the roster, even though I believe I’ve forgiven him. From that day forward, I chose to tie back all my curls, pinning the wayward ones, keeping all my hair tucked tightly away from my face. For ten years I silenced a part of me that was unique.
Perhaps it seems a small wound, but it still smarts when the same word is pulled out. Even a few months ago after a day at Laguna Beach when my hair was literally wind blown, a friend with amazingly straight hair told me, “Wow! What a fro, Jonalyn!"
Her words lingered in my mind, though I didn’t realize why at first. Her word reached into my past, uncorking an old memory. It’s a memory I need to keep forgiving. It’s also a memory that’s made me wonder about what makes a woman feminine? It’s certainly more than her hair, but it isn’t less.
I don’t envy the work before the Rutgers women. They modeled to the world that they want to forgive Imus. I admire them for admitting it will take time. I think they will be forgiving Imus for years to come.
They will always think twice about their hair and how it connects with their womanhood. His words will inform how they look at their femininity, their value, their uniqueness. I noticed in their two hour meeting with Imus that most straightened their hair. How many of them were thinking of his “nappy-headed” comment as they got ready? How many times did they fuss over about how they should wear their hair?
And I haven’t even begun to touch on how his idea of them as “hoes” or whores must have cut into their integrity, their sacrificial work as a team and their proven virtue as women who can forgive. They have impressed me with their willingness to, as Mark Twain said, lend their fragrance on the heel that crushed them.
On a smaller scale, I will have to make my own decision for my 10 year high school reunion this summer. Will I straighten my hair for the occasion? Or, will I find the courage to forgive, once again?
We attended an Easter sunrise service on a day the sun did not rise, not noticeably anyway. Instead, at 6 am snow was falling heavily from a dark gray sky. Some friends with property nearby have a tradition of erecting a cross on a hill and inviting others to trudge up it for an early morning service. There were 40 of us in all, 17 kids and 23 adults, as well as a few dogs chasing each other and a corral full of curious horses next door. Three of us couldn’t easily trudge: a teenager with a rare genetic disorder that has damaged his motor nerves, a woman with muscular dystrophy, and me in a neck brace that makes it difficult to look down and negotiate snow-covered fields. Someone brought a Hummer, though, which transported its disabled cargo straight up the white hillside, just as they show in the television ads.
“It’s like the witch in Narnia who makes it always winter,” one of the kids remarked as we stood shivering; last year’s service called for shirt sleeves. A coating of powder soon covered hats and parkas and the xeroxed song sheets we were holding. I had just returned from a trip to Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina, where every bush and tree was ablaze with color, but on this day in Colorado, Spring seemed very far away.
I’ve thought of that scene often this week, the week that follows Easter, a day that in some ways changed everything and in some ways not. “It’s Friday but Sunday’s comin’!” Tony Campolo famously preaches. Yes, but after Sunday had come and gone, some of the disciples still doubted, the Roman Empire rolled on oppressively, and Jews and Gentiles alike continued to live in poverty and die. Easter is a marker we desperately need, a promise of a world aborning and not dying—and yet how hard that vision is to sustain.
I know, you just wondered how I was recovering, and here I go waxing philosophical. There is a connection, I promise. For two weeks after the accident I walked around in a “daze of grace,” looking at the sky, trees, grass, my wife, my friends, with newly washed eyes. Life holds surprises around every corner, fresh promptings to gratitude and joy.
Then the sleepless nights in a neck brace began to take their toll; woodpeckers hammered holes in the west wall of our house; in an electronic conspiracy the television, microwave, and refrigerator all stopped working. Life also grinds you down.
I am trying to keep before me the crystalline vision I had while lying strapped to a backboard for seven hours. What we spend so much time and energy on (finances, image, achievement) matters so little when you face the very real possibility of imminent death. What matters reduces down to a few basic questions. Who do I love? Who will I miss? How have I spent my life? Am I ready for what’s next? So, how do I keep those questions in the forefront as I come to my desk each day and face piles of paper and blinking electronic messages? How do we sustain the vision of Easter on the other 364 days a year?
I have learned how thin is the thread that separates life from non-life, and how comforting is the knowledge that I am not alone on this journey. I have learned these things in a way that I doubt I will ever forget. I thank all of you who have prayed and sent messages of encouragement.
The 10-day trip to the Southeast was something of an experiment, and mostly it went well. Standing up and speaking for three hours straight is not a good idea, I found, and the twists and turns of greeting people and signing books creates a strain. I spoke at the University of Mobile and at the Bible College where Janet and I met (on the topic, “What I Wish I’d Known as a Student Here”), and Janet and I both got to visit our families. Then, in an act of pure grace, an angelic reader managed to get us tickets to opening day at the Masters. Funny how walking around a beautiful golf course for eight hours is suddenly tolerable, especially when it’s the fabled Masters. One long hole, where we hung out for the better part of an hour, is lined with 1600 azalea bushes.
I have an appointment with the neurosurgeon on April 30, at which time I’ll learn if I need surgery on the discs and ligaments. If all goes well I should start weaning myself away from the neck brace too. Each day I’m feeling less disabled and more normal. I exercise by walking and using a reclining bicycle in the fitness club.
Janet has made enormous adjustments in her schedule, taking on the roles of personal chauffeur and caregiver. She tackles necessary tasks—such as climbing a high ladder to fill woodpecker holes and shoveling the drainage ditch beside our dirt driveway—with energy and a minimum of complaint. It’s not easy for me to stand by and watch her climb on the roof to assess the damage a raccoon just did to our eaves in search of a warm home, or to let her drag both of our suitcases through the airport lines. All in all, though, our marriage has flourished. We’re grateful for each other, and for the prospect of more life together.
My mind goes back once again to that scene early Easter Sunday as our motley crew of crippled and healthy alike huddled together in the snow listening to familiar passages about the shock of resurrection, a shock that produced both fear and joy. An Easter egg hunt awaited the kids; some of the parents were no doubt thinking about their contributions to the brunch. Had they brought enough? Did they remember serving implements? And afterwards, would their car make it down the slippery, curving driveway?
Yet even as we stood there, singing songs and reading from the Gospels, snow worked its magic. Mud-splashed cars, Ponderosa pine trees, rocks in the field, a wooden fence, even the cross—for a window in time, the snow covered every imperfection, and all glistened white.