It was a typical e-mail from Asbury Seminary professor Ben Witherington. It simply said, "What do you think?" followed by a link to his blog. Ben has written many pieces for me over the years, for Christian History and Biography and Christianity Today, so of course I was intrigued.
Like other readers, I was stunned and impressed and inspired. Ben was blogging about his 32-year-old daughter, Christy, who had died a couple of weeks earlier. I immediately thought, So soon? Then again, we each have our own ways of working through grief, and Ben is a voluminous writer. It only made sense that he would grieve through blogging.
What impressed me was this: Ben's refusal to deny the pain and his refusal to deny his hope. I've read many accounts of grief, and some, like C. S. Lewis's A Grief Observed, are superb at exegeting the pain. Others wax eloquent about our hope in Christ. But here were reflections that both acknowledged the pain that will not be healed before our "glad heavenly reunion" and that refused to let go of God's promises.
To say the least, I never broach publishing ideas with someone who is in the immediate throes of grief! But Ben had contacted me and asked for this editor's thoughts, so I sensed he wanted to broaden his reach. Indeed, that was the case, and soon enough we were hammering out details of an article for CT and an eBook for Christianity Today Essentials.
The article, which starts on page 36, gives a taste of the longer eBook, now available at CTeBooks.com. For the book, Ben and his wife, Ann, added personal reflections on Christy. We wanted to help readers get to know Christy, to deepen our sense of the contours of Ben and Ann's grief. I also asked Ben to add even more theological reflection.
The whole process highlights the dynamics of web-based publishing today. No longer do we have to wait a year for a book to move from idea to publication. Nor does a book have to justify itself with 50,000 words to make economic sense. No more do you have to go to a bookstore or mail order a book and wait a couple of days to read it. Now we are able to publish natural-length eBooks nearly instantly; Ben's 15,000-word book took about a month to produce. And you are able to read it within minutes of logging onto Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com. You don't even need to buy an expensive eReader; both Kindle and the Nook have free apps for your PC.
This new e-world will allow CT to publish material that will inform and inspire in ways more timely and accessible than ever. What a great time to be in publishing!
Next month: We meet Heidi Baker, whose gifts of healing and church planting are reverberating throughout Mozambique; New York Times columnist Ross Douthat talks to Sarah Pulliam Bailey about America's "bad religion"; and Richard Mouw says we need more than Christus Victor.
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Previous Christianity Today articles on grief, death, and dying include:
Owning Redemptive Grief after the Ohio School Shooting | Instead of speculating on why T.J. Lane killed three of his classmates, we are better off asking how to grief the tragedy rightly. (Her.meneutics, March 1, 2012)
Why a Funeral Is Not the Time to Rejoice | We can let this season of Lent be Lent, so that Easter can be Easter. (Her.meneutics, February 29, 2012)
Boundaries in Grief | Why medicine should never trade places with a time to properly mourn. (August 20, 2010)
A Culture of Resurrection | How the church can help its people die well. (June 7, 2010)
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