About April 2013

This page contains all entries posted to Hearts & Minds Books in April 2013. They are listed from oldest to newest.

March 2013 is the previous archive.

May 2013 is the next archive.

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

April 2013 Archives

April 3, 2013

Five New Books, Highly Recommended: Edgar on Schaeffer, Wallis on the common good, a collection on Bonhoeffer, a new Newbigin, and Wilson on "God's Good World." 20% OFF

Do you recall how in the last post I invited you to an agenda of "resurrectionary reading"?  Here are some books that will help us gain greater clarity about the Lordship of the risen Christ in the world.  They are enjoyable, vibrant, helpful, and good.  Christ is Risen!  These help us live it out...

Sschaeffer on.pngchaeffer on the Christian Life: Countercultural Spirituality  William Edgar (Crossway) $17.99 There are other biographies of Francis Schaeffer and of course he and the late Edith Schaeffer have between them nearly 50 books of their own. With Edith's passing last week, many have written on-line tributes. (At the Hearts & Minds bookstore's facebook page I even told a brief, fun story of how Edith held and comforted our daughter Stephanie -- and us -- when Steph was an infant.) Now is an excellent time to reconsider the impact of the Schaeffers and this new book is the place to begin.

I think this is my favorite book about Schaeffer, written by a man I trust immensely; Bill Edgar is a respected and beloved professor at Westminster Theological Seminary, theologically balanced, thoughtful, gracious, and particularly insightful (especially about culture, the arts, and how best to witness to the goodness of God's ways within the contemporary zeitgeist) not to mention a great jazz pianist. That he is a Harvard graduate who was converted from agnosticism during his own time at Schaeffer's Swiss L'Abri gives this survey a real integrity - Edgar knew Schaeffer, was influenced by Schaeffer and has studied with others in his orbit (from art historian Hans Rookmaaker to philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd.) He knows first-hand what he's talking about.

The heart of this beautiful book is a serious look at what Edgar maintains is the heart of Schaeffer's call for cultural renewal and relevant, reformational faith; namely, his warm, wholistic piety.  Edgar's explication of Schaeffer's True Spirituality helps us see how his broader themes - the combination of heart and mind, the call to honor Christ across all of life, the passion for the arts and for social justice - are grounded in the reality of this daily walk with God in union with the living Christ. Edgar explains Schaeffer on spiritual formation, so to speak, and it is immensely helpful (especially in this age when many of us are learning well from medieval saints and contemporary monastics.) Schaeffer's views of spirituality are as fresh and insightful as ever. This is a book for our time. As Schaeffer biographer Colin Duriez writes of Schaeffer on the Christian Life, "This engaging book captures the fire of Schaeffer's thought and concerns, and revisits and reinvigorates the still-urgent challenge he presented to the church in the modern world."
  
Two wonderful chapters - the first and the last - offer more of Mr. Edgar's own story and while these chapters are still clearly about Schaeffer and L'Abri, it is always wonderful to hear a thoughtful person share their own testimony of conversion and how they grew into deeper faith and discipleship.  These two chapters are full of impressions and neat recollections and are enlightening for us all and especially instructional for those who do ministry and mentor others -- how this whole process of impacting others can work is lovely to behold.  These two chapters and their more personal recollections provide a lived, first-hand example of the very serious stuff with which this book profoundly grapples. It is affectionate and personal, emerging from a writer with an obviously deep interior life, about a writer with a deep, trusting faith, even as it ruminates on some of the most important issues of our postmodern times.

Fran Schaeffer continues to be important to us, here, and we think it would be good if more of our customers bought his work, or books about his work. Edgar is an excellent author himself, a perfect choice for an engaging study of this sort, so this book consequently is very highly recommended.  Schaeffer on the Christian Life: Countercultural Spirituality by the way, is part of a series called "The Theologians on the Christian Life." Kudos to Crossway for helping us, as they put it, "gaining wisdom from the past for life in the present."

Oon god's side wallis.jpgn God's Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn't Learned About Serving the Common Good  Jim Wallis (Brazos Press) $21.99  I think Jim may have been the first nationally-known author we had in our little shop maybe 25 years ago.  I am proud to say I read Sojourners magazine in college when it was still called Post-American -- a housemate even had a Post-American cover with a picture of Thomas Merton taped to our bedroom wall.  And I have read all of Jim's writings; The Call to Conversion remains one of my all-time favorite books.  He may not be my favorite public theologian, necessarily; I am not the only Sojo fan who finds some of their important work less than fully adequate at times.  Still, as I insist even to those who don't like his left-leaning tendencies, Wallis is a good writer, makes tons of sense, and is more balanced and careful than many who mostly traffic in slogans and clichés on the far left or right.  So, I really, really think we should read and engage his contributions to our on-going efforts to discern a Biblically-faithful public witness in our post-Christian, pluralistic and woefully polarized culture.  We have promoted each of his books over the years, and are especially excited about this one.

This is not the first time Wallis has introduced the phrase "the common good" but it is, perhaps surprisingly, the first time he has made it the central organizing theme of a whole book, and it makes it certainly one of his very best.  One of the burdens of this book - and, again, this is not new to Wallis - is to encourage "common ground for the common good."  He encourages dialogue and healthy debate, multi-faith conversations and mutual efforts (informal and programmatic) to overcome the ideological divides that are tearing our social fabric.  He has modeled this in his own life (and, in fact, has done his share of dialogues and debates with right-leaning people of Christian faith and with those of other faiths.)  That there is an endorsement by former Republican speechwriter Michael Gerson is a nice indication of this very thing.  Gerson writes, "Jim Wallis and I have a variety of differences on domestic and international policy, but there is no message more timely or urgent than his call to actively consider the common good." To his credit, Wallis cites him in the book.

Speaking of endorsements, this is one of the books that already has a huge reputation from prestigious followers - from Bono to Scot McKnight, Anne Lamott to Miroslov Volf, Cornel West to Lynne Hybels. Older leaders like William Willimon calls it "hopeful and incisive" even though it "pulls no punches."  He says it has "fresh insights on almost every page."  Younger social media cats like Jonathan Merritt, similarly, say "every chapter of this book will stretch your mind, challenging your thinking, and push you to consider the hope summed up in its opening words: 'Our life together can be better.'"

Jim explains early on that he wrote this book while on a sabbatical from his travel, activism, and fast-paced, Washington-based journalism.  There are (not surprisingly for those that know him) stories of baseball, stuff about his family - two boys and wife, Joy, a Church of England priest serving in an inner city DC parish - and a groundedness that reminds us of his inner formation shaped through years of involvement with folks like the late Gordon Cosby, Catholic spiritual directors, and good friendships with the likes of Richard Rohr. I was thrilled to read some of the little stories and illustrations that are set in a retreat center or insights gleaned from a renewed season of prayer and play.  And - get this! - his ruminations on Aslan from yet another reading of the Chronicles of Narnia are fantastic.  Aslan is, indeed, on the move, even at Sojourners!  This makes the book very enjoyable and very inspiring!  Sure there are some policy recommendations, but, at heart, Wallis is a preacher.  And it comes through well in On God's Side.

Besides the enjoyable writing from this Sabbath-time book, and the fairly standard-fair, but always inspiring Biblical studies about peace and justice (Luke 4, Isiah 58, and the like) and racial reconciliation, there are important contributions to our consideration of the nature of public justice for the common good. He helpfully and succinctly explores this notion, reminding us of what it means to care for the commonwealth; the good of the commons, including civil society. 

And there are extraordinary (sadly, too rare these days) overtures of what common ground liberals and conservatives might find in this search for making the society better for all.  Joel Hunter, himself a fairly traditional Southern mega-church evangelical, says "This is the finest of all Jim Wallis' writings. Jim's comprehension of how Scripture and political issues relate to each other is surpassed only by the number of bridges he builds so that we can all solve problems together.   Reading this book will help you be more like Jesus, especially in the public square." That is a hearty endorsement, and On God's Side deserves it.  With its beautiful cover and good Lincoln quote on the front, even, this really is a very, very good book to have.

By the way, we will be selling books with Jim Wallis on Tuesday evening, April 9th, inst mary's.jpg Baltimore at the Ecumenical Institute of Theology at Saint Mary's Seminary & University (easy to get to near Towson, Maryland at 5400 Roland Avenue Baltimore, MD 21210.)  Following his lecture in their beautiful public hall there will be a great panel discussion, including a woman who is a Reform Jewish rabbi, a United Methodist pastor and urban leader, and a moral theologian from St. Mary's.  Jim will sign books both before and after the talk.  It is free and open to the public and we (once again) thank the Ecumenical Institute for inviting us to be a part of their good work in their very classy setting. 

If you would like an autographed copy, we can probably swing that.  Just let us know to whom you want us to have it inscribed, or if you'd just prefer an signature. We will gladly mail them to you promptly.
 
Bbonhoeffer, christ and  culture.jpgonhoeffer, Christ and Culture  edited by Keith Johnson & Timothy Larsen (IVP Academic) $20.00  Every year, Wheaton College hosts a top-drawer, extraordinary theology conference and this new book gathers together the excellent papers which were presented at the 2012 event.  Although most of the presenters self-identify as evangelicals, not all do, making this a very interesting, provocative, and delightfully multi-vocal anthology.  A few of the chapters are thrilling to me (one great one was on how evangelicals, particularly, have engaged Bonhoeffer - from curiously positive Moody Monthly articles in the mid-60s to Cornelius Van Til's philosophical criticisms, to the nearly superstar status of Eric Metaxas' important 2011 biography, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr Prophet, Spy.) One chapter is exquisitely moving, as Jim Belcher narrates a trip to several Bonhoeffer sites in Germany.  Charles Marsh is here writing on grace; Stephen Plant on politics, Joel Lawrence gives a powerful chapter on being "a church for others."  Daniel Treier has a fascinating chapter using Bonhoeffer to help us navigate modernity and its machines. Reggie Williams offers a fabulous piece on Bonhoeffer's time amidst the Harlem Renaissance (which is, by the way, a tremendous, tremendous chapter on a topic that most of us could stand to learn more about.)  Lutheran professor Lori Brandt Hale, co-author of the great little Bonhoeffer for Armchair Theologians (Westminster/John Knox; $17.00) offers a very helpful chapter on Bonhoeffer's teachings about vocation.

This new collection is very, very informative, perhaps a bit academic for some tastes, with tons of great footnotes and helpful citations.  Despite the serious quality of the scholarship, the many extensive chapters are mostly very well-written, inspiring, even.  I was told as a young bookseller decades ago that books by Bonhoeffer sell well while books about Bonhoeffer do not.  With Metaxas, that has changed.  Let's disprove the adage again, and get this book known, studied, discussed, and celebrated. It deserves a wide readership.

Here you can watch most of the Theology Conference lectures for free.  I share this because it is great to have generous access to these sorts of resources and because I think once you see some of this serious stuff, you just may want to buy the book.  Enjoy! 

Ffaith in a changing world.jpgaith in a Changing World  Lesslie Newbigin edited by Paul Weston (St. Paul's Theology Centre) $12.99 Just when you thought you had known of everything in print by the famous missionary to India, here comes a wonderful newly edited volume including two of his important, but long out-of-print (British) books in one nice paperback.  Included here are two of Newbigin's classic works, Discovering Hope in a Changing World and Living Hope in a Changing World.  As it says on the back cover, "Together, they present the Christian story as a lens through which to view and understand God and the world, demonstrating that Christianity is a viable way to live one's life today, and that Christians need not retreat to a private world where faith is presumed to be 'mere opinion.'"

Newbigin was an astute thinker, a dear man (by all accounts) and a good speaker. The influence of his work in our time is inestimable (fueling as he did the "missional church" perspective and the "Gospel in Our Culture Network."
 
His Foolishness to the Greeks (Eerdmans; $16.00) by the way, is my favorite book of his and remains the one I tell folks to start with, although this new one may replace that as the go-to starter.  These two seem to cover much of his oeuvre - Scripture, authority, doctrine, Trinitarian wisdom, cultural engagement, world religions.  Lesslie Newbigin (who died in 1998) always placed the Christian faith squarely at the center of public life - his biggest selling book is bluntly called The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society (Eerdmans; $25.00)- and in this new one, here, he again explores in his incisive way, the impact of secular Enlightenment philosophy and scientism, asking if the gospel ("as public truth") can offer a coherent life-giving alternative worldview.  We just discovered this book and just got it in and are quite pleased to commend it.

Ggod's good world.jpgod's Good World: Reclaiming the Doctrine of Creation Jonathan R. Wilson (Baker Academic) $24.99  I have been waiting for a book like this for years, and am so very happy this has arrived. Our best theologians have reminded us that to fully understand Christ's work of redemption and the very nature of God's Kingdom we must start - as the Biblical narrative itself does - with the doctrine of creation.  This world of original blessing, what Calvin called "the theater of God," is the location, the context, the setting, the focus, of God's redemption.  The whole creation groans, Romans 8 tells us, awaiting humans (the original caretakers of creation) to be reconciled with their Creator; in Christ (the second Adam) we can again take up our task to image God in the world of God's good creation.  Any fruitful exploration of faith and discipleship that missed this given context of our lives will be, at best, inadequate and, worse, woefully distorted -- gnostic, quietistic, weird.

I think it was Al Wolters in his influential Creation Regained (Eerdmans; $15.00) who quipped that a robust doctrine of creation is useful for more than defeating evolutionists, and, in fact, includes the structures and institutions built into the created order (like, say, obviously, family and government or the possibility for art and science, work and recreation) and not just rocks, bears and galaxies. To have a full-orbed and fully fruitful view of creation, we will have to examine all the implications of the reality, and this fine book takes up this challenge wonderfully.
 
Leaders in the faith-based environmental movement urging better theology about and efforts of caring for creation have endorsed it, raving.  (Loren Wilkinson of Regent College has a long, glowing endorsement, and says it is "a very important book." Peter Harris of A Rocha says it is "a major contribution.") Others remind us that this book is useful in ways far beyond the obvious concerns of creation care and environmental stewardship. Brian Brock of the King's College of the University of Aberdeen insists, "This book should be mandatory reading for pastors, theological students and believers who care about the burning moral issues of our day and want to rethink them theologically."  I cannot easily explain how far-reaching this book is, but invite you to look at the table of contents here. (Then come back and order it from us!)
 
Old Testament scholar Tremper Longman writes of God's Good World "In the current discussions concerning the biblical doctrine of creation, we often bypass what is most important to us as Christians as we debate the issues like the age of the earth or the length of creation days. Jonathan Wilson corrects this oversight as he masterfully guides us to a rich appreciation of God as our Creator and Redeemer."  Yes, not only does this book unlock important -- essential! -- insights about the nature of creation, and the implications of living in a created reality but it points us towards the very character of a God who is a creator.  And who sustains and redeems and restores the creation.

Yes, this is a beautiful book, wonderfully written, far-ranging (and it even includes some truly lovely woodcuts enhancing each vital chapter.) We are very, very glad for this, hoping it is widely read and deeply pondered.  I wrote a week ago about "resurrectionary reading" programs that explore the issues of life in light of the grand truth of Christ's victory of death, as witnessed by the empty tomb.  Reading a book like this is an absolutely central aspect of this agenda, since Christ is risen (indeed) with a physical body, the resurrection points to the newness Christ is bringing to all creation!  Knowing resurrection faith well requires that we know creation faith.  This is a great book. Happy resurrectionary reading!

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April 8, 2013

Freefall to Fly: A Breathtaking Journey Toward a Life of Meaning -- ON SALE NOW: $15.00

Perhaps you read my Easter essay, originally published in the Washington Institute on Faithreading- good missiology.jpg, Vocation and Culture.  I  tried to make the case that in the death and resurrection of Christ the "death of death" has been accomplished, which means not only that those in Christ are promised eternal life, but that God's own rulership of the world is assured -- the divine restoration of all things has begun! The brokenness and hurt of this fallen world is being healed!  This in-breaking of the rescue plan of the world God so loves means we have to learn how to live as new creations in a new world coming; a Christ-centered commonwealth called in the Bible the Kingdom of God, into which we are transplanted.  Being savingly liberated from the bondage of the old order is, of course, only the start of the Christian journey and we are now tasked with discerning the shape and texture of Christian discipleship in our place, in our time.
 
Part of that task of new creation living includes eschewing the anti-intellectualism and sentimentality that is commonplace in many churches (liberal or conservative, or so it seems to me.) To blaze new trails of 21st century fidelity, we need groups who take up resurrectionary reading.  "Study to show thyself approved" the apostle wrote to young Timothy (2 Timothy 2:15.)  If you hunger to learn more, if you agree that books are tools for discipleship, and you desire a "renewed mind" (Romans 12:2) or what Philippians 2:5 calls "the mind" of Christ then you know that thoughtful reading must be part of your regimen of spiritual disciplines. Buying and giving (and begging and borrowing) books is part of what we do.  We are, as they say, "people of the Book" and our faith communities must be communities of discourse where books and their ideas of commonly discussed. We treasure the printed page, Holy Writ and more ordinary books as well. We resist the easy tendency to "amuse ourselves to death" and take up the task of becoming well read.

In the most recent post, then, I described five books that I thought might point us towards renewed conversations about Kingdom living, learning to think in fresh ways about culture, society, about impacting the world around us.  From Francis Schaeffer to Jim Wallis to Leslie Newbigin, and more, they are very good and remain on sale as BookNotes features. If you haven't browsed through that little list, I hope you do.  Reading in light of the resurrection can help us be more effective as salt and light and leaven.  And - I hope you agree - it is often a pleasant discipline; well-written non-fiction is in many cases an artful joy, beautiful words bringing beautiful ideas.

Resurrectionary reading, though, is not always all about big ideas for social change, cultural studies and public faith. Sometimes, it is good to read more personal stories (you know we love memoir and find it truly wonderful to see how others narrate their lives.) Here is a new book written by a woman who ruminates nicely on her own spiritual journeys.  This book is at time page-turning riveting and at times poignantly tender and poetic. It points to the goodness of glimpses - glimpses of hope and healing, glimpses of meaning and purpose, glimpses of joy and freedom amidst very hard times.  It is a book I hope you consider buying from us.


Ffreefall.jpgreefall to Fly: A Breathtaking Journey Toward a Life of Meaning  Rebekah Lyons (Tyndale)  $19.99

This is the story of a thoughtful, well-connected, upbeat young woman who seemed to many, and perhaps herself, and to her husband, Q Ideas founder and author Gabe Lyons, to be a poster child for the kind of hip and idealistic "next generation" Christian who talks about vocations of transforming culture, being a catalyst of change, embracing servant leadership, creating social initiatives, impacting the world and the like. One who seems to have it all together.  Rebekah Lyons was part of a recent renaissance of Southern evangelicals without the conservative cultural baggage (let alone the right-wing religious belligerence), a talented cohort that is building bridges and starting shiny new organizations, creating signposts of a new way of being Christian.  Gabe and Rebekah lived in the suburbs but had exciting lives, working in the rising young evangelical church communities in Atlanta even as they started their new family. 

A few years ago they discerned a call to move from their close network of energetic compatriots to the Big Apple, establishing Q Ideas in the heart of Manhattan.  Ms Lyons' compelling narrative begins with a tearful goodbye to close friends in Atlanta. I am sure I am not the only reader who was immediately drawn in - emotionally hit in the gut, choked up on her behalf, and having a deep spot of grief touched in my own life. (Oh, how Beth and I recall our last nights in our reformational community in Pittsburgh 30 years ago when our brothers and sisters there commissioned us to move to central Pennsylvania to follow our bookstore dream.) Who hasn't said hard goodbyes?  I think many readers will be hooked at the very first, realizing how momentous this transition will be.  And so, the first few pages tell us much.  Rebekah is being stretched by this move and while she claims to be on board with the vision of Q and Gabe's righteous aspirations, she is paying a price, leaving friends and relationships and a culture in which she knows her place, her calling, her gifts.  She is leaving home.

I really like the video trailer for this good book and knowing Gabe and Rebekah just a bit, I know that their passion is to help facilitate networking and conversations around themes of evangelical cultural witness, promoting "common grace for the common good" sorts of projects.  They are remarkably talented, bold, and visionary with sharp instincts and notable expertise. I don't know how they do it -- from the finances of running classy nationally-known events like the annual Q gathering to creating and offering regional workshops, creative confabs and networking soirées.  But this book is not just about dreaming big and making a difference and getting to do cool stuff.  It is not primarily Rebekah's invitation for women to take risks and do good work, as she has done in her own journey to New York.  Rather, it is about the cost of doing that. It is about learning how. It is about a woman and her identity and how that is sometimes hard to discern, even in these modern times. I was taken aback - I really was - by how I misunderstood the nature of this book.  I should know better, but sometimes I jump too quickly to presume what a writer has to offer, what a book really is about. Freefall is much more painful and real than I expected -- more authentic, gritty story and not just a call to fly high. I wasn't fully off base -- in some ways this is about women dreaming big, about engaging the world with one's gifts and passions, about serving and trusting God with gusto. Lean in, ladies. Or, as she says, lean out!  This is Mrs. Gabe Lyons, after all, so let's get some big ideas going and Make It Happen.

But more, this is an honest, and at times raw look at Rebekah's interior life, her fears and struggles and doubts.  She is admirably candid about her sense of being overwhelmed and she is candid about her weaknesses.  For a nationally-known emerging leader in a fairly fashionable setting (they literally work with fashion designers; just sayin') it is beautiful to hear Rebekah talk with such transparency about her anxieties living in Manhattan, the difficulties with buses and crowds and heat and the cost of living.  If somebody as vital and strong and with such a supportive and forward-thinking man of faith as a husband as she has experiences hardship adjusting to new living conditions and new work contexts, my goodness, do those of us without such supports stand a chance?

Many of us know (as they have told part of this story before) that Gabe and Rebekah's first child was born with Down's Syndrome.  Some parts of the book are directly about the challenges of parenting a special needs child (including two of the most riveting scenes in the book) but it isn't mostly about that.  Some parts of the book are about her debilitating anxiety attacks, a disorder she was brave to reveal and which also brings some incredible drama to the story - wow. Some parts of the book are just about coping with raising three children in an extraordinary, complex neighborhood while trying to do extraordinary ministry; the lessons learned about forming supportive friendships, working honestly with her husband, staying connected with older friends and family, having rituals and caring about places, all of this is helpful for any of us in times of transition.  All of this storytelling and reflection creates a moving memoir, packed with gems of insight, some offered forthrightly, others that sneak in between the lines.

As you can surmise, this is the sort of book we love to promote and I think that you - our BookNotes readers and Hearts & Minds friends - will especially appreciate it.  This is not a literary memoir written only for its own sake, really, but it is also not just a self-help book of  practical guidance, either.  It is a lovely mix of story and suggestions. It narrates the authors ups and downs, sharing her insights along the way, learned often the hard way. She tells of her marriage and kids but also episodes with life-long friends -- she importantly has a group of women who gather yearly for intentional times of support and life-sharing (and a bit of shopping.) Hearing about those times of retreat was very inspiring to me. I think you will be glad to learn what she learned and will take courage in your own life as you hear how she coped with her own struggles and perplexing opportunities and reliable relationships.

Ms Lyons' unique voice as a woman struggling to "fly" but feeling like she is in a dangerous freefall, is a major feature of this book.  As a male reader, I really, really liked it, and appreciated her good writing and her relevant faith and her revealing candor.  This makes for a meaningful, poignant book that is both enjoyable and helpful. I realize it is written primarily for women, but I do hope guys read it; men can learn about their own anxieties and fears of flying from this sister who has been there.

And also there is this quiet subtext of how women navigate their faith journey and discern various facets of their callings when the navigation and discernment is tied to homemaking and child rearing. Most decent married men know of the profound calling they have to be active in their families involved as husbands and dads, but most are also clear about their vocations in the world, that they might make a difference here or there, for God's sake. It may be otherwise for many women.  Alas, unless married men talk about these things with their wives and women friends, many wives themselves will feel like they may not be able to adequately pursue their own dreams, their own callings, their own network of friends and mentors.  This book isn't directly about gender roles in Kingdom ministry, but learning the art of navigating the complexity of calling and career and home and children and community is certainly a part of Lyons' story.  Learning to support and encourage one another in times of despair and hurt, too, is part of this story. (Again, how many of us long to be better spouses or friends to those who are emotionally distraught, struggling, or in chronic pain?) I am grateful to learn from her, and hope many will appreciate her vulnerability in sharing her story of loneliness and frustration and hope and deeper faith.

The lovely cover of Freefall to Fly is done by a chalk artist that was befriended by Ms Lyons and in many ways that little touch speaks volumes about the vision of this book.  The Brooklyn-based woman did chalk art for local projects, serving social initiatives with her talents, and was encouraged by others to pursue this not as a small side project but as a calling, perhaps a career. The side hustle can become the dream, and Rebekah getting the publisher to use this artist's work shows not only how Rebekah encourages others to pursue their passions, but how this leads to beautiful collaboration, to friendships, to really "flying" in life.  Yes, flying fully may feel like a freefall.  It can be terrifying;  it can even be devastating - to say yes to some possibilities means to necessarily say no to some other possibilities. Plans can be derailed and there are seasons when we simply don't know what we should do next.  Can we let go of our preconceptions of what our life should be like?  As men and women, can we take risks, stepping out in faith to find a life of purpose and coherence and significance?  And what does it look like to do that?
 
Rebekah gives some very useful guidelines which you can use in your own discernment process but is perhaps best captured in this epigram, from chapter 9, a line from Kobi Yamada: "She took the leap and built her wings on the way down."

Or maybe it is captured in this lovely blurb from Ann Voskamp,

Rebekah Lyons writes a vulnerable story of her unexpected winging into the light and dark of mothering, womanhood, and visionary living, only to discover what it means to find the full hope of the sky.
"The full hope of the sky."  Now that's a book you gotta love!

This is a book of raw, real hope for women about letting go of fear, learning to surrender to God, finding courage to embrace new realities, to be self-aware about one's own talents and passions, to nurture friendships and supportive community, to find contentment and strength to pursue dreams and vocations.  It is a book about motherhood, about marriage, about making sense of faith and life amidst crippling anxieties.  As the back cover colorfully says, it is about "the dark night of the soul in the city that never sleeps." It is a book you will enjoy, that you will want to talk about, that you will learn from.   We are happy to feature it, glad to offer it here, on sale.  Happy reading -- and may you experience freedom to fail, freedom to fall, and freedom to fly.


BookNotes

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Freefall to Fly
Rebekah Lyons

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April 19, 2013

Music Matters: Books on Popular Culture & Contemporary Music inspired by the Calvin College Festival of Faith & Music 2013. ALL BOOKS MENTIONED 20% OFF

If you followed the Hearts & Minds facebook page (or my own) you know that last weekend we attended the Calvin College Festival of Faith & Music.  It may have been the first vacation we've had in years and it was just wonderful to be with our good, good friends, Ken & Gailffm logo.png Heffner.  Ken and his Student Activities Organization (our daughter Marissa helps out a bit) run this extraordinary conference on pop culture every other year. (In the off years there is this little breathtaking thing known as the Calvin Festival of Faith & Writing.) Just reading through the FFM workshop speakers, topics, and conversations is instructive, not to mention seeing the artists who played, so visit their site, here.  It's the kind of event that many of our BookNotes readers care about, so I figured you'd like to hear about it, the authors who spoke, the books that were discussed (or that should have been, imho.)  You follow our bookstore's work for a reason, and I trust this is one of them.  I can't wait to tell you about it...

This year's FFM was, as always, a heady mix of lectures, workshops, concerts large and small, and some fabulously interesting late night after-parties. What fun to get to hear musicians perform their sets in intimate rooms, artists as diverse as the Soil and the Sun, Care, and, say, Julie Lee and Sarah Mason; and there were bigger shows with Welcome Wagon, Andrew Bird, and Josh Garrels with Mason Jar Music collective.  It was so cool crossing paths with Noisetrade founders Derek Webb and Brannon McAllister, her.menutics.com and Christianity Today editor Katelyn Beaty (herself an alum of Calvin.) Being with friends like singer-songwriter (and now author) Justin McRoberts, or Redeemer Presbyterian's art guru (and harp blowing bluesman) Kenyon Adams, was precious for Beth and I.  As Ken Heffner put it, this gathering is a bit unique as participants get to learn and think and reflect, even with scholarly papers, and then also actually experience the very art and music which is being explored.  That we did this with wise, Christian leaders and bunches of college-age young adults --- the event is held at a college, after all --- makes the Festival especially interesting. Never has the interface of theory and praxis been so much fun. Woo-hooo.

Vacation-time is over, though, so I'm back to being the book guy.  For our purposes, here, then, allow me to name a few books by the authors who spoke at the festival (forgive me if I miss some) and a handful of other books that are new or important.  These will help us as we think as people of Biblical faith about the contemporary music scene.
 
TThe Soul-Of-Hip-Hop.jpghe Soul of Hip Hop: Rims, Timbs and a Cultural Theology Daniel White Hodge  (IVP) $17.00  I've said this before, but this may be the very best book on hip hop culture and the amazing art form of rap.  Hodge is an astute observer, knows the history of the style, and - thank goodness, for a book like this! - enjoys it.  His presentation the first night of the Calvin Festival was riveting, bold and passionate, well beyond a surface look, engaged with the passion of a devotee and evangelist.  He wanted us to get it, to appreciate the lyrical power and social themes of the prophetic imagination emerging from the often disenfranchised artists who have shaped this genre.  This is radical, Biblical reflection, and his book deserves to be known, read, considered.  Certainly if you know young adults who like hip hop you should tell them about this book.  We have a few others, but this is the best.  Kudos to Calvin for once again hosting this good brother.


Ssin boldly.jpgin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace  Cathleen Falsini (Zondervan) $19.99  I adore this book and it was so wonderful hearing Ms Falsini again. It was, in fact, deeply moving -  Beth and I fought back tears when she played "Born at the Right Time" from Paul Simon's Rhythm of the Saints as she talked about adopting her son from Malawi. And I got choked up when she told about her travels with Bono while playing a post 9-11 live video version of one of the many U2 songs that helped so many of us cope after that tragedy.  Falsani has written before about the first time she heard the first single from Mumford & Sons new album, Babel, as she was on her way to be with her dying father.  So, she certainly did a marvelous job, as she does in Sin Boldly, finding glimpses of grace all over the world, in the good and the bad, in politics and poverty and film and rock and roll.  Her other books include the wonderfully curious The Dude Abides: The Gospel According to the Coen Brothers (Zondervan; $14.99) and -okay, I'll just say it, Belieber: Fame, Faith, and the Heart of Justin Beiber (Worthy; $16.99.)  As she said, offhandedly, "Lord have mercy, we should pray for that little boy."  Cathleen Falsani is an excellent writer and you should read her books.

Ssex drugs and.jpgex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto Chuck Klosterman (Scribner) $15.00 Many participants adored this edgy, Gen X writer, one of the more popular novelists and essayists of his generation, as he rambled through a hip talk pondering what in the world he was doing at a conference on religion and rock music.  Well, for starters, his novels are packed full of references to religion and music, and his collections of essays -fun, profane, pushy, witty, insightful - sometimes tackle the topic directly. (Chuck K is a sports writer, too, and his journalism there is also highly regarded among those who favor a certain informal, provocative style. In his talk he dismissed the recent pundit who compared him to Hunter S. Thompson but to even have to do that, well, 'nuff said.) Okay, so, anyway, he wondered how he got himself into this gig.
 
Way to go, Calvin College SOA, for inviting this  somewhat controversial guest into our conversation, for allowing us to (again) find insight from various quarters.  One of the great 19th century disciples of John Calvin was Abraham Kuyper, and it is Kuyper's sort of neo-Calvinism that animates Calvin College and the Festival with its blessed, if a bit dangerous, commitment to living into the themes of common grace. The phrase "Common grace for the common good" often is applied to politics, how we should draw on all manner of gifts and insights to build a public square that is just for all. At FFM such nods to common grace, also for the common good, means be willing to hear and engage the gifts of art, music, and cultural criticism, no matter from where itI wear the black hat.png comes.
 
By the way, Klosterman told us his next book is a study of evil, by way of looking at literary and film villains.  Philosophy, lit crit, pop culture and a heckuva creative prose style will combine to give us a great book, I'm sure. I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined) will release early June 2013.  It will be a hardback, selling for $25.00.  Let us know if you want to pre-order it (at the 20% BookNotes discount.)
 

Rright by her roots.jpgight By Her Roots: Americana Women and Their Songs Jewly Hight (Baylor University Press) $24.95  I really intended to catch this workshop, but the schedule didn't permit.  So glad we have had the book on our shelves for a year.  I've read a few of these good chapters (about Julie Miller, Victoria Williams, Michelle Shocked) and will now read more. One reviewer said when it came out that it "will end up being the best book written about American music this year"  FFM speaker David Dark invites us to be enriched saying, "With a powerful wit, intense attentiveness, and eloquent empathy, Jewly Hight is a dream come true for the songwriters to whom she pays careful and affectionate heed. By calling our attention to them, she lifts their voices, testifying concerning the ways their work uplifts, invigorates, and challenges our otherwise all-too-settled imaginations."

 
Eevery day ap.jpgveryday Apocalypse: The Sacred Revealed in Radiohead, the Simpsons, and other Pop Culture Icons  David Dark (Brazos) $18.00  What can I say?  Being with David is itself a bit of performance art; he's a genius, a wordsmith, and a dear, dear, loyal friend to many.  He has written several other books, all of which we commend (and, in fact, I've got an endorsing blurb on one of them, an honor I did not take lightly.)  Pop culture fans young and old, artists, filmmakers, writers, and thought leaders in this whole arena (like FFM's Ken Heffner) will regularly say that David Dark is one of their best supporters and his book truly seminal.  No one can talking knowingly about this topic without having read Everyday Apocalypse; it is that important.  If you are interested and into this topic and haven't read this amazingly rich, mind-blowing work, treat yourself and be prepared to have your world rocked.  Really.





Ppersonal jesus.jpgersonal Jesus: How Popular Music Shapes Our Souls  Clive Marsh & Vaughan S. Roberts (Baker Academic) $22.99  It was a delight to meet Vaughan (who gave an outstanding, research-based workshop) and to chat with some of his editorial staff at Baker who do so many good books in this series - what a fascinating gentleman scholar who is doing such fine work!  Yes, this book is a bit academic (and yes, the cover is, uh, well, you know.) But at its heart is something basic, something passionate, something nearly primal: how does listening to music effect us? Is it a religious experience and if so, how? What do people say when asked? What is going on here? (And, is it the lyric, mostly, or the music itself?)  This is a very serious, and I think groundbreaking rumination on how popular music works, the role it plays for listeners, and the phenomenon of its popularity. It really does have a missional edge, asking how we as Christians might engage the music itself, more faithfully, and with awareness of why we and our neighbors are influenced as we are by the music we love.

As Brett McCracken writes in the forward "Personal Jesus is one of the best theological treatments of pop culture I have ever read.  Marsh & Roberts offer a many-layered, comprehensive model for how we can more thoughtfully understand and engage pop music."  Or, as Catholic Gen X scholar Tom Beaudoin (Virtual Faith) writes, "Marsh & Roberts prepare the way for a new style of making theological sense of popular culture... they show us why studying the lived experience of popular music is an imperative if we want to find out where religion cohabitates with ordinary stuff, more or less openly, today: in the spaces of meaning communicated by music in everyday life."  Roberts is a Vicar of Collegiate Church in Warwick, England. I hope this book is bought and studied, discussed and taught.
 
Bbroken hallelujahs.jpgroken Hallelujahs: Why Popular Music Matters to Those Seeking God Christian Scharen (Baker) $18.00  I love this book, and really appreciate the work of this excellent author. (Scharen used to be at the Center for Faith and Culture at Yale Divinity School, but now teaches worship and theology at Luther Seminary in St. Paul.)  I've reviewed it before, so for how, here's what it says on the back cover:  "Building on the success of One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters to Those Seeking God, Christian Scharen shows how to engage faith and culture through a wide range of popular music, including the blues, hip-hop, and rock. He examines artists such as Arcade Fire, Kanye West, Leonard Cohen, and Billie Holiday, offering a fresh, compelling theology of culture in conversation with C. S. Lewis that can look suffering and brokenness in the face because it knows of a love deeper than hate, a hope stronger than despair. Written engagingly yet with theological depth, this book will resonate with readers interested in the interface between pop culture, music, and theology, as well as with pastors and youth ministers."

Don't Stop Believin': Popular Culture and Religion from Ben Hur to Zombies  edited bydon't stop.jpg  Robert K. Johnston, Craig Detweiler, and Barry Taylor (Westminster/John Knox) $20.00  I hope you know these authors, who form nearly an entire school of thought in this whole area of study. Each have written thoughtful books on film, music, entertainment, digital culture, media and the popular arts.  Together, now,  they've edited a fine collection of mature essays on hundreds and hundreds of topics.  Don't Stop... can be used as a conversation starter, as background for deeper thinking, or to dip in to whenever you have a spare moment or two (but be aware, it can be addicting!)  Skip to pedestrian cover and dive right in -- this is good, good content!  Read succinct insights about the Beatles, the significance of Star Trek, the meaning of Dr. Who, making sense of South Park, the aesthetics of Andy Warhol, the role of Calvin Klein and Nike ads, the theological significance of SimCity.

There are interesting pieces of culture-shaping events like the Super Bowl and on artifacts like the iPod and a good reflection on the impact of Facebook.

Of course there are entries on influential writers in the field such as Marshal McLuhen.  Naturally, there are pieces on classic musicians like Dylan, Marvin Gaye, Madonna, and Bob Marley and on filmmakers such as Woody Allen and Quentin Tarantino.  There is a lovely piece on Les Mis, and good ones on pop icons such as Mary Tyler Moore.
 
This remarkable reference guide is arranged chronologically from the 1950s - Johnny Cash shows up here, as does C.S. Lewis, and Mickey Mantle and Marilyn Monroe - and ends with the 2000s. This last section includes dozens of entries, including  Bansky, The Daily Show, Lost, Project Runway, Twilight, Wicked, World of Warcraft and more.

The pieces are succinct and informative; a few are nearly sublime. And, often, the connection of topic and author is itself quite fabulous: Lauren Winner on Mitford, David Dark on Amy Grant,  Steve Turner on the Beatles, Jana Riess on Buffy the Vampire Slayer,  Gareth Higgins on Desomd Tutu, Daniel White Hodge on Tupac Amaru Shakur,  Mark Pinsky, of course, on The Simpsons.  From contributions by sports writers to those exploring influential ad campaigns, from ruminations on socially-significant literature to the popular impact of certain political figures, this really is a glimpse into the making of the contemporary Western (and, increasingly, global) imagination. It is well worth your time to read these, bit by bit.  Enjoy!

There is a tremendous introduction, by the way, and the epilogue is equally fantastic, inviting us all into "The Mystery Discerning Business."  If you know this growing field of study, the interface of faith and popular culture, you know you want this.  If you don't (preachers? teachers?) perhaps it will bring you up to speed on how to think about the stuff so many of your neighbors take for granted.

Tthe day metallica.pnghe Day Metallica Came to Church: Searching for the Everywhere God in Everything  John Van Sloten (Faith Alive/Square Inch) $14.99  Although the lead-off Metallica piece here really is a fine, fine essay, this isn't a book about heavy metal music; it isn't even a book about music in the church, really, at all.  It is a book about popular culture, about how to find the presence of God -- "the everywhere God" -- in all sorts of places, artifacts, experiences. This is the kind of book you can enjoy by dipping in almost anywhere: a piece on No Country for Old Men, perhaps? "Common Grace in The Dark Knight"? A reflection on Van Gogh?  Race relations explored Christianly by way of the movie Crash?  Yes, yes, yes, you can enjoy these, use them in classes, ponder them so that you might deepen your own cultural discernment skills.  John Van Sloten is my kind of guy -- he loves U2, he is able to talk theology, and he exhibits a wide reading/listening/viewing pallet. And he's mostly quite right about all this: as Richard Mouw writes, "Don't go -- or refuse to go! -- to another rock concert or soccer match without first reading this marvelous book. It is a reliable and inspiring guide to hearing the Lord speak to us in new and exciting places."

Llistening to popular music.jpgistening to Popular Music (Compass Guides to Christian Explorations of Daily Living) Don H. Compier (Augsburg) $15.00  I have commended this series of books before, and glad that they've now included this great topic alongside the others (such as Clothing, Shopping, Eating and Drinking, Play, Parenting, Work.) Compier could have presented a scholarly paper at the FFM, for sure, as his general effort is consistent with their discerning "common grace for the common good" project, and he takes up the gifts of pop music in thoughtful, faith-informed, sociologically-astute ways. His style at times, especially in a chapter about the fear of music in church history, illustrates his role as a theological thinker of mainline Protestant orientation. Still, this is a solid, interesting, brief, contribution to this whole project.  Compier is dean and professor of theology at Community of Christ Seminary at Graceland University in Independence Missouri.  Another book he wrote is What is Rhetorical Theology: Textual Practice and Public Discourse -- this one, gladly, isn't laden with that kind of arcane rhetoric.  He does cite some fairly contemporary singers (Death Cab; Lady Gaga, Green Day, Rage Against the Machine) but as he explains, he's been a rock and roll fan all of his boomer life. So he digs the the Beatles and Springsteen and Los Lobos and Aretha Franklin and Johnny Cash; even the Dead! And he writes about them alongside Augustine, Calvin, Wesley, and James Cone.  No matter your musical tastes, he has given us some important, serious stuff, here, a method for thinking intentionally about popular arts.  Like the others in the series, it is well worth reading.

Ppop ologetics.jpgopologetics: Popular Culture in Christian Perspective  Ted Turnau (Presbyterian & Reformed) $19.99  If I had been selling books at this event, I'd have had this on a double-decker book stand, featured and promoted. In part, I'd do it just to be ornery, since this author calls us to be a bit more concerned about the possible negative influences of pop culture, and such "Christ against culture" themes (or, better, what Kuyper called "the antithesis") isn't discussed much at FFM. But  I'd be being sincere, too, as this really is a great book, and those attending the conference surely would benefit from it.  Despite the quirky title, Popologetics is a profound, serious, important, and -- at times -- exquisitely exciting study, inviting us to really dig deep into the "in the world but not of it" teaching of Jesus.  Just so you know how very good this is, read this short review by our good friend (and pop music lover) Denis Haack, from his lovely, wise journal, Critique.   Further, Bill Edgar of Westminster Theological Seminary says it is a "tour de force...there is nothing remotely like it in print today."  A senior editor at IVP UK writes, "This is one of the freshest and most original books I have read in ages." At 368 pages, this isn't a simple, breezy read, but it is one you should commit yourself to work through, sooner than later.

I didn't get to sell it at the event, so I'm prentending now:  "Hey, hi -- uh,  didja see this one? Man, it's good - check it out.  A little tougher than some, but, you know, we need to think about this stuff, really.  Yeah, yeah, I know, it isn't as funny as that Klosterman your looking at.  No,  it isn't just about music.  Yeah, I know, it's thick. Yep, I've read it." (Aside, under my breath: "Well, most of it, anyway.") "And look at these killer quotes on the back.  This dude says it is a freakin' tour de force!  That's gotta be good, right?"  Well, yes, thanks. And it's on sale, too. Thank you. Hope you find it helpful." 

There. All weekend at FFM I was wanting to do that.

Eeyes wide.jpgyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular Culture William D. Romanowski (Brazos Press) $23.00  This is surely one of the best books in this field, doubtlessly a watershed work, esteemed and cited by everybody in the field. If you follow BookNotes or visit the shop, you may recall me saying this before  -- it's a book I love to tell people about, and not a few have thanked me for doing so!  Did I mention how much I love this author, as a very old friend and a very good scholar? Or that he teaches, also at Calvin College, home of the FFM? (But used to work for the CCO near Pittsburgh?)  This second (expanded) edition has a bit more material in it about film than music, but the worldviewish and cultural studies frame he uses to allow us to discern idols and ideologies, and appreciate goodness and grace, in all kinds of popular artifacts, remains unparallelled.  Not even a short list like this would be complete without naming Eyes Wide Open.  Very, very nicely done.


AND ANNOUNCING: YOU CAN PRE-ORDER
It Was Good: Making Music to the Glory of God
  edited by Ned Bustard (Square Haloiwgmm.jpg Books) $24.99  Not Yet Released; due late summer/early fall 2013  It is a bit early to promote this, perhaps, and you can be sure I'll do a thorough discussion of it when it releases later this year.  I've read much of it already in early drafts, and, like its earlier, spectacular, must-have companion volume, It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God (also edited by Bustard and published by Square Halo Books; $24.99 ) it is truly, exceptionally fantastic. There is no other volume like this, that's for sure! 

This forthcoming anthology has original pieces on all kinds of music (from jazz to blues to rock to hymnody) and explores many aspects of music (with good chapters on listening, on technical stuff by producers, even a truly wonderfully-rendered piece on booking and promotion by one of the former staff of the Calvin College SAO who produces the FFM.)  IWG:MM includes contributions by some well-known people (including, for instance, a piece on modern hymnody, by Keith Getty (who wrote In Christ Alone), one on songwriting by Welcome Wagon's Vito Aiuto who preformed at FFM, a chapter by prestigious Grammy Award-winning jazz bassist John Patitucci on improvisation and one notable one on collaboration by the very cool Michael Roe of 77s fame.)  Some chapters are by folks I know and respect (Joy Ike, Sandra McCraken, Charlie Peacock) and many are from authors I do not know.  There are some neato surprises (Brian Moss on silence, Stephen Nichols on fame, Mark Foreman, father of the Switchfoot boys, on training, Katie Bowser on kids music.) 

I won't spill all the beans now, but you get the drift. This is awesome.  You can pre-order it from us now if you'd like at our BookNotes 20% off.

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April 23, 2013

Six New Art Books to Enhance Your Creativity and Faith -- 20% OFF

MUSIC & POP CULTURE
I hope you saw the book list I did on music and popular culture (inspired by the fabulous Calvin College Festival of Faith and Music in Grand Rapids which Beth and I attended a week or so ago.)  I love some of these books and could have suggested others; from books about faith-based approaches to video games (like Of Games and God: A Christian Explorationof games and god.jpg of Video Games by Kevin Schut [Baker; $17.99]) to our section on media ecology, from books on film to books on theater, we love sharing these sorts of resources. And especially books about good old rock and roll.  Do you know the 33 1/3 books, for instance, published by Bloomsbury, each which examine a particularly interesting and often quite important rock album? We stock a lot of them and think they're pretty cool.

Studying books about pop culture does at least three two things, or so it seems to me.  Firstly, it helps us "practice the presence of God."  We can find God everywhere more easily when we don't just look for inspiration, or emotional/spiritual highs, or Holy Spirited shivers throughout the day, but find signals of grace and divine goodness in the ordinary, in our actual encounter with the stuff of life.  This is easier for some of us to imagine in nature, finding God in the out of doors, but it is equally true that God is found in the spheres of entertainment and pop culture.  So this is a spiritual discipline, in many ways, learning to attend to Holy Things in our common lives, including listening to rock songs or going to movies with, as Romanowki's book puts it, "eyes wide open."

Secondly, intentionally attending to the possibility of common grace in popular culture also trains us in discernment.  That is, we can use movies and music as case studies on how to observe not only the good and true, but the odd and disconcerting.  Idols and ideologies bring distortion and danger and we must keep our antennae up to be sure we are not being hoodwinked, ever so subtly,  by the stories and values which we take in.  I think it is a tad simplistic to say we are like computers --"garbage in/garbage out" --but there is something to tdesiring-the-kingdom.jpghis notion.  We are shaped and formed by the stuff we engage in. Read Jamie Smith's essential Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Baker; $21.99) to be reminded of this in quite sophisticated terms; see Walt Mueller's How to Use Your Head to Guard Your Heart: A 3(D) Guide to Making Responsible Media Choices over at CPYU for an easy to apply process for talking about this with teens in pretty simple terms. Although it is not just on the popular arts, I love Walt's important book Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture: Bridging Teen Worldviews and Christian Truth published by IVP; $18.00) which certainly isengaging the soul of youth culture.jpg relevant here.

And, thirdly, it just makes things more interesting. Maybe this makes it more demanding -- yup, we have to faithfully think about stuff, all of this stuff -- but, I'd say, and I bet you agree,  that this also makes life's adventure much more fun.  We can enjoy music and dancing and playing and watching movies when we understand the art form a bit and have eyes to see all that is going on in terms of style and content and vision. 

ALSO, THE VISUAL ARTS
The process and approach of engaging this side of life is a bit different when considering visual art or literature, but our basic point is the same: we glorify God when we take seriously our human calling to steward the gifts of Earth, which includes culture and culture-making.  Music and film and paintings all matter. We can appreciate and make art for God's sake, as acts of devotion and love of neighbor.

So here are some new books on the heels of our music and pop culture list that are about the arts more generally and about creativity in the life of faith.  

We have much bigger lists on the arts, aesthetics and more, for instance, here.  Here are some that focus more on enhancing or deepening our own creative lives.

Not just for artists, you know.

Ddrawn in.jpgrawn In: A Creative Process for Artists, Activists, and Jesus Followers  Troy Bronsink (Paraclete) $16.99  Troy is a Presbyterian pastor, indie musician, street activist and faith-based organizer and he has here given us a tremendously cool book, full of substance and verve, theology and vision, hope and healing.  If you are an artist, patron, fan, or simply a person wanting to learn how to be more imaginative, this guide is hard to beat. What a great title (and cover, too, eh?) Love it.

Sally Morgenthaler (who calls it "one of the finest books on art, creativity and the nature of God to date" says it is a manifesto. Indeed.  It is a call to live a creative life as a follower of Jesus, inviting us into God's own creative work and "redemptive rhythms" in the world.  It is serious, thoughtful, very interesting and highly recommended.






Aart + faith book.jpgrt + Faith: Reclaiming the Artistic  Essence of the Church  Jon Bowles  (House Studio) book $12.99; DVD $36.99 This is a small, nifty book that could be read on its own, but I suppose is designed to go with the DVD curriculum of the same name.  It is not a "participants guide" or simplistic workbook, though, but a real book that certainly invites great imagination.  Informed by the narrative of the Beggars Table,a community that meets in a  gallery in Kansas City's art district.  This is not about "arts programming" but, not unlike the Bronsink book above, it really is more about helping all of us appreciate the arts, engage in meaning-making by being formed in disciplines of seeing.  This is a story, they say, of "how art has shaped the imagination of one church toward the Kingdom. This could be a story about your church, too."  I like this study of mystery (and our "mystery deprived world) and beauty and awe, and the necessary relationship of faith, religion, art and wonderart+faith DVD.jpg.

The Art + Faith DVD includes six session and PDF transcripts, discussion guides and other bonus material.  The package includes the DVD and one book.





L
Life After Art 3.2 small - Copy.jpgife After Art: What You Forgot About Life and Faith Since You Left the Art Room Matt Appling (Moody Press) $13.99  I am excited about this new imprint of books published by the stalwart evangelical house called Moody Collective.  This tremendous book is a great new kind of book for Moody, it seems, young, creative, fresh, interesting for those who need something other than standard basic Christian growth or self-help books, or mere theology (as helpful as all that can be.) This book invites us to realize that we are creative people, we make things (for better or worse) so we might as well, as Appling says, do it on purpose.  He wonders how we lost our confidence to create, crumbling under the pressure of the so-called "real, grown-up world." Appling is an art teacher, having worked with pre-K through high school, in fact.  This is a hopeful book, fun and a bit challenging.  Has something been lost along the way, for you? This will help you get it back!


Eeyes of the heart.jpgyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice  Christine Valters Paintner (Sorin Books) $15.95  We have carried the previous books by Ms Paintner which includeThe Artist's Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul With Monastic Wisdom (Sorin; $14.95) and a fabulous book about being attentive to God's goodness revealed in creation called Water, Wind, Earth and Fire: The Christian Practice of Praying with the Elements (Sorin; $14.95.)  I really love this new one on photography and recommend it to any number of those who like to take pictures with their iPhones, who are learning to pay greater attention to daily life as they hone the skills of "seeing" by way of their cameras.  Valtgers Paintner is the on-line "Abby of the Arts" and here she helps us with "viso divina" (she is a Benedictine oblate, after all) and cites great contemplative and monastic sources, as well has helpful technical suggestions about lighting, composition, framing, printing, equipment. This is a lovely, good, book which many will enjoy and by which many will be blessed.

Aawaken my soul ad.pngwake My Soul: A  Contemplative Art Journal  Aletheia Schmidt $25.99  Aletheia is a Lancaster, PA-based artist who has created this wonderful, full-color book which shows her abstract work with plenty of nice spaces for you to journal, reflect, or draw along.  She is a vibrant, kind, and talented young woman and she sees these paintings as prayers.  She believes "the arts, imagination, and creativity offer life." 

You can check out her website to get a sense of her sense of things.  You can even buy her cards and prints.  But this book, which we are thrilled to carry, is a wonder. The reflection questions are not simplistic or one-dimensional, and I would think that it would be a beautiful thing to do together, even if it is more likely to be used individually. There are 52 paintings, so you use it for a long while. Congrats to this new friend, a fine artist who has offered her playing and painting and praying to us.

QQU4RTETS.jpegu4rtets artwork by Mako Fujimura, Bruce Herman, and Christopher Theofanidis, and others;  inspired by T. S. Eliot  $35.00 You might want to revisit my previous review of this splendid, remarkable book -- superlatives elude me to tell you how good this is. Two stellar, respected, deeply Christian painters (Fujimura and Herman), and a classical musical composer (Theofanidis), collaborated to do these works, collated in this marvelous coffee-table paperback book, inspired by the famous poem Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot.
This is a lovely book, handsome, intriguing, illuminating.  The combination of visual arts, a music score, and the historic, important poetry is so very interesting and fruitful. The great introduction by Image journal editor, Gregory Wolfe, sets it up perfectly. 

As I explain in my earlier description of Qu4tets, there are included three very significant essays (also enhanced with lovely type and smaller art pieces throughout) by Matthew Milliner, James McCullough,and Jeremy Begbie.  These critical reflections add gravitas to the project (as if it needed more) and are themselves very well done. Highly recommended. -- perhaps as a graduation gift?

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