About May 2011

This page contains all entries posted to Hearts & Minds Books in May 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

April 2011 is the previous archive.

June 2011 is the next archive.

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

May 2011 Archives

May 7, 2011

A Weary Update: A Week on the Road, Selling books, Serving friends. And an extra discount for you!

It has been a while since Beth and I have been as run ragged (is that a phrase you grew up hearing?) as we have this week.  We had the great pleasure of being with some of our favorite friends and customers (and a few crazy fans) and the important opportunity to serve some of our favorite faith gatherings.  We pulled and packed, lugged and set up, moved to another gig, back to the other, tore down, drove to a third in another vehicle, managed to work with literally a few hours sleep setting up at yet another venue, as we hustled back to make book announcements at the second event. Or something like that.  Three overlapping conferences stressed our backs and vans and feeble minds, but it sure was a whirlwind of fun and friendships renewed.  Thanks to everyone who put up with our zany complaining.

APCE
Last weekend saw us packing up for the North East regional gathering of APCE, the Association of Presbyterian Christian Educators.  We are honorary members, and feel great solidarity with those who work in our Presbyterian (USA) denomination to do education, Bible study, childrens' ministry, small group stuff, and assist in the faith formation of the local parish.  These are creative and steadfast folks, mostly women, mostly un-ordained, who care for kids and adults and their nurture in the faith.  There were several good workshops (and a show and tell time of Hearts & Minds selections) and the keynote speaker was the nearly legendary church educator (and author of Teaching Today's Teachers to Teach) Donald L. Griggs.  He's been at this a while and knows well the shifts in trends and approaches---workshop rotation? Godly play? multiple intelligences?---and cleverly titled one of his talks something about the shift from film strips to facebook.  Uh-huh!  He  even showed excerpts of the spectacular computer Glo Bible, now available for Mac, too, by the way. (See our initial description of it here.  And check out the fabulous Glo website, here.)

86840482.JPGGriggs is most recently known for his two books The Bible From Scratch: The Old Testament for Beginners and The Bible From Scratch: The New Testament For Beginners (WJK; $13.00 each.)  (Buy the two as a set a save a couple of bucks--email us if you want more info.) Rev. Griggs is now collaborating with Bible scholars with specialized knowledge, and has produced Genesis from Scratch, Mark's Gospel from Scratch, and, just recently, Matthew's Gospel from Scratch.  These include solid cultural and historical background information, helpful teaching stuff, outlines, discussion questions, and so forth.  Perfect for adult classes or anyone who wants a thoughtful, moderate,50828797.JPG helpful overview.  Charles "Buzz"  Myers, by the way, (who co-wrote Mark's Gospel From Scratch) is a local Presbyterian clergyman who is currently working as a professor at Gettysburg College.  He is in demand as a speaker, teacher and preacher and does an excellent job teaching with passion, humor and clarity. This whole series is very useful and we are glad for this tool for teaching God's Word.

Another popular multi-media resource that was popular was the CD package that has been put
56851844_b.jpg
to supplement the children's Lectionary Story Bible Year A by Ralph Milton (Wood Lake Books; $30.00 in hardback; $49.95 for the audio set.) The CD and CD-rom audio set includes not only the audio portions of the Year A Bible stories, but all the artwork from the Bible that can be clipped and shown. I love the Margaret Kyle watercolor artwork on this, and the stories tend to show nicely men and women, boys and girls.

Penn SE Conference of the UCC
While Beth finished up with our APCE friends, I was holding forth with another mainline denominational gang, an annual clergy convocation for Penn Southeast conference of the United Church of Christ.  Think what you will about their provocative branding slogan (God Is Still Speaking...) these are good friends and very supportive of the array of literature we bring for their perusal.  Since the theme was being inclusive and effective with young adults in our congregations I got to share some of our important books on that theme.  The recent book by researcher Thom Ranier is helpful; it is simply called The Millennials: Connecting to America's Largest Generation (Broadman; $22.99.) There are other such books and it is helpful, I think, to know the sociology of various demographics, even if we we run the risk of caricature and stereotype...I appreciate clergy who want to learn, who move out of their typical work and seek to understand different sub-cultures, or, in this instance, different age groupings.

Of course I highlighted Steve Garber's Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior (IVP; $17.00) since that is not one of my own all time favorite books but is based largely on stories of those whose faith commitments where nurtured during their college years and expanded in the subsequent decades.  Garber's book is very important for anyone who wants to take faith seriously, figuring out how best to encourage young adults to keep their cares and concerns and sense of calling intact. I've mentioned it often and hope it generates thoughtful discussion about mentoring, vocation, walking alongside younger adults in their quest for purpose...

Naturally, I explained to them my fondness for Gabeimages.jpg Lyon's book The Next Christians (Doubleday; $19.99) (which I reviewed when if first released, here.)  Watch this 5-minutes interview from ABC News that allows you to see Lyons' overview; it will make you want to read the book, and share it with others!   It is a tremendously interesting and inspiring book about how younger generations of Christians are truly interested in being culturally engaged and contributors to the common good.  As you might suppose for an event dreaming about reaching younger adults, we had plenty of books about faith-based views of film, stuff about work and career, social justice resources, and titles about human sexuality such as the new and stunningly interesting The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex Is Too Important to Define Us by Jannell Williams Paris (IVP; $15.00.) That is a book that I hope to write about more...see these very appreciative endorsements here and if it intrigues you, and come back and order it from us. 

We also sold a lot of the brand new Joyce Rupp devotional (Fragments of Your Ancient Name: 365 Glimpses of the Divine; Sorin Press; $22.95), the brand new, quite poetic, Joan Chittister, The Monastery of the Heart: An Invitation to a Meaningful Life (Bluebridge; $19.95), and the two new Richard Rohr releases, FallingRohr-Falling.jpg Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Jossey-Bass; $19.95) and A Lever and a51vOdSftQoL._SL500_AA300_.jpg Place to Stand (Hidden Springs; $15.00.) 
62675676_b.jpgFor an activist denomination who are known for justice and hospitality, they do appreciate the spiritual disciplines and gentle writers like that.  One of the books I dared 'em to take is a splendid new book about pastoring, cleverly called The Truth Shall Make You Odd: Speaking with Pastoral Integrity in Awkward Situations by Frank Honeycutt (Brazos; $18.00.)  I recommend it for anyone in ministry, and even for lay folks who wonder how their pastors ought to be acting.  It isn't easy being paid to be a prophet; most leaders know how hard it is to speak the truth in situations where it is awkward.  Of course, even the most bold pastor wants to be liked--few of us relish being seen as, well, odd.  Can we support them in their odd calling to speak to us the truth?  This book can help--designed for pastoral leaders, but fascinating for anyone. Highly recommended.



The main speaker at the UCC clergy event was the very vibrant Presbyterian inner city clergy woman with a passion for giving voice to the concerns of younger folk, Carol Howard Merrit.  Carol has done considerable work in thinking about the cultural shifts in this new millennium, and as a fairly young tribal church.jpgpastor, knows herself much of what makes her generation tick.  She is a good speaker with an infectious laugh so we were pleased that these mostly older pastors so appreciated her. She is confident that many smaller ordinary churches can be hospitable to younger adults, and gave plenty of illustrations of how that can happen. We had a display of her two Alban Institute books, The Tribal Church: Ministering to the Missing Generation and Reframing Hope: Vital Ministry in a New Generation (Alban; $17.00.)  These have both garnered awards and are considered important contributions to the necessary renewal of the mainline, progressive churches.  Carol recently penned a cool forward, too, for another recent Alban Institute book which speaks to the ways new Web 2.0 mindsets---what some call Wiki---can shape how we do theology and think about the church.  See the very thoughtful (and very engaging--citing recent pop research like The Wisdom of Crowds) Open Source Church: Making Room for the Wisdom of All by Landon Whitsett. (Alban; $17.00.)

CCO
As Beth and our hard-working employee and friend Patti boxed and boxed and boxed the unsold stuff, I zoomed off to yet a third event, a regional training seminar of my beloved CCO (the Coalition for Christian Outreach.)  CCO partners with local churches that are near college campuses to do culturally relevant campus ministry, working to bring the vision of the Kingdom into the context of American higher education.  What a great time hanging with these bold young leaders, doing such innovative work in such unique places.  Every college is different and ministries must be custom made to nurture faith in everything from training schools to large Ivy League schools, from evangelical Christian colleges to nominally church-related institutions in the grip of secularization.  Some staff work with athletes, some with international students, some with seekers at the coffee houses scene.  I take our job resourcing them seriously and they buy a lot of books, always keeping me on my toes as I try to find titles that will inform their work and that they can share with students.

Veneer-300x3001.jpgOne of the best selling books at the CCO retreat was a very new book that has been long-awaited in those circles, Veneer: Living Deeply in a Surface Society by Jason Locy and Timothy Willard (Zondervan; $17.99.)  They spoke at the CCO's Jubilee conference last February and were real hits there---college age and other young adults swarmed to their workshop after hearing their 7-minute short overview from the main stage.  These guys are not only way cool, they are, more importantly, authentic.  They tell the real story--one has been a writer in religious publishing, the other works in the ad world of branding and marketing-- that our wounds and brokenness and yearnings are part of who we are, not to be airbrushed or covered over.  Isn't that what veneer does---make pretty what isn't really true?  No, we don't want fake glitz, and our consumer culture has been way to influential in pushing churches (especially evangelical groups, it seems to me, who are most savvy about adopting cultural trends and modern forms of communication) into accommodation with consumerism.  Here and here are two very short video clips about their work, and I'm sure you'll agree that the book seems timely and helpful. Glad it is out. It has garnered some buzz and they deserve it.  (And, if you guys are reading---thanks much for the hard work, and for allowing me to play a small role.  I'm grateful and humbled by the shout out.  Cheers to you!)

CCO staff and students also had heard Gabe Lyons at the Jubilee conference last February sonextchristians-198x300.jpg they were still interested in his important book Next Christians (Doubleday; $19.99) which I mentioned above.  Lyons runs the very innovative conferences called The Q and some DVD curriculum just has been released from previous Q events.  (Next year, by the way, Q will be hosted in Washington DC.  Make plans now!) Check out their ongoing conversations at their very extensive website. 

Next week I'll tell you about these DVDs which I promoted at all three of our recent events--they are fabulous!  I am giving it the old college try to interest folks in these excellent discussion starters. I think they will resonate with many folks, older or younger, but they are not the sort of curriculum that we've seen for church groups, so we are thrilled about them, hoping that BookNotes friends will consider investing in them, sharing them with your friends, small groups, and congregations.  For now, though, thanks for your prayers and interest in the events we travel to, for wishing us well as we set up displays and chat with attendees.  If you were at these events, thanks for stopping by the book display, and, probably buying something.  This is important work, we believe, and we couldn't do it without you.


PLEASE NOTE SPECIAL DISCOUNT of 25% OFF IS GOOD THIS WEEK ONLY. Expires 5-14-11. 

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May 11, 2011

Q Group Studies

In my last post I mentioned three organizations we were with, out with our roving book display, serving them at their own meetings, retreats and convocations.  We love these small soirees, we we get to hang out with folks often on the front line of real ministry---educators, pastors, para-church workers doing good stuff.  One of the themes that kept arising in those gatherings was how the church can more effective attract, enfold, and equip their young adults.  What sort of perspective, what kind of hospitality, what level of teaching (what brand of coffee?) will work best in ministry with young adults.

I've pontificated about this in past posts and I will say again that I am confident that this generation of younger adults wants serious content and that most are eager for a vibrant faith.  And, given their being raised in a visual and Web 2.0 culture, they will best respond to soul-tsunami-193x300.jpggood communicators, good graphics and multi-sensory ministry.  What Len Sweet wrote about in his game-changing, one-of-a-kind early warning rundown about postmodernism, SoulTsunami: Sink or Swim in the New Millennial Culture---Ten Life Rings (Zondervan; $16.99;  still in print and still worth reading) and what he playfully explored in The Gospel According to Starbucks: Living With a Grande Passion (Waterbrook; $13.99) still rings mostly true-- that the cultural shift in which we now do ministry includes those four factors he helps us remember with the acronym EPIC (experiential, participatory, image-based and communal.)  Good and faithful theological content presented as true truth trumps all that, of course---no point being epic about stuff that doesn't truly matter---but quality presentation style is vital.  It isn't necessarily compromising to attend to such things. 

I pick up a real loud strain within some mainline circles that suggests that since some mega-churches majored in the slick presentation and cool drama, and that ended up being a bit vapid and Christianity-lite, well, by golly, we'll just bore people and feel self righteous about it; we'll be lackadaisical about medium and message.  Being bad at communication or sloppy about presentation style is just dumb and "we're not a high-powered professionalized mega-church" schtick only gets you so far.

And so---my big point: it is great when good content is matched with young-adult friendly, fairly hip presentation style, when we can buy very cool video projects that are really well done and about very important stuff.  We are thrilled when top quality videographers capture exceptionally provocative and important faith-based conversations, inviting viewers into the discussion and catapult them into new engagements. 

The Q Group Studies DVDs are exactly such curriculum, a fantastic blend of energy and substance, mature conversation, presented in ways that resonate especially with younger folks--think a progressively evangelical version of TED talks, maybe, but with more interaction.
Here is a very moving video that served to introduce the first four of the DVDs that came out last year.  I hope you enjoy it---I get chills seeing this kind of stuff!
 

That many of the leaders captured in the newest batch, live lectures and panel discussions and interviews seem to be under 35 is important---they are the "next generation" restorers that Gabe Lyon writes so powerfully about in The Next Christians (Doubleday; $19.99.)  Those familiar with the second half of that book will see in the Q video talks several similar themes and topics and those that have visited his amazing website will know that some of these presentations came from previous Q Conferences.  That the word "restore" is in the subtitle of each is no accident!

Anyone of any age that cares about serving God in meaningful ways amidst the daily challenges of our post-Christian culture will find much with which to engage in these.  You may recall that we raved about the first four.  (Some really liked the one on faith and science and others liked the one on new urbanism, Where You Live Matters.)   Agree or disagree, celebrate or critique, this stuff is undeniably interesting and will be fodder for fabulous conversations as you watch them in your local study group, cultural discernment class, Sunday school hour or young adult outreach.  These DVDs feature some of the best speakers, presenting some of the best topics, that we have seen in years.  Can I say that again, perhaps??  I hope you give these a try! 

I am confident these good DVDs will be helpful and will generate interest and action.  Each one ends with a "cultural shaping project" which invites viewers to get involved, live into the big questions that are being discussed, take up new callings and vocations to be God's people in the world.  They even include what they call a "debrief" that allows for more feedback, even inviting prayerful discernment about next steps...

Each of these four new Q Group Studies DVDs (Zondervan; $39.95) come shrink wrapped with a very handsome study guide that includes not only discussion questions but excerpts from books, articles, and tons of good resources to help your group. They are well made and interesting to look through---again, the graphics and medium seems part of the message!  (Congrats, again, to Zondervan for partnering with the Q to do these.) You can buy just the DVD for less, but you really need the workbook; of course extra participants books are available and, with these, highly recommended.

(You may recall that the first batch of four of these used to be called "society room" DVDs alluding to the discussion starters that evangelical social reformer William Wilberforce and his Clapham Sect would host, but they've dropped that moniker, just noting that they are exceptionally thoughtful, culturally-engaged, provocative presentations to help us imagine new ways to be faithful in our public lives.)

Here they are:

4150-kdKkVL._SL500_AA300_.jpgThe Kingdom Way of Life: Restoring What It Means to Follow Jesus  Scot McKnight (New Testament scholar and prolific author)  Mike Metzger (President of Clapham Institute and social innovator,)  Tim Keller (Pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian and author), Jon Tyson (Pastor, Trinity Grace Church)

One - Did Jesus Preach the Gospel?
Two - Living the Gospel in Culture
Three - The Both/And of the Gospel
Four - The Transformative Kingdom
Five - Culture-Shaping Project and Debrief





5145pGc2QjL._SL500_AA300_.jpgBeing Countercultural: Restoring Our Identity in a Changing Society   Gabe Lyons (Founder, Q and author of Next Christians), Andy Crouch (author, Culture-Making), Jason Docy & Tim Willard (authors, Veneer), Mike Foster (president, Ethur)

One - Being Countercultural
Two - Stripping Away the Veneer
Three - Power, Privilege and Risk
Four - People of the Second Chance
Five - Culture-Shaping Project and Debrief







51ivaHJlzSL._SL500_AA300_.jpgStaying Grounded: Restoring the Ancient Practices  Phyllis Tickle (author, The Divine Hours), Andy Crouch (author, Culture-Making), Shane Hipps, (author, Flickering Pixels, media critic) Matthew Sleeth (environmentalist, author, Serve God, Save the Planet)

One - Recovering the Ancient Practices
Two - From Purchases to Practices
Three - The Spirituality of Cell Phones
Four - Observing the Sabbath
Five - Culture-Shaping Project and Debrief





51b36l6kiiL._SL500_AA300_.jpgAdvancing the Common Good: Restoring Our Role In Culture Jo Saxton (3D Ministries), David Gushee (Professor, Mercer University and author), Eboo Patel (founder, Interfaith Youth Core), Shannon Sedgwick Davis (Partner, Bridgeway Foundation.)


One - Being Provoked to Engage
Two - The Sanctity of Human Life
Three - An Interfaith Dialogue
Four - Not On Our Watch
Five - Culture-Shaping Project and Debrief 





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May 15, 2011

The absolute best gift for (college-bound) high school graduates: Make College Count

It is always a joy to be standing around the church hallway and see some teens sauntering up the stairs to their Sunday school class.  Many medium-sized mainline churches don't have many youth, and it is a blessing that we have a good handful.  It was a joy this morning as I was sitting in the back of the sanctuary, noticing a few seniors, students that I have nearly watched grow up.  A few I played with in the nursery 15 years ago; my own youngest daughter's cohort will soon be graduating from high school.  Last year this time---well, most every spring for the last dozen years or so, when my oldest was active in youth group and I knew some of those kids with senioritis---I was in a serious funk about what might become of these older teens, kids I knew and cared about., mostly all heading off to some kind of higher education.  Would they get involved in some campus fellowship group when they went off to college?  Would they find themselves being followers of Christ in their new homes?  Would a local church reach out to them?  Would they develop good new friends that would wisely assist them in discerning the big questions about their future, their major, their callings and careers?  Would they, like most young adults in what developmentalists now call "the critical years", take up the values of the American way of life or would they choose God's Kingdom's ways---upside down values of service and justice and a deeper purpose than upward mobility?  Would they find a spouse that suits them well?  Oh, how we fret about these very young adults.

Of course, the fretting comes to a head for me when we pray over them (if we do at all) or recognize them in some churchly ceremony.  Does your church do something for students graduating from high school?  And does it sound something like God's radical call to them and a profound blessing upon them, or just a religious veneer over the same kind of stuff they hear at their mawkish high school commencements?  Do we commission them to a new phase of Kingdom living, with fear and trembling, or do we just sprinkle a little civil religion over the hope they'll be happy and successful?  I hope it is the former. 

And---again, of course---this concern of what message we send to our graduates really comes to a head for me when we give them some sort of graduation gift.  (We are asked this in the store each year, too.)  In our experience some well-intended folks get students a plaque or pen or gifty type knick-knack. (A tie tac?  How do you ask a customer if they are out of their cottonpickin' minds?)  Most students find these remembrances pretty boring, reinforcing their hunch that church is about as relevant to their lives as, well, their great grandma's gifts of a monogrammed hankey.  Or, usually better, we give them a book, like a faux leather compilation of Bible promises, as if some 18 year old is just dying to do a concordance type study of every listing of every Bible verse around a certain theme.  Anxious about leaving home?  Wondering what major might make sense or what classes to choose?  I am not so sure they will turn to that handsome little pocket guide, even if they do deep down want to know what God might say to them.  I recall one kid trying to sell such a book back to us; you had to admire not only his ingenuity but his honesty.  "I just wouldn't use a book like that," he said.

And so, I am here to announce, as urgently and as plainly as I can, that
we have found the best book to give to college-bound high-school seniors and graduates.  Those in the throes of that Image.asp.jpg"college transition" will enjoy this book which is substantive, interesting, important, and--and this is important---cool looking and fun.  It is called Make College Count: A Faithful Guide to Life + Learning by Derek Melleby (Baker; $12.99.)  As Steve Garber (one who has studied, and studied with, college students as intentionally as anyone I know, most college professors included) writes of it,  "Make College Count is just right!  What Derek Melleby has done is find a way to come alongside someone on the way to college and offer guidance about things that matter most." 

THINGS THAT MATTER MOST 
There are several very nice books for college-bound students and they have useful stuff about getting along with room-mates, doing laundry, avoiding the college party scene.   A couple warn about the atheism of their secular professors.  They almost all admonish youngsters to not have sex, to stay in touch with mom, to study hard.  They are fine.  And they are almost all cleverly written and still mostly inane.  This 17 or 18 year old has just completed the first major phase of his or her educational life;  it feels (at that age, at that transition point) like one of the most important moments in their whole life, and they are off to one of the most challenging (and expensive) and life-changing, formative episodes of the rest of their life, and we give them a whimsical guide to doing laundry, and one last warning not to have sex?  This is the best God's people can do??  This is all we have to say?

Mr. Melleby, in Make College Count, thinks more foundationally; without seeming at all high-minded or overly serious, he winsomely invites students to think about, as Garber says, the things that matter most of all.  There are seven questions that Melleby has discovered to be important for students to ask themselves, most usefully, before they get to State U, or at least early on in their college experience. Derek is increasingly known as a national leader on the psychology and spirituality of the college transition, and he affirms the research that has shown that college is a time where emerging adults will become the person they most likely will be for the rest of their life.  How can they make the most of that time?  What might we ask them to consider, to set them in the right direction?  What are the things they should wrestle with a bit before they jump into the pace of the collegiate experience this fall?

Melleby is a fine and at times funny writer, and after each chapter, where he takes up one of the primal questions, he does an illuminating interview with a young woman or man who has recently been out of college.  He invites them to look back over their shoulder and tell their story, how their identity and sense of calling was shaped by their university years.  These are not composites--they are real interviews. I know almost all of these students. Derek (I'm happy to disclose) is a very good friend and his campus ministry work where he met these students occurred at a campus near here.  I can say that nearly all of these students who are now young alum, have bought books from us, have shared some of their story with me, and I can vouch for their thoughtfulness and integrity.  The interviews are like little sidebars, and they are upbeat and very interesting.  And really helpful.

So, I am confident that this little book---offering a way to discover a path to true success at college and beyond (as it says on the back cover)---is the best thing we've seen like this in 30 years of book selling.  There is simply no other book that asks these very basic sorts of fascinating questions and offers such solid counsel about such good stuff in such a brief, colorful, (and likely to be read) format. 

Here is a part of the table of contents:

What Kind of Person Do You Want to Become?  Following Jesus During the Critical Years
Why Are You Going to College?  Finding Your Place in the Story of God
What Do You Believe? Taking Ownership of Your Faith
Who Are You?  Securing your Identity in Christ
With Whom Shall You Surround Yourself?  Connecting with the Christian Community
How Will You Choose a Major? Putting Your Faith into Action
How Do You Want Your Life to Influence Others?  Leaving a Legacy

And, happily, he selected a few key books and websites that he suggests as "resources for the road ahead."  He names that great college conference that we help with, the CCOs annual Jubilee Conference, and, yes, he mentions Hearts & Minds BookNotes.  How cool is that?

MakeCollegeCount_Web.gifDerek is employed by the CCO, in partnership with the Center for Parent and Youth Understanding directing their College Transition Initiative.  He co-wrote my favorite book for  college students about taking their faith perspective into the classroom, The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness (a must-have resource for students, presuming a somewhat more intentional reader.)  This illustrates the broadly evangelical perspective he holds, and the exceptionally thoughtful approach he brings, besides his upbeat tone, his funny stories, his great interviews, and the fantastic and artful design of the small hardback.  This is a book you can give to any college-bound student with great confidence that it will be appreciated.

You know the old story of Goldilocks' bears?  Some books for graduates are too this, some are too that; some too long, some too short, some too heady, some not heady enough.  I can hardly name any that are truly "just right."  Make College Count: A Faithful Guide to Life + Learning is the prime example, perfect in tone, fabulous in content, great in appearance and price.  We cannot recommend it any more highly; we think it will be used in the lives of emerging adults at this key transition point in their lives.

Here is a simple video clip of Derek talking about the book, noting some initial feedback he has gotten from young readers, explaining just what he was hoping he would accomplish by providing a resource like this.  It is low-key and a great illustration of Derek's clear, kind, and insightful style.  I hope you enjoy it.  And then I hope you buy a boat-load of the book.  From us, of course.  We told the publisher we would get behind this, and we look forward to promoting it anywhere we can.  Won't you help us?  It sure beats the tie tacs.


If this impresses you as it does us, if you are eager for the high school grads that you know who are heading to college or trade school to have an opportunity to reflect on this basic, good stuff, why not forward this to whoever it is at your church who buys the gifts for the graduating seniors?  If you have a relative or friend, buy the book yourself.  But could you help us get some congregations or youth ministries on board?  We are offering a better than usual discount as you can see, and if the order is quite large, we can be flexible, doing deeper deals with larger purchases.

Thanks for helping us spread the word.  Time is short so do this today.  We think it can make a difference.  We are glad for those that get the importance of this, honoring our grads in ways that are meaningful and have the possibility of really being helpful.  We are very glad for any orders you send our way.  And if you don't know any senior high kids heading off to college, can you say a quick prayer for the next generation of the college-bound, their unique time in history, and the call for them to ponder deeply "the things that matter most."

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May 19, 2011

College grads. Be sure to honor them. Here are book suggestions.

HIGH-SCHOOL GRADUATES
In my last post I asked that you help us spread the word about what I insisted was the bestmake-college-count-a-faithful-guide-to-life-and-learning.jpg possible gift to honor high school graduates who are going off to college.  Make College Count: A Guide to Life + Learning by Derek Melleby (Baker; see our 25% discount)  is a book I care a lot about---I know the author, helped out a tad with the book itself, know the students he interviewed to tell of their "college transition."  Besides these valued connections, the more important reason is that is really is the finest example of substantive, important content and cool packaging, a fabulous mix of message and medium, to give as a gift to a soon-to-go-away-to-school student.  I know some astute campus workers who are going to use it on campus in the fall with incoming freshman, so, again, it really is an excellent and thoughtful book.  Small, upbeat, breezy and, if they read it (which I think they most likely would given its attractive style and brevity), life-transforming.  To be invited to think about your life, to ponder some big questions, to ask about what comes next is a great, good gift.

COLLEGE GRADUATES
gs_pic1.pngHere are some suggestions for books to give to college graduates.  Some churches honor their college grads, and, sometimes, not unlike my mocking of cheesy and unhelpful gifts sometimes earnestly given to teens, some congregations tend to miss this good opportunity to truly honor their college grads.  College graduates (or those graduating from other institutions of higher learning, trade schools, culinary schools and such) have just completed a grueling number of years dedicated to learning about and mastering the skills of a vocation; they determined (with, or probably without help from their church) that they were called to a career.  Now is the perfect time to underscore that, to commission them, even if only symbolically, by honoring them with a book to help them understand that God cares about what they do next.

If the congregation is small or you only have a handful of recent graduates, you may want to consider browsing through our (somewhat dated, but still quite useful) link to our Books By Vocation.  Click on the career that comes closest to that of your graduate---education, communications or media studies, psychology, business, law, engineering, the arts, science---and choose a book custom-selected for their own field.  If your team or pastor or church educator doesn't know the majors of your college grads, it is never to late to show interest.  I know some younger adults who stay connected to their church merely because their church has shown interest in what they do professionally.  The local church becomes the conduit to say that God cares about his or her career choices and God will enable each person to serve well in their chosen vocation.  Call us if you'd like to consult about that list or other "books by vocation."

Athe call.jpgnother fantastic option--the one we most regularly suggest this time of year--is to gift the grad with the handsome paperback book The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life by Os Guinness (Nelson; $17.99.)  It is literate, beautifully written, mature and yet not overly demanding---it can be read devotionally doing each of the short chapters every day.  In our years of book selling and recommending gifts, there is no other title that we so regularly suggest for such momentous occasions.  You may know that I reviewed it as my one pick of a most important book in the anthology of book reviews Besides the Bible: 100 Books...(Biblical; $14.99) So it is important, we think.

For those unsure of giving a rather large book, a few of the key chapters of The Call---that everyone serves God, in all areas of life, that any career if done before an "audience of One" can be a holy vocation--have been excerpted into an inexpensive and still quite handsome small sized paperback under the title Rising to the Call: Discover the Ultimate Purpose of Your Life (Nelson; $12.99.)  That, too, is a lovely little gift, and we are eager to promote it this time of year.

Nice Bibles make good gifts this time of year, as do handbooks for basic Christian living.  Guides to the deeper spiritual life may be appreciated and some churches give a prayer book or daily devotional. We might recommend the very popular Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals compiled by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Enuma Okoro (Zondervan; $24.99) which has great appeal, especially among younger folks, it seems.  Or how about a book of poetry?  I know it is a long shot, but it might be a good idea---call us if you'd like to discuss some options.

Still, it seems to us that it is a particularly relevant time to honor the graduates sense of call.  Why not get them a book that equips them to follow God's way in the work-world?  Or to discern "what comes next"?  Or to consider how to be faithful in a new phase of life?  We've often recommended general resources such as A Journey Worth Taking: Finding Your Purpose in This World  by Charles Drew (P&R; $12.99) or even Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper (Crossway; $9.99.)  He has that great chapter on "serving God in the 8 to 5" that I have written about before.  If you like a passionate and uncompromising call to live for the glory of God, noting the cost of discipleship, this is a great, gutsy gift.

let your life speak.jpgLet Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker Palmer (Jossey Bass; $18.95) is a truly lovely gift, hand sized, a warmly peach color, written gently and slowly, inviting readers to a reflective experience of pondering their heart's deepest desires. In many ways it is the opposite of the big Biblical vision of Drew and the passionate call to dedication in Piper.   It is quiet, not pushy, a touch mystical.  I know with the title it seems that this would be ideal for first year students, but its depth and contemplative tone seems more appropriate for those just a bit more mature.  It is a fine way to say "listen to God in your life as you seek for a job or move to new places after college."  I know some who have truly valued receiving it, and I know some parishes that are always on the look-out for opportunities to bless their folks with this exact book.



Mastering Monday: A Guide to Integrating Faith and Work
  John Beckett (IVP; $18.00.)  This is one of my picks for "best book" as an introduction to this important area---how to serve God in the workplace.  I choose it because it is fairly generic (not just for business people, say but good for any career) and it is a handsome hardcover that makes a nice gift.  There are others---some smaller, some more sophisticated. This one is thoughtful, includes relevant Bible exposition, and offers very inspiring insights.  This one is a very fine choice.

TRADE SCHOOLS
Know somebody who graduated from a technical school or who is taking a job working withshop class.jpg their hands?  Shop Class as Soul Craft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work by Matthew Crawford (Penguin; $15.00) was a huge seller last year this time.  Now out in paperback it is still considered to be an extraordinary story.  I have written about it before, so you may recall its basic trajectory: Crawford was a brainy scholar, doing papers and academic fact-checking at some prestigious think tank.  He was woefully unhappy, even sensing himself at odds with some profound moral center.  Did what he do matter?  Does it make a difference?  Alas, he started a motorcycle repair shop and, well, the rest is history.  While this serous book is a bit of a critique of the epistemologies of the academy---teaching a lot of, uh, stuff that doesn't matter or help people discover meaning or truth---it is mostly (as the subtitle says) an reflection on the meaning of labor.  Know any really smart blue collar guys?  Women or men who have taken up a craft as their calling?  Anybody who graduated with some technical degree (and who likes to read?)  Shop Class as Soul Craft could be the ticket.  How many philosopher-mechanics have written wisely on the work of our hands?  Wonderful

SEMINARY GRADS
The-Pastor-A-Memoir-by-Eugene-H.-Peterson.jpgLastly, do you know anyone who has graduated from a seminary, someone seeking ordination to serve God in the ministry?  We have the perfect suggestion: Eugene Peterson's wise and witty memoir, his story of being called into church work.  Simply called The Pastor: A Memoir (HarperOne; $25.99.)  Peterson has other books more directly about "vocation holiness" that might be more directly useful, but this new hardback would make a splendid gift.  

Don't miss this opportunity to affirm the great achievement of earning an advanced degree.  Commission folks, in a manner of speaking (if not in a real ceremony), to go with God into their career and calling.  Help them "think vocationally" in this vital time in their lives.  It would be our great pleasure to help you help them.  Order or call us today.



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May 23, 2011

What to read after the embarassing Camping Doomsday fiasco.

I swore I wasn't going to dignify the foolishness about Harold Camping and his dumb promises about the end of the world, but I couldn't resist posting a facebook video clip of Bruce Cockburn's lovely song "The Last Night of the World."  It seemed a good excuse to share my appreciation of Cockburn's artistry (and, not a bad exercise: if it really was the last night of the world, what would you do differently?) 



But now, I can't help myself. I keep thinking about this odd weekend. I won't rant and rave but I will name some books that, well, come to mind.  And we'll offer you some deals to hopefully get you to place an order or two.

Firstly: I don't need to tell our readers that we believe deeply that the Bible presents us with great news that, in Christ, through His atoning death and bodily resurrection, God in God's mercy is reconciling and restoring and redeeming all things; God is rescuing the cursed cosmos, not destroying it.  It is this world that God so loves, after all.   It isn't fully helpful to say we "go to heaven" for eternity because Jesus is, in fact, coming back, (as, in the grand Biblical metaphor, a refiners fire) truly making "all things new."  Matthew 19:28 and Ephesians 1:10 puts succinctly what is explained in Colossians 1 and Romans 8 and imagined in the new creation_regained_new_wolters[5].jpgcreation poetry prophecied in Isaiah, all finally pointing to a (re)new(ed) sky and Earth, promised in Revelation 21 and 22.  This "all things new" newness, as Al Wolters explains in the book that is one of our true all time favorites, Creation Regained: Biblical Basis for a Reformational Worldview (Eerdmans; $14.00) does not tell us that God is making a planet brand new but re-newed or restored; God is healing the planet, not bringing us a new one. (The Hebrew in Isaiah 65:17 is similarly about re-newing, for instance.)  This approach has been vital to our founding vision here at the shop and has been a topic of much conversation over the years.

 We can get a nice yet provocative little glimpse into the implications of this in Richard Mouw's fantastic book When the Mouw-Kings-Marching-197x300.jpgKings Come Marching In: Isaiah and the New Jerusalem (Eerdmans; $14.00), a book which I cannot recommend more heartily.  If you haven't read it, trust me---it is wonderfully interesting, clear, and helpful.  You will understand our bookstore and vision here so much better if you absorb its insightful Biblical vision.

Anybody care to chime in on a "comment" here at Booknotes?  Am I right that this is eye-opening and thoughtful Bible study?

For those really wanting to study this, we surely recommend N.T, Wright's Surprised By Hope (HarperOne; $24.99 or the very excellent DVD series by the same name.)  For one you may not have heard of, we have a rare little book imported from overseas called The Future Great Planet Earth: Good News About the Future of the Earth According to the Bible by Dutch Bible scholar Wim Rietkerk (Good Books; $9.95.) [We only have a few of these left and may not be able to fill orders after we run out.]

I suspect you might think that my fascination with new creation and the Big Hope of Christ reigning over a really restored cosmos is quirky or less than central to ponder.  It is my experience, though, that once one gets this--all things new, or "every square inch" as Kuyper put it--- all other aspects of Christian discipleship---work and calling, evangelism, worship, the Christian mind, the arts, social concern, work for civic renewal, interest in science, racial justice and the like (not to mention creation care itself!) and a healthy approach to spirituality all can more easily fall into place.

What if media outlets and religion reporters (and responsible Christian bloggers and preachers, in fact) pointed people to this kind of stuff as they scrambled to denounce Mr. Camping's nuttiness?  These next days while people are still talking about this remain an open window to share what the Bible really says about the great hope we have! 

Another great way61031601_b.jpg to more fully grasp the promised restoration of all things---the continuity between this world and the next, so to speak---is in Michael Witmer's very nice book, Heaven Is a Place on Earth: Why All That You Do Matters to God (Zondervan; $16.99.)  I love it and believe it would be eye opening to nearly anyone in ordinary churches of any sort;  his style is particularly warm and evangelically-minded, though, so there is nothing fishy. There are few demanding portions, but most is quite accessible and uplifting.  The study questions are excellent and give plenty of food for thought and next steps for this radically all-inclusive way of life.  

For those wanting a more mainline denominational study most specifically about eschatology, you might want to pick up Lutheran Biblical scholar Barbara Rossing's popular critique of Left Behind rapture theology called The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation (Basic Books; $15.95.)

Okay.  So I don't buy that rapture stuff, and don't think that the most reasonable, faithful, and historically-accepted way of reading the texts allow for that.  I wish the news reports wouldn't have assumed, as many did, that the only thing wrong with Camping's agenda was his date-setting and over-confidence.  I don't think orthodox believers should concede that that was the only problem; he is just way, way off on a whole lot of stuff about a faithful way of seeing history, our place in the world, and God's intent and promises...

A DISTRACTION
I think we have regrets about the weekend End fiasco because, as Gabe Lyons nicely put it on Good Morning America, this stuff distracts us from our real purpose and work, from being busy serving God and neighbor.  Some evangelicals (although actually fewer than you might think, I'd say) have allowed end-times speculations, bizarre interpretation of Daniel and Revelation, and weird methods of counting of numbers and names in the Bible to determine who the anti-Christ might be, to distract them from serious missional engagement.  I hate to sound snide about it--and I pray that I do not--but sometimes when well-meaning customers come in the story asking for books of "prophecy" (like is American in the ends times, a la John Haggee, say) I direct them to Haggai commentaries.  Spend some time with Amos or Habakkuk, I sometimes suggest, if you want prophecy. Eugene Peterson's wonderful and slightly revised Run With the Horses (IVP; $15.00) is a fabulously rich and easy-to-read set of meditations on Jeremiah.   God's prophets spoke into their times, calling for social reform and holiness and justice and cultural repentance, they didn't just invite people to try to predict the future. How can we help folks get that?

Oddball religion isn't very attractive and, frankly, minimizes the legitimate Biblical teaching about judgement.  Camping is easily dismissed, but a God who, as the creed puts it, will return to judge the quick and the dead, is not.  In our effort to distance ourselves from Camping and his ilk, we laugh him off, and maybe lose an opportunity to create a meaningful reputation of people who do, indeed, have a high regard for the Kingship of Christ, know that "fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" and wants to promote holiness--social and personal--because we desire to be true agents of authentic righteousness. We shudder to think that Camping confuses people about judgement, but he is right in some basic sense, as the creed affirms.

Still, the best way to even talk about judgement or wrath is to first earn the right to be heard by doing the good works that Jesus told us to do.  To need to be ready to explain our hope (as Peter instructed in 1 Peter 3) suggests that somebody might actually ask us: why do you seem so hopeful in light of the dreary evidence of our cultural malaise?  What would it mean to live as people who are asked that?  (Why else do we have to be ready to explain that hope, unless we are raising eyebrows and provoking folks to wonder what we have going on!  This presumes the opposite of a doomsday theology!)  The aforementioned Mr. Lyons has documented how younger evangelicals are themselves eager for such a principled and wholistic faith, who want to be known as hopeful restorers, contributors to cultural re-integration, not turning into the cranky critics (of their parents left wing or right wing or disengaged religion.)  Maybe his book The Next
nextchristians-198x300.jpg Christians: The Good News About the End of Christian America (Doublday; $19.99) would be the perfect antidote to the weirdness of Camping's camp. (It was mostly the strength of this book, and his giving voice to a new generation of culturally-engaged younger evangelicals, that inspired ABC to call him and invite him on air over the weekend.)  Or, how about using those "Q Group Studies" DVDs I posted about a week or so ago that he produced?  Talk about responsible, moderate, thoughtful, socially-active and culturally-engaged discipleship.  Talk about real world spirituality.  If our churches were more known for this sort of stuff, that would be on the nightly news, not some sad old radio preacher who has little to say that is wise or good or beautiful or true.  If you feel like you need to do some "catch up" ball, showing your community of faith and neighbors (and especially younger adults) that you've got a better picture of faith than what was on the news over the weekend, get these going in your group.  You'll be glad you did.

BAD NEWS
Of course, the flamboyantly bad witness of preacher Camping has not been the only black eye for conservative Christians these days.  There is a cottage industry of books against the Christian right the last few years, some of them more alarmist than called for, some more polemical than insightful, and several more bellicose and intolerant than the right-wingers they are debunking.  Yet, a bit of helpful critique of the dead-ends of socially-active fundamentalists and evangelicals is called for, especially if we tend to dismiss Camping's crowd as a really fringe cult. 

broken_words.jpgSo, we admit that there have been others who have presented the watching world with some pretty sad stuff, and we should reflect on it from time to time. 

Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics by Jonathan Dudley (Crown; $21.99) is a fascinating new study that might help us right about now.  Dudley is a young author, a science graduate of Calvin College in Grand Rapids and a recent graduate of Yale Divinity School.   From abortion to gay marriages to evolution to the ethics of stem cell use, the last decade was full of hot-button culture warring.  How did the science, and the politics of this science, develop as it did, and why?  And how would a young man coming of age in the evangelical sub-culture that esteemed the politics of Jerry Falwell and James Dobson come to conclude that their views are fatally flawed? 

Religion observer and eloquent reader and writer Phyllis Tickle says

Hands down, Broken Worlds is the most insightful, clear-eyed, and popularly useful overview to date of why and how evangelicalism has come to be such a powerful and intractable political and doctrinal bloc in American affairs...Written in vivid, conversational style, Broken Words also carries within it the gentleness of affection and familial courtesy, for Dudley was himself reared evangelical.  There is no meanness of spirit here, no clanging of swords.  There is simply an urgent demand that we look now and accurately at how politics has led many among us to reversals of our historic faith and practice , and, ultimately, to divisive and destructive civil politics and prejudices.
Dale Martin is a professor of religious studies at Yale and he writes,

Jonathan Dudley has rendered a great service with this brilliant book.  By taking on the use by social conservatives of both science and scripture to push their agenda...Dudley exposes the inconsistencies and contradictions in their claims as well as their methods of interpretation and argument.  The remarkable aspect of Dudley's book is its astonishing juxtaposition of scientific and religious knowledge and sensibilities.  Dudley is equally educated in theology, biblical studies, and biological sciences.  The combination is unusual and notable; the writing accessible and elegant.
I do not think this interesting book is the final word on these contentious issue, how the evangelical right has aided contentiousness by failing to be adequate in science, Bible or theology.  I haven't finished it myself, so don't even know if I agree with it all. But who cares?  It is making me think and offering some context and perspectives to consider.  I do agree that it is a valuable contribution and might be well worth reading with a friend or book group.

GOOD NEWS
Perhaps we might supplement our somber reflections on "what went wrong" with the good news that, in fact, Biblically-informed folks have done much, much (much!) good in Western civilization.  The the ordering of thought about the world derived from the Bible has allowed for the development of science and democracy and medicine.  Who better to remind us of that than a person of color, born in the sub-continent of India, of Hindu descent who has studied various worldviews---Eastern, secular, and Christian?

Vishal Mangalwadi has been a person of great interest to me for years; we have imported27535_132908093409557_5020_n.jpg books of his from Indian presses, in fact, as he has written with great passion and authority about the relationship of Biblical truth and social reform.  Some think this gentleman activist is the "Francis Schaeffer of India" because he has brought together the uniquenesses of a Christian worldview, shaped by solid theology, into a wide-as-life cultural engagement, and a passion for both evangelism and social justice.  He has studied in ashrams and in his countries leading secular universities--and spent part of a year at Schaeffer's Swiss L'Abri.  In fact, after his studies there, Mangalwadi returned to India to boldly serve the rural poor through several creative initiatives.  His frontline engagement fighting oppression and corruption has landed him in jail, helped prevent a mass revival of widow-burning, and led to politically organizing peasants and lower-caste "untouchables."  Christianity Today has even called him "India's foremost Christian intellectual."   Which is to say, he has earned the right not only to be admired, but to be read.

content_the_book_that_made_your_world.jpegVishal Mangalwadi's major new release, The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created The Soul of Western Civilization (Nelson; $22.99) is the kind of handsome, big hardback that you want to spend much time with.  It is broad in scope, lucid and insightful, learned and inspiring.  I tend to shy away from books which are too quick to connect Western culture with Biblical religion, in part because Western culture, despite all the very good and helpful developments, has done way too much harm to be celebrated without qualification.  And some who write books celebrating Western culture seem nearly tone-deaf to the cries of the poor, the deathly faith in progress that has ravaged the Earth, the way in which industrialization was successful on the backs of slaves and the destruction of native peoples.  If one can't say that, and mourn it adequately, then I simply don't have stomach for the singing of accolades.  In this fallen world, all historical development is a mixed bag, and it is nothing but hubris--or worse, ideological idolatry---to suggest otherwise.

Enter Dr. Mangalwadi.  His recounting of Western history, and how it has been supremely and decisively shaped by Biblical truths---or truths derived from Biblical revelation---rings right.  He realizes that not all that has happened in the West has been good.  He realizes that not all that has happened in the name of Christ has been Christ-like.  And he does not demonize other cultures or worldviews.

Yet, he has clear-headed insight about how ideas have consequences.  It is not unfair to note (as Gandhi did, in fact) that the Hindu religion does not offer much incentive to work for historical change or social justice.  The Biblical witness is one which teaches much about human dignity and freedom and justice; the consequences of these ideas have been wonderful.  Follow these historic ideas down from Moses at Sinai and Jesus on the Mount and Paul at the Acropolis, through Augustine and Aquinas and Calvin and Witherspoon, Wesley and Wilberforce and you end up understanding Martin King and (or so it seems to me) our author,  Vishal Mangalwadi.

Mangalwadi teaches us much about how the worldviewish assumptions about the nature ofvishal-mangalwadi.jpg nature, the impact of time, the role of history, the ways of humans and institutions and other deep notions have played out in very significant ways creating the plausibility of what developed in Western history.  It certainly isn't just that people following Christ are nicer or more noble, but that their impulse to serve and to create meaning and to make a difference create a dynamic, a dynamic that yielded universities and hospitals and counter-voices to the narratives of colonialism and violence.  Even at its worst, there were reformers, offering truer visions for church and state, business and culture, education and family.  Notions of rights and responsibilities were decisive.  Ideas about innovation and creativity were important.  Art and science and new institutions blossomed.  Mangalwadi tells the up-side of Western history with an inspiring verve that reminds us of the difference the Judeo-Christian faith has made.  All of this because of the Holy Bible.

I value books like this and hope you do too.  They are wise and informative, serious enough to be taken seriously but not so weighty or dense that you have grimace as you attempt to dutifully plow through them.  I have noted before how much I respect this author and book and, in light of the bad press Christians have gotten because of this Camping nonsense, I thought it the perfect time to invite you to read it.  And share it with others.  Maybe send it to your local religion reporter if they did a less than helpful story on the end of the world stuff.  It has some truly thrilling stuff in it and tons of historical insight.  I'll bet you will learn a lot, and be thankful.

Here are some of the endorsements that celebrate this volume.

"This is an extremely significant piece of work with huge global implications. Vishal brings a timely message."
           Ravi Zacharias, author, Walking from East to West and Beyond Opinion

"In polite society, the mere mention of the Bible often introduces a certain measure of anxiety. A serious discussion on the Bible can bring outright contempt. Therefore, it is most refreshing to encounter this engaging and informed assessment of the Bible's profound impact on the modern world. Where Bloom laments the closing of the American mind, Mangalwadi brings a refreshing optimism."
           Stanley Mattson, founder and president, C. S. Lewis Foundation

"Vishal Mangalwadi recounts history in very broad strokes, always using his cross-cultural perspectives for highlighting the many benefits of biblical principles in shaping civilization."  
           George Marsden, professor, University of Notre Dame; author, Fundamentalism and American Culture and The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship

"The Indian perspective is a breath of fascinating fresh air for American readers. I wish and pray that it finds readers willing to have their minds shaken and their hearts, yes, their hearts, stirred as well."
           James W. Sire, author, The Universe Next Door and Habits of the Mind

"This book is well overdue! If there is one book that has shaped Europe's art, architecture, commerce, education, ethics, family life, freedom, government, healthcare, law, language, literature, music, politics, science, social reform, and much more, it is the Bible. Yet biblical illiteracy is almost universal in Europe today. We need Vishal's clear, prophetic, Eastern voice to jolt us back to reality before our rich biblical heritage slips beyond our grasp."
           Jeff Fountain, director, Schuman Centre for European Studies, the Netherlands

"Vishal's book is one of a kind--vast in scope, penetrating in its depth, and prophetic in its message. If we fail to listen and recover the importance of the Bible in personal and public life, then the sun may set on the West. This book is a tract for our times and a must-read for anyone concerned with impacting our culture."
           Art Lindsley, author, C. S. Lewis' Case for Christ

"With solid, detailed information, clarity of presentation, and logical force, Vishal Mangalwadi enables anyone willing to see how our 'Western' world depends entirely upon what the Bible, and it alone, teaches about reality and how to live."
           Dallas Willard, author, The Divine Conspiracy and The Great Omission

41cTkrRdAZL._SL500_AA300_.jpg
Want a great resource to share with someone--or use to brush up your own awareness---of just how influential a Christian worldview has been to the formation of Western arts, science, medicine, literature, human rights, politics and culture?  For the last few years we've highly recommended a hardback called  A Faith and Culture Devotional edited by the very smart and very energetic Kelly Monroe Kullberg and her partner-in-promoting wonder and goodness,  college teacher and radio host, Lael Arrington.  Here is the review I wrote when it first released. (Read it if you want to know more, if you wonder if this would be a good gift for someone you know.)  Gladly, it is now available in paperback (bearing a slightly new titles and a very cool cover design.)  It is now called Faith & Culture: The Guide to a Culture Shaped by Faith (Zondervan; $14.99.)  At 300+ pages, it is more than a bargain!  We'd love for you to order some of them----love it!

We think this daily reader is a great, great resource to have on hand, a remedial education on stuff that we may not know.  It would be great for a smart high-school student going off to college, or a lovely bed-side reader for anybody with a good curiosity.   Dozens of respected authors helped make this a reader-friendly anthology, useful and fun.  Highly recommended.

serious-times-making-your-life-matter-in-urgent-james-emery-white-paperback-cover-art.jpgWe need not only ponder the way the Bible has shaped the best of Western ideals and culture, but we can happily learn about great saints and reformers.  We can be inspired by great stories of the past.  This is what Serious Times by James Emery White does. 

But, also, can I put another plug in here for the fabulously well-done, New York Times best-selling (and Hearts & Minds award-winning) biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas?  I'm sure you know, but it is called Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (Nelson; $29.99) and we are fully proud to commend it.  Or, we're always eager to promote Metaxas's equally acclaimed book on abolitionist and Christian social reformer, William Wilberforce, called Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery (Nelson; $13.99.) What great and truly influential books they are!  There are many books like this, and I have told you about this James Emery White one before.  It is a favorite, and having met the author at the CCOs Jubilee conference in Pittsburgh last winter, I love it all the more.   Serious Times: Making Your Life Matter in an Urgent Day by James Emery White (IVP; $15.00) offers chapter-length introductions to a handful of Christian leaders, offering insights that we can apply to our own lives in our own serious times.  What a great book, and what good insight about William Wilberforce, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, St Patrick St Benedict, C.S. Lewis, Mother Teresa and  "the wild boar in the vineyard" the church reformer, Martin Luther. 

MY HOPE--AM I NAIVE?
Would that the media might recall this sort of stuff every time a Harold Camping attempts to creates a media sensation or some less than admirable person of faith fouls up.  Perhaps the reason they do not is partially because our local faith communities aren't known for being these kind of people.  Some churches just don't help people be activists or reformers; they don't promote character formation or create cultures of learning about our past or our present.  Is it shallow of me (or hopelessly naive) to believe that books like this can help change us, help us become the people that are known (to use Gabe Lyons good phrase from Isaiah 58) "restorers"?  How I long for a day, in the spirit of Matthew 5:16, when some discredited cult leader gets some national press, that local journalists and bloggers say, "Nope, we're not going to cover that.  Because we know the sorts of people that most Bible-believers really are.  We know that those who hold to the fundamentals of the faith aren't wacky.  They are restoring this messed up world, and their faith in Christ is hopeful and good and admirable.  These are the folks we'll tell about instead."  To the extent that our selling these sorts of resources helps fuel that kind of thoughtful and active maturity, we are very, very glad.

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May 28, 2011

C.S. Lewis Institute Fellows Reading List

There are a handful of great organizations that have allowed us to be their book providers.  As most of you know, we often go out on the road, setting up displays, taking the titles to town, selling them to the groups that are kind enough to allow us space.  We do this with denominational groups and para-church ministries.

A few organizations have us listed at their websites, encouraging their patrons to order resources through us.  It is a joy when someone says they saw our link at The Simple Way or Cardus, Square Halo Press or  Burnside Writer's Collective, The Washington Institute of Faith, Culture and Vocation or the CCO.  Just the other day a fellow wandered in who had found us by reading Andy Crouch's Culture Making: Recovering our Creative Calling (IVP; $22.00) where we are kindly mentioned. These organic connections are a blessing to us, even if (if truth be told) they don't generate tons of business.  We are honored to be connected to so many great groups.

Every summer we get a deluge of orders from our good friends at the C.S. Lewis Institute in Washington DC for their long-standing discipleship class called their Fellows Program.  This rigorous training program is now being duplicated in Atlanta (three cheers for Lewis fan and visionary Bill Smith there) Annapolis, and, Lord willing, some other sites in years to come.

The Fellows program takes Lewis as a jumping off point but is not a Lewis study club.  It is a discipleship class which informs both the heart and mind, using some of the best of today's evangelical authors and includes meeting with mentors, lots of handouts, readings, downloaded sermons, even DVDs that have to be watched---including dramatizations from Luther to Amazing Grace to Bonhoeffer.  Being involved in this multi-faceted, year-long learning community demands a large commitment (and, as you might imagine, most of the participants around the DC Beltway are themselves already in demanding careers, working in business and law and public service and research and the like.)

Could you imagine creating a year of study and learning in your community?  Do you know folks hungry to learn? Would your program be worth their while?  What resources would you use? 

The leaders of the C.S. Lewis Institute are theologically rigorous, evangelical, and, like Lewis, not only quite orthodox, but delightfully eager to read, talk, learn, and live out faith in the complexities of calling and career in the modern world.   As you can see, they read a lot.

We are glad that they suggest our services to the Fellows and we try to keep their required readings on hand so we can send them out promptly as they order throughout the year.

We thought it would be fun for our BookNotes readers to see this excellent list.  I think I have read most of the books listed (in fact, have helped them pick a few of them.) Their list changes a bit from year to year and some years they have run a "year two" Fellows program with other titles.  We thought you might be blessed just to know that these kinds of programs exist and that these kinds of reading lists have been developed.  

Here is the list of what they are now using. In some cases, they only have to read certain key chapters.  The descriptions are mine and you should recall that they work through these, using them wisely, discussing them with mentors, supplementing their formation with other reading, classes, videos and experiences.

We are grateful that they recommend us as a source for their folks to purchase these books and DVDs, but we should be clear that CSLI does not endorse Hearts & Minds in any official way nor does CSLI have any official relationship with us.  We have sold books at some of their large conferences (with N.T. Wright,  Ravi Zacharias or Os Guinness, say), we love their meaty quarterly journal (Knowing & Doing), appreciate their work, recommend the free audio and video lectures available at their website, and are glad for their friendship.

 And we are grateful for book lists like this.

C. S. Lewis Institute FELLOWS READING LIST  (summer 2011)

Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives Richard Swenson (NavPress) $15.99  Who doesn't need some sensible guidance about managing resources---time, emotions, money and such.  I often tell people that this is the only book of this sort that I really like.  We've often raved about the devotional that is also available (Minute of Margin) and the sequel (In Search of Balance.)  It makes a lot of sense to start with some attention to this very basic matter, our pace of life and wise sense of balance.

Ordering Your Private World Gordon MacDonald (Nelson) $15.99  A contemporary classic about priorities, character, and the inner life. Includes a study guide making it very useful as a foundational book.

Renewed Day by Day A.W. Tozer (Wingspan) $16.99  Some have compared this to My Utmost for His Highest, a year long devotional of extraordinarily insightful readings. This will surely touch you deeply, shaping your soul.  To have Tozer as a companion for a year is a brilliant idea.  I wonder if Lewis ever read him?  I know Tozer read Lewis!

Satisfy Your Soul: Restoring the Heart of Christian Spirituality   Bruce Demarest  (NavPress) $16.99  A studious, excellent, Christ-centered books about spiritual formation.  One of the best!

Knowledge of the Holy A. W. Tozer (HarperOne) $12.95  Still one of the most best-selling religious books of the 20th century, a passionate study of the attributes of God.

Quiet Time  IVCF Staff (IVP) $5.00  A small booklet inviting one to a daily quiet time.  Nice.

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life  Donald Whitney (NavPress) $15.99  I sometimes say Whitney is a Reformed Richard Foster drawing more on Puritan sources than Foster's monastic sources.

Spiritual Birthline: Understanding How We Experience New Birth  Stephen Smallman (Crossway) $12.99  Do you know how to tell your spiritual journey? Does understanding justification and regeneration matter?  Can you look back over your life and say when and how you crossed over the line to saving faith?  Very interesting!

The Legacy of Sovereign Joy: God's Triumphant Grace in the Lives of Augustine, Luther and Calvin  John Piper (Crossway) $14.99  The passionate Piper has a series of books each studying a theme by way of three short biographies.  This one reflects on God's saving grace as understood by these titans of faith.  Highly recommended.

The Pursuit of God: The Human Thirst for the Divine  A.W. Tozer (Wingspread) $12.99  Again, Tozer--a remarkably innovative and learned leader of the Christian & Missionary Alliance denomination--shows himself to be solid with traditional, orthodox rigor, and yet with a sweetly mystical strain.  Classic.

Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs J.I. Packer (Tyndale) $14.99 Our friends at CSLI are always on the look-out for how to teach basic theology with depth and warmth and brevity.  It doesn't get more clear and solid than this by one of the most important Reformed thinkers of the last 50 years. 

Transforming Grace: Living Confidently in God's Unfailing Love Jerry Bridges (NavPress) $14.99  Few books in recent years have explored the meaning of grace of justification and sanctification, for salvation and living, than this clear-headed, no-nonsense study.  This is stuff every Christian should know.  

DVD The Bible and the Christian Life: Six Sessions on the Authority, Interpretation,
 And Use of Scripture
John Stott (Zondervan) $19.99  You may recall that we've promoted this here before, and I've told of using it in an adult ed class at my own church.  Six excellent, dense, clear, thoughtful and inspiring lectures by the incomparable British evangelical. (If you are using this in an Sunday school setting, each of the six talks are divided into portions to stop the DVD and discuss the content.  Each lecture is just under an hour, so could be used in 6 weeks but can most fruitfully be used over 10 or 12 weeks.

DVD Luther Directed by Eric Til (MGM) $14.98 Staring Joseph Fiennes, this is entertaining, powerful stuff.  Kudos to those in Hollywood who brought this well made drama to the silver screen.

C. S. Lewis Institute FELLOWS READING LIST (fall, winter, spring, 2011-2012)

DVD Gospel of John (The Visual Bible) $14.99  The entire gospel, verbatim (in the Good News translation) dramatically acted with Henry Ian Cusick (Desmond from Lost) playing Jesus.  Directly by Philip Saville, it is tremendously done.

DVD Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace (Gateway Films) $19.95  Staring Ulrich Tukur, this is still one of the best films on the famous martyr and his role in the German resistance.

DVD The Hiding Place (Worldwide Pictures) $19.95 Julie Harris was nominated for an Academy Award for this powerful adaptation of Corrie Ten Boom's classic memoir about their time under Hitler.  Digitally restored and remastered in a wide screen edition.

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream  David Platt (Waterbrook) $14.99  Have we reduced the gospel to fit our own cultural preferences of individualism and upward mobility? Hear this simple exhortation to reject the values of materialism and ease; hear the call to give our lives in radical ways to the work of the Kingdom.

My Heart Christ's Home Robert Boyd Munger (IVP) $1.50  This little booklet has changed lives, telling the parable of one who invites Christ into his home.  It has two great strengths: Jesus cleans up various rooms in the house (the bedroom, the library, etc) and He waits quietly for the resident to invite him to meet in daily quiet time.  Lovely, interesting, useful.

The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics  C.S. Lewis (HarperOne) $29.99  This handsome, hefty paperback includes five great Lewis books in their entirety, making is a fine value.  Included are Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, The Problem of Pain, Miracles, A Grief Observed, and The Abolition of Man.  Wit, wisdom, style, grace, scholarship, charm and truth.  There are other great Lewis books, of course (The Weight of Glory comes to mind, The Four Loves is popular and his Letters to Malcolm on prayer is sweet) but this one is a solid start for any good library.

The Good Who Loves You Peter Kreeft (Ignatius Press) $14.95  Kreeft, nearly a contemporary Lewis himself, teaches philosophy at the Jesuit Boston College, is beloved for his own wit and charm and clear-headed logic.  This is a deeply rewarding, rich text.  C.S. Lewis' friend, author Sheldon Vanauken (author of A Severe Mercy) says of it "I know of no writer today who can deal with (the subject of God's love) more justly and lovingly than Peter Kreeft has done."

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount  Martyn Lloyd-Jones  (Eerdmans) $30.00  Well, anyone who follows Jesus must grapple with his major teaching, and the sermon is perhaps his most didactic session.  There are other books on this, of course, but Lloyd-Jones is truly one of the greatest preachers of the 20th century, who held forth in London for a generation. This big volume is a treasure chest, laden with sound insight and important commentary.

DVD  Malokai: The Story of Father Damien (Era Films) $19.99  What an inspiring drama, portraying the legendary Catholic missionary who moved to a leper colony in Hawaii in 1872 and his self-sacrificial ministry.  Produced in the Netherlands in 1999 it stars the likes of Peter O'Toole, Kris Kristofferson, Sam Neill and David Wenham.

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism  Timothy Keller (Riverhead) $16.00  Well, what thoughtful class on Lewis-esque faith in the modern world would be complete without a book by the author The New York Times suggested could be our contemporary Lewis, the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan?  This is a fine, well-written, accessible book about skepticism and the validity of Christian faith in our age.  Highly recommended. (And then read all his other books!)

Humility: The Journey Towards Holiness  Andrew Murray (Bethany) $7.99  A much-needed Christian virtue and one about which very little is written these days.  Brief, poignant, very Biblical, written in the older style of the famous  late 19th century South African evangelist.  

DVD Through the Shadowlands  (Vision Video)  $19.99  Staring Joss Ackland and Clarie Bloom, this is the older British movie, aired on the BBC, not the more popular one with Anthony Hopkins.  Lewis fans all commend it.

The Holy Spirit  Billy Graham (Nelson) $14.99  There are more sophisticated scholarly works on the Spirit, some more practical about the Spirit's gifts or fruits, but few are as clear and helpful and full of great information and inspiration.  Graham was more of a great reader than most realize and this is a fine example of his lasting writing ministry.  Very nicely done.

Can I Trust the Bible: Defending the Bible's Reliability Darrell L. Bock (RZIM) $4.95  Of course there are hundreds of books of various sorts and styles, but this slim booklet has great information preparing you to give a reasonable case for the trustworthiness of Scripture.  A very handy tool to have and to share with those who are perplexed.

Is the New Testament Reliable? (second edition) Paul Barnett (IVP) $16.00  With all the nonsense in the media about the gnostic gospels and the lack of historicity of the New Testament (not to mention the resurrection accounts) and any number of best-selling books about the errors of the earliest manuscripts, etcetera, etcetera, this is very interesting and a helpful case for authenticity and trustworthiness of the New Testament.  Very well done.

Meditating on the Word  Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Cowley) $17.95  In this remarkable volume you can read a letter Bonhoeffer wrote about the Bible, learn of his practical guidance about how to meditate on Scripture, and reflect on a handful of solid sermons on various Psalms.  Not to be missed. Compiled and edited by Episcopal priest,  David McI. Gracie.

DVD Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?  (Ignatius Press) $19.95  This is a fascinating and educational documentary featuring an array of conservative Catholic, mainline Protestant and evangelical scholars, from Fr. Mitch Pacwas, Johnnette Benkovic, Craig Blomberg, Craig Evans, Timothy Gray, Gary Habermas, Edward Sri, Roy Schoeman, Fr. Ronald Tacelli, Ben Witherington.  All have PhDs and each offer insight in this critical examination of the facts about the resurrection of Jesus.  Wow.

The Call: Finding and Fulfilling Your Life's Central Purpose Os Guinness (Nelson) $17.99  Thoughtful evangelicals in the DC area who are striving to live out their faith and convictions in the marketplace, the academy, the think-tanks and corridors of power surely must have a strong understanding of the Biblical notion of vocation (as should we all.)  You may know I have viewed Os as a bit of a mentor and hero and often say this is one of my favorite books.  Kudos to CSLI for holding up this vision and reading this wonderfully rich and beautifully written work.

DVD  Amazing Grace (Bristol Bay/20th Century Fox) $19.99  Directed by Michael Apted.   Much has been written about this exceptionally popular drama about the profoundly Christian work of William Wilberforce, his sense of calling, and his effort to integrate his faith and his own political vocation.  The story of the long British campaign to abolish slavery has never been more wonderfully told.  A perfect movie to use in Washington, of course, but a vital one for us all.  Highly recommend to own and to loan.

CD "Understanding Postmodernism"  Mark Stibbes  (Father's House Trust) $10.95  We have paid a copyright fee and have been given permission to duplicate this audio lecture by the creative British evangelist and are happy to make it available to friends of the CSLI.  There is so much more to learn about this topic, but this is an articulate starting point.

The Postmodern World: Discerning the Times and the Spirit of Our Age  Millard J. Erickson (Crossway) $14.99  Lewis fans will know that Lewis had great concern about the nature of truth, and also exposed the ways in which faith in scientistic rationalism reduced our insights, disregarding the role of the imagination, a human way of knowing that he valued deeply.  Was Lewis, then, an early postmodernist?  Hmmm. That isn't the theme of this book---which attempts to give a fair and lucid explanation of the role of postmodern theories in popular culture, at the university.  One cannot avoid this question, and Erickson is a fine guide to the discussions, offering some wise, qualified appreciation and much critique of deconstruction.

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See the C.S. Lewis Institute Fellows List

There are a handful of great organizations that have allowed us to be their book providers.  As6a00e554e8872388330134817ccaf0970c.jpg most of you know, we often go out on the road, setting up displays, taking the titles to town, selling them to the groups that are kind enough to allow us space.  We do this with denominational groups and para-church ministries and we are grateful.

A few organizations have us listed at their websites, encouraging their patrons to order resources through us. Again, what a thrill for us--we are so grateful.  It is a joy when someone says they saw our link at The Simple Way or Cardus, Square Halo Press or  Burnside Writer's Collective, The Washington Institute of Faith, Culture and Vocation or the best campus outreach gang we know, the CCO.  Just the other day a fellow wandered in who had found us by reading Andy Crouch's Culture Making: Recovering our Creative Calling (IVP; $22.00) where we are kindly mentioned.  This week another guy ordered one of our favorite Brian Walsh books where he saw our name mentioned.  These organic connections are a blessing to us, even if (if truth be told) they don't generate tons of business.  But we are honored to be connected to so many great groups and are glad for the ways they keep us afloat.

Every summer we get a batch of orders from our friends at the C.S. Lewis Institute in Washington DC for their long-standing discipleship class called their Fellows Program.  This rigorous training program for women and men is now being duplicated in Atlanta (three cheers for Lewis fan and visionary Bill Smith there), Annapolis, and, Lord willing, some other sites in years to come.

The Fellows program takes Lewis as a jumping off point but is not a Lewis study club.  It is a discipleship class which informs both the heart and mind, using some of the best of today's evangelical authors and includes meeting with mentors, lots of handouts, readings, downloaded sermons, even DVDs that have to be watched---including dramatizations from Luther to Amazing Grace to Bonhoeffer.  Being involved in this multi-faceted, year-long learning community demands a large commitment (and, as you might imagine, most of the participants around the DC Beltway are themselves already in demanding careers, working in business and law and public service and research and the like.)

book-of-hours-279x300.jpgCould you imagine creating a year of study and learning in your community?  Do you know folks hungry to learn? Would your program be worth their while?  What resources would you use? 

The leaders of the C.S. Lewis Institute are theologically rigorous, evangelical, and, like Lewis, not only quite orthodox, but delightfully eager to read, talk, learn, and live out faith in the complexities of calling and career in the modern world.   As you can see from their list, they read a lot.

We are glad that they suggest our services to the Lewis Fellows and we try to keep their required readings on hand so we can send them out promptly as they order throughout the year.

We thought it would be fun for our BookNotes readers to see this excellent list.  I think I have read most of the books listed (in fact, have helped them pick a few of them.) Their list changes a bit from year to year and some years they have run a "year two" Fellows program with other titles.  We thought you might be blessed just to know that these kinds of programs exist and that these kinds of reading lists have been developed.  

Below is a link to my monthly longer Review column and the list of what the Lewis Fellows are now using. In some cases, they only have to read certain key chapters.  The descriptions are mine and you should recall that they work through these, using them wisely, discussing them with mentors, supplementing their formation with other reading, classes, videos and experiences.

We are grateful that they recommend us as a source for their folks to purchase these books and DVDs, but we should be clear that CSLI does not endorse Hearts & Minds in any official way nor does CSLI have any official relationship with us.  We have sold books at some of their large conferences (with N.T. Wright,  Ravi Zacharias or Os Guinness, say), we love their meaty quarterly journal (Knowing & Doing), appreciate their work, recommend the free audio and video lectures available at their website, and are glad for their friendship.

 And we are grateful for book lists like this. Maybe you might want to pick some up and read along.

SEE THE WHOLE LIST AT OUR MAY REVIEW COLUMN.  All books and DVDs listed are available at a discount, too.  Just let us know how we might help you further.  Happy reading!