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Results matching “sanctitainment” from Strangely Dim

May 16, 2011

There's Good New . . . And There's Bad New

It's taken me five years to finally accept that I hate being new.

It's disappointing, really, because I've always considered myself a fan of all things new. I like to learn new things. I like to meet new people. I like to experience new places. I like to try new food. I like to buy new clothes. But somewhere along the way (about the time we moved from small-town Ohio to fast-paced suburban Chicago without the benefit of knowing or being known by anyone), I realized that consuming something new is not the same thing as being something new.

Consuming I enjoy.  Being . . . not so much.

For the last week I've written and rewritten this, my inaugural Strangely Dim post, anxious to come up with the right mix of intelligence and charm, profundity and wit, strangeness and dimness (and apparently edifitainment and sanctitainment) for which my counterparts have become well known. 

But in my quest to strike the perfect balance, I've been reminded once again of my first days in a new city and my first days here at IVP, and the angst, uncertainty and insecurity that comes with trying to find your place in an environment whose edges you're still trying to define.

So I'll say it again: I hate being new. The stress of it all, I've learned, can manifest itself in the oddest of ways -- one of which, for me, was a matter of logistics.

A little known fact about the inner trappings here at IVP: we have fourteen printers in eight different locations. When I started here a little less than a year ago, I'd pull up the list of printers on my screen and scroll over their names -- names like Production Printer, Production Color Printer, Production Color Copier, Production Color Printer Copier. Eventually I'd click on the one I thought made the most sense. Then I'd head out of my office only to wander the halls, unsure of which direction to turn or on which of the fourteen printers my paper would actually end up.

Go ahead, laugh if you must. But when you're new (no matter the context) and everything is new -- from procedures and systems to people and places to personalities and culture -- small things like not being able to find the printer (which has a document containing acronyms you can't interpret, for a meeting whose purpose about which you're unclear, with people whose names you don't know, in a culture whose nuances you haven't yet mastered) is enough to cause a breakdown of monumental proportions.

I've since learned that in business this is called "onboarding." If it were up to me, I'd skip the entire painstaking process.

Somewhere during my anxiety over writing this post and reliving the trauma of my onboarding, it dawned on me that since Easter, my fellow bloggers have been wisely nudging our hearts toward Pentecost. During a time of year in which my soul is musing more about Memorial Day plans, summer vacations and, well, anything that might seep warmth into my cold Midwestern bones, the church recalls God unleashing his something new upon the church. That day wasn't so much about being new as it was being made new.

In the process, I've been reminded that while I really do--truly--hate being new, when I ingest the patience and humility and even grace uniquely present in this new experience, I'm reminded not to simply sit and wait for my confidence to return, but to thank God in every circumstance.  I hope I never forget how it feels to be the new person, but I also hope I'm increasingly aware (and even thankful) that even when I'm wandering the halls, trying to find my way, by God's grace I'm being made new.

Thanks to the Strangely Dim team for inviting me along. I'm excited to see what new things may come our way.

Posted by Suanne Camfield at 2:28 AM | view full entry

May 6, 2011

A Fresh Infusion of Strangeness

I believe the question has yet to be answered: How many blog contributors are too many? It's a tricky business: too few, and the content atrophies; too many, and the content changes too quickly, or worse, it loses its consistency, its cohesiveness.

I'm not worried about that here at Strangely Dim. We seem to have cemented our collective reputation for strangeness, if not dimness (although I may be ignoring some feedback); meanwhile, when it comes to mixing it up here, we seem to have plenty of room for more strangely dim thoughts in the mix.

Fortunately for us, IVP has a wide array of creative thinkers, willing to pour themselves out online for your amusement and edification (what I've elsewhere referred to, alternately, as "edifitainment[tm]" or "sanctitainment[tm]"). The latest to join our merry band, taking us from four to five, is Suanne Camfield.

One of our publicity managers, Suanne has also done quite a bit of writing of her own. Her writers collective, the Redbud Writers Guild, turned a lot of heads and generated a lot of buzz when they went live with the goal of "fearlessly expanding the feminine voice in our churches, communities and culture." You have to respect that kind of fearlessness. And be sure to check out Suanne off duty at her blog The Rough Cut. But while you're traipsing about, checking Suanne's bona fides, please don't forget us! Keep coming back for new posts from Suanne and all the rest of us.

Fearlessly expanding strangeness and dimness in our churches, communities and culture--and doing it all for you. You have to respect us for that.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 6:04 AM | view full entry

December 9, 2008

The Art of the Approach

We're well into Advent by now, and my pastor is preaching his way through the nativity story. This past Sunday was the juxtaposition of Herod and the Magi: the Magi, who entered Jerusalem in a flurry asking Herod, in effect, to "take me to your leader," whom they were fully prepared to worship; and Herod, who immediately set into motion a plot to assassinate whatever upstart might cause them to kneel.

A big part of the sermon had to do with our posture before God. We picture the villains of the nativity story with arms crossed, perhaps pacing to and fro, fretting over this new threat. But we picture the heroes of the story as kneeling, mostly because we're told by the Scriptures that they knelt. There's something about how we approach God that reveals where we're really at, I suppose.

Then again, if you kneel before a baby, does the baby even get it? My friend Andrew told me yesterday that his toddler son was a last-minute cast as Jesus in his church's nativity play. When the wise men bowed before him, he didn't know what to do, so he bowed back at them. Everybody laughed because nobody had really thought how Jesus--fully divine, yes, but also fully baby-like--would react to a bunch of strange men genuflecting before him in worship. I'm reminded of a post from about two years ago in which I tried to make sense, for myself at least, of the notion of finite beings approaching an infinitely approachable God. I repeat it here for your own sanctitainment.


January 26, 2007


I recently had a long and perplexing conversation with some friends about what it means to have a "personal relationship with God." You know you've been hanging out exclusively with evangelicals for far too long when you don't get what's so weird about that phrase. This is, after all, God we're talking about--"Creator of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen." As one friend of mine put it: "There's six billion people in the world. What kind of meaningful relationship can anybody have with that many people?"

Still, I feel very strongly that God does in fact relate personally to us. The idea that he has so many of us to relate to doesn't freak me out so much; I'm pretty comfortable with God's infinitude, which I imagine brings with it a much higher threshold for exhaustion and exasperation. Similarly, the idea that God is personal--not just some uber-ooze that keeps everything going--is a basic tenet of my beliefs.

Nevertheless, we bring a lot of baggage with us to a phrase like "personal relationship with God." Our understanding of who God is affects our approach: Is God the author of evil? Is God impotent or indifferent in the face of evil? Is God likeable, impressive, praiseworthy, approachable?

Our understanding of what comes with a personal relationship affects our take on the idea too. If I've been hurt over and over again in my personal relationships, the last thing I might want is to get personal with someone who controls the weather and steers comets. If my personal relationships have been with really boring people, I might imagine a personal relationship with an infinite being as infinitely boring. I might take my worst experience in personal relationships and expand it to a cosmic level, and decide that I'd rather do without, thank you very much.

I think, however, that I would then be oversimplifying things. A personal relationship is not reducible to one thing: my friend may be boring, but he donated me his kidney. Your friend may spit when she talks and chew with her mouth open, but she knows all your secrets and cries with you every time you get hurt. He may be heavy, but he's your brother.

That kind of complexity extends infinitely when you start talking about a personal relationship with God. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Eventually, God created me, along with the six billion people surrounding me and the various billions who went before me. Because of God I have a body and a brain; because of God I'm able to wonder whether a personal relationship with God is even remotely possible.

If a relationship with God is anything, it's complex. Sometimes it helps me to sort through how we relate to God by reading, of all things, 1 Kings 1:

Bathsheba went to see the aged king in his room, where Abishag the Shunammite was attending him. Bathsheba bowed low and knelt before the king.

Bathsheba is David's wife--the most intimate human relationship we can envision. She's also his subject--he's her king. He's also her only hope--the only person, in this context, who can keep her and her son from dying at the hands of a wicked prince. So she enters into conversation with him in this weird mix of boldness, humility, reverence and desperation. It's complicated.

It's funny to me that David's response to her entering is "What do you want?" That's a really colloquial, really earthy picture: not a king receiving a queen, not a tyrant deciding whether he will indulge or behead this upstart unannounced guest, but an old married guy who long ago dispensed with all pretense when it comes to relating to his wife. For Bathsheba, this is a complicated encounter; for David, it's a simple question: "What?"

In this picture, as I see it, David's a metaphor for God, and Bathsheba is a metaphor for the rest of us: participants in a ridiculously lopsided, complicated relationship that nonetheless puts us in an unbelievably privileged position. We approach God juggling these various ways of understanding who we're approaching, and God simply looks at us and says, "What?"


Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 7:09 AM | view full entry

September 22, 2008

A Fortnight of Donkey Tales

It's long been a dream of mine--ever since the launch of Likewise Books, actually--to compile a set of readings based on Bible passages that feature donkeys. The donkey has quite literally become an icon of the Likewise line, with authors and readers and employees alike trying to draw meaning from it, to identify themselves in it. It makes sense, therefore, that readings of donkey adventures in Scripture from a particularly Likewise-y angle would profit many.

Sadly, to date only Lisa has shared my vision. And then it occurred to me that Lisa and I share this vision, and we share this bully pulpit called Strangely Dim. It makes sense, therefore, that we do whatever we want, not the least of which being to write scads of meditations having to do with donkeys.

Especially since the Bible is filled with scads of stories having to do with donkeys. My exhaustive concordance lists a column and a half of verses that include some variant of donkey, and the word ass adds another half-column (not to mention a veritable parthenon of giggles). This is a devotional that demands to be written.

Which leads us to this, the latest in our intermittent series of themed fortnights. To date we've celebrated a fortnight of odes and a fortnight of cliches, each of which was stimulating creatively for us and, we imagine at least, entertaining for our audience of dozens. Now we hope to branch out into edification--or sanctitainment, if I may coin a term.

So steel yourselves as we make a--ahem, I mean fools--of ourselves poring over the Bible in search of donkeys with truth to share. Some stories, inevitably, will be so familiar as to sit comfortably alongside the archives to our fortnight of cliches. But some, we hope, will catch all of us off guard and, I daresay, lead us to go and do in ways we hadn't considered before.

If you'd like to try your hand, feel free to contact us by e-mail; we'd be happy to let you join in the fun. In the meantime, here's the line description that accompanies each Likewise book to the printer, just to warm us up:

A man comes across an ancient enemy, beaten and left for dead. He lifts the wounded man onto the back of a donkey and takes him to an inn to tend to the man's recovery. Jesus tells this story and instructs those who are listening to "go and do likewise."


Likewise books explore a compassionate, active faith lived out in real time. When we're skeptical about the status quo, Likewise books challenge us to create culture responsibly. When we're confused about who we are and what we're supposed to be doing, Likewise books help us listen for God's voice. When we're discouraged by the troubled world we've inherited, Likewise books help us hold onto hope.


In this life we will face challenges that demand our response. Likewise books face those challenges with us so we can act on faith.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 6:07 AM | view full entry