Writer’s block

Most writers experience writer’s block–an internal resistance to starting writing. The first task of the writer is overcoming this familiar adversary. In general, the more you overcome writer’s block the easier it is next time.

It’s always a comfort to know that famous writers suffer from this malady. In the video below, Roald Dahl explains some of his procrastination methods.

 

What do you do to postpone starting to write?

How do you overcome writer’s block?

Judging a book by its cover

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my favorite award-winning design from David Fassett

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You’ve heard the old saying, “Never judge a book by its cover.” There’s some truth in the adage that sometimes an incredible story lurks behind a boring cover.

At the same time, it’s also true that we often underestimate the ways that design elements contribute to the reading experience. I have learned that the experience of reading a manuscript is totally different from reading a typeset galley.

3737405908.jpgManuscripts offer little in the way of visual clues to the reader. There’s not a lot of white space. Sometimes the best manuscript can feel a little bit more like a term paper than a best-seller.

Book covers offer a visual piece of art that ties together core concepts of the book and also communicates them non-verbally to the buyer. We’re fortunate to have an exceptionally talented art director at IVP.
David Fassett won four ECPA Top Shelf Book Cover Awards this year! I’m especially gratified that three of them awards went for books in the Academic imprint.

IVP Academic books always feature excellent cover designs.

 

 

 

 

10 helpful books about depression, suicide, and suffering

The shortening days of late Autumn make it easy to pause and think of sadness, suffering, and despair. If you’re looking for resources to help you care for yourself or loved one, consider these books:

  1. Kathryn Greene-McCreight, Darkness is my Only Companion 
  2. Richard Winter, When Life Goes Dark
  3. Kelly Kapic, Embodied Hope
  4. Amy Simpson, Troubled Minds.
  5. Matthew Stanford, Grace for the Afflicted.
  6. Dwight Carlson, Why Do Christians Shoot their Wounded?
  7. Al Hsu, Grieving a Suicide
  8. Richard Rice, Suffering and the Search for Meaning
  9. Brian Hagg Gregg, What Does the Bible Say About Suffering?

Enter any book recommendations you have in the comments and I’ll add them to this list!

What is an Evangelical?

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More than twenty years (1996) ago a group of reformed evangelicals gathered in Cambridge, MA and there disseminated a call to reformation among evangelical Christians.

The group is known as the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals and represents that part of evangelicalism that is united around a reformed confessional identity, typically expressed in the Westminster Standards–the doctrinal basis of denominations like the Presbyterian Church in America, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the denomination in which I worship, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

That call for reformation, sadly, has largely gone unheeded even among some of the denominations from which the signatories hailed, which has–at least in part–contributed to the continued decline of evangelicalism into something that has come to be associated (perhaps unfairly) with a particular political outlook and, in addition, with all sorts of negative associations.

The current spate of worthwhile discussions about evangelical identity gives us a chance to revisit some of the core affirmations found in that part of evangelicalism that is descended from the magisterial reformers, especially Calvin.

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IVP Academic (2017)

As an aside, similar projects have been undertaken in others parts of evangelicalism.

One worthy project is Chris Gehrz and Mark Pattie’s recent book The Pietist Option.  Pietism was, in some ways, an impulse to recapture the heart of the Christian faith.

In the aftermath of the reformation it became apparent that the diversity of views that had previously existed–and there had been held in check–within in the structure of the Roman Catholic Church would now have room to explore their distinctive approaches to theology.

Over time some Christians believed that while theological debate was important, it had arguably robbed the faith of its heart for Christ. Pietism attempted to correct that.

Ironically, German Pietism came to birth a generation of scholars whose focus on the heart and on Christ as center would, in turn, lead to a renunciation of some of the fundamental beliefs of the Christian faith (in the 19th Century).

One lesson we may take from these examples is that in every generation we face new temptations that have the potential to derail our faith. Arguably what makes me a “conservative” or “traditionalist” is my impulse to return again to “the old paths” and to attempt to walk in them (see Jeremiah 6:16).

When I say that I am an evangelical here’s what I mean:

  1. Rooted in the Reformation
  2. Centered on the Bible
  3. Centered upon Christ
  4. Dependent upon divine grace
  5. Enlivened by living faith
  6. Pursuing God’s glory in all things

This outline reveals my identity as a reformed evangelical. Evangelicalism is at its best when its rooted in a Protestant tradition bigger than itself. Arguably where evangelicalism has become diminished it is because it has cut itself off from a broader tradition and created a ghetto.

By this I don’t meant to suggest that evangelicals must be members of the mainline denominations. I think the time for such a strategy is now over. There are, however, plenty of ways in which to faithfully live out a vision of the Christian life connected by covenant to God and other another outside of these denominations.

In the coming weeks we’ll be taking a look at each of these distinctives with the hope of pulling them together to show that what is often critiqued as evangelicalism is actually a counterfeit.

How do you define the term “evangelical”?

 

 

The white hot anger of a spurned lover

512S41Lw7tL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_There are legitimate reasons to question evangelical identity just now. For many people, myself included, it’s difficult to fathom voting for Donald Trump in such an alarming proportion.

Two recent books attempt to do evaluate evangelical identity in relationship with contemporary culture. One in the first person as a memoir and the other in a collection of essays.

In what is becoming something of a bromide for evangelicalism’s cultured despisers David Gushee–newly installed president of the American Academy of Religion–proclaimed last week that support for Donald Trump,  “…has shattered whatever survives of the witness of white evangelicals in American culture” (Publisher’s Weekly, November 22, 2017). Whether our witness is shattered or simply impaired I’ll let you decide.

This from the author of the recently-released Still Christian: Following Jesus Out of American Evangelicalism (Westminster/John Knox) which chronicles his principled departure from evangelicalism and which takes aim at those who disagree with him in regard to theological concerns, especially matters of sexuality.

These moves are the latest iterations of Gushee’s confrontation with evangelicalism, which has some of the characteristics of the white hot anger of a spurned lover about it.

Heresies left are hated most.

 

 

 

 

 

The business of books?

Great books change lives. It’s been true in my own life—I can name titles, when they crossed my path, and the difference they made. I know you can too.

Classics like Mere Christianity, The Pilgrim’s Progress, and The Institutes of the Christian Religion. Newer books like The Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter franchise, or The New Jim Crow. 

My blog is shifting direction to focus on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing books.

This is a place for me to write about “the business of books.”

This phrase is a double entendre–it has a double meaning.

On the one hand…

The business of books is transformation. Books let us step into another world. They allow us to see life through another’s eyes. They help us to understand things about ourselves that we otherwise might never know.

One the other…

The thing is, books can’t change lives, shape thought, bring hope, or advance important conversations unless they have an audience. Thoughtful books deserve to be read and shared—it’s why they were written.

In order for great books to go about the business of transformation, they must be supported and advanced by the business of publishing, which it the business of books in a second sense.

This is place for us to talk both about the ideas behind books and the business of connecting books to their audiences.

I hope you’ll enjoy.

Despicable Don and me

Thoughtful writers across the political spectrum have decried the fact that Donald Trump received 80+% of the white American evangelical vote.

They’re mad.

They want to write off evangelicalism as provincial, out-dated, hateful, even dangerous. The truth is that I’m getting a little tired of it. 

Why?

I’m a white, heterosexual, suburban, evangelical male who didn’t vote for Donald Trump.  

I lived in Pennsylvania and was registered as a Republican, and didn’t vote for Donald Trump.

I voted for Hillary Clinton.

I voted for her not because I like her, not because they weren’t other candidates on the ballot. I voted for her because (1) I couldn’t vote for Donald Trump, and (2) I couldn’t throw my vote away on a third party candidate.

Just for the record, I voted for Barack Obama in 2008. I actually like John McCain, but I felt it was irresponsible pandering to have someone like Sarah Palin on the ticket, even as a Vice President. I could not vote for a candidate I respect with the possibility of an outrageously unqualified candidate sitting in the number two seat. If that’s true for the Vice Presidency, how much more is it true for the Presidency itself.

I cast a ballot in 2012, but I didn’t cast a vote. Do not and did not support the Obama administration’s aggressive actions on LGBT-issues and on abortion. By 2012, I could not in conscience vote him. It also seemed irresponsible to vote for Mitt Romney, a man married to the very business interests that had almost collapsed the global economy in 2007. So I declined to vote, casting votes on down-ticket candidates but not selecting a presidential candidate.

I don’t claim that my approach to this issue is without fault. I don’t claim that there aren’t other political calculations to be considered. All I claim is that this approach made the most sense to me.

There reaches a point when one begins to whether the shouting down of evangelicalism because of its endorsement of Donald Trump is really about its endorsement of Donald Trump.

We’re at that point right now.

It’s plausible that what is masquerading as stinging criticism of evangelical complicity in the election of a candidate that James K A Smith has called a “man child” is actually about a lot more than one candidate.

The question is, what’s beneath it?

 

You’re not original and it’s okay

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No one expects you to do something so original, so unique, so off the wall that it has never been conceived of before. In fact, if you do that, it’s unlikely you will find the support you need to do much of anything with your idea.

Your ideas have all been stolen already.

So, now you can work to merely make things that are remarkable, delightful and important. You can focus on connection, on making a difference, on building whole solutions that matter.”

–Seth Godin [link]

Why have the national anthem at sports events?

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The stand at Gosport Borough F.C., Privett Park, Gosport

My hometown soccer team played its games in a public park.

That’s right.

Gosport Borough F.C.–the semi-professional soccer team where I grew up–played home games in a fairly humble stadium in the midst of a public park.

The main stand is smaller than those in many high school stadiums in this country.

And when the match starts, there’s no national anthem. No flags flutter atop large posts. There are no fly-bys or color guards.

The match simply starts with a whistle and a cheer. The British national anthem is something that’s sung

_98226326_penceVice President Mike Pence’s counter-protest, his leaving a football game upon beholding players taking a knee during the national anthem, has raised this issue to the surface once more.

According to reports, it seemed the Veep flew to Indianapolis solely for the chance to protest, well, a protest.  

Reading coverage of the back-and-forth between NFL players, owners, politicians, and talking heads made me curious as to the disconnect.

Why is the national anthem such a big deal at sporting events in the United States?