The Weekly Hit List: November 8, 2013

A Hobbit Journey by Matthew Dickerson was reviewed in Tolkien Journal.

“Dickerson’s main thrust, then and now, is wrestling with one of the common criticisms we hear from Tolkien’s detractors:  that LOTR glorifies war and violence.  So he carefully looks at the battles, at how they are described, and at how the heroes respond to them, participate in them, think and talk about them, and feel about it afterward. . . .

“Wrestling with significant questions as they are raised and answered by details of plot and texture of passage, Dickerson shows a profound understanding of what literature is and therefore of how it should be studied.”

Read the rest of the review here.

 

 

Quick Hits:

Educating All God’s Children by Nicole Baker Fulgham was reviewed by Dr. Trent Nicholson.

Nicole  Baker Fulgham wrote “Resurrecting Detroit” for Q Ideas.

iGods by Craig Detweiler was recommended by Hearts & Minds Books.

Christine Colón, co-author of Singled Out, appeared on Connected Faith with Neil Stavem.

 

Ebook Specials:

God Hides in Plain Sight: How to See the Sacred in a Chaotic World by Dean Nelson is only $1.99 (88% off) through November 10.

Excerpt from God Hides in Plain Sight

The following is an excerpt from the first chapter of God Hides in Plain Sight: How to See the Sacred in a Chaotic World by Dean Nelson.

Now through November 10, the ebook of God Hides in Plain Sight is available for only $1.99 (88% off).

More information and a list of participating retailers is available here.

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How often does God use the occurrences throughout our day to point us to himself? My sense is that he does it continuously. The biggest variable is whether we are alert enough to get it. As Eugene Peterson said, “We are always coming in on something that is already going on.”

Jesus tells us that we can see God at work in the little things, like a mustard plant—the equivalent of a weed. People generally expect to see evidence of God in the big stuff—the Gee Whiz events—when in reality, according to Jesus, it’s at knee or ankle level, spreading like a weed. Or like yeast in bread. It’s in the everydayness, using everyday elements. Whether we see it is up to us. Instead of looking up, we should be looking around. Or down.

It is a dangerous thing to look for the activity of God in the unclean and unwashed aspects of life. The danger is that we’ll have to let go of our expectations that God can be experienced only in cathedrals and big, contrived events, with only certain people in charge of dispensing that activity. What about in a hotel lobby? Or a classroom in Bombay? Or incidents that occur in everyday life? “If we really had our eyes open, we would see that all moments are key moments,” Buechner said.

Much of our lives, it seems to me, are spent like that of the main character in Camus’ novel, The Stranger; we are indifferent, unmoved, unfeeling, walking dead people. Not until the stranger faced his own death did he even notice the stars in the sky. He reminds me of a lot of the people I meet. “Listen to your life,” Buechner said. “See it for the fathomless mystery that it is . . . There is no event so commonplace but that God is present within it, always hiddenly, always leaving you room to recognize him or not to recognize him.”

I experienced this hidden presence when I was covering a story for the New York Times. A boy had brought a gun to his high school outside of San Diego, and murdered two students and wounded thirteen more. The newspaper asked me to rush to the school and interview as many people as I could, to try to provide some understanding during the aftermath of the horrible act. I confess that I didn’t want to go. I hate covering sensational stories. A few years before, I was one of the first reporters at the house where thirty-nine members of the Heaven’s Gate cult took their own lives so that they could join the secret spaceship following the Hale-Bopp comet. Stories with this kind of loss are so tragic, so sensational, so senseless, that I approach them with a certain amount of dread.

At the high school, police had blocked off several blocks to keep traffic out, so I parked a half mile away and started walking to the school. In my head I was going over what I thought readers would want to know about this tragedy. I passed some people walking away from the school, and then I heard my name being called. Two of the people I had just passed were youth pastors from the area. I knew them both. One of them taught part-time where I teach. They were leaving after having spent time with students from their youth groups who had called them when the shooting began. I talked with them briefly, and felt strangely encouraged in my own task as a result.

Across the street from the school was a strip mall with a large parking lot. That’s where emergency vehicles were, along with the Red Cross, and hundreds of students milling around, waiting to be picked up by parents whose primal instincts had been triggered. I approached two girls, identified myself, and asked if I could ask them a few questions. One knew the shooter well. They had seen the bodies in the hallway. It was a terrifying sight for them, yet, through their tears, they wanted to talk about it. As I wrote down their comments in my notebook, a small crowd of reporters gathered. Television cameras zoomed in. Other reporters began asking questions. It didn’t get out of control, but it did start getting very intense. While this was going on, I felt a hand on my shoulder. Usually when that happens to me in a crowd of journalists, it is a photographer asking me to move to one side or another for a better picture. Without turning around, I moved a little to my left to accommodate what I presumed to be a colleague. The hand remained. So I moved a little to the right. No change. It
didn’t put pressure on me. It wasn’t trying to get me to move. It just stayed there, and I let it while I did my work.

When I was done talking to the girls, I thank them, and the television people moved on. I turned around to see who was behind me. It was my neighbor, whose kids are in school with my kids in another part of the city. He is the regional director of the Young Life ministry  group. He had come to the school to help the Young Life chapter respond to the attack. But he saw me, and decided to come along on my task and pray for me as I talked to witnesses of the shooting. I saw his actions as God saying, “I got here before you in Leon. I am in the middle of this whole, terrible situation, including your being  one of the reporters covering it.” The activity of God was present, thorough, expressed with a hand on a shoulder. “Long before I arrive on the scene, the Spirit is at work,” Eugene Peterson said. “I must fit into what is going on.”

Jesus drives home this point with a story he tells. It is about a judge who had little regard for God or people. In his city was a widow who kept coming to the judge and saying, “Grant me justice against my opponent.” He refused at first, but was worn down by the woman, so he granted her justice just so she’d stop bothering him. End of story. This had always been a confusing parable to me. The sermons I’d hear about it usually justified begging and harassing God with our requests. It was a parable of getting God to bend to our needs, I thought.

But it’s really about how we are constantly confronted by grace—grace that pursues, invades, initiates. We are the judge in this story, and grace continuously approaches us, like the insistent woman, demanding that we do it justice by seeing it. Grace pursues and precedes. It bends us toward God. It is like a weed that comes from a tiny seed and grows wherever it wants. It is like bacteria that takes something traditionally predictable, and changes its nature. It says to us, “Do me justice. See me everywhere.”

When we’re paying attention, we see that grace is breaking into our everyday moments, making them different—sacred—drawing us into the presence of God.

It’s not about us getting a hold of the sacred. It’s about the sacred getting a hold of us.

 

©2009 by Dean Nelson. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Ebook Special for God Hides in Plain Sight by Dean Nelson

Now through November 10, the ebook for God Hides in Plain Sight: How to See the Sacred in a Chaotic World by Dean Nelson is only $1.99 (88% off) from the following participating retailers:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

CBD

 

A Crossings Book Club Selection

2010 San Diego Book Award Winner

“Dean Nelson has a lively, conversational writing style, and this book has wonderful and valuable things to say. I won’t soon forget them.”
—Frederick Buechner

Have you ever had a conversation that went far deeper than the words spoken or an experience where you felt you had participated in something sacred—that you had been part of the unbidden activity of God? Although these situations may seem rare and unexplainable, they are reminders that God’s grace surrounds us constantly and shows up in manifold ways to those who have eyes to see the sacred in everyday life. “These sacramental moments are the bursts of revelation that give spiritual order to our otherwise disordered lives,” says veteran journalist Dean Nelson. In this colorful, story-driven introduction to sacramental living, Nelson offers all Christians a way to see the presence of God amid the chaos and monotony of daily life. Each chapter emphasizes a different kind of sacramental moment, showing how it can be a lens through which we can see more of God.

Ebook Special for God Hides in Plain Sight by Dean Nelson

Now through August 3, the ebook for God Hides in Plain Sight: How to See the Sacred in a Chaotic World by Dean Nelson is only $3.99—77% off! 

More information and a list of participating retailers is available here.

 

A Crossings Book Club Selection

2010 San Diego Book Award Winner

“This book has wonderful and valuable things to say. I won’t soon forget them.”Frederick Buechner

Have you ever had a conversation that went far deeper than the words spoken or an experience where you felt you had participated in something sacredthat you had been part of the unbidden activity of God? Although these situations may seem rare and unexplainable, they are reminders that God’s grace surrounds us constantly and shows up in manifold ways to those who have eyes to see the sacred in everyday life.

“These sacramental moments are the bursts of revelation that give spiritual order to our otherwise disordered lives,” says veteran journalist Dean Nelson. In this colorful, story-driven introduction to sacramental living, Nelson offers all Christians a way to see the presence of God amid the chaos and monotony of daily life. Each chapter emphasizes a different kind of sacramental moment, showing how it can be a lens through which we can see more of God.

Dean Nelson (PhD, Ohio University) is founder and director of the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, California, where he serves as professor of journalism. He has written extensively for dozens of newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, Boston Globe, and Christianity Today, and is the author or coauthor of several books.

 

Catching a Glimpse of Joy – by Dean Nelson

This is an original post by Dean Nelson, author of God Hides in Plain Sight: How to See the Sacred in a Chaotic World.

Dean Nelson directs the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. His book, God Hides in Plain Sight: How to See the Sacred in a Chaotic World, was published by Brazos Press in 2009.

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God Hides in Plain SightMy wife and I had been putting off this task for some time. It was gross. That’s what we kept telling ourselves as we would reach a new Saturday, contemplate the job before us, and then have something conveniently come up to keep us from the work. We didn’t feel like battling the cobwebs, and we really didn’t feel like shoveling out the loads of mice (could they be rat?) droppings.

A few times we actually opened the door to the shed in our backyard, took one look—and maybe a whiff—of what had taken up residence there, and quickly closed the door, trying to wish it all away. Maybe a selective tornado could barrel through and take just the shed?

But I suspect that the grossness of it wasn’t the real reason we avoided cleaning out the shed. More likely it was because it had some of our kids’ bigger toys in it. Our kids are adults now and have moved into their own independent lives. We checked with them and, yes, we could get rid of those things, they said. But we kept putting it off.

So last Saturday we held our noses and our hearts and ventured into that storage space of memories and vermin. The droppings were probably a gift in that they distracted us from being too sentimental about the items we were hosing off so we could give them away. And it wasn’t as hard as we thought it would be.

Except for one thing.

When I was in grad school in Ohio, and our son was two, he broke his femur in a freak accident. The doctor put him in a cast that went from mid-stomach down the broken leg all the way to the ankle, and halfway down the other leg. An opening in the crotch area allowed him to go to the bathroom. That meant about half of his body was covered in plaster. It gets hot in the summer in southern Ohio. It gets even hotter when your skin has no chance to breathe and cool itself. And plaster is kind of heavy.

My wife was pregnant with our daughter, so it was very uncomfortable for her to lift our son if he needed to move. Getting him out of the house, going for walks, changing the scenery, all proved impossible. Cabin fever—plaster fever? —was driving everyone crazy.

Then my parents sent a wagon. It was one of those cool red wooden wagons that looked like it was made years ago, but it was modern and easy to pull. We lined the inside of the wagon with pillows, gently placed our son in the wagon, and took him all over the neighborhood. Even at the 45-degree angle he had to endure, he was overjoyed. Neighbors came out and talked to him. Dogs came over and licked him. When our daughter was born, we could pull the two of them, and he acted like the responsible protector of his baby sister. It was a life and sanity saver.

As they grew older, the wagon’s role evolved. It carried toys from one room to another. It held books and other supplies. It was even a weapons repository when the neighborhood kids made movies. (The weapons were fake, I should make clear.)

For the last several years, though, it has been sitting in the shed collecting dust and rodent waste. When we pulled it out on Saturday and scrubbed it down, all those memories washed over us.

Most of the toys will be picked up by a local charity and sold in their thrift shop. But we felt like the wagon deserved a different outcome. There are lots of families with kids in our neighborhood, and they go on walks and pass by our house. This has always been a neighborhood wagon, and we wanted it to stay that way if possible.

So we cleaned it, dried it, and put it in our driveway with a sign that said “Free! Enjoy!” Then we went in the house.

An hour or two later we heard noise outside. Yelling, maybe? Loud voices at least. We went out and saw two teenagers pulling the wagon down the street, with their little sister inside. She was squealing, and the older girls were chattering about their good fortune.

Neither my wife nor I remembered how gross it was to clean that wagon. We watched as the kids disappeared down the street, full of joy.

Memories of a child in pain, sadness about our kids growing up and moving away, disgust at the rodents we had harbored: all disappeared in an instant. The world was painful, sad, and gross. Then the veil parted, and we caught a glimpse of joy.