About January 2009

This page contains all entries posted to Hearts & Minds Books in January 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2008 is the previous archive.

February 2009 is the next archive.

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

January 2009 Archives

January 7, 2009

Living at the Crossroads in the New Year of our Lord

I thought that the first post of the new year of our Lord should be something notable, perhaps momentous, even.  At least something that is indicative of what we are about here, the sorts of books we most want to tell you about, the kind of stuff we are itching to sell.  I've been holding out on you, actually, waiting for this symbolic moment to announce a very, very important book, perfect for the start of a new season.  Let me explain.  I'll try not to work up a head of Borger steam, and will share briefly the background for why this particular title is one you should help us promote.

You know that we have, as you most likely have, long lamented the weak-kneed nature of many churches, too often feeble and silly, hardly able to muster much concern for anything other than the color of their carpet.  Of course many good church folks are doing good hard work in many ways, and all sorts of congregations are providing wonderful care for their people, but it seems that too often, church folk don't learn--at least not clearly and helpfully--how to live out the truth of the Lordship of Christ in every area of life.  They may be dedicated Christians, but rarely can they articulate the difference their convictions about faith make in, say, their jobs, let alone their shopping or voting.  And so, we offer our Faith & Vocation bibliography (granted, a bit dated) naming and describing numerous books that will help Christians be disciples of the Master in their callings and careers.  We stock books on art and science, work and business, ecology and poverty, childbirth and legal theory, education and philosophy.  We like to invite our customers to not only read these kinds of integrated perspective books themselves, but to help get books into the hands of their Bible study leaders and pastors, their Sunday school teachers and campus ministers, their youth group leaders and denominational leaders that will inspire them to help lay-people live out faith across the whole of life, "in/not of" the worlds of commerce, politics, art, neighborhood development, media and such.  People need to hear this kind of whole-life discipleship, need to be aided in their journey towards nurturing the Christian mind and lifestyle.

Happily, evangelical churches, especially, are increasingly active in the urgent matters of creation care and racial justice and global poverty.  Many are working towards wholistic missional mindsets and are helping folks work against sexual trafficking, say, or are embracing ministries and conversations around contemporary films or novels.  We are--thank goodness--moving beyond what the apostle Paul calls "milk" and we are learning to relate our Sunday faith to our Monday work, picking up the cross and carrying it into public life.  We are allowing our most inner spirituality to spill out into our most public action. especially in acts of advocacy for the "least of these."

For me---and I know this is true for some of our readers and local customers---all kinds of specialized talk and reading and cheer-leading on certain topics never really took off or gained the snowballing effect I'd hoped for.  We can do lectures on human rights, Bible studies on the poverty.  We can host film series and start artist-friendly Gen X coffeehouses.  We can pray for folks in the work-world and we can invite families to see their homes as the a central location for living out discipleship.  We can start prayer vigils for peace and we can ask people to wear their work-cloths to church (to illustrate that God cares about their careers and jobs.) We can go green and recycle at church or sponsor debates about intelligent design. We can teach about world missions and we can study historic theology.  We can talk about community and start small groups.  We can invite folks to Sabbath time and we can invite folks to rest from it all.  Any number of such actions can help enhance the connection between faith and life, getting folks involved in something, anything.  And it can be exhausting; a dis-connected, piecemeal approach, the fad of the year, 40 days of this or that.  Such fragmented start-ups of projects and plans can even backfire as we play one concern over and against another, pitting church reform against cultural reform, or Bible study against social activism, artists against prayers. What should the adult class church teach us, how to vote faithfully or the roots of Pauline theology?  What should our short term Spring break be, building houses in Haiti or doing hospice care in our own town?  Should we start a group to think about buying local and eating faithfully or try to get folks involved in congregational life?

The fruitful way to integrate and live out a robust, multi-faceted, culture-making, spiritually-alive and Biblically faithful way of life in the world is to be intentional about studying how we seeglasses (colored).jpg.  Yes, our view of things, our imaginative constructs, our assumptions and attitudes, our underlying values, all shape how we think about all of life. The glasses we wear colors our interpretation of everything, and our subsequent views of discipleship--what to do and what not to do, and how to do the most ordinary things, how to make sense out of life, and how to live----are informed by our vision, the glasses we wear.  The most effective, lasting and radical way to get church folks equipped for a life of service before God in the real world is to focus a bit from time to time on seeing life Christianly, from God's viewpoint.  That is, we must study the topic of worldview.

There are still only a small handful of good, thoughtful, generative and vital worldview books.  We---Hearts & Minds fans, BookNote readers, especially, I'd like to think--should be aware of these and become cheerleaders and evangelists for the best of 'em.  These are the books that are designed to help people "get it all together" and to live into an integrated life.  I suspect you know that we have been significantly impacted in earlier years by friends and mentors such as Brian Walsh & Richard Middleton who wrote The Transforming Vision and  Al Wolters, whose neo-Calvinist take on worldview is seminal (Creation Regained.)  These should be known in your circles, I would think.  Nancy Pearcey's Total Truth is big and very important for those who want a deeper study.  James Sire struggles with the very nature of what a worldview is in Naming the Elephant; it is a very lovely little book.  Last years (Re)Thinking Worldview by Mark Bertrand is fabulous; a must-read, especially if you think you've heard it all in this field. Wow.   David Naugle wrote the definitive big work on all of this simply called Worldview: The History of a Concept.  I'm telling ya, these are our core curriculum for nurturing faithful hearts and minds, raising up folks to live out faith in coherent and integrated ways.  Getting people whipped up about important ministries or causes--marketplace ministry, cultural engagement, social action, family renewal, liturgical reform---will not matter nearly as much unless they see the Big Picture of their callings and passions within the story of God's work in the world, and see things integrated within a uniquely Christian world and life viewpoint.  I am hoping that you, obviously a reader, will be a leader in your own setting, helping frame the good work that is most likely happening in your faith community by this bigger, liberating, foundational concept.  It will be like passing out new glasses to a blurry and dizzy people.  It will help them understand, perhaps for the first time, the power and cost and grace of Romans 12:1-2, laying down our very bodies as God's worship, non-conformed to the world, but pointing towards God's renewing will.
  

living at the crossroads big.jpg

Enter then, this first new great book of the new year, this book I've been wanting to announce in some significant way.  It is a major new work on worldview, thoughtful, deeper than some, important.  It is called Living At the Crossroads: An Introduction to Christian Worldview by Michael W. Goheen and Craig Bartholomew (Baker; $19.99.)  It is somewhat of a follow-up to their widely acclaimed introduction to the Bible called The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story (Baker; $19.99.)  That is truly my favorite one-volume overview of the unfolding drama of the Bible, and it is partially that because these authors present the Biblical overview with this worldviewish backdrop.  They know, even in their fairly standard telling of the grand themes of promise and deliverance, of creation and covenant, of Israel and church, of the Trinitarian God who shows up in Christ, of Jubilee and Kingdom, of Resurrection and Pentecost, that all of this working of God is the story that makes sense of our stories.  That is isn't a quaint faith for personal inspiration, nor minimized as "religious truth." God's Kingdom is the frame for our lives. The Bible shapes us into a worldview, a narrative.  As such, it puts us at odds with other narratives.  And so, naturally, their sensible and insightful and in many ways thrilling overview of the Bible is followed up with this part two volume: At the Crossroads.

Living at the Crossroads is an accessible but serious introduction to the various aspects of worldview studies, of what all that means and how a Biblically-informed vision of life does indeed put us at odds with the other stories/values/worldviews/ideologies that are vying for attention in our postmodern world.  It is a must-read for our times, certainly a useful resource for any who, like us here in this year of our Lord, desire for integrated lives, who want meaning and purpose and joy and Biblical faith. 

As economist Bob Goudzwaard says on the back "In this book, the authors show students how to recognize and gradually understand more fully the relevance of the living Word of God for their living, working, and studying in these complex and often bewildering times."  Yes, students. That is one audience, college age young adults.  But who of us are not called to be students?  Perhaps, in deed, one of the reasons our times are so bewildering, is that churches have not proclaimed the full gospel, and we church folk haven't been serious about thinking through and living out of the many implications of invoking God's name over our life and times.  Our broken, secularizing times are, to some extent, the fruit of unfaithfulness of God's people in the last century.  Perhaps getting a study group going on a foundational and feisty book like this will help.  Polishing up our lenses, getting a better viewpoint, seeing life as Christ does, surely is an urgent exercise, a worthy project.  Tune in next time as I tell you more why I so appreciate these authors, how this book could help you, and why we hope to have many take up this book early in this new year.

Check out their descriptions of the books, read endorsements and some sample stuff here.

And look for the Blog Special deal, offered in our next post.

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January 10, 2009

Review up at the November 2008 Review Column: Living at the Crossroads: An Introdution to Christian Worldview

Maybe it is a tad postmodern, or at least disorienting, to post-date this new review article written in January 2009 and publish it back on the November 2008 Monthly Column spot.  Call me compulsive---it won't be the first time---but I just wanted to have a space for a larger reflection, and finish off the (not so regular) columns.  So to find today's blog posting, check out that review.

Please jump over to the website monthly column and see my ruminations on why we are so eager to promote the book I announced in the last post, Living at the Crossroads: An Introduction to Christian Worldview by Michael Goheen & Craig Bartholomew (Baker; $19.99.)  I reflect a bit on what we mean by "a Christian worldview" and why it is so important.  More importantly, I tell why Mr. Goheen and Mr. Bartholomew are so able and helpful guides into this topic, and how they explain it all within the social context of modernity and postmodernity.  We live in intersting, some say, epoch-changing times.  Christians of serious faith must live out their discipleship in all areas of life, in the times in which we find ourselves.  This book will help churches make disciples, helping us all live well, with coherence, integration and relevant fidelity.  Enjoy the review.

HERE ARE A COUPLE OF GREAT QUOTES ABOUT THE BOOK:

"This book means to put genuine life back into worldview studies. Bartholomew and Goheen present a Reformational world-and-life view with missional dynamic. Biblical theology and an evangelizing church enter fully into their reflection on following Jesus in every sphere of human society in today's mixed-up, deteriorating world culture. The authors bring redemptive insight to bear upon Western history, business, politics, art, and spirituality as well as the resurgence of Islam, and they do it in clear, passionate, down-to-earth language. Living at the Crossroads is basic, an invigorating challenge to anyone who would become a mature disciple of Jesus Christ."
-Calvin Seerveld, Institute for Christian Studies, emeritus, Toronto author, Rainbows for the Fallen World

"Knowing where you have come from is nearly as important as knowing where you want to go. Goheen and Bartholomew trace the deep roots of our contemporary Western worldview in that kind of easy, broad-brush comprehensiveness that makes one exclaim, 'Yes of course, that's exactly the way things are-and why!' But alongside that, they do an equally good job in presenting the biblical worldview as the story that tells it like it really is, for life, the universe, and everything. That's the way things are-but as God sees them. The combination powerfully forces us to see the dissonance between the two, and the stark choice that Christians need to make. Which story do we live by? Which road do we travel from the crossroads? But the book is far from all theory. It grounds the challenge of living out the Christian story in a variety of very practical, very up-to-date, areas of life in the world around us. This is a book filled with eye-opening insight, biblical nourishment, practical challenge, and robust hope. It turns the mission of God into our mission in the world and compels us to make some radical choices."
-Christopher J. H. Wright, international director, Langham Partnership International; author of The Mission of God

living at the crossroads.jpg
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January 13, 2009

Faith as a Way of Life: A Vision for Pastoral Leadership

If you didn't gather from my last few posts, I can say it bluntly: our founding vision here at Hearts & Minds included selling books about, and trying to generate conversations about, the most basic ways in which the Christian faith shapes and informs daily life, ways of being in the world, and how a Christian worldview can help us see as God sees. (Ahhh, that Bono line from that U2 song haunts, doesn't it?  ...to see as you see...)  And, in seeing aright, to live
living at the crossroads.jpg throughout our days in a way that is consistent with the truths we say and sing in worship.  That is, we hope that our books can help you honor God by connecting the worship of Sunday liturgy and the worship of Monday work.  I hope you don't think we are eccentric for believing that books like Living at the Crossroads can make significant impacts in how we understand and live out faith.  We think it can make a difference.  We are very proud, and think it says something of our intent 25-some years ago that among our first "in-store" author appearances was Brian Walsh, who wrote one of the very first books on a Christian world-and-life view (The Transforming Vision.)  If you appreciate our reviews and our efforts to be a different sort of religious bookstore, this will help you understand why.

I hope you give such worldview books to your pastor, as it is something that, I am confident, he or she did not study in seminary.  If they were fortunate, they perhaps had some talk about the role of their laity in the marketplace, how to affirm folks in their callings and careers, and some reminder that the Kingdom of God includes more than the renewal of the institutional church.  Maybe they gave a nod to social action, works of mercy, a reminder that homelife is the setting for most ordinary Christian living.  Mostly, although they studied Greek and doctrine, counseling and worship, they haven't been well trained in honoring the engineers, film-makers, cubicle workers or physical therapists in their churches.

copy_of_CITY_EMPLOYEES.jpgThat is (obviously) not to say they don't care.  It is only to say that they, too, need to be nurtured in the wide-as-life gospel and the worldview books we sell might help get at that.  It could remind them what it means to be agents of the Kingdom, not the church, and how to equip folks not just for service within the congregation, but within the worlds of work, education, media, neighborhood and civic life. Many are using the language of "missional" these days, but they still sometimes forget how that includes ordinary folks in their real world jobs and callings. Thank God for pastors that do that, even though their intuitions about this were squeezed out of them in seminary.

Faith as a way of life.jpgAnd so, in speaking at two pastor's conferences this fall, I highlighted a recent book published by the Faith as a Way of Life Project at the Yale Center for Faith & Culture . Called Faith as a Way of Life: A Vision for Pastoral Leadership by Christian Scharen (Eerdmans; $15.00) it is the only book I know of that is based on research done among working pastors asking how they, indeed, equip and nurture and inspire their congregants to see faith not as an "add on" to life, but as a very way of life.  I have the privilege of knowing a few guys who were consultants this project and who served on a scholarly team to help ask the right questions of pastors.  Just how do they invite parishioners to think about faith as the lifeblood of daily living, not just an optional activity or one more thing they do, religious services they "buy" as busy, consumeristic Americans?

As I've mentioned before here at the blog, this good book is useful for pastors to help remind them that they are not alone in this daunting task of making disciples who can serve God, non-conformed to the pressures of the current culture, but who "think Christianly" as business men or women, medical caregivers, sports fans, writers, parents, teachers, cops or cardiologists. 

To make it easier, it focuses on four main spheres of culture, four arenas or contexts for discipleship.  How can pastors think faithfully, and help their people think and live faithfully, in work and business, civic life and politics, family life and relationships, recreational life and entertainment/leisure/the arts?

Does pastoral excellence center on the ability to foster and shape communities who embrace God's give of grace in such a way that it compels them to life out faith 24/7, as they say, forming, together, a way of life that is informed by Biblical values and Christian insights?  Does pastoral excellence help people make meaning, integrate faith and life, see Christianly and life faithfully?  Few would doubt it.  Few, though, have learned the practices of that kind of pastoral care.  We are happy to suggest this book as a resource towards worldviewish churches, and pastoring to foster faith as a way of life.

WHILE I'M AT IT:

 Lasting Investments: A Pastor's Guide for Equipping Workplace Leaders to Leave a Spiritual Legacy by Kent Humphreys (NavPress; $11.99) is a mostly unknown little gem that, as Steve Hayner has said, is "Explosive!"  For pastors with a keen desire to serve their business leaders, equipping them for marketplace ministry, this is a must.

The Sense of the Call:  A Sabbath Way of Life for Those Who Serve God, The Church and the World  by Mava Dawn (Eerdmans; $16) seems appropriate to mention tonight.  Marva wrote the spectacular and seminal book Keeping the Sabbath Wholly where she invites us to think through four aspects of refreshing sabbath keeping, and here, a decade later, she revisits them for the rest of the week.  For pastors, for those who want to live out a restful and healing way of life, for those who are thinking about both sabbath and calling, spirituality and society, the relationship of prayer and politics, the inner journey and the outward mission, this is clear-eyed and visionary.  Mark Buchanan calls it "prophetic and pragmatic" and it seems a wise and weighty ally in this project of nurturing faith as a way of life.  This is worldview rich, although I doubt she uses the word more than once. Great for pastors.

Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street  Dallastown, PA  17313     717.246.3333 


January 21, 2009

It Still Moves

Everybody's blogging about the inauguration, and I intended to do a book list of Presidentially-related themes, or a list of books I wish the new President would read.  Wisely, I gave up that project.

The great communicator, as most recent Presidents have, talks about the common people of middle America.  About ordinary folks.  From sharecroppers to coal miners, single moms to emergency room workers (or, as Obama put it, firefighters) these salt of the Earth folk help make this land great.  He suggests he's interested in the little guy, even the forgotten on the fringes.

Want a book to remind you of the rattle and hum of the heartland?  Of the grand and
it still moves bigger.jpg messy and fabulous story, at least a part of the story, of the U S of A?  And want to learn a whole lot about the roots of pop culture while your at it?  I recommend one of the most learned and funny and interesting collections of reportage I've read in a while, It Still Moves: Lost Songs, Lost Highways, and the Search for the Next American Music by Amanda Petrusich (Faber & Faber; $25.00.)

Petrusich, who writes for the much-debated indie rock review site Pitchfork, and, importantly, is a contributor to Paste magazine, knows her rock and roll.  And old-timey bluegrass, blues, old folk, new folk, country, old and new.  Heck, she seems to know a lot about ragtime and vaudeville, early jazz, heavy metal and punk.  She knows gospel, black and Southern, and just loves the twangy history of American music.  And she loves to travel.  And she loves to eat.  Her descriptions of meals and juke joints and greasy spoons (and an endearing short chapter on Cracker Barrel) makes me hungry, like those PBS shows about the best road-trip diners or regional sandwich places. Man, I want to get me one of those Corn Nuggets from Banks Dairy Bar near Vicco Kentucky, which seem to be a ball of battered and friend cream corn.

It Still Moves is both rollicking travelogue and  a vital history of 20th century Americana music.  One chapter, for instance, is on the crossroads where Robert Johnson alleged sold his soul to learn the blues (a legendary story told about other bluesmen before Johnson;  if he didn't make this Faustian bargain with the devil, somebody sure seems to.  It's spooky, despite the cheesy signs out there at the fork in those roads.)
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With her good ears and eyes, we learn about the culture that gave rise to the blues;  about the huge plantations and their shacks, cotton sharecropping, the Mississippi Delta, and the nuances between several different kinds of blues, even beyond the classic schools of Delta and Chicago.  She is quotable, interesting, and has the storytelling chops to know when to shift from detailed citations of her research to describing the sloppy BBQ she spilled on her white tank top.

She goes to Memphis, of course.  The story about Sam Phillips and Sun Records in fabulous and important.  She goes to Nashville, and is gracious, if critical.  The way country music developed a big pop sound in the 60s---she names the producers, the studio players, the hits---is much lamented by country purists, and it gave rise to the Outlaw sound, itself rather co-opted by commercial interests.  She eats and drinks and travels and talks, telling the story of her drive, her hotel stays, people she meets, records she buys.  Like any good road trip, there are detours, literal and figurative, as she sees, and tells us, the oddest mix of stuff.   And then she is back to the history, the pop culture studies, the stories of these great American heroes, from the Carter Family to Lead Belly, from Alan Lomax and his field recordings for Folkway (now owned by the Smithsonian) to, yes, Elvis Presley. To say she's "going to Graceland" is an understatement.  She knows this stuff, cares about it and, it seems to me (or is it wishful thinking?) see a solid stream of redemption through it all.

carter family.jpgSome of our readers will be fascinated by her chapter on what is sometimes called alt-country, No Depression music.  (The name, picked up by the rag of that same name that reviewed this neo-country tradition, comes from a line from Carter Family song covered by folkster rockers Uncle Tupelo---the predecessor of Son Volt and Wilco, staples in the No Depression scene.)  In fabulous overview, she connects dots as diverse as John Prine and Gram Parson and the Byrds and Neil Young, and the guys from Uncle T to the oddly appealing Bobby Bare, Jr to grunge rockers like Pearl Jam. (Later, she continues this trajectory in a chapter on hyphenated indie-rock, discussing guys like Sam Beam from Iron and Wine.)  She names the clubs where she sees 'em, describes albums, tells who plays with who, and who thinks the whole alt-country thing can't be defined.  And, the roads she travels to get to these interviews.  She's a good writer, as I've said, but there was one line that didn't fit.  She mentions her Diet Coke.  Sigh.

The chapter on the rise of country, which necessarily goes South, and into the rise of radio, was fabulous, and may have been reverbing around my brain as I decided to tell you about this book on inauguration day.  Petrusich is a music lover, she is a good journalist, she writes beautifully about the environments through which she journeys.  (Yes, for those who know it, her work reminds me at times of Blue Highways. by William Least Moon.)  Importantly, it is evident, too, that she has a deep concern about justice---why wouldn't she, since she listens to Woodie and Seeger and such?  She seems insightfully sensitive to race relations and although the book isn't about the exploitation of black musicians, it comes up often. It almost makes me cry, thinking of just this one example of institutional racism that exists to this day, and the mixed bag of good and evil that runs through this land of ours.  (You know that rockabilly, which became rock and roll, was mostly white guys like Elvis trying to sing like blacks....it was called "race music" at first, and helped cause the middle class controversy about rock.**  She doesn't get lost in diatribes (and notes, as some realists have, that in some cases, the white owners of recording studios and record labels in the earlier parts of the last century, did serve a good role in getting these songs out there.  The chapters on Folkways capture this ambiguity especially well.)

**My dear friend William David Romanowski has explored much of this in his extraordinary book Pop Culture Wars (IVP; $24 while supplies last;  the new reprinted edition cost $43!) placing the artistic conflict between so-called high and low culture in the sociological context of immigration, racism, class and such.  He offers an implicitly Christian framework for rethinking rock history from an aesthetic theory informed by a Reformed worldview, which yields great insight about the popular and entertaining arts.  He surely isn't the first to note the racism and classism in these areas, but he may be the first to think it through theologically.

It Still Moves is a wonderful read, a fun and clever book, a road trip down, and beyond, Highway 61, complete with soundtrack. (Even the cover is printed in a way, with thick ink, suggesting a silk-screened music poster.) Yet it is more that a memoiristic travelogue.  It is a caring look into the American Southland, with its friendly populace, its poverty, its odd history of blacks and whites making music together, and the legacy of slavery and the Klan.  It is a tale which twists like the Mississippi and is as heavy, and beautiful, of the glorious Appalachian mountains of Eastern Kentucky.  From the  NC hollers to the MS delta, she traces how this geography and culture shaped music which has become--and continues to become-something very uniquely American.

Presidents, especially this good one now, like to talk like populists.  My hunch is they mean well, but aren't, really. Granted, in the years of campaigning, they really do get out to the hinterlands and meet thousands of people, rich and poor.  (Still, how 'bout that story of VP Biden talking about his beloved diner where he chows down with the locals, which,  it came to be known, had closed a decade earlier.  Guess he wasn't a regular there after all.)  Amanda Petrusich could take you to some diners.  She'd get talkin' about local music.  She'd catch an unknown playing in some coffee shop or back room.  She'd buy a locally-made CD with poorly photo-copied artwork.  And she'd make you very, very glad to be a part of a country with such enterprising music makers, such good highways, and so many backroads.  Maybe It Still Moves...The Search for the Next American Music should be on the Presidential reading list after all.

Here is an interview with her from Salon, discussing the book.  Enjoy.

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January 24, 2009

A great column, a great interview

I suppose that you have subscribed to, bookmarked, or drop by BookNotes mostly to see what is new at Hearts & Minds, or what I am most recently reading.  You perhaps appreciate our particular mix of titles, and the way we promote reading widely as an act of Christian faithfulness.  If you want long, serious, critical reviews from other authors, I suppose you know where to look.

Still, every now and then, an author we admire does an interview or essay that summarizes their work in a way that I badly want to share with others.  In this past year we have given rave reviews to Os Guinness' The Case for Civility And Why Our Future Depends on It and to David Naugle's elegant and deeply moving Reordered Loves, Reordered Lives.  The good doctors are both heroes of mine, and I trust they wouldn't mind me calling them friends.  If you follow Hearts & Minds, you will want to know them specifically, and, these sorts of books.

During inauguration week, Guinness had a very thoughtful piece in the widely-read USA
Os pic.jpg Today, a piece suggesting that President Obama is uniquely situated to offer a major speech or public initiative to frame the ways in which we attempt to resolve the "holy war front of the wider culture wars."  That is, Os explains how a way could emerge that is faithful to the framers and founders of this nation that could truly advance the ways in which religion is seen in the public square.  Rooted in the best thinking of our founding years---James Madison called the American settlement "the true remedy"---and insightfully aware of the various ideologies that drive of the contemporary contentiousness, Guinness is wise and winsome and always worth reading.   The op ed piece is a clear summary of much of his eloquent work The Case for Civility.  I hope you agree that the article is very suggestive and that this is, indeed, an exceptionally urgent matter.  You can read it here.  If it strikes you as helpful, send it on to someone (perhaps an elected
USA Today.jpg official) and order the book, soon.




Naugle photo.jpgDave Naugle has a heck of an interview in Comment, the on-line e-zine that comes from the Canadian think-tank Cardus  This interview is really fabulous---from talking about his dog "Kuyper" to the things he loves to the best definition of happiness---and we commend it to you.  If you've read Reordered Loves you will want to read this interview.  If you haven't, check it out here, and then order the book from us.  It truly is one of the books of the year! 

Thank God with us today that there are thoughtful writers, like Os and David, good books like these (and so many others), and that, occasionally, their good voices are heard beyond the covers of the texts, outside the bookstore, beyond those who have bought their books, and in such broad public venues as USA Today and Comment.  Spread the word. 

January 30, 2009

Seven Great New Releases

I'm feeling a little bad about the blog---it seems the feed that tells you that we've posted a new review isn't working real well.  I know some of you have had issues with our subscription service.  Hang in there, and keep checking back, even if nothing shows in your inbox as it should if you've subscribed....please know of our appreciation.  Further, I'm feeling badly since I'm swamped these days (more on that later) and don't have enough time to tell you about the amazing stuff that keeps coming out.  Maybe God put me in this work so I can be encouraged nearly every day, as new books, DVDs and music come out.  We really are excited about the very good new things we show off in the shop.

So, here, too quickly, are seven (eight if you count the study guide) new items we'd love to wax on about.  I'll try to keep it brief.

open table.jpgThe Open Table: An Invitation to Know God DVD and Participants Guide  Donald Miller  (Nelson;  DVD, $39.99 and guidebook $9.99) Yes, the Blue Like Jazz man is back, doing a discussion guide which is a tool to invite ordinary folks, seekers, the unchurched or anybody else who agrees to sit through some very moving testimonials on this DVD curriculum.  Honest, forthright, gut-wrenching, these interviews are with people (some of whom had appeared in Miller's books) who tell about their journey to faith.  The workbook has readings for each day, and this is more than enough for good conversations, maybe over a meal, an open table, inviting good questions and honest talk.  God can show up and lives can be touched deeply as we think through these important things and I think the workbook itself is useful.  The narratives of these folks are very helpful, though.  There are five units:  Is there God?  Is the world as it should be?  Can God show up?  Is Jesus the way to God?  Can we follow Christ?  Fabulous.

taize.jpgA Community Called Taize: A Story of Prayer, Worship and Reconciliation  Jason Brian Santos (IVP; $15.00)  We've raved about nearly everything in the "formatio" line of this evangelical publisher, and this memoir of a journey to Taize is stunning.  (The author, now a PhD. candidate at Princeton Theological Seminary, arrived the day Brother Roger was murdered.)  This is as close to getting there as most of us will ever experience, and it is well, well worth the read.  Forward by Desmond Tutu.  Brother John of Taize has a brief endorsement included, indicating the community's support for this report.  Very nice.

Missional Renaissance: Changing tghe Scorecard for the Churchmissional renaissance.jpg  Reggie McNeal (Jossey-Bass; $24.95.)  With blurbs from Alan Hirsch, Victor Pentz,  Neil Cole, Leonard Sweet and other gurus of contemporary thinking of the missional parish, this looks like it could be his best, yet.  I don't want to make it sound boring, but it offers a metric by which we can asses the vitality of this whole matter of being missional.  The Leadership Network Publications books are all interesting, full of stories, unique challenges, and perhaps a bit overly optimistic.  This isn't dry scholarship, or heavy theology, but a cry out from the deck...

sabbath.jpgSabbath  Dan Allender  (Nelson; $17.99)  I  heartily recommend that  you read anything that Dr. Allender writes.  It is as simply as that---he is a fascinating, caring, innovative and solid guy.  This new one, the third in the Ancient Practices series, though, is remarkable; just when I thought everything that could be said about sabbath keeping has been said, this precious writer daringly offers new vistas, new meanings, new angles on these ancient ecumenical practices....He explores, particularly,  sensual glory and beauty, ritual, communal feasting and playfulness.  I know I have to read this.  This is the series that began with Brian McLaren's delightful and important Finding Our Way Again and the beautiful and compelling In Constant Prayer by Robert Benson.  (I mentioned them here.)

fasting.jpgFasting  Scot McKnight (Nelson; $17.99)  The other new one in this great Ancient Practices series, any new book by Biblical scholar and blogger and teacher S McK is worth celebrating.  How does such a scholar find the ability to write so clearly and with such inspiration?   I've only read the first brief section "A montage of Christian voices on fasting" introduces us to a point made by King David, Isaiah, the early Christian church fathers,  John Calvin, Andrew Murray and a Benedictine monk named Adalbert De Vogue, each with a certain insight.  He cites contemporary writer Dallas Willard and Baptist preacher John Piper and then summarizes how this practice taps into God's grace, and I'm hooked.  Amy Frykholm says "Fasting is about three things: attentiveness, compassion and freedom."

The NRSV  Wesley Study Bible
  senior editors Joel Green & William Willimon (Abingdon; $49.95.) It is a great gift that so many scholars, writers and pastors from across the Weslyan world have come together on this remarkable project.  (Where else have Nazarenes and Unitedwesley study bible.gif Methodists, Free Methodists and Salvation Army guys, Pentecostals and liberation theologians all worked to bring their gifts to enhance Christian discipleship?)  I have skimmed through some of the notes---and they truly are done by some of the best Biblical scholars around such as Joel Green, Ben Witherington, Bruce Birch and Maxie Dunnam, Amy Oden and Howard Snyder.  There are an array of multicultural, international voices, and some working pastors.  There are, true to Wesley's vision, practical application teachings, and they are often rooted in the best of classical Christian thinking.  This is a wonderful study Bible, thoughtful, a nice typeface, in a very handsome green and brown duo-tone.  On the box it says "Love God with a warmed heart.  Serve God with active hands."  Glad to see it in the New Revised Standard Version!

love like that.jpgLove Like That Pierce Pettis (Compass Records; $17.98.) How many years has it been since a new Pettis release? A lot of us have been waiting eagerly...  This singer songwriter is among our favorites, gentle, funny, clever, and sometimes incredibly powerful, with his rich and booming voice thrashing on his acoustic.  Yes, he starts the album, as is his custom, with a cover of an old Mark Heard tune. We got the new Springsteen in the store the same day, and I opened this one first.  Perhaps I will review it in earnest later;  there are amazingly good songs here, from a true poet, often with a Southern voice, writing about life and times, faith and pain, joys and goodbyes.

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