About July 2005

This page contains all entries posted to Hearts & Minds Books in July 2005. They are listed from oldest to newest.

May 2005 is the previous archive.

August 2005 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

July 2005 Archives

July 14, 2005

There we go.

Leonard Sweet once quipped that Luther's famous "Here I Stand" may have worked well for the start of the modern world, but in the fast-paced, communal, liquid world of postmodernity, faith's missional cry should be "There We Go!" Well, I don't know about that; Len also taught us to look for loopy self-contradictory paradoxes as a sign of postmodernism. So I want it both ways: Here I Stand. Right here in the blogosphere, with God as my witness, I can do no other. And, yes, There We Go.

Anyway, in this setting at least, where is here, really? Maybe it is more there than anywhere. And I never could have gotten (t)here in blogland without the inspiration of remarkably wise and good bloggers like intensely smart Gideon Strauss and David Wayne, the rightfully well-read Jolly Blogger and many of the writers whose links they provide in their respective circle o blog-friends. So it is definitly a we thing here. Even if I wished to mess around at what they do so well, it simply wouldn't have happened if not for the prodding and cyber-savvy help of one Scott Calgaro, of Beaver Falls, PA, King of the stellar Jubilee conference. Scott--ever the neo-Calvinist Kingdom visionary with a bookish past--insists that this will help us sell mail-order books. That is to say, blogging will help us accomplish our God-given vocation, do our thing, "serve the Lord, serve the People" as we used to say in our hippie days. So, indeed, there you have it: There. We. Go. It is definitely not Kansas for me anymore, now that I am doing this. And it hopefully will remain a "we" as I am supported by those friends foolish enough to get me blogging in the first place. It surely seems like less "standing" and more "going." So Sweet's quip feels right.


Now that I've expired my allotment of cheap cliches for the evening, I will in all seriousness say that I am grateful to those bloggers I do occasionally read like Derek at Aslan is on the Move* (he too often says nice things about me) and Dick at Viewpoint (I too often say bad things about him) who encouraged me to start this up. May I be half as elequant as they. And very serious props to Scott. And, yes, to Sweet, who, in what seems like another life, re-lit my fire for culturally relevant mission, an appreciation of the forms of our fluid new hot-wired culture, and the joy and usefulness of playfully clever sloganeering. I suppose he was the first blogger I knew (before anybody called it that) and certainly remains the master of the clever turn of a phrase, soli deo gloria, right t/here in cyber-space. We are glad for books like his that keep us thinking and imagining...

There we go.

Next time, perhaps I'll comment a bit more on my latest massive book review, posted at the H&M website (www.heartsandmindsbooks.com). It tells of my journey into social activism at the ripe young age of teenish and how the insights about structural change, institutional reform and social justice catapulted me into new views and, truth be told, nearly a new life. Decades later, I'm trying to make a living telling others about books to accomplish just that. We praise God for His faithfulness, for mainstay books we can sell and still sleep at night, written by the likes of Ron Sider, whose new edition of Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger is lauded at my column, and for the common grace of God who allows for events like Live 8, despite what the nay-sayers say. (In my review, by the way, I also describe a fabulously interesting recent book by a pro-market economist that follows her T-shirt being made and sold all over the world, which gives good light into the trade and aid stuff we've heard about lately in a very balanced, careful way.) By the way, did anybody see the Cockburn set during the Canadian 8 show? More on that, later, too. Thanks for dropping by. Send me an email if you'd like.

*please check Derek's blog in mid-July. He just returned from doing tsnumi relief in a very hard hit part of Thailand and his reflections are well-written, very illuminating and honestly mature. Don't miss it!

July 16, 2005

New Square Halo art books

We donÕt get out all that much for purely social pleasuresÑtied to the family business, too busy, trying to watch the budget, blah, blah, blahÑso it was a particularly nice gesture of Lancaster friends Ned & Leslie Bustard to invite us to dinner at their very cool, simply but artistically appointed, urban row home. Why might you care about this?

The Bustards are co-owners and chief editors for Square Halo Books. You can learn all about them here, or read my older reflections on their good books, here. Square Halo deserves to have someone tell their little story (anybody from Books & Culture or CT looking in on this? Call me. I write for cheap.) Briefly, it can be said that they cooked up this plan to have a classy little indie publisher that does theological books (like Alan BauerÕs The Beginning and The End) and good stuff about the arts. They have made quite a name for themselves, pouring themselves out as a labor of love to bring their first handful of books about Christian perspectives in the arts. IÕve raved here before about And It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God (we have a few left, then it will be out of print until the new, revised and considerably expanded edition hits later this year) and the excellent collection of interviews and artpieces, Objects of Grace: Conversations on Creativity and Faith edited by James Romaine. TheyÕve got a few other great titles, and we stock them here at the shop.

Last evening, we actually got to pick up and hold the brand new collection that they designed for CIVA (Christians in the Visual Arts) entitled Faith + Vision: Twenty-five Years of Christians in the Visual Arts. It is a spectacularly glorious example of contemporary artists and (taa-daaa) they were kind enough to use a blurb by me on the back (I had seen all the advance page proofs and text before.) The book deserves a more lengthy evaluation (watch the website) but for now, here is what I wrote about it upon first seeing it:

Nicholas Wolterstorff reflects in his important introduction upon the double alienation felt by many of the artists whose work graces this gorgeous book and it is a tough testimony that should be read by church folk everywhere; what damage we have done to hinder the artists amongst us, what a mediocre ethos we have too often created which discourages those with gifts of brooding allusiveness, creative imaginativity or colorful joy. But his pondering is only part of the story: herein is documented in word and image, the pages of this book record the glorious work of an organization dedicated to supporting the Christian artist. CIVA is a wonderful association and this book shows off the God-blessed glory of their membersÕ work in extraordinary fashion. Thank God for the gentle steadfastness of CIVA, for those who compiled this excellent book, and for Square Halo who publishes manna like this.
Joyfully and significantly, Square Halo also produced a collected volume of the important work of Sandra Bowden (herself a notable leader in CIVA and a wonderful art collector and artists.) Not only does The Art of Sandra Bowden showcase beautiful reproductions of SandraÕs fine work, it has criticism and essays and tributes to her by some thoughtful essayists (like the very sharp NY critic, James Romaine.) This is a beautiful, beautiful book and to see it, too, while trying to sip white wine with Ned and Leslie and keep an eye on our passel of young daughters, was nearly overwhelming. Maybe like you, I will have to save my nickels and dimes and buy these as soon as I can. In the meantime, they will soon grace the shelves of Hearts & Minds. We want to support Square Halo and get their good books into stores, reviewed, and bought and given as gifts. Know anybody that cares about GodÕs glory being seen in a respectable renewal of faith-based modern art?

Lastly, in time for the CIVA summer gathering, as were these two aforementioned titles, Eerdmans just released a major, major coffee table book edited by near-by Messiah College art prof, Ted Prescott. Entitled A Broken Beauty, this oversized book has what looks like brilliant essays and tons of nicely produced, fabulous Christian art. Thanks be to God for a book like this, a solid collection chapters of thoughtful reflection in Christian art historiography and aesthetics, but just a real classy gift book, too. What a treasure!

And the good news doesn't stop here. We are very, very excited to announce that Calvin Seerveld's significant and widely-quoted (but hard to find in stores) Rainbows for the Fallen World is now back in print, with an updated bibliography and a slightly new cover. We have it and are eager to let folks know---we've had not a few inquiries over recent years. Seerveld is another Christian leader in the arts and aesthetic theory (and a bit of a hero of ours here.) We will comment more on Rainbows...in months to come, you can be sure.

So: in any season any one of these four books would be a treat, and I would be shouting from the rooftops. Having three real art books and a re-issue of Seervled to promote is nearly a minor miracle. Let us pray that none fall the through the cracks, that they get reviewed and somehow promoted. (Do you think these guys have the huge funds to do national advertising? Do you think Hearts & Minds does? Ugh.) Anyone have ideas how we can promote these kind of thoughtful, accessible but somewhat bohemian Christian artbooks? And while your thinking about ordering these, or telling your local library about them, or donating them to a church resource room, why not say a pray for the Bustard family and Square Halo?

July 20, 2005

The sighs and joys of selling Harry Potter


I suppose a few of my few blog readers might want to know this, although, who knows, maybe you tire of it as I do: we have had as many negative comments about our stocking Harry Potter as we have appreciative ones. IÕve been quoted in local papers and in the national press---was it Christianity Today, perhaps, I forget---a few years ago about being thrilled with these wonderfully written books about virtue and kindness, loyalty and victory over darkness and how a thorough-going Christian worldview permits reading such novels. We thought maybe with each passing year, the Christian opposition would subside. And we would have been wrong.

Of course, Christians we know and like are reading them (alas, only a very few have bought them from us.) But some of those who donÕt like seeing them on our counter have bluntly told us so; a few other good-hearted souls have kindly expressed legitimate concern but have heard us out. I neednÕt review the whole long debate here, I suppose. Just know we are happy to sell fiction, some of us (although not me, actually) here are fond of fantasy, and, despite our serious attempts at holding up the importance of Christian holiness and nonconformity to the ways of the world (Romans 12:1 and 2, you know) we find Harry just not all that scary to fuss about. As always, the call is to be Òin the world but not of it.Ó We take a cue from I Timothy 4:1-5 (oh, sweet irony, eh?) and celebrate the good things in GodÕs creation.

We are not cavalier about witchcraft or evil; not at all. We would not sell books that minimize these things knowingly. We just donÕt think Potter is occultic. For one good study of this, check out The Gospel According to Harry Potter by Connie Neal. Or, the important book by John Granger (Looking for God In Harry Potter), who shows that there are some telling echoes and hints of Lewis in Rowling.

There isnÕt an exact parallel here, but a story comes to mind about U2. In their zany, hyper-ironic Zooropa tour days, Bono would dress like a schiester devil characterÑwith layers and layers of meaning and irony and deconstruction. He sometimes would draw a fan up on stage to dance with this devilish persona. Alas, one time a gal chastised him in his ear as they danced before tens of thousands. ÒYou shouldnÕt be dressed like the devil,Ó she scolded him, Òyou used to be a Christian band.Ó Lewis, he told her. ÒYou canÕt understand a thing we are doing if you havenÕt read The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis.Ó

Which not only reminds us to think broadly about Potter but to root our 21st century sensabilities about fantasy (and this little controversy, if it has hit your circles) in the tradition of the formative work of Lewis and Tolkein. And, to continue to think about (and listen to) U2, again, in light of their significant Christian influences. Do you know that Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of U2 by Steve Stockman is now out in a nicely expanded, new edition? (Click here to learn more about it, but do come back!) And did you know my best friend Ken Heffner (who works at Calvin College) has an impressive blurb on the book endorsing Mr. Steve StockmanÕs qualifications for writing this book? Way to go Ken. (And, that Tim Bogertman, big-time Hearts & Minds cheerleader at Messiah College, is also thanked in the preface.) Now, if we can just get the book into the hands of U2 fans who may not yet fully understand their work in light of Christian faith.

We stocked U2 since the month we opened, 23 years ago. And some customers have been critical. WeÕve stocked all the Harry Potter books, and, again, the criticisms, while not devastating, have buzzed around like pests in summer. They tend to be demoralizing.

So we rejoice for the gift of authors like Connie Neal and Steve Stockman, who give good, accessible introductions on these themes for those who need to have their dots well-connected. We are glad for the work of the Spirit in these expressions of common grace in popular culture, and glad to be in a line of work that allows us to talk about this stuff day by day by day.

And hey, if you donÕt believe me about Potter, just read the big fat things. My wife and daughter assure me youÕll love 'em. And, regarding U2, even if you donÕt like rock music (and who reading this blog doesnÕt) order from us ASAP the wonderful collection of sermons inspired by U2 lyrics. Real sermons inspired by real U2 songs. Brian Walsh (who co-wrote Colossians Remixed that I raved about at the website column in November) has two splendid chapters, importan, even, as they exegete the songs so well, and more so because they open up the Bible so well. And Steve Garber has two really marvelous chapters, again, faithful to Word and world, strong and beautifully written. That book is called Get Up Off Your Knees: Preaching Through the U2 Catalogue edited by Raeawynne Whiteley and Beth Maynard (published by Cowley.) Give us a call if you want it.

July 21, 2005

Abraham Kuyper, Quidditch and a Velvet Elvis

A few friends who humor me by reading the blog have sent links for good essays about Harry Potter. (Thanks, especially, to Erick Bierker, for reminding me of the good piece by Jerram Barrs from Covenant Seminary, which can be read here.) I frankly am not that passionate about this nifty novelÑIÕm mad, actually, since it is preventing my wife from even talking to me for long periods of time. But its omnipresence does raise the question that I daily live with: why are most Christian bookstores so insular? Why are evangelical customers taken aback to see us stock books like Potter, or current affairs bestsellers or jazz albums? Or novels which are promoted on Oprah? Why do friends who know us a bit and have shopped here for years still express surprise that we would promote things?

It seems that even our little effort to deconstruct the assumptions of what is or isnÕt ÒChristian artÓ or what faithful citizens should or shouldnÕt be advocates for (imagine! not all Biblical Christians are part of the ideological right) or why showing interest in contemporary thought forms like postmodernism and cultural forms (like blogs) just doesnÕt catch on. People who we thought understood our vision, our story, that we have this Òin the world but not of itÓ culturally-relevant, uniquely Christian worldview thing going on are shockedÑshocked---about our little stock of Potter. (When I hear how many thousands (!) some of the big chain stores have sold in a few days, I am shocked, shocked.) Or fairly loyal customers got it somewhere else because they just didnÕt think of us. WeÕre a ÒChristianÓ bookstore, after all. Why do many good Christian folk have these assumptions? (Did you ever hear me tell of the time a customer was perplexed that we carried a Christian children's picture book about animals and their God-given habitats? That is new age enviromentalism that lady warned me!)

I am letting you in on this little irritation not to show myself as a money-grubbing retailer who has sour grapes about not adequately milking the Potter cash cow. It is the deeper, bigger question of my life---how to help those whose primary loyalty is to the Kingdom of God to more robustly serve our living Lord in such a way that it makes us more human, not less, better citizens, sharper artists, more aware of current events, engaged, alive and evaluating all of this in light of our deepest convictions. (I like the nice, basic, new John Fischer book, Confessions of a Caffienated Christian, which not only riffs on the coffeehouse culture, but invites us to a very hipster play on John 10:10. And of course the title I often mention in this regard, Charlie Peacock's New Way To Be Human.) Indeed, from the arts to the sciences, politics to business, education to entertainment, questions of global politics to questions of what books we read to our children, all of this can be joyfully pursued not out of fear of this world, but out of a keen sense that, as the old hymn puts it, ÒThis is our FatherÕs World.Ó The Potter question, like the question of the third world debt or Live 8 or fair trade that I wrote about at the Hearts & Minds July column, are just examples, case studies, daily quandaries of what it means to be faithful in living out the implications of our confessions in everything.

So, thanks to those who recommended some nifty articles and good websites. There are just tons of resources that help us Òthink ChristianlyÓ about pop culture, film, media, the arts, and the like. One very helpful site is the blog from the Student Activities board at Calvin College, where some of the lectures from the scrumptious ÒFestival of Faith and MusicÓ conference are downloadable. Hear talks by performing artists like Bill Mallonee, David Bazan or Sarah Masen, or cultural critics like David Dark or Steve Stockman. It was a gathering that was (and their lectures are) as their main man Ken Heffner likes to say, Òa signpost of the Kingdom.Ó

One book that helps us get beneath the popular culture controversies and probe more deeply into the deepest theological underpinnings of common grace ministries and finding God in the ordinary comes from the pen of T.M. Moore. Moore (who himself wrote a book called Redeeming Popular Culture: A Kingdom Approach, which is not unlike my old house-mate Bill RomanowskiÕs Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God In Popular Culture) just released Consider the Lilies: A Plea for Creational Theology which were lectures given at the Jonathan Edwards Institute conference in Annapolis a few years back.

(We just came back from selling books at that event a couple of weeks ago and we commend their website to you ---the recordings of the lectures from previous JEI events are available as are the stellar ones from this yearÕs event. They are excellent, especially those done by good friends and former CCO staffers, Dale Westervelt (On Callings and Vocations) and Steve Garber, who did two excellent and moving, intellectually rich keynotes.) Our friend the Jolly Blogger also has some nice notes from the conference as he gave his day-by-day impressions and summaries of the main talks.)


Consider the Lilies by T.M. Moore essentially explains how a high Calvinist regard for the doctrine of creation gives us the basis for not only the obviousÑcaring for the ecology of creation---but for exploring the vast array of possibilities God put into the creation. He does this, not surprisingly to those who know these things, by exploring some of the teachings of 18th century Puritan leader, preacher, philosopher and President of Princeton University, Jonathan Edwards. In T.M.Õs capable hands, Edwards is shown to unlock the grand notion of GodÕs sovereignty over GodÕs world, holding before us the obligation to care, to open it up, to explore and (as Genesis 2 puts it) to Òtend and keep the garden.Ó An odd century or so after Jonathan Edwards, Dutch neo-Calvinist Prime Minister Abraham Kuyper came to that same Princeton and delivered the ÒStone LecturesÓ whose themes ring into the 20th century and into my heart through the likes of Francis Schaeffer or Charles Colson or Calvin Seerveld or the Pittsburgh Jubilee conference and animate our bookstore efforts that we ruminate about with you now. Kuyper insisted, in those lectures, that Christ is King of all creation, that the Reformation era emphasis of GodÕs sovereign grace has implications not just for salvation, election and assurance of eternal life, but for the implications of our daily thinking about commerce, the arts, science and politics. The Stone Lectures are still in print (Lectures on Calvinism) and although laden with a thick, late 1800Õs rhetorical style, they provide a potent counter-punch to the lame religious attacks against Harry Potter; this whole-life vision of creation and redemption is a viable alternatives to the kind of piety that teaches us to run away from GodÕs good world or the complex issues of the day.

Not only have the ideas of those lectures and the Dutch revival/reformation that shaped them, influenced Beth and I and our team here at Hearts & Minds, but it has significantly shaped at least a few streams within contemporary evangelicalism. Peter Heslam, for instance, does an extraordinary job of documenting the vast impact of these amazing Princeton lecture of Prime Minister Kuyper in Creating a Christian Worldview: Abraham KuyperÕs Lectures on Calvinism. It isnÕt quite as thick as Harry P and it isnÕt, I suppose, nearly as much fun---nobody plays Quidditch, IÕll admit---but it surely will bring you irrevocable insight about a movement of God that gives us good basis for the sort of cultural engagement friends of Hearts & Minds are all about.

If our story here is part of your story there, thank God with us for the likes of T.M. Moore who writes about GodÕs creation so nicely, and Peter Heslam, who unpacks the historical and cultural significance of Abraham Kuyper. And thank God that, in His mercy, Christ really does reign over a very good world.

***

You know somebody else who gets us to this kind of place, this Christ-honoring affirmation of a good, if considerably fallen and idolatrous, world, a world about which we are called to care? One wild and honest emerging church dude, Rob Bell, of Mars Hill Church and nooma video fame. Yes, we stock his nooma DVDÕs and, happily, we announce---shout about, really!---his brand new book Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith. Now that needs a blog or two itself. (He is, after all, the kind of cool guy who most likely does play Quidditch.) Order it from us right away if you dareÑit is a refreshingly honest and creative and visionary work, packaged in a particularly handsome, innovative hardcover, which brings to mind the White Album---or hang in there with me here as I will surely be talking about it again.

Thanks for caring about these things, supporting our business and spreading the word about these little essays. We are very, very appreciative.

July 22, 2005

Total Truth wins award

It is later than I would wish, regardless of what the mistaken clock thingie on the blog says. And it has been a hard week---my beloved and previously sturdy father-in-law, Harry Gross (if you are the praying type) has been hospitalized for serious things. Beth is still out of town, staying there a bit longer to be bedside. We are all pretty raw, fearful, sad to see the hard options the frail elderly have. But that is another blog, as many of us know too well. Don't get me started...

Still, I am eager to celebrate something altogether good, a good grace and perhaps noteworthy sign of something. I have been happy to serve as a finalist judge for the Evangelical Christian Publisher's Association's Gold Medallion Award* in various catagories in recent years (and, truth be told, sometimes it is perplexing what gets nominated or submitted---books that are utterly fine and utterly undistinguished.) This year, a wonderfully-earned and well-deserved Award goes to Nancy Pearcey, author of the important Total Truth: Liberating the Gospel from Cultural Captivity. It does the kind of thing I talked about in yesterday's post, except without the goofy stuff about Quidditch. It is interesting, sober, thoughtful and very inspiring.

If we are going to raise up a generation of Christian folk who honor the Lordship of Christ across the whole of life, and work out the implications of God's redemptive plan in all of science, art, politics and family life, then this kind of intentional contribution to building up the Christian mind will be essential. It is a reminder, a foundation, a helpful polishing of the lenses through which we imagine our lives. Along with the kinds of things I mentioned yesterday--T.M. Moore on creational theology, Bill Romonowski on popular culture--this book can really make a difference.

I've mentioned Total Truth a time or two back at the website over the past year and agree with the many good reviewers who have suggested that it is one of the best worldview books yet done. I am confident that it is the closest thing to a Francis Schaeffer book we've had in years, although it is a more hefty, sustained argument, and altogether readable.

Nancy is an old acquintance, actually; in fact, she acknowledges us in her first book The Soul Of Science (we helped with some book research, of which she did quite a lot!) It remains an excellent overview of the history of the philosophy of science, from a solid and accessible Christian perspective. We stayed in touch a bit during her stint helping Chuck Colson with his worldview formation, then as she founded and served in executive leadership of the innovative and important Breakpoint radio show and through her work as a senior fellow and policy director of the think-tanky Wilberforce Forum. Colson continues to draw on Abraham Kuyper's "Stone Lectures" (see yesterday's blog) and Nancy was a big part of his broadening horizons, I'd guess. She co-authored the award-winning How Now Shall We Live (Harold Fickett, a fine writer and storyteller in his own right, helped with that nicely, too) and Total Truth is in many ways a follow up to that ground-breaking study. It isn't precisely a sequel, though, so even if you haven't yet worked through How Now, I'd say start with Total Truth.

In Total... Pearcey tells some of her own journey--her experience at L'Abrai, her skepticism about faith, her intellectual struggles, her studying the heady work of Dutch philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd, her conviction that the hard dualism between the so-called sacred and secular is Biblically unwarranted (and inevitably leads to a water-down, compromised faith--technically called synthesis), her on-going desire to combat the secularized ideology of naturalism as it appears most frontally in Darwinist science and sociology. She is a great teacher, using good illustrations and potent stories to further explain her solid reflections on the nature of truth in God's good world. It is a good book, raising truly important matters in a fine, fine way. It deserves the Gold Medallion.

As I said, it is late, and I'm thinking about my own dad---killed in a car wreck a few years back---and Beth's dear mom, who died last summer. And Harry, now in great pain. It is a fallen world, isn't it, and in these tender moments it becomes absolutely clear. But we live in a world where there is truth, not just "values" or spiritual sentiment or opinion or (or, on the other hand, a world where truth is nothing but hard fact, data, numbers.) We know that things are more than either option--no truth, or a reductionistic kind of truth that is nothing human. No, truth is whole and it is real and we live and move and have our being in it all. This is the real deal. Whether it is the horror of African genocide or global injustice---do see my July website book reviews if you haven't---or the ordinary harshness of a daily, fallen world, seen in crummy institutions and less than humane ways to live and die, what the church has called the Fall is real.

And, thanks be to God, God's promises, presence and plan of redemption is true, too. What Lewis' critters in Narnia call Deeper Magic. Really real. Totally true, for all of life. Nancy says it better than I in my feeble mood now so I yield to her.

We commend the book to you, invite you to order from our website if you want; get a group going, buy one for your public library. At least, check out her Total Truth website and see the handsome cover, the good news of the award and some blurbs and impressive endorsements there. THere are links to her speeches--she's been on C-Span and NPR, you know. And links to several good reviews (including one insightful one written by H&M friend Jim Skillen from the Center for Public Justice, where he compares her book to David Naugle's stunning work, Worldview: The History of an Idea. Read that one here. Enjoy. Knowing that what she says is true.

*For a complete listing of the 2005 ECPA Gold MedallionAward winning books by catagory, click here.

July 23, 2005

Sabbath

It is late Saturday night, just back from the hospital, and I am wanting to tell you how deeply meaningful reading books on the sabbath has been for me. As I think about tonight, and tomorrow, I think of that. We don't really get it right, I am sad to admit, but I come back often to the theological depth and importance of Marva Dawn's Keeping the Sabbath Wholly and the lovely elequance of Dorothy Bass' Receiving the Day: Christian Pracitices for Opening the Gift of Time. Gene Peterson insists that Heschel's Sabbath is an all-time must-read. On this topic, thank goodness, there are some old ones and great newer ones. But, you know, I think I won't take the time or energy to describe them. Tomorrow will be a hard day for me, I think---back to the hospital---and I pray for grace and hope. Beth, for those that know us, is close to her dad, and the kids are, too. And even if family crisis was not part of the days toil, it is sabbath-time already...

So, here is what I think: if you are reading this on Sunday, why not just shut down the darn computer, quite doing this stuff, and go take a walk or get out a novel or write a letter to your congressman, or listen to an old album, or make some fun recipe and give it to your neighbor, or take extra time to pray or laugh or take a nap. You know the drill. Just do it. Or don't do it, as the case may be.

And--note this, as I don't say it often: don't order anything from Hearts & Minds today. We don't check our emails on Lord's Day, anyway. So there. Amazon-Mart-dot-you-know-what is open 365 and, you know, it just ain't right. Peace.

July 26, 2005

The Missional Church

Sometimes folks have said they'd like to listen in as I talk with customers about books. Well, actually, not too many folks have said that, but I imagine they might.

Thought you might like to see a list I compiled for a friend, an administrator in the Presbyterian Church (USA). The leadership of the Synod he serves has been thinking a lot about The Missional Church by Darrell L. Gruder and other similar books in the "Books and Our Culture network." See here or here for some info about that movement, and here for some articles to download. He asked me to offer a list of other titles that might be more accessible and useful for ordinary pastors and other congregational leaders. As you can see, I spent a couple hours putting together my response.

There are books that are important to Gruder's project---one immediately thinks of Leslie Newbigin (anything of his, really) and his spectacularly influential and wise book The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society and the important work of George Hunsberger and Craig Van Gelder. And there are plenty of other really good books on the church of various sorts, some that I wish I had space to tell about, even if they aren't a part of that gang. But here, I am, remember, answering a specific question, for a certain customer, serving in a certain context. Pray for customers of ours like this, and other church leaders, that they might get good resources and inspire their pastors to read more deeply and start book discussions and reading clubs if they haven't already. I am convinced that paying attention to these kind of books can make a difference. Maybe you might copy this or forward it to somebody you know who might find it interesting. Am I foolish to think that a simple bibliography can make a difference??

Anybody care to comment on any of these? On The Missional Church that started the whole question? Wanna order anything?

So here is my reply. Hope you enjoy eavesdropping...


Dear friend,

Thanks again for asking for some book ideas. It is a real honor to suggest some things for denominational leadership like yourself and I hope that a couple of these books might prove fruitful. There are oodles of books IÕm excited about at any given time, so your question helps me focus on a special few. Let me know if you want to talk further about any of these.

So, to your question:

Treasure In Clay Jars: Patterns in Missional Faithfulness Lois Barrett et al (Eerdmans) $18.00 This is the latest in the ÒGospel and Our Culture networkÓ books and it is by far their most accessible. I like all of those, by the way---Confident Witness, Changing World is especially useful since it is a collection of essays. A congregation study group could pick and choose the chapters that they found most useful.

What is so great about Treasure in Clay Jars is that is focuses on nine congregations, showing what a missional church looks like. The foundational work is Gruder and the missional church vision, but each of these congregations are living it out in their own unique setting and context. This examination of what makes these churches tick is informed by solid theological reflection but the case study approach makes it very practical in nature. Nicely done.

By the way, the ÒGospel in Our Culture networkÓ book that was released last year, Storm Front: The Good News of God by James Brownson et al is shorter than the others and a touch feisty. It really does make the claim for GodÕs reign being the fundamental context of our contextualized ministry. It isnÕt quite like Resident Aliens or, the one I liked better, Where Resident Aliens Live but it does highlight the uniqueness of a commitment to the gospel in a pagan culture. It, too, would make a good, accessible study to get the over-all framework and vision of this kind of thinking.


Shaped By GodÕs Heart: The Passion and Practices of Missional Churches Milfred Minatrea (Jossey-Bass) $23.95 Gruder himself as a hefty quote on the back of this, but perhaps Carol Davis says it most clearly: ÒMinatrea has distilled the essence of what it means to be a missional church. The insightful summarization and articulation of distinctive practices can be the launch pad for every courageous church leader who wants to bring Kingdom impact to their world both locally and globally.Ó A wonderful invitation to an outward focused pilgrimage.

The Practicing Congregation: Imagining a New Old Church Diana Butler Bass (Alban Institute) $17.00 I have reviewed DianaÕs great memoir, Strength for the Journey, at our website when it came out a few years ago and raved about her way of telling her own faith journey in light of her experiences in the parishes of which she was a part. Here, she teaches about the new configurationsÑespecially rejecting the old and unhelpful Òliberal vs conservativeÓ dichotomy---in creative congregations that dare to root themselves in the tradition and yet be innovative and culturally savvy. An excellent book, especially for those of us working for renewal within the mainline traditions.

By the way, if you want missional, IÕd encourage you to struggle with the powerful little book she wrote a hear ago called Broken We Kneel which is an extended essay on church/state stuff, pacifism, patriotism and being responsible civic citizens who are firstly loyal to Jesus. The narrative drive of this little book is from her experience after 9-11, when she worked as a spiritual director at a Northern Virginia Episcopalian church, and, after much dialogue, discussion, pain and discernment, felt she had to leave over the issue of flags in the sanctuary. I reviewed it in my monthly book review column when it came out a year ago . That certainly raises one of the big missional kinds of questions, doesnÕt it? Highly recommended.

Diana is not only a good writer, but a clear communicator and she will be at the State PastorÕs conference this November so get folks talking about Bass and help push her lectures at that Harrisburg conference. We never have enough Presbyterians at that, anywayÉ

By the way, there will be a bit of a theme of the emergent congregation movement, too, this year, as they tap into younger (post) evangelical, postmoderns doing hipster ministry in new forms. (The new congregation that Pittsburgh Presbytery sponsors, pastored by a team including my good friend B.J. Woodworth, is one of those Ònew kind of ChristianÓ kind of projectsÉ) In that whole arena there are plenty of great new books, but perhaps the most useful for thinking about change in the local congregation is Brian McLarenÕs The Church On The Other Side. A new book from England, Emergingchurch.intro by Michael Moynaugh (who wrote Changing World, Changing Church) may be the best starter book on that movement---and that emergent conversation is always citing Newbigin, Guder, using the language of missional churches, etc. MoynaughÕs may be really useful for congregations of all sortsÉ


Becoming a Blessed Church: Forming a Church of Spiritual Purpose, Presence & Power Graham Standish (Alban Institute) $18.00 I suppose you kow Graham (from Zelionople) and his several other books. He is known as a powerful organizer and a good spiritual director and here he combines in good fashion a variety of streams, helping congregations become balanced, passionate and full of vision. This has very, very good endorsements and will become highly regarded, I'm sure. Very nice.

The Community of the King Howard Snyder (IVP) $17.00 There may be other books like this, but I so like this new revision of a classic. What is really good about this Wesleyan author is how his work resonates with a Reformed vision, too. He maintains that GodÕs work in the world can be understood most fundamentally as the reign of Christ over His worldÑthe Kingdom of God. The church is centralÑliterallyÑto that vast, healing work, but the church is not quite the same as the Kingdom. The Kingdom is God's shalom breaking out through Christ in every zone of life, so it entails laypeople being equipped to live out their faith in work, citizenship, service, neighborhoods, whatever. The community of faith is nurtured by intentional relationship and God-centered, Kingdom-oriented liturgy, so the church becomes the launching pad, if you will, for whole-life discipleship of a Kingdom sort. It emphasizes the missional character of the local church, the need for renewal that is more organic and less institutionally structured, and calls for Kingdom-centered congregations. I love this book!

A conservative PCA guy (Reformed Heritage Presbyterian Church) who uses the historic-redemptive approach to the unfolding of the Biblical drama in a way that leads him to this same, similar vision is Peter Leithart, who wrote The Kingdom and the Power: Rediscovering the Centrality of the Church. (Presbyterian & Reformed) $11.99 He makes an important case for a significant understanding of worship and sacraments, too, and this might be helpful especially for our more conservative or theologically serious congregations.

Truly The Community: Romans 12 and How to Be Church Marva Dawn (Eerdmans) $16.00 This is a hefty, mature book that would make a fabulous study for a serious group. She unpacks the Scriptures wonderfully, offers good stories and testimonial, and offers us the call into communityÑfor the worldÕs sake. Some of MarvaÕs chapters in her collection of essays on worship, A Royal Waste of Time are similarly missional and highly, highly recommended. (One of those chapters, by the way, was first delivered at the aforementioned PA State Pastor's Confernece, and it is wonderful to see it in this collection.) We've got to get our people reading more of her stuff, I'd say. She once told me that she thought her most radical was Is It a Lost Cause? Having the Heart of God for the Church's Children.


Road Runner: The Body in Motion Thomas Bandy (Abingdon) $12.00 A lot of folks know Bandy (and his partner Easum) for their gonzo congregational change stuff. This is a solid, reasonable, visionary, serious-but-fun call to get busy in mission, joining Christ Òon the roadÓ as we move out into action. This is wise, challenging, and yet pleasant, making it very useful for small groups. A great choice.

Doing Evangelism JesusÕ Way: How Christian Demonstrate the Good News Ronald J. Sider (Evangel Publishing House) 13.00 These were once preached as sermons, and, as always with Ron, it is visionary and practical, combining deep piety with serious passion for social change. These insist that we must preach and live the good news, show and tell, rejecting all dualisms between word and deed, saving the person or reforming the society. Under the Lordship of Christ, we are to become communities who nurture faithful outreach that lives out faith in practical ways. Lovely and challenging.

Seeing Beyond Church Walls: Action Plans for Touching Your Community Steve Sjogren, editor (Group) $19.99 Each chapter is clear, motivational, concrete and very inspiring. With new paradigms of ministry and new visions for the importance of culturally-relevant contextualized outreach, this book gives several great avenues of transforming the church to transform the world. Very practical, not too academic.

Building a Contagious Church: Revolutionizing the Way We View and Do Evangelism Mark Mittelberg (Zondervan) $14.99 Not long ago we spent a weekend selling books at an event where Mark was one of the main speakersÑand love him. What a fun and funny guy. This is a very thorough study of how congregations can be more effective in evangelism training and holding up an ethos which values outreach.

Unfinished Business: Returning the Ministry to the People of God Greg Ogden (Zondervan) $16.99 An earlier version of this was entitled The New Reformation and it is a vigorous and systematic study of how churches can equip the laity, raise up agents of outreach, and move from Òmaintenance to mission.Ó A major contribution that, while thorough, is very readable.

Healing Spiritual Amnesia: Remembering What it Means To Be the Church Paul Nixon (Abingdon) $15.00 With a passionate forward by Tony Campolo, this is an upbeat call to return to Òfirst thingsÓ which certainly includes a robust sense of mission, outreach, purpose and passion for GodÕs work in the world.


The Small Church At Large: Thinking Local in a Global Church Robin Trebilcock (Abingdon) $17.00 We stock a pretty good selection of books about smaller churchesÑwee kirks. This is the best on missional thinking for small church leaders. Exciting!

For All GodÕs Worth: True Worship and the Calling of the Church N.T. Wright (Eerdmans) $12.00 This little study, if taken seriously, could have an incredible impact in our vision and work. The first half are a few good chapters on worship, the significant second half are about the implications of our worship for our life in the world. This is a powerful call to become cruciform-shaped community that is sent to live out ChristÕs Lordship over history, in daily and practical ways. Very highly recommended.

July 29, 2005

Off Main Street


As you may know, IÕve been doing some bedside sitting with my frail and amazing father-in-law. It has been hard, soul-piercing and exhausting. I had imagined myself reading lots in the silence of the hospital room, at least between bathroom visits, beeping from the techno stuff, and doctor calls. Reading? It just wasnÕt meant to be.

By the way, I suppose this hardship is relatively routine for many elderly folks and many friends my age have expressed solidarity in this end of life journey that we face with our parents. For younger others, whose trudge through the institions of health care have been to face the hard and crazy stuff of cancer treatments, nobody I know has written with as much verve and honesty, passion and guts, faith and honest hope as my buddy Dwight Ozard, music critic, writer and social activist. He has chronicled his cancer-fightin' ups and downs---more downs, I suppose, until lately---at his own website. His journals were blogged over the last year or two and you should check out his very interesting website, and then dip into his gut-wrenching and colorful and compelling reportage. And his reminders to pray for the poor and those who have no support and no hope.

Here, though, I wanted to fulfill my promise of this blog and not wax uneloquent on our personal stuff (although the reality of the hardships of Grandpa G, as he has been affectionately known by my children, is so major it is difficult not to mention.) Rather, I am supposed to note some books.

So, IÕve been trying to dip into short essays and stuff that can be read on the run. IÕve been meaning to read a guy who I had a hunch IÕd like. Been putting it off for a year at least. And now that I've started reading him, I cannot believe it. He is so funny, such a good writer, so interesting and odd and good. I refer to emergency CPR guru, Michael Perry. His big breakthrough book, now out in paperback, is called Population 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time (HarperCollins) $13.95. Long before reading him, I was convinced I wanted this slice of heroic Americana for three reasons that converged when I ordered them into the shop a year or so ago: somebody said he did for EMT work what Thomas Lynch did for undertaking. (If you havenÕt read Lynch, at least go to my website review that I wrote of his extra, extra-ordinary, brilliant work, The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade and Bodies in Motion and at Rest: Essays on Metaphor and Mortality, here. And then call immediately and order them. They are truly among my most favored books, ever, and everyone we push them comes back for more.) So, I was disposed to think highly of Perry. Secondly, Beth and I were enjoying some small town memoirs and essays about rural life, like the work of wonderful writer, Barbara Holland, whose new memoir I am anxious to take to a local joint and slurp coffee and eat egg salad and devour. And I love to dip into her brief pieces in Wasn't the Grass Greener or Endangered Pleasures. (Our favorite of hers, though, is sadly out of print, about her move from to very small town life in Virginia.) And, as always, we were reading Wendell Berry, then, I think, Jayber Crowe, perhaps his finest novel and a great way into the themes of his nonfiction essays. So this nearly gonzo-crazy rugged rural collection of articles about redemptive insights gleaned from the siren trade, well, it just seemed weird and quaint and quirky enoughÉand still seemed to be a book that mattered. It has gotten some good reviews, and I was not wrong.

I started with Perry's more recent one, also now in paperback, Off Main Street: Barnstormers, Prophets & Gatemouth's Gator which is a splendid and rich collection of rural life bits, magazine-type features and fine essays about all sorts of junk. A bit darker and I think funnier than Lake Wobegon, and more white-trash straight than the good Mr. LynchÑwhose deeply moral work about mortality, though rooted in a small town of ordinary and not so ordinary dyings, is still necessarily serious and a bit literary (even if often funny.) Perry writes about fighting fires, passing a kidney stone, hammering down I-80 in an 18-wheeler and meditating on the relationship between cowboys and God. The back cover says Òhis essays balance earthiness with poetry, kinetics with contemplation, and is regularly salted with his unique brand of humor.Ó I am not sure about that kinetics thing, but I just want to shout, "Yeah, hell, yeah." The chapter about traveling with a butcher who does his itinerant work from a traveling slaughterhouse in way below freezing temperatures did more than make me cold, it made me gape with my mouth open at the hard work of our northern mid-West farmers. What a chapter!

One of his truly funny pieces was about a group of frat guys who buzz-sawed up a huge plastic BobÕs Big Boy Statue. This gruesome bit of tomfoolery isnÕt glorified, really, but becomes the opportunity for him to go visit the place that makes these kinds of corporate fiberglass items, roadside colossi and other big plastic things. He tells of some of their hugest creationsÑa giant fish which people walk through at the Fishing Hall of Fame, for instance (it's a Muskie, if you really must know, and people have been married in there) and ponders the significance of these kinds of things. It is, trust me, a great chapter.

* * *

IÕve only dipped in to it a little bit, but weÕve received a new book that I can only say is something like the highly acclaimedÑwe told you about him years ago, but nobody believed me! ---Donald Miller. If you liked Blue Like Jazz or Searching for God Knows What may I recommend the brand new flashBANG by Mark Steele*. The cover sports a hip little firecracker (or is it a big stick o dynamite?) and a subtitle which says: How I Got Over Myself. (Relevant) $13.99. The marketing hype isnÕt quite Velvet Elvis proportions [see my earlier blog about this new book by Rob Bell], but I think it walks in similar turf. One can tell from the back cover which asks, boldly, ÒWhy would someone want to read the back cover of a book?Ó and proceeds to answer that with direct prose (dripping in irony, no?) Steel admits that he Òfeels like the last person chosen in dodgeball. Potential reader,Ó he pleads, ÒPick Me.Ó You can pick it, pick it up, but I don't think you have to work with it, read it straight through. Just mess around, a chapter here and there. I think you'll be hooked.

I love Charlie PeacockÕs heartfelt endorsement (and Charlie wouldnÕt blurb this thing if he didnÕt mean it, and I know that he is disinterested in the evangelical subcultureÕs Òstarmaker machineryÓ these days. And he is into the story-telling of memoir, seriously, so I trust this line: ÒMarkÕs words will set people free, and free people change the world.Ó There you have it. And do click on the hyper-link to Charlie's site; it is very cool.

*In the preface Steele compliments Patton. Could this be Patton Dodd, of My Faith Thus Far: A Memoir of Conversion and Confusion Jossey-Bass) $21.95. Now there is one great ride of a tale. Couldn't put it down, even his part about being at Oral Roberts and all. Wow.

* * *

Lastly, if you want a memoiristic devotional, a 30-day experiment, check out Surprise Me by Terry Esau (NavPress) $10.99. He wrote the interesting Blue Collar God/White Collar GodÑthe very best part was the two-sided, upside down covers. Here, the advertising executive shows us his chops, coming up with sheer cleverness that is not just a jingle, but communicates. And he is communicating about life, about the journey, about experimenting in finding God, seeking the surprises of the Kingdom, hoping against hope. As the omnipresent Brian McLaren puts it, ÒSurprise Me (gives us) a way to take some steps forward in our spiritual life, wherever weÕre staring from, without guilt and without pressure but instead with joy, adventure, fun and serendipity.Ó I think it itÕs going to be nice.

* * *

PS: Since I am writing about short stuff, does anybody out there read short story collections? You know how I raved and raved about the funniest and most interesting book of last year, Candy Freak by Steve Almond. (The subtitle is sweet: A Journey Through the Chocholate Underbelly of America.) I finished his short story collection not long ago and it was brilliant. Vulgar, nearly pornographic at times (how does a guy learn to write about sex like that and isnÕt he worried that his mother will see?) But through that all, The Evil B.B. Chow and Other Stories (Alconquian of Chapel Hill Press; $22.95) was a collection I could not put down. His previous short story anthology was so sexual and vulgar that I could hardly take it, like searching for gold among the garbage. But The Evil B.B. really shows that Almond is an amazingly imaginative thinker, a hip and witty writer, and a very talented guy. I canÕt wait for him to write more, and hope he continues to seriously plumb the human quandary, sugar, sex, and all. May God bless him. (Please be warned. I was not kidding about the graphic nature of some of his writing and the subject matter of some of his stories. Email me if even me citing this worries you, as we would be happy to talk furtherÉ) His website gives you a taste of his stuff--check it out. You can read excerpts and reviews. And e-mail him your "candy testimonals" too. Fun.

July 30, 2005

The Battle Will Not Live Up to the Telethon

Yesterday, I may have given the impression that the remarkable collection of essays, Off Main Street: Barnstormers, Prophets & GatemouthÕs Gator (compiled after his acclaimed Population 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time) by Michael Perry is just funny, redneck tomfoolery. And there is some of that; Perry is laugh-out-loud funny at times, and is often nicely amusing. Who else can wax on about the joys of small town water -towers, and end up interviewing a guy who removes water-tower graffiti for a living? He does have his rural jokes and has an affection for bus and truck drivers and country music. A couple of these pieces originally appear in No Depression, the alt-country mag.

So, heÕs clever and heÕs rural. But I did not adequately convey just how insightful and smart he is, how seriously lovely his writing is and how important some of these essays are to me.

To remedy this, I want to type in a bit of one of his pieces, composed when Hope magazine asked for submissions about 9-11. It is from an article called Taking Courage which is a chapter in Off Main Street. Perry starts out with wonderful prose that puts you right in his wilderness cabin, a place he sometimes goes to write.

He continues:

I wonder what we know now. Now, the moment you are reading this. The tumblers have been set in motion. Every second is a forking path. As I write, the woods are dark, save for the pale daubs of lantern light angling out the cabin windows. It seems like Earth might be rotating around this coordinate. It is stunning to think of all humankind made contiguous by the globe. It is difficult to think in terms of governments, of manÕs inhumanity to man. It is earthen and peaceful here.

Where I live, we were looking east all day. That Day. Through the television, over the Web, with an ear to the radio. We peered through the smoke and the flags and began to get a sense of magnitude. In a faraway city, skyscrapers were fallingÑwould the tremors reach our little township. Where the only structure over two stories is a four-legged water tower?

Our volunteer fire department met for training the following evening. There are twenty-four of us, amateurs playing at a game in which the professionals regularly get their tails whipped. Flipping through Firehouse magazine before the meeting, I saw that 102 firefighters died in the line of duty in the year 2000. One rumbling instant in New York, and that number was eclipsed. The last burning structure I crawled into was a trailer. We were looking for a guy who turned out to be gone. Until courage meets circumstance, there are no heroes.

Tell me: How is the nationÕs resolve? Very few volunteer firefighters quit the department at the sight of big flames. They quit when they realize the bulk of the battle is a back-breaking slog. Hours spent burrowing and hacking through soggy debris to extinguish intransigent little hot spots. You begin a warrior and wind up a drudge, rolling hose, cleaning equipment, restocking the rigs. The September 11 attacks were nationally iconic. Our response was equally so. United. Strength. Charity. But the battle will not always live up to the telethon. Resolutions of substance generally require heavy lifting and extended attention to the mundane. I reckon IÕm a pickup-truck-coveting blue-collar capitalist, but this talk of preserving the nation through the wielding of credit cards and the acquisition of king cabs at 0 percent APR makes me snort. ItÕs hard to know what moreÑif anythingÑwill be required of us. IÕm not overly worried. My neighbors have already crawled through fire with me.

An East Coast friend said she figured IÕd be hearing a lot of rural tavern talk of how it was time to kick some towel-head ass. Well, sure. ThereÕs always some loudmouth eager to swab the flag around like a World Wrestling Federation banner. But I have heard equivalent sentiments expressed on NPR and CNN, refined only in terms of diction and dress. Bigotry and extremism have commonality: Both are difficult to eradicate; both respond poorly to benevolence; and both are an embarrassment to those impugned through putative associations, whether we wear NASCAR caps or turbans. The battle for civility will outlast all others.

After a few other good paragraphs, he tells of arising the next morning, going for a hike. He finishes with this finely-crafted and important paragraph:

By morning, the woodstove is dead cold. It takes a little internal dialogue to get me to unzip my army surplus sleeping bag. I stow the Smith Corona under the bunk and shoulder by backpack. When I come out of the woods, I hear Osama bin Laden say there is fear in America. So be it. Courage does not arise out of comfort.
Excerpted from: Off Main Street: Barnstormers, Prophets & Gatemouth's Gator Michael Perry (HarperCollins) $13.95


July 31, 2005

Sabbath

"Slaves cannot skip a day of work, but free people can. Not all free people choose to do so, however; some of us remain glued to our computers and washing machines every day of the week. To keep sabbath is to exercise one's freedom, to declare oneself to be neither a tool to be employed---an employee---nor a beast to be burdened. To keep sabbath is also to remember one's freedom and to recall the One from whom that freedom came, the One from whom it still comes."

Dorothy Bass
Receiving the Day: Christian Practices for Opening the Gift of Time

July 1, 2005

LIVE 8, Ron Sider, and the Travels of a T-shirt: Christian Perspectives on Social Justice and the Global Economy

But first, some personal testimony"¦

This month, I want to tell you about some very important books, one a pick of ours for one of the most important books of our time, as well as a new one or two about which you may not have heard. Then, I will offer a suggested list of some other useful resources and good books around this month's topic. On my new book blog I will most likely give some other quick recommendations too. That, by the way, is where I will give bookish notes and brief annotations whenever I can. Please check out http://heartsandmindsbooknotes.blogspot.com/

Here at our website, I feel like it is right to tell our beloved general public a bit about ourselves and one of our primary passions. It is an important part of the "Hearts & Minds Story" and if you are reading, you may be a part of that story, too. I hope you don't mind some reminiscing "¦

Back in the 1960's when I was a teenager, God graced me with a special blessing of being interested in world poverty. At the time it didn't seem like it, but I can now name it as such. Whether it came from an unusually soft conscience, good, good, parents, or an extra gift of the Holy Spirit, I do not know. I know I was not alone, even though I often felt that way. The pop music of the day even gave us song lyrics about caring for our neighbors. (Young hipsters listening to oldies radio these days may cringe at the sentimentality of "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" or "Abraham, Martin and John" or "Try a Little Kindness" or "Indian Reservation" but those songs--along with anti-war demonstrations, a man from my church marching with King in Selma and my relentless reading of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John---were formative in my early years.) I had a fascination with and desire to do something about world hunger and recall trying to raise money to help with that first great rock concert against hunger, George Harrison's Concert for Bangla Desh. Before that, I have early memories of some of the first CROP walks and doing "Trick or treat for UNICEF." (Does anybody else remember that?) Something was "happenin' in the air" and, as I often said, I didn't fully understand it all, let alone a solidly Christian approach, until I came across Os Guinness' The Dust of Death which explored the ethos of the counter-culture through an alternative Christian lens.

When I went off to college in the early 70's my evangelical friends of those years were suspicious of my concern about the poor and, to their benefit, have come a long way over the years. I recall how alone I felt, wondering why my vibrant prayer group didn't want to pray about the torture cages we promoted in South Viet Nam, why the scatter bombs designed to decimate civilians weren't as disturbing as, say, their roommate who cussed a bit. Slowly, though, we all came to understand the world a bit better and I threw myself into social activism.

I have learned a lot from years of organizing lettuce boycotts and farmworker awareness meetings, studying third world colonialism, sitting in with homeless activists or meeting with congresspeople about the good sense of food stamps, paying close attention to the safe energy movement or demonstrating against nuclear weapons. I still shiver when I recall the time I had a chance to pray in our Congressman's home about U.S. sponsored covert war in Central America, which he supported---I had a friend who had knew Oscar Romero, murdered by U.S. trained assassins in El Salvador. (I still smile thinking of how many times I made my friend Bob Rambo sing that song written by Paul Stookey and Jim Wallis from the PP&M album.) The move from just caring about the poor and asking what can be done to liberate the oppressed became a significant piece of my worldview. Making connections between over-reaching U.S. militarism and the inability of third world peasants to get a fair wage is still an urgent concern, even if less manifest than in earlier decades. Yet, though it all, I often found that evangelical friends were less than adequately aware and rarely involved. Those that cared about the Word didn't seem to care much about the world; those that cared most about the world, were nearly clueless about the Word. With groups like Evangelicals for Social Action and wholistic ministries like Voice of Calvary, International Justice Mission, Call for Renewal and such, we have come a long, long way.

Still, it is remarkable, absolutely remarkable, that evangelical leaders like Rick Warren and Pat Robertson have endorsed the ONE campaign. It nearly brings tears of joy to my too often too tired heart to hear my evangelical brethren making connections between concern for the poor, authentic Biblical piety and, yes, the arcane and complex matters of international trade, third world debt and global politics. It was more than cool that Jars of Clay--to whom we have sent books on occasion---were affirmed by DATA as the most substantive band performing at the Philly Live 8 event. (And it is no surprise, either, that Hearts & Minds favorite rocker Bruce Cockburn--who wrote a song about the International Monetary Fund, of all things, over a decade ago, for pity's sake--was one of the top artists at the Canadian Live 8 show.)

In my journey I came to learn that to truly make a lasting difference, charity is not enough, that to really help the needy, we must be advocates for social change. My understanding slowly emerged just like college students today are piecing things together as they fight sweatshops, celebrate the victory over Taco Bell and the new-found justice for tomato farmers, or as they study how the Jubilee campaign to cancel the imposing and unjust debt of so many poor countries got its name from Leviticus 25. (Ironically, I learned that from a Dutch Calvinian mentor, Pete Steen, when he walked us through the Mennonite John Howard Yoder's Politics of Jesus in 1975 or so.) In college I wrote to my Congressman about genocide in Burundi and U.S. complicity in torture in Iran; today, our younger friends protest the horror in Darfur and blog about U.S. mistreatment of detainees around the world. This is seen, of course, in the shift from the charity-concert Live Aid to the justice-promotion purposes of Live 8 (the 8 referring to the G-8 Summit, the political meeting of the world's top 8 leaders, who meet to discuss matters of international concern, especially around the global economy.)

Giving alms to the poor is not adequate to impact the complex barriers to development and justice and it is absolutely not enough to please and honor the God who insists that He loves and desires justice and public righteousness. As the amazing Live 8 organizers--Bono, DATA and ONE--have reminded us, structural injustice needs to be opposed, systematic and institutional changes need to be made and our political advocacy for a just international economy may be finally more important than mere charity.

I learned this first, I suppose, from Father Raymond Spatti, the first Catholic priest I knew, back at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1972. As a seriously evangelical college student at the tail end of the Jesus Movement, he embraced me and introduced us to the broader thinking of the Catholic social tradition--showing us documents like The Development of the Peoples, the position paper of the then-controversial Bishop's task force on Appalachia, and got us involved in the boycott of Farrar pants (Southern textile workers--brown lung and all--were trying to organize for a better living) as well as the oil companies that were doing business in South Africa (a full decade before U.S. popular culture embraced the anti-apartheid movement.) And, importantly, he sent me--an evangelical Protestant whose Bible studies and worship services never mentioned any of this, off to the First National Right to Life Convention, to be in on the birthing of the newly formed pro-life movement. There, too, we learned of causes and complexities, economics and sexism, abuse and policy, framing the charitable impulses with analysis and politics.

Well-intended hunger fasts and adopting a far away sponsored child are good measures, but only band-aids against grinding poverty, institutional injustices and cultural immorality bred in troubled worldviews; more systemic and strategic changes to eliminate the causes of oppression, like the Bible says, needed to be explored. Frances Moore Lappe's work became very important, then, as we learned about the "myths of hunger" and affirmed that nearly every country on Earth could feed it's people if the right policies were enacted. From spending too much on the bloated military budget--oh how I liked to remind my Republican dad of that famous quote about the "military industrial complex" by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, how money for excess warships is stolen from the mouths of the starving---to bad urban policies, from self-important trade deals that favored Western corporations to supporting dictators from Iran to Argentina, we discovered that to chip away against poverty and human indignities will take more than charity alone. It will, as the Bible has said all along, take a reformation of culture, a political movement of solidarity with the oppressed and a commitment to civic-minded engagement for the long, long haul. Live 8, in its own way, understands some of this.

Beth and I, customers may want to know, have been active in groups working around trade and foreign aid issues for years. The best such group is Bread for the World, a lobbying group which Christianly motivates church folk to do citizen lobbying around anti-poverty initiatives; I signed up for the group in it's first year when Father Spatti told us about it (again, my evangelical friends were perplexed.) Over the years I have done workshops on the third world debt--long before most people had heard of such a thing. We have argued for greater attention to trade--finally as important as aid--and have studied the complexities of export cropping, sugar cane production and the causes of world hunger and what has now come to be called globalization for three decades. We are certainly no experts, but all this stuff in the media these recent weeks is like a native tongue to us and I am thrilled to share about it here. I pray the Lord raises up others to not only care deeply but learn about these things, so we can be effective, prudent and wise in proposing Godly solutions, radical answers, Kingdom visions"¦

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Our store has stocked resources on faith-based approaches to economic justice, have used our teaching opportunities to educate folks about international issues and have deeply cared about these kind of concerns since the day we opened our shop. (Some know that the very first book we sold our first day "“we didn't even have a cash register yet, since we forgot about getting one--was Victor Hugo's Les Miserables which we took as some kind of sign.) Our conviction that the Bible teaches that God cares about these matters is why our store has so much stuff on social ethics, racism and ecology, evangelical kinds of feminism and books about peacemaking. We stock all sorts of theological books relating to these topics, too, drawing upon evangelical, Catholic, Reformed and Anabaptist visions of public justice and social concerns. We've promoted the broad, Christian thinking of turn of the last century Dutch Prime Minister Abraham Kuyper and enjoy keeping folks on their toes with the fun and controversial stuff of Tony Campolo. From Desmond Tutu to Wendell Berry, we stock the kinds of books that few "Christian bookstores" carry. It is a hard way to make a living, actually, but we will not give up on hoping we can broker these books to the servants of God who may need them. We are confident that Jesus and visions of His grand glory will cause more and more folks to want books on how daily Christian discipleship can be lived out in the realities of our modern, hurting world

This hope is why we have been proud to sponsor lectures and book-signings here with friends like Jim Wallis, Ron Sider, Tom Sine, Brian Walsh, and why we stock books on world missions and world peace. It is why we are humbled and proud to be mentioned in books like Paul Marshall's Their Blood Cries Out (a devastating look at the persecuted church) and to have followed Gary Haugen's extraordinary ministry (International Justice Mission) from it's inception. (I reviewed his riveting book against sex trafficking, Terrify No More, last February here at the website--check out the archives if you haven't read that review!) It is why we have helped start two different crisis pregnancy centers, have organized to stop the sale of porn at two local convenience stores, and for years worked for justice for detained Chinese asylum-seekers here in York, PA. We have enjoyed it so much when we have been asked to sell books at largely African American events or have sold books at international gatherings where we can serve those on the front lines in the campaign for God's justice.. When we have reason to visit with black leader and authors like John Perkins, say, our hearts just overflow with how blessed it is to be even feebly committed to changing the world and a part of a Christ-centered network of life-long activists. It is why we now celebrate the good things God is doing in these days to bring these issues to international awareness. And it is why we write to you now, offering a few more resources for you, your church library, your community organizations or campus ministry programs. Now is the time--a window of opportunity opened by the Sovereign Lord of History Himself---to use these resources, share these books, fan the flames of people's mild interest in "making poverty history." We invite you, our book buyers, to join this part of our story, promoting this vision, and these kind of books.

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The ONE campaign and the publicity of events like the G-8 summit and opposition to the CAFTA treaties give us an need to reflect, to think through what Christian folks particularly might have to offer, how our best traditions of faith can energize us to greater faithfulness as agents of God's care. Here is our handy list of a couple of useful resources that can help you and your circle of friends grow in greater care and more effective involvement. The classic I mentioned in the beginning is, doubtlessly, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger. We hope you have heard of it.

Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving From Affluence to Generosity Ronald J. Sider (Word) $15.99 In this brand new and updated edition, Ron has once again revised his classic, award-winning book. Christianity Today has declared that this is one of the most important books of the 20th century. (And you don't have it?? Come on, people!) Loving Jesus, Sider shows, means learning to love the Book he loved. And the Bible is clear--from cover to cover--that God is doing Big Things in his restoration of His world. A very important part of what God is doing in His rescue plan is to create a people who care about the poor as much as He does and who arrange their lives in ways that show this. This book is one I simply wouldn't be without---the Bible study is precious and eye opening, the call to charity is compelling and the call to be advocates of social justice is life changing. Especially given recent interest in global poverty, Africa, and third-world concerns, this is the very best place to start to gain greater understanding. We recommend this important work for oodles of reasons; let me give you five, each followed with a money-back guarantee. I hope and pray you take up our offer.

1. This book will help you understand your Bible better. This, truly, is one of the best books about the Scriptures I have ever read and even if you skip the charts about global economics and foreign aid, it is still well, well worth every penny. Buy a couple for your next Bible study group. If you love God, you will love His Word. This is a great way to learn something new about this vastly under-appreciated aspect of God's revelation. If you are like most, you will come away thinking "How did I ever miss all this in the Bible before?" If you don't--how is this for a deal?---we will give you your money back.


2. It really does explain all kinds of stuff about the global economy which shows why the price of bananas or a tank of gas or a cup of fair-trade coffee is of such great importance. He calls us to be moderately aware and somewhat responsible; Christ's burden is light, after all, so this isn't meant as a new legalism, a guilt-mongering call to study boring factoids that we don't really care about. Rather, it guides us into a rich and fruitful kind of lifestyle that realizes our shopping choices, our lifestyle attitudes, our politics and our finances are all a part of our fabric of daily discipleship before the face of a gracious Creator. To have the vision of being intentional about food choices, family budget questions or church mission committee projects opens up a rich and purposeful way of being in the world that I wouldn't ever want to miss. Everything we do matters in God's economy, and Sider helps us make better choices as stewards of God's stuff, helping us attend to the opportunities to do good that the Spirit gives us, day by day. If you don't learn something new about this crazy, complicated world that you truly find interesting, we will refund you your money. How "Ëœbout that?

3. If Sider is right that the Bible is loaded with imperatives to be involved on behalf of the poor and oppressed (or, as John Ortberg says in his rave review blurb on the back "This will be on the final") then we not only need to be more obedient to these many Scriptural mandates, but we will surely come to know God better as we respond in faithfulness to His call. In other words, this is a deeply spiritual book, a tool to help you mature in faith, learning to be closer to God, serving and being served, by the Christ of the poor. Reading this, we will find ourselves guilty of sins--perhaps more of omission than commission--and as we take up Christ's cross we are met by Him there. This is finally a glad book, a call to know God, to be united with Christ, to find purpose, integrity, joy, and life. This is a book of being immersed in the power of the Holy Spirit, animated by Resurrection power. What fool would settle for less? I dare you to read the last two paragraphs of Rich Christians and not have your heart beat harder in your chest. I'll tell ya what, if you aren't moved by that, we will give you your money back.

4. Ron Sider deserves better than the reputation that some have of him as a stodgy, simple-living monk or a curmudgeon that doesn't believe in owning stuff or who is some left-wing wacko who hates capitalism. If you have been paying any attention to the circles I travel in--and praise the Lord if you don't, I suppose--you surely have heard derogatory things about Ron. I'll tell you what. Read him for yourself. Check out his deep faith, his solid evangelical theology, his balanced understanding of the complexities of global poverty (yes, even his appreciation for the role of markets.) If you don't find this admirable, we will give your money back. How "Ëœbout that?

5. Reading this might draw you into his other worthwhile books and you will be better for it. His appendices are useful and his recommendations of worthwhile organizations to support is astute.

And here are a few other titles you may be lead to. They are a few of our favorites.

The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience Ronald Sider (Baker) $12.99 You may have heard the good press about (or read my earlier recommendation of) this recent, slim volume which is a powerful call to holiness and Godliness, especially urgent for evangelicals who historically prided themselves in being "not of this world." If we are as committed to the counter-cultural values of Christ as we say, why don't we stand out as unusually poignant examples when it comes to wholesome relationships, pure sexuality, sensitivity to racial justice, rejection of consumerism and materialism and such? As they say in this poker-crazy age, "Read it and weep." Very, very compelling.

Living Like Jesus: Eleven Essentials for Growing a Genuine Faith Ronald Sider (Baker) $12.99 This is a perfect example of Ron's delightfully balanced, multi-faceted interests. He shows better than just about anybody how to integrate a broad social vision--on stuff like ecology, work, political views and concern for the poor---with more typical concerns about prayer, strong family life, evangelism and personal holiness. This is a great introduction to the full-orbed Christian life and again, it is finally a hard challenge that is liberating, freeing us up for what the Bible promises as abundant life. This is a great, great little book which shows Sider at his clearest.


Good News and Good Works: A Theology of the Whole Gospel Ronald Sider (Baker) $16.99 Here is one of the best theological books for laypeople---it isn't a heavy, dry tome, but is an excellent survey of what some call "wholistic" Christianity. It certainly is the foundation for all his other work and showcases his solid Biblical mind. This used to be entitled One Sided Christianity and he documents that too many within the church have an overemphasis on either social change or personal evangelism. Some think God wants political reform, others preach soul salvation. Neither is Biblically correct, he shows, as both truncate God's redemptive work. Why not do what the Bible does, he pleads, and work out of a vision of the reign of God, which demands both personal salvation and public discipleship; we must combine word and deed, understand saving grace and explore the implications of Christ's Lordship in a hurting world. Due to this work, and those influenced by it, more and more mainline folks are learning about evangelism and more and more evangelicals are doing social action. Sider is confident that Jesus was correct--The Kingdom of God is at hand! This book will help us all understand that much, much better. If you would like to try this kind of approach, but don't want quite the substance of this thoughtful study, some Brethren folks at Evangel Press have put out a collection of Sider sermons, some drawn from this book, which is a lovely and inspiring call to whole-life discipleship, socially-engaged evangelism and justice-savvy, Biblically-guided service and outreach. It is called Doing Evangelism Jesus' Way: How Christians Demonstrate the Good News ($12.95.)

Just Generosity: A New Vision for Overcoming Poverty in America Ronald Sider (Baker) $16.99 Ron once told me he hopes this book will do for domestic poverty what Rich Christians did for global injustice. There is no doubt that many in America--from the rural poor in Appalachia to the homeless in the big cities, from single moms in housing projects to farmworkers trying to make a decent wage---people go to bed hungry each night. This is a scandal, of course, and social conservatives have prided themselves in dismantling social services; a dear young friend recently told me of his first encounter with his Senator in a discussion on food policies for poor folk and came away deeply distressed. This book gives not only Biblically balanced warrant for a helpful social agenda, but offers practical ways to go beyond the impasse of those who lament the giant welfare state and those that worry that the private sector alone cannot solve such a massive problem of such consequence. This is an important book.


Churches That Make a Difference: Reaching Your Community With Good News and Good Works Ronald Sider, Heidi Rolland Unruh, Phil Olson (Baker) $19.99. If you are a church leader, wishing to find models of congregational involvement, Ron's exciting research into the best churches in the Philadelphia area that do wholistic ministry is documented in Interestingly, about a third of the churches Sider and his colleagues discovered were evangelical, about a third were historic African American congregations and about a third were mainline denominational parishes. Each brought together robust personal evangelism, effective provision of helpful social services, and some degree of broader justice advocacy. You can learn to do this by studying these models and applying insights and strategies in your hometown.

By the way, Oxford University Press approach this good team about doing a more academic, researched-based book on how this is sustain in local congregations and Heidi guided several years of on-going research"¦This forthcoming work, sure to be highly regarded and very useful, will come out in late summer of "˜05. It is called Saving Souls, Serving Society: Understanding the Faith Factor in Church-Based Social Ministry ($30.00.) We hope to be among the first store's to carry it, so give us a call if you want us to mail it to you or your congregation or agency.

Grace at the Table: Ending Hunger in God's World David Beckman and Art Simon (IVP) $10.95 I have often mentioned Bread for the World, the Christian citizen's movement that enables ordinary citizens--on their own or gathered in local chapters--to follow current legislation about food policy, trade, aid, and such, and are guided to write recommended letters to their elected officials. We think this is one of the very the best solutions most of us can offer to the plight of hunger---public policy that is just, lobbied into the best proposal by faith-based citizens. Not everyone in this world has the gift of citizenship and those of us with such democratic voice should surely be good stewards of the opportunity to influence Congress on behalf of others.

Grace at the Table is one of the best introductory books on hunger and food and, except for Sider, is the one we recommend most often (Simon was the founder of BFW, Beckman, a devout Christian with years of experience at the World Bank, is the current Director. Both are splendid individuals.) Grace at the Table not only explains the basics about the Biblical teachings, the current situation about starvation and the poverty problem, but gently suggests BFW type action answers, making it an absolutely ideal handbook for local groups that want to actually get involved. A blessed resource, highly recommended by everyone who works in this field. While you are at it, please know that the gentle and kind Lutheran pastor, Art Simon, has a stunning recent book on materialism and spirituality called How Much is Enough: Hungering for God in an Affluent Culture published by Baker ($12.99) which is very, very good. He has a brand new one on the Lord's Prayer, too, just published by Augsburg-Fotress. Nicely done.


The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade Pietra Rivoli (Wiley) $29.95 The rumpled white T-shirt on the cover tells us something of this fine, fine book. It literally follows the author's T-shirt (purchased from a beachside souvenir shop in Florida) from the East Texas cotton farm (one of the truly great chapters) to the complex lobbying meetings about government subsidies and tariffs, to the Chinese sweatshops that sew the thing together to--get this--the final destination where shirts are re-sold in wonderful African shops (after being donated to charity and then sold by the charity to a legitimate, savvy exporter.) I have rarely read a book that teaches so much about the details of the global economy that is such a delight. To say it is well written is an understatement, even if there were some parts I wanted more. I think that on my blog--soon to go on line later in July--I may offer some critique of the economic theories (her influence of Karl Polanyi is notable) of this good professor and perhaps share my struggle to know if she is correct. I think she is correct to remind us, though, that non-economic factors really are as important than markets. That is, intangibles like infrastructure, democratic practices in the workplace, a culture of civic order, political freedoms, even something as simple as literacy--- she tells a horrific story of how cotton growers in India couldn't read the directions for the proper use of pesticide technology that a foreign aid package gave them, so they accidentally poisoned themselves---make as much of a difference as the alleged benefits of free markets.

Let me say this---I think anyone mildly interested in sweatshop issues, human rights, globalization, or free trade should read this. She is greatly concerned about these issues, but favors free markets more than the typical human rights activist who tends towards a radical critique of the world trade organizations. She is balanced, thoughtful, open to learning from the best of "both" sides and eager to put everything--from the farmers in Texas to the battle about woolens in the dawn of the Industrial Revolution to the "China threat" to the textile industry today--in good historical context. What a fun way to learn so very much. I hope you enjoy learning about Nelson and Ruth, Gary and Yuan Zhi, Ed, Gulam, Quin, Mohammend, Yong Fang, Auggie and Patrick---just a few of the colorful characters who play a role in her journal from the Walgreen's Drugstore to the mitumba market in Tanzania. Highly recommended.

Globalization and the Good edited by Peter Heslam (Eerdmans) $20.00 A good collection of faith-based reflections---some fairly inspirational, others more meaty and substantive--put together by the author of Shaping a Christian Worldview which is the definitive book on Abraham Kuyper's Stone Lectures and the significance of Dutch neo-Calvinism. Here, in a volume co-produced by the Capitalism Project at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, we have top notch (mostly) British thinkers offering balanced critique, appreciation, limits and insights about the spirit of the age as it is manifest in the global economy. While a few of these are clearly human rights workers or social activists (Jim Wallis has a good if predictable chapter) some contributors come from the world of multi-national corporations or serve as leaders in industry or government.

Mustard Seed Versus McWorld: Reinventing Life and Faith for the Future Tom Sine (Baker) $16.99 It is hard to get a more energetic presenter than Sine and his many books have been a good staple for those of us who appreciate a broad social vision, an evangelical spirituality and practical ways to escape the bankruptcy of the American Dream. We have cheered this book before, but it seems so germane to our topic this month that it needs another recommendation. Here, Sine brings his wide-ranging assessment of global change and offers us a ride into places we may never have heard of. Part travelogue, part Kingdom-dreaming, part futurist analysis, this is a book that paves the way towards an alternative to the secularized quandary of globalization. Rave reviews from the likes of Clive Calver (President of World Relief) say, "If I had to buy only one contemporary book for the third millennium, this would be the one." A moving forward by Ravi Zacharias speaks volumes, and dear Richard Foster--who tends not to endorse new books--says "An important book that we neglect to our peril." This may be going out of print, so may we commend it to you once again?


Capitalism and Progress: A Diagnosis of Western Society Bob Goudzewaard (Paternoster) $10.00 I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to have once met Dr. Goudzewaard, an economist and former Parliament member from the Christian political party in Holland. He was as gracious and kind, as he was brilliant. He has written an number of important books and this is his theoretical masterpiece, a study of the history of ideas, particularly how the engine of progress--defined in strictly materialistic terms, of course---pushed a certain understanding of economics and deformed the Western world. Interestingly, the author does not show how both Marxism and capitalism shared much in common at the most fundamental levels and how neither left nor right wing reforms fully adequate from a Christian perspective. A wonderfully developed thesis, tracing the ideas that shaped the Western world, and their consequences for modern economics. Anyone interested in globalization, fair trade, world hunger or Christian social ethics owes it to him or herself to work through this rare masterpiece. The U.S. edition is maddeningly out of print; John Stott helped get this less expensive edition reprinted in England. We are the sole distributor in the States, selling it for the great price of only $10.00. (The paper is cheap and the print a bit small but it is the only edition in print.) Goudzewaard also gave the 1999 Abraham Kuyper Lectures sponsored by Citizens for Public Justice published in a volume entitled Globalization and the Kingdom of God which includes three vibrant, short responses to his speech. This is a great, little volume, deceptive in its brevity, as it is very, very insightful. ($11.99.)

In Search of the Common Good edited by Patrick Miller and Dennis McCann (T & T Clark) $40.00 I will admit that this is too pricey for most and too academic for many. Still, the wonderful array of chapters makes this a very important text and a few of the pieces are brilliant. I am fond of James Skillen's few chapters, and the theological inquiry about the nature of the commons (and what is good) make this an essential piece of contemporary social ethics. From the famous Miller on Biblical commands, to the renowned Aquinas scholar Jean Porter, from Milner Ball to Max Stackhouse, William Cavanaugh to Robert Jenson, this is a moderate, thoughtful, incisive and insightful volume for upper level students and serious readers.

Walking With the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development Bryant L. Myers (Orbis) $22.00 Granted, as the critics have suggested, canceling the third world day may not have immediate benefit for the poorest of the poor; fair trade policies may go a long way to offer better wages for peasant farmers, but there is still so much more that needs doing, village by village, throughout the two-thirds world. Here, a major scholar from World Vision has given us one of the very best examples of careful Christian thinking about development, solidarity, how to help and sustain and empower the poor. Myer's brings, as Rich Mouw puts it, "social scientific savvy, strategic clarity and biblical sensitivity to bear" and this makes for a splendid, if specialized resource. Want to know more about the details of development, of what can and must be done, and how wholistic missionaries can come along side those oppressed by systematic social evil? A truly excellent study, informed by some of the best practices gleaned from his work around the globe.

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I shared in the beginning of this essay that my own journey has one that has tried to relate vibrant evangelical faith, ecumenical theology and mature spirituality with the grand and glorious call by God--revealed in nearly every book of the Holy Scriptures--to be advocates for justice. That one of the first verses I heard my Dad talk about as a favorite was Micah 6:8 was no surprise. There is a deep and profound connection between spirituality, knowing God and serving others, particularly in ways that involve social action for structural change. That God loves justice is a routine theme of the Bible, and Jesus himself started His Kingdom with unmistakable reference to Old Testament Jubilee legislation about economic adjustment, debt cancellation, and reformation of social ethics.

And so, I recommend, finally, a few resources on worship. If we don't worship well, if we do not integrate a vision of justice into our most focused time of devotion--communal worship within the gathered Body--then perhaps we will have a harder time growing into these urgent concerns. Perhaps it is no wonder folks are transformed just by reading Sider and Simon. We need to bring these concerns--the needs of the poor and the citizenship duties of us all--before God in liturgy.

Hunger for the Word: Lectionary Reflections on Food and Justice Year A and Year B edited by Larry Hollar (Liturgical Press) $19.95 Larry has been in our community, helping our small local band of BFW citizens--he has been what Bread calls a "regional organizer." He is a devout follower of Christ and took a sabbatical to live among the poor in a third world village. Out of his political activism, policy-wonk work, church cheerleading and teaching, he developed a set of lectionary resources for worship planners. A resource for Year C is on the way, but for now, these volumes are the best guides to use to keep world hunger on your worship agenda. Very highly recommended.


Harvest for the World: A Worship Anthology on Sharing in the Work of Creation compiled by Geoggrey Duncan (Pilgrim Press) $21.00 This handsome handbook of prayers, poems, readings and litanies come from all over the world and are creative, nuanced and helpful in thinking about the environment, God's concern for public justice, the glory of good food and harvests and the struggle for justice, human rights and social health.

Liturgy and Justice: To Worship God in Spirit and Truth edited by Anne Koester (Liturgical Press) $19.95 As is often the case, Roman Catholics of done considerable, serious reflection on this matter and this collection of essays is very, very interesting. Initially presented at a conference on Pastoral Liturgy at Notre Dame.

Gather Into One: Praying and Singing Globally C. Michael Hawn (Eerdmans) $28.00 It simply doesn't get more thoughtful than this---presented by the esteemed Calvin Institute for Christian Worship, this makes the case that the Body of Christ is trans-national and the gospel is multi-cultural. Our worship should be too. Even if only for special Sundays, mission events or justice projects, having this on your shelf will be a go-to resource you will be glad to own. It has some international songs, but is more of an academic collection to help you get behind various cultures, understanding the context of their hymns and worship ethos. Fascinating.

Worship in the Spirit of Jesus: Theology, Liturgy and Songs Without Violence Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer and Bret Hesla (Pilgrim Press) $25.00 I might not be exactly where Jack is at every point, theologically or liturgically, but there is no doubt--in this age of jihads and crusades--that we need to be attentive to the language of our liturgy and the implications of our styles of worship. This will help you generously talk about these things, understand historic and modern consequences of violent images, and consider alternative resources that may be more in keeping with the spirit of Jesus. A DC is included with the contents of the book in enlarged format for classroom or congregational use. Very provocative.

For All God's Worth: True Worship and the Calling of the Church N.T. Wright (Eerdmans) $10.95 This slim volume is wonderful on worship, excellent in it's Biblical study and--the whole second portion--very helpful in pondering the relationship between worship and life, between what we do in liturgy and how we live out the gospel, scattered after gathered, as they say. I love this little inspiring collection and try to foist it on anybody who cares about worship or living, spirituality or obedience, good doctrine and good cultural engagement. While I am highlighting these concerns, we simply must give a notice to recall the many good books of our dear sister Marva Dawn. Not only her stuff on culture, affluence, power and such, but also her important books on worship. Even for those who may not like her specific suggestions, there is no doubt that her desire for a counter-cultural community, shaped by the glory of God known in worship, lived out in acts of service and charity, justice and stewardship, is right on. All of her proceeds for all of her books, by the way, go to good development projects, African AIDS clinics, or other such appropriate service ministry. Please support her and her work.

Faith in Action Study Bible: Living God's Word in a Changing World (New International Version) edited by World Vision (Zondervan) $39.99 Imagine the plentiful notes of the serious NIV Study Bible or the practical application focus of the nice notes of the Life Application Study Bible combined with rigorous social ethics, social and political insight, sidebars making connections between the call to Biblical fidelity and the need to serve a hurting world. This is truly a magnificent resource, most likely lost amidst the shuffle of niche-marketed devotional Bibles and new translations. The commentary style notes and the full-page articles give readers great insight into the ways our Scriptural understandings can be lived out, bridging older contexts and contemporary concerns. Authors and contributors to the study notes to this Bible are mostly writers from the well-done NIV Application Commentary series or the Expositor's Bible Commentary (with scholars such as Tremper Longman, Gary Moo, Iain Provan, Gary Smith, Craig Keener, Karen Jobes, Willem VanGemeren, etc) and the more reflective notes in this study Bible include (among others) the likes of Thomas a Kempis, John Calvin, Tony Campolo, Jimmy Carter, Maxie Dunnam, William Dyrness, Ajith Fernando, Richard Foster, Millard Fuller, Gary Haugen, Carl Henry, George Hunter, Bill Hybles, C.S. Lewis, Max Lucado, Scott McKnight, Richard Mouw, John Ortberg, Bill Pannell, Christine Pohl, Ron Sider, Howard Snyder, John Stott, Joni Earackson Tada, Mother Teresa, Phil Yancey"¦ How'd you like them to hold your hand will studying the Word and learning to live in out in action. Wow.


Then Shall Your Light Rise: Spiritual Formation and Social Witness Joyce Hollyday (Upper Room) $10.00 Some of us learned from Thomas Merton decades ago--and others learned it from Jonathan Edwards centuries ago---that deep knowledge of Christ compels us to a meaningful mysticism, bringing together piety and politics. Properly, our efforts to bring change and reformation are rooted, as all good things, in our deepest places, in the quiet of our own hearts which know the mercies of God. Joyce here brings together moving stories of social witness, wholistic ministry, and advocacy for the battered all while showing how these energies emerge out of prayerful spirituality. The stories are great, the Bible teaching insightful, and the guidance towards bringing together that which is too often seperated is very valuable.