About August 2013

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

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August 2013 Archives

August 5, 2013

Reading the Christian Spiritual Classics: A Guide for Evangelicals - 20% OFF

I'm going to try to keep this a bit brief. 

I know, I know, some of you won't believe me.  Some are already buckled down laughing.  Well, just watch.  Not too brief, though.  That wouldn't be prudent, as George Bush the First used to say.

I don't know if it is prudent to open a can of worms and try to be brief.  I hope I don't step on anyone's toes.  But here goes.

way of the heart.jpgYou know we sell books at a lot of mainline denominational events. I have noted before with great gladness that I've noticed in my lifetime a more vibrant faith and robust spirituality within our mainline churches than ever before.  I think maybe 25 years ago or so reading about and experiencing contemplative spirituality became a major feature of nearly every mainline denominational clergy gathering of which I know.  Liberal or conservative, authors such as Richard Foster and -- most obviously, Henri Nouwen -- paved the way for new layers of talking about faith.  As one who has dabbled in this contemplative literature, starting (perhaps foolishly) with Thomas Merton, you surely know we think this is a good, good thing.

I am truly glad for authors that are most known and quite popular in many mainline denominational circles, and I am glad that many evangelical readers are now reading some of these same writers.  You know that we carry, appreciate (and have been blessed to have met) some of the likes of Joyce Rupp, Richard Rohr, John Philip Newell, Marcina Wiederkehr, Parker Palmer, Gerald May, Tilden Edwards.  I love the moving, gentle memoirs of Kathleen Norris and the fine writing of Paula D'Arcy and Sue Monk Kidd.  I like the Celtic stuff of David Adams, the ecumenical work of Taize, led by authors like Brother Roger.  I wish the community-minded, justice-seeking spirituality of Gordon Crosby and Elizabeth O'Connor were better known.  I am challenged and impressed by the deep work of Cynthia Bourgeault, drawing on the serious centering prayer tradition of Thomas Keating.  

Two dear writer friends who lived near us here for a season or two have been helpful in my journey on these very matters, one a very eclectic Presbyterian, Kent Ira Groff (founder of Oasis Ministries and a very prolific writer) and the other a United Methodist pastor schooled in iconography and the ancient mystics, Russell Hart (and his Center for Spiritual Formation; he has also authored several good books.) 

Another set of good friends -- women who mostly are coming out of the evangelical tradition -- have recently founded local retreat space and training center for those wanting to deepen their interior lives, Kavannah House, here in York, PA.

We are grateful, too, that some of their own students and mentors and directors and seekers come to us to find the sorts of books they need, bread for their journeys, books by authors that can help us grow in deepened, focused spirituality.  Hooray!

Okay, you know much of this.  You know our shelves on these topics are bulging.

But here is my quick opening of a small can of worms. 

I fear that sometimes, some of this is getting, well, kinda goofy. Not most writers, and not necessarily the ones I named above, but some, are drifting from historic, classic, Christian orthodoxy.  I hate to sound like Eugene Peterson or Marva Dawn (well, actually, I'd be honored to sound like them) but we maybe have to be a bit gruff and remind ourselves to keep Christ the King at the center of our centering.

This is not the time or place to critique odd-ball theology or touchy-feely pscho-babble thatbeing human cover.jpg sometimes passes for spirituality.  It isn't even the time or place (although I am tempted) to examine the inherent dualisms that undergird much medieval and monastic spirituality, and those modern writers standing in that legacy.  See the book Being Human: The Nature of Spiritual Experience by Ronald Macaulay & Jarram Barrs (IVP; $20.00) for a good start to that conversation.  Why, even Bill Edgar's book on Francis Schaeffer's "counter-cultural spirituality" that we reviewed a few weeks ago would be useful. 

And I do not even mean to dismiss all touchy feely stuff.  I quite like the new Joyce Rupp collection of poems, which are almost prayers, My Soul Feels Lean (Sorin Books; $15.95.)  And not all contemporary popular-level mysticism is goofy, not at all.  Father Ronald Rolheiser's very popular work comes to mind as some of the more substantive stuff on spirituality done in recent years.

 Most of his books are fantastic, but everyone agrees that The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality (Doubleday; $23.00) is amazing. I'd start with that one of his.

And I think most of the Franciscan RichardThe-Holy-Longing-Rolheiser-Ronald-9780385494182.jpg Rohr's work is very, very helpful.  And Parker Palmer -- oh my.  Excellent, in his gentle Quaker kind of way.

But. 

There is, these days, I think, a confusion that is popular, a conflating of spirituality and knowing one's own self.  Now as a Calvinist, I know that the great Frenchman himself said that the two are profoundly inter-related, knowing self and knowing God.  Yes, yes. 

But still.

And, to confuse matters, there are books that don't fall into this casually, as in error, but are about that topic (namely, what sort of human developmental growth we can have as we open ourselves to God.) And that is a good thing, too.

For instance, see a recent book called Spirituality and the Awakening Self: The Sacred Journey of Transformation by David Benner (Brazos; $19.99.) If I viewed this as a devotional study about how to experience God more deeply, I'd be annoyed.  I want to give Dr. Benner the benefit of the doubt, especially since (a) his other books on spirituality are so, so, good and (b) he is a psychologist by trade, and this is a book more to explore the human self rather than spirituality, per se; it isn't about the spiritual disciplines, really, but on becoming; it is about growth.  It suggests meditation and dreamwork and prayer and all the other historic disciplines but turns them less towards communion with God but on self awareness and personal growth. 

You see, this is a bit vexing.  It may be a fine project.  Yet, he's quoting nutty stuff like Eckhart Tolle, non-Christian theorists like Ken Wilber, and heterodox scholars like Matthew Fox. His citations from historic folks range from St. Bonaventure to Hildegard of Bingen to St. John of the Cross. Again, this is not necessarily wrong, but there it is: evangelicals are, well, I was going to say "getting kinda weird on us."  Allow me to be more gracious.  Some evangelicals don't sound like your father's evangelicals.

And whether this is good or bad, well, there's that can of worms that can't be unpacked here, briefly. 

But let's face it.

There is a very common style of devotional book these days that is more about one's own self-hood than about God.  There are books that are about finding some vague spiritual center rather than union with Christ.  Basic Christian stuff like the Trinitarian nature of God and the cruciform nature of salvation, received through faith, by grace, is glossed over in terms that are sometimes so allusive as to be hardly meaningful, or so vague as to be hardly helpful. And some folks love them.

And so, I worry just a bit about this.

I long for books that are wild and mystical and poetic but that are also Bible-based, Christ-centered, and theologically sane.  I'm really not trying to deepen the sad gulf between mainline Protestants, the Orthodox, Roman Catholics and various sorts of evangelicals, and, as always, I think we can learn much from one another.  And not every book has to be perfect, either.  I give authors lots of wiggle room.  If you follow our reviews here, or look at the stuff on our shelves, you know that.  I love that phrase that invites us to a "generous orthodoxy."

I think we need books that are whimsical, certainly we need those (a specialty of ours, here, actually) about the spirituality of the ordinary, finding God in the day to day, in a being-redeemed creation. Practicing the presence, being wholly holy, fully alive and mindful,  etcetera, etcetera.

But, we also need from time to time a heavy dose of the glory and holiness of God, revealedst ephrem hymns.gif also in a creation weighted with glory. 

Just today a customer picked up St. Ephrem the Syrian's famous Hymns on Paradise (St. Vladamir's Seminary Press; $18.00.) Wow, now that's what I'm talikin' about!

One need not read only the Russian or Syrian mystics, but some modern books on the inner journey seem to lack a certain gravitas.  This is serious business, you know, being made more human by knowing God through Christ.  Annie Dillard is right.  We should be strapping on crash helmets when we go to church.

There are a few recent evangelical books that I think counter some of the less than solid theology seen in some recent spirituality books.  I think these are mature and serious and solid and joyful -- perhaps I can make a bigger list later.

For now, I must tell you about a major release, a book that some of us have been waiting for for decades.  It is magisterial; nothing short of brilliant.  As I've suggested, I think it is a book sorely needed, and I'm very, very eager to recommend it.

Rreading the christian classics a guide for e.jpgeading the Christian Spiritual Classics: A Guide for Evangelicals  Edited  by Jamin Goggin & Kyle Strobel (IVP Academic) $24.00

Here is what this amazingly diverse and very learned book does.  It offers clear-headed, centrist evangelical theologians offering their take on various sorts of great spiritual classics, giving ways to appreciate and benefit from this genre, even as some of the liabilities are named and exposed.  This is generous, ecumenical work at its finest, affirming the best of other traditions, and yet reading them as evangelicals.

And whether you see yourself as an evangelical or not, this book will help you.

For instance, here you have weighty, good chapters by the likes of James Houston, Bruce Demarest, Gerald Sittser and Tom Schwanda, weighing in on their specialty areas.  For Houston that is on the genre and use of classical literature;  Demarest writes on Catholic Spirituality, Sittser on the Desert Fathers, Schwanda draws on the heavy (but often overlooked) mystical elements of the Puritans. (He has an entire book on that and it is amazing!) These essays provide so much meat that it is a virtual feast.  It is delicious and very, very wise. Enjoy!

There are excellent chapters in this collection on how evangelical Protestants should appropriate the church Fathers and Mothers, good teaching on the Orthodox tradition, fine chapters on the monastics and why we should read them today (and with what sort of approach or bias.)  Is there a uniquely evangelical way to read the spiritual classics?  Must we be discerning as we read?  This book offers not only the life-changing renewal that can come from engaging these old masters and their ancient writings, but helps overcome fears, offers insight into some of the foreign theological traditions from which they come, making them that much more approachable and beneficial.

Here is what J.I. Packer writes of it:

Here you have an absolutely unrivaled mapping by experts of the whole church's rich, smorgasbord heritage of Chrsit-centered, sanctification-focused devotional writing, most of which will be unknown to most of us.  What to do with it? Take it as your tour guide and start reading its recommended texts. You will be glad you did, I promise you. Wealth awaits.

And here is what Simon Chan writes,

This collection of essays is in every sense of the word an introduction to the Christian classics for evangelicals. It gives all the right reasons for reading the classics, pointers on how to do it and a handy map to navigate through various genres and traditions. The beginner will not be disappointed, while the more advanced may still pick up some useful tips from these seasoned guides.

My only quibble about that quote: Chan says "the more advanced may still pick up some useful tips."  I say the more advanced certainly will be blown away!  If you have even a little familiarity with these historic devotional classics, you will eat this up.

I promised to try to be brief.  I won't list any more titles,  although we continue to get good and useful resources for your spiritual life.  Lighter or heavier, there are lots, and we love to offer them.

But this.  This is one you really should buy and really should study.  There is nothing quite like  Reading the Christian Spiritual Classics: A Guide for Evangelicals and it may help turn the tide away from the light-weight and odd and sentimental, helping us choose the very best, and guiding us towards reading them well and faithfully.  For this, we can be very, very grateful.

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August 9, 2013

A LONGER LIST AND RELECTION: Resources on Spiritual Formation -- For Seekers, Beginners and more Mature Disciples... ALL BOOKS 20% OFF

REVIEW: READING THE SPIRITUAL CLASSICS

Thanks to those who sent emails or made comments on facebook about my BookNotes review of Reading the Spiritual Classics: A Guide for Evangelicals, a splendid and mature new book published by IVP Academic (regularly $24.00 but 20% off for our BookNotes readers.) The two editors, Jamin Goggin and his colleague Kyle Strobel (www.metamorpha.com) curated and compiled a wise and theologically sane guide to how to best approach the depths, benefits, and foibles of various sorts of devotional and spiritual classics. It is a book about reading well, and it is a guide to different kinds of Christian spiritual formation.

reading the christian classics a guide for e.jpg

I started with an appreciative shout-out to authors who have become popular in the last 25 years, especially in more mainline denominational circles, authors who we are proud to stock, such as Henri Nouwen, Tilden Edwards, Joyce Rupp, Richard Rohr, Basil Pennington, (and so many more) who have much to offer those who care about their interior lives. These authors are among our biggest sellers when we set up book displays for UCC clergy, for Episcopal priests, for Lutheran folks.  

I did say, though - and I hope you give it a fair read if you didn't - that I worry about the lack of robust, Trinitarian theology and Christ-centered substance in some contemplative literature. Some tend towards a vague sort of pantheism and others are mostly about one's true self and less about God and Christ's Kingdom. I am no rationalist and don't fear creation-based theology (a term Matthew Fox coined back in his less eccentric days) but, still, I believe that those of us who read widely and ecumenically should stand firmly in a firm orthodox center.  On Christ the solid rock we stand, I was taught to sing.  All other ground is sinking sand.  

The new book, Reading the Spiritual Classics: A Guide... is a bit deep and demanding, and it covers a very broad range of writings from throughout church history and from throughout the wide Body of Christ.  It is a very, very important reminder to read discerningly, and apply insights faithfully.  Although it offers a uniquely evangelical vocabulary and offers a few warnings, it is not the least bit mean, and it does not foster fear or a critical spirit (it is not even what I would call parochial) but is inviting and informative.  It is an example of ecumenical discourse at its finest, useful for evangelicals and others, who want to have a balanced view of this important body of literature. 

DAVID WELLS AND RENEWING THE EVANGELICAL MISSION

In that column I tossed off a phrase stolen from the old Oldsmobile ads -- hinting  at a bit of

renewing - lints.jpg

 a concern - that some contemporary evangelicals are "not your father's evangelicals."  In that big list of 50 books that I did on the webinar last month I mentioned a book called Renewing the Evangelical Mission, edited by Richard Lints (Eerdmans; $34.00, but on sale at 20% off for BookNotes readers.) It is a collection of firm essays about the erosion of central truths and practices, that is, the distinctives of evangelicalism, and is important to mention here.  Renewing... is a collection of pieces which interact with and bear witness to the critical work of David Wells, professor at Gordon Conwell, by authors such as Mark Noll, Os Guinness, Miroslov Volf, Michael Horton and other big picture, confessional thinkers.  Wells is a dear, good man, a very rigorous scholar, and even when I do not agree with him or fully share his numerous anxieties about the shape of evangelicalism in our time, his work is extraordinarily important. If you only read a couple of serious theological books this year, this overview of Well's work by a wide range of scholars, pastors, theologians and cultural critics, is worthy of your consideration. (This is certainly true regardless of your own theological orientation and regardless of whether you know Well's quartet of books about these themes.)  

The concerns raised in the anthology edited by Lints about cultural accommodation, mushy theology, the idolatry of the self, the pragmatic marketing ethos of the mega-churches, the disconnect nearly everywhere with historic, classical Christian thinking, will remind you why the Reading the Spiritual Classics is so very important. We need, as Lewis reminded us years ago, old books. But we also need help in reading them afresh. Reading... and Renewing... are very different sorts of books, but both share a concern for the edification of God's people by standing within a robust, historic orthodoxy.

SPIRITUAL HUNGER

Two stories from yesterday:

After my review of Reading the Spiritual Classics the other day a mainline denominational pastor friend wrote an noted a benediction he recently heard at a gathering somewhere. It invoked a trinity of self, others, and Mystery.  Well, that is just fine - who doesn't know that these three mysteriously go together, that all selves, alone and together, swim in what singer Bruce Cockburn once called "the ocean of love."  But to replace traditional One-God-in-Three-Persons language in our liturgy for this clever truism?  Puh - lease.  And mainline folk wonder why their numbers are dwindling...

And then, while I'm thinking about this, recommending these good books to our astute readers on line - and our tribe here at BookNotes is mostly pretty sophisticated, I'd say - a smart young customer came in to the shop.  He was forthright with us: his intellectual life is rich and full; his relational and social life is good.  Then he held up his forefinger and thumb, making a circle the size of a pea and said "my spiritual life is like this - virtually nothing."  Or maybe he was making that universal sign of a zero.

We have these conversations from time to time.  Often, such folks -- often baby boomers, but sometimes sharp young adults -- are not interested in religion, per se, and in a few quick comments back and forth (as those of us trained to hand sell books do) we learn whether they are interested firstly in proofs for the faith and apologetics.  Sometimes skeptics and seekers warm up to The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, The Reason for God by Tim Keller, or any number of books by the eloquent Ravi Zacharias, or the grand and practical survey of world religious options, The Long Journey Home by Os Guinness.  I have several lists of books I can share with you if you want about apologetics and books for smart skeptics.

These folks are often eager to know that there are intellectually plausible reasons for Christian faith and they ask about faith and science; we start off suggesting stuff like The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Francis Collins (Free Press; $15.99) or the fantastic reader he put together as an anthology of important essays and chapters from books that he could easily offer to his scholarly friends. That is called Belief: Readings on the Reasons for Faith (HarperOne; $19.99.)   

Or they want to know if the Bible's central teaching about Christ and his resurrection are reliably true. Or are authors like Reza Aslan, citing those same tired sources and outmoded conjectures correct after all, insisting that we can't really trust the New Testament documents?

But earnest conversations with such inquirers often reveal that they aren't really skeptics, they might be glad to know there are intellectually sounds reasons to hold to conventional, historic orthodoxy, but, really they are seekers.  They aren't needing answers, but insights, not apologetics but spirituality. They are like our new friend from the other day, hungering to deepen their grasp of spiritual things. Such folks often are keenly aware that we all have this looming hole in our hearts. To use Buber's language they want an I-Thou relationship.

yearning for more.jpg

One book that helps us understand this, and is perfect for somebody pondering their heart's  deepest longings is Yearning for More: What Our Longings Tell us About God and Ourselves by Barry Morrow (IVP; $15.00.) There is hardly a book out that is just like this, and I adore it -- very highly recommended because it shows how our daily sense of things, our yearnings, are themselves avenues through which we can come to deeper spiritual insights.  Morrow, as Kenneth Boa writes in the foreword, "has a penchant for leveraging culture to illuminate timeless spiritual issues."  He does more, though: he helps us turn our longings for God into ways to enter His very presence.

Listen to what John Wilkinson (author of the cleverly titles No Argument for God) says:

Yearning for More uncovers the reality of God in the most unexpected places. Barry Morrow cleverly identifies 'signals of the transcendent' in our hatred of death, our desire for heaven and even the humdrum of daily living. So often we are told to 'go with your gut.' Morrow takes this to a whole new level.

Many people who visit our store and people that I suspect who talk to you are looking for Something, something akin to what Tozer called (in his book by this name) The Pursuit of God: The Human Thirst for the Divine (Wing Spread Publishers; $12.99.)  We have more books on the intellectual plausibility of the gospels and stuff on apologetics than any store we know of.  Yet, it is not common to come across open minded skeptics who need such resources.  Rather, folks hunger for and experience of God. They are yearning.

USE BOOKS OF ALL SORTS TO HELP OTHERS 

And so, as if you didn't know it, I say again that this stuff about spirituality and knowing the classic devotional literature is so, so important.  There is goofy mystical literature out there and some that are less than Biblical and there are books solid as steel, theologically speaking. But some of that is off putting, dry or harsh. But, of course, we can have both. Lots of books are mysterious and mature, creative and classic, interesting and orthodox, beautiful and Biblical. (Come on, somebody stop me.  You get the point -- haha.)

Those of us who care about these kinds of conversations about our yearnings, and helping others with theirs, and who want to use books wisely will realize that there are a whole lot of varying styles and tones and approaches that work well for this person or that, depending on her or his interests, temperament, needs at the moment.  All kinds of books can be tools to help folk take one step at a time, closer to the Light.  I'm really not that fastidious, but I do hope that we ground ourselves in the deep gospel, that we take on the ways of Christ, the Kingdom-bringer promised in the Hebrew Scriptures, the incarnate human one who is the second person of the Holy Trinity, that we are guided by the Holy Spirit in Biblically-shaped ways.  

And I want to share some books that will help you on that very thing.

As we deepen our own worship of the Triune God of the Universe, we can effectively helptiny book.jpgwanna read a canadian.jpg others, sharing  our favorite authors in fruitful and gracious, life-giving ways. Used with discernment, any number of kinds of books can work. We love helping people discover different kinds of resources that are "just right" so give us a call if we can help you start conversations with good books.

If that means using Joyce Rupp's liberal Catholic, poetic, image-rich, tender-hearted, evocative (feminist) spirituality or if it means slowing wading through amazing and often remarkably relevant Puritans like John Owen, Richard Baxter or Jonathan Edwards, or if it means studying together a contemporary, contemplative evangelical like Ruth Haley Barton or David Benner or Richard Foster  -- tolle legge.  Start big or small, but start reading about spirituality!   Share books, read them prayerfully, start a lectio reading group, pray and talk and care and love. Worship daily by using prayer books and journals and be a part of a real church.  There are so many resources on starting a lifestyle of spiritual practices and while there are some weird things it may be wise for some to avoid, I think reading widely in this every-expanding field of spirituality is not just healthy, but essential.

FOR BEGINNERS

Fordering your private w.jpgor instance, for real beginners, we often suggest a lovely book on setting priorities by Gordon MacDonald Ordering Your Private World (Nelson; $15.99) There is a great chapter in there called "The Sadness of a Book Never Read" which reminds us that to grow in life, one does need to read and study and learn to be reflective.  The book isn't exactly about prayer or spirituality, but on attending to one's "under the waterline" stuff. I guess one could say it is about discipline and priorities and being self-aware.  Any of his fantastic books would be good to start with, by the way.

For those who think of spiritual disciplines as being mostly about prayer, there is much more to learn. But learning to pray is certainly basic, and we often tell people to start their prayer life with Too Busy Not to Pray by Bill Hybels (IVP; $16.00) which is truly a fabulous starter book, enjoyable and inspiring, or Prayer by O. Hallesby (Augsburg; $11.99) which is also a magnificent and very thorough overview of clear instruction.  It might be a bit more heady, but the excellent Catholic priest, Ronald Rolheiser, has a very short (65 pages) new one coming the end of August (2013) simply called Prayer: Our Deepest Longing (Franciscan Media; $8.99) and I am looking forward to it.  Write to us if you want a longer list of books about prayer. I mentioned his classic The Holy Longing in my previous post, and it is a masterpiece. 

Tpraying life miller.jpghkneeling with.jpge two most popular books we've sold in the last few years about prayer are a bit deeper, but still quite accessible.  First, we must commend the very popular A Praying Life: Connecting With God in a Distracted World by Paul Miller (NavPress; $14.99.) It is gospel-centered, full of anecdotes and Biblical exposition and is very, very popular these days. Another amazingly rich, insightful, and impeccable book is Kneeling with Giants: Learning to Pray with History's Best Teachers by Gary Neal Hansen (IVP; $15.00) which draws deeply on the very best of a wide posse of oldsters, from Calvin to Luther to St. Teresa of Avila.  You can learn from how to write prayers (by drawing on the Puritans) and how to pray for healing (drawing on Agnes Sanford) and how to use the Jesus Prayer by drawing upon the anonymous Pilgrim. I have to say I am very, very fond of it, and intend to spend more quiet time learning from its historic riches. Gary is obviously ecumenically minded, but studied at Princeton and now teaches at a Presbyterian (USA) seminary in Dubuque, Iowa.

Flife you always w.jpgor those wanting to start a more focused and multi-dimensional spiritual life, after getting some of the above under one's belt we often recommend starting with The Life You Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People by John Ortberg (Zondervan; $18.99) or the sequel, God Is Closer Than You Think (Zondervan; $18.99.)  Ortberg is conversational and upbeat, uses clear illustrations and is a fabulous guide and friend for entering this new world of deeper spirituality. (There are DVD curricula for each of these to and I can't say enough good about them.  Very well done!  Shoot us an email or call if you want more info.)

We always suggest Ruth Haley Barton's fabulous titles. You may know how much we esteem her, and how proud we were to have her here in our community. Her books are among my favorites, and you should at least have Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God's Transforming Presence and Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation (both IVP; $18.00 and $17.00) although her others (one specifically for women, one on the spirituality of leadership and one on communal discernment practices for church ministry leadership teams.) By the way, there is a very nice DVD study version of Sacred Rhythms, too that we love to suggest.  Call us!

S
soul feast.jpgoul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life Marjorie Thompson (WJK) $15.00 This is also quite nice, mature and thoughtful but still approachable for beginners. Many, many have found it very useful. She is a Presbyterian (USA) specialist in this field, and we take her book everywhere we go! 

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life Donald Whitney (NavPress) $15.99 We really like this as it is theologically clear, mature, with a heavy emphasis on Biblical truth as shaped by this wise Reformed leader.  It may be a tad tedious for some, but I think it is pretty accessible, and helpful for those who don't trust medieval Catholic writers.  And important for those that do.  There is a fine forward by J.I. Packer where he suggests reading the book three times over!  He thinks it is that good, and that transforming.


Ssacred pathways.jpgacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul's Path to God Gary Thomas (Zondervan) $14.99  I am a huge, huge fan of anything Gary Thomas writes, and he is on my short list of those who I'd read anything he does.  His guide to the ancient classics will be listed below, but this one is so foundational, so helpful in a very basic way, that we often suggest it to those who feel a bit unsure of the next steps they should take as they deepen their "heart and mind." In a nutshell, Thomas wisely shows how we are all "wired" differently, and that we tend to resonate with different sorts or style of spiritual communion.  Love the out of doors? Like to sing? Are you rather intellectual and like to plumb the harder Scriptures or are you emotive, drawn to the Psalms? Does the very idea sitting still make you break out in sweat? Are you an introvert?  You get the idea -- and it is helpful to be self-aware and then apply that to the ways in which you are most likely to nurture your inner journey.  There is a self-inventory inside as well.  I love the playful quote on the back "Thou shalt not covet they neighbors spiritual walk."


Wwriting in the margins.jpgriting in the Margins: Connecting with God on the Pages of Your Bible Lisa Nichols Hickman (Abingdon) $16.99  I will tell you much more about this brand new book later (to which I wrote the foreword, the first time I ever had the privilege of doing that.) This is a splendidly interesting book, wonderfully designed, about knowing God by way of marking up one's own Bible.  It is not quite about the quiet process of lectio divino where one meditates over and over on a text.  And it is more than inductive study.  She shows how to draw on the spiritual discipline of using our imaginations to pay attention to the Bible and its connection with our lives.  As Minister of Education at Nassau Presbyterian Church in Princeton NJ Joyce Mackichan Walker puts it, her "instructions lead to reflection and wonderment, encouragements that draw out our true and truer selves. Lisa Nichols Hickman shows us that in discovering ourselves, we discover God."  One theologian noted that he thought the book was going to be about how to read the Bible, but learned it was really about how to pray, concluding that "those things go hand in hand." Exactly.

Wwonderstuck.jpgonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God  Margaret Feinberg (Worthy) $14.99  I exclaimed about this when it came out late last December.  In the post-Christmas sales and New Year lull, it may have gotten lost.  You may know Margaret's other good books -The Organic God is now out in paperback! - and her upbeat presence at conferences and young adult gatherings makes her a bit of a rock star. She seems exceptionally comfortable talking about the role of the Holy Spirit in her life, and clearly believes in the power of God.  This may be her best book yet, a wonderfully candid story of her awakening to the goodness of God and God's creation, explaining in colorful prose how to stand in awe.  It is certainly not "deep" or heady but it is passionate. She reminds us to be attentive, and gives wise advice about practices of rest and friendship and nurturing attitudes about gratitude and grace and mercy.  There is a chapter on prayer, a chapter on forgiveness, a chapter called "the wonder of restoration." 

Never wanting to only inspire with beautiful writing or good stories, Ms Feinberg has a 30-day study guide in the back of Wonderstuck which she calls "Thirty Days of Wonder: A Challenge to Experience God More."  She thanks me in it, too, but I'm just braggin' now.  It is a delight to have acquaintances like her, to offer feedback on manuscripts as they are coming to their fullest fruition.  Buy her book - give it to somebody who wants deeper awareness of the Holy Presence, but who isn't going to wade through the Puritans or Richard Foster.  I love Ann Voskamp's lovely endorsement: "With eyes on the heavens and His Word in hand, Margaret Feinberg tells the wonders of God's love in ways you've never known. Who in the world doesn't need joy like this?"

MORE MATURE RESOURCES FOR A DEEPER LIFE

Here are some other mostly deeper resources that are not inconsistent with my earlier remarks about the need for discernment about orthodoxy and maintain a theologically sane center.  Some are new, some not, indication that there are very reliable books that combine meaty, mature, evangelical theology and experiential, wondrous, contemplative practices.  These are all good to use in one's own formation practices, and they are good to share with others who need deeper, thoughtful texts.  Taste and see.

By the way, for another Hearts & Minds list, see this BookNotes post from a few years ago that offers good stuff on spirituality.  

The Mystery of God: Theology for Knowing the Unknowable  Steve Boyer & Chris Hall (Baker Academic) $19.99  Some of our customers found this quite useful, especially on this vexing question of how we can talk reasonably and with theological rigor about some that is essentially ineffable. I think it would be really worth having if one wants a profound rumination on the theology of mystery.  Hall has written a lot on the church fathers and the liturgical year (he is an evangelical Episcopalian) and is the Chancellor of Eastern University.  Boyer teaches theology at Eastern. 


The Brazos Introduction to Christian Spirituality Evan Howard (Brazos) $40.00  This handsombrazos-introduction-to-christian-spirituality-21492462.jpge, over-sized hardback is truly amazing -- very, very interesting.  It is remarkably fluent in a wide range of authors and traditions and so is happily very ecumenical while rooted in a broad, evangelical tradition. Brazos is very strong in this kind of serious work in the Great Tradition, and this author is perfect to compile such a fine work. It is excellent, useful and the kind of book you'll refer to for a lifetime.


Ddictionary of christian sp.jpgictionary of Christian Spirituality general editor Glen G. Scorgie  (consulting editors Simon Chan, Gordon Smith, James D Smith (Zondervan) $39.99 I think this is a must-have for anyone serious about studying deeply, teaching, or working in this field. It is large (pushing 900 large pages), very well researched and reliable handbook/dictionary.  The contributing authors are like a "who's who" of evangelical scholars who work in this arena. Remarkable in its breadth and scope.


Four Views on Christian Spirituality general editor Bruce Demarest (Zondervan) $18.99  This is such a helpful background for come to realize the differences of language, theology and perspectives which undergird the best spiritual practices.  A fabulous back and forth from a Catholic, Orthodox, evangelical and progressive Protestant.   Wow.


Ssatisfy your soul.jpgatisfy Your Soul: Restoring the Heart of Christian Spirituality Bruce Demarest (NavPress) $16.99  I remember how enthused we were - that is putting it mildly -when the straight-arrow evangelical publisher at NavPress announced over 20 years ago a line of books curated by Dallas Willard, inspired by Galatians 4:19.  They had a little floor display with their lovely oak tree logo, and we showed it off proudly.  Conservative Protestants were waking up to the wise beauty of Henri Nouwen, reading Richard Foster, learning about Merton, going gaga over Brennen Manning, eventually reading Kathleen Norris and Parker Palmer.  But to see a clear-headed, Bible-based, Christ-centered guide to help us attend to the presence of God, to sense God directing us, to move us towards greater intimacy with God without goofy sentimentalism or weird mysticisms, was a great grace.  This was one of the books in that series that has endured and we think it is, as Presbyterian pastor (and former President of Eastern University) Roberta Hestenes put it, "especially helpful in its sensitivity to evangelical issues and concerns, along with practical suggestions for implementation."  What a great guide to spiritual growth! Let's face it: Biblically-shaped spiritual formation will be Christ-centered and Christ-like.  This is well-rooted, flourishing discipleship.  Very highly recommended.  See also his very useful one about the stages of spiritual development called Seasons of the Soul (IVP; $16.00.)

Ccatching fire.jpgatching Fire Becoming Flame: A Guide for Spiritual Transformation Albert Haase, OFM (Paraclete Press) $16.99  I have read several other good books by Al Haase, and he is a fine man, a great writer, a very good teacher.  He has written on small Catholic publishers (he is a Franciscan, after all) and also on InterVarsity Press.  This new one is pretty explicitly Catholic, but so conversational, so interesting, with so many good stories of folks growing in deeper faith, that I am confident that it is fine for nearly anyone.  Dr. James Wilhoit, of Wheaton College, agrees, saying, "This is a thoroughly ecumenical book in the best sense. One never loses sight of Fr. Albert's Catholic perspective, but readers from all Christian traditions will find help to grow in their love of God."  Visit his website at www.AlbertOFM and see what you think.  We are eager to sell this, to invite folks to use it, to see revival fire discussed, studied, and experienced, in reasonable, down-to-Earth ways.   Very nicely done.

Hhow to pray the dominican way.jpgow To Pray the Dominican Way: Ten Postures, Prayers & Practices That Lead Us To God  Angelo Stagnaro (Paraclete Press) $16.99  Well, this may not be for everyone.  It is a very, very handsome book - even a lovely embossed stamp on the cover - but there is no disguising the fact that this is not just Roman, but Dominican. Their founder was all about the bodily postures of prayers.  This ain't yoga, boys and girls, but it involves the beautiful tradition explained in the historic Nine Ways to Pray by St. Dominic which includes body positions such as being prostrate. A dear family friend just became a novice Dominican, so I can say I know one person who does this.  He liked that we had this lovely book. Check it out.


Pprayer foster.jpgrayer: Finding the Hearts True Home  Richard Foster (HarperOne) $24.95  It should almost go without saying that we are all greatly indebted to Richard Foster and his classic --  and I don't use the term loosely, it is surely in the top ten most important religious books of the 20th century, in part for the huge shift that it caused towards contemplative spirituality, sparking a renaissance of such literature -- Celebration of Discipline (HarperOne; $25.99) I trust you know that we are fans of Richard and that we carry all the books he has written.  His Renovare ministry is certainly worth following, and if you are drawn to that sort of thing, know we have whatever resources you may need. I list Prayer, though, as I believe it is vastly under-appreciated. There are more than 15 different sorts of praying he so eloquently describes, and some include thing you don't often find in traditional books about prayer.  He talks about lament, about sorrow, about protest.  Of course praise and adoration, confession and intercession, and he is wise in all of these kinds.  I highly recommend this, perhaps to read before wading into the depths of Celebration of Discipline. It isn't simple or quick, but it is one of the most helpful, illuminating and important books I've ever read.

Yours is the Day, Lord, Yours is the Nighyours is the day lord.jpgt Jeanie  & David Gushee (Nelson) $15.99  I wanted to list at least one or two traditional prayer books, for obvious reasons. This new one -- a nicely bound hardback --  draws from the broad, ecumenical church, including some prayers by current authors and writers (but mostly older ones.) It has a beautifully crafted prayer for morning and evening each day.  You may know Dave Gushee, as we've sold his several books on Biblical studies and social ethics. It was good to be with him a few weeks ago at the ESA 40th Anniversary gathering, where he was a presenter.  Phyllis Tickle, who herself has written a famous Book of Hours and knows a bit about prayer books writes, "If there is such a thing as a 'perfect' prayer book, then Yours is the Day, Lord... is that book."  Wow.  And Brian McLaren says, "This is the prayer book I have wished for since I began praying."  

Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Enuma Okoro (Zondervan) $24.99 This very cool, textured hardback with ribbon markers came out a few years ago, now, and we are proud to have been among the first to seriously review it, commending it to anyone who would listen. People continue to discover it, many still use it, to find its prayers, Bible verses, suggested readings and songs to be remarkably, uncannily appropriate. There are great helps to assist in using it and deepening ones formation through its regular use; you should know that there is a strong emphasis on peace and justice in the prayers, woodcuts and sidebars. 

Acommon prayer pocket.jpgs you might guess, there are "saints days" for the likes of Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King and Oscar Romero. You know that the authors, while helping us get used to using a daily prayer book, are confident that such disciplines will form us into the ways of Christ, which is actually pretty radical business.  But I firmly believe that it should not be seen as a specialty devotional for activists but could be used helpfully by anyone, of any background or theological persuasion.  The prayers and Biblical readings are clear and very meaningful (and frankly not as zealous about causes or issues as you might think.  It is primarily a prayer book for the scattered church, not a guide to activism.)  If you don't use a complex daily prayer book like this, Common Prayer is a great one to use.  There is a small, pocket-sized, considerably abridged paperback, too, which is a simpler way into the habit. (Zondervan; $12.99)

Diary of Private Prayer John Ballie (MacMillan) $9.99  This is a small prayer bookdiary of private prayer.jpg, pocket-sized and, although paperback, still quite nice to hold.  More importantly, the prayers offered by this beloved Scottish pastor are wise and good, classic, eloquent, and bold about Christ's Kingship and grace in the world. I have used it with others on retreats more than once and the day's morning or evening prayer was precisely on the theme of the retreat!  God has used this in beautiful ways over the years (it first came out in the States in 1949) and it is a joy to remind you of it here.


Lletters by a modern mystic.jpgetters by a Modern Mystic Frank C. Laubach (Purposeful Design) $10.95  If you know literacy work, you know Laubach's name.  If you've read Richard Foster, you know his enthusiasm for this little volume, originally published in 1937. As in the original, this newer paraphrased version includes his famous A Game with Minutes, which was Laubach's attempt to live out the principles of Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Andrew. 

The internationally-known Laubach wrote these letters to his father, trying to explain Christ-centered spirituality . This pocket-sized hardback is the best version you will find of the letters and the "game." There is a very nice forward by Dallas Willard, commending the constant faith of Laubach and his wise methods of routinely filling one's mind with the vision of God's Kingdom.  This ought to be more popular than it is as it is renowned.



Ggod in my everything.jpgod in My Everything: How An Ancient Rhythm Helps Busy People Enjoy God Ken Shigematsu (Zondervan) $16.99  I would take much longer than I have here to explain the wonders of this amazing new book, but I am convinced it is a very important work, wonderfully written, offering good, rich, insight, practical but grounded in excellent insight. Drawing from the spiritual practices of the far East and more conventional evangelical faith, this author offers a large picture of the spiritual life, showing how God's presence can be more notably felt in our day to day lives as we learn rhythms of rest and celebration. 

Here is part of his story, which is fascinating: he was an overworked business executive for Sony in Tokyo, studied theology in Canada where he became an overworked pastor, and then made a pilgrimage to Ireland where he learned of Celtic and monastic spirituality.  Of course some of that ancient wisdom resonated with the traditional wisdom of his native land. Shigematsu shows here how to develop your own "Rule of Life" that is (as John Ortberg puts it on the back) a way beyond "mechanical formulas on the one hand and vague abstractions on the other."  Lovely, practical, with lots of resources for journaling and reflecting and stories of those who have been shifting their rhythms and more intentional about experiencing grace and the goodness of God's presence.

The Rest of Life: Rest, Play, Eating, Studying, Sex from a Kingdom Perspective  Ben Wrest of life.jpgitherington III (Eerdmans) $18.00  I hope you know that this great United Methodist New Testament scholar has done a set of small book on how the central Biblical theme of the Kingdom of God shapes and colors how we think about stuff.  He has one on worship, one on work, one on money. He gets endorsements by the likes of Regent College's brilliant work-world theologian R. Paul Stevens.  Work: A Kingdom Perspective has been used by the likes of the Washington Institute on Faith, Vocation, and Culture.  Here, he brings together short reflections on the "other stuff" of daily life.  Less public, more personal, here we learn to practice the presence of God by thinking well about the uniqueness of living well, for God and others, as we shop and buy and eat and play and rest.  This is not sentimental or light-weight, but it isn't obtuse academic work, either.  Friends, this is more important than you may know, more urgent than many realize, and such a good, good gift, rare and good and true.  I realize it isn't about the typical spiritual disciplines, but its vision is so close to the heart of seeing God in all things, I wanted to list it here. Send us a note, by the way, if you want a list of our favorite books on sabbath-keeping.  There are a lot!


Aancient paths.jpgncient Paths: Discover Christian Formation the Benedictine Way David Robenson (Paraclete) $16.95 There is a huge interest these days in monastic customs and the spirituality that emerges from those settings.  Most popular, it seems, are books by and about Benedict. Benedictine spirituality affirms the daily and celebrates human work of all sorts -- in the world, quite generally, but also, literally, in the Earth.  High-tech culture-makers and backyard gardeners are all finding new ways to deepen their faith and spiritual experiences by hearing well the insights from this historic tradition.  I myself have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the monastic way, and, for me, Benedictine faith makes most sense.  Which is a long way of saying that I think this is the best book on the subject, a fine and wonderful introduction to this stream of monastic spirituality.  I learned so much about the history of the order, and its good applications in the world of ordinary living. It is written by a Presbyterian pastor, too.  Ha.  Perfect!

Formed for the Glory of God: Learning from the Spiritual Practices of Jonathanformed for the glory of G.jpg Edwards Kyle Strobel (Crossway) $16.00  This is an amazing book in many ways and while it will surely appeal to conservative Reformed folks -- it is about Edwards, after all, and about our reason for being coram deo -- I want to suggest that it is one others should read as well. I am very aware that many are turned off to Edwards (that is a conversation for another day, but certainly all agree he is one of the most brilliant scholarly minds in American history and an eloquent and elegant theologian.) So, realizing that it may be a harder sell, as they say, at least to some, I want to offer that this is a great way to open up a new avenue or sort of learniong for some of our readers. I think you should become more familiar with Edwards and his intimate, Godly piety! Many Protestants are now quite happy to read Catholics (thanks be!) But yet, some who are not Reformed or not drawn to Puritan thinking simply will not give this tradition its due.  Strobel himself is young and profoundly aware of the hungers of the postmodern generation, and he is well-grounded in a scholarly study of church history and various sorts of thinkers who taught contemplation and meditation. In fact, he explores exactly some of this sort of mystery in this very volume.  There are other books that are more general about the great Puritan but this may be the best thing out on his spirituality, and how and why we should care about formation. 

Listen to Gerald Sittser, author of the moving book on grief, A Grace Disguised,

His attention to Edwards's theology of glory and beauty and love informs and shapes his exploration of Edwards's spiritual practices, which in both cases orient us toward God. This book did more than teach me; it awakened longing for God. It introduces Jonathan Edwards as the luminous, pastoral, passionate and deeply Christian man that he was. I heartily commend it to you.


LLiving-Into-the-Life-of-Jesus.jpgiving into the Life of Jesus: The Formation of Christian Character Klaus Issler (IVP) $16.00  With rave endorsements from the likes of Dallas Willard, you'll realize this is thoughtful, mature, but aimed at practical Christian growth.  J.P. Moreland says, "Its uniqueness likes in two directions: its central focus on Jesus and the Gospels, and its seminal chapter on finances and the spiritual life." The late Calvin Miller endorsed it, the counselor John Townsend writes of Issler's "scholarship and warmth." If you want to deepen your discipline so that you put yourself in spaces to be open to being formed into the ways of Jesus, if you long for greater Christ-likeness, this could be a God-send.  Literally.  The chapter on five formation gaps and what to do about them is worth the price of the book, too.  Perhaps you know his profound work, Wasting Time with God: A Christian Spirituality of Friendship with God (IVP; $20.00.) That also was well reviewed by serious readers in this field.


Mmeditation and communion with G.jpgeditation and Communion with God: Contemplating Scripture in an Age of Distraction John Jefferson Davis (IVP Academic) $20.00 Davis is quite Reformed and has widely in the past written about conservative social ethics.  Not your typical profile of a touchy-feely inner life guy.  Yet, I saw this coming.  His last book was Worship and the Reality of God: An Evangelical Theology of Real Presence (IVP; $22.00) which was heady and hefty, but whispered over and over the need to worship the real God who is really there. This hunger for truth and experience, facts and feelings, worshiping "in spirit and truth" just seemed to me as if he was becoming more contemplative. And, wow, is this book ever.

Meditation and Communion... is a serious critique of our lack of attention, and our lack of attention to the Bible in our spiritual formation. It shares the sorts of concerns that I voiced above. After mind-stretching studies of epistemology, symbolic hermeneutics, and the malaise of the state of the modern church, Davis ends up offering wonderful guidance for serious practices of the disciplines.  He offers some exercises, further tools to deeper our meditation, all using the Bible in profound ways.

Sung Wook Chung of Denver Seminary says "Davis is one of the best and most important evangelical theologians alive in North America."  Asbury Theological Seminary prof Timothy Tennent says "if his challenges are taken seriously, we will never again read Scripture without an increasing sense of the risen Christ in our midst." This is a very important resource.

Tgod of intimacy and action.jpghe God of Intimacy and Action: Reconnecting Ancient Spiritual Practices, Evangelism and Justice Tony Campolo and Mary Albert Darling (Jossey-Bass) $14.95  This book is not heady or difficult, but it is on a challenging subject, and it does a very thorough job.  It is about the curious and complex relationship between contemplation and action, about, well, prayerful piety and public mission.

Others have written profoundly about this -- it was a major concern of Thomas Merton and is the theme of the outstanding and provocative exploration The Active Life: A Spirituality of Work, Creativity and Caring by Parker Palmer (Jossey-Bass; $16.95.) But this one by Tony and Ms Darling is a real favorite, and I can't recommend it enough. Campolo, as you surely know, is an outspoken advocate of social justice, is a world-wide gat fly not only around causes of creation-care and business ethics and peace-making, but he has started numerous schools and orphanages in his beloved Haiti. So he's a doer, a mover and shaker, an evangelist and tireless public speaker.  But he also preaches about "quietude."  About listening to Jesus, about mystical communion. His co-author teaches contemplative spirituality at Spring Arbor College, as a master of the spiritual disciplines, and is known as a spiritual director.  Together, they've done this incredible book showing how our inner lives and outward callings are profoundly related, and how the two general callings, prayer and action, can be combined. (And, further, it shows that social action and justice work must also include appropriate evangelism and proclamation.)  As Ruth Haley Barton writes of it, "This very important work brings integration to the false dichotomy that promotes an artificial disconnection between Christian mysticism and Christian outreach."  I love this upbeat, inspiring book and the wholistic gospel it invites us to experience and share. I highly recommend it.   

MMissional-Spirituality.jpgissional Spirituality: Embodying God's Love from the Inside Out Roger Helland & Leonard Hjalmarson (IVP) $16.00 This is a major contribution, an amazing and substantive study of the relationship of spiritual formation and missional ministry. Whether one is interested in the missional church conversation or convicted about whole-life discipleship that sees all of life as a daily opportunity for Kingdom witness, this study of spiritual formation is one of the few that knowingly seeks to equip readers to be more missional. Listen to what Michael Frost,  author with Alan Hirsch, of The Shaping of Things to Come and Re:Jesus and so many other seminal missional books says:

I found myself saying, 'Yes, yes, yes,' as I read Missional Spirituality. So many books on spirituality are focused on self-improvement and private pietistic devotion, and they often leave me cold and uninspired. Roger Helland and Len Hjalmarson helpfully reconnect spirituality and mission, believing all truly Christian spiritual formation to be for the sake of the world. They take Jesus as their supreme example, the one who claimed that he was nourished by doing his Father's will and work. This book is a triumph.

DDynamics-Spiritual-Life.jpgynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal  Richard Lovelace (IVP Academic) $30.00 All right.  Here's to a classic, an under-appreciated and amazingly rich book that is one of the more important works of my own lifetime.  This came out in the late 70s on the tail of the counter culture and the Jesus movement and the rise of both the evangelical left and the charismatic renewal, seeking to provide a much-needed, solid theological foundation for church and para-church in the throes of change and transformation. How many books do you know that have endured a generation and in a new cover design, includes blurbs from a Catholic (Mark Link) a mainline leader (Martin Marty) and a radical Wesleyan (Howard Snyder.) Lovelace was passionate and eccentric and a vital interpreter of the great awakenings of American history.  Do you wish for live orthodoxy, realizing the need for a more comprehensive vision of renewal in our time?  I am not alone to insist that Dynamics... is an essential book to add to your collection of must-read religious books of the last 50 years. 

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August 13, 2013

You should know, I did a longer column, posted as an August review at the website

Sometimes, I know, these BookNotes blogs get a little long.  I resist -- it is almost a matter of principle -- the popular wisdom that people just want sound bytes.  I am grateful for our true fans, and appreciate those that follow the books I talk about. I think most folks want some substance and some pleasure in reading, so I do my best.  We're glad for your business, and appreciate the permission you give me to come into your inbox, iphone, or where-ever you read our Hearts & Minds BookNotes blog.

Sometimes, if I have a longer list, and it may not even be mostly new stuff, I feel like it should be placed at the website archives called "columns" for longer form reading.

I just wrote a bit of an essay ruminating on the last BookNotes blog, the one about the literature of spiritual formation, our joys and concerns, in which I mentioned a new book called Reading the Spiritual Classics, a Guide for Evangelicals recently published by IVP. In the previous post, and again in the new column, I explained that it was wisely and interestingly edited by Kyle Strobel & Jamin Goggin, and that I really think it is important -- a wise resource for those who do spiritual formation, direction, or reflective reading of devotional classics.

Anyway, I did this longer reflection about it all, added a bunch of other books, and then got warmed up to do a nice, long list about spirituality.  I listed some beginner's level books for those wanting to start their spiritual journey and then a few that are maybe intermediate level, some prayer books, and then a few that are pretty demanding, but vital. Nothing on this list is goofy or odd, and nothing should be controversial or confusing. One is pretty darn creative and one or two are pretty academic.  All are fantastic.

To help set up that list, I told a quick story of somebody we talked with in the shop recently.  It was almost emblematic of a trend -- folks are yearning not just for truth and reliable knowledge about the faith, but are searching for an encounter with the Divine.  They want purpose and meaning and they want to know that God is real in their lives.  As Margaret Fienberg's fine book puts it, some want to be Wonderstruck.

To invite you to that column over at the website, here is a teaser.  These are some comments about a book I mentioned that serves as a bit of a bridge book, it was a transition in my list  -- perhaps reminding those who of us who are interested in apologetics and offering answers, that for many folks that isn't their most urgent desire. They aren't so much skeptics but they are seekers. They lean towards insight and meaning and relationship. I think this book, Yearning for More is really, really good in that it is on one hand a book of apologetics, making a case that there is something true out there, so to speak, and our daily questions and experiences even seem to tell us that.  I listed oodles more in the column, mostly about spiritual formation, but here's some of what I said about this one
:

....earnest conversations with such inquirers often reveal that they aren't really skeptics, although they might be glad to know there are intellectually sound reasons to hold to conventional, historic orthodoxy, but, really they are seekers.  They aren't needing answers, but insights, not apologetics but spirituality. They are like our new friend from the other day, hungering to deepen their grasp of spiritual things. Such folks often are keenly aware that we all have this looming hole in our hearts. To use Buber's language they want an I-Thou relationship.

yearning for more.jpg

One book that helps us understand this, and is perfect for somebody pondering their heart's  deepest longings, is Yearning for More: What Our Longings Tell us About God and Ourselves by Barry Morrow (IVP; $15.00.) There is hardly a book out that is just like this, and I adore it -- very highly recommended because it shows how our daily sense of things, our yearnings, are themselves avenues through which we can come to deeper spiritual insights.  Morrow, as Kenneth Boa writes in the foreword, "has a penchant for leveraging culture to illuminate timeless spiritual issues."  He does more, though: he helps us turn our longings for God into ways to enter His very presence.

Listen to what John Wilkinson (author of the cleverly titled No Argument for God) says:

Yearning for More uncovers the reality of God in the most unexpected places. Barry Morrow cleverly identifies 'signals of the transcendent' in our hatred of death, our desire for heaven and even the humdrum of daily living. So often we are told to 'go with your gut.' Morrow takes this to a whole new level.

Read the whole column (and learn of some fantastic, brand new books, as well as some of my favorite picks) here.  You might enjoy learning about one that I even wrote the foreword to -- a real joy and privilege for me. Do click on over to the archived columns.

 All that are listed there show the regular retail price, but you know we have the BookNotes special going on with them -- 20% off any mentioned.  Check 'em out. 


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August 18, 2013

Great Late Summer Reading: Top 10 Recent Memoirs (BookNotes Special - 20% OFF)

You know we often promote memoirs.  I think they can make for wonderful reading -- think of thehandling the truth.jpg glorious writing of Mary Karr, Rhoda Janzen, Kathleen Norris or Anne Lamott. Or the wildly popular Wild.  Or the take-your-breath-away writing of Kim Barnes and her amazing life stories. Or the fabulous rural life, small town stuff of Michael Perry. Think of Sarah Miles -- wow, that woman can write! (And she has a new one coming in the fall!) What pleasurable hours I have had getting to know fine writers who tell us of their exploits or introspections.


(Beth Kephart, by the way, is a fine, fine writer whose books we've stocked, and has done several very good and highly regarded ones.  She has a brand new book out reflecting on the genre, Handling the Truth (Gotham Books; $16.00) speaking about the meaning of the work, and a bit about how to write memoir well, reflecting on its particular delicacies.  Some have likened it to the fantastic Bird by Bird. It looks very good!)


It is an important genre, I think, and such self-aware works are especially useful for people of faith who care about the world, and especially for pastors who care for people, as memoirs are essentially auto-biography.  They reveal how people narrate their own lives; how they make sense of life and times.  Worldviews become ways of life, and ways of life can be healthy or less so, dysfunctional or life-giving.  Either way, in the telling of the tale, insight about how people think and how people live is offered, in a style that many times can be as absorbing and artful as any novel. It is good to get to know how others think -- suspending immediate judgements, and walking a mile in their shoes.  Further, the best memoirs are somehow universal.  You come away, as with a good novel, knowing the story, and knowing something more about yourself.


And, so, here are a few late summer stories, true ones, mostly.  Some are memoir, or memoir-like.  Some are more like essays that tell of episodes or journeys in a particular season of a life.  They are about people; testimonials, we might say.  I highly recommend them, and are happy to sell them.  I hope you enjoy our comments, and hope you consider picking up one or two.  Read 'em in these late days of summer, over an upcoming holiday, or give them to a book-group leader whose considering her reading lists for the fall.  She will thank you later, I am sure.


JJR and the GL B.jpgujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blond: A True Story Rebecca Dana (Putnam) $25.95

I must say this was the most enjoyable memoir of the summer for me, maybe the most enjoyable since the early spring when I read Does This Church Make Me Look Fat which both Beth and I adored -- and yet I cannot commend it to everyone.  The author is young, restless, urbane, and has a very sassy mouth.  She is as modernly secular as can be -- living like the stars of Sex in the City was her dream, which she mostly accomplished, by the way, with the glamor, and VIP big-wig connections and perks of a snazzy job uptown in NYC. (You may have read some her work in nationally-known newspapers and magazines.)  And, man, is she funny.


But, yowza, her Big Apple fairy tale becomes unglued when a guy seriously, seriously breaks her heart, and she ends up -- its an odd story, I know -- living with a former Lubavitcher, Hasidic Rabbi from Russia, sharing an apartment in Crowns Heights.  He's questioning his faith, and takes up martial arts. She is a pop culture maven, hip and cool, but comes to be enamored by the family life and faith of these serious Jews in her new Brooklyn neighborhood, and together they give new meaning to the phrase "the odd couple."  She is smart, snarky, funny, heartbreakingly honest about her pain and disorientation, her lack of faith, her longings.  Ms Dana grew up somewhat Jewish in Pittsburgh (her parents were both scientists, so she learned to believe mostly in molecules. One parent specialized in plastics, the other in rust.) 


There is no happy ending here, and certainly no evangelical conversion.  But she is construing her life in new ways, the yearning for faith matters to her and she tells her New York story with a bit of raunch and a lot of charm and tons of Brooklyn gusto. My, my, this is an amazing book-- had me full throttle by the crazy fight scene in the first pages -- it's well written, funny and not a little bit sad. I wish them both well.  You will too.


Brbw.jpgead & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table With Recipes Shauna Niequist (Zondervan) $18.99  When I did that pod-casted webinar with CPYU I raved about this (in the moments allotted -- I did over 50 books in an hour!)  I don't have time, sadly, to describe it well, here, either, which is ironic.  One should savor this as one would a good slow meal with dear friends.  Yes, this is memoiristic with episodes and reflections on thing in her life.  Like her others (Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet) is it thematic, of course, so not an autobiography as such.  Some of this is so tender, so frank, so beautifully rendered that I literally got choked up and had to fight back tears.  Her grace of learning to appreciate God's good gifts of food and table fellowship is just so very beautiful and, I think, so very important.


As one reviewer of this handsome hardback, Bread & Wine is "a poetic reminder to appreciate the rituals, people, and sensory experiences of our everyday life."


This is, I am convinced, exactly the sort of book that many of our favorite customers will love. It is very thoughtful, exceptionally well-written, deeply Christian, quite enjoyable, even practical -- you want more? There are recipes!  One of the best books of 2013, for sure!  I bet if you read it, you'll think of people to give it to -- it's that kind of a special book. 


Here is what Shauna Niequist herself says of what she hopes you'll get out of it:


My prayer is that you'll read these pages first curled up on your couch on in bed or in the bathtub , and then after than you'll bring it to the kitchen with you, turning corners of pages, breaking the spine, spilling red wine on it and splashing vinegar across the pages, that it will become battered and stained as you cook and chop and play music loud and kitchen messy.


And more than anything, I hope that when you put this book down, you'll gather the people you love around your table to eat and drink, to tell stories, to be heard and fed and nourished on every level.


Rresurrectin year.jpgesurrection Year: Turning Broken Dreams into New Beginnings Sheridan Voysey (Nelson) $15.99  The subtitle of this is audacious, and although many books (especially those from evangelical publishers) over-promise and make grandiose claims  of what the book will do for you, this is, in fact, a story of just this sort of journey.


The author and his wife had spent tens years of tear-soaked prayers, repeatedly dashed hopes, and multiple failed rounds of IVF, and finally came to the heartbreaking conclusion that their dream of having their own child was over.  Unlike most folks, there were able, then, to head out on a year-long journey of restoration, traveling to Rome, Paris, the Swiss Alps (yep, they end up at L'Abri), and ending up at their new home in Oxford. I like that the back cover says it is "one part spiritual memoir, one part love story." It is also a great travelogue. 


And, it is, finally, a rumination about those broken dreams, something not a few of us know something about (right?)  As it says in large type on the back cover, "Perhaps a greater tragedy than a broken dream is a life forever defined by it." This is a beautifully written story, moving and powerful and interesting as they discover the "healing qualities of beauty, play, friendship, and love." 


Sshipwrecked in LA.jpghipwrecked in L.A.-- Finding Hope and Purpose When Your Dreams Crash Christian Taylor (Wesleyan Publishing House) $14.99  There are a good number of great reasons why we are exciting to tell people about this, but let me mention just three.  Firstly,  it is memoir of a young woman learning to embrace the idea of serving God by taking up a holy calling in a career, rooting it in the doctrine of vocation. This "serve God in the work-world and make a difference in influential culture-shaping venues and spheres is popular in some of our best Christian colleges and parachurch ministries (like our beloved Jubilee conference) and any time a person tells of how this works for them, this growing sense of an integrated life, learning to care, to live faithfully in their careers and callings, it is always worth reading.  


Secondly, her chosen career was to serve God in Hollywood.  So there's that: who isn't interested in the small-town girl heading off to the bright lights of the big city and finding her place among the stars? Her college internship in Burbank and her later job in Beverly Hills is truly interesting, and it is fascinating to hear how she navigates working in the film industry as a missionary of sorts. 


And, thirdly?  Well, it doesn't work out so well for her, there are significant "shipwrecks." I think that learning about the complexities and struggles and ambiguities of the discernment of vocation can be immensely sobering for idealistic young adults heading out to make their mark on the world, with and for the Lord. The subtitle here is the heart of the book -- what does one do when one's Big Dreams come crashing down? How does it effect your sense of self and your future hope of finding purpose when one's initial passions and significant opportunities erode? This is vital, helpful stuff, in the guise of a wonderful, clear, memoir.


 A final two quick reasons to buy this book: Ms Taylor now works at Gettysburg College, a fine church-related college where my wife, Beth, is an alum.  So, yay for G-burg.  And,  not insignificantly, it is well written.  The author teaches writing, now, and has clearly found a reliable calling.  This is a good first book, and it is quite a story.  Enjoy and learn!


Ddoes J really.jpgoes Jesus Really Love Me? A Gay Christian's Pilgrimage in Search of God in America Jeff Chu (HarperOne) $26.99  I read some of this twice, so taken was I by the author's candid approach, his honest travels to various sorts of folks who do or don't accept his same-sex orientation and his questioning, Christian convictions.  Of course, this ends up being a not too subtle call for greater sensitivity to the issues faced by gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.  But It isn't a rant. You may or may not agree with his views, but that isn't the point, here.  It is a report from an honest reporter, giving us windows of insight into all sorts of folks and all kinds of beliefs about the ethics of sexuality. Mr. Chu is a journalist by trade, a good storyteller, and this reads like any other first-person travelogue.  I think it is valuable firstly as a great read -- you will care about the characters, feel like you are on the road with him, sitting there as he listens to all manner of folks across these United States.  The backstories, and side-trips, the emails and family drama are well crafted and pull you in to the narrative. 


Further -- as I said in the beginning -- I think memoirs serve to help us understand how people see themselves, make meaning of their lives, construe their worldviews and make sense of the world and their relationships.  Again, agree or not, reading Does Jesus Really Love Me? is a very valuable exercise, allowing you to "walk a mile" in somebody else's shoes.  These are shoes that have seen some strange streets, and you will be wiser to have walked along with him.


Ggrace in the maybe.jpgrace in the Maybe: Instructions On Not Knowing Everything About God  Katie Savage (Howard) $15.99  When this first came out  (under the curious title Whirlybirds and Ordinary Times) I raved about it, but it didn't quite catch on. Now it is out in paperback with a new title and I'm still hoping it will catch on.  Savage is a good young writer -- some of this shines and glimmers, capturing the texture of her day, in beautiful prose. Mostly, it is a formerly strict evangelical learning to embrace a more faithful and humane uncertainty, and attentiveness to the glories of the everyday. Some of these pieces are almost essays, and in them, she tells of her own journey, but often with a light touch.  They are a delight to read.  They are about "the maybe" times, and, well, finding grace.  What a topic -- honest and real!  Oh yes, they are arranged nicely around the themes of the liturgical calendar, the keeping of which being a Christian practice previously unknown by her. Pretty frisky, pretty insightful, a pleasant meander through the church year.  Good insight and great writing. I like the new paperback cover, too -- hooray!





Oon  looking.jpgn Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes Alexandra Horowitz (Scribner) $27.00  Okay, this isn't memoir, really.  It is a very creative sort of serious non-fiction, written by the same popular, smart author who gave us the exceptional, intelligent, fascinating look at life from a dogs-eye view, Inside a Dog.  Loved that one? Or maybe you had heard about it, was intrigued, but didn't want to read a whole book, just on that.  This will be perfect for you -- it's the same sort of approach, written large. You get to see all sorts of things, from new perspectives, new angles.  Wait till you see what other insights this amazing woman brings to us as she guides us on eleven different walks, and teaches us how to see.  Susan Orlean explains the author's great gift like this:  "Horowitz writes like a poet, thinks like a scientist, and ventures like an explorer. Her book will have you looking in a new way at the world around you, and make you glad you did."

Yes, it is fair to say that Horowitz's On Looking teaches us to pay attention  -- one reviewer said it helps us get "the scent behind the smell" -- by describing these almost dozen small adventures. Jonathan Weiner says "On Looking teaches us that the world is just as rich, strange, and charmed when seen through the eyes of our local artists, doctors, architects, and toddlers." Mostly set in her neighborhood in Manhattan, it could be anywhere, if you have "the eyes to see." Great.


The Strange Death of Captain John Buckman and Other Obscure Stories Harry L. Borger (Sheridan Press) $14.99  Well, I'm not sure what to say about this since the author is my own very beloved older brother. I guess I'm biased, but I am sure some BookNotes fans will get a real kick out of this.  This is as indie as it gets.


Hharry camping.jpgarry L. was big in Boy Scouts in the 60s, and from an early age learned about telling camp fire stories.  Later, he learned to be a guide at the National Park in Gettysburg, worked in the ghost walking scene for a bit, and he's matured into not just a fire-side story teller, but a vibrant oral historian, a keeper of many secrets, a guy who knows a bit about everything and loves for you to know the details. 


This is his self-published manuscript, and it includes some family stories, some stuff from his own life, and a whole lot of odd-ball history from central Pennsylvania (and beyond.  Way beyond, like a piece on Norway, which you really should read, and a bit on the central PA town of Karthaus, whose founder may have been working for the King of France and had some connections to silver belonging to Blackbeard at the Baltimore harbor, and some other clear connections with a ex-baron from Poland who was building the first interstate highway through Pennsylvania in the early 1800s.) 


So, I admit, it isn't exactly a memoir.  But I'm putting it here, well, because it really does say much about his own life, his passions, and his hopes that people recall the past, their localities, the stories of their places, even if some of those stories are yarns.  If I were doing a history list, I'd put it there, too.  It is a book that defies easy categorization.


Do you know about the drawing of Lincoln's feet?  Did you know there is a mini-nuclear reactor in the woods outside of State College, PA?  Did you know that early aviators made their way by looking at giant concrete arrows (almost the size of small roadways) and you can still find some of these slabs out in the wilderness, pointing this way or that?


I suppose it may not thrill you, but did you know that the famous artist M.C. Escher did a print in 1919 callthe-borger-oak.jpged "The Borger Oak"? Did you know about the murder of young Clara Price and the memorial about her along the Susquehanna River?  Do you know about the collier industry in many 19th century woodlands? Harry used to be an attentive adventurer and canoe paddler, so he knows these things.  He's hiked here and there, snooped around, talked to the old-timers, and scavenged small-town historical societies and libraries. He's unraveled a few murder mysteries in this book, and regales us with some funny tales, too. I suspect he made a few up on his many canoe trips on the West Branch. 


Harry knows about the Pine Grove Furnace Prisoner of War Camp (and the restoration project there.)  He knows about the largest shipwrecked fleet in the Western Hemisphere, and a local connection. You can learn this stuff, too  -- like what he shares in an essay about the town of Pandemonium, PA.  Or how lumbering was done in the mid-Atlantic woods in the early 1900s. Harry is an outdoorsman, so there is some nice nature writing here. He's into geo-caching, so there are unique stories about places and placements that are educational and inspiring. He's got some old photos included, of historical buildings, of old equipment (steam engine era, for instance) and of maps and old newspaper stories.  My, my, it is hard to explain.  There's a bit about our family, and our late, great father, Harry D. Borger. A few of his friends have contributed a couple of pieces, and he's highlighted a few news excerpts of pertinent pieces, or stuff he happened to find amusing.  I have to admit I'm not sure if this will win any Pulitzer Prizes, but we all know that oral history and local storytelling is of great, great value. Especially when it is written by somebody with as much curiosity and flair as my big bro.  I was thinking of sending one to Wendell Berry, actually.  I think some Hearts & Minds readers will appreciate it.  I can even get it autographed, if you'd like.  Let us know.


MMMP.jpgoving Miss Peggy Robert Benson (Abingdon) $15.99 I have often said how much I love this gentle, clear, economical author.  I'd follow him anywhere -- and have -- as he has written a number of great books,  one by one offering ruminations on baseball and backyard gardening and vacations and vocations life, all including portions of his own story. He is known for his guidebooks on prayer and Benedictine views of community and neighborliness.  Here, he turns his attention to something so very, very tender (and, not incidentally, something very, very close to my own experiences these days.)  This is about his beloved mother's growing dementia.  And, of course, moving her to a better living situation.


This is doubtlessly one of the best books I've read this year, and if you, or anyone you know, is facing this common situation of dealing with an increasingly frail or forgetful loved on, this is a will be a true companion for you.  He talks about his colorful mother, and his colorful extended family who all pitched in to figure out the finances and future of Miss Peggy.  He gives some advice along the way, but never at the expense of the unfolding narrative.  As all of his inspiring books, the lessons are mostly between the lines, coming quietly, connected to the quiet story as he so candidly tells it. 


Again, if you know anyone with aging parents, this book will be a godsend.  Even if you don't now relate to this topic, it is a gem of a memoir, a wonderful telling of a touching tale, and I'd still heartily recommend it for book lovers of any sort.  Read Robert Benson.  Read Moving Miss Peggy.  Before you are even part way through you will care more about your family, the plot-line of your life and the plot-lines of your loved ones lives, and you will be grateful for the presence of God through it all.  Reading this is lovely experience (even though a few times it hit so close to home had to wipe tears from my eyes, reminding me of Dorothy Day's famous line about love being a harsh and dreadful thing.)  Read this book and you will be better for it, I promise.


I wish the publisher could have provided a clearer jpg of the cover that could be imported for you to see -- you'd better notice not only the very moving photograph, but a lovely, rare blurb by the esteemed theologian, Frederick Buechner.


Mmy sisters the saints.jpgy Sisters The Saints: A Spiritual Memoir Colleen Carroll Campbell (Image) $22.99  If you care about college students, young adults, and especially young women and their faith development, you will be hooked on this beautifully written memoir within the first few paragraphs.  It starts almost brutally, the attractive and worldly-wise young collegiate in the aftermath of a brazenly drunken party the night before, wondering how her life had brought here there, and what in the world it all meant. Well written with the sad ring of truth  -- it could have been a scene from novels like Tom Wolfe's  I Am Charlotte Simmons or Jeffrey Eugenides' The Marriage Plot  -- the author decides to make some other choices in her life. 


She writes,


"Returning my gaze  to the bleak scene beneath the window, I realized how much things had changed -- how much I had changed -- since I first arrived at my freshman dorm that muggy August move-in day. I had lost something. I didn't know what it was or how to get it back. I only knew that this aching emptiness in the pit of my stomach had grown unbearable."


The heart of the book tells of her own journey around the world, to some amazing places and some notable jobs (including a stint as a speech writer in the White House), driven by her angst and ambivalence about the sexual chaos and gender expectations of her generation's culture, to discover and embrace the Catholic vision of five women saints. She writes,


Dissatisfied by the pat answers offered both by secular feminists and their antifeminist critics, I found grace and inspiration from  an unexpected source: spiritual friendships with six women saints. In the lives and writings of Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, Faustina of Poland, Edith Stein of Germany, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and Mary of Nazareth, I discovered kindred spirits. These women spoke to my deepest longings, guided me through my most wrenching decisions, and transformed my understanding of love and liberation.

About Campbell's work writing about these women, art historian Elizabeth Lev says Campbell has "liberated these great historical heroines from dusty altarpieces and stone effigies and has brought them into the new millennium."


The memoir itself, which tells the broader story of her travels, her quest for faith, trying times with an ill father, her own marriage and new motherhood, it is deeply meaningful, but also a lot of fun.


Here she tells of, well, you'll see:


I had not been expecting to work with him that day. I knew that Bush was an early riser, but no one had told me that he expected his speechwriters to arrive before sunrise on the morning after they had turned in remarks for his review. I felt faint when I strolled into my office at 8 A.M. and found "POTUS" listed on my caller ID. I had missed the President's call -- twice -- and he still was waiting to see me so we could discuss the speech I had written for him on education reform.


I arrived in the Oval Office minutes later, breathless and sporting my cheapest blazer, a lumpy, pea-green number I had picked up at T.J.Maxx for $13. My drab brown slacks drooped at the waist, and my still-damp hair hung limply around my puffy eyes. I had spent most of the night before lying awake, wondering if this move had been a mistake. Now sleep-deprived and still panting from my sprint through the West Wing, I tried to remind myself that it's an honor to work for a president even if he fires you the second week.


It is a fine and enjoyable read for anyone; Agnes Conovan says "You won't put this book down until you have finished the last page.  And, as you read, you will hold your breath in hopefulness." But it is quite particularly Roman Catholic.  Charles Chaput OFM (the Capuchin Archbishop of Philadelphia) writes that "Colleen Carrroll Campbell is one of the finest writers on the American Catholic scene, and My Sister the Saints shows her heart, her skill, and her keen intelligence at their best. This is a wonderful, engaging, personal memoir and a great witness of faith."  Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York says "Completely contemporary and totally timeless, this engaging spiritual memoir is the perfect guidebook for anyone who is looking for a companion to help her navigate life's sometimes difficult and confusing journey."


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August 22, 2013

CMYK: The Process of Life Together by Justin McRoberts ON SALE

As I was doing my top ten memoirs for the summer in my last post --  a good list, I thought --  there was one title I really wanted to mention, but didn't.  Besides it blowing my "top ten" limit, it isn't exactly a memoir.  And, anyway,  it deserved its own very special review.


So, call this a happy ad-on to the top ten if you wish. 


We are one of the very few bookstores in the country carrying CMYK,  a very classy self-published book, and although we have previously given it a shout-out (in my 50 books for summer webinar), I wanted to tell you a bit more about it.  It is a tiny bit complicated to explain, but just marvelous to read.  it is even marvelous to behold. It is just mah-va-lus.


justin color line.jpg 


Justin McRoberts, sometimes known as McBob, is himself pretty mah-va-lus.  He's a co-pastor of an edgy,justin standing.jpg good church full of sinners and saints, outside of San Fran.  He's a road warrior who plays a great acoustic guitar, and has a belting voice that moves me deeply -- and he performs all over the country.  I have to admit that although I like his work a lot, love him as a brother, and appreciate his good support for all things bookish (not to mention his support for Hearts & Minds --  he actually orders from us, rather than "liking" us on facebook, which, come to think of it, he never does -- what's with that?) I actually don't know his backstory all that well.  So I'll wing it, here; the short version, which should make you want to read his book.


It seems that more than a decade or so ago Justin starting putting out a few really cool, very smart, singer-songwriter albums, with songs that, I think by design, were not what most might call contemporary Christian music.  He has done some work with Young Life, has a heart for the unchurched and the hurting, and, well, he's an artist.  Seriously.  So, his albums were deep with faith and rich with images and stories, and I think if you had the ears to hear, you'd get a bit of the grace that so shapes his life.  But they weren't preachy and they weren't mostly worship and they were not formulaic. 


And then CCM got a hold of him. He became a bit of a contemporary Christian music rock star, and he has confided that he doesn't think those were good years for him.  I surmise that he had other people at the helm of his work, producing the sorts of projects than perhaps were not really "him" and, well, you can imagine.  As you might guess, Justin isn't a slick and easily promoted gospel guy, and it didn't quite work out.


Happily, he had the guts and grit and ingenuity to figure out how to reclaim his life. He continued to
Justine McRoberts.jpg write music and play and sing and speak, did the church plant thing,  and made more CDs, all independent of the industry. He became a spokesperson for Compassion International, and he continued to do his art. He actually did a bunch of indie albums, and they are really good. (He even did one of very cool acoustic covers of 80s songs, which was splendid.) I respect his song-writing (who else, I often say, writes a song inspired by urban education reformer Jonathan Kozol?) I respect his life.  And I'm glad to report he's a fun and funny guy.  He is, as they say, the real deal.


And that is just the beginning, but it's what I want you to know, that he is a man of character and integrity and joy, with a passion to do good work, creating indie pop type songs that tell stories that mean something.  Hejustin and books.jpg is a very well-read Christian (see the picture of him posing by a whole spread of his books -- not a few of which he bought from us, I might add) which already makes him a curiosity right? He is honest and real, and his music reveals his depth, and his passion for life lived authentically, messy as it often is. 


A PROPHETIC IMAGINATION AS SONGWRITER

McRoberts' songs are not at all religious propaganda, obviously, but they are not cryptic, either.  That is, if I might be the music critic for a moment, he does not tend to write lyrics that are so minimalist or impressionistic or obscure -- art for arts sake -- that they hardly seem to mean anything.  He may not want somebody to ask merely just what a song is about, but if you do, I suspect he wouldn't just shrug and say "whatever."  He is a good poet, but he is a preacher, too, after all -- he reads Walter Brueggemann.  He nurtures his imagination, but he strives for it to be a bit prophetic.  Which means it has to connect, to evoke, to allude to stuff that matters in the real world of ache and mystery.


TCMYK book.jpgo wit, we want to tell you about this crazy-good, truly lovely, rather recent book that he also self-produced.  Yes, he's a go-getter, and he not only self-produces music and social media stuff (see him on youtube, talking about his new project, here or here, playing one of his songs solo) but now he's in the freakin' book business.


And what tremendous books he has done.  Yes, that is plural. 


TWO VERSIONS

There are two editions of CMYK.  (Did I mention something about him being an over-achiever?) There is one edition that is rather plain (and fails to include the stellar blurb that I gave him.) It sells normally for $9.99, although we have it here for BookNotes friends at 20% off of that, $7.99.


And there is another version that includes a remarkable, full-color, graphic design, art that works well to illuminate and enhance the stories and lessons, page by wonderful page. That expanded edition sells usually for $24.99, but we have it at the BookNotes 20% off, making it just $19.99.


So, yeah: one trim and plain and a bit cheaper, one full-color, with hyper-designed, spectacular artful illustration and a slightly larger shape and heft -- and well worth a few extra bucks.


Here are three video pieces with each of the artists who did art inspired by the songs, art that ended up in the expanded version of the book. Click on the "watch" link, there under the yellow paint. Don't miss them.


BOOKS & MUSIC

And -- it gets better! -- he did four CDs to go along with each of the portions of this book.  Yes, it isCMYK-522x294.jpg a book (in two versions) and there is music to accompany it.  Or, more precisely, the book, actually accompanies the songs; in most cases, the book's chapters reveal something of the backstory of the songs.  It really is a great idea, no?  Who does this kind of stuff?  Justin McRoberts, that's who.


HERE is the CMYK site where you can sample some songs, etc.  Come back here to buy the book, but do check how his really spiffy website.


CMYK:  The Process of Life Together (in either edition, and with or without the music) is a great, great book.  The art does enhance it, so I'm fond of the slightly larger, full-color edition. (The interviews with the artists in the expanded one are actually very interesting, as well, noting how hard they worked to find design styles that somehow connected with the printed prose.)  But the plain one is a great read.  And reading this stuff is going to bless you, I am sure.


Here's the explanation.  C-M-Y and K are the letters used in the color printing process (you knew that, right?) And we need all the colors, and they indeed overlap.  And McBob has these four recordings, a series, called, respectively, C, M, Y, and K. So, presto, the book he wrote expanding on the songs is entitled CMYK.  Colorful, eh?


And here is the fabulous book trailer, his overview of the book, in a really moving short clip.  Wow; don't miss this!


And the writing is colorful.  McRoberts offers a full palette of human colors, the colors and tones and textures of grief and joy and lament and celebration and wonderment and struggle.  


THE BOOK IS ABOUT PEOPLE, ABOUT REAL COMMUNITY

Like any pastor, and like most good traveling songsters, he cares about people, connects with them, reaches out and enters into relationships. These songs, and the essays in the book, are the poetically-rendered stories inspired by some of the people he has met. In this good but fallen world, full of what Bruce Cockburn famously called "rumours of glory", there are colorful people. Mincing few words, sparing us not much, telling it like it is, McRoberts reports back from the front lines of his role as friend and listener, one who has pursued deep involvement in the human condition. He cares for folks, he gets to know people, and, often with their permission, artfully tells their stories.  This book is that chronicle, the cataloging of the ups and downs, the fears and the foibles of folks far and wide.  As such, it is illuminating and valuable.  And really, really interesting. 


Do you care about people?  You will love this book.  You will love listening in as Justin writes letters tocmyk plain cover.jpg people -- chapters are entitled "Letters to a Young Pastor", "Letters to a Young Brother" or "Letters to an Affected Sister."  You will get energy from his telling of their tales, and will appreciate the counsel and care he gives each.  His letters are in some cases almost like very short stories, mini-biographies where a life is revealed.


Do you find yourself a bit apathetic, frustrated by those who interrupt you or who make emotional demands? Are you sometimes just not a people person?  Well, you, too, should read this book.  You will, I think, circuitously, learn how to care a bit more, learn to take up the calling of being present to others.  In one, he offers a bit called "In Sickness and in Health" and in another he writes "It Must Be Hell on You" which is a letter to a lost friend, one who is uncertain about faith and their relationship is in jeopardy.  Remember Me Jesus is "A Letter to a Queer Sister" and it is a good example of good care for another.  He has a letter to an atheist, inspired by a person about whom he wrote the song The Fear of God.  His reflection, then, following that letter, is "Some People Just Want To Watch the World Burn" which, as you may know, is that line from the brilliant Batman movie, The Dark Knight.  I do think that we can learn much from somebody who has these pastoral gifts, who has learned somehow how to put his heart into words, and taken the risk of trying to forge community with others.


The Batman bit?  By the way, that isn't uncommon in this book.  A line from another musician's work (Arcade Fire, Regina Spektor, David Bazan) or good citations from premier writers (an epigram from The Abolition of Man or a quote from James K.A. Smith or a line from Flannery O'Connor) mashes up next to his own lyrics and reflections, with stories about everything from playing Nintendo to climbing Mt. Diablo, from the "doing life together" dreams of his Oikos faith community to the short solid letter he wrote to his own infant son. It makes for an engaging, provocative read, with lots and lots of dots to connect.  You will get your money's worth, I assure you.


I don't think I should reveal too much about any of the chapters, though, as part of the experience of this book is learning to care for these people, taking in their stories, pondering the insight Justin shares in his letters to and reflections about them.  I will say that the song 33 is about Justin's deceased father, Justin himself turning 33, and is a powerful, powerful center of the book. I will also say, just for the fun of it, that one of our most regular customers, Dave Bekowies -- who is known to sign off his emails with lyrics from Jethro Tull or U2 -- is the subject of one of the very good chapters here.  And the epigram before that chapter comes from For the Life of the World by the late Orthodox theologian, Alexander Schmemann.  I think sold him that book, by the way.  So it's a cool little couple of degrees of separation thing going on right there, with Dave and Schmemann and Justin's song "Courage to Believe" which was a personal favorite, and is more so, now, realizing it is about something Dave taught him, that God is already involved in our lives, right where we are.


For all of us, it will --  as good art can -- whisper and hint, alluding to matters of the heart, helping us hear the rumors, to affirm that, indeed, there is glory. People are strange, The Doors used to sing, and, yes, these are Strange Days.  But Justin reminds us through these songs, and the revealing stories about the people in the songs, and then the letters he writes to them, how to discern the hand of God amidst the strangeness.  These are real lives, with real pains, struggling with real stuff.  It seems to me that in this embrace of the very human condition, every chapter becomes a beautiful reminder of the central Christian doctrine of the incarnation.  He's not that heavy-handed about it all, but there it is: this is an allusive, story-telling, beautiful example of incarnational spirituality.  In fact, the last page remarks that although he travels, he is committed to a particular place, with particular people.  The last words are "the soil beneath my feet."  It doesn't get much more incarnational than that.


MARK LABBERTON ON CMYK

CMYK: The Process of Life Together comes with a great forward by author, preacher, and now President of Fuller Theological Seminary, McBob's friend, Rev. Mark Labberton.  He gives an extended meditation on how the church too often separates faith and life, especially "raw life."  We in the churches are a bit sanitized, I guess he means to say, and we sometimes don't affirm the messy rawness of real life in this broken world.  We like to keep it clean, keep it safe. "When Christian people," he writes, "choose the cleaner option of keeping God and raw life apart, the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ becomes a religious cartoon."

And then, of Justin and his book, he writes, 


The gift of this CMYK Project is that it brings this rare combination together. Any who have known Justin McRoberts would be surprised if it did not do so, of course. The blend is Justin's life and vocation. It has been evident in his music and leadership for years. But here it is exposed vividly.


And then, this wonderful line, a line any author would be proud to have written about his or her book:


"What we are given is an invitation to join Justin in an unfinished, honest, empathic, hurting story of hope."


I think Labberton is on to something here, saying the book is an invitation to hope.  It is why (Labberton also says) the story must be told in many dimensions: the letters, the lyrics, and music, theCMYK in hand.jpg visual art, the interviews.  "This is not an invitation into a cartoon encounter with God, nor with each other. It is a multi-dimensional, littered, vivid, living story of being human, seeking God and neighbor."


And that is why I had to do a review of this, just this one -- it is fairly rare, remarkably interesting, and, finally, about being human, in community.


So, get the CDs if you'd like, or download them at Justin's site.

BUY THE BOOK

But surely buy the book, either the plain one, or the enhanced, full-color one, from us here.  Maybe you could read it together with others -- after all, CMYK is, as the subtitle says "the process of life together." It would be a great book to foster community.  Either way, be prepared for a joyful learning experience, an interesting set of stories, letters, and lyrics -- littered and vivid -- and join Justin and his friends in this lovely invitation to hope.  Incarnational hope.




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August 24, 2013

Great Books about Martin Luther King, the Civil Rights Movement and the March on Washington, 1963. ON SALE FROM HEARTS & MINDS BOOKS, HERE AT BOOKNOTES

1963. The March on Washington.  I Have a Dream.  There has been so, so much written overking-arm raised.jpg the last decades, and these last days, about this iconic moment in American history that I am reluctant to add more. 

I hope you know that our Hearts & Minds bookstore has a large selection of books about Dr. King, a larger section of books about the civil rights movement, and an even larger section of books about contemporary race relations, multi-cultural concerns, and the ways in which the gospel can help heal the wounds and foibles of 21st century ethnic tensions.  We have a sub-section just on churches and how congregations can be more sensitive to multi-cultural concerns, which I would think church leaders would occasionally buy.  

Given the great needs and great opportunities in this area, I believe it is professionalmany colors.jpg malpractice for clergy to not have read at least one book on this subject, deepening one's awareness of "cultural intelligence." At the risk of seeming to open my column about the historic speech with a digression, please note this: a massive research project, co-led by an old and trusted friend, gave rise to a new book on what the research shows helps create clergy resilience.  That is, what do the most long-lasting, fruitful, happy, well-balanced pastors do; what factors help nurture resilience? How can you, if you are a pastor, or your pastor, if you've got one, grow and thrive?  And one of the practices is, curiously, developing a cross-cultural sensitivity.  Even those in mostly white congregations, this data suggests, will thrive in their ministries if they've taken initiative to learn and grow in this very arena. See Resilient Ministry: What Pastors Told Us About Surviving and Thriving by Bob Burns, Tasha Chapman and Donald Guthrie (IVP;  $17.00) for more.

So, we have a lot of these books, are glad to offer them, and feel a certain urgency to continue to promote titles about racial justice and multi-ethnic ministry.  Pastors and church leaders should take note, but this -- I am sure -- will be interesting and helpful for all of us. There are tons of books on this topic, and here are some of our selections.

Tmarch-on-washington-19631.jpghis week we will all surely ponder that great event of August 1963, and notice the powerful pictures, the inter-faith leadership, the historic music, the coats and ties and Sunday best as Negro folks, especially, poured in to the city. I trust that many BookNotes readers will be glad to learn of good resources to help them learn more about this extraordinary, historic - and this time, the word is well-used! Historic! - event from 50 years ago. Here are some that we heartily recommend.  As always, we have them on sale here at BookNotes, and it would be our great pleasure to serve you by sending them out.  Use the order form page at the website, or send us an email.   Thanks!

Tking years.jpghe King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement  Taylor Branch (Simon & Schuster) $26.00  This spectacular book includes selections from the hefty "American in the King Years" trilogy, the Pulitzer Prize winning magisterial volumes that are the gold standard for the history of this era. Branch sets up each excerpt with new introductions, making this an exceptionally interesting and splendidly useful brief resource.  I can't say enough about it (although you can read my brief review in my "Politics & Prose" column at CPJ's Capitol Commentary where I wrote about it.) 

Reading this sort of book will make abundantly clear that the March on Washington was part of a larger, broader project, which includes very important episodes such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott (and King's first public address in 1955!), the student sit-ins of 1960, the Freedom Rides (and the Nashville Initiative of 1961), and of course Birmingham 1963 -- in many ways it was the horrors and small victory of Birmingham that Spring the compelled the national civil rights organizations to unite around the idea of a national march. 

I am sure that some of the best coverage we'll see this weekend will educate us about this essential American story, but I do sometimes fret that some of the coverage will romanticize the speech itself (or, as is often the case, excerpt just the lovely "dream" part about the children playing together, failing to even grapple with the full content of the speech, let alone the March, let alone the broader civil rights struggle of which it was a part.)  So, read up, brothers and sisters.  This is vital stuff, inspiring, important.

Ggod's long summer.jpgod's Long Summer: Stories of Faith and Civil Rights  Charles Marsh (Princeton University Press) $18.95  There are so many great books about the civil rights movement, but few are as well written, as captivating, as raw, and as insightful as this.  It is compelling in an odd, even curious way; it shows how many on both sides of the movement were guided by faith, and in some cases, the exact same Bible verses!  What a poignant, weird, illuminating story, opening us up to the human drama behind these famous episodes.  This is as profound as it gets, and a truly fascinating reading experience. In Christianity Today, Randy Frame wrote that it is "haunting" and that "Marsh's work speaks directly to the development of our own moral lives." Jonathan Yardley in the Washington Post declared that it is "original and uncommonly thoughtful."

This fine work looks at the summer of 1964, in the alarmingly violent Mississippi, where you meat lively people you will never forget, such as Fannie Lou Hamer.


Wweary feet .jpgeary Feet, Rested Souls: A Guided History of the Civil Rights Movement Townsend Davis (Norton) $16.95  This is, literally, a guide to how to take a civil rights tour in any number of key cities throughout the South.  There are little maps and, like any travel guide, suggestions of what to see and what to look for.  But it is more, much more. In its over 425 pages it has sidebars and long narratives, brimming with anecdotes and local histories, including first-person accounts of the amazing courage shown in these dramas of resistance to state-sponsored terrorism.  Some of the stories are gut-wrenching and the eye for historical detail is amazing.  What a way to learn!  There are so many un-sung local heroes, so many awful stories, so many noble efforts, often faith-based and deeply inspiring.  As Marian Wright Edelman wrote, it is "splendid. Weary Feet, Rested Souls is a valuable and beautiful road map to a landscape we must not forget."  Pulitzer Prize winner David J. Garrow says, "No other book on the movement offers a better "sense of place" and Weary Feet will allow you to follow in the footsteps of movement marchers all the way from Arkansas to North Carolina. Weary Feet is a moving, accurate guide, and an invaluable contribution to civil rights history."

Tthe dream.jpghe Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation Drew D. Hansen (Harper) $13.99  Glad this is now out in paperback (although we could sell you a good hardback or two at the paperback price, if you'd like that.) I have already noted that I sometimes fret that we don't grapple adequately with the big, radical, goals of the civil rights movement, and the "I Have a Dream" speech can so easily be tamed and co-opted.  King was a civil and eloquent Baptist pastor, but he, like Aslan before him, was not safe. We must recall -- as the stunning first chapter of this book helps us do -- that just months earlier the fire hoses were viciously set upon children;  Bobby Kennedy directly made sure the Washington DC police dogs would not be out on August 28th as they would remind people of their awful, vile use in Birmingham. The White House called a meeting early in the summer to try to stop this march. It was tense and the time were dangerous.  

King and his colleagues in the movement can be domesticated, and have been; the whole "I Have a Dream" sequence has been, too -- often.  This is to say that Drew Hansen's very good book will have none of that.  It deftly explores the fascinating build up to the great day, the behind the scenes stuff, the celebrities and the push-back and the feedback - "Damn, he's good" Kennedy said from the White House window.  It is, in the words of David Garrow (a Pulitzer Prize winning author of Bearing the Cross, one of the definitive books in the King studies field) "superbly perceptive." Clayborne Carson, who is the director of the King papers project at Stanford, who was at the March on Washington and knows King's work well, says of Hansen's The Dream, "It accomplishes the remarkable feat of illuminating the deep historical, biographical, and intellectual roots of King's "I Have a Dream" speech, while also illuminating the reasons for its lasting impact."   The always wise Dr. Robert Coles says it is "a book that students of literature and history will want to read carefully: a great person's words become a crucial turning point in a nation's history."  Very, very nicely done.

BBecoming-King-199x300.jpgecoming King: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Making of a National Leader  Troy Jackson (Kentucky University Press ) $35.00  Troy is an amazing youngish pastor in Cincinnati,  he has a PhD in history (and a seminary degree from Princeton) and had the remarkable privilege of being an editor of one of the esteemed Papers of Martin Luther King volumes. So he is an active pastor and a good scholar.  Becoming King studies the Montgomery bus boycott, and how King was catapulted there into leadership in a way that decisively shaped King's identity as a civil rights leader. It has a great foreword by the important King scholar, Clayborne Carson. Consider this quote by Chana Kai Lee (who wrote the definitive work on Fannie Lou Hamer, by the way, called For Freedom's Sake) "A sharply conceived and effectively rendered study that reminds us once again that the notional of a "historical accident" is woefully inadequate - indeed, too simplistic - in understanding the scope of arguably the greatest civil rights movement campaign and one of the most compelling twentieth century figures."


Thgospel of freedom.jpge Gospel of Freedom: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from a Birmingham Jail and the Struggle That Changed the Nation  Jonathan Rieder (Bloomsbury) $25.00  What a thrilling, important and wonderful book this is.  I've said before about it that it is a tremendous read - and so helpful to show the essential background and context to the letter, and the immediate struggle in that awful era in the south, and in Birmingham, particularly.  You probably know that the famous "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" has been put into dozens (if not hundreds) of anthologies and readers, and is considered one of the great pieces of literature and social ethics ever penned. Reading this wonderful book would be a great honor to the great Dr. King, and will help you realize some of what was "in the air" in the years right before the famous March on Washington. In fact, one can hardly understand the "I Have a Dream" speech without knowing about Birmingham.



Bblessed-are-peacemakers-martin-luther-king-jr-eight-s-jonathan-bass-paperback-cover-art.jpglessed are the Peacemakers: Martin Luther King, Jr., Eight White Religious Leaders, and the "Letter from Birmingham Jail"  S. Jonathan Bass (Louisana State University Press) $39.99 HALF PRICE $19.99 (while supplies last)  This is sadly out of print, and we have just one left, on sale, even, but it should be listed.  How many books have an endorsing blurb from the great Will Campbell? I learned a lot from this, I recall - it was the first full accounting of the letter and showed what scholars might call "its mediated context."  That is, we are told about the complex elements of the Letter's production and offered a "substantive challenge to the lore that surrounds its creation."  But here is the thing to realize: the eight moderate clergyman (who criticized George Wallace, by the way as well as Dr. King) are given their due and readers may come away with a greater appreciation for their role in working for careful social change in the South.  Serious and illuminating.


Wwhile the world watched.jpghile the World Watched: A Birmingham Bombing Survivor Comes of Age During the Civil Rights Movement Carolyn Maull McKinstry with Denise George (Tyndale) $17.99  It has also been a half a century since the KKK bombed the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, shortly after 10 am on a Sunday morning (September 15, 1963 -- less than a month after the famous March on Washington and the speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial.)  The four young girls that died in that blast were good friends of Carolyn Maull McKinstry.  Here is what she writes in the introduction to this moving, personal story by a fairly ordinary young person growing up in those traumatic years: 

 For nearly five decades now I have tried to forget the deaths, the inhumane injustices, the vicious German shepherds, the fierce blast of the water hoses, and the brutal assassinations of those who spoke out for change. But now, as I see new generations coming and old generations passing, I feel compelled to write down in permanent ink my eyewitness account of exactly what happened... while the world watched. 

Ms Maull McKinstry is an often-cited spokesperson, has appeared in magazines, shows, and studies as diverse as Oprah, 20/20, and Spike Lee's documentary Four Little Girls.  She remains active in her home church and is a wise voice for gospel-driven racial reconciliation. She recently earned an MDiv from Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham.

Frfree ellis.jpgee at Last? The Gospel in the African American Experience  Carl F. Ellis, Jr. (IVP) $21.95  Looking  back, I think I'd say this is one of the best books I've ever read on this topic, and certainly one of the most formative in my own journey. (Its earliest version was called Beyond Liberation and this is a considerably expanded version.)  Rev. Ellis has long been a friend of the CCO and has spoken at our Jubilee conference often; his commitments to Reformed theology and thoughtful cultural engagement are well-respected.  As it says on the back cover, "Ellis traces the maturing of Black consciousness from slavery days to the present, noting especially the contributions of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Running through African-American history are traces of a theological soul dynamic, an authentic manifestation of Christianity in black culture. In this dynamic faith, says Ellis, African Americans will find true freedom in God's grace."  I think this is important  for one and all  --  a classic book for us here at Hearts & Minds and therefore one we heartily recommend.

Mmartin luther king the inconvenient hero.jpgartin Luther King: The Inconvenient Hero Vincent Harding (Orbis) $16.00  Go to any library and you can find a dozen or more books on King.  Here in the shop, we have them for little children, for older youth, and bunches for adults, of every size and shape and level. Some are about his life, some about his convictions.  This is one of the very, very best, in part because Harding calls us to the most radical visions and deepest hopes of King, including his concerns and action on behalf of the poor in the northern ghettos, his critique of the Viet Nam war, his work with the Poor People's Campaign, and, of course, his principled, strategic nonviolence. Harding himself is an eloquent, passionate writer, and being with him once -- with Parker Palmer at his side -- was a great, great moment which I cherish to this day. Harding is an amazing writer, his insights about King are profound, and whether you finally agree with him - or his interpretation of King - or not, you should read this little volume. It is powerful and will stretch you, I promise.

Reading Harding would truly be a very good way to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" speech and the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom at which it was delivered. Can we have the speech without the March? Can we have the March without King's radical Christian social gospel? Without his commitment to nonviolence and global justice?  Can we honor him well without Harding's insight?  Read this book and you will know.  It is an amazing reading experience.

By the way, for a speculation of how King might have turned more conservative in his social policies in the new century, very much unlike the little classic by Harding, read this controversial, but very interesting study, What Would Martin Say by Clarence Jones (Harper; $14.99.) Jones knew King well and was a confidant for many years, and he obviously knows ML's writings, so when he weighs in on very modern issues, he has good reasons for why he thinks Dr. King would have shifted in his policy analysis and proposals.  But many thought his effort presumptuous at best and not as likely as Jones speculates...

Mmartin l king for Armchair.jpgartin Luther King Jr. for Armchair Theologians Rufus Burrows Jr with illustrations by Ron Hill (WJK) $16.95  We often recommend these small, easy-to-read, but substantive paperbacks. (The series includes a bunch of different ones, all "for armchair theologians" including Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Edwards, Barth, Bonhoeffer, Heretics.) This is an exceptional little book that tells about King's life and culture. It features good discussion about King's primary philosophical influences, his theological methods, and where he stood on a variety of issues. It has a good chapter on Birmingham, and a very good chapter about King's concern for youth - we shouldn't forget the way school integration, court rulings and such influenced the shape of the Jim Crow era, and, then, conversely, how the heroic service of children in the campaigns in Selma, galvanized a nation as they saw children abused by white police and their dogs and fire hoses.  There is oddly nothing in this book about the March on Washington, although it is otherwise very thorough, and a quick way to get up to speed on this influential, often-misunderstood Christian leader.

Mmarchbookone_Main.jpgarch: Book One  John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell (Top Shelf Productions) $14.95  I assume you know the important name John Lewis, a black leader, now a Congressman representing his district in George, who met King as a young man, helped organize the famous Nashville Student Movement, the lunch-counter sit ins and, of course,the March on Washington and more.  Lewis's well-received auto-biography (telling of his journey from a share-croppers farm in a very poor part of Alabama, through Jim Crow and into the highest levels of the national civil rights movement, and finally into the US Congress) is called Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Civil Rights Movement, and he has more recently published Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change.  March Book One is the first of a trilogy to be released in graphic novel form.  The illustrator, Nate Powell, has won numerous awards and has done other socially-conscious graphic books.  By the way, the story of Montgomery Bus Boycott -- which Rosa Parks famously helped start and which King helped lead -- was told in comic book form, and that comic book was used to inspire many in the late 50s (including one John Lewis!) So having this high-quality contemporary comic book style used again is nothing short of brilliant.  Excellent, and a great gift for anyone who enjoys this genre.

Sstride.pngtwhere do we go.jpgride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story and Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community (Beacon Press) $14.00 each  Here, in recently released, newly type-set and finely edited versions are two essential King books -- his very first, and his very last.  I have long told people that Stride... remains one of the most moving and influential reading experiences of my life.  I can count on one hand the books that were so important to me. And if you are concerned about the warning given above, about the common "co-opting" of King, watering down his radical message to sweet sentiments, you simple must read Where Do We Go... (1967) which was his prophetic call for economic justice, quality education, cast with eloquent zeal and Biblical hope for social healing.  If you admire King, if you are curious about King, if you want great books to own and share, these two should be in your personal library.  Kudos to Beacon for bringing these out in these handsome paperback editions and for their others books in "The King Legacy" series.

I i-have-dream-writings-speeches-that-changed-world-martin-luther-king-jr-paperback-cover-art.jpgHave a Dream: Writings and Speeches That Changed the World  Martin Luther King, Jr. edited by James M. Washington with a foreword by Coretta Scott king (HarperOne) $14.95 There are several compilations of King's speeches out there and we recommend this because it covers all the major speeches, some good examples of lesser known ones, and is a fine size and a good price. From the famed keynote address at the March on Washington and "Letter From a Birmingham Jail" and the "Eulogy for the Martyred Children (1963) to the essay "Pilgrimage to Nonviolence", the Nobel Prize acceptance speech, his piece about "Black Power" and sermons such as "The Drum Major Instinct"and Our God Is Marching On!" to his last sermon, "I See the Promised Land" preached the day before his murder, his collection is a thrilling, passionate, eloquent and timely anthology of speeches that we should continue to hear, continue to take to heart.  A thicker, bigger volume, which includes chapters from his books, interviews, writings and sermons and is much more comprehensive is Testament of Hope: The Essential Writes and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr (HarperOne; $24.99.) It is also expertly edited by James Washington; considering it is over 725 pages, is a great value and a very useful resource.

Llet me people go king.jpget My People Go with Martin Luther King, Jr. Charles Ringma (NavPress)$9.99  Heads up, people: read anything Charles Ringma writes.  He is a Dutch-born Australian citizen, trained at the Reformed Theological College in British Columbia (and has long and lovely connections with Regent College in Vancouver, BC.)  Ringma is a known for a whole-life sort of discipleship, culturally-engaged and thoughtful, but knows to equip us for our daily discipleship by helping us experience God's presence by practicing spiritual disciplines. We might say that he is a contemplative activist; he is known for writing devotionals that bring together a deep, mystical encounter with God and a wide, mature ministry in the world. Here, as with others in this little series of pocket-sized devotionals (there is one drawing on the writings of Bonhoeffer, one on Ellul, one on Nouwen, and one on Mother Teresa.) Ringma provides a great quote or short paragraph from King, a little meditation on it, and an invitation to prayerfully reflect upon it.  In 120 daily reflections we can ponder King's words and dare to live the dream. Ringma is a lovely, wise guide, solid and helpful. 

I I have a Dream (Kadir Nelson).jpgHave a Dream Martin Luther King, illustrations by Kadir Nelson (Harper) $18.99  It is hard to express just how very moving this wonderful all-ages children's book is, but the evocative illustration, and the way they capture the lines of the speech, is just wonderful.  It has won any number of prestigious awards last year, and we are happy to remind you of it here.  By the way, a high quality CD is enclosed of the entire speech, and it is written out in the back of this fine, large-sized book.  Wonderful.  Why not get one and donate it to your church or public library?  We are fans of his other good and beautifully illustrated books as well -- including a wonderful one on US history and African Americans, a very cool one on the Negro Baseball Leagues, a stunning one (Moses) on Hariett Tubman, and another on Dr. King.

Mmartin's big words.jpgartin's Big Words  Doreen Rappaport, illustrations by Bryan Collier (Hyperion; $17.99 hardback, $7.99 paperback) I hope you know this popular, over-sized big book, now out in paperback.  It has just excellent, somewhat modern artwork, and classy, modern typography,  and very well deserving of its Caldecott Honor Award.  It reminds children that they, too, can embrace these big ideas.  There is a nice resource page, too, offering other great books and websites. 

This is an artful and wonderful all-ages children's book, with big type, big pictures, and very big ideas.




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August 25, 2013

A Few More Books to Add to Yesterday's List about Civil Rights. BOOKNOTES SALE - 20% OFF

I hope you found it helpful to read in my last BookNotes post to be reminded of the importance of reading about racial diversity, multi-ethnic ministry, and the need to recall andking years.jpg renew the valiant work of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s.  Those books that I listed about Dr. King, the March on Washington, and the civil rights struggles that went on before and immediately after that March, will inform you, move you, make you weep, and perhaps give you some glad joy that Christ's own church stood with others of other faiths and no faith, to speak about justice, social transformation, racial reconciliation and economic justice. 

That the historic black church and its preaching, piety, prayers, hymns, practices of community, and Biblical literacy was the seedbed for this massive, nonviolent struggle (which lasted decades, against such vicious principalities and powers) remains one of the great testimonies in church history.  I hope you read that list, and know a few of the books I cited.  If not, we have "operators standing by" as they say.  We're at your service.  Perhaps you might start with the Taylor Branch collection.  Or Harding's take on the significance of King.  The one about the March on Washington, itself, The Dream, is fantastic, and you won't put it down!

Here are a few more that I might have listed, not the core texts, perhaps, but excellent, provocative, and good.  Consider this a small part two to yesterdays essentials.

Rread for a brand new beat.jpgeady for a Brand New Beat: How "Dancing in the Street" Became the Anthem for a Changing America  Mark Kurlansky (Riverhead) $27.95  This was one of my most eagerly awaiting books that I was going to enjoy this summer, and was thrilled when it released a few weeks ago.  Haven't read it yet (sigh) but here is what the astute and respected historian David McCullough says of Kurlanks (who wrote the exceptionally interesting books Salt and Cod.) "Every once in a while a writer of a particular skill takes a fresh, seemingly improbably ideas and turns out a book of pure delight."

Kurlansky has written a previous book on 1968, but here his study starts in 1964, looking at the history of Motown, the story of racial integration during this tumultuous period in American culture.  And yep, he does all this through the lens of "Dancing in the Streets."  The summer of 64 swept into the year the Beatles landed, and for some of that summer "A Hard Day's Night" was number one on the Billboard Charts. And then a song by the Supremes; soon there would be a hit by The Animals. But the Martha and the Vandella's hit was the song of the that fateful summer, the Warren Report, racial issues in major league baseball and serious conversations between King's civil rights movement the rising Malcolm X (also in Detroit!) This is a fascinating and fabulous study and a fun way into these serious themes. Are you Ready for a Brand New Beat? This could be a great end-of-the-summer read for you.

"Iin a single garment.jpgn a Single Garment of Destiny" A Global Vision of Justice Martin Luther King, Jr edited and introduced by Lewis V. Baldwin (Beacon Press) $26.95 I mentioned in yesterdays post that Beacon Press has been issuing some of MLK's books in what they call "The King Legacy." They have one compiling his speeches and writings on work and worker's rights, but this one is surely unprecedented.  Here, Baldwin compiled all of King's various speeches and sermons and writings on what we now know as the globalized economy.  For years, I used to use a famous King speech noting the various lands and countries and farmers and workers who ship our various foods to us, noting that we have touched folk all over the world with our morning breakfast.  Indeed, there is something good - and very troubling when it turns unjust -- about the inter-connections in God's world.  (It was King's namesake, Martin Luther, who brought a theological description of that -- the masks and persona's we reveal, as God's hand and feet in the world as we connect with and serve our neighbors.) So, yes, indeed, we are in "a single garment" together, and our destinies are clearly inter-twined. 

The first great chapter here is from "The Vision of a World Made New" a speech given by Rev. King at the Annual Meeting of the Women's Convention Auxiliary of the National Baptists in 1954.  The Joint Statement against South African Apartheid done in 1957 with Elanor Roosevelt, as well as several others, are included.  His address in Amsterdam, Holland given in August of '64 is reprinted as is his famous piece "World House" from Where Do We Go From Here (1967.) 

There are eight chapters in the second portion "Breaking the Chains of Colonialism: The Rise  of Peple of Color in the Third World" where King weighs in on global affairs, including observations about Africa, Ghana and India. 

The third portion of  "In a Single Garment of Destiny"...  compiles pieces about global poverty (including "The Octopus of Poverty" that appeared in The Mennonite in 1965.)  Again, these are important for their historic value, but also because in many ways he was prescient, and in some ways, his insights are as important today as then.  Times have changed, but the faith-based call to prophetic social change endures...

Several concluding pieces make up the last portion  -- as useful today as then -- and look at global injustices, revolution, and the Biblical call to principles but strategic nonviolence.  This powerful portion includes his important speech before the War Resisters League in 1959 as well as an article in the popular Redbook magazine in November of '64 (Who know?)  Of course the famous and firey, must-read speech before CALC at Riverside Church April 4, 1967 is here, as are his hopeful words on "The Middle East Question" from 1967.

This is a fine collection, bringing together some good material about global concerns in one good volume.  Highly recommended.

Astone of hope.jpg Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow David L. Chappell (University of North Carolina Press) $23.5  This massive work has been on my own reading list for a while, and although I have not gotten to it yet, I know enough to list it here.  The Atlantic Monthly says that it is "one of the three or four most important books on the civil rights movement."   They continue, "Chappell argues persuasively that revivalism engendered the civil rights movement's solidarity, leadership, worldview, and rhetoric."  Many reviewers have noted surprise, suggesting it is "innovative" or "refreshingly unconventional" and "a new interpretation."  The Wall Street Journal says it is "delightfully opinionated" and "a first-rate work of history."  I can't help but love the New York Times Book Review quote, "Intricate, dazzling in its reach into so many corners of black and white Southern life and fascinating at every turn...In its mix of rigor, daring, and perceptiveness, A Stone of Hope is a spectacular work."

Makes you want to put it on your, list, too?  I know that Fannie Lou Hamer and James Lawson and Modjeska Simkins and other black leaders drew on the prophetic tradition of the Old Testament and, although sometimes translated into public, more secular language, found their intellectual roots in their Biblical worldview.  Segregationists outvoted and outgunned black intellectuals, but, Chappell argues, their cause lost, "because they did have have a religious commitment to their cause." Wow. You should know this book. Professor Chappell teaches history at the University of Arkansas.

Ffight.jpgight: A Christian Case for Nonviolence  Preston Sprinkle (David C. Cook) $14.99  Of course, most know that King encouraged those involved in sits ins and pray ins and civil disobedience to be fully committed to faith-based nonviolence.  Stride Toward Freedom, the riveting tale of the Montgomery bus boycott is one of the texts that both explain this, and tells how they prepared people to "turn the other cheek" even when physically assaulted. I myself used portions of the Montgomery pledges in training folks for nonviolence direct action against dangerous nuclear power plants in the 70s, and found others, in jail and out, who were equally inspired by King's impressive journey to the power of Christ to disrupt injustice by embodying love for enemy.  Of course his liberal mainline Protestant's almost talked him out of that (thank God for Ghandi and his influence on King, who returned his vision to Jesus!)  It is baffling to me how so many people can say they admire King, but disagree with the heart of his vision: Christian love lived out in a social gospel that was committed to the power of grace and mercy shown to all.  The verse from the Apostle John's "we love because He first loved us" was important to King, as was the cosmic call to be agents of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5: 16ff.)  Yes, he took Jesus literally on this whole business of praying for those who persecute us.

This new book, Fight,  by Preston Sprinkle is a masterpiece of a work, and surprising in many ways (not least of which that it was bravely published by a mainstream, conservative evangelical publisher.)  I think he is a new young voice that will help us understand Dr. King, and to grapple with his call to Biblical values when it comes to questions of the legitimate use of violence.  Interestingly, Sprinkle is known in some young Reformed circles, and among most book-buying evangelicals these days, as he has co-written books with the mega-seller Francis Chan, who, significantly, "highly recommends" this book.  Sprinkle is not an Anabaptist.  As he puts it, "I am not Amish, Quaker or Mennonite. I own several guns and still believe that the smell of a recently fired shotgun on a crisp fall morning comes darn near close to paradise."  So he did not grow up learning about Biblical pacifism.  Neither was he a part of the 60s student activists, the secular or religious left (like, say, Jim Wallis  of Sojourners.) Sprinkle comes at this topic as a New Testament scholar. His PhD is from Aberdeen and he easily quotes top notch scholars such as Tremper Longman, Richard Bauckham, Tom Wright (and Chris Wright), Peter Leithart, Darell Bock, Gordon Fee, Ben Witherington, Richard Hays, and so many more, including, of course, John Howard Yoder.

This is a good, careful study of the Bible, especially the New Testament, by a conservative and careful exegetic. He explains, "the more I studied, the more I discussed, the more I've become  convinced: Christians shouldn't kill or use violence -- not even in war."

I could say more, but at least know this: again, Sprinkle is not an idealist hippy, he is not anti-American, and he is not aligned with a historic peace church. The endorsements on this book are stellar, from significant Biblical scholars and theologians such as Jesus scholar (and follower) Scot McKnight and Michael Gorman (of Saint Mary's Ecumenical Institute in Baltimore, who is particularly esteemed in Pauline studies.)  One moving blurb is from a retired Master Sergeant in  the US Marine Corp who served in WW II, Korea and Viet Nam (and a Purple Heart medal recipient.)  Robert Armstrong writes, "Fight will steer your gaze away from a nationalistic worldview and force  you to look upon Jesus, the One who conquered the enemy by suffering."  Another rave review comes from a Lieutenant Commander inthe Chaplain Corps of the Navy SEALS.  I note this just so you know this is serious business,  and can be studied with an open mind.  If you are interested in King's view, or, better, if you are interested in grappling with what some of us think the Bible teaches, you should read this book.

We stock many, many other books about this matter (from many different perspectives and views.) Please feel free to inquiry if you want other suggestions. 

Also, there are several good anthologies of primary source writings by those who have been important in this arena. The aforementioned Preston Sprinkle, while a top-flight Biblical scholar, does not draw upon the more general peace movement and social change movements, the passionate thinkers and activists who have called to us from the past.  One ofpeace is (wink).jpg my favorite collections, for those wanting to dip in to this grand tradition, include Peace Is The Way: Writings on Nonviolence from the Fellowship of Reconcilation edited by Walter Wink (Orbis; $25.00)  Martin Luther King, Jr. was a part of FOR --  which, by the way, was founded by two Christians in the devastating wake of WWII, but now is broadly interfaith in its orientation. In this almost 300 page anthology, you'll be able to read famous pieces from their historic magazine, authored by King, Howard Thurman, Barbara Deming, Mahatma Gandhi, A.J. Muste, Vincent Harding, Cesar Chevez, Dorothy Day, Henri Nouwen, Jim Forest, Jim and Shelley Douglas, John Dear, and so many others. These are the sorts of writers and activists that influenced King, in many cases, and, agree with all if it or not, it is a volume worth having.

 An even more impressive anthology  -- a reader that covers three millenia of writers, some famous, many less so -- is the remarkable Christian Peace and Nonviolence: A Documentary History edited and compiled by Elizabethtown College professor, Michael Longchristian peace and nonviolence.jpg (Orbis; $40.00.)  This volume is so comprehensive, I'll just quote the nice overview written by Orthodox theologian, Jim Forest, who describes it helpfully like this:
 
The book's structure is historical, beginning with a selection of scriptures of peace from the Old and New Testaments. Authors from the early Church include Justin Martyr, Athenagorus, Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian, Arnobius, Lactantius, Basil the Great, Pelagicus, Paulinus of Nola, Benedict of Nursia and Francis of Assisi. There are also extracts from the biography of Martin of Tours and ancient accounts of the martyrdoms of Maximilian, Marcellus, and the brothers Boris and Gleb.

Erasmus of Rotterdam is included in a section of writings from the Reformation period. Among those represented in the 1600-1900 section that follows are George Fox, William Penn, John Woolman, William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Lucretia Mott, Jane Addams and Leo Tolstoy.

The book's twentieth-century authors include Martin Luther King, Thomas Merton, Pope John XXIII, Oscar Romero, Stanley Hauerwas, John Howard Yoder, Dorothy Day, A.J. Muste and André Trocmé. The anthology concludes with twelve entries written in the past eleven years...

Ssome of my best friends.jpgome of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America Tanner Colby (Penguin) $16.00  This is not about the Jim Crow years, the civil rights struggle or the brave movement of those who followed King's activism.  Rather, it is what race relations were like in more recent years -- with institutionalized racism prevalent and de facto segregation common in many place, but all the kids learning about the "I Have a Dream" speech in school.  We a just love the diversity vision, but how many are actually experiencing it?  It promised in the promo literature to be written with "boundless curiousity and a biting sense of humor."  Since the author had written books on both John Belusi and Chris Farley, I expected it to be interesting and a bit funny.  It wasn't really funny, but, still -- what a book!

This just came out in paperback and it tells an amazing story of a white guy who realized that he had no black friends.  Raised in the white flight world of Alabama in the 70s, he realized he wanted to do something about his insular background. This book not only tells the general story of Colby learning about racial matters in the US, but describes in detail the situation of suburban Birmingham schools, his move to Kansas City and learning of the racist housing policies in that troubled town, the impact of "affirmative action" type protocols in the advertising world of Madison Avenue professionals, and the dramatic story of the efforts of a Catholic Church in a parish in Louisiana. This memoir really explores some unexpected aspects of our culture -- both black and white. Many serious reviewers have commended this for being thoughtful and insightful. 

Timothy Nafuali says,

In weaving together the personal narratives (including his own) of the Children of White Flight and the Children of the Dream, Tanner Colby has crafted a powerful piece of social commentary and contemporary history. Hugely readable, quirky, and incredibly smart, Some of My Best Friends Are Black present four unforgettable smaller stories to tell the big story of race in today's America.

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August 31, 2013

FREE BOOK OFFER for LABOR DAY -- TWO DAYS ONLY (offer expires end of day September 3, 2013)

A year ago, to celebrate Labor Day, as I sometimes do here at BookNotes, I tried to make anhonor labor.gif appeal for you to read books about work.  I think it was a good column, and I'll give you the link to it below, in a moment.

And a free book offer, a small book, but a good one.

In that Labor Day column posted last September, archived at our H&M website, I explained that this has always been a central aspect of our bookstore's vision, and we've long been keen on the idea that the ordinary people of God serve their neighbors and consequently advance God's Kingdom best while at their particular post in the work-world.  Of course, not everyone has paid employment, and the theological vision of calling and vocation surely includes all kinds of "offices" where we take up our tasks for God's glory. But the point is the same; we are missionally minded, thinking about how to practice our jobs and callings in ways that are inspired by the Biblical narrative, imagined in light of the God the Creator, Worker, Restorer.

(I was glad, by the way, that during the "March on Washington/I Have a Dream Speech"oldbroom.jpg anniversary commemoration some folks cited that famous Martin Luther King Jr. bit about sweeping streets to the best of your ability, if you are a street sweeper.  We do our menial tasks, however seemingly humble, as Michelangelo did his art, King preached.  What a good reminder for all of us this very weekend.)

We serve a lot of clergy and church folks, who have their own hard jobs to do, but, of course, much of this vision -- proclaimed blewis-at-his-desk.jpgy the best sermons, by the best preachers, applying the gospel to life -- is for those who go to work in ordinary jobs, not church work.  And it is their duty to think it through.  As C.S. Lewis famously put it, "The application of Christian principles, say, to trade unionism and education, must come from Christian trade unionists and Christian schoolmasters; just as Christian literature comes from Christian novelists and dramatists--not from the bench of bishops getting together and trying to write plays and novels in their spare time."

Our fear is that the unionists and educators, novelists and dramatists who Lewis mentions, are not very often inspired to think through these principles by their pastors. So pastors need to read this stuff, learning how to inspire the folks in their congregations to be thinking about the Godly principles that might help be restorative in the world world and society at large.  As I have sometimes lamented, not many people buy these books, and I wonder if it is because they just have never heard of the need to do so.
work matters smaller.gif
Perhaps that best book I've seen about a pastor who caught this vision, and starting talking and teaching it in his church, and all that subsequently happened is the delightful and inspiring Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship and Monday Work by Tom Nelson (Crossway; $15.99)  It is, of course, on the big list and you can read about it there.  It's a good one.


As I've suggested, in that column a year ago I created a very extensive annotated list of books about callingworkandvocation.jpg and vocation, and work and jobs and it is for both ordinary folks  and pastors. I am glad that this list has gotten some attention, and hope that this Labor Day you might forward it on to your own friends and pastoral staff (if you are a church-going person.)  There are more extensive lists out there, perhaps, but this is the best of the best, and still pretty diverse, for nearly any sort of reader.  It is one of the more important lists I've created in the years of our work here, and we pray it somehow helps. 

You see, we can't really fully do our work here without others spreading the news and buying the books.  So, thanks for being a part, our co-workers, part of our team, helping us get some of these books off our shelves and into the mail. 

And say a prayer of thanks for the writers and publishing industry folks,  our UPS and FedEx drivers, and the hard-working USPS staff.  Not to mention our own staff here at the Dallastown shop, Amy, Patti, Kimberly, Diana, and Robin, who serve so diligently alongside Beth and I.

Give thanks for good work, even in a fallen world.  Pay for those in the work-world, and read up.  Start by studying that list of books, and sharing it.

HERE IS THE LINK TO THAT COLUMN

Not long after that Labor Day one, I did another BookNotes piece, highlighting Rev. Timothy Keller'severy good e.jpg very good book on this topic Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God's Work telling of our role in the book launch of it in New York, last November. It was written by Keller with an associate of his who has spent much time in the corporate world, Katherine Leary Alsdorf, who has thought about this as much as anybody I know, so it is excellent. (EGE was published by Dutton in hardback, regularly selling for $26.95. Our sale price for that one is $19.95.)

In that November 2012 BookNotes post, I offered some links to other organizations that do good work in this arena of helping people of faith relate faith and work (such as Redeemer Center for Faith and WorkThe High Calling blog, the Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation & Culture, and our good friends in Pittsburgh at Serving Leaders. (By the way, check out their upcoming September event, Faith&Work2.0 here. Wow!)  I embedded a James Taylor song called Millworker that really moves me.  I told a story or two about my own checkered job history, such as it is. That BookNotes piece was fun to write and I hope fun for you to read.

I INVITE YOU TO READ AGAIN
This Labor Day holiday, I invite you to read those Hearts & Minds columns afresh, ponder those books, consider who to talk to about them. If you are a pastor or para-church worker, you have people who need to know about this liberating, game-changing message.

If you are a new hire or a seasoned manager, it will pay you to think about this stuff.  If you are a student, please, check it out.  Professional or blue-collar worker, self-employed or serving in a complex bureaucracy, retired or unemployed, happy at work or mad as hell, God bless you.

This is your day, and we want to be at least one bookstore that helps you in this most central calling of your life, learning to be faithful in the job site, office, shop floor or studio.  Allow us to help you figure it out, deeper in and further along, by suggesting these kinds of books.

AND WATCH
Maybe watching this tremendous video will inspire you to click over to that column and read that list.  I've used this with students and adults in several settings, and it is a great little video, created by RightNow Ministries.


HERE IS THE FREE BOOK BONUS:
What is V.gif
If you buy any book from those lists -- at the BookNotes 20% off discount --  before Tuesday (September  3rd) we will also send you a free copy of a great little book about a Christian view of work, an excellent primer on the topic written by Stephen J. Nichols.

The free one is called What Is Vocation (published by P&R) and although brief, we think it will really help you, or someone you give it to, get clearer about this whole complicated matter -- serving God in the work-world by living into a sense of vocation.

Again, the offer expires at the end of day Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013. The book is free with any purchase from the list to which we linkedUse the links to the secure website, offered below.



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