10 Gifts (A Christmas Micro-Giveaway)

If there's anything I've heard about my book, Coming Clean, it's this: "I bought this book for the alcoholic in my life, but as I read, I found it was actually a book for me." Don't take my word for it, though.

"When you open this book, your index finger may be pointing at someone else. By page 2, you realize its pointed directly at you." ~Kathryn Stephens, via Amazon.

"When I first heard of Coming Clean by Seth Haines, I figured I wouldn't connect with the book. After all, I'm not an addict. But, as Haines says in his invitation, we are all addicted to something. This book isn't about addiction but about the human experience." ~Annie, via Amazon.

I hope Coming Clean is a more universal book, that it tells some truth of the human experience. Even more, I hope Coming Clean is a book that starts micro-conversations about pain, addiction, healing, and the very real presence of the abiding God.

What is a Micro-Conversation?

We live in a Big Idea world, a Ted-talking, media-grabbing, conference-gathering sort of place. We live in a place where the loudest ideas are disseminated the most broadly. Messages are beaten, beaten, beaten into our heads, and we buy them, often before we've had a chance to vet them.

The idea of inner-sobriety--confronting pain, rejecting addiction, and walking into forgiveness and healing--is not meant to be unpacked in that Big Idea, conference-circuit world. The idea of inner-sobriety (the coming clean from all addictions) is best suited for an authentic, smaller community, for firesides or dinner-tables, for back-porches and rocking chairs. It is best suited for tiny and continuing conversations, for micro-conversations.

In the micro-conversation, we look into each other's eyes. In the micro-conversation, we field confessions, dry tears, walk from isolation and into accountable community. The micro-conversations facilitate healing. At least, that's been my experience.

Step Into the Micro-Conversation.

When the good folks at Zondervan asked my hopes for Coming Clean, I said, "I hope it starts a few tiny conversations." Today, I'm putting legs to that hope.

Coming Clean is a book that unpacks well wherever two or more are gathered. In other words, it's a good community read. Discuss it in community. Journal your own path to coming clean in community. Community is key--see? (See Eph. 5:18-19)

And to help you start your own micro-conversation, I'm offering a sort of Christmas giveaway.

Ho! Ho! Ho!

For the first ten people who order a copy of Coming Clean TODAY (Amazon, Barnes & Noble), I'll send you an additional, totally free, and possibly signed copy. (Date-stamped proof of purchase required.) It's my hope that you'll use this free copy to start your own micro-conversation, whether with a friend, in a book club, in a church group, or around your dinner table.

If you order your copy, FOLLOW THIS LINK TO MY FACEBOOK PAGE, and leave a comment letting me know. If you're in the first ten, you'll receive a free book! Think of it as a micro-Christmas giveaway.

Thanks so much for reading along, and thank you for reading Coming Clean. So many of you have started these micro-conversations, and I couldn't be more grateful.

*****

Coming Clean: A Story of Faith, is available. You can order online wherever good books are sold, or visit your local Barnes & Noble and pick up your copy!

***TINY LETTER***

CC Austin OuttakesThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. If you sign up, you'll receive my free eBook, Coming Clean|Austin Outtakes. The Outtakes share the story behind my latest release from Zondervan, Coming Clean|A Story of Faith.

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10 Gifts: The First Annual Gift Guide for The Normal Guy

Every Christmas season, I’m tasked with creating an Amazon wish list to make Santa’s shopping easier. Santa, it seems, is growing less omniscient by the year, and his elves issue an annual request that I compile a list of things I want (whether I need them or not) in one convenient, one-clickable location. This year, I was struck by the realization that there isn't much I need (aside from a half-cow's worth of beef) and there's nothing I really want (aside from world peace, as pageanty as that may sound). And so, hoping to find a little inspiration, I Googled "2015 Gift Guide for Men" and perused the results.

The unfortunate truth is this: the annual gift guides for men are stupid. I realize this is a sort of broad-stroke overstatement, and that "stupid" is a word we teach our children is the cuss of all cusses. But when list after list contains $450 man purses, $700 sneaker-boots, and longboards with Marilyn Monroe's visage on the deck, you start to ask yourself, what kind of men are people shopping for? We're not all Italian leather wearing, artisanal shave soap using, quasi-hipster yuppies from the OC, you know. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) There are a few of us out here who are normal.

I'm a fella who knows what I like, and I like what I know, and to top it all off, my normalcy is extraordinary. So for those of you out there who are looking for the perfect gift for that normal fella in your life, I'm here to help.

The Books:

In the last few years, publishing (especially Christian publishing) has broken the string of Real-Men-Kill-Bears-And-Fell-Timbers-For-Building-Log-Cabins books. Normal fellas are not like Nick Offerman, do not have thick handlebar mustaches, and do not pan for gold in the backcountry of Alaska. Normal fellas have families, work their nine-to-fives, and have little margin for reliving the Lewis and Clark expedition.

That being the case, allow me to recommend three books for your normal fella. These have been my favorite man-books (whatever that means) over the last few years. Buy them.

Know When to Hold 'Em, by John Blase - This fatherhood book by the cowboy of the internet will set the father's heart aright.

Man Enough, by Nate Pyle - What does it mean to live authentic manhood? Ask Nate Pyle.

Heroic Path, by John Sowers - From Amazon: "Today's man has no rites of passage. No initiation. No language for it. His only models are hyper-macho stereotypes and bravado men. He has rare few elders and may be fatherless. Even more, he faces a culture that is increasingly hostile to the idea of gender."

The Outerwear:

Patagonia Vest - I realized that I was closer to 40 than I was to 30 the day this sweater vest caught my eye. I bought it because I needed an Autumnal outer layer for those weird in-between temps so prevalent in the Ozarks. It's traveled from here to Montana, and has kept me warm everywhere I've gone. The quality is top notch, and the fabric is made from partially recycled materials. Sure, it's not some schmancy alpaca blend cardigan with vintage buttons, but we ain't all millionaires around here.

Marmot Precip Rain Jacket - There is nothing less normal-guyish than carrying an umbrella. Nothing, I say. Don't let him be a diva. Get him this rain jacket.

The Sneakers:

Adidas Sneakers - Every normal guy needs a normal pair of sneakers. Sneakers are for the store, for church, for the office on casual Friday. Nothing screams "normal fella" like a pair of regular, no frills sneakers. These are my favorites. Buy a pair or three.

The Knife:

Spyderco Manbug Pocket Knife - A normal guy doesn't need a knife for elk-skinning; a normal guy needs a knife for normal guy things (like cutting a box, or opening an envelope, or cutting a piece of chord to rig up that broken mini-van roof rack). I've used this knife (or a version of it) for three years, and I love it. It's small; it's sharp; it's plain. That's what normal guys like.

The Literary Stuff:

The Slaughterhouse Combo - I'll concede: this one might be a stretch. Slaughterhouse V is one of my favorite books, and the Vonnegut classic is a must read for any and all men. Grab a copy of the book and a this Out of Print teeshirt (which is just plain cool).

A Shakespearean Insults Mug - Could there be a better way to start the day? This mug is funny, useful, and educational. As an added bonus, this mug will provide your normal guy with a little gussied up language for insulting the in-laws or co-workers.

What is a Normal Guy?

I'm not sure there's such a thing, but if your husband, father, dad, cousin, friend, or boss doesn't spend the bulk of his winters combing his beard, polishing his $700 sneakers after fopping his coif just so, or hunting rams in the Alaskan backcountry, there's a good chance he qualifies. Consider these normal guy gifts. Buy them. Wrap them in newspaper. Toss them under the tree, and be done with it.

Photo by Caroline, Creative Commons, via Flickr.

*****

Coming Clean: A Story of Faith, is available. You can order online wherever good books are sold, or visit your local Barnes & Noble and pick up your copy!

***TINY LETTER***

CC Austin OuttakesThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. If you sign up, you'll receive my free eBook, Coming Clean|Austin Outtakes. The Outtakes share the story behind my latest release from Zondervan, Coming Clean|A Story of Faith.

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My Completely Irrational, Unscientific, Orthodox, Fringe System of Belief (Conclusion)

Recently, a co-worker asked whether we’ve reached the place in American culture where Christianity is seen as a fringe system of belief. I rattled off nine reasons why, if we’re honest, Christianity should be considered a fringe system of belief to those in the world at large. This Advent season, I’m exploring these beliefs and offering a somewhat surprising conclusion. Today, I'll explore the remaining reasons and conclusion. 

*****

MY COMPLETELY IRRATIONAL, UNSCIENTIFIC, ORTHODOX, FRINGE SYSTEM OF BELIEF

(Click the links for POINT 1, POINT 2POINT 3, POINT 4 and Points 5-6, and POINT 7 )

POINTS 8-9 AND A BRIEF CONCLUSION:

As if the life of Jesus were not supernatural enough,  Jesus stood clothed in his resurrected body on the mountainside, and he instructed his disciples one last time. "Preach, proclaim, and publish the good news about me," he said. "Teach people my ways. And by the way, you'll soon receive the power of the Holy Spirit." Can you see the disciples whispering to each other? "Who is the Holy Spirit? Is this another mysterious Parable?" they might have been asking. But before they could muster the audacity to wedge their questions into the conversation, Jesus spread his arms wide as an eagle and caught an updraft to heaven. Just like that, Jesus was gone.

His actions must have befuddled the disciples. Here one day, Jesus was healing the sick and casting out demons. Gone the next, Jesus was crucified on the cross. Here again, Jesus had risen from the dead and dined among them. And now? Jesus had flown the coop, gone to only God-knows-where, and left with only the promise of a good ghost haunting.

The disciples returned to the upper room in confusion, in trembling, perhaps in anger of the ever-leaving Messiah. There, as they tended to the business of replacing Judas the betrayer, the sound of a rushing wind filled the room and fire descended, licked the air over their heads. They left, filled with this new and strange fire, this Holy Spirit over their heads and in their mouths. They street-preached the secrets of God. They street-preached conversion and the spread of Christianity began.

Jesus' power was confined to his personage during his life. Risen from the dead, he could have stayed eternally, could have set up a kingdom of power and dominance. Instead, he chose ascension and left a Spirit-gift. It was his last holy conundrum--he vacated the world so he could fill it.

CONCLUSION

Like any unsolvable equation, the world continues to cast quizzical glances toward the life of Jesus. Was he a prophet? Was he a good teacher? Was he a yellow-toothed carpenter with a set of crazy eyes and enough charisma to scare up a band of followers that flouted the governments of the day? To the believer of the Christian story, the supernatural facets of his life--his birth of a virgin, his death and resurrection, his ascension, his gifting of the Holy Spirit--show him to be the diamond of all time and space. Jesus was God, and he came to be God With Us. And this, we say, has made all the difference.

Do you see it? This is why we celebrate Advent and Christmas. It is the supernatural, unbelievable, audacious story of God swinging low. And this leads us to the final question: has our western, hyper-rational society come to a point where it sees Christianity as a counter-rational, fringe system of belief? I might offer this answer: if it does not, perhaps Christians are doing something wrong; perhaps we are teaching something far less Christian than we'd like to admit.

*****

A CHRISTMAS GIVEAWAY AND A COUPON CODE

Sign up to receive my monthly Tiny Letter: A Compendium of Projects, People, Places, and Things. In December's issue, we're exploring the groaning of creation as we await the birth of the Christ with eager anticipation! And if you SIGN UP, you'll be entered into a drawing to win Preston Yancey's fabulous book Tables in the Wilderness. Though there can be only one winner (randomly selected, of course), every Tiny Letter subscriber will receive a 10% discount on the already-lower-than-Amazon price of Tables in the Wilderness, from Givington's!

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My Completely Irrational, Unscientific, Orthodox, Fringe System of Belief (Part 7)

Recently, a co-worker asked whether we’ve reached the place in American culture where Christianity is seen as a fringe system of belief. I rattled off nine reasons why, if we’re honest, Christianity should be considered a fringe system of belief to those in the world at large. This Advent season, I’m exploring these beliefs and offering a somewhat surprising conclusion. Today, I'll explore reasons 7. 

*****

MY COMPLETELY IRRATIONAL, UNSCIENTIFIC, ORTHODOX, FRINGE SYSTEM OF BELIEF

(Click the links for POINT 1, POINT 2POINT 3, POINT 4 and Points 5-6.)

Each night, we set the Christmas tree a-twinkling in the Haines' house, and last night I took a look at the ornaments adorning it. There's a baby Jesus ornament--a meek and mild one made from clay--and another baby jesus swaddled in blown glass. There are shepherds on a shelf over-looking the tree, and they're making their making their way to the baby Jesus in the creche over the entertainment center.

If your house is like mine, there are at least a half-dozen baby-Jesus depictions in your home right now, most of which adorn your tree. But do you have an ornament depicting the wedding feast at Cana, or one of Jesus driving the demons into Gentile swine herds? Do you have a Jesus-heals-the-leper ornament, or the limited edition Pool-of-Bethesda ornament from Dayspring? Do these seem like inappropriate ornaments for your Christmas tree?

Why?

The miracle of Christmas is the coming of God in human form. The miracle is that Jesus grew through infancy, toddlerhood, adolescence (zits and all), and into adulthood, where he embarked on the ministry of new life. Christmas isn't merely about a cute baby-child in a manger; instead, it is a New Genesis, the story of God returning to walk with men in his Garden of creation. It's the story of a wholly different life, one that ultimate conquered death for the benefit of all mankind.

As we saw in Parts 5-6 of this series, the stubborn wills of men murdered Jesus. But Jesus--the ever-more-stubborn God-man--bested the bunch. He rose from the dead three days after his crucifixion. And instead of bringing his wrath and vengeance upon those who'd strung him up, he instituted a Gospel of forgiveness, hope, restoration.  This is the pinnacle of his miraculous life, and so, this is the pinnacle of Christmas.

There could be no Easter without Christmas. It's the simplest truth, but one that I often forget. This being the case, perhaps we should hang an empty-tomb ornament or two from the old tannenbaum next year.

*I'd love to see an empty tomb ornament in 2015. If you would too, click:[tweetherder] Dear @dayspring, I would like a resurrection Christmas ornament for 2015.[/tweetherder]

*****

A CHRISTMAS GIVEAWAY AND A COUPON CODE

Sign up to receive my monthly Tiny Letter: A Compendium of Projects, People, Places, and Things. In December's issue, we're exploring the groaning of creation as we await the birth of the Christ with eager anticipation! And if you SIGN UP, you'll be entered into a drawing to win Preston Yancey's fabulous book Tables in the Wilderness. Though there can be only one winner (randomly selected, of course), every Tiny Letter subscriber will receive a 10% discount on the already-lower-than-Amazon price of Tables in the Wilderness, from Givington's!

*powered by TinyLetter

 

 

*Photo by Mike Tungate, Creative Commons via Flickr.

My Completely Irrational, Unscientific, Orthodox, Fringe System of Belief (Parts 5-6)

Recently, a co-worker asked whether we’ve reached the place in American culture where Christianity is seen as a fringe system of belief. I rattled off nine reasons why, if we’re honest, Christianity should be considered a fringe system of belief to those in the world at large. This Advent season, I’m exploring these beliefs and offering a somewhat surprising conclusion. Today, I'll explore reasons 5-6. 

*****

MY COMPLETELY IRRATIONAL, UNSCIENTIFIC, ORTHODOX, FRINGE SYSTEM OF BELIEF

(Click the links for POINT 1, POINT 2POINT 3, and POINT 4.)

 

POINT 5-6: We believe that Jesus was (5) convicted of claiming to be God, and (6) murdered.

It's a country run amok, one in a violent and tempestuous historical moment. The police, the government--all ruling authorities--are at odds with the people, and they push back waive after waive of protestors. The brown-skinned babies born under an expansive empire are opportunity-stripped. Some die under the hand of an authoritative, fear-mongoring government; others are relegated to menial labor, to service of the wealthier classes. Any attempt to revolutionize the system or seize opportunity is beaten back by the system itself. It's a world of oppression and sickness for most, and opportunity for only the elect.

These are the days into which Jesus was born. Sound familiar?

In the midst of all that injustice, God swung low. He came pouring revolutionary wine. He healed the sick, restored community to the lepers and the hemorrhaging. He taught good news in the temple, and bucked a legal system that would condemn an adulteress to capital punishment in the street. He showed mercy to those in need of mercy. He fed the hungry (5,000 of them to boot!), drove out demons, and calmed the storms.

He was God-with-us and the powers did not recognize him. They closed their eyes to his God-with-us-ness, plugged their ears to the Spirit and sang "la la la la la la la." They hauled him before the powerful Yes Men, the men elected to keep the status quo.  "He claims to be God!" the rulers said, "let's crucify him." Producing no evidence warranting a conviction, and ignoring all evidence proving his deific nature, they rigged the trial and marched Jesus to a blasphemers slaughter.

This was humanity's darkest hour. The pinnacle of creation convicted the Creator, and then they murdered him.

The powers murdered God. And I fear they're murdering him still.

*****

Thank you for reading. Follow along this Advent season as I explore my Completely Irrational, Unscientific, Orthodox, Fringe System of Belief.

And sign up to receive my monthly Tiny Letter: A Compendium of Projects, People, Places, and Things. In November's issue, I'm examining the question, "what is beauty?" and exploring the beauty found in nature, art, and people. Sign up today, and I'll send you a copy of the November Tiny Letter, and you'll receive my monthly Tiny Letter updates!

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*Photo by David Antis, Creative Commons via Flickr.