Thirty Years

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Thirty years ago today I joined the staff of The Upper Room as assistant editor of Alive Now magazine. I was awarded the generous, extravagant, unheard-of salary of $15,000 per year, after which I went out and bought a car.

How can I adequately express my gratitude for these years of formation, of shaping and nurturing my being?

To my Saints, living and passed on to the eternal, I give great thanks. To Mary Ruth, John, Rueben, Hoyt, Laura, Moses, Joyce, Henri, Dorothy, Julian, Hildegard, Dietrich, and so many more. To Deen, Stephen, Marjorie, Michael, Janice, Judy, Bill, Don, Jerry, Trevor, Vance, Flora, and too many to name.

For retreats and prayer times. For brainstorming sessions and staff training. For laughter and tears. For parties and chapel services. For writing and editing and copy sessions. For print resources and for digital expressions. For immersion in creativity, undergirding our passion to help people grow in their relationships with God.

I see myself 30 years ago, and then I look at myself today. I write and talk and think — and don’t remember how I learned the things I know. I know many ways to prayer. I know the wisdom of Christian mystics. I know the ever-increasing hungers for sacred ways of living. I have stayed in this place and been gifted with a culture that values and embraces and teaches these things.

This thirty years — my post-graduate work in Christian spirituality. My Ph.D. in the Christian Life. My apprenticeship in growing closer to God.

In the words of Dag Hammarskjöld: “For all that has been — Thanks. For all that will be — Yes.”

New Job, New Adventure

Beth with Alive Now
First published writing in Alive Now (1985) -- and the current Alive Now website

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve been named Editor of Alive Now magazine. Alive Now is one of six devotional magazines published by The Upper Room. It happens to be the place that I started my ministry here back in 1986. January/February 2011 will be the first issue that I work on.

I’m looking forward to helping “unclutter hearts” all year ’round. Also, I’m excited to be able to take what I’ve learned in the internet world back to a print publication.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Season of Change

Spring in the Agape Garden, Upper Room
Spring in the Agape Garden, Upper Room

Lately I’ve been reflecting that my time at The Upper Room has given me more than a just steady job for more than 20 years. I find myself talking to my web development colleagues about organizing a web page using “The Mind of Christ,” “The Heart of Christ,” and “The Hands of Christ.” Or I’ll discover that I’m trying to figure out the right web application for teaching Lectio Divina. “Weird!” I think to myself. “I sound like Stephen Bryant [the boss of The Upper Room]” It’s not a bad thing … but when did that start?

Even more than the breadth of knowledge about spiritual things, my spiritual self has been formed by working here. I don’t know why it surprises me that my relationship with God has been influenced by this place and these people. In my time working here, I’ve been mentored and nurtured by some of the most knowledgeable, creative, and humble spiritual leaders in the Protestant world.

I’m grateful for these gifts … and extremely sad that we are going through another round of layoffs of our staff. Since the beginning of the year, we have lost 14 staff people, whose jobs have been terminated because of the sinking economy. We are in a time of great change, great grief. We cherish your prayers … and we need God’s love, presence, and healing.

Getting Ready for the New Book

I work in publishing for a living, but it’s still an amazing thing to be working on a book that bears my name (The Uncluttered Heart, Upper Room Books, Fall 2009). The book will be out early this fall for use during Advent of 2009. But the production process for books is a bit long and drawn out. Here’s the journey of The Uncluttered Heart so far.

  • I was writing the manuscript last summer (2008).
  • The manuscript was due about a year ahead of its release — Fall 2008. (This is so that the marketing department can understand what the book is about and start to include information about the book in upcoming marketing pieces.)
  • Right before Christmas 2008, I got to see a bunch of cover designs and was given the opportunity to say which ones I liked or didn’t like. A committee made up of editors and marketing people made the final decision on the cover.
  • The editor of the book (Rita Collett) started working with the manuscript after the first of the year (January/February 2009).
  • Rita sent me a couple of rounds of the edited manuscript and questions she wanted me to address, clarifications, etc. I put my “Advent hat” on and tried to remember what I meant last summer when I first wrote those words. (I love having an editor, a person 100% committed to helping my writing be clear and valuable to future readers.)
  • The cover design is being finalized this month.

Before too long, when all the editing, design, and proofreading has happened, the entire project will be turned over to the production department. These talented folks pick the best printer and watch over the job as it goes through the production  process. Sometime in late summer, the books will come off the press and then will start making their way to the warehouse to be available for sale by the time folks are picking out their Advent resources.