Category: Gospel and Culture

Writing & Designing a Book

Marshall McLuhan is often quoted for his aphorism: “The medium is the message.” Ironically, his point is often overlooked in publishing where shoddy book covers, gimmicky titles, and predictable layouts abound. Unfortunately, a lot of publishers place little value on cover design, book layout, and electronic book presentation. Within the digital age, a book has an electronic extension that surfaces ubiquitously, making impressions across the Net, and all kinds of digital platforms. You might say the cover, and overall creative input, is amplified through the inter webs.

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While the Christian publishing world often trails behind leading secular publishers, I am grateful to have a publisher who recognizes the value of not only writing but also designing a good book. HarperCollins/Zondervan has bent over backwards to work with me in making sure the medium of my two most recent books also convey my message. How have they done this?

Book Covers

We all know people do judge a book by its cover. Fortunately, I have had a significant, shaping voice in everything materially created from cover to text to layout, poor souls! I asked up front for significant input on book cover and design. Here’s how it made a difference with Raised? Finding Jesus by Doubting the Resurrection. We went through the typical process of the publisher generating cover options based on input, but they also agreed to take design options from a local design firm in Austin.

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I wanted something clean, creative, and theologically significant. It all came together beautifully. Here’s the thinking behind the design:

  • The wings are a subtle representation of the Spirit
  • The horizontal line represents the earth, and behest the grave
  • The meshed overlap represents Jesus’ victory over sin, death, and evil
  • The overal motion represents Jesus descent, incarnation, suffering, death, and resurrection

Ptarmak is a leading brand, packaging, designer in Austin. Ben Hansen, a friend, mobilizes an incredible team there. Luke was my designer. I sat down with him and got to share the vision, my creative and theological values, and then they set him loose! He’s a great guy. I got to build a bit of relationship going local,  bumping into the Ptarmak guys around town, and dropping in to bring them Amy’s ice-cream, to celebrate publication, and distribute copies to the team.

Book Layout

On The Unbelievable Gospel, I went to Electrik. They don’t typically do this sort of thing, but hey, they believed in the project. Brendan Pittman read the book, caught the vision, and created the icons you see up top. They represent the three sections of the book. You can read more about that at www.unbelievablegospel.com I’m thrilled to say that he’s working on a digital experience to pair with the book and it launches September 1.

Zondervan took Brendan’s work and willingly incorporated it into the book layout. We went a couple rounds before settling on the final form. I’m happy they let me push the envelope. You’ll see some atypical things going on inside the book when it arrives. As a benefit, I’ve developed a relationship with Brendan and see him as a real partner in this effort.

You’ll be the judge of this creative effort, but it’s my sincere desire to collaborate with others to publish great content and great delivery. Perhaps this will catch on. I know there are lots of folks doing similar things. I drew inspiration from Moody Publishers & Mark Sayers book Facing Leviathan. Let’s overturn the banal design beast, and generate more content with thoughtful, creative medium to boot!

 

Believe Me! – This is a Great Movie

BELIEVE ME is the film a lot of people have been waiting for. Part satire, part substance, part laugh your head off humor (can you say Ron Swanson or Christopher MacDonald, aka “Shooter McGavin”?), Believe Me does what many films have tried to do with Christian subculture, and the gospel message, and have failed. Believe Me succeeds, in flying colors.

The dialog is excellent. Stephen Jones calls the humor “comedic perfection.” The cinematography isn’t just industry standard, it takes some creative risks, and lands them with skill. The ending is pitch perfect. On top of all that, the soundtrack is killer.

I’m proud of the guys behind this film. Don’t miss it.

How to Be a Good Dad (& What to Do with a Bad Dad)

Father’s Day–some are grateful it’s just one day.

There are many fathers who have heaped unbearable burdens upon their children with unrealistic demands. To you, this day reminds you of failure, not measuring up, not being who Dad wanted you to be. For others, Dad subtracted meaning from your life. Your Dad just cut out on you, left Mom for another woman, a career mistress, or never entered your life at all.

How do you respond to your father while edging out on the ice of fatherhood yourself?

Others see Father’s Day as an opportunity to honor someone they’re grateful for every day. Dad reminds you of warm approval, strong godly character, firm discipline, and vibrant faith. You don’t know how good you got it but you know it’s good. Fathers possess incredible power over their children, for good or for ill, and a new generation of Christian fathers are emerging with very poor role models. Is it possible to redeem your patriarchal past? How do you respond to your father while edging out on the ice of fatherhood yourself?

What to Do with a Not So Great Dad

St. Augustine had great Mom and a not so great Dad. Throughout his Confessions, (a Western classic every Christian should read), Augustine reflects on his mother’s prayerful faithfulness and his dad’s worldliness. In a passage in Book 2, he extols his father for providing for his education in literature and rhetoric. He notes that his father took great pains to secure the necessary finances. It is hard to imagine the Western Church without an educated Augustine. His books, ideas, and turns of phrase have been admired by many, believer and non.

Augustine shows us how to honor our fathers, even when they were less than honorable.

Augustine shows us how to honor our fathers, even when they were less than honorable. Even if your father was absent and just cut a check for child support, at least he did that. Instead of ripping cynically on his absent Dad, he shows us how to carry out the Christian principle of “honor your father” by searching for anything positive and honoring him for that.

But what about his Dad’s absence, or worse, his very real, damaging presence?

Augustine describes his father’s neglect: “father took no pains as to how I was growing up before you [God], or as to how chaste I was, as long as I was cultivated in speech, even though I was a desert, uncultivated for you, O God, who are the one true and good Lord of that field which is my heart.”

Though he received a financial deposit, Augustine was raised in spiritual poverty by his father. His father approved winkingly over his sexual exploits, a badge of manhood. He sent his son in the wrong direction. Dad held the career high–a rhetorician–and Christ low. Augustine repeatedly reflects on his struggle with mistresses and sexual temptation remarking that he was “in love with love.”

Moving Beyond Dad Issues

Until he was conquered by a holy love: “You love, but are not inflamed with passion; you are jealous, yet free from care…who will help me, so that you will come into my heart and inebriate it, to the end that I may forget my evils and embrace you, my one good?

The prison of his father’s neglect was redeemed by the Heavenly Father’s attentive concern. Evils were slowly blotted out from his memory in the presence of the one, true Good. The way we move beyond our Dad issues isn’t to bury them, but to carry them to the Redeemer.

When I was preparing to become a father for the first time, I asked a good father friend for advice. He said, “Be a good Dad by being a good son.” He was saying that fatherhood is less about technique and more about identity.

Be a good Dad by being a good son.

The more a man settles into the perfect love of God, the more his fathering becomes an approximation of the perfect Father. The more rooted you are in God’s approval, the more inclined you are to give it to your kids. The more you are aware of the holiness of God, the more you will call your children into his holiness–cultivating their soul. The more you are aware of God’s unfathomable grace, the more quick you will be to extend it to your children.

Fatherhood is less about technique and more about identity.

Dad, you have an opportunity to cultivate the soul of the next generation. You can point them to the “one true and good Lord of that field which is their heart.” You don’t have to be enough for them because God already is enough. Cultivate your soul and act like your heavenly Father toward your kids. Teach them the gospel, repent quickly, and be present–no perfection required–Jesus has that covered.

Be a good son, and you’ll be a good Dad.