Monday, September 21, 2020

A Book Launch Recap

It's been a little over a month since the release of The Doctor and the Apostle, and I've been doing a lot to call people's attention to it.

I generally love the process of launching a book, but it can also be exhausting. I'm feeling a bit spent after so much. Thankfully, this time around there seems to have been a lot more word of mouth involved, so I've had the benefit of other people's excitement. I'm thankful for that.

Anyway. Here's a recap of where we've been:

The book cover reveal - You know, in case you haven't seen it.

The announcement post - Complete with overview, a list of who'd be interested, and endorsements.

Frequently Asked Questions - Answers to common questions that potential readers may have about the book.

The virtual book reading - I read from the book on my Facebook page. The recording is there in case you missed it.

The Church is Not a Building - A book excerpt on the portability of the church.

And here we are at the end. It's been a good month, and I'm thankful for all the support and enthusiasm that I've received surrounding it. 

As I said during the book reading, this book was both a labor of love and fandom and a reclamation project. I had a lot of fun watching and researching the show, as I got to binge my way through lots of episodes I hadn't seen yet. And I also enjoyed delving into the life of Paul and recapturing a side of him that is more open and progressive than some may like or realize.

I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I've enjoyed writing it.

To keep paying it forward, please consider leaving a quick review on places like Amazon and Goodreads. It would really help boost the book's signal so that others can find it.

I say this often, and I'll keep saying it: thank you so much for reading. I'm in awe that I've been able to do this for a fourth time. I'm glad that my words have found resonance with others. It's been a wonderful writing journey so far, and I'm grateful to have had so many companions on the way.

Monday, September 14, 2020

The Church is Not a Building (A Book Excerpt)

Below is an excerpt from The Doctor and the Apostle: Intersections Between Doctor Who and the Letters of Paul.

In his book Eager to Love, Richard Rohr explores the faith and life of Francis of Assisi, who among other things had a reputation for his connection to and appreciation of God’s creation. As Francis was a monk, the name for his room in the monastery was known as a “cell.” Not to be confused with the cell one may picture related to incarceration, this was simply a modest room where one would sleep, pray, read, and write away from community worship, meals, and chores.

Francis saw all of nature as sacred and as a setting in which to experience God’s presence. For him, one did not need to be in his cell or even in a church to find a connection to God. In fact, he thought it more likely to find that connection out in the world. Rohr quotes him as saying, “Wherever we are, wherever we go, we bring our cell with us. Our brother body is our cell and our soul is the hermit living in the cell. If our soul does not live in peace and solitude within this cell, of what avail is it to live in a man-made cell?”

Francis invited people to change their concept of encountering God, and one way he did that is by redefining some of the terms by which one considers such things. He changed the definition of a cell from that of a physical room to one’s body, in which one’s soul resides. Likewise, he changed the definition of a monastery from that of a single building to all of creation. We carry our cell with us at all times within the great cathedral of all that God has made, and thus we are constantly presented with the opportunity to receive what God is trying to share with us through it.

For some, it might be quite a radical notion to move from the traditional definitions of church. For many Christians, the word “church” may call to mind a few different things. First, one may use it to describe a Sunday morning worship gathering. When one says they are “going to church,” they typically mean an event held at a certain time of the week where one may sing, pray, and hear a sermon. This leads us to the second image of church that may come to mind for many, that being a particular building to which one travels to experience this event and others related to the life of a congregation that meets there.

Activities and buildings like these carry with them the possibility of impactful experiences and hold deep meaning for millions of people. But in addition to those, Francis invited people to think even bigger: church can be anywhere and happen at any time, because in a sense Christian believers are always carrying it with them.

The TARDIS is an integral part of The Doctor’s adventures. It makes traveling to different times and worlds possible, and not much would happen without it. But The Doctor and their companions rarely remain inside it. After all, what fun is it to go to all these interesting and exciting places if they never actually leave the ship to experience them?

And even once they leave the physical TARDIS, they still carry it with them. An ongoing connection to it allows them to understand the beings that they encounter, and sometimes allows them to breathe and be protected, among other abilities. In that sense, The Doctor and others never really leave it behind.

For Paul, the word “church” could have had a number of possible meanings. It could have referred to the house in which a particular converted family resided, but it also could have meant the extended network of groups and individuals that spanned an entire city. He used it to refer to communities of various sizes, and communities within communities. For Paul, churches ebbed and flowed, expanded and contracted, and moved about the populace whether together for worship and prayer or scattered in daily work or the tasks of service and evangelism.

Both Paul and The Doctor were travelers, going from place to place to check in on or help people as best they could. For either of them, to stay in one spot was to be less effective than they’d like.

Their visions were of a larger world or universe that needed what they could give, even beyond the preferences of those who wanted them to submit to more structure and regulation. The Doctor saw Time Lord technology as holding great potential to do good for others and had to defy his superiors to do it. Paul had a personal experience of God that directed him outside the specified bounds of the Jesus Movement to expand its reach, first to the Jerusalem leaders’ chagrin and then to their acceptance.

Many may be so used to thinking about the church as being an activity or a place. One may tend to think of it as having walls, either in the physical sense of a structure with a steeple and stained glass, or in the sense of having defined criteria for who gets to be part of it and who doesn’t. One may prefer these walls because they enjoy participating in keeping them raised against a world that they want to repel. Many others have experienced what it’s like to have a wall placed in their path as they are denied inclusion and acceptance.

The Doctor and Paul see the pitfalls of such walls and actively explore a calling to make them much more permeable. A TARDIS is for traveling, and for leaving in order to see to others’ needs. A church is for inviting more people in to find hope and healing, and for easing burdens rather than adding to them. They are both for active use for the benefit of others, rather than keeping to oneself.

As Francis suggests, our view of how God is present in the world and especially in the lives of hurting people changes when we consider that all the universe is God’s dwelling place. God calls us out of our boxes and buildings to experience the bigger, richer, deeper possibilities for a divine encounter all around. Such boxes and buildings may hold a sacred significance, but we carry that same sacredness at all times, wherever we go.

The Doctor and the Apostle: Intersections Between Doctor Who and the Letters of Paul is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Wipf and Stock.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

I'm Doing a Virtual Book Reading on September 13th

The next step in celebrating the release of The Doctor and the Apostle is coming up this Sunday night.

I'll be going live on my Facebook page to talk about my inspirations for and learnings from writing it, read a few excerpts, and answer whatever questions you may have about it.

Tune in at 8 p.m. ET to join.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Book Review: Shaped by the End You Live For by Bonnie Thurston

I have a new review up at The Englewood Review of Books. This time I reviewed Shaped by the End You Live For: Thomas Merton's Monastic Spirituality by Bonnie Thurston. Here is an excerpt:

Any writer whose work has endured as a rallying point of ongoing study, meaning-making, devotion, or wisdom-seeking seems to inevitably cause their readers to fall into common temptations and tendencies of how they interpret what they have left behind. Among these, for instance, might be a tendency to read one’s own life back into the words of another so as to lift up the desired message regardless of original intent. Another, related to the first, might be to remove the writer from their original context and approach their work as if it had been written in a vacuum, devoid of the particular time and place in which it was produced.

Those who love, appreciate, and derive meaning from the writings of Thomas Merton are not immune from these sorts of actions. Arguably one of the most prolific spiritual writers in Christian history, his reflections on life, faith, devotion, prayer, contemplation, service, and justice are still held in such high esteem; his work kept close to the hearts of millions seeking to deepen their own journey with God. And thus the commentaries on his writing have been just as numerous, as others have sought to aid devotees in their reading.