Monday, March 31, 2008

Book Signing a Big Success!

The book signing/launch party for the Olds and Turner book, Led to Follow, was a huge success. We had at least 500 people there, and sold over 600 books. Good thing we held it at the church (Brentwood UMC) rather than at the Borders across the street. That would have been way too crowded and people probably would not have been willing to wait in line for three hours to get their books (and yes, I mean plural--some people had armfuls of 10 or 20 copies!) signed.

Here are a couple pics, compliments of our lovely publicity assistant:

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Living the Dream

Earlier today, I mentioned to some of my colleagues my answer to that classic "Office Space" question: if you had a million dollars and never had to work again, what would you do? I said I would be a "secret shopper" for churches, going to various churches as a random visitor, and then giving the leaders feedback on how their worship, people, and facilities are perceived by guests.

What I didn't tell my colleagues (because it's not cool to like your job too much, you know) is that part of why I love my job is that I already kind of get to do that through my acquisitions trips. I travel to meet with authors and potential authors every so often, and I generally do it on the weekends, so I can experience the congregation the author leads "in action." (Not that these churches are idle Monday through Friday, but you know what I mean.) It's really fun to experience different kinds of worship experiences, and--as a pastor's wife--it's nice to just go to church anonymously every now and then!

All that to say--I'm living the dream! (I can't say that without picturing that retarded ice cream commercial where the guy dressed as a big spoon talks about all the types of vanilla such and such brand offers.)

Another of my books arrived from the printer the other day--a revised edition of Momentum for Life, by Michael Slaughter. Mike is the pastor of Ginghamsburg Church in Ohio, a really great UM congregation, very missional. They've raised millions to relieve suffering in Darfur, Sudan, through their annual Christmas Miracle Offerings. Since 2004, they've encouraged people to scale back their consumerism at Christmas, spending half of what they would ordinarily spend on Christmas gifts, and giving the rest to The Sudan Project. Momentum for Life: Biblical Practices for Sustaining Physical Health, Personal Integrity, and Strategic Focus is all about "self-leadership," developing discipline in every area of life--spiritual, intellectual, relational, missional, and physical.

Also, the book I wrote about earlier this week--Led to Follow--got some great publicity in The Tennessean today. There's an article about Howard Olds, his battle with cancer and decision to retire in light of that illness, and also a sidebar article specifically about the book. Check it out here. There's also a launch party for the book at Brentwood UMC this Sunday. Yay :0)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

UM Hymnal Survey

If you're a United Methodist (clergy, laity, occasional pew-sitter) and haven't yet taken the survey about music and worship preferences, you should. GBOD and UMPH are proposing to General Conference that a new hymnal (to replace the "current" hymnal, published in 1989) be developed, for publication in 2013 or so. (These things take time.)

The survey, at www.gbod.org/hymnal, will only be available until this Sunday, March 30. Let them know now what you like and dislike about the current hymnal and about worship in UM congregations, or forever hold your peace! (Not really. I'm about as picky as they come, and I'm sure I won't hesitate to gripe about mediocre music from now until kingdom come, much to my husband's chagrin.)

Anyway, it's always good to have your opinion heard, so let them hear you!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

101 Things About Me

1. I was inspired to make this list after seeing one on my former boss' blog.
2. I don't think she knows several of her subordinates and former subordinates know about it or read it, but I've realized she and I have a lot in common--more than she knows, I bet.
3. I love my job.
4. Before I had this job, I never thought I would enjoy work, and wanted to stay home and have babies.
5. I don't think there's anything wrong with staying home and having babies, and I expect to feel very torn and guilty when that time comes for me.
6. I want three or four kids.
7. I wanted twelve when I was a kid.
8. It was my high school sweetheart who brought me down to four. I still wanted six at that point, and he wanted two.
9. I want girls.
10. My husband wants boys. But he would totally love a girl if he had one (or four).
11. I've wanted to name my first girl Katharine for at least ten years now.
12. Surprisingly, it's not because of my fascination with Catherine the Great.
13. My childhood dog, on the other hand, was named after Catherine the Great.
14. The dog's name is Sophie--Catherine was born Princess Sophie of Anhalt-Serbst.
15. I am a dork and a Russophile--a big, dorky Russophile.
16. I just reread a big coffee table book about the last tsar and his family.
17. I have exactly ten books on my nightstand right now.
18. Nine of them, I have started reading and gotten sidetracked by one of the others.
19. The tenth is an early edition copy of Gone With the Wind. It's there for decoration.
20. Gone With the Wind is another of my dorky obsessions, in both movie and book form.
21. When I was ten, I could name every actor in Gone With the Wind, all the way down to Yakima Canutt, who played one of Scarlett's attackers when she was driving through Shantytown alone.
22. I didn't like to read, from the time I grew out of Babysitter's Club and American Girl books until about five years ago, when I was about the graduate college and finally had time to read Guns, Germs, and Steel.
23. I read nonfiction almost exclusively--religion, sociology, history, biography.
24. The last novel I read was...
25. ...
26. ...okay, now I remember--Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides.
27. Ironically enough, I now edit books for a living--nonfiction, of course.
28. I love "Friends," and know practically every episode by heart.
29. Hubby reminds me of Chandler. We like to high-five like Monica and Chandler do.
30. I feel guilty about the way I treated the two guys I dated in college.
31. I feel guilty about the way I treat my husband half the time--maybe more.
32. I have a very self-centered side. It's partially from depression (that most self-centered of diseases) and partially just sin (the human curse of valuing self over God and others).
33. My favorite thing about my husband is his devil voice. It's adorable. He can make me laugh with that voice, no matter what.
34. I wish he would use that voice from the pulpit at some point. It would really freak people out.
35. Our kids are totally going to adore their daddy (until they hit puberty and his silly antics will be a source of massive embarrassment for them).
36. I'm afraid of being the "bad cop" parent.
37. I'm really looking forward to teaching my kids stuff, and watching them learn right in front of my eyes. I think it will be incredible.
38. I love God.
39. I use masculine pronouns for God--Vanderbilt Divinity School and the Disciples church couldn't beat it out of me!
40. I feel closest to God when staring at a starry sky or when riding in an airplane. I think that's because I identify most with the "big" images of God--glory, awe, vastness, the king of the universe.
41. I now have the Veggie Tales song "God is bigger than the Bogey-man" stuck in my head.
42. My cousin's kids were Bob and Larry for Halloween. They're super-cute, and after seeing them at Thanksgiving, Matt and I still quote the two-year old, saying "no?" as a question all the time.
43. I love to scrapbook--it's a great creative outlet, while preserving our memories at the same time.
44. I kept a journal diligently from age thirteen til age twenty. I had a dreadful fear of one day getting Alzheimer's and forgetting those all-important events and emotions of my teen years.
45. For that reason, the book The Notebook holds a special place for me, even though it's a cheesy, girly love story.
46. I often feel embarrassed by the girlier, less-intellectual sides of myself, like my fondnesses for scrapbooking, romance, royalty, weddings, and general silliness.
47. I am much quicker to broadcast my more grown-up indulgences, like wine, lingerie, cheeses not made by Kraft, and world travel.
48. I have been to fourteen foreign countries.
49. One of the greatest experiences of my life was walking all over Budapest all by myself. (My traveling companions were lazy, and never wanted to see the things I wanted to see, so I had to do it myself!)
50. I sleepwalked in Russia. I didn't sleep well the whole first half of that trip, until we were on an overnight sleeper train from Novgorod to Moscow. I think the motion of the train was lulling to me.
51. Can't believe I'm only halfway through this list.
52. Hubby's home now. I always love that as annoyed as I might get with him sometimes, I always light up when I hear him drive up, and run to greet him.
53. Hubby and I are learning better communication skills--it feels silly to be very intentional about asking "am I understanding you correctly?" and "is there more you need to say?" but it's probably worth it.
54. I call Hubby several embarassing nicknames. One of these is "Baby Bunny." He often gets hand-me-down nicknames from the cat.
55. I absolutely adore my cat, Charlotte, and I'm ashamed I haven't mentioned her until now. I've been thinking of you the whole time, Mow-Mow. (Especially when shooing you away from eating the gerbera daisies.)
56. Charlotte and I are soul mates. We fell madly in love the moment I lured her down from her cage at the Humane Society.
57. The best meal I've ever eaten was a market price steak I ordered at a French restaurant my high school sweetheart took me to...after we broke up. I always think of this incident when I hear the song "Hit 'Em Up Style."
58. Though the many mix tapes said sweetheart made for me were awesome, "Hit 'Em Up Style" is actually featured on a mix my college roommate made for me, entitled "You Wanna Mess With These Bitches?"
59. The CD cover featured a pic of her and I dressed for the Sigma Chi 70s party. I looked like my mom in 1970--complete with silver eye-shadow--and Tracy had teased her curly hair out into a 'fro. We had a lot more fun just getting ready and taking pictures that night than at the actual party.
60. I went to maybe three frat parties in college. I hated them.
61. That was mainly because I was (and still am) very introverted, and don't like large-group social situations.
62. It wasn't so much because I dislike frats, which I did. (Again, sorry, #30).
63. My husband was a frat guy.
64. I would not have liked him if I'd known him in college. He is still a frat boy now, but at least no one is going to lake him for marrying me.
65. I never considered rushing a sorority, but I did consider joining up with a few other girls when they talked about founding a chapter of a sorority at Furman.
66. This is the same reason people who typically would never come to church join up with new church plants--they're wary about closed and tradition-bound communities, but are attracted to the idea of being a part of a new faith community.
67. A friend of ours in L.A. does product placements for television shows. She got to go to the Grey's Anatomy set today. I am jealous because I am absolutely wild about Patrick Dempsey. I am generally not star-crazy, but him, I actually am reduced to incoherent babble and longing glances. Those eyes. That wavy hair. Oy vey.
68. I also adore Anthony Rapp (the original Mark in "Rent"). Even though he's gay, I'm pretty nuts about him too.
69. Matt and I are going to see Rent on Broadway next month, since it is going off Broadway in June. I fantasize that Anthony will be there, and we'll get to meet him and hang out with him.
70. I read in Anthony's book Without You that he is wary about religion because his Catholic upbringing was uninspiring for him and he perceives Christianity as a judgmental faith. So, I also fantasize that after getting his autograph and giving him a big kiss, he and Matt and I will go to a bar and talk about life and faith and he will see that Christ is about love, compassion, and acceptance, not judgment and petty rules.
71. I am terrified by those ADT security system commercials. I have always had a fear of home intruders, ever since I was a kid and thought burglers actually went around with extension ladders to climb into the bedroom windows of little girls.
72. I thought they did this even more during scary thunderstorms. My mom explained that they especially don't carry around metal extension ladders during lightening storms.
73. I have also always had a great fear of housefires. I credit this fear to a nightmare I had when I was 7 or 8, that our house was on fire.
74. I credit to this fear (not just of housefires, but of fire in general) my resistance to the smoking habit in high school. I did not light a match or lighter until I was 22, and have still never smoked a cigarette.
75. #74 implies I might have had the opportunity to take up smoking. I was naive and oblivious enough to never really be tempted by peer pressure in high school.
76. When I caught my much more "with it" best friend smoking during the summer between 8th and 9th grade, I at first thought I was just seeing her breath on the air when she exhaled. Then, realizing it was August, noticed that it was smoke spewing from her mouth and that there was a cigarette in her hand.
77. As a kid, I had my bangs permed, but not the rest of my hair, which was very straight. My dad called me "poodle top." Why did my mom think this was a good style choice for me?
78. By seventh grade (which definitely goes on record as the worst year of my life), I had the res tof my hair permed, finally, and amazingly enough, it looked even worse. Ugh, that was a bad year.
79. In eighth grade, I switched to a private school, and life got better. I still love this school, though Matt never misses an opportunity to remind me that he and his brother have done pretty well even with a public school education.
80. I love Louisville--my hometown.
81. I love the Kentucky Derby, and the fact that Louisville schools get out on Oaks Day, the day before Derby.
82. I love all things Kentucky, and am so proud of my dad for serving as Commissioner of State Parks for the last couple years.
83. C-A-T-S. Cats! Cats! Cats!
84. Did I mention we're UK Wildcats fans? I was raised on it.
85. I was also raised to be a fiscally consevative Republican.
86. I pleased my dad when, in 10th grade, I wrote an essay called "Personal Responsiblity and the Welfare System."
87. I became a Democrat while a religion major at Furman University.
88. Thank you, Albert Blackwell, for teaching me that "liberal" is not a dirty word, and that caring for those who don't "deserve" it is the most Christian thing we can do.
89. After meeting with our accountant a couple weeks ago, I am struggling to remind myself that I support higher taxes, if it means providing for the least of these.
90. If there's one scripture I take literally, it's "give to all who ask of you."
91. Another of the most meaningful moments of my life is when a homeless man took the money I offered him, looked straight in my eyes, and said, "I will remember you."
92. I will never fully understand Jesus and his message, but I will always try.
93. I discovered the meaning of life my senior year of college.
94. I sum it up in the name of a Chris Rice album: Run the Earth and Watch the Sky.
95. Yes, I'm being a bit facecious, but it was at the end of Dr. Blackwell's "Religious Approaches to Meaning" class, and I found that all my final essays came back to the same point--meaning is found in a right balance between heaven and earth.
96. I am sad that a friend of mine has declared himself an atheist.
97. Another friend always told me, "it would be as unnatural for me to believe in God as it would be for you to not believe in God." How do you argue with that?
98. This is getting way too serious for me.
99. I was born on the fourth of July. Therefore, I love fireworks, and have a dream to one day fly on the 3rd or 4th and see fireworks from above.
100. When I was in third grade, I was distressed over the decision to be either an author or an artist when I grew up.
101. I'm proud to say I'm a little of both. And a whole lot more.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Book of the Week: Led to Follow

I wanted to give a heads up about "my first book"--that is, the first book I edited. It was released a couple of weeks ago, and needless to say, I was pretty excited. I stared working on this book about a year ago when I first joined the unit I'm with now. It's a leadership book, but with a twist, and frankly, that twist is the main reason to buy the book.

Led to Follow: Leadership Lessons from an Improbable Pastor and a Reluctant CEO is a labor of love between two friends, leaders here in the Nashville community. Howard Olds is the beloved pastor of Brentwood UMC, a large and well-known congregation around here, and Cal Turner Jr. is a founder and retired CEO of Dollar General Corporation, the Fortune 500 discount chain, and a great benefactor of education, religion, and the arts. It was really wonderful getting to know these leaders as we worked on the book through a very collaborative process.

The book looks at leadership from the perspective of "followership." In other words, you can only be as good a leader as you are a follower, of your calling and purpose, other people's wisdom, your failures, and even the unknown. The authors address these things in six short, readable and engaging chapters, but then offer a bit more in personal essays at the end of each chapter, in which they speak from their own experiences about what it really means to lead by following things greater than one's self. These are honestly the most powerful parts of the book, as Cal talks about his personal mission to serve low-income families through the dollar store model--which, I didn't know previously, was quite a new and innovative model when Cal and his father started Dollar General--and Howard shares the most intimate thoughts and fears of his decade-long battle with cancer. He has battled it valiently even throughout the writing of this book, and though I know it breaks his heart to do so, is planning to retire this June.

I tried to post the cover here, but strangely, blogger is turning the red and gold cover shades of blue when I upload it. Don't know why. (It actually looks kind of cool, but I don't want anyone to get "that book with the blue cover" in their head and then be confused.) Anyway, it's available here from Amazon for only $10. 115 pages. Endorsed by Dave Ramsey, Will Willimon, Jim Moore, and other business, church, and academic leaders.

My Scrapbooking Guru

Through the random connections (in real life and cyber space) that usually lead someone to discover a blog, I found this great scrapbooking blog, by Jessica Turner (her husband is also a Matthew, who is also a great writer and Christian thinker, like my Matthew). She writes about other things, too (upcoming baby, for one!) but often posts pictures of her amazing scrapbooking layouts. I pull up her site for inspiration when I'm working on a page. People who don't scrapbook much are often really complementary of my pages, but looking at this Jessica's work and that of her friends, linked on her blog, shows me how far I have to go.

Anyway, I've learned a lot of new tips, namely:

1. use even fewer pictures. I've cut back over the years, from seeing the scrapbook as an embellished photo album to highlighting only the best and most memorable moments of an event or experience. These scrapbookers often only use one photo on a page--or just a very select few, and treat the page much more as a canvas for artistic expression, using the memory as a launching pad.

2. crop images closer. It takes a very small portion of a photo to get the point or the sentiment across. It's amazing how close you can crop a picture and still have the essential piece--a smile or laughing face, the hands holding a present, or just a section of the Christmas tree.

3. have a clear focal point. This seems like a no brainer, but especially if you're using a lot of photos, the eye doesn't know where to go. (Tips 1 and 2 help with this problem.) I also notice that some of the best pages concentrate the photos on one part of the page, leaving "white space" for embellishments or interestingly-patterned paper to shine through.

4. embellish more. There's certainly something to be said for simplicity, but I've seen some great examples of how flowers, buttons, ribbons, etc. can be used really well. I tried to do a lot of 3-D stuff on the "snow penguins" layout (pictured below), but I'm still learning how to do it well.

5. the wonder of chipboard. This one's a minor point, but I had never used chipboard before seeing it used so often on Jessica's and others' pages. It's a good way to add dimension, and the wording stands out better than simply writing or stamping them.

Anyway, thought I'd share a couple layouts I've done recently, under the influence of my "scrapbooking guru" and others. First, my darling baby girl, Charlotte:




"Mommy--why are you laying paper on the floor? Do you want me to lay on it or tear it up?"

And, from that nice Saturday snow a couple weeks ago:

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Anti-Anti-Christ

One of the first blogs I read regularly is by a guy name Fred Clark, who, for the past three years, has been offering an ongoing review and critique of the book Left Behind. Yes, it's sad that it's taking him this long, though he only discusses a couple pages (or sometimes even just a couple paragraphs) at a time, and only posts these on Fridays (this is a sideline to his primary blog, on which he posts most frequently and on more diverse subjects). His critiques are very intelligent, witty, and theologically insightful. You can check it out here.

A paragraph in last Friday's post caught my attention:
Unlike John of Patmos or the author of John's epistles (the only place the word "antichrist" is used in the Bible), LaHaye and Jenkins don't really seem to regard the sense in which the Antichrist is Christ's opposite. That opposition is hard to miss in the book of Revelation -- beast vs. lamb, power vs. love is one of the book's central themes -- but L&J seem to have missed it both there and in their representation of it here. Their Antichrist is an anti-christ, an anti-messiah, in the sense that he is a false liberator who brings slavery. But where Carpathia chooses to pursue power, those who oppose him do the same. L&J's version of the evil beast will be defeated, ultimately, not by the lamb, but by the good beast. In Left Behind, good triumphs over evil not because it is intrinsically different, but because it is simply more powerful. God has a bigger gun than the devil.

Fred has pointed out previously that LaHaye and Jenkins--and, by extention, many Christians today--are not so much Christians as they are Anti-Anti-Christian. Many times, people of faith (on both the conservative and liberal extremes) seem to identify themselves more by what they are against than what they are for. I hope we in the church can ask ourselves--what kind of witness does the world need more? An angry fist and cold shoulder to the self-serving ways of the world, or a calm and confident demonstration of Christ in the world?

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