Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Publishing is like a trip across the desert

When I was twelve, my family took a road trip from New Jersey to San Francisco and back. One of the most astonishing sights was the Great Salt Flats - a desert of salt, even flatter than my home South Plains, as far as the eye could see in every direction. Well into the flats, we spotted something peculiar beside the road ahead. We couldn't yet make out what it could possibly be, so I read for about ten minutes and then looked up for it again, sure it would be close now. It was still too far away to figure out even what its shape was. So I read for another ten minutes or so, looked up and found it was, though noticeably bigger, still quite far away. I bet it was nearly an hour from the time we first noticed it to when we passed it and could see it was a huge cactus-shaped sculpture with sports images (soccer ball, bowling pins, etc.) attached.

I think back to that astonishment at just how long it took to reach the sculpture, the impossibility of telling the distance due to the monotony of the salt flats, when I'm publishing something. When we've finished the writing and basic editing phases, it feels as if I'm almost done. Yet then once I put all the chapters into a master document and start reading it for final fixes, well, they just keep coming. I'll find a screen capture of code that doesn't follow our conventions, so I have to go back, find all the files with the error, fix them, make the screen captures, crop them, open each chapter, and reinsert the pictures. Then I'll find a chapter where we didn't include the exercise answers, and then in making the answers realize that it requires a step we never taught them, and references things we haven't indexed ... No matter how much time I try to allow for this phase, it always takes three times as long as I thought.

But, like that crazy road trip, I actually really enjoy publishing. I love books and learning so much it's a joy to get books ready to teach African students comprehension-based learning that also challenges them spiritually. That's been my favorite part so far, writing the "Eternal Thoughts," discipleship topics at the end of this chapter. They're nice little lessons in themselves, but their real power comes in the way they open the door for the teachers to engage the students, wherever they are in their spiritual journeys and "Lead them the the very Truth, to the Master Himself from whom alone they can learn anything" (George MacDonald). (See my Eternal Thoughts post for an example.)

Both the desert analogy and the discipleship I'm working on remind me of a passage I studied recently, Isaiah 40:3-5:

A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (ESV)

May we in our own hearts prepare the way of the Lord, raising up the pain and hopelessness, leveling down the pride, and praying for the glory of the Lord to be revealed in us.