About March 2009

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

February 2009 is the previous archive.

April 2009 is the next archive.

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

March 2009 Archives

March 5, 2009

Refractions: Selling books at IAM with Makoto Fujimura

Makoto Fujimura is a man you should know.  A painter, author, social critic, and cultural organizer, he is also a sweet Christian brother, a dedicated husband and dad, and the center of a multi-faceted, increasingly respected, truly fascinating, faith-based art group, known simply as IAM. (Started in Japan by Makoto the New Yorker, it stands for The International Arts Movement)

We have enjoyed brief moments with Mako over the years and have enjoyed promoting---more than enjoyed, we have felt called, obliged--- his earliest published work.  There is an early great chapter in the essential anthology of Christians in the arts, It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God edited by Ned Bustard (Square Halo; $24.99) and a fabulous interview with him in James Romaine's excellent tete a tete with visual artists, gloriously produced in full-color in Objects of Grace: Conversations on Creativity & Faith (Square Halo; $19.99.)  Mr. Fujimura's artwork itself has graced more than one book cover, and he has been often discussed as a contemporary leader in cultural conversations.  He is not the only reason to buy these two great books, but that he is in them is important.

Now, there is a brand new, very handsomely designed, collected of his thoughtful and
refractions.jpg fascinating essays, wonderfully called Refractions: A Journey of Faith, At, and Culture (NavPress; $24.99.)  It is doubtlessly the most exquisite book published by NavPress, and Caleb Seeling, the editor who worked on it (himself a bright light in the publishing world) deserves great credit for bringing Mr. Fujimuro's work to the reading public with such an attractive book design.  Here, at Conversantlife.com you can listen to a five part interview with Mako (and then continue on with some interviews Christy Tennant did with other IAM speakers.)

Fujimura has also released a small hardback volume of high quality reproductions of his stunning, reflective artwork, River Grace (self-published; $29.95) which we have stocked since it was first released through IAM.  His MFA is from Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music and is a National Scholar in Nihonga---his art style.   His work (highly regarded in Japan and his New York home), is shown in It Was Good, Objects of Grace, and River Grace; in Grace...he chronicles in allusive beauty and an amazing essay, his "transfer of alliance from Art to Christ."  In 2003 he was appointed to the National Endowment for the Arts (then headed by Dana Gioia.) To see such a young, talented and articulate follower of the Lord Jesus serving as a prudent spokesperson for our nations cultural health is a glory itself.

As great as Mako's refractions may be---in his writing and his gold-drenched Nihonga panels--- he is also known for his considerable ministry among artists, patiently befriending and networking painters, jazz musicians, donors, critics, film-makers, mentors, gallery owners, marketing executives and advertisers, models, actors, writers, dancers, sculptors, docents, and such, creating a movement of Christ-followers of all sorts (and others, too) working under the audacious banner of IAM.

It was the annual IAM Encounter 09 that called us to New York in yet another rented van commandeered by our midnight driver, Scott Calgaro.  We set up a large, large display of authors and musicians speaking or playing at the event, books on aesthetics, literature and poetry, culture-affirming theology, wise art history, and a ton of actual art books, including many of working contemporary Christian artists.  (For instance, do you know the UK publisher Piquant Press?  They have lovingly republished the multi-volume, expensive Complete Works of Hans Rookmaaker now in a $50 CD-ROM!  We had nearly all of their books--from Betty Spackman's esteemed---if a bit unusual---and much-discussed A Profound Weakness: Christian and Kitsch, to various coffee table works by Anneke Kaai, and more---about which I will write more, soon.)  It wasn't an easy load-in or set up on the 18th floor of a Manhattan high-rise, but it was truly one of the more interesting events we've ever served.  Getting to feature our huge selection of book on the relationship of faith and art, media studies, pop culture, writing, philosophical aesthetics, music, and art books was a thrill.  Having all these creative types from all over the country as customers was even more so.  Or, as the Visa card ad says, Priceless.

Yale University philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff kicked of the IAM Encounter with a reasoned apologia for the arts.  Hardly necessary in this crowd, it was, nonetheless, magisterial; Wolterstorff is one of the world's leading philosophers (with recent academic publications on Oxford, Cambridge, Princeton University Presses; his early 80s release Until Justice & Peace Embrace (Eerdmans; $22.00) which were the Kuyper lectures at the Free University of Amsterdam, remains in print and is one of my all time favorite books.)

art in action.JPGHis Art in Action: Toward a Christian Aesthetic (Eerdmans; $25.00) is considered a classic among those interested in distinctively Christian aesthetic theory, and served the IAM event as the conference theme.  In fact, it was none other than Calvin Seerveld (A Christian Critique of Art and Literature, Rainbows for the Fallen World, Bearing Fresh Olive Leaves, Being Human) who was chosen to first review it when it was initially released in 1980, I believe.  (Nic returned the favor, turning in a cautiously rave review of his old friend Seerveld's own Calvinistic, worldviewish, book on the need for aesthetic richness and responsibility in God's good world.)  This generation of Christian artists and writers affirm the significance of Dr. Wolterstorff, the logical and teacherly philosophy Prof., and the more colorful, Bible-preaching aesthetician,  Calvin Seerveld.  Their names pepper the footnotes of writers such as Mako, Lambert Zuidevaart, Michael Card, Steve Turner, Adrienne Chaplin, Ned Bustard, Luci Shaw, Albert Pedulla, Bruce Hermann, Bill Romanowski, Ena Heller, Steve Scott, Jeremy Begbie. Dr. Wolterstorff remained at the IAM Encounter (some famous speakers fly in and quickly depart events like this) and it was an joy to see him chatting with the participants, young and old, working artists and culture reformers, serious fans and those who had never heard of him before. 

Other keynote speakers had written books and we of course featured them: we have often recommended the excellent Culture Savvy Christian by Dick Staub (Jossey-Bass; $14.95.) Get the great subtitle of this excellent primer: A Manifesto for Deepening Faith and Enriching Popular Culture in an Age of Christianity-Lite so it was sweet to have him around.  Our very good friend Steve Garber gave a packed out seminar----he's a heck of a supporter of the arts himself, citing Walker Percy and Bono and Seerveld and the novels of Wendell Berry and the poetry of Steve Turner by memory.  It is always a good day when we get to tell folks about how important Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior  (IVP; $18) is to us.

Maybe most memorable was meeting an author who works in the artistic field (and who would deny that it is an art?) of comedy.  Susan Isaacs has preformed in Hollywood comedies
angry conversations.jpg (Planes Trains and Automobiles) and television, and has written for Seinfeld, SNL and My Name Is Earl.  She was raised Pentecostal, joined the comedy sub-culture, and is a working gal using her chops to make people laugh.  We were the very first place in the country to snag her not-yet-released (as of late February) memoir Angry Conversations With God: A Snarky But Authentic Spiritual Memoir (Faithwords; $24.00) and now that it is officially out, we promise to review it in earnest, soon. The word the press review used---cheeky--- does indeed capture this crazy lady's style---and she rocked the big house at IAM.  As you might imagine, it will be a blessing (I say this seriously) for the often de-churched and spiritually marginalized creative types to hear her honest story, her journey of faith, her endurance in a pretty rocky world of performance, travel, fear, fame, and foibles.  She sometimes writes for the Burnside Collective, so you may know she is a thoughtful woman, rooted in a community of open-minded, big-hearted wordsmiths.

billy-collins.jpg
Speaking of big-hearted wordsmiths, one of the most celebrated poets of our time---the former Poet Laureate of the United States, Mr. Billy Collins, read from his various works.  What an honor to be a part of a gig like this! (And how great to think that people of historic Christian faith have the wherewithal to pull it off!)   Of course, we had all of Mr. Collins' volumes (Sailing Alone Around the Room, The Trouble with Poetry, Questions About Angels, etc. etc.) but naturally stacked up his new one, Ballistics (Random House; $24.00.)  I just love The New Yorker when they write that Collins is "A poet of plentitude, irony, and Augustinian grace."  Entertainment Weekly writes that he "spins gold from the dross of quotidian suburban life..." Gotta love that, eh?

We have discovered that there is a CD recording package of him doing a live reading in 2005: tons of poety, well read, in an obviously classy venue. (Have you heard him on Prairie Home Companion?) It is introduced by Bill Murray (yep) and highly recommended.  We've got it here, now: Billy Collins Live (Random House audio; $19.95.)  

What a joy it was, too, to be able to feature the 20th anniversary issue of Image: A Journal of the Arts and Religion, a classy arts and literary quarterly of great note.  Drawing broadly from faith-inspired artists, writers, poets, short-story writers and pop musicians, Image--dreamed up, legend has it, in part, by popular poet and evangelical writer Luci Shaw---has illustrated this integration of faith and cultural writing as well as any institution in the past generation.  Where else might one read, say, an interview with T-Bone Burnett, a scholarly piece on Flannery O'Connor, wood-cuts by Barry Moser, previously unpublished poetry by Scott Cairns, wonderfully-reproduced full color plates of the work of Sandra Bowden, a short story by an unknown lit prof, a poem by a cloistered nun, and long, serious essays by art critics fluent in Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox spirituality?  From Ron Hanson to Wendell Berry to Brent Lott to Annie Dillard, luminous and important writers grace their pages.  Their splendid 20th anniversary issue includes, by the way, a lengthy interview with Mako Fujimura about his own artwork, and his IAM mission.  Please visit their website---it will make your mouth drop open.  Subscribe to their blog, here: Even if one does not believe with Dostoevsky and Day, that "beauty will save the world", you know it sure can help.  Showing off Image at jsut $10 an issue at IAM sure made it feel that way.   We still have some back issues available, so let us know if you'd want to purchase any. 

Another way towards this perspective is the tremendous, tremendous, very handsome little paperback (adorned with woodcuts of Barry Moser) of Image editor Greg Wolfe's essays (gleaned from years of Image) called Intrudingintruding upon the timeless.jpg Upon the Timeless: Meditations on Art, Faith and Mystery (Square Halo; $9.99.)  This should be on everyone's nightstand, a great collection of short, wise, and glorious essays.  It certainly would make a great little gift, too, for anyone who wants to impress a seeker who doesn't think that religious folks are interested in great literature, or that art must always be propaganda.  If I can't sell ya on it, listen to this endorsement by Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Dillard:

Intruding Upon the Timeless takes its title from a phrase of Flannery O'Connor.  That's apt, because not since O'Connor's Mystery and Manners has there been such bracing insight on the pile-up where art and faith collide.  This book will rev your engines and propel you down the same road.

So, we repacked, boxed up, loaded out--thanks, again, to IAM volunteers, the aforementioned S.C. and the NY union guys---propelling ourselves down that same snowy road back to PA, full of timelessness ourselves, for having been at IAM, selling these kinds of books to folks who care.  And now the harder job:  we wonder how to let our readership, customers and friends in on our remarkable time, this glimmer of God's beauty, truth, grace, glory, service, reform, kindness, care, excellence and all manner of goodness that we experienced in New York.  What else to do but tell ya about it (thanks for reading) and to offer a sale on some books from the IAM book display.  I hope that isn't anti-climatic.  It is what we do, after all.

Want to see a description of some of the other books we featured at the IAM arts conference?
For our recommendations, SEE OUR MARCH 09 monthly review article at the Hearts & Minds website, HERE.  Feel free to spread the word to others who might find such a list helpful  In the meantime, buy Mako's fabulous essays for $5.00 off, and get a good deal on any of these others, too. 

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Selling Books at IAM: and an extended list of books on the arts

Makoto Fujimura is a man you should know.  A painter, author, social critic, and cultural organizer, he is also a sweet Christian brother, a dedicated husband and dad, and the center of a multi-faceted, increasingly respected, truly fascinating, faith-based art group, known simply as IAM. (Started in Japan by Makoto the New Yorker, it stands for The International Arts Movement)

We have enjoyed brief moments with Mako over the years and have enjoyed promoting---more than enjoyed, we have felt called, obliged--- his earliest published work.  There is an early great chapter in the essential anthology of Christians in the arts, It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God edited by Ned Bustard (Square Halo; $24.99) and a fabulous interview with him in James Romaine's excellent tete a tete with visual artists, gloriously produced in full-color in Objects of Grace: Conversations on Creativity & Faith (Square Halo; $19.99.)  Mr. Fujimura's artwork itself has graced more than one book cover, and he has been often discussed as a contemporary leader in cultural conversations.  He is not the only reason to buy these two great books, but that he is in them is important.

Now, there is a brand new, very handsomely designed, collected of his thoughtful and refractions.jpeg
 fascinating essays, wonderfully called Refractions: A Journey of Faith, At, and Culture (NavPress; $24.99.)  It is doubtlessly the most exquisite book published by NavPress, and Caleb Seeling, the editor who worked on it (himself a bright light in the publishing world) deserves great credit for bringing Mr. Fujimuro's work to the reading public with such an attractive book design.  Here, at Conversantlife.com you can listen to a five part interview with Mako (and then continue on with some interviews Christy Tennant did with other IAM speakers.)

Fujimura has also released a small hardback volume of high quality reproductions of his stunning, reflective artwork, River Grace (self-published; $29.95) which we have stocked since it was first released through IAM.  His MFA is from Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music and is a National Scholar in Nihonga---his art style.   His work (highly regarded in Japan and his New York home), is shown in the Square Halo Books anthologies It Was Good, Objects of Grace, and in his own memoir River Grace. In River Grace he chronicles in allusive beauty and an amazing essay, his "transfer of alliance from Art to Christ."  In 2003 he was appointed to the National Endowment for the Arts (then headed by Dana Gioia.) To see such a young, talented and articulate follower of the Lord Jesus serving as a prudent spokesperson for our nations cultural health is a glory itself.

As great as Mako's refractions may be---in his writing and his gold-drenched Nihonga panels--- he is also known for his considerable ministry among artists, patiently befriending and networking painters, jazz musicians, donors, critics, film-makers, mentors, gallery owners, marketing executives and advertisers, models, actors, writers, dancers, sculptors, docents, and such, creating a movement of Christ-followers of all sorts (and others, too) working under the audacious banner of IAM.

It was the annual IAM Encounter 09 that called us to New York in yet another rented van commandeered by our midnight driver, Scott Calgaro.  We set up a large, large display of authors and musicians speaking or playing at the event, books on aesthetics, literature and poetry, culture-affirming theology, wise art history, and a ton of actual art books, including many of working contemporary Christian artists.  (For instance, do you know the UK publisher Piquant Press?  They have lovingly republished the multi-volume, expensive Complete Works of Hans Rookmaaker now in a $50 CD-ROM!  We had nearly all of their books--from Betty Spackman's esteemed---if a bit unusual---and much-discussed A Profound Weakness: Christian and Kitsch, to various coffee table works by Anneke Kaai, and more---about which I will write more, soon.)

 It wasn't an easy load-in or set up on the 18th floor of a Manhattan high-rise, but it was truly one of the more interesting events we've ever served.  Getting to feature our huge selection of book on the relationship of faith and art, media studies, pop culture, writing, philosophical aesthetics, music, and art books was a thrill.  Having all these creative types from all over the country as customers was even more so.  Or, as the Visa card ad says, Priceless.

Yale University philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff kicked of the IAM Encounter with a reasoned apologia for the arts.  Hardly necessary in this crowd, it was, nonetheless, magisterial; Wolterstorff is one of the world's leading philosophers (with recent academic publications on Oxford, Cambridge, Princeton University Presses; his early 80s release Until Justice & Peace Embrace (Eerdmans; $22.00) which were the Kuyper lectures at the Free University of Amsterdam, remains in print and is one of my all time favorite books.)

art in action.JPGart in action.JPGHis Art in Action: Toward a Christian Aesthetic (Eerdmans; $25.00) is considered a true classic among those interested in a distinctively Christian aesthetic theory.   In fact, it was none other than Calvin Seerveld (A Christian Critique of Art and Literature, Rainbows for the Fallen World, Bearing Fresh Olive Leaves, Being Human) who was chosen to first review it when it was initially released in 1980, I believe.  (Nic returned the favor, turning in a cautiously rave review of his old friend Seerveld's own Calvinistic, worldviewish, book on the need for aesthetic richness and responsibility in God's good world.)  This generation of Christian artists and writers affirm the significance of Dr. Wolterstorff, the logical and teacherly philosophy Prof., and the more colorful, Bible-preaching aesthetician,  Calvin Seerveld.  Their names pepper the footnotes of writers such as Mako, Lambert Zuidevaart, Michael Card, Steve Turner, Adrienne Chaplin, Ned Bustard, Luci Shaw, Albert Pedulla, Bruce Hermann, Bill Romanowski, Steve Scott, Jeremy Begbie.  Dr. Wolterstorff remained at the IAM Encounter (some famous speakers fly in and quickly depart events like this) and it was an joy to see him chatting with the participants, young and old, working artists and culture reformers, serious fans and those who had never heard of him before.
 
Other keynote speakers had written books and we of course featured them: we have often recommended the excellent Culturally Savvy Christian by Dick Staub (Jossey-Bass; $14.95.) Get the great subtitle of this excellent primer: A Manifesto for Deepening Faith and Enriching Popular Culture in an Age of Christianity-Lite!  It was sweet to have him around.  Our very good friend Steve Garber gave a packed out seminar----he's a heck of a supporter of the arts himself, citing Walker Percy and Bono and Seerveld and the novels of Wendell Berry and the poetry of Steve Turner by memory.  It is always a good day when we get to tell folks about how important Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior  (IVP; $18) is to us.

Maybe most memorable was meeting an author who works in the artistic field (and who would deny that it is an art?) of comedy.  Susan Isaacs has preformed in Hollywood comedies
angry conversations.jpg (Planes Trains and Automobiles) and television, and has written for Seinfeld, SNL and My Name Is Earl.  She was raised Pentecostal, joined the comedy sub-culture, and is a working gal using her chops to make people laugh.  We were the very first place in the country to snag her not-yet-released (as of late February) memoir Angry Conversations With God: A Snarky But Authentic Spiritual Memoir (Faithwords; $24.00) and now that it is officially out, we promise to review it in earnest, soon. The word the press review used---cheeky--- does indeed capture this crazy lady's style---and she rocked the big house at IAM.  As you might imagine, it will be a blessing (I say this seriously) for the often de-churched and spiritually marginalized creative types to hear her honest story, her journey of faith, her endurance in a pretty rocky world of performance, travel, fear, fame, and foibles.  She sometimes writes for the Burnside Collective, so you may know she is a thoughtful woman, rooted in a community of open-minded, big-hearted wordsmiths.

billy-collins.jpg
Speaking of big-hearted wordsmiths, one of the most celebrated poets of our time---the former Poet Laureate of the United States, Mr. Billy Collins, read from his various works.  What an honor to be a part of a gig like this! (And how great to think that people of historic Christian faith have the wherewithal to pull it off!)   Of course, we had all of Mr. Collins' volumes (Sailing Alone Around the Room, The Trouble with Poetry, Questions About Angels, etc. etc.) but naturally stacked up his new one, Ballistics (Random House; $24.00.)  I just love The New Yorker when they write that Collins is "A poet of plentitude, irony, and Augustinian grace."  Entertainment Weekly writes that he "spins gold from the dross of quotidian suburban life..." Gotta love that, eh?
We have discovered that there is a CD recording package of him doing a live reading in 2005: tons of poety, well read, in an obviously classy venue. (Have you heard him on Prairie Home Companion?) It is introduced by Bill Murray (yep) and highly recommended.  We've got it here, now: Billy Collins Live (Random House audio; $19.95.)
  
What a joy it was, too, to be able to feature the 20th anniversary issue of Image: A Journal of the Arts and Religion, a classy arts and literary quarterly of great note.  Drawing broadly from faith-inspired artists, writers, poets, short-story writers and pop musicians, Image--dreamed up, legend has it, in part, by popular poet and evangelical writer Luci Shaw---has illustrated this integration of faith and cultural writing as well as any institution in the past generation.  Where else might one read, say, an interview with T-Bone Burnett, a scholarly piece on Flannery O'Connor, wood-cuts by Barry Moser, previously unpublished poetry by Scott Cairns, wonderfully-reproduced full color plates of the work of Sandra Bowden, a short story by an unknown lit prof, a poem by a cloistered nun, and long, serious essays by art critics fluent in Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox spirituality?  From Ron Hanson to Wendell Berry to Brent Lott to Annie Dillard, luminous and important writers grace their pages.  Their splendid 20th anniversary issue includes, by the way, a lengthy interview with Mako Fujimura about his own artwork, and his IAM mission.  Please visit their website---it will make your mouth drop open.  Subscribe to their blog, here: Even if one does not believe with Dostoevsky and Day, that "beauty will save the world", you know it sure can help.  Showing off Image at jsut $10 an issue at IAM sure made it feel that way.   We still have some back issues available, so let us know if you'd want to purchase any.
 
Another way towards this perspective is the tremendous, tremendous, very handsome little paperback (adorned with woodcuts of Barry Moser) of Image editor Greg Wolfe's essays (gleaned from years of Image) called Intrudingintruding upon the timeless.jpg Upon the Timeless: Meditations on Art, Faith and Mystery (Square Halo; $9.99.)  This should be on everyone's nightstand, a great collection of short, wise, and glorious essays.  It certainly would make a great little gift, too, for anyone who wants to impress a seeker who doesn't think that religious folks are interested in great literature, or that art must always be propaganda.  If I can't sell ya on it, listen to this endorsement by Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Dillard:
Intruding Upon the Timeless takes its title from a phrase of Flannery O'Connor.  That's apt, because not since O'Connor's Mystery and Manners has there been such bracing insight on the pile-up where art and faith collide.  This book will rev your engines and propel you down the same road.
So, we repacked, boxed up, loaded out--thanks, again, to IAM volunteers, the aforementioned S.C. and the NY union guys---propelling ourselves down that same snowy road back to PA, full of timelessness ourselves, for having been at IAM, selling these kinds of books to folks who care.  And now the harder job:  we wonder how to let our readership, customers and friends in on our remarkable time, this glimmer of God's beauty, truth, grace, glory, service, reform, kindness, care, excellence and all manner of goodness that we experienced in New York.  What else to do but tell ya about it (thanks for reading) and to offer a sale on some books from the IAM book display.  I hope that isn't anti-climatic.  It is what we do, after all.

Here, then, in no particular order, are a good handful of titles that we sold--or tried to---at the IAM Encounter 09.  Please recall that this is not an exhaustive list, but just a few recommendations.  Call or email if you want more ideas, or are looking for something specific.  We'd love to help.

ALSO:  if you haven't, you might visit the "vocation" portion of the website that describes foundational books from a Christian perspective for various careers, callings and vocations.  We obviously have a section designated for artists and list our top few. It is an excellent list for starters or students...

Walking On Water: Reflections on Faith and Art Madeleine L'Engle (Shaw; $13.99)  The paperback is out of print, but this squatty sized hardback is less expensive anyway, and a delight to hold.  Happily, holding it is something you will want to do, as this is captivating, well written, full of grace and truth.  A few artist friends insist this is the book to read first if one want to think through a Christian perspective in her art.  I love Michael Card's endorsement:

We do not learn creativity by means of 'how to.'  There are only incarnations of creativity, which speak, instruct, guide, and inspire.  In Walking on Water, Madeleine L'Engle shares the enfleshment of the Creative in her own life and in the lives of others.  She helps us hear the call to become what, in truth, we already are: creative imagebearers of the God who first reveals himself as an Artist.

Breath for the Bones: Art, Imagination, and Spirit: Reflections on Creativity and Faith
Luci Shaw (Nelson; $19.99)  Luci is a beloved poet, a great Christian writer, a leader in Christian publishing, and, in her older years, still as active and hopeful and generative as ever.  This is a book many of us have been waiting for, the reflections of her own creative process, her ruminations on not only how faith informs art, but how art animates faith?  From Emily Dickinson to Annie Dillard, she draws on the best writers of our time to discuss this grand, grand matter.  There are writing exercises for those so inclined and excellent discussion questions for the rest of us.  This is provocative and challenging, accessible and a joy to read.  We commend it often, wish that it might be read widely, and assure you that it, like the Walking on Water written by her best friend Madeleine L'Engle, would make a perfect gift for an artist you want to encourage, or an arts supporter who you want to more effectively inspire.  This is breath for weary bones!

Art for God's Sake: A Call to Recover the Arts  Philip Ryken (P&R; $5.99)  At this price, with this vivid insight, this is the bargain of the decade!  Perhaps what Schaeffer's little Art and the Bible did for a previous generation of culturally-savvy young evangelicals, this wonderful apologetic could also do for our own.  This makes a Biblical and theological case, rooted in historic faith---Ryken's father is the renowned literature scholar from Wheaton, and he, the pastor of 10th Presbyterian in Philadelphia.  With members of the renowned symphony in his parish, and students from the near by art school, he has to be up on this stuff.  As one committed to an intentionally faithful world and life view, he naturally has a keen appreciation for the common grace of excellence in the arts.  This is a manifesto, a Bible study, a call for gentle, caring action in a world in need of goodness and beauty.  Buy a bundle and give 'em out!

Finding Divine Inspiration: Working With the Holy Spirit in Your Creativity  J. Scott McElroy (Destiny Image; $15.99)  I don't know about you, but I sometimes worry when Spirit filled folks start asserting that it was God's own Dove that caused them to do this or that, told them this, led them there, simple of that, Praise Jesus.  Many of us are happy for such gracious moments, but prefer a more humble, subtle rubric in talking about it.  Still, I couldn't resist this author when we first spoke, nor his book when it came, and found it to be a true (dare I say it?) inspired work.  McElroy is a good, good, guy, who has done the requisite homework, has reflected on the need for a Christian perspective in aesthetics, and desires to hone his craft with excellence and nuance.  And, yes, he helps us remember to call forth the giftings of the Spirit, to rely on God, to fine, as he puts it, "divine inspiration."  Not a bad idea, ya know?  Kudos to Mr. McElroy.  His presence at the IAM gig was a delight, and we recommend his book to you.

Relectant Partners: Art and Religion in Dialogue Ena Heller (MoBia; $35.00)  Do you know the MoBia (Museum of Biblical Art in New York?  It is a thrilling, top-class art museum dedicated to art whose focus is something about the Biblical texts.)  Ms Heller is the energetic and brillantly aware curator director of this creative spot.  She's also a fabulous scholar of the interface of faith and art, and this major work shows her insight.  Packed with illustrations, plates and example of creative work.  Highly recommended.

God in the Gallery: A Christian Embrace of Modern Art  Daniel A. Siedell  (Baker; $24.95)  Ever since meeting Daniel at Jubilee 09, I am drawn more and more to this thick and serious book.  I've seen some of his compiled books of shows he has curated and watched him interact with other artists.  This may be, in many ways, a huge jump into a new circle of discourse, a shift and deepening of perspective and method.  Not every evangelical book on a Christian publishing house bears an endorsement by the prestigious (secular) scholar of contemporary art, Dr. James Elkins.  Nor do many bear a blurb by IAM founder and creative director, Makoto Fujimura.  There is a passionate embrace of common grace (as Books & Culture editor John Wilson puts it) and there is very, very much to celebrate here.  As much about modern art as art criticism, as much about a Christian worldview as the act of celebrating common grace.  A must-read for anyone serious about the conversations and practices of faithful Christian engagement with modern culture.

Visual Faith: Art, Theology, and Worship in Dialogue William Dyrness (Baker; $22.00)  This was one of the first in the prestigious Baker "Engaging Culture" series, and bears endorsements by world-class scholars such as Jeremy Begbie (Cambridge, St. Andrews, Duke) and E. John Walford and Gregory Wolfe.  I like the way this includes reflections on the role of art in modern society, how Christian artists might thrive in the secular gallery scene and larger art worlds, but also how arts can be properly "exploited" (is that a fair word?) for Christian worship.  The Protestant church, particularly, has for too long been largely insensitive to the traditions and joys of visual art, and this is a major, hefty contribution.

Sense of the Soul: Art and the Visual in Christian Worship William Dyrness (Cascade Books; $23.00)  This brand new book is, as the title reveals, much more about the nature of the artistic life of the church, and how good art can enhance good worship.  It is produced by the Brehm Center for Worship, Theology, and the Arts at Fuller Theological Seminary.  Surely one of the most important centers of its kind, this book is an indication of the rich traditions and insights that are in conversation with Christian folk of all sorts.  It includes some fascinating reportage of the grass-roots way art and visual elements are, in fact, incorporated into worship.  Dyrness has thought this through well (see Visual Faith) and now he has listened and observed well, using his interviews as springboards into illuminating insights.  An important bit of research, with important consequences for the health of the people of God.  

Inclusive Yet Discerning: Navigating Worship Artfully Frank Burch Brown (Eerdmans; $20.00) Anyone following the important conversations about worship renewal in the past decade has surely heard of the prestigious and helpful Calvin Institute of Christian Worship in Grand Rapids, MI.  John Witvliet has done heroes work, here, and in this "Liturgical Studies" series of books, he's brought out important and thoughtful resource for the renewal of contemporary worship practice.  This volume is about the relationship of theology, worship, and the arts---"a complex interweaving" as Jeremy Begbie puts it in his rave review.  Frank Burch Brown is known for his work in Indianapolis (Christian Theological Seminary) and the University of Chicago Divinity School.  Those interested in thoughtful Christian art criticism know well his book Good Taste, Bad Taste, Christian Taste: Aesthetics in Religious Life (Oxford University Press; $35.00) which was one of the most talked about books in Christian arts circles a few years back.  This new book is exciting as he offers insight based on his own obvious care for the subject and his interest in a practical theological aesthetic that will serve the churches well in their efforts for more lively and mature worship.  Still, it isn't a guidebook as he is in conversation with scholars such as David Bentley Hart, Pope Benedict, David Tracey, Carl Daw, Calvin, Luther, Wesley, Barth, and sociologists like Robert Wuthnow.  Fascinating stuff.

Art in Service of the Sacred  Catherine Kapikian  (edited by Kathy Black) (Abingdon; $25.00  This is without a doubt the most invaluable resource for anyone interested in seeing what contemporary artists are doing to adorn their churches, worship spaces, camps, retreat centers, chapels, fellowship halls and other sacred spaces.  Many congregations today are examinging the role the arts play in creating an more enhanced sacred space, and how the arts can help usher folks into the very presence of God.  The work of the artist and the work of the church are bound.  There is a DVD included in this book which shows numerous examples of good efforts made to enhance various sort of settings, with notes on the installations.  Art and art-making need not be done for the church, but it certainly should be one venue, for some artists.  Whether you are a visual artist or a creative type in the congregation, whether you are a worship leader or a supporter of the local arts, you should have this resource handy.  The author, by the way, is director of the Henry Luce III Center for the Arts and Religion at Wesley Theological Seminary.

Beauty:  The Invisible Embrace: Rediscovering the True Sources of Compassion, Serenity, and Hope John O'Donohue (Harper; $23.95)  I have a local artist friend who has found such inspiration here, she has me tell others about it.  I am not sure what mature Christian thinkers like Seerveld or Wolterstorff would thing of this glorification of the notion of beauty, but it is a moving experience to read these spiritual reflections, even if I'm not sure he gets it completely right.  Written by the beloved Celtic spiritual writer known for Anam Cara and his new great offering, Blessings. Here is the kind of stuff you will find in this charming work:

The Beautiful stirs passion and urgency in us and calls us forth from aloneness into the warmth and wonder of some eternal embrace.  It unites us again with the neglected and forgotten grandeur of life; for in some instinctive way we know that beauty is no stranger.  We respond with delight to the call of beauty because in an instant it can awaken under the layers of the heart some forgotten brightness.

Imagination and the Journey of Faith  Sandra M. Levy (Eerdmans; $18.00)  This book asks why we are so open to mystery, to glimpses of the Transcendent in our daily lives.  Levy is both a clinical psychologist and an Episcopal priest and she is a good guide, it seems to this journey to deeper imagination.  I suspect you should read Brueggemann's The Propehtic Imagination alongside it, and Seerveld's call to allusivity in Rainbows for the Fallen World. But this looks really, really good, and with endorsements from Jill Pelaez Baumgaertner (of Wheaton) and Jerome Berryman (of Godly Play fame) this is surely an important and vital new work.  Interestingly, she insists upon the irony that the postmodern culture has eroded the features of our imagination, and that sound theological inquiry must include a witness to this hurting, beleaguered culture.  Sacred stories and good art will help, she says, so this book should have been popular at our recent arts events.  Spread the word!

The Beauty of God: Theology and the Arts edited by Daniel Treier, Mark Husbands & Roger Lundin  (IVP Academic; $22.00)  Much, much has happened since IVP published in the mid-1970s Francis Schaffer's two brilliant little, life-saving essays Art and the Bible and Art in the Bible as a booklet entitled Art and the Bible (IVP; $8.00.)  How great that it was recently re-issued in a small paperback with a new forward.  Now, years later, after having done numerous enduring, excellent basic books on the arts like the wonderful Scribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creativity by Michael Card ($13.00), Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts by British rock critic Steve Turner ($13.00) and the must-read, top-notch, nearly perfect Art and Soul: Signposts for Christians in the Arts by Hilary Brand & Andrianne Chaplin ($30.00) they have now released a stunning collection of scholarly contributions in a variety of aesthetic and arts-related fields.  From Jeremy Begbie on Bach to Bruce Ellis Benson on David Bentley Hart, from E. John Walford on "Broken Beauty" to the thoughtful and prolific scholar/artist Bruce Herman on the same, to Roy Anker on film and Jill Pelaez Baumgaertner on poetry, and so much more, The Beauty of God is a noteworthy contribution for serious Christian artists and scholars approaching the questions of divine beauty and ruminations on the theological meaning of the arts in a fallen world.  This book is not only a serious addition to our libraries on the arts, but is a major step forward for theologians who are able to so cogently and respectfully write in interdisciplinary ways.  I still recommend IVPs early easy books for those starting out on the journey of relating faith and art.  For those more advanced, this is a true gift, and example of the maturity of the discourse emerging from the thoughtful Christian center.

The Portal of Beauty: Towards a Theology of Aesthetics
  Bruno Forte (Eerdmans: $30.00)  I will admit that this book is a bit pricey for the slim 120 pages, but it is, shall we say, nearly historic.  Forte is the Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto, Italy, and preached at the final retreat of Pope John Paul.  As a spiritual guide to the Pontiff, Forte was trusted as a deep man of faith, a thoughtful and solid theologian, and a good observer of the culture of the emerging 21st century.  Here, we have his reflections on beauty.  He is influenced somewhat by the magisterial work of Balthasar and Evdokimov, but also of Aquinas, Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky and other such luminaries.  Robin Jensen of Vanderbilt (The Substance of Things Seen is another recent, important work) calls him "lucid and eloquent" and that "we are reminded that beauty is both transcendent and terrifying, calling us to consciousness of our mortality."  Luci Shaw says  "if you are sick of banality and superficiality, dive into Portal of Beauty and be refreshed and enlarged."  Wow.

The Creative Life: A Workbook for Unearthing the Christian Imagination Alice Bass (IVP; $15.00)  This larger sized workbook is an excellent and thoughtful guide to, as she says, unearthing your imagination.  Not quite as "new agey" as, say, the useful classic The Artists Way by Julian Cameron (which we happily stock), this is an inspiring and useful guidebook full of exercises for Christ-centered artistic growth.  Very nicely done.

Creativity and Divine Surprise: Finding the Place of Your Resurrection  Karla M. Kincannon (Upper Room; $15.00)  This is a book that we don't always know where to shelve here in the shop.  It is, in fact, about spiritual formation, how to deepen your relationship with God as you discover your own creativity.  The endorsements are from the likes of Marj Thompson (Soul Feast) and Reuben Job, the renowned author of prayer books and meditative aids.  It may be a bit unusual for those used to more traditional devotional practices, but for anyone with a creative streak, this could be a real boost.  Not every book invites us to be artsy and spiritual, creative and God-like.  As one reviewer said, "Prepare to have your senses attuned to the Holy in all things."

The Soul Tells a Story: Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life
  Vinita Hampton Wright (IVP; $15.00)  Wright is a respected novelist, a serious Christian, and a good writer.  Here, she ably guides us into using writing as an avenue for our own spiritual growth.  Again, whether you are an artist or not, as one made in the image of a Creator-God, you can sense the sacred in your creative efforts.  Rave reviews from Luci Shaw, Lauren Winner and other fine wordsmiths make this a must-have for anyone interesting in the writing life.  (I assume, ahem, you have Bird-By-Bird by Lamott and The Writing Life by Dillard.  Right?  Of course you do.)

Writing Tides: Finding Grace and Growth Through Writing Kent Ira Groft  (Abingdon; $20.00)  I've been wanting to give another shout out to this brother for a while: Kent is a good friend, a dear, dear, man, and an accomplished spiritual director.  He's written very creative books about the spiritual journey, has helped folks learn experiences of the soul that help in knowing God more deeply.  (Another excellent book, on men's spirituality, is cleverly entitled The Journeymen.)  He is a compassionate coach, an inspiring writer himself, offering exercises, quips and quotes to help you on your way.  Again, not so much about being a professional writer, but how anyone can be more expressive in journaling, writing memoir or informal written storytelling.  Very nice.

The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World  Lewis Hyde (Vintage; $14.95)  This is a book, recently out in a 25th anniversary edition, is one that we have stocked in the store, but I don't think I ever realized how remarkable and important it is.  Mako Fujimura, in fact, built his Encounter 09 IAM talk around this, and all were truly impressed.  David Foster Wallace says of it, "No one who is invested in any kind of art can read The GIft and remain unchanged."  The famous novelist and critic Margaret Atwood writes, "The best book I know of for talented bu unacknowledged creators.  A masterpiece."  You know that we have been promoting for nearly a year, now, the wonderful work by Andy Crouch, Culture Makers: Recovering Our Creative Calling (IVP; $20.00).  I think he might like that line about "unacknowledged creators."    Yet, are all acknowledged, by God.  May our culture soon more appropriately realize the importance of cultural creatives, artists, writers, patrons and philanthropists who help keep the world turning with color and insight, sound and not too much fury.  Rainbows for a fallen world, Seerveld calls, em.  Fresh Olive Leaves brought back to the ark--signs of life amdist the destruction.  Given away for free, acknowledged or not.  Bruce Cockburn has a song called The Gift.  I wonder if it inspired by this book?

Tune in to the BookNotes blog soon as I do another list of actual books of Christian artwork.  From the latest glorious book by Bruce Herman to the work of Ted Prescott, to several books by Dutch painter Anneke Kaai, and a spectacular paperback collection of wood engravings by Peter Smith, we will have some descriptions and sale prices of some lovely gift books, collectors items, and books which show examples of the sorts of modern faithful art I've been writing about.
     





 


 

March 13, 2009

More on Mako: Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art, and Culture

We have often written here---offering books, ideas, resources---to remind customers that we are all called to live creatively, engaged, alive to delight, intentional about making the world a better place (to God's glory.)  As Andy Crouch's much-discussed book, Culture Making (IVP; $20) reminds us, we are made in the image of a Creator, after all, and it is natural that we humans make stuff. His book is not for artists, really, but for all of us.  The sub-title is Recovering Our Creative Calling.  It is one of the most truly interesting books I've read in years---what new ideas, what old ideas put in new ways, what insight, what fun writing about omelettes and courthouses, spelling changes and church buildings, teaching children to eat new foods and how those with power might serve the poor, why small initiatives are best hatched among small groups and why "third places" are vital to ongoing cultural renewal.  No, this isn't about being artsy, but it is surely about how God has made us to be active and aware of the "horizons of possibilities" that are inherent in God's unfolding, interesting, messy, complex, beautiful world.  His Culture Making website is pretty darn interesting, too, by the way.

Beth and I and our H&M staff see our bookish ministry here as enabling that kind of vision, that kind of work, amongst our customers and friends and clients.  We are glad to be a place which suggests and recommends authors who encourage this attentiveness to the world around us, the world that Jesus died for (John 3:16), to offer books that are then read, pondered, discussed, applied.  We are in this together, you and we, and we are, as Andy argues, culture-makers.  We would be so, so pleased if a few customers got their church group or book club or reading circle to buy a bunch of Culture Making.  You will be pleased, too, I'm sure.

We often think of Calvin Seerveld's extraordinary book (still in print, published in the 70s)Rainbows.gif Rainbows for the Fallen World (Toronto Tuppence Press; $25.00) which explains that there is an aesthetic dimension to all of life.  No reductionism ("time is money" or "we are nothing but chemical reactions, brains in motion" or "whatever works" or "we just have to preach the gospel") can adequately account for this call to respond to the multi-dimensional goodness of creation;  our technocratic culture too often seems not to have time for such things, but there is no denying this aspect of our lives.  We are, all of us, living in God's world, a world which by its very structure calls forth a response to the good gifts of color, texture, tune and type that is built-in to the creation, like a rainbow gift of common grace from God's good hand.  The first chapter of the Gospel of John and the first chapter of Colossians (among others) teaches that Christ made the world for His glory, gave it to us, for His and our neighbors sake, and it is wondrously good.  I learned much of this first from Seerveld, I think, and it shaped how and why we opened the bookstore.  We commend his rich meditations again and again, unique as it is, as one of our foundational books that opened up new possibilities of what a "Christian bookstore" could be.  Hence, our large selection on the arts and creativity, on film and popular culture, on worldview and social renewal.  Etecetra.

I often cite Seerveld on how odd it is that we have believed (at least since the Enlightenment times) that we humans, rational beings that we are, can make up our own mind about this stuff.  We can think it through ourselves, thank you very much (stuff that can be thought through is all that really matters, anyway.)  Artsy stuff is, well, subjective, anyway, a matter of our own preferences, so culturally-influenced and taste-driven that there couldn't be any true truth in this matter.  So who cares, really?  Seerveld writes, 

If a medical doctor tells a person to cut the fat out of his diet or he'll have a heart attack, one does it and starts eating Rye Krisp and a lot of cottage cheese.  If a doctor of aesthetics tells a person to sell all his chrome and plastic kitchen furniture and have a garage sale on the overstuffed living room sofa or risk a life of materialistic superficiality, one would tell such a doctor to mind his own business.  Why?  Why obey the one and become offended by the other?  If people hire trained lawyers when they buy a house, to get the whereases, the party of the first part and the party of the second straight, so they don't get caught with an unfree property line, why are we house-buyers often satisfied with untrained or uncharismatic musical leadership for the high point of our worshiping the Lord Yahweh on Sunday, as if that doesn't need to be straight?...

My point is:...the plastic a man or a woman associates with, the drag or tempo alert to one's singing, is the place to look for discovering whether there be an obedient or disobedient aesthetic life exercised before the face of God.

So: from the joy of the graphic design of your iphone to the ways a silver moon can take your breath away, from how we dress (differently for different occasions) to the appreciation of the feel of the weight of a good book in the hand, or the ceramic mug that you hold as you read, or the comfort of the chair in which you sit, or the beauty of the shade of paint in your doctor's office, there is a truthfulness to all of this. And some Christian scholars believe that there are norms that can guide us into appropriate response to this, that attentiveness implies responsiblity.  Of course, we need not be artists, properly speaking, to be open to and deepened by the aesthetic dimension to be found in every thing in life, but we may need some help.  Could artists help?  Could Christian scholars and authors help the artists, who themselves may not have thought this through faithfully?  Can we, together, learn how the aesthetic dimension of life needs unfolded in distincively Christian ways, that our spiritual formation should include a richer aesthetic life?

rock that is higher.jpgI hope this next few lines aren't seen as a sly sales pitch or a digression;  it is true: we read novels and listen to CDs and recite poetry and treasure memoir, in part, because, as Eugene Peterson reminds us with his book title happily swiped from Emily Dickinson, these storied creations "tell it slant."  Madeline L'Engle has a book expanding on this, and her title is from a Psalm: The Rock That Is Higher.  Her subtitle? Story as Truth  (Shaw; $14.99.) I've written here before about the time I heard children's writer Katherine Paterson (I think it was) reply to someone who asked if her books were "a mere story."  "Ahh," she reportedly replied, "if you knew what a story was, you would never call it mere."

I once told an aspiring religious singer-songwriter that perhaps he was called to be a preacher since his songs were so terribly didactic, with no allusive quality, no nuance, no metaphor, no poetics, no suggestion.  Artists and storytellers and poets and composers should most know how to "tell it slant" and if they do not, perhaps they should not pretend to be artists, but just give it to us straight, in solid, no-nonsense non-fiction.  Of course, even a good sermon or  biology text or history book or training manual can honor God's invitation to be beautiful, well-designed, colorful, creative...no one is exempt from the call to be playful, slanted just a bit.

Rainbows for the Fallen World also reminds us that being aware of, tutored by, steeped in, God's colorful world and the habits of being imaginative that form from such tutelage, is a practice/persuasion to help us read the Bible better, learn better, and know God more deeply.  An obvious, simple example: if one (or one's faith community) is practiced in reading poetry, it is reasonable to think that one (and one's church community) will read the Psalms more faithfully and fruitfully.  If one is fluent in stories and storytelling (perhaps by listening to skilled songwriters, or by reading short story collections) one will perhaps have "ears to hear" the parables of Jesus. Lew Sweet once suggested to me that kid who grow up on fast-paced MTV-style, jump-cut cinematopgraphy may understand the imagistic book of Revelation better than her logical, printing press father.  Well, as Peterson suggests, the Bible does, quite often, "tell it slant."   As Bruce Cockburn said in a song years ago, "you need the poet and you know it."  Except, of course, that some of us do not know it very well.

And, so, this stuff matters.  It matters for those who desire to be obedient to God's foundational command, His first great commission (Genesis 1:26-28) to be those who cultivate---creative history-makers and culture-shapers.  And it matters to those who want to stay alive in this bureaucratic world, those who want to live well, be fully human and humane.  Although the Bible didn't say it exactly this way, it is important to recall that the great thinkers of antiquity linked the good and the true to the beautiful.

In the must-have anthology on the arts, It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God,It was good.jpg edited by Ned Bustard, (Square Halo Press; $24.99) art historian James Romaine has a fabulously rich study of the creation of the world, The Sistine Chapel, Genesis and Michelangelo, all reflecting on the delirious question of what we mean by creativity. The chapter, "Creation, Creator, and Creativity" is lush and helpful (and ends well with a potent quote about our embeddedness and our end within the creation by Nicholas Woltersdorff, from his clasic Art in Action (Eerdmans; $25.00) which I noted in our last post that he was an honored guest and keynote speaker at the recent New York IAM 2009 Encounter. Andrienne Chaplin (author of Art and Soul [IVP; $30.00]) has a chapter in It Was Good on the vexing question of beauty, perhaps an overused word in essays on these themes.  She reflects more deeply on what might be a proper Christian aesthetic, a faithful and wise view of beauty.  Of course, it is not about being "pretty" and not about being sweetly "inspirational" like the shallow works of Thomas Kinkade.  She writes,

 As fallen creatures living in a broken world, we cannot ignore, deny or escape its flawed condition. But as renewed and redeemed creatures, living in the expectations of a new heaven and new earth, we are also capable of seeing traces of the world's original goodness and of tasting the Lord's presence in the midst of it all.  To recognize true beauty requires mature, sensitive, and spiritually attuned discernment

[Here is an aside I cannot resist:  we just got a new academic press book in, The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution by one Denis Dutton (Bloomsbury Press; $25.00)  He edits what The Guardian claimed was "the best Web site in the world", The Arts and Letters Daily.  Anyway, here, he asks, as a Darwinian, it seems, if we are, somehow, wired for creativity, inborn for beauty.  Famous Harvard evolutionary thinker Steven Pinker says, "This book marks out the future of the humanities---connecting aestheticis, and criticism to an understanding of human nature from the cognitive and biological sciences.  Denis Dutton has thought about this topic as much as anyone alive today."  Well, Pinker must not have met up with Cal Seerveld.  And, yes, this may be "the future of the humanities."  If world class cultural creatives and scholars of this calibre are insisting we think about this fundamental question---what does it mean to be human, and is there an instinct for creativity and beauty?---let us spread the word in our churches and fellowships that, indeed, some Christian thinkers are addressing this.  "Let he who has ears..."]

Anyway, this splendid Square Halo collection of extraordinary essays, It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God--so well designed that it is itself a work of art, manufactured on ecologically-careful alternative papers, too---is the best resource to read if you want to mature in this sort of spiritually-attuned discernment of the aesthetic dimension of life.  Kudos, again, to Square Halo, for getting practicing artists to contribute chapters, artists such as Makoto Fujimura, Ed Knippers, Mary McCleary, Ted Prescott, Krystyna Sanderson, musicians such as Bill Edgar and Charlie Peacock, and critics and thinkers such as Greg Wolfe, Steve Scot, the aforementioned Ms Chaplin, and Tim Keller.  Although I suppose this was published as an aid for growing Christian artists, we commend it to one and all.  As John Franklin, Director of the famed Imago art movement in Canada writes, "This is a book that is engaging and will inspire fresh appreciation for the God-given gifts of creativity and imagination."
 
refractions.jpg
All of this I write to once again remind you of the opportunity to own the new book by Makoto Fujimura, Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art, and Culture (NavPress; $24.95.)  It is a great book to introduce you to these kinds of themes, easy to dip in to since the chapters are short and all stand alone, or as a particular artist's take, a great follow-up book to a general study of Culture Making, or something (like Rainbows...or It Was Good) on the importance of the aesthetic side of life.

[If you haven't, please scroll back to see my long blog post and March website column from last week about Mako, his IAM organization, and our bookselling at their annual Encounter conference in NYC.] 

This delightful new Refractions paperback (handsomely made with French folds and full color) includes the reflections, ruminations, insights and cultural observations of a man who is indeed a culture-maker, steeped in this Seerveld-esque rainbowed worldview that sees a God-graced world of wonder, created by Christ's own hand, given to us to unfold, even amidst much horror and evil and ugliness.  Perhaps no artist working today has gotten such acclaim for nuanced, allusive, imaginative Christian testimony in his work.  Refractions shows off some of his strangely evocative pieces---gold hues, many done in his Japanese Nihonga style---but it also allows Mr. Fujimura the opportunity to explain himself, ask big questions, ramble through contemporary art, modern dance, a movie or two, tell of a trip through an art museum, wonder about how ideas take hold and last.  I don't say it lightly at all, and it is not mere rhetorical flattery, but this wise young man may be a sort of prophet.

mako.jpgGod has given him extraordinary gifts, insights, and abilities and a passion to communicate wisely; he has thus far stewarded them well.  His calling is to make good art, to do good work, but he is also positioned not only to speak carefully into the mainstream art community and to be a "public intellectual" but also to inspire and network others who want to work in a collegial spirit of artistic purpose and hope.  From his work with the National Endowment for the Arts to his ministry with IAM, and, now, significantly, with his handsome  new volume, he is a person who is worth paying attention to.

I am not going to be too allusive here, now: we hope you consider buying Refractions from us, perhaps giving a few as gifts to encourage those who have artistic leanings, interests in culture, or anyone who may want to ponder life's biggest questions---Makoto and his family lived through the terrorist attacks in his neighborhood in lower Manhattan on 9-11, after all, and writes and paints about it (and many other serious topics) with nuance and care.  We truly, truly, recommend it.  It is, in its own way, a rainbow gift for this fallen world, lovely and light, yet important.

Please see our special price offer if you'd like to give one away, shown below.

A book like this with the subtitle: A Journey of Faith, Art, and Culture necessarily covers a lot of ground, each essay free-standing, but the chapters do hold together nicely.  Some are clever ("The Housewife That Could") and some a bit surprising ("Optimal Foraging Theory: Can You Have Your Birds and Eat Them Too?") and others beautiful---his title description of the unfurling Gates exhibition in Central Park as "A Visual River of Gold" continues on through Biblical references and teaching about gold from his own Japanese tradition.  That these were initially blogged reflections (now edited a bit) at his respected refractions website does not diminish their literary quality.  Some are quite eloquent, matching the elegance of the art.  Some are fairly simply told, but deeply moving, as in the story of his work organizing artists to help name and grief and re-cast hope after the 9-11 attacks on his TriBeCa neighborhood near Ground Zero.  Here is a small excerpt of that chapter called  "The Disintegration Loops: September 11th Issue"

On September 11, 2001, musician and composer William Basinski peered over the East River from his loft in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and watched in horror as the Twin Towers fell.  He had been scheduled to interview for a job at the World Trade Center that morning.  When I visited him a few days later, Billy told me that he had begun to lose his desire to continue to work, or even to continue to live, after that day.  He, like many other artists, felt devastated by the experience.  His heart was oppressed by fear and anxiety.

I prayed with him that day, and when I returned a few days later, he told me he had begun work on a series of compositions called The Disintegration Loops.  I listened to the Loops, with Billy while we looked at the footage of video he had taken of the sunset over the smoke of the fallen towers (see photo on opposite page.)  The sound of Disintegration Loops resonated and somehow completed itself in my mind.  It affirmed an idea that came out of conversations I'd had with artists around my home and studio in what was now Ground Zero.  As artists, we needed to gather our thoughts, pray, and reflect on what had happened. 

"I thought I had been unwittingly commissioned to do the soundtrack for the end of the world," Billy would later recall at a gathering at The Village Church in Greenwich Village, commemorating the first anniversary of September 11. His melancholic composition Disintegration Loops, played in the background...

...As he worked on the new composition, Billy also helped me to begin TriBeCa Temporary...TriBeCa Temporary ended up being over twenty exhibitions, happenings, prayer meetings, and poetry readings until our closing exhibition in April of 2001.  My studio mate, Hiroshi Senju, kindly contributed a small space, which Billy called our Ground Zero teahouse....

You simply have to read the rest of the chapter as he tells without sensation of the healing power of the arts, the significance of aiding artists to respond to social crisis, and God's gracious work, even amidst our own disintegrating lives.

Mako not only tells of his own creative process, and shares his own journey into the art world, but he interacts with considerable art critics, and, more broadly, cultural critics.  For instance, in a chapter entitled  "Planting Seedlings in Stone" he discusses how urbane art critics carry certain assumptions about the nature of ordinary American life.  He observes,

One symptom of the cultural disconnection between the art produced in cities and the cultural realities of regional America is evident in the media.  The media feeds upon the fragmentation and fear between the urban and the agrarian.  Journalism today seems content to operate only in sensationalism, echoing the same systemic ills of the art world.  This disconnect affects us all, contributing to a greater cultural disengagement and to distrust and cynicism.  But the fine arts do serve as upstream sources of cultural expression, for good or for ill.  Therefore, we need to begin to address the source---if we are to effect positive change.

Fujimura talks about Christian cultural reformation, speaks of art as peace-making, writes about his own efforts of living into his vocation, offers considerable and astute interactions with the ideas about art, and even shares personal stories (such as a fabulous telling of taking his teenage son on trips for college visits, or a trip with his boys through China.)  Some of his pieces, though, are about how he is affected by viewing great art.  I loved a chapter, for instance, where he describes his feelings as he took in a Fra Angelico showing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  It raised questions for him of what ideas and work of today might last for 500 years ("the opposite of the Warholian 15-minutes of fame.")  He notes the frustrations of mid-career 50 year-old artists iwho have worked hard at their craft, now in their prime, who are considered passe---how SoHo galleries give huge showings to just-out-of-art-school faddish kids, who are quickly replaced by the Next New Thing.  And how the church seems to no longer have the ability to nurture life-long artistic sensibility or sustainable visions of how life ought to be for the very long haul.

If you spoke with those people staggering about in the Met with me, having a similar reaction to looking at the glory of Fra Angelico's paintings, you may find them to be enlightened secularists who also grieve over the fragmentation, the loss of a spiritual anchor in the contemporary art scene.  They may even be atheists who by the very essence of their denial have to appreciate the sheer weighty anchor of Fra Angelico's paintings.  Atheism demands a language of belief to wrestle against.  Fra Angelico's paintings are undeniably Christian to the core.  Enlightened secularists would be staggering because the Spirit has left them.  Atheists would stagger because they have lost the defining opposition.  As a Christian, I stagger and grieve because I do not see anyone on the horizon who creates and paints today who would rival Fra Angelico's angelic weight.

In short, we are all staggering about, or should be...those who have eyes to see.  That is precisely how we should react to Fra Angelico and the five hundred-year question.  We stagger because we have lost even our ability to ask that question.

So I took the subway home and Googled "the 1500s."  During that century the Tudors ruled the early Renaissance, having ended the War of the Roses in 1485.  In 1503, da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa, and Michelangelo created David.  Not a bad start.  The Sistine Chapel and The Last Supper, of course, would follow.  Christopher Columbus was sailing to sites unknown, trying again to get to Asia.  Magellan noted the global shape of the earth.  Martin Luther posted his ninety-five theses on the Wittenberg door (1517).  And very significant for me, Hasegawa Tohaku, the Michelangelo of Japan, was born (1539.)

I closed my eyes again, and the angels of Fra Angelico reinvited themselves in.

Will we see another Renaissance in the days to come?  Will we have another chance to steward our culture, without losing our identity and faith in the process?


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March 16, 2009

Some new and recent titles

I will dispense with the overview and sermon, telling you why these are the sorts of books we sell, what's important about them, how they mesh with our vision, why you should have reading groups, blah, blah, blah and get right to it.  They deserve so much more, but I at least want to alert you that they are here.   And offer some special blog pricing.

sacredness of questioning.jpgThe Sacredness of Questioning Everything  David Dark (Zondervan) $15.99  I say this sort of thing a lot these days, but that Zondervan would publish a book that quotes Dan Berrigan and Homer Simpson and James Joyce and Rowan Williams and Allen Ginsberg and Walter Brueggemann shows that the apocalypse might be niegh.  Thanks be to God that such good writers, who read widely, and make such a fabulously interesting cases for important matters, are being published by evangelical houses.  In this case, the case is that we should think long and hard---indeed, that God wants us to---and that we should in some ways deconstruct the standard fare, coming at us from church, schoool, media, government. What an invitation to a discerning, liberated lifestyle!  David remains commited to standing on the solid rock of historic orthodox faith and his Buechner-esque Presbyterianism, with Southern shades of Flannery O'Conner, shines through each good section.   Eugene Peterson observes that Dark "brings a deep sense of reverence to every book he reads, every song he hears, every movie he sees, but it is a discerning reverence---attentive to truth and Jesus wherever he comes on them.  He is also a reliable lie detector.  And not a dull sentence in the book."  I love this guy.  If you'd like a quick example of his good writing, read this great review of Rod Dreher's Crunchy Cons that appeared a few years back in The Christian Century.  Or this ramble on Bob Dylan from Paste.

furious longings.jpgThe Furious Longing of God  Brennan Manning (Cook) $16.99  This brief, almost hand-sized hardback is lovely to behold.  It is Manning doing his thing again, telling us, once again, that we are loved.  It is, indeed, a love story for the broken-hearted, an intense and consuming love story.  For those who feel they can never measure up, this poignant telling of the serious love of God may be surprising: yes, God loves us, he call us His beloved.  We're all ragamuffins, and Manning loves to tell stories that reminds us that Christ is with us in our mess.  Good news, eh?  Very tender questions for reflection, too.  To be honest, I wish there was more Biblical groundedness here, and a few more pages.  But it isn't that kind of book...use it carefully for meditation or reflection or as a reminder.  I believe it was C.S Lewis, after all, who said we don't always need to be instructed, but reminded.  Yep.

The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating  compiled by S. Stephanie Iachetta (Continuum) $16.95  This is a dense paperback of meaty thoughts for each day, nearly 400 pages, drawn from the esteemed Cistercian monk of Snowmass CO, founder of the "centering prayer" movement.  This work brings together for each day of the year three short prayer practices: first, "active prayer"; second, "spiritual reading"; and third, "Lectio Divina."  There is some serious theology, lots of Bible, a bit of mystical stuff, excerpts from Fr Keating's several books and audios.  A good and useful collection for daily quiet time. 

sitting at the feet.jpgSitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith  Ann Spangler & Lois Tverberg (Zondervan) $21.99  Many have been thinking about this topic since Rob Bell has popularized the notion, Tom Wright has insisted we think faithfully as Jesus would have in the first century, and great, great scholars like Kenneth Bailey have shown how Middle Eastern peasant culture shapes our proper understanding of the gospels. Ken Bailey lived most of his life in the Middle East and knows that Arab culture and languages as well as most Westerners.  His newest, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes (IVPseeing jesus through middle eastern eyes.jpg; $23.00) is another example of his extraordinary work, perhaps some of the best New Testament scholarship around, offering close readings of the parables and other teachings of Jesus.  His body of work on the gospels is wonderfully reviewed and well-described by Gary Burge, in Books & Culture this month!  Please check it out, here.)

  In this brand new book by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg we have a popularized and inspiration devotional study of what it would be like to study in 30 AD with the great Rabbi.It really is wonderful (and draws on Baily, in fact.)  Marvin Wilson, who we surely trust on these themes, says that these authors "vibrantly introduce the reader to valuable aspects of the Jewish back- ground, lifestyle, and teaching of the Rabbi from Galilee." .

christian worship.jpgChristian Worship: 100,000 Sundays of Symbols and Rituals  Gail Ramshaw (Fortress) $30.00  You may know Ramshaw as a thoughtful Lutheran feminist theologian and liturgist.  Her husband is the Lutheran scholar of liturgical theology, Gordon Lathrop, whose own work is considerable.  Here, in this new hardback, illustrated with photos, icons and artwork, she offers a very creative ecumenical textbook on worship.  It is being said that there is nothing like this on the market, an exciting and engaging text---"marked by ample wit" one reviewer says---and written for serious, introductory study.  There are some very, very interesting questions at the end of each section, her own reflections and proposals, which help readers live out the meaning of true worship.  She spends some time looking at mythic power and the role of ritual, and makes an important case for knowing the past, the symbols, the liturgy.  Fascinating.

seven.jpgSeven: The Deadly Sins and the Beatitudes  Jeff Cook (Zondervan) $12.99  This isn't brand new, but I've waited until Lent to start it.  Wow, what an amazing writer!  What a great way to tell the story, what an authentic voice--penned by a evangelical church-planter in a boozy college town in Colorado.  I'm really, really impressed and with all the many books on the seven deadlies, this is surely the most interesting and, if I may say so, fun to read.   It is an important trope, too, to match up the seven deadly sins and the beatitudes;  it isn't original with him, but he may be the one who plumbs it best without being overly wooden or didactic.

Listen to this, by the ever thoughtful philosopher Peter Kreeft:

Of the many, many books about the Gospels, or about Jesus, or about Christian morality, only one in a thousand gives us a real breakthrough, a new "big picture,"  Most are just nice little candles on the cake.  Seven is a bonfire.  It's not just good; it's striking.  It doesn't just say all the things you've heard a thousand times before.  And yet it's totally in sync with both the saints and the scholars
gardening eden.jpgGardening Eden: How Creation Care Will Change Your Faith, Your Life, and Our World  Michael Abbate  (Waterbrook) $13.99  Before the snake, the fruit, the fall, the Commandments, God created a garden.  And Abbate is in fact, a gardener.  We all are, he says, as God has given us the immense obligation to work the garden well, to cultivate and care for the planet.  Interestingly, Mr. Abbate is a nationally recognized expert in green development strategies, is certified LEED and ASLA, and runs GreenWorks which is an award-winning landscape architecture design firm.  It is fabulous to have an evangelical publisher feature the work of an urban design leader, who writes also for trade journals and national magazines.  Randy Alcorn wrote the forward.  Is this the first evangelical book that quotes Michael Pollen (in a section on eating locally?)  Thank goodness for his wide reading---from Francis Schaeffer to Wendell Berry to the West Virginia Council of Churches (see their statement on mountaintop removal.) Very, very readable, with tons of practical up to date tips for faithful creation care.

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March 17, 2009

New Richard Foster arrives early! New books on science! New book on race & rock!

Sometimes I spend time here at BookNotes explaining what we are about, why we like some books so, celebrating the kind of stuff Tom Sine talks about when he writes of "Creating the Future One Mustard Seed at a Time."  (I reviewed his New Conspirators, a while back, here.)  Sometimes, though, we just tell of some random books, hoping the great titles speak for themselves. Yesterday brought a batch, and we listed a few in the last post.  More today!  Here ya go.  Extra-nice special price down below, too.  What a day!

longing for god 2.JPGLonging for God: Seven Paths of Christian Devotion  Richard J. Foster & Gayle D. Beebe  (IVP) $25.00  Many know our fondness for Foster's extraordinary body of work.  He earlier wrote in Streams of Living Water of several faith streams within the river of the Body of Christ.  Here, he re-visits these key streams, focusing rather on key individuals, others who have gone before, showing their insights and tendencies as paths to deepen our awareness of God's love.  There will be much to tell of this (Beebe, now President of Westmont College, was a student of Foster's when he first gave class notes of what was to become Celebration of Discipline.)  This may be the highpoint of the IVP formatio line, and we are thrilled that it arrived early, happy to be among the first to celebrate it.  Now to read, pray, ponder, and experience God's goodness with the help of the many guides they tell about in this marvelous, useful, resource.  Here is a very nice video clip with the authors describing their "tapping into a history and pattern that comes down from us through the ages."   Please, please, take a moment and hear them out.

fine tuned universe.jpgA Fine Tuned Universe: The Quest for God in Science and Theology  Alister E. McGrath (WJK) $39.95   Endorsements on the back are from stellar scientists such as Philip Clayton, Francis Collins and. John Polkinghorne.  McGrath is a splendid Reformed scholar, an Anglican theologian, who also holds a PhD in science and theology and is well suited to help us continue this conversation.  Just last night I groused at the false faith/science dilemma portrayed during House.  (One sympathetic character says faith and prayer is good for the waiting room, but not the operating room.  Now there's a dualism to unpack, eh?)  And today I got an email from an ID center describing a particular secular scientist who has affirmed the legitimacy of teaching about ID in science classes (debunking the misunderstandings of the Kitzmiller v Dover fiasco.  We really need these kinds of thoughtful scholars like McGrath to help us think all this through, and he is top-notch, serious, devout, important.

science and religion primer.jpgA Science and Religion Primer  edited by Heidi A. Campbell & Heather Looy (Baker Academic) $19.99  Book for book, Baker Academic is the most important and interesting Christian academic press going.  And this, my goodness, what a resource!  With dozens of authors, and a stellar advisory board, this compendium of articles makes this a go-to dictionary for anything faith/science.   Ms Campbell has a PhD from University of Edinburgh and Ms Looy's is from McMaster University.  Four substantive introductory essays set the book's background, and the rest (over 100 entries) offer an A-Z listing.  Remarkable.  Here is a bit more on the book (from the publisher's webpage;  for even more, click on their "media" kit link.)

Questions of Truth: Fifty-One Responses to Questions about God, Science, and Belief  John Polkinghorne & Nicholas Beale  (WJK) $16.95  When a forward is written by a Nobel prizewinner in Physics, and a major endorsement comes from another Nobel prizewinning scientist, and it gets a rave review from Alister McGrath, and the British "book launch" was held at the Royal Academy, you know this really must be quite thoughtful.  Polkinghorne, noted above, is a major figure in today's discussions about faith & science (he's written at least 26 books!)  An ordained minister in the Church of England, he has been knighted and won the prestigious Templeton Prize in 2002.  This, though, looks like a fairly entry level guide to thoughtful faith in an age of science.  Here is their website.  Come back and order from us if it strikes you as useful, or if you are a fan of Polky. 

A Story of Rhythm and Grace: What the Church Can Learn from Rock & Roll aboutstory of rhythm 2.JPG  Healing the Racial Divide  Jimi Calhoun (Brazos) $15.99  Calhoun has played alongside of and worked with some of the most renowned of pop performers, from Jimi Hendrix to Etta James, The Four Tops to Mick Jagger,  Elton John to Parliament-Funkadelic.  You've got to read more to learn about this amazing guy.  (How many Pentecostal preachers publish on Brazos and get a blurb on the back from none other than the New Orleans hero, Dr. John?  What a night, indeed! Or thank Sly Stone in the acknowledgments!)  Charlie Peacock writes that Calhoun "has accomplished that all too rare achievement---he wrote an absolutely unique book that fills a true need."  Musicians have often been in the forefront of racial reconciliation, so we must listen to this storyteller, preacher, rock and roll storyteller.

jimi calhoun.jpgI'll be writing about this cat more, for sure, but for now, check this out, from the back cover: In A Story of Rhythm and Grace, Calhoun weaves together engrossing stories about racial differences and reconciliation from his life in the music world and his life in the church.  Reflecting on how he has often found more racial harmony on the stage and in the recording studio than in the pews, Jimi shows what religion might learn from rock and roll.

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March 18, 2009

Bookstore version of March Madness rolls on: great deals on new titles

I love tellin' ya about new titles.  The last few days we've highlighted some random titles. I didn't write a big ol' essay about why they are important for God's Kingdom or or how they will enhance Christ's glory as we become more thoughtful readers or how rare some of these titles might be in other stores.  No, no.  I just listed some.  Here's more, all offered at  25% off.

  Im tellin' ya: it's like March madness.   Spread the word.  Give us a call or send an email to inquiry or order
.

A People's History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story
  Diana Butler BassPeople's History.jpg (HarperOne) $25.99  I hope you know Diana as an eloquent writer, a person who speaks, often beautifully, of new ways of seeing God's work in God's churches, and how old ways and historic, if distinctive, spiritual practices are renewing mainline parishes.  I'd read anything of hers, and have said so, often.  Here is her brand new one, a bit different than her memoir-ish telling of stories of congregational life, even if she has not lost her charm as a writer, the personal insight, the intimate detail.  This is, in fact, a church history, but it is kinda like Howard Zinn mashup with Justo Gonzalez. Or Philip Jenkins writing with Dorothy Day looking over his shoulder.

D.B. Bass' A People's History... walks us well through several different epochs of church history and rather than defining those periods by their doctrine, ecclesiastical disputes or debates about dogma, she shows---powerfully---how folks practiced their piety. And their ethics.  This formula for each section of describing common people, key leaders, and the spiritual tone of their journeys inward and outward---their prayer and their politics---is really useful.  And very enlightening.

Some big-wig church historians have raved about Bass' work ("raises new kinds of questions, illumines neglected themes, prompts reassessments of familiar topics and draws the reader into fresh forms of engagement with the history" says E. Brooks Holifield of Emory.)  Less academic folk who are great writers, with their feet on the ground, in service ministries among the poor---Sarah Miles, say, or Shane Claiborne---have also raved noting that it is "intelligent and sassy" and helps us live more faithfully in light of these past ways of being God's people.  That is, while I think any church history could be helpful to deepen our discipleship in faithful ways, this one really is very useful!  Pultizer Prize winning author of What Hath God Wrought even writes, "The curious but hesitant reader who wonders whether Christianity just might have something in it for them will that the answer is YES."  Amen to that.  What a great, rare, book.  Highly recommended.


3 Simple Rules (larger).jpgThree Simple Rules That Will Change the World  Reuben P. Job (Abingdon) $8.95  You may know Jobs from his wonderful work doing A Guide to Prayer for All God's People, and two other liturgically-themed daily devotionals.  As a former editor of the Upper Room publishing ministry, he is well aware of the deepest hungers for spiritual formation, and has help offer wonderfully-written volumes.  Here, he offers a simple, nearly pocket sized handsome hardback, a more ecumenical version of a small book the United Methodists used last year.  Three Simple Rules are from John Wesley, and offer us a practice of "a way of living that is in harmony with the life of Jesus" allows us to survive in and thrive in a world like ours.  (The three rules are "Do No Harm", "Do Good" and "Stay in Love With God."  What a great little book.

 Abingdon has also released a DVD with Reuben Jobs and adult six-session study book for small groups ($7.00.)  They've also done a teen version Three Simple Rules 24/7 ($7.00 and a Leaders Guide for $7.00) and even a kids edition (Three Simple Rules for Following Jesus: A Six Week Study for Children ($15.95).  This is very cool stuff, thoughtful but practical.  The whole church could do it together.  Give us a call or email if you want info on any of them.

insights.jpgInsights: Karl Barth's Reflections on the Life of Faith  Karl Barth (WJK) $14.95.  There may be other such daily devotionals, but I don't know of any.  Here, you can dip in to Barth's lucid thoughts, in cogently gathered short readings, each based on a Biblical text.   These are taken from across his wide body of work, making it a perfect introduction.  One reviewed suggested these are great to stimulate prayer.  Another called them "winsome."  One-page, vibrant selections of the most important theologian of the last several hundred years**.  Should be in every church library, at least!

**anybody want to challenge that?  Dare ya to post a comment!  This "Theological World Cup Playoffs" has him red-carded, though...


deepest difference.JPG
Deepest Differences: A Christian Atheist Dialogue 
James Sire & Carl Peraino (IVP) $15.00  I don't know about you but I am growing a wee bit tired of the oodles of books by thoughtful Christians responding to the nasty "new atheism" intellectuals (like Dawkins, Hitchens, et al.)  Okay, I even know some of the authors that have written them, and most are quite good.  Here, though, is a book I've been waiting a year for, since Jim Sire told me about this friendly, honest, deep conversation he was having over email with a nearby atheist neighbor.  Only Sire could be this thoughtful, and whimsical, this overt in defending the historic gospel, all the while being this impish, dear, good man.  Surely professor Peraino knew he was grappling with a famous worldview scholar, apologist and author?  Maybe not at first.  The letters unfold and we are all are in their debt. Thanks to the two of them, and to the publisher, for allowing us to listen in to this friendly, deep dialogue without clear-cut answers to difficult questions.


heart of catholic.jpgThe Heart of Catholic Social Teaching: It's Origins and Contemporary Significance  David Matzko McCarthy  (Brazos) $24.99  Brazos is this fascinating imprint that attempts to dig deep into our best traditions as a church, relating them to the postmodern times of our contemporary culture. We stock all of their releases, and this just came.  They've done marvelous books, academic stuff and less scholarly work, too, almost all of impeccable scholarship and taste, interesting and important.  There are more basic introductions to the coherence of the Catholic social ethic, but I doubt if you'll find a more interesting, thoughtful, and important collection.  This weaves defty between Augustine and Aquinas, Scripture and Eucharist, peace, abortion, human rights, civic life and the deep spirituality of this venerable tradition.

A Great and Terrible Love: A Spiritual Journey Into the Attributes of God
  Mark Galli
great and terrible love.jpg (Baker) $17.99  It may be that J.I Packer wrote one of the best books on the characteristics of God (Knowing God) but, except for chapter three of that famous work, I was always under-impressed.  (Gasp.  I know Packer is beloved by many!) Here, Packer himself notes that this is "sharp-sighted, deep-diving, wide-ranging, contemplative, whose wisdom is flavored by a mellow astringency that is all his own."  Too bad J.I. didn't used to write like that!  Fortunately, Galli does, and this is a lovely, rich, and interesting book designed to add to what John Ortberg says (in the forward) is "part of the longest and most important conversation held by the human race: What is God like?"  Listen in and join the conversation.
 

divine commodity.jpgThe Divine Commodity: Discovering a Faith Beyond Consumer Christianity  Skye Jethani (Zondervan) $18.99  One of the reasons this hardback is just a tad pricey is because it includes full color art reproductions.  Vincent Van Gogh, to be exact; fabulously shown.  I know Nouwen has mined this a bit, but Jethani goes deeper, with other Van Gogh works (he obviously knows Van Gogh's life and letters and uses them wonderfully.)  By meandering through this, he begins discovering our own problems of soul, offering historic spiritual disciplines to match the yearnings of serious people in these fragmented times.  Yet--and this is important---by drawing on spiritual and artistic masters of the past, this book offers insights into a faith perspective and inner work that cannot be co-opted by late capitalism's consumerist ethos.  As Walter Brueggemann writes of Divine Commodity, "This is as good a book on the pervasive power of consumerism as I have read."  And that, coming from Walt, who is known as one of our leading prophets against this brutalizing way of life, is saying quite a lot.  This books offers a rare kind of blend of social criticism and Bible study and spirituality and Blue Like Jazz memoir, written by an evangelical aligned with the Christian Missionary Alliance.  This is a book unlike most you've read, and highly, highly recommended
.
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March 25, 2009

Bookstore March Madness: On the Road edition

Customers sometimes tell me that they like hearing what events we've served, authors we've met, knowing about our travels.  And, of course, we end up with a few extra books from some of our gigs, so we can offer some good discounts, too, if you want to be a part of our process.

For instance, last weekend, with the help of some dear friends at Gordon College, we set up a display in Boston for those seriously interested in the relationship of faith and film studies, being "salt and light" amidst the "electronic campfire" for modern storytelling that is contemporary cinema. Speakers were as wide ranging as the very smart drummer from rock band Mae, to media executive and fantasylucifer's flood.jpg novelist Linda Rios Brook (check out her Lucifer's Flood [published by Realms; $13.95], part intriguing theological exploration and part swashbuckling adventuresome story of prehistoric heaven and earth) this prestigious gathering was exactly the kind of group we feel especially called to serve.   Others who are savvy about ways to be engaged in "common good" kind of work within the entertainment industry spoke and debated and imagined greater influence for truly important things within this very strategic arena.

beyind the screen.jpgBarbara Nicolosi was perhaps the most significant speaker, teaching from her important, co-edited book Behind the Screen: Hollywood Insiders on Faith, Film and Culture  (Baker; $18.00.)    What fun to have a speaker telling stories about the director of the X-Men movies, or the backstory of the provocative, short-lived TV show Joan of Arcadia.  Interviewed here are the cultural creatives of Hollywood, but, more, there is theologically-informed wisdom for any of us living in this entertainment world.  Whether you are film buff, a Christian movie critic, a parent trying to discern what to permit your teens to watch;  whether you are a college student who is taking a film course, or are working in the industry, there are chapters here for you.  I continue to ponder some of this, and agree with the blurb on the back by David McFadzean, himself a producer of Home Improvement, What Women Want and Where the Heart Is when he says, "Do yourself a favor---turn off the TV, skip the movie opening this weekend, sit down, make yourself a tub of popcorn and read this book."  Here and here are good reviews of it and it's multi-layered, serious perspective.

***

A few days later we were part of a book launch in Philadelphia, celebrating the brand new release of a splendid pocket sized hardback prayer book, created by the Twenty-Fifth Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, The Right Rev. Frank T. Griswold.  As a former chair of the Episcopal Church's Standing Liturgical Commission, and a co-chair of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, he is deeply shaped by the devotional practices of high liturgy, and the personal practices of praying the hours, the Divine Offices, and such. Rev. Griswold---most just called him Frank---walked us through the various sectionspraying our day.jpg of his fabulous Praying Our Days: A Guide and Companion (Morehouse; $20.00) from the opening essay to the section of full-color icons in the back.  What a treat to have him tell of his own boy-hood faith, reading prayers from an array of prayer books, and how the Vatican II renewal efforts lead to the revision of the Book of Common Prayer, a project in which he was involved.  (God must have a sense of humor, by the way.  Just a day before I had an email conversation with non-Episcopalian (PCA, actually) customer asking about the debate between those who favor the 1928 BCP edition and the more commonly-used 19'79 BCP.  Little did I know that Frank, who I was about to meet, could hold forth on that very topic, if asked!)

Griswold was methodical and clear, calling upon us to experience the Triune God, without sentiment or excessive enthusiasm, but in ways that truly form us to be Christ-like disciples, carrying faith into the dailiness of this broken world.  Praying Our Days includes short essays and a few poems (like the wonderful "Word" by Madeleine L'Engle, an Episcopalian whose art and writing and soul was shaped by her own love of the catechism and prayers of these sorts.)  There are Psalms, litanies, prayers, prayers of the Bishop's own composition, and prayers both ancient and recent.  Being with this gathering of older Episcopalians, laity and priests, hearing this leader tell of his own prayer life, and signing, then, this brand new book, was a thrill.  Thanks to those at the Philadelphia Theological Institute  for allowing us to participate.

The drive home was great, spending time in silence and prayer, and then listening to Bono's ironic rock refrain from the new album, No Line on the Horizon, "let me in the sound, let me in the sound."  And switching to the new live Van Morrison, the celtic cowboy, who scat sings up and down the scale, over and over, growling out his incantation: listen to the silence.  Praying Our Days: A Guide and Companion will help us to "the sound" and "the silence."  We have more of these in the shop, of course, so do order one if you'd like.

***

Late last night I returned from a drive a few hours West, where I met up with ever faithful Scott, who is transporting books for us to the annual Byron Bitar philosophy lectures at Geneva College, in Beaver Falls, PA.  These annual lectures in philosophy are growing in renown, and jamie teaching.jpgtonight they will feature Dr. James K.A. Smith (who teaches in the esteemed philosophy department of Calvin College) who will engage in conversation with his respondant, Eastern College prof R.J. Snell.  Snell is quite the ecumenical Christian scholar himself, author of Through a Glass Darkly: Bernard Lonergan & Richard Rorty on Knowing Without a God's-eye View (Marquette University Press; $27.00.)  Jamie Smith is just about my favorite philosopher, if one can have a favorite philosopher, and his having studied the epic Dutch neo-Calvinist thinker Herman Dooyeweerd, as well as his remarkable work interpreting the "radical orthodoxy" movement and his thoughtful engagement with the postmodern emergent conversation, makes him a very important figure.  That Snell will bring a Lonergraian bit of insight will make this a remarkable scholarly event.  Kudos to Geneva prof Esther Lightcap Meek, herself author of the truly helpful, Polanyi-inspired lay-person's guide to epistemology (Longing to Know: The Philosophy of Knowledge for Ordinary People; Brazos Press; $22.00) and others at Geneva College who pull of these wonderful, open-to-the-public events.

Just to note how significant this young scholar is, you should know that there is
now a book
logic.jpg out that is a discussion of his work.  Entitled The Logic of Incarnation: James K.A. Smith's Critique of Postmodern Religion edited by Neal DeRoo and Brian Lightbody (Pickwick; $28.00), it is a pretty high-octane theo-philosophical collection, with various colleagues and associates offering appreciative critique, response and evaluation.  Jamie does a good reply as a last chapter, taking up some of the contributions and challenges, inviting us all to thinking more faithfully about the nature of the world in which God is incarnated, and how the implications of that doctrine can shape our engagement with post-modernity and the postmodern deconstructive project.

Jamie, by the way, has a new collection of more popular-level essays being released next month, and we are taking pre-orders for it.  I am so thrilled partly because this isn't aimed at the scholarly guild, even as it brings a serious, thoughtful approach in chapters that are none-the-less aimed at a fairly ordinary reader.  We are thrilled that it will be released in April.  Dedicated to Fuller President Richard Mouw---perfect---it is called The Devil Reads devil reads derrida.jpgDerrida--and other Essays on the University, The Church. Politics, and the Arts (Eerdmans; $17.00.)  It includes previously published essays, articles, popular columns, speeches and sermons.  Yes, may favorite "Teaching Calvinists to Dance" from CT is in there, his brilliant telling of how the embodied nature of his Pentecostal dancing days has shaped his more abstract scholarly work within the Kuyperian/Calvinist tradition. It is the perfect introduction to this guys robust and creative work in social action, cultural studies, theological reflection, and his admixture of his Pentecostal background, his complex Reformed worldview, and his contemporary concerns about how liturgy shapes life.

In fact, his next major work will be released later this summer, and will be called Desiring the
desiring the kingdom.jpg Kingdom: Worship, Worldview and Cultural Formation (Baker Academic; $21.99.)  It will surely be one of the most important books of the year, perhaps of the decade!   I suspect the Bitar lectures will be mostly drawn from this forthcoming volume.  Here is the promo blurb about it:   Malls, stadiums, and universities are actually liturgical structures that influence and shape our thoughts and affections. Humans--as Augustine noted--are "desiring agents," full of longings and passions; in brief, we are what we love. James K. A. Smith focuses on the themes of liturgy and desire in Desiring the Kingdom, the first book in what will be a three-volume set on the theology of culture. He redirects our yearnings to focus on the greatest good: God. Ultimately, Smith seeks to re-vision education through the process and practice of worship. Students of philosophy, theology, worldview, and culture will welcome Desiring the Kingdom, as will those involved in ministry and other interested readers. It is certainly a "Hearts & Minds" kind of book, and we are taking pre-orders for this one, too.  If you'd like to chat about it, call 717.246.3333.


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




March 31, 2009

Slice O Life: Bruce Cockburn Live Solo

My best friend Ken Heffner heads the team of the amazing folks that put together the bi-annual Calvin College Festival of Faith & Music.  (It starts Thursday, but isn't too late to show up if you're able to get there!)  As the Director of Student Activities at this historic Christian college which emphasizes the tradition of common grace which sees God's handiworks in all created things, and yet which understands that serving under the Kingship of Christ means that we must live out certain Biblically-informed distinctives, Ken helps students with "cultural discernment", nurturing within students a sense that rock bands and movies and songwriters and hip-hop artists are not just escapism and mindless entertainment, but are cultural artifacts offered by people made in the image of God.  The popular arts can inform, inspire, critique, and give voice to our very human cares and fears.  As Ken puts it in his theologically-insightful interview in relevant magazine, "We are looking for artists that wake people up."

This year the FFM will include Professor and philosopher Cornel West (Race Matters) lecturing before the show of hip hop artist Lupe Fiasco;  Mako Fujimura (Refractions) will speak of the creative life, and there will be presentations on everything from culture making (Andy Crouch, of course, whose book Culture-Making we again commend to you) to spiritual themes in the blues (Central PA's own Stephen J. Nicholes, author of the Brazos book we've promoted Getting the Blues) to workshops on what rock journalism and art criticism ought to be about.  From the guys of Paste to splendid writers like Cathleen Falsani (Sin Boldly: A Field Guide to Grace and the forthcoming The Dude Abides), David Dark (Everyday Apocalypse, The Gospel According to America, and the new, provacative Sacred Art of Questioning Everything), Terry Mattingly (Pop Goes Religion), Charlie Peacock (At the Crossroads) and more.  Heffner and Co. bring in some of the best folks in faith-based engagement with contemporary music.  That over the years Calvin has  hosted musicians as diverse as Sigur Ros and David Bazen, Niko Case, The Psalters, Sufjan Stevens, Emmy Lou Harris, Over the Rhine, T-Bone Burnett, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Bill Mallonee, Rosie Thomas, and Ben Harper shows the diversity of talent and the artists that may not typically play in such an evangelical setting.  Wake us up, indeed.  Thank God for Calvin's witness in this area, for Ken's colleagues like the folk who publish the great ezine catapult, (the new issue is called "Crying Out in Stereo" and is a must-read for music fans) or pop-culture scholar, William Romonowski (author of Eyes Wide Open: Finding God in Popular Culture.)  I can't tell you how that whole gang up there, and all they stand for, has inspired and supported us in our over the years. 

BruceCockburn1.jpgWell. One of the artists who for many of us pioneered this sort of important pop music integration of exceptional musical excellence, remarkable lyrical craft, thoughtful religious faith, and who, through lyrics, interviews, activism, and sheer longevity as a vital public performer, has made his nuanced faith-based art known and respected, even among the most secular of critics, is Canadian singer-song writer Bruce Cockburn.  Although Mr. Cockburn is not appearing at the Calvin FFM this year, his new live album releases today, and it's brilliance---as a new project capturing him solo, and as a bit of a career retrospective----will surely be on the lips of some of the fans of the FFM project. 

Cockburn, as you may know, was a rising star in the folk circuit in the late 60s and hadCockburn.jpg achieved extraordinary respect by the 70s as a singer-songwriter and one of the best guitar players around.  Other musicians envied his dexterity, his chops, his odd tunings and overall musical genius.  When, through some mystical experiences and a thoughtful study of the novels of Charles Williams and C.S. Lewis and the like, he became a Christian, a whole new audience began to follow him.  As he learned to tour with a band, gained exposure on the world scene, came to incorporate world beat, jazz and other urban rhythms and unusual musical forms, he (like Dylan going electric) lost a few folkie purists, but picked up an even larger global audience.  Here is one reviewer's excellent overview of his journey and large body of work.  The Cockburn Project is an excellent internet site keeping track of his work.

bruce2.jpgBy the 80s, his telling of the tales of his world travels, romances, philosophical musings, and growing awareness of social injustice showed an extraordinary sensitivity to global poverty, economic injustice, and his impressionistic songs about sights and sounds of third world revolutions--the Sandinista's rebellion against the horrors of the Somozo dictatorship in Nicaragua, for instance---made him a Christian singer that was, frankly, unlike anybody else on the planet. He has traveled with relief and development NGOs, narrated (and written soundtracks) for documentaries on sand erosion in Africa, done First Nations activism, and contributed songs to anti-land-mind projects; yet, he rarely became preachy or singularly political.  As he read Thomas Merton and Latino poets and quoted Brennan Manning or Tony Campolo, he became, for many of us, a near icon.  Not only was he a wondrous guitar player, and good poet, and a funny, good guy, he was a serious reader, articulate and passionate about living faithfully in the weird and wondrous world of such beauty and horror.  He has penned some of the most touching love songs and some of the most raging political pieces in the history of rock music.  This is so important to those of us--like Heffner at Calvin, or us here at Hearts & Minds----who want to share our enthusism for writers, artists, thinkers and activists who care deeply about faith, but who don't always wear it on their sleeve, who care about the world, but who have the creative capacity for telling stories and using imagination and sharing their vision of what life is and, perhaps, could be.  My friend Brian Walsh (who may or may not be writing a book on Cockburn) has given us a very, very helpful overview not only of Bruce's journey as a socially engaged Christian artist, but uses him as an example and case study of how attentiveness to the brokenness of the world has generated an aesthetic in Cockburn which makes him an example of a more authentic and faithful Christian art (than what we usually see, for instance, in typical CCM fare.)  Read Theology at the Rim of The Broken Wheel: Bruce Cockburn and Christian Faith in a Postmodern World.  As Brian was working on his co-authored 2008 Eerdmans book Beyond Homelessness: Chrisitian Faith in a Culture of Displacement, he drew inspiration from these urgent themes in Cockburn's work; see Walsh's wonderful essay At home in the Darkness, but Hungry for Dawn: Homecoming in Canadian Songwriter Bruce Cockburn  We highl, highly recommend them both.

 We have carried Cockburn's albums from the beginning---the first I bought was in the mid-70s, In The Falling Dark, and I still have the LP with Ken Heffner's notes scribbled on it, from when he borrowed it.  We agree with Walsh that BCs work is a rare example of exceptionally insightful contemporary music, and we celebrate the release of the new one today.

slice o life.jpgSlice O Life is a double disc, recorded live from his recent solo tour.  Cockburn has a few other great live albums yet they feature blazing electric guitar, groovy band vibes, Afro-rock/world beat Reggae stuff, alongside his more typical soft-rock tunes, accompanied, always, with top-shelf fellow musicians.  Those that follow Bruce, though, have long hoped for a solo, all-acoustic record of his live shows that shows off what he can do with these big songs when it is just him, unplugged and on stage, dazzling, by himself.  Slice O is a slice of his own touring life, with a few interesting stories between the songs, some new arrangements of Cockburn classics, a couple of sing-alongs (yes, he does Wondering Where the Lions Are) and some few great photos in the package. The second disc features fascinating recordings of jamming around during the sound-check, including some extended blues stuff...) You can see the song titles and read an excellent overview of the project (and may still be able to hear it for free) at the True North website here. 

We could be delighted if you bought it from us.  It is, as I've said, a great illustration of much of what we are about here: waking people up, using the arts to make us think, attending to how faith fuels imagination, and how the popular arts can take us places, teach us things, inspire us to see and act in new ways, and, of course, entertain us. Wide awake.

Or, as a reviewer in Acoustic Music puts it, (The solo CD) "is a long immersion in what an individual and his art are capable of...the entire affairs goes a long way to resuscitate the essentiality of a single human being pouring himself out to others, standing as an esposition of what's possible if we have the heart and discipline to follow our calling."

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