Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Nov
27
2013

Finding God in the Boring

Had a chance to interview my friend, Michael Kelly about his new book, Boring, which you should buy. Michael is a Director of Discipleship at Lifeway Christian Resources. He’s a creative speaker and author. If you have not read his book, Wednesdays Were Pretty Normalyou should. In that book, Michael walks thru the difficult journey he and his wife endured with their son, Joshua who was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 2.

In this video, we discuss the meaningfulness of the ordinary parts of our lives, how we glorify God in the mundane details of everyday.

Nov
07
2013

Shaping Minds Thru Fiction – A Conversation With Trevin Wax

I had a chance to interview my good friend, Trevin Wax about his brand-new book, Clear Winter NightsTrevin is one of my favorite bloggers and authors. He’s also the managing editor of The Gospel Project curriculum from Lifeway, a fantastic tool that I highly recommend churches use for all ages.

In this video conversation, I talk to Trevin about his foray into fiction and how the power of story and conversation can help shape both hearts and minds.

 

Jun
05
2013

New Book Trailer for Activist Faith

Here is the slick new video trailer NavPress produced for our new book, Activist Faith, to be released in July. This is a new project coauthored with my friends, Dillon Burroughs and Dan King. Check it out:


Resources: 

Jul
25
2012

In Defense of Christian Bookstores, Christian Publishers, and Southern Baptists

It seems there are three, quick, easy, cheap ways to score points if you’re a hip, up-and-coming evangelical. Say something negative about Christian bookstores, Christian publishers, and/or Southern Baptists. If you hit on a criticism of all three, you’ll really get a lot of back pats and your blog will probably have a lot of new unique visitors. You might even get a book deal. You’ll definitely want to buy those cool, new “Rob Bell” glasses.

At the risk of sounding old-fashioned, I’m going to defend this seeming unholy trifecta, the supposed enemies of Christian awesomeness. A few weeks ago there was a big controversy about Lifeway Christian stores. In response to a pastor from Florida, Lifeway pulled the movieBlindside from their stores because of some objectionable content. (for the record, I highly recommend the movie. It’s great). It’s apparently an evergreen story, because I keep reading fresh blog posts on the subject. Nothing drives web traffic like Christian controversies, apparently.

This was a silly move by Lifeway, but what I found even more offensive than this decision was the way “progressive” evangelicals used this opportunity to tee off on Lifeway, Christian bookstores, Christian publishers, and Southern Baptists in general. Rachel Held Evans wrote a widely distributed blog post that was pretty much a broad-brushed rant. She has some history in this struggle with her fight to have her book include a rather graphic body part. Her publisher, Thomas Nelson, agreed to keep it in, but not before Rachel got a lot of mileage and blog posts and Tweets in, all with disparaging digs against anyone who would dare edit her work in any way. And she is not the only one who expresses these feelings. I hear and read this complaint all the time, from both evangelical left and right.

To be sure, Christian bookstores, publishers, and denominations like the SBC deserve a fair share of the criticism they receive. But let’s remember they are brothers and sisters in the Lord. There are very good, wonderful, Christ-honoring men and women who work in these organizations. We should treat them with love and respect. It’s amazing how the people who scream for tolerance the loudest have the least amount of it for those with whom they disagree.

But let’s also consider this idea of Christian publishers and bookstores wanting to sanitize their content to make it safe for Christians. Perhaps they sometimes go too far, and we try to create a safe, sterile Christianity that doesn’t reflect the violence and messiness of the gospel story. At the same time, we are called by Christ out of this world to be different (1 Peter 2:9). So Christian books should not be as vulgar, violent, or explicit as nonChristian books. They should be different and publishers and bookstores are right to filter some of this content. Not simply because the people who patronize their businesses want this (though this isn’t wrong), but because they have a deep conviction that God’s people are to be holy. Baptists in business suits didn’t write 1 Peter 1:16. The Holy Spirit did, using the pen and personality of a fisherman who had seen his share of gospel messiness.

Secondly, there is a misconception about “edgy” Christian literature. If edgy means cutting edge storytelling, penetrating, haunting tales of suffering, I’m all for it. If it means presenting life as it really is rather than how we’d want it to be, yes let’s be edgy. But for many young, progressive, postmodern evangelicals, “edgy” simply means “I want to use indiscriminate cuss words and I don’t want anyone to stop me.” If edgy means fighting to the death to include words that intentionally offend your Christian brothers and sisters, words that have no bearing on your overall book, then you’re not being artistic or edgy, you’re just being purposefully offensive. And that, my friends, is wrong (1 Corinthians 8:13).

Count me as one young, millennial Christian leader grateful for some level of Christian editing, some kind of filter that lets me know that when I pick up a Christian book it’s going to have wholesome, Christian content that will edify rather than unnecessarily stir up passions best left quiet.

Lastly, it must be said that there is a sense of entitlement among some authors, artists, creatives who constantly push the boundaries in Christian publishing. As if that bookstore and that publisher owe them a contract and they should have no say over what is put in their books. I’ve met these types. They look at the publishing executives in CBA as ignorant rubes who don’t understand their exalted art.

Let’s take a step back here and realize that no publisher owes me or anyone else the time, investment, and business risk of publishing my book. And no struggling small business (because that’s what Christian bookstore owners are) owe me shelf space. If what I write offends their constituency, the publisher doesn’t have to publish it and the bookstore doesn’t have to stock it. For me to demand this, because I want to make some kind of outlandish point, is ridiculous.

The bottom line is this. Yes, sometimes bookstores, Baptists, and publishers are unnecessarily censorious. Sometimes they may make decisions that frustrate, even offend. But to paint all of these good brothers and sisters with such a broad brush and demand they do what I say, well, that’s just not the way of Christ. It’s a privilege to speak for God, not a right.

We’d do well to adopt a bit of humility.

Jul
09
2012

Exciting New Project Announcement

I’m excited to officially announce a new book project I’ll be working on with two very good friends, Dillon Burroughs and Dan King. This is the culmination of something we’ve been at for a couple of years: Activist Faith. The idea is to marshall information, resources, and ideas on some of the major issues of the day, such as poverty, immigration, marriage, life, adoption and orphan care, human trafficking, etc. The idea is simple: these issues are important and every Christian should responsibly research them and vote into office people who affirm biblical values. But there is much that can be done on these issues outside of politics. In between elections, the Church is at work helping to solve these problems, both locally and globally. 

For instance, I’m pro-life and I vote pro-life. I wish Roe-versus-Wade were overturned yesterday. But until that happens, I can do my part in my local community to save babies from abortion, right now. I can do that by assisting my local pregnancy center.

So, the three of us are writing a book tackling twelve important issues and what Christians can do today, outside of politics, right now to help solve them. We’re honored that NavPress is going to publish this book. It’s scheduled to release in 2013 sometime.

Below you will find the official press release:

Read More

Jul
06
2012

Kindle Ebooks on Sale

New Hope Publishers is discounting my books on Kindle for the entire month of July. They are only $2.99. Here are the links:

iFaith, Connecting to God in the 21st Century

Crash Course, Forming a Faith Foundation for Life

Teen People of the Bible, Celebrity Profiles of Real Faith and Tragic Failure

Jun
08
2012

Friday Five: Andrea Palpant Dilley

Andrea Palpant Dilley grew up in Kenya as the daughter of Quaker missionaries and spent the rest of her childhood in the Pacific Northwest. She studied English literature and writing at Whitworth University. Her work as a writer has appeared in Rock and SlingGeez, and Utne Reader, as well as the anthology Jesus Girls: True Tales of Growing Up Female and Evangelical. Her work as a documentary producer has aired nationally on American Public Television. She is the author of Faith and Other Flat TiresShe lives with her husband and daughter in Austin, Texas.

Today I’m excited to interview Andrea for today’s Friday Five:

You describe your upbringing as a missionary kid, on the mission field. Did the hard life of a missionary at all contribute to your running from the Christian faith? 

In the book I poke fun at the fact that, while most kids my age were playing Pac Man and eating pop tarts after school, I was visiting patients at my dad’s hospital. I spent time with sick people who died the next day. I attended funerals. I watched women wail in public, which was part of the mourning ritual of life in rural Kenya. Even the hospital morgue sat only fifty feet from the front door of our house. So yes, growing up as a medical missionary kid exposed me to more death and darkness than most kids my age would ever be exposed to, living in a western country. And those experiences very much informed my view of the world and my view of God. As a child, I don’t think I fully understood what was going on or why it was significant. But I carried those stories with me over the years. Eventually, as a young adult, they came to bear on my faith crisis.

Recent research has found that Christian kids who are allowed to express and wrestle with doubts have a higher percentage of keeping their faith. Do you agree and why? 

I agree wholeheartedly. When I was struggling with my faith as a young adult, my dad spent hours with me sitting on our living room couch, talking. I don’t really remember the specific content our conversations. What I remember clearly—and what matters most—is that he gave me space to express my doubts openly. Although he challenged me, he didn’t judge me for carrying doubts or struggling with faith in the first place. He affirmed that struggle and took it seriously. I would say every Christian kid needs that kind of safe space, that boxing ring where they can climb in and fight out their questions without fear of judgment.

I’m a parent now of a three year old, and as I look down the road to her young adult years, I feel more sympathy for my parents and what they went through in watching me wrestle with faith and then leave the church. I know it wasn’t easy for them. But if they’d overreacted to my doubt, I would have run further away, no question about it.

Was it hard to go back and write about your journey, especially the painful parts? Was there a moment when you felt you weren’t ready to share it? 

Absolutely. When the first box of books arrived in the mail, I hid them in my office closet for a day as a symbolic, last ditch attempt at self-protection. Some of the stories were just tough to see in print. For example, the story about my relationship with Michael was one that I didn’t originally include in the manuscript because it reveals in a very painful, personal way my naivete, my mistakes, my wandering. At some point in the writing process, though, my husband encouraged me to tell the story openly as a way to show the reader what my life looked like when I left the church and passed into a moral, spiritual no-man’s land.

So yes, it was at times very painful to write a personal memoir. It still feels personal now, as I watch people read the book and enter into the dark corners of my past. But I believe in transparency in community. I’ve shared my story not for the sake of therapeutic self-disclosure but for the sake of growth and faith in the church community.

Lot of prodigals come back with a bit of a chip on their shoulder, anger at the church, and deep resentment about their Christian upbringing. You don’t seem to express this. Why?  

First of all, I had the privilege of growing up in a healthy church environment. I grew up surrounded by smart, thoughtful Christians who read Russian literature, volunteered as firefighters, and cared about the poor. They were the kind of people who took my questions seriously when I started into my skeptic phase. This faith community didn’t overreact to my doubt, which made it easier to come back to church without carrying a heavy grudge.

Second, maturity matters. When I left, I expected the church to answer all my questions all of the time in the same way that a five-year-old expects her dad to know everything about astronomy while looking up at the stars. By the time I came back, I carried more realistic expectations about what the church can offer. Don’t get me wrong; I still struggle with the imperfections of the institutional church. But having spent time away from that institution, I’ve realized that I much prefer the flaws of the church to the greater flaws of churchlessness.

If you could speak to a parent of a child whose faith has shipwrecked, what advice would you give them? 

A recent Barna Group study revealed that three out of five young people leave the church permanently or for an extended period of time. That’s a really sobering statistic. I was one of those statistics; I left the church in my early twenties and then eventually came back. How my faith community responded to my departure—with grace and patience—was key to my return. With that in mind, I would offer the following suggestions to parents whose children have left or might leave the faith and/or the church.

a. Let your kids individuate. Listen to their questions, affirm their search, walk with them. But give them space to wrestle out their questions. It’s the only way they’ll come to own their faith.

b. If they have sophisticated theological or philosophical questions, equip them with smart apologetic resources. Give them books or DVDs by Lee Strobel, Nancy Percy, William Lane Craig, Eleanor Stump, Mary Jo Sharp, and others.

c. Raise your kids in community. Look for opportunities where they can spend time with pastors, professors, strong Christian mentors, and other leaders.

d. Help your kids think through faith-life integration. How does Christianity apply to politics, art, culture, etcetera? Encourage your kids to participate in public life. Get them involved in ways that put faith into practice.

e. Think seriously about where you send your children to college. Some kids need a traditional Christian environment while others might do better in a secular setting where they can push against the mainstream.

f. Finally, remember that active doubt (as opposed to passive doubt) can be a very healthy, soul-searching, truth-seeking part of faith. Trust that faith worth keeping can stand up to scrutiny.

May
31
2012

Real Book Trailer

Here is the book trailer for my new book, REAL, Owning Your Christian Faith. Many thanks to my brother, Tim Darling, who worked long and hard on this: