About February 2016

This page contains all entries posted to Hearts & Minds Books in February 2016. They are listed from oldest to newest.

January 2016 is the previous archive.

March 2016 is the next archive.

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

February 2016 Archives

February 1, 2016

12+ Books for Lent 2016 ON SALE

With the recent health problems of my elderly mom, and some deaths in the families of people I care for -- not to mention the exhausting of coping with that heavy snowfall -- I've hardly had time to skim the many books we have about Lent.  Whether you follow the liturgical calendar fastidiously or not, you know, I bet, that we all have sorrows and hardship, and the mind-boggling stuff happen in society  temps us to cynicism or meanness. 

We all need a season to slow down, focus on our relationship with God, and see how the story of Christ's own journey to Jerusalem might help us on our way. 

You need this as much as I do, I bet.

So, here are some new suggestions for your own discipline of reading in these next forty days.

First, here's a short list of some serious Lent titles done a year ago, and a longer older one, here. And don't miss this review I did of CIty of God: Faith in the Streets by Sara Miles which narrates one day of her and her comrades doing an Ash Wednesday distribution of ashes right out on the streets in her urban neighborhood. It is brilliantly written, remarkable, really, and inspiring.  Agree or not with all the crazy Jesusy liturgical stuff happening at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco, Miles is one of the most interesting memoirists writing today, and her faith journey into the streets with bread (begun in her amazing Take This Bread, followed by Jesus Freak) is very much worth reading.

Pauses for Lent- 40 Words for 40 Days.jpgPauses for Lent: 40 Words for 40 Days Trevor Hudson (Upper Room Books) $8.99  This is a very simple little book, a simple idea, but one which may be surprisingly significant. The practice of pausing to reflect on just  For each of the 40 pages there is the word of the day, a short Bible text, a brief mediation, and a practice or exercise for the day. This reflection on one word/do one thing isn't too complicated, but, it does invite us to carve our a few minutes each day and then do something, be attentive to something.  Hudson is a serious thinker and activist (working for a Methodist Church in Benoni, South Africa. His strength is gospel formation, spiritual direction and pastoral therapy, but he has also been outspoken about wholistic mission and social justice. 

Lent for Everyone- Luke, Year C- A Daily Devotional .jpgLent for Everyone: Luke, Year C: A Daily Devotional N.T. Wright (WJK) $16.00  You may recall us talking about being with Tom again this past fall, and I was reminded just how thrilling he is to listen to, how innovative yet convincing, orthodox on the stuff that matters most, willing to push us just a bit, inviting those in the more extreme camps to find fresh ways to inhabit the Biblical story in reliable, coherent ways. These short readings around the Year C lectionary texts are like that -- exciting and a bit outside the box, at times, but not overly revolutionary. He's not trying to to be novel or reinvent the wheel or start a fad. This is just really good, solid Bible exposition with visionary application for ordinary folks in real churches. He sees things in the text worth seeing and helps us reflect on both their first century and contemporary meanings. There is some suggestion or an invitation to pray about something at the end of each reading, and a closing prayer. 

Meeting God in Paul- Reflections for the Season of Lent .jpgMeeting God in Paul: Reflections for the Season of Lent Rowan Williams (WJK) $12.00  Few who know his eloquent books or have heard this remarkable communicator would argue that he is one of the great, provocative, and important theologians of our day. That he served as the Archbishop of Canterbury illustrates his significance in our religious landscape. And, my, he writes a lot, and usually pretty deep and serious stuff. He's written lately about Narnia, about the power of language, and public theology. Here, he offers a simple, basic, daily devotional for Lent, drawing -- as the title obviously shows -- the Pauline epistles.  Richard Burridge (who wrote Imitating Jesus on New Testament ethics a decade ago) says,

Vintage Williams! This simple but profound introduction to Paul will be helpful at any time of the year, but the final questions and Bible studies for reflection will greatly assist those wishing to read it during Lent.

Stephen Cottrell, after remarks about deep knowing that comes from grappling with serious complexity and becomes so integrated that it seems simple, notes, "Rowan Williams seems to have arrived at a point where a lifetime's learning and praying is distilled into profound simplicity."  Nice, eh?  You should get this book -- it will surprise you, perhaps, but you will be touched and deepened by it.

40 Days of Decrease- A Different Kind of Hunger. A Different Kind of Fast jpg40 Days of Decrease: A Different Kind of Hunger. A Different Kind of Fast Alicia Britt Chole (Thomas Nelson) $14.99  This is a hard book to describe, but I hope it is a big seller this season, a book that can have a huge impact as we learn to give up not the standard stuff like chocolate or designer coffee or facebook, but, rather, stuff like apathy and injustice, resentment and hypocrisy and such.  All of the love of God.

Yes, this is a zippy evangelical author (with a degree from George Fox Seminary) and there is a blurb on the back from the even more zippy Hillsong worship Leader Darlene Zschech (who, by the way, says it is "intuitive, prophetic, and profoundly inspiring, calling forth a revolution of soul health") but also from Reverend Dr. Otis Moss (of the large and famously radical African American congregation, Trinity UCC in Chicago) and from the intellectual, Reformed apologist Ken Boa and the poetic singer-songwriter Sara Groves and the edgy social worker /contemplative, Nathan Foster. In other words, this book -- which draws on  Thomas Hopko, Alexander Schmemann, and Thomas Merton, and quotes historical scholars like Martin Hengel and the ancients like Philo -- has a pretty wide following.

40 Days of Decrease invites us to work out this stuff, day by day, with forty good chapters, each day letting go of those things that rob us of meaning and deep spirituality.  This helps us move into a time of holy decrease -- "holy when its destination is love. We thin our lives," she says, "to thicken our communion with God.'  What a line, eh?  This is a very good, and very nicely arranged book, designed to help. 

Between Midnight and Dawn- A Literary Guide to Prayer for Lent, Holy Week, and Eastertide .jpgBetween Midnight and Dawn: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Lent, Holy Week, and Eastertide compiled by Sarah Arthur (Paraclete Press) $18.99 This handsome and altogether lovely book is a companion to her best-selling Advent one, Light Upon Light and her compilation of readings for Ordinary Time called At the Still Point. It is, I suppose you know, a literary guide -- with quotes from T.S. Eliot, Mary Herbert, Scott Cairns, Dostoevsky, Dickens, and so many more. There are excerpts of short stories and novels alongside prayers and poems.  There are weeks worths of readings, and then specific ones for the days of Holy Wee, and then 7 more weeks of Eastertide.  What a gem of a book, a great resource for preachers, pray-ers, or anyone who likes such intelligent devotional material. "A thing of beauty" said Phyllis Tickle, "What a delight to find so extraordinary collection" says Kathleen Norris. Highly recommended.

God for Us hardback.jpgGod for Us Readers Edition.jpgGod for Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and Easter edited by Greg Pennoyer & Gregory Wolfe (Paraclete Press)  If you read our BookNotes post of Advent resources, you may recall that we promoted over the last few years the extraordinary God With Us. The original edition had glossy paper, full color artwork, and the writing was by some of the Christian community's finest writers. It was such a handsome volume, and so well written!  (Of course it was; Gregory Wolfe is the editor of Image Journal, after all.) This past year we announced that the Christmas hardback was no longer available, but a less expensive and very, very classy paperback was released, called the Reader's Edition. It had the same devotional content, but not hardback, and with most of the artwork deleted.  French folds, expertly done, it was very, very nice.

A similarly designed Reader's Edition was recently released for the accompanying Lent version. It is nice, but includes no art pieces.

Here's the thing: we still have some of the hardback versions of the Lenten one, God For Us.  These are the last ones in the world, we're told, and they are available only while supplies last. (They sell for $29.99  before our BookNotes discount and are well worth it as they are beautiful.) If you have a hardback God With Us you know.  You will want to get the hardback God For Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and Easter edited by Pennoyer & Wolfe while you still can.

However, if you got the paperback God With Us this past Christmas -- and we heard a lot of folks really loved it! -- then maybe the handsome God for Us Reader's Edition is what you'll want to get as a matching volume.

God With Us hardback sells for $29.99 before our BookNotes discount.

God With Us Reader's Edition paperback sells for $18.99

Both include meditations, prayers and poems by Beth Bevis, Scott Cairnes, Kathleen Norris, RIchard Rohr, Ronald Rolheiser, James Calvin Schaap, Luci Shaw, and Lauren Winner. Wonderful.

John- The Gospel of Light and Life Adam Hamilton.jpgJohn: The Gospel of Light and Life Adam Hamilton (Abingdon Press) $18.99  Hamilton is increasingly one of the most well-recognized Christian pastors and authors today, and his several Advent and Lenten resources have been used by millions. (His book that came out this fall was called The Call and is a study of Paul.) Hamilton is clear, pretty mainline in his orientation, and eager to help people encounter God in sincere, relevant faith  On the back cover it says "This Lent, join Adam Hamilton and experience a season of spiritual growth and life-changing renewal while exploring major themes from John."

Endorsements come from Gail R. O'Day (Dean and Professor of New Testament and Preaching at Wake Forest School of Divinity) and J. Ramsey Michaels (who did the prestigious, academic NICNT on John, by the way) as well as Ginger Gaines-Cirelli, pastor of Foundry United Methodist Church in DC, who says "In this book on the Gospel of John, Adam Hamilton's passion for Scripture and skill as a teacher are on display. Writing in his engaging, accessible style, Hamilton reveals the theological and symbolic layers of John and, in doing so, opens a door to its depths of meaning."

john DVD.jpgThis Lenten study (which could be used any time, actually) is divided into six parts for ease of study and reading.

There is also a six-session DVD ($39.99) and a Leader's Guide $12.99.  The Leader Guide contains everything needed to guide a group through the bible study program including session plans and discussion questions, as well as multiple format options. This guide centers around the book, the videos, and Scripture.

Lent 2016- The Gift of New Creation Thomas L. jpgLent 2016: The Gift of New Creation Thomas L. Ehrich (Abingdon Press) $9.99  EVery year, Abingdon does a Bible study for small groups or adult ed classes based on the Revised Common Lectionary.  Ehrich (who once was a staff reporter for the Wall Street Journal) is an Episcopal priest whose primary ministry is now traveling, writing again (a syndicated column called "On A Journey.") He is well suited to help us reflect on how Lent prepares us for living into the new creation Christ has inaugurated. This is an ideal Scripture study for this time of year, 7 weeks.  Each session naturally includes leader helps and discussion questions. It's great to see back cover copy that says "Key Scriptures call us to prepare and to contemplate God's restoration and new creation through the death and resurrection of Jesus."  New life writ large, eh?  Looks great.

NNear the Cross- A Lenten Journey of Prayer.jpgear the Cross: A Lenten Journey of Prayer Kenneth H. Carton, Jr. (Abingdon Press) $9.99  Evert year Abingdon released as Lenten resource -- somewhat similar to the above listed one -- that is not tied to Lectionary readings, but is thematic. This year it is about praying with the mind and heart of Jesus.  Ken Carter is a popular Bishop (in the FLorida Conference) of the United Methodist Church and has published serious stuff on the Bible, on sacraments, on prayer.  He likes to note that he has preached in mega-churches and very small rural parishes, synagogues, camp meetings, and university chapels. His sermons have appeared on "The Protestant Hour and in Christian Century. This seven week study could be used by individuals for your own weekly study during Lent or it could be done in a small group or class.  Each chapter contains questions for reflection and discussion, a brief prayer, and a practical focus for the upcoming week.

Seven Last Words- An Invitation to a Deeper Friendship with Jesus.jpgSeven Last Words: An Invitation to a Deeper Friendship with Jesus James Martin, SJ (HarperOne) $18.99  Martin is one of the most popular Roman Catholic writers working today, a fine and thoughtful writer -- and a funny guy.  He is a Jesuit and in this book, he follows the time-honored tradition of offering a series of mediations on the seven sayings of Jesus from the cross.  These were real homilies preached at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York last year.  Cardinal Timothy Dolan says they are "spiritually rewarding and uplifting." 

As Sister Helen Prejean (of Dead Man Walking) writes, "This insight alone makes this book worth reading: Jesus endured suffering, so he understands ours."

undoing of death.jpgThe Undoing of Death Fleming Rutledge (Eerdmans) $22.00  I often recommend this at the end of Lent, since I tend to read it during Holy Week (There are sermons here for each day of Holy week, and several for after Easter, too.)  It is one of my all time favorite collections of sermons -- all done by Revered Rutledge over her 27 years at her Episcopal parish in NYC. Many sermons illuminated by historic art work, pictures and architecture, making them all the more interesting. These messages are about what happens in the crucifixion and death of Christ, what we mean by this claim that in His death, death is defeated.  This is eloquent, meaty, substantive and at times very moving.  Highly recommended!

Make Room- A Child's Guide to Lent and Easter .jpgMake Room: A Child's Guide to Lent and Easter Laura Alary (Illustrated by Ann Boyajian) $15.99  Wow, what a wonderful children's book, delightfully illustrated and nicely told. It is an invitation for children to wonder about the Lenten story, helping children to experience Lent with all their senses.  They are taught to see it as a special time for creating a "welcoming space for God."  As it says on the back, "Simple activities like cleaning a room making bread and soup, and inviting a neighbor for supper become acts of justice and kindness, part of a life following Christ."

The story unfolds telling the child what "we" do -- meaning the church of which she is a part.  Maybe your church isn't "dressed in purple" and maybe you don't have a Maundy Thursday service (but I sure hope you do!) I don't go to a lake for a sunrise service as this parish does, but kids can realize that it's the kinds of things some churches do.  I think it is a fine book for almost any kind of Christian.

As Gary Neal Hansen (author of Kneeling with the Giants) writes,

The book reveals what is usually hidden: what we knew as penitential is actually life-giving and faith-building. After reading the book to my kids, my five year old daughter exclaimed "I can't wait for Lent! I just can't wait!"



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February 10, 2016

Life's Too Short To Pretend You're Not Religious by David Dark ON SALE at Hearts & Minds

We announced this a month ago and took a few pre-orders, glad to be able to give an earlyLife's Too Short to Pretend You're Not Religious  .jpg shout out about David's forthcoming book. Now it is here, and I've been itching to write about it. More, I've been itching to read it. Some circles of the internets have been been happily ablaze with discussions of it.  Our friends over at Englewood Review of Books have offered a free chapter.  Pathos has pushed it.  I've seen the cool-looking, hot red cover on twitter every day for two weeks.

And this is as it should be. I'm glad that reviewers and critics and marketers have determined that this is an important book. David Dark is a national treasure, a witty and wise Christian voice -- a humane human voice -- and it's good to know this brand new one has been so eagerly anticipated. As Jessica Hopper (of the very important indie music magazine Pitchfork and author of The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic) says, "David Dark is one of our most astute and necessary cultural critics. His work gracefully opens new doors of understanding and breaks down barriers between secular and non-..."

This book is so rich and interesting and fun and important and wonderfully written -- its been called a "bracing manifesto" and an "optimism-infused love song" and an "irresistible triumph" -- that it deserves more of a serious review than I can render here, now. It's been a hard month, a hard week, and I'm nearly flabbergasted (I'd say gobsmacked but I'm not sure what it means) by how great this book is and how it has brought joy to me these last few days. I've read paragraphs and whole pages out loud to Beth (and anybody else in earshot.) There are great lines, great stories, great revelations. Apocalypse now, indeed.

Everyday Apocalypse.jpgHe likes that word, from the Greek apolalypsi, which means revelation. He won considerable fandom when he struck a chord decades ago with his first book Everyday Apocalypse which makes his conviction and experience clear, in an artful, creatively written style in which he offers ruminations on pop culture's ability to reveal truth.  Indeed, the subtitle is The Sacred Revealed in Radiohead, the Simpsons and Other Pop Culture Icons. It helped kick off a cottage industry of publishing nifty books about gospel insights found within all manner of popular films, TV shows and such; if they don't cite Dark, I suspect they aren't as insightful as they should be.

In Life's Too Short to Pretend David reflects on a central thesis of his, namely, that religion, complicated as it is, is essentially the stories we tell about ourselves and in which we find ourselves -- he doesn't exactly use the word worldview -- and these come from what he calls (in an extraordinary, delightfully honest chapter) "attention collection." (Do we see what we've seen, he asks, inspired by conversations with song-writers and poets and art critics.) If this is true -- we are all up to something, making meaning and finding happiness and perhaps forging goodness in the world -- and that happens as we accumulate influences, then our story is not just our big creeds or claims, but the things that matter to us and how our daily life is directed by them. For David, as for many of his most zealous readers, this includes TV shows and billboards, movies and novels and lots of rock and roll, righteous cultural critics low and mid and high-brow. And, yes, church, too. Dark was raised in a pretty fundamentalist family, and his negotiating with that tradition passed on, those stories, those values, those ways of life, are part of what he tells us about.

David D.jpgAnd, man, it's beautiful stuff.  His own religious journey has been fascinating. David generously describes a hilarious episode of wolfing down Saltines and Welch-aid in a Kroeger's parking lot (you can imagine why) and being scolded by a pious grandmother for making promises like "see you later" without qualifying it with "Lord willing" and some incredibly dear tellings of his love for the Bible ("as long as everybody gets to talk, I've never been to a Bible study I didn't like.") Whether this is your weird story or not -- he's convinced most of us have some weird stories -- you will enjoy, perhaps be deeply blessed as I have been, by reading about an evolving faith development without shame or bitterness or anxiety. This stuff is splendid, and it is Dark more joyous and (dare I say it) upbeat than ever before.

He admits to being zealously earnest in concerns about public justice and restored, right relations, the common good, the beloved community, etc. He uses the word righteous in, well, a righteous way. He says once that he can be sanctimonious -- I loved this; perhaps it takes one to know one.

Gospel According to America.jpgThe second book that he wrote was called The Gospel According to America: A Meditation on a God-blessed, Christ-haunted Idea and was laden with heavy, righteous insight, and I still commend it, even if it was a bit more Flannery O'Connor and Daniel Berrigan than Steven Colbert. I was honored to offer a blurb upon his last book (right next to Eugene Peterson!) which was called The Sacredness of Questioning Everything. Again, I heartily recommend it, although it is intense. Weighty, even. Dark has always written in an energetic style, creative, flowing, fascinating, blending generative ideas with colorful, at times even poetic writing. But as pleasant of a fellow that many of us know Sacredness of Questioning.jpgDavid to be, these books were serious business; dense. I was delighted to realize how much I enjoyed -- truly, truly enjoyed -- Life's Too Short. His whimsy and wit and generosity is clear as he bears witness to a life of practicing wonder, kindness, curiosity. The content is exceptionally smart, but not tedious. Brian McLaren notes that the writing is "muscular and graceful."  Yep.

If we were seriously invited to "question everything" in his earlier work, here we are invited to take it all in, to appreciate much, to care enough to share who we are and what we hold most dearly.  From a remarkably generous appreciation for those who shared mix tapes to his fondness for certain comic book characters, he invites us to wonder why we love this stuff.

Or, as he puts it often, "what we are up to."

What are you up to?  What, as some of the cool kids used to say, are you "into"?  Are there stories you've collected, episodes from life that make you who you are? What do you most deeply love?  Want to talk about it?  Life is too short, after all, not to be real, to be alive.  Wake up.

And so, this love letter to the hip and sophisticated who may be postmodern versions of what 19th century Schleiermacher called "cultured despisers" of religion.  You know in this age of toxic fundamentalisms -- radical Islamicists, religiously-motivated abortion clinic bombers, evangelical parents that disown their own gay teenage children, faith-based science deniers -- there is much to worry about religion gone awry. But Dark invites us to get beyond the corrupt and caustic and cynical and discover life-giving and healthy ways to talk about the deepest things that matter most to us all. 

The book started out, I've learned, as a caring letter to a beloved relative, to whom the book is dedicated.  I suppose it could be a missive to any who these days call themselves "spiritual but not religious" or the now-ubiquitous "nones." He's not buying it: nobody believes nothing. But how to talk about religion among those who hate the word?

Well, charming and pleasant and witty as Life's Too Short to Pretend You're Not Religious is, it is also a serious critique of alleged religious neutrality. Everybody lives in light of ultimate concerns, shaped by stories and myths and what some might call presuppositions (although Dark does not.) Our hearts are touched by those who love us, by those who repel us, by fragments from SNL or great novels or favorite rock albums or sociology classes or wonderment experienced in the great outdoors or in loving friendships -- you know. Our beloved influences are everywhere -- it's an everyday apocalypse out there, remember -- and humans are wont to make meaning, to have enthusiasms, to love stuff.  "Ya gotta serve somebody" Dylan growled, and although David isn't spitting out the words the way Slow Train Coming did, he's adamant.

Nathan Schneider, author of Thank You Anarchy, offers a perfect one-line endorsement (and warning):

Prepare to have idols smashed. David Dark renders futile the cherished modern ambition to opt out of human religiosity.
But, again, even as Dark methodically, gently, disarms our allergies to religion, even the increasingly popular disapproval of the word itself, he isn't doing apologetics in any conventional sense -- defeating bad ideas or defending the truth. He's telling his story -- and as a memoirist, he's shining -- and inviting us to think about what matters to us. He invites us into relationship.

Let me be clear: Dark is an open-minded Presbyterian who draws a bit on theology but just as much about his intuitions and passions and wisdom gleaned from here and there. He's a serious reader, and his footnotes are spectacularly interesting; I applaud IVP for offering such a literary and learned book, drawing on sources not often found in books released by evangelical publishers, from David Byrne to Daniel Berrigan, from Kierkegaard to Vincent Harding, from Marilynne Robinson to Philip K. Dick, from Ursula LeGuin to Wendell Berry, from Neil Gaiman to Kurt Vonnegut.

(And, hooray, there's a footnote naming our friends Rob and Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma -- their new journal is called Topography, by the way -- whose ministry name, "culture is not optional", is actually a line from Calvin Seerveld's Rainbows for the Fallen World.)

What a wide and diverse and interesting set of accumulated affections Mr. David Dark has on display here. Signs for all of us, bearing witness to his interesting, good life.

This winsome and fascinating book isn't all just "let's tell our stories" and agree we are all secretly interested in God. Can't we just all get along? He's too astute and aware for that. Sure he'd "like to teach the world to sing" I suppose, but I suspect it might be more like that last scene from Mad Men, appropriating and deconstructing and re-appropriating goodness here and there, aligned with some agenda. He's not a cynic, but he's not a pushover either. One of his kids is named after Dorothy Day, for God's sake. There is bite and seriousness here; this is a call to wake up to the fact that we've been informed ("catechized") for better or worse. In talking with students, trying to get them in touch with their deepest ways of ordering the world, their below-the-skin worldview, he talks about weird religions. "I bet many of you were raised capitalist."

In one chapter he reflects wisely on the role of anxiety in our quest for meaning.  Another chapter is called  "Policy is liturgy writ large" and although he doesn't quote Jamie Smith or Walter Brueggemann, he might have.

He invites us to "genuine consciousness vs trivializing shallowness."  ("How might we access wisdom, compassion, hospitality and other forms of life for which there is no app?")  How?  Here's one clue: he says "poets are the most specific people on earth."  He takes us to Kurt Vonnegut's curious understanding of anti-war Jesuit Daniel Berrigan as "Jesus as a Poet."

This is all pretty darn interesting, let me tell you. Radical stuff. Stimulating and and at times stunningly eloquent.

And then he ends, almost, with a tender story of his son saying he didn't want to receive communion one Sunday. It goes from funny to complicated to heartbreaking in a matter of a paragraph and I once again realize how amazing this book it, what a gift it is.  David has opened his heart and his life and his very wide mind to help us all put our bodies on the line. 

What are you into?

What do you really desire?

What story do you tell to yourself about yourself when you're asked to tell others who you are?

What might the artists or writers or poets or Bible characters you most esteem think of you?

Might you want to live  -- do you have a deep craving for? -- life lived in hope of some order, some sense of coherence?

Could it be that religion matters, after all?

Give Life's Too Short to Pretend You're Not Religious to anybody who might be open to talking about the deepest matters of a good life, especially if they enjoy pop culture or important literature. And read it yourself, for your own sake -- you will be blessed by David's invitation to be intentional about what stories inform and shape us; this is a book from which you will find it enriching and valuable. And, also, read it so that you might be more caring and present with and to others -- that you might emulate his own deepening practices of caring, connecting, sharing. I cannot imagine any educated reader who wouldn't benefit from spending time with Dark -- any of his good books, certainly, but especially this, his best yet.

D Dark _ red.jpgYes, this a love letter to those who don't like religion, but it also is a witness to how to approach what Charles Taylor calls "the secular age." If you recall the last section of James K.A. Smith's overview of Taylor's heady and hefty tome, How (Not) To Be Secular, Smith calls (as does Taylor) for a new way to do apologetics, a culturally-engaged, more artful way to think about faith conversations, pre-evangelism and evangelization, about bearing witness to God's redemptive work here within God's good but torn creation. Without saying so, Life's Too Short to Pretend You're Not Religious is just this kind of project. It is one of the very important new books of this new era. It doesn't do everything, but for what it is, it is nearly pitch-perfect, delightful, challenging, edifying, inviting.

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to David and his publisher. This is sheer gift. Pay attention.

Life's Too Short to Pretend You're Not Religious  .jpg



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February 12, 2016

ORDER "After College: Navigating Transitions, Relationships and Faith" by Erica Young Reitz ON SALE

This is a little review we did prior to this book coming out, inviting folks to pre-order it. After College is now available and we are so glad.  We had a little "launch party" for the book out near Pittsburgh with some of Erica's colleagues in the CCO in late July. Now, we are sending it all over the country as folks are giving it to college seniors or those who have recently graduated. I can't tell you how glad I am to promote this, how good it is, how very well done.  It is a "must read" for those leaving college and a fine read for college seniors.  Give it now this semester or wait til Spring semester nearer graduation but do give it away to any college students you know who are soon leaving college and who want to honor God in healthy and sound ways.

after college - erica young reitz.jpgAfter College: Navigating Transitions, Relationships and Faith
by Erica Young Reitz (IVP) $16.00 

Hearts & Minds SALE PRICE  $14.40

Erica is a dear friend, and has done campus ministry for years.  We have had the joy of watching her enter into sincere friendships with her college-age friends, and we have watched as they've often grown into remarkable young adults with a coherent vision for their lives, relating their faith to all of life, and serving Christ's Kingdom in work, relationships, church and world.  What good fruit her ministry has born. I cannot understate how much Beth and I admire, respect and appreciate her.

And we know she is not only a good campus worker, a friend to many and an exceptionally thoughtful young woman, she is a great writer, too. She reads widely, quotes fine authors and important books and yet writes from her heart, out of her experiencing mentoring young adults and teaching this material.

Over the last several years Erica has worked out of Calvary Church, a fabulously energetic church in State College, Pennsylvania (yes, the home of the Penn State Nittany Lions) focusing her energies on mentoring college seniors, walking with them through their senior year of college as they prepare to make the transition out of college life.  She has identified key areas of concern, has listened well to college seniors, men and women at Penn State and other schools, too, and has been doing workshops and classes about her vision for churches serving young adults well in this particular time of their lives. Her program, called EXIT, draws on best practices and research on senior preparedness, she offers practical tools for a life of faithfulness and flourishing during a critical, transitional time. Erica has become a bit of an expert on the transition from college into the so-called "real world."  She has spoken about this topic at other churches and at the big Jubilee conference in Pittsburgh, sponsored by the CCO, for whom she works.

And, yes, you may recall, we drew upon her good storytelling, sensible vision, and practical experience to offer a down-to-Earth epilogue for my own book, Serious Dreams: Bold Ideas for the Rest of Your Life. A number of folks said they enjoyed her brief piece there as much as the larger and perhaps more serious contributions by famous speakers, authors, and Christian thought-leaders. I was honored that she was willing to craft that afterword for my book, and now I'm delighted -- thrilled, really -- to tell you about her own book.  It came out the first week of August 2016 and, along with Serious Dreams (naturally) it will be one of the essential books for college graduates. 

Here is something I subsequently wrote about After College.

Erica is one of the most gifted and insightful and caring campus workers we know, and we've watched her over the years as she developed a program at Penn State University to help college seniors prepare to exit well, to transition out of their academic experience and into the so-called "real world."  Her program has been immensely valuable for many, and in this new book she offers insight learned in those years with seniors preparing for the post-college years. She offers stories, insight, guidance and the clear voice of a stable, trusted friend as from a wise older sister, inviting young adults to take their faith seriously in their 20-something years.

I can't say enough good things about Erica's book... it is very well written, very interesting, a just jam-packed loaded with all kinds of really good information and advice. It will help those who are confused or hurting or those who are well on their way to exciting new prospects.  It is designed really for anyone who is seeking a lasting faith, meaningful vocations, and a renewed passion for honoring God in the way their young adult years unfold.

Congratulations, Erica, and thank you for sharing your wisdom and good, good writing.

Order After College: Navigating Transitions, Relationships and Faith by Erica Young Reitz from us now at a BookNotes 10% off savings.  It is regularly $16.00 and our BookNotes price is $14.40. 

after college - erica young reitz.jpg


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February 16, 2016

Reflections on the 2016 40th Anniversary Jubilee Conference

We have been choosing, ordering, pulling and packing, stacking and lugging boxes and boxestransform everything.jpg of books for what seems like weeks, getting ready for our beloved Jubilee conference in Pittsburgh. You know how hard our staff work in February getting ready for this huge event with more than 3000 college students. It's no tragedy, I know, but my fingers are bleeding from the cardboard cuts and my weak back is hurting -- well, that is a bit serious. Beth's weird symptoms from what we suspect is the lingering Lyme Disease stuff from years ago are acting up a bit, too, but she's been working 18 hour days, anyway. And loading a big rented truck even now as I type. Two days ago she made 130-some category signs (like I said, it's a big display) and has been spending hours prepping our set-up gear, cash registers, paperwork, gift cards, and supplies. Yep, Jubilee is a big deal for us, and, we believe, a big deal for the Kingdom of God.

It has been stressful getting all these books in and getting them organized and packed. And when I've gotten discouraged this week I've cranked up Wrecking Ball by the Boss Bruce Springsteen, which brings me great courage. And, this year, The Last Waltz and Switchfoot.)


cco-logocolorpurpose.pngForty years ago -- I was just 22 years old -- I worked for the Coalition for Christian Outreach (now branded the CCO) and I witnessed the evolution (or perhaps I should call it a reformation) of a exciting and flexible evangelical para-church campus evangelistic organization growing into a wholistic ministry that took some of its cues from that famous cry of Abraham Kuyper, the 19th century Dutch Reformed theologian, statesman, and civic leader about Christ's redemption encompassing "every square inch of creation."

To be honest, I heard this from my CCO staff leaders in my undergrad years.  Beth and I knew about pietistic fundamentalism and we knew fairly boring mainline denominational churchianity. But this, this was something other.

Like saying the gospel is best understood as "creation/fall/redemption/restoration" and a story of cosmic redemption, God (re)claiming and restoring every square inch of Christ's beloved creation preaches well --  I usually couple it with Colossians 1:15-20 or Haggai 2:1-9 -- and the CCO increasingly took these things to heart, growing passionate about not only personal evangelism but social and cultural engagement, the doctrines of vocation and calling, and the necessity of helping college students think and imagine faithfully how to honor the Lordship of Christ in their college classrooms and future careers.

With my help, even, from time to time (more decades ago then now, although I am still associated with the CCO) they trained their staff to reject the sacred/secular dualisms that come more from pagan Plato than the Bible and embrace a fully incarnational, multi-dimensional, creation-regained, whole-life discipleship based on a Biblical theology, and an understanding of the life-changing impact of the full Biblical drama, the sort of Biblical worldview that Leslie Newbigin famously called, citing a Hindu friend who read the Bible and declared it to be unlike other religions, but "the true story of the whole world."

The-Transforming-Vision-9780877849735.jpgcreation regained.gifI cannot and dare not speak for the CCO, but from my vantage point it I think it is fair to say the among the most significant books that influenced the decades of their staff training, and their vision for developing the Jubilee conference, would be Al Wolter's Creation Regained: The Biblical Basis for a Reformational Worldview and The Transforming Vision: Nurturing a Christian Worldview by Brian Walsh & J. Richard Middleton. (Richard, by the way, spoke at Jubilee last year about his recent Baker Academic book A New Heaven and A New Earth: Recovering Biblical Eschatology.)

Both Al and Brian taught the material from their books at CCO staff training events before those books ever came out in the late 70s and early 80s. Brian's little collection of essays and talks given in the wake of The Transforming Vision called Subversive Christianity: Imaging God in a Dangerous Time was last year updated and re-released. It includes a chapter that was given at Jubilee. See?

shofar-i-dawnstarstudios-.jpgArtwork from the blog of Chris Melanie Thompson.
The Jubilee conference was named, of course, from the beautiful blend of personal salvation on the day of atonement and all kinds of societal policy stuff -- debts forgiven, prisoners released, land reform, animals given rest -- described in the super-Sabbath Year of Jubilee texts of Leviticus 25.  When the ancient Jews never pulled off this blessed social arrangement, years later a prophet named Isaiah showed up and in Isaiah 61 declared that the Spirit of the Lord would fall and cause this holy liberation theology to really happen.  Good news would be announced to the poor and oppressed, slaves would be freed, and those whose eyes ached from being locked in a debtors dungeon would have to squint at the sun when they got out.  It was going to be the 'favorable year of the Lord" and the prophetic imagination nurtured by the prophets believed it would be so.

Well it wasn't so. The Jews went back to the destroyed temple in the destroyed Jerusalem but it never returned to the glory Haggai promised.  As N.T. Wright (influenced considerably by Brian Walsh, I might add) often says, the first century Jews knew they were still in exile, spiritually at least.  They longed for a redeemer to come, a Messianic King to put things to rights.

And soon enough, it happened.

I suppose you know that this Jubilee longing from Isaiah 61 was the very first text of Jesus' very first sermon, back in his own hometown. His inaugural address was short. He read from Isaiah 61, alluding to the healing and wholeness and justice and shalom of the Leviticus year of Jubilee, and his short sermon said that in Him it had just come to pass. In one of the shortest sermons ever, Jesus said it was now the Year of Jubilee -- forgive us our debts, indeed! --  and apparently, those who are in His Kingdom get in on it.  As the Nazarene explained nearer the end of the story in Luke 4, Jesus noted that, just like with the covenantal promises of Genesis 12, this was always to include outsiders. The whole world of people groups and ethnicities and outsiders and enemies were going to be invited into this Jubilee Kingdom and the whole earth itself -- every good Jew would have known this -- was to be restored.  The whole creation was going to be set free (see Romans 8, just for instance.)  

Well, that Biblical material was generative for us in the mid to late 70s and naming the CCO's college student conference Jubilee -- a Dutch philosopher schooled in the line of Kuyper named Peter J. Steen suggested it -- pointed to an evangelical faith that was lively and robust and spiritually alive but that had as its trajectory an all-of-life-redeemed worldview that dared to imagine what it would look like if followers of Jesus took seriously his claim that this new era of shalom was breaking in to human history.  Like leaven in a loaf, just imagine what might happen if we took historic, orthodox theology and spiritually vibrant evangelical piety and linked it to Kuyperian social insights and a great passion for social renewal? This was missional before the word was ever coined.

I suppose you can see the connections between that 40 year old Jubilee vision, the way in which Beth and I were formed by the early years of the CCO conference in Pittsburgh, and why we opened our bookstore as we did here in central PA.  We realized that if all-of-life is redeemed in Christ, if God wants us to serve in "every square inch" and we need to be "non-conformed" to the ways of the world (Romans 12:1-20, that means we've got some thinking to do. Books were understood by the founders of Jubilee to be tools to help us engage in this project of learning about being a Kingdom people in a often perplexing world.

That Kuyper quote -- "there is not one square inch of creation over which Christ does not declare "mine!'" --- is preceded by a reminder that, "...no single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest..."

Kuyper gave that call to submit to Christ's claim over "every square inch of creation" at his inauguration address of the founding of a Christian university (the Frije University of Amsterdam where, eventually, the philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd taught, a scholar whose work influenced Francis Schaeffer and some of the early CCO founders.)

You Are What You Love- The Spiritual Power of Habit.jpgYou see, our deepest heart orientation influences our thoughts about things give which give rise to our cares and loves (and our cares and desires and loves likewise influence our thoughts and theories) all of which influences the distinctives of our practices; how we live.  As a person "thinks in their heart" is how Proverbs 23:7 puts it -- so he or she shall be!  So our loves and desires (cue the ad to pre-order Jamie Smith's You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit ) and our theories and believes about things all matter.  We called our store Hearts & Minds for a reason, after all. Kuyper was right -- God's presence and claim on our hearts and minds means that we need to honor God by being in synch with the principles of the Bible and the realities structured into creation itself, and developing uniquely Christian ways of being in the world, engaging our vocations and callings, thinking Christianly, so to speak, so we might offer at least a faithful presence in our workplaces, sphere's of influence, and neighborhoods.

(Here is a very interesting youtube overview of Smith's forthcoming book. I don't want to distract you from my Jubilee essay, but Smith has been a keynote speaker there, has served CCO staff in training sessions, so although he's not speaking there this year, it is utterly germane. You can pre-order it from us, of course, and we would be pleased to off a a discount for you.)

reading books makes you better poster.jpgWe need books to give us insight about what it might mean to be faithful followers of Jesus, to live out the implications of the Kingship of Christ, in a pluralistic, secularized, post-Christian culture, across every zone of life. 

wp-PPYR-BookBuzz-11688-1723fc8d.jpgI hope you indulge me to remind you that we here at Hearts & Minds have books -- unlike most Christian bookstores, or so we have been told -- on art, science, business, politics, urban design, architecture, gender studies, counseling, education, engineering, environmental science, philosophy, sociology, sports, dance, media, film, business, video gaming,economics, legal theories, and on and on. 

Sadly, most American church folks don't share our enthusiasm for Kuyper's worldview and vision for social renewal, and seem baffled when we say that we are neither conservative nor progressive, that we are seeking a Biblical third way beyond the customary assumptions in North American culture, and that the books we stock -- diverse as they are -- can help ordinary Christian folks live out a truly redemptive faith in the gospel in every area of life.

We believe churches can (must!) help in this, and we are forever grateful that unlike some campus ministry organizations, the CCO partners with local congregations, helping local churches serve their local student populations.  We believe that at the heart of the wide-as-life Kingdom of God, coming on Earth to restore the creation in the risen Christ, is the local body we call the institutional church.  Yes, yes, spiritual renewal is happening all over, and God cares about it all -- it's why I so appreciated Diana Butler Bass's last book, Grounded: Finding God in the World, just for instance.  But the ordinary local church is, as one of my favorite books by Howard Snyder puts it, "the community of the King."  Churches that are worth their salt help congregants see themselves as sent, as Kingdom people, as servants of the Lord in all they do.  Every. Square. Inch.

We learned most of this from Jubilee, or speakers at Jubilee.  For 40 years the CCO has been challenging us and inspiring us to be bold for God's Kingdom, thinking and reading and learning and serving and taking up the high calling of making a difference wherever we find ourselves.

(There have been musicians and artists, too, by the way: it was at Jubilee years ago that I got to hang out with the late Mark Heard, met Bill Mallonee, was blown away (but not for the last time) by Pierce Pettis, introduced CCO to my friend Brooks Williams, heard Justin McRoberts live, and in recent years have come to admire the wonderful singer song-writers Joy and Peace Ike, and was lead in song for many a year by the legendary James Ward who served the conference for decades.)

I will never forget in the mid 70s hearing a lovely but incisive evangelistic speaker, an African American gentleman named Bill Pannell, talk about urban poverty and white privilege. I was transformed by the powerfully passionate preaching of Tom Skinner, another leading black evangelist who died too soon, and later hearing his wife, Barbara. I think it was there that I first met Calvin Seerveld, whose books on aesthetics we often mention. A life long hero of mine is former Dutch Parliament member Bob Goudzewaard who I met at Jubilee. In the early days of Jubilee we heard R.C. Sproul and C. Evert Koop and Carl Henry and other world class women and men. Wow.

William Diehl was a Lutheran who was an executive at Bethlehem Steel and he chided us to quit saying "thank God's it's Friday" because it betrayed an unbiblical, low view of work. His book was called Thank God It's Monday and it was very, very influential. He was a pioneer, and we may not today have Tim Keller's remarkable Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God's Work if it weren't for the influences of Jubilee and William Diehl rippling out from Pittsburgh to places where Keller was paying attention. 

I will never forget hearing Senator Mark Hatfield, an anti-war Republican of considerable renown, talk about "stewardship" and I was on the same page when he explained that for many religious folks that word implies just giving money or time to the local church. Biblically, though, it means -- think of what it says in Leviticus 25, again -- the land is not for sale. We are merely managers, stewards, not owners. Hatfield offered a faith-based, non-partisan stewardly energy policy from the stage in Pittsburgh and it was written up in the Washington Post.  College students grappling with innovative visions of fresh policy proposals out of their evangelical faith? A national news story!

So many great speakers have crossed our paths in Pittsburgh, and when we even now sell their books I think fondly of them -- authors such as John Stott, John Perkins, Al Wolters, Becky Pippert, Bryan Stevenson, Soong-Chan Rah, Os Guiness, Brenda Psalter McNeil, Chuck Colson, Lauren Winner, Harvie Conn, Shane Claiborne, Richard Mouw, J. I. Packer, Lisa Sharon Harper, Jim Skillen, Luci Shaw, Gary Haugen, Bob Goff, Mako Fujimura.  

I will never forget hearing Dr. Harold Dean Trulear whose charge to students I've used over and over: "Our scholarship and our worship ought not be ships merely passing in the night."  He called for an integrated vision, relating academics and faith. Amen?

And who who has heard Tony Campolo preach that "It's Friday, but Sunday's comin'" can ever forget how rousing it was to hear a socially engaged, intellectually aware, Baptist preacher that made us laugh and invited us to live our faith in thought, word, and deed?

The CCO has developed a lovely brochure that I'd love for you to open up -- it's very, very cool, and easy to open -- that shows some of the impact Jubilee has had over these last 40 years.  

This is an organization with whom we work about whom we are proud, and whose influence on us and our work has been considerable.  I'm sorry I'm not highlighting particular books right now, but as we pack the truck tonight and tomorrow, and get ready for the demanding two day set up, I invite you to check this out. And pray for us, please.  

If you want to see what they are doing this year, here is an amazing, artful, program booklet that opens nicely and you can click through like a real magazine.  Notice the four articles written by young friends within the CCO -- creation, fall, redemption, restoration.  Somebody saw it and wrote to me saying "your fingerprints are all over this."  Well, I don't know about that, but the good writers who did those essays all bought books from us.  So we're glad for that!  The program booklet itself is a work of art, and the essays are good.

Check out all the workshops in this booklet -- engineering, sports, pop music, science, politics, film-making, sexuality, global development, calling and vocation, working in the industrial trades, food, social work, medicine, business, leadership, education, urban ministry, creativity, gospel-centered discipleship, emotional life, lawyering, and more.  When we first cooked up the idea for this conference, we determined to invite students to relate faith to higher education, to help them imagine God's will for their future careers, and wanted to offer time to interact with real folks living in the rough and tumble of the real world.  You'll see why some adults come back to Jubilee year after year, to be around such winsome servants of the Lord who are relating faith to work, callings, public life.  It's the kind of stuff you, if I may be frank, don't hear much about in many churches, I'm afraid...

Good Faith- Being a Christian When Society Thinks You're Irrelevant and Extreme.jpgone thousand wells cover.jpgYou'll enjoy and be inspired to see the speakers -- from student leaders (an international undergrad who, inspired by her evangelical faith, started what has become the largest organization for Mongolian students in North America!) to some famous authors. Gabe Lyon and David Kinnaman will be talking about their soon to be released book Good Faith, which we will have there.

Jena Lee Nardella will be describing her work as chronicled in her great book A Thousand Wells. (It was a BookNotes "Best of 2015, by the way.)

fabric of f.jpgvisions of vocation.jpgSteve Garber -- who used to direct the Jubilee conference years ago and cares for Jubilee as much as anybody -- will bring his wisdom to a large group of students as seen in his eloquent, wise, and profound works Fabric of Faithfulness and Visions of Vocation. Of course, Derek Melleby will be explaining what led him to write (with Don Optiz) what is essentially a Jubby must-read, Learning for the Love of God: A Student's Guide to Academic Faithfulness.  

Four final things:

  • On pages 69 - 70 you will see the speakers at Jubilee 2016 who have written books.  We'll have big stacks there for the crowds that easily surpass 3000. Let us know if you want to order any and we'll give you the Jubilee discount.

  • See on pages 71 - 72  a short list of key books that I've curated for these students. You can see the basic categories and my descriptions.  Hope it gives you a nice reminder about some very nice books. Again, we have plenty of most of these and it would be a delight to send some out for your reading pleasure.

  • Strong and Weak- Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing.jpgYou might notice Andy Crouch in that first link offering his endorsement for the conference. He has spoken there before (indeed, his talks on the impact of creation and culture-making embedded in the Genesis narrative is seminal.) We will have, at Jubilee, the very first boxes of his forthcoming book Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing (IVP; $20.00.) and will be releasing it to the conferees there.  When we return on Tuesday, February 23rd we will start sending out the pre-orders we received back when we announced it at BookNotes last month. If you want to be among the first to get it, let us know asap.  Here is a several minute interview with him that explains the insight of this new, very, very good book. 

  • It's not too late.jpgOur dear friend Dan Dupee is the President of the Board of Directors of the CCO, but for years has their El Presidente. Besides offering good leadership to this fabulous organization, he spent some time doing some research -- namely, pulling together punches of focus groups to talk with parents of college age students.  And, talking to the many college age students he came to know through the CCO staff that serve on campuses all over.  His book -- which we invited you to pre-order -- is called It's Not Too Late : The Essential Part You Play in Shaping Your Teen's Faith (Baker; $15.99.)

So, there you have it. 

Except this, if you are still with us: please pray for us not only that we would set up our book display without too much stress (we most likely have too many books for the remarkably generous space... we always over do it, it seems) and that we'd have good conversations with our customers, but also for my sermon Sunday morning.

Borger-Byron-brownshirt speaking.jpgYes, I have the great, great privilege of speaking Sunday morning at Jubilee 2016. I'm not sure if a conference speaker should be called a preacher, but, with God's help, I'm going to bring it. I'll be inviting folks to big hope, to understand a bit about the restoration of creation that is the ultimate hope of those of us who believe Christ's Kingship is truly coming "on earth as it is in heaven."  End times details aside, I'll be inviting folks to live into this dream of a better world, taking up visions of vocation that last, bearing witness to what we most deeply believe.  All things (re)newed.  Every. Square. Inch.  Maranatha.

Thank God for the CCO, get excited about the 40th anniversary of Jubilee, and pray that we sell some books that help people respond well to God's gift of transformation. And that I am able to be a useful vessel for God's truth to be proclaimed on Sunday morning.

We are grateful for your support, glad for your interest in our work, and truly blessed by your prayers.

In the meantime, pray also for our good staff here at the shop who make all this possible. Beth and I would not be able to do half of what we do without our colleagues in book-selling, Amy, Patti, Katy, our mail-out specialist Diana, and our book-keeper, Robin.  And whisper a prayer for the sales reps and publishers without whose help we wouldn't get to set up these big off-site pop-up bookstores. And those UPS and FedEx and USPS folks. Thank them for doing some of the heavy lifting.



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February 25, 2016


big list of categories jubilee.jpgThe big Jubilee conference in Pittsburgh is over (except for putting away all the unsold books - thousands and thousands. Yikes!)  We thank you for your prayers and encouragement; we were stressed and aching from all the mental work of curating the selections and from the physical labor of lugging the boxes and in the middle of the chaos of setting up last Thursday and Friday we almost wanted to walk away and give up.  Our staff back at the store worked really hard getting us there and our CCO friends out in Pittsburgh are so supportive, and a number of good folks volunteered yet again this year.  (Chris Carson and his Jubby team are always so good directing this big gig geared  to college students.                                                                                 some of our boxes and a list of categories

What an incredible event they create! Here is a short, energetic "highlights" video which will give you a little glimpse.)  By Friday late afternoon the students and others started to show and it was glorious. That I got to preach on Sunday morning besides my more customary book announcements (10 books in 7 minutes!) made this 40th anniversary Jubilee really meaningful for us.

To think of all those books that we sold being read by students and their friends (the conference attracts young professionals, college profs, church leaders and older fans) should bring you great hope. 

I do plenty of hand-wringing about the decline of reading in American culture, and even at Jubilee, standing in front of some of the very best titles I've ever seen, on topics where Christian books are hard to find, still some people still don't take us up on the offer to buy.  Tolle Legge? Not so much, I'm afraid.  And there's lots of picture-taking of titles, probably so they can buy them from the faceless porno dealers over at Amazon. Sigh; it is so discouraging and feels unfair. Even now, in the triumph of a great event, and with lots of great books now in the hands of eager readers and rising leaders -- just think of the ripple effect of that, the maturity and blessing and impact of the righteous ideas found in those books being circulated and promoted and discussed and incarnated - -we realize that it is possible that our bookstore work may have peaked, so to speak. Fewer people buy books these days, fewer people have learned the habit of browsing bookstores (and there are fewer quality Christian bookstores, at least, in which to seriously browse.) But as Jubilee wonderfully illustrates, there are a lot of great speakers and teachers, and lot of folks interested in good stuff, and plenty of quality books being published. Reading and talking about books together as a component of Christian learning and growth is not what it once was, it seems to me, but we're proud of what CCO does and honored to be a part of their good efforts.

So, at least in Pittsburgh again this year, we've seen God work, the Spirit wooing folks to a richer, deeper, more thoughtfully engaged faith, with books seen as helpful tools for on-going discipleship. We are encouraged, even if aware of the daunting task of deepening the worldview and sense of vocation of a rising generation of serious Christians.  Will you join me in saying a prayer for those who bought books, that those books would be read, that each author's insights would hit its mark, that the act of reading would stimulate and inspire and provoke so that Christ's Kingdom would be advanced, that young readers would become fruitful leaders even in these hard times, for God's glory and the common good.  Pray for the CCO staff and other campus workers who brought students to Jubilee to learn about this "all of life redeemed" hopeful vision of a good, fallen, but restored creation, this worldview that believes God is "transforming everything."  May that event, and the books they cart home, stimulate big hope.

And I invite you to re-double your efforts here in the fast-paced digital age to deepen your book buying and book reading habits.  Start a book club if you don't already have one.  Even a pair of serious readers can help one another grapple with significant work, and learn more about faith, about discipleship, about our culture, and about God's mission in the world.  From novels to theology, media studies to spirituality, Bible commentaries to ruminations on work and vocation, there are so many resources that call out to be studied together, whose benefits are gleaned best when not read solo. Get a friend, grab a beverage, turn some pages.  Jubilee kids are going to be doing it this next month, we trust.  Why don't you?  

Below I list a few brand new ones that we could recommend for some healthy book club reading. Or maybe after hearing about the high-energy, all-of-life-redeemed Jubilee vision you might want to take creation regained.gifHow-God-Became-King-202x300.jpgup conference classics like Al Wolter's Creation Regained: The Biblical Basis for a Reformational Worldview or The Call: Finding and Fulfilling Your Life's Purpose by Os Guinness, Truth Is Stranger Than It Used to Be: Biblical Faith in a Postmodern Age (the provocative sequel to an older Jubilee classic, Transforming Vision by Brian Walsh & Richard Middleton) or our Book of the Year a year or so ago, Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good by former Jubilee conference director Steve Garber. Or try something by N.T. Wright, such as his accessible Simply Good News or visions of vocation.jpgtruth is stanger than.jpgthe very important How God Became King or one of his most popular, if a bit tedious at times, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. (Each of these were mentioned at Jubilee, by the way, by me or by a workshop leader or two.)

Or, if you want a very brief booklet that will knock your socks off, why not order A New Heavens and a New Earth: BIblical Picture of Hope by N.T. Wright? It's an inexpensive booklet we order from England because it makes the case for God's renewal of all things and the new creation vision that we are new heavens grove.gifwhen the kings mouw.jpgconvinced is transformational once folks grasp it.

Or, try this, one of my all time favorite Biblical studies books -- it used to be used among CCO staff in their own training years ago to help them get this radical, Biblical vision of God's promise and deliverance, Christ's Kingdom coming on Earth into their bones. Richard Mouw's little When the Kings Come Marching In: Isaiah and the New Jerusalem is a short volume published by Eerdmans that unpacks this notion that the new creation will be physical, and therefore cultural, and therefore our own efforts for social and cultural restoration and healing are valuable and honored by God. Some of our work now may make it into eternity!  He draws on a significant chapter in Isaiah and shows how this points us to creation regained in the new City.  What a book!  We've had folks buy it from us and come back all hopped up, wondering (a) why they've never been taught this before in their otherwise Bible believing churches and (b) what next?

Garden City- Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human.jpgFor someone wanting to enjoy a delightful, upbeat and utterly engaging read on some of these themes, join the many Jubilee-attendees who bought Garden City: Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human by John Mark Comer.  It's a fun one, conversational and, yet, for those wanting a light intro to this wholistic Kingdom vision, it could be truly life-changing. I featured it at the adult pre-conference called Jubilee Professional and up front the first night of the main conference.  Garden City - yes!

I can't tell you how exciting it is when we hear of book groups or Sunday school classes or campus fellowship groups or church leadership teams who read one of these books together and realize that the implications are significant and nearly endless, that there is some re-thinking to do, that we live in a time which calls for repentance and refreshing for authentic, fruitful, missional living.  It happens, you know - church leaders catch a fresh vision around these very things and realize that church-as-usual will no longer do.

To explore this very matter in the local church I sometimes suggest Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work by Rev. Tom Nelson for telling the story of his own church and congregants (he doesn't call them "laypeople" as he rejects the clergy/laity dualism) took up visions of vocation, and increasingly focused on the work world and careers of the people as the primary locus of God's work work matters - tom nelson.jpgRadical Sending- Go To Love and Serve the Lord.jpgand their ministry.  Tom and some of his congregants have been to Jubilee in past years, by the way.  Or, recall my review a month or so ago of Radical Sending: Go To Love and Serve by Demi Prentiss & J. Fletcher Lowe, two Episcopalian authors who invite mainline parishes to think about work, calling, vocation, the missio dei, and how congregations can facilitate ordinary folks serving God in their work-a-day lives.  As the conference slogan declared a few years ago, "this changes everything!"

From the most progressive mainline churches or advocacy groups to the most orthodox Gospel Coalition folk, from the most edgy emergent communities to the most conventional traditional congregations, from large and spiffy neo-mega-churches to small, old fashioned, rural "wee kirks" we are convinced that these kinds of books are foundational, vital, urgent, offering a framework and vocabulary to help folks live out their faith in our time with integrity and purpose.

Okay, I'm jazzed up about all those books we sold to the CCO folks and what might happen if even half of these eager young Christians take them seriously.  And I'm nervous about what happens if they don't.  I know church renewal and cultural restoration is God's final work and that we on our own simply cannot improve our world very much, and we certainly don't "redeem" anything.  Order Os Guinness' recent Renaissance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times if you struggle with this - it is a rich reminder of first things, of trusting God, of being faithful in little things even as we hope big hopes.  And, also, perhaps in tension with that wonderful resource, I'd highly recommend reading with another a book to which I alluded in my Sunday morning talk at Jubilee: Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times by Sun-Chung Ra.  It is both an astute and anguished cry of the heart about the injustices in our land, and a fairly serious study of the book of Lamentations.  I don't know if you can sell that one on your people -" Hey, wanna get together and study a book of the Bible you maybe have never heard of, let alone read?"--but it's worth a try.  It's a great book, the first of a series where the books will be an interesting blend of Bible commentary and cultural engagement. 

So, yes, both the hopeful, astute Renaissance and the sad, gripping Prophetic Lament remind us that even with our efforts to help others learn, even with all the books we sell and learn form, even with all the great events like Jubilee, we need God. We. Need. God. 

But books can help push us in the right direction, right? Yes!

So -- to the new list.

Create vs. Copy- Embrace Change, Ignite Creativity, Break Through with pngCreate vs. Copy: Embrace Change, Ignite Creativity, Break Through with Imagination Ken Wytsma (Moody Collective) $14.99  Jubilee has, some years, and certainly this year, a strong message of inviting folks to be innovators, cultural entrepreneurs.  Friday night opened with a Biblical reflection on the goodness of creation, of all the potential God has packed in to this abundant world, and how, made in the Holy Triune One's image, humans can make stuff.  (Do you remember how I reviewed last summer a groovy book called Jesus, Bread, Chocolate by John J. Thompson?  It is about what some call "maker" culture, the DIY trend fighting mass marketing and mass consumption and offering instead creative, authentic, artful and often local, sustainable lifestyle choices.  I think of this now as it is a nice, practical, fun way into conversations about what it means to be creative, imaging God in an age stuck with the idols of economism and technicism, to use the language of Transforming Vision.)  Anyway, Ken Wytsma is an amazing writer, a leader who seemed to come out of nowhere (I know that isn't so; he's obviously paid big dues) when he founded exceptional, huge, nationally-known The Justice Conference a few years back and followed it up with his flagship book Pursuing Justice.  His second book was called The Paradox of Faith and it had a rave, rave endorsement by philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff which immediately caught my attention.  What a thinker, what a writer, blending smart, good stuff in an accessible, interesting style.

This brand new one - oh how I wished it had come a week earlier so we could have featured it at Jubilee! - is small, fun, a really fine reflection equipping us to be more creative, more innovative, learning the ability to "adapt and innovate and to inspire the same in others."

It seems to me that Create vs Copy might appeal to those who like the high-energy, punchy, passionate brevity of writers like Seth Godin or start-up gurus like Guy Kawasaki or  life coaches like Martha Beck or Pamela Slim.  Wytsma cites educators such as Sir Ken Robinson and explores the science of creativity by drawing on the likes of Daniel Pink and Robert Epstein. (And, though-out, he comes back to C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton, over and over.)  This is a rich, interesting, energetic little book and I'm excited about it.  Bob Goff writes that it is "a terrific book on the power of imagination to shape our lives, world, and faith - by one of the most creative guys I know."  And if Goff says Wytsma is creative, well, Wystsma must be creative.  And this book will help you, in your personal comings-and-goings, I'm sure, but also if you are in conflict at work, in the doldrums at church, or needing to rediscover why you do what you do and just do it better.

If you read this, and I hope many do, here is a thing to wonder about: what if we were to back up and ask what cultural and philosophical baggage the very notion of creativity brings with it, and ask if those a priori assumptions are themselves consistent with a Biblical worldview?  Calvin Seerveld, the premier scholar of a Christian perspective on aesthetics, might have something to say on this topic (see my lengthy piece about him and his work here) and I wished Wytsma dug a little deeper on this seminal matter. Still, it's surely a great little book, designed wonderfully, with good discussion questions at the end of each chapter.  It really looks fun, and others like Claire Diaz-Ortiz, a Silicon Valley innovator herself, says Create vs Copy is the gold standard for inspiring leaders to make their mark."

My friend C. Christopher Smith (author of Slow Church and a person I trust much) says "Create vs. Copy will electrify our imaginations as it challenges us to new, redemptive ways of seeing and steers us toward the flourishing God intends for the world."  The ever-brilliant Aussie cultural critic Mark Sayers declares that "Create vs Copy is an essential resource for anyone engaged in partnering with God as He re-creates the world."

Revelation- A Search for Faith in a Violent Religious World .jpgRevelation: A Search for Faith in a Violent Religious World Dennis Covington (Little Brown) $26.00  It is a good day around here when we get books by authors we admire and whose writing we are just mad about.  It is a great year when Dennis Covington releases a new book.  You may know his stunning memoir called Salvation on Sand Mountain which explored his reporting on and then involvement with a snake-handling church in Appalachia, or his eloquent, profound book co-written by his wife at the time, the extraordinary essayist Vickie Covington, called Cleaving, about their good but troubled marriage. I loved his wild ride of a nutty book about trying to re-claim Florida land his dad had been bilked out of called Red-neck Rivera which below the surface (not unlike the more intense and beautiful Sand Mountain) seemed to indicate his nearly pathological draw to dangerous stuff. To say his book writing is "high octane" puts it mildly.  And, once again, in this new one, it seems that he is drawn to danger.

I got home from Jubilee bleary-eyed, exhausted, with a belly full of bad road-trip coffee and ears still buzzing from the sound system, and just wanting to go to bed. We unloaded some stuff back into the store, my eyes fell on this book on our new release table, and I felt like it was one of those moments: the new Dennis Covington book!  If I start this now I will be up all night - should I even touch it? Read the first pages?  Covington is an "astonishing" writer and here he is apparently raising huge questions of doubt and faith and of the role of toxic, even violent, religion.  Another high-octane, truly astonishing writer, Mark Richard, author of the unforgettable House of Prayer No. 2I, says, "Dennis Covington empathically inhabits the victims of the violence he meets, and in a fleeting instance find the grace that sustains them and the despair that transcends them beyond our reckoning. Touched by his epistles, we are somehow encouraged, even when all we have is God."  

Kim Barnes (another of my favorite writers, another of the most unforgettable memoirists I've ever read) says "From the first sentence on, you understand what Dennis Covington brings to the page is something raw, terrifying, brilliant, and necessary. Vivid, tense, and compelling, Covington's story bears brave and unflinching witness to one of the most threatening conflicts of our time."  

I'm telling you, the blurbs on the back of this book themselves might keep you up at night. Listen to Alan Weisman, who writes,

Once again, Dennis Covington, author of the astonishing Salvation on Sand Mountain, rushes headlong into abysses that the rest of us flee, from the most brutal spots on earth to the rawest truths in the mirror. His obsessed, haunted question scours the depths of madness -- his, ours, this century's -- yet somehow salvages faith from the most fearful despair. This brave book is a Revelation, indeed.

Justice Calling Where Passion Meets P.jpgThe Justice Calling: Where Passion Meets Perseverance Bethany Hanke Hoang & Kristen Deede Johnson (Brazos) $19.99  What a thrill to help launch this brand new, very handsome hardback book at #Jubilee2016.  Bethany has been to Jubilee before and her role this year as a workshop leader was exceedingly important - she basically did a serious-minded Bible study, explaining the Biblical and theological foundation for working for social change.  Her MDiv is from Princeton and she continues to work with the premier anti-trafficking organization, IJM (International Justice Mission) where she directs the Institute for Biblical Justice. Her vibrant co-author is associate professor of theology and Christian formation at Western Theological Seminary in Holland Michigan. While a prof at the nearby Hope College (a Reformed Church in America college) she helped create a program dedicated to upholding the significance of theological formation, spiritual growth, cultural engagement, and vocational discernment.  Which is to say both women are exceptionally well-schooled and committed to educating for lasting, formational transformation in learners so that they might be the kind of people who are empowered to be healthy activists in church and world.  They understand the big flow of the Scriptures, the story, as we say, and place God's relentless call to do justice in that context.  Andy Crouch has called it "a deep, wide, wise contribution to a truly comprehensive Christian understanding of Justice"  and says, "I can't imagine a better biblical and theological introduction to the topic of justice."

The chapter titles of this new book illustrate the artful way it is written and the profound way it develops.   The footnotes are extraordinarily interesting; there are nice pull quotes throughout making this quite useful.  (If only there were discussion questions at the end of each chapter - I assure you, though, that there is so much stimulating information in these pages that your group would have plenty to talk about!)  This really is a fabulous new book and we can't recommend it more heartily. 


Introduction: Justice and God

1. Engage the Whole Story

Justice and Righteousness

2. Receive God's Vision of Flourishing

Justice and Creation

3. Move toward Darkness

Justice and the Fall

4. Lament

Justice and Israel

5. Live as Saints (Not Heroes)

Justice and Jesus

6. Be Sanctified and Sent

Justice and the Church

7. Persevere in Hope

Justice and All Things Becoming New

Conclusion: Abide in Jesus

Justice and Perseverance

s & w Andy Crouch better.jpgStrong and Weak: Embracing a Life Full of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing (Andy Crouch) $20.00  We have announced this previously, inviting people to pre-order it from us, and we are thrilled to report that the book has shipped out to stores and that we had it at Jubilee - right from the printing press to the convention center in Pittsburgh.  Andy has been very supportive of Jubilee over the years and although he wasn't there this year, Strong and Weak was almost the top seller there.  (We sold more of Good Faith by Gabe Lyon and David Kinnamon we we had a supply of for the event; they were both there so that was expected.  And we are taking orders for it, since we cannot sell it here in the shop until the national release date, March 1st.)  That Andy's new book was of such interest illustrated not only that he's an important writer whose name people know, but that the topic - power, vulnerability, leadership, authentic human and cultural flourishing - resonates.  In a way it is a sequel to the very, very important Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power (which, in turn, follow-ed up quite nicely his classic and exceedingly significant Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling.)

If you do not know Mr. Crouch's elegant and very interesting style and remarkable message, watch his Friday night talk from Jubilee a few years back -- then order all three books, asap. It's 30 minutes, starts a little weirdly, and you will love it!  You might even get choked up a bit when he plays and explains Bach at the end.  Yes!

Or, watch this short less than 2 minute clip of him explaining the heart of Strong and Weak or this lovely  2 minute one called "Making Space" that hints at much from the book, much that I myself need to learn  You?.

John Ortberg writes of Strong and Weak

This book is going to have a profound impact on our world. It's built on a clear, deep, life-changing insight that opens up vast possibilities for human flourishing. Classic, elegant, and utterly illuminating.

Beth and I think it is one of the most enlightening and enjoyable and generative books we've read in quite a while and we are hoping you will order it soon.  You will be taken in by its good, good prose and you will be impressed by its warm, thoughtful tone, and you will never forget the premise. He not only writes plainly about each point, but he tells great stories, and exhibits a splendid familiarity with folks around the world - one story will be from India or Bolivia, another from an urban, historically black church, another from a mature, slow, orthodox educational ministry at Cornell called Chesterton House. And there's a rock climbing story.

Crouch's quadrant diagrams, his expose of false dilemmas and unhelpful tensions (between warmth and firmness, for instance) are incredibly helpful. (The first chapter is called "Beyond the False Choice.") His chapter on suffering is great, his piece on "hidden vulnerability" is beautiful, and the chapter on "descending to the dead"--what he calls "the greatest paradox of flourishing" -- is brilliant.  By the end of the book you will know exactly what he means by "up and to the right" and you will pray for friends to help you, for God to guide you, and for personal courage to make that shift.  Up and to the right.  It's the way of love and risk.  Praise be to Christ who modeled this, and for inspiring Andy to give us this wise, good book.

The Future of Our Faith- An Intergenerational Conversation on Critical Issues Facing the Church.jpgThe Future of Our Faith: An Intergenerational Conversation on Critical Issues Facing the Church Ronald J. Sider & Ben Lowe (Brazos) $18.99  What a book!  On the heels of #Jubilee2016 this is perfect for me, since the conversations within circle around a huge question for many of us: what is the future of the evangelical movement, in what ways do the rising Christian leaders see things similarly or differently than older church leaders, and what are the burning issues pressing on us now, and looming on the horizon.  Sider, as I hope you know, is one of our favorite gentleman and authors; he is impeccable theologically and holds to fairly conventional historic, orthodox doctrine, even if he has a reputation for being a progressive advocate of peace and justice causes. (And even in his robust calls for simple living and creation care and nonviolence and racial justice and such, he is deeply Biblical and theologically sound.)  Ron has been a mentor to me from afar and has been a long-standing friend of Hearts & Minds. He is the founder and president emeritus of Evangelicals for Social Action.

Ben Lowe is another friend, a younger guy, a Wheaton grad who has published books such as the lively Green Revolution and the very wise Doing Good without Giving Up.  He now is the founding spokesperson of Young Evangelicals for Climate Action (and he ran for office a few years back.) Ben was recently orained in the CMA denomination.

So here's the simple version of the book: the first half is mostly Ron writing about his hopes and concerns for the next generation of Christian leaders.  He is candid about his own passion for Biblical principles (he is traditional, by the way, on matters of same-sex marriage and is pro-life; indeed, being consistently pro-life has been a major emphasis of his. He is interested in apologetics and values mature, Biblically-shaped theological study. And pushes us all to live what we believe, not just "talk a good game" as we they say.

At the end of each chapter, Ben replies, offering his own sense of his own generation's response to Ron's old ways.  Granted, Dr. Sider is no Jerry Falwell or Martin Marty or Marva Dawn or Eugene Peterson, which is to say he isn't perhaps the most quintessential retirement age church leader,  but his concerns certainly represent the concerns of many standard, moderate, thoughtful evangelicals.  And Ben isn't Shane Claiborne or Katelyn Beaty of CT or Gabe Lyon of Q so he doesn't quite represent all of his generation, either (although he is friends with each of those aforementioned younger evangelicals.)  So this conversation seems tilted towards those interested in public faith, in cultural issues, in embodied, whole-life discipleship committed to social change.

So if the first half is Sider offering gray-haired warnings, and young Ben replying, the second half is equally interesting: Ben writes his manifesto and, chapter by chapter, Ron replies.

And, through it all, other voices contribute, too. Christena Cleveland on race and reconciliation, Jenny Yang on immigration, Jim Daly on focusing on the family, Chris Hall (now President of Renovare, the spirituality ministry started by Richard Foster),  Nicholas Wolterstorff and others grace these pages, being held up as examples of ways to think well about the many vexing matters picked up and explored together - intergenerationally! - in this fine, fine, and very honest book.

I believe The Future of Our Faith is a spectacularly useful book even if all the voices and views represented were not more or less configured around older/younger demographics.  That is the operating vision (Ron and Ben are forty years apart) which brings an extra urgency to it, but I think it is a fabulous and insightful and stimulating book just for creating space to converse well and think together apart from the generational differences. (Of course, I'm an old guy saying that. Ha.)  Karen Swallow Prior, herself a young scholar of literature, says it will be "a blessing to the church today and a model for the church to come."  May it be so.  Get a bunch and find some older and/or younger friends and read it together. There are great discussion questions included and a lovely reminder at the end about Jesus the Center.  

Katelyn Beaty, managing editor of Christianity Today writes,

A wealth of wisdom, conviction, and hope from two leaders who refreshingly defy tired religious and political categories. If you care about the future of Christian witness in a post-Christian American, you'll read The Future of Our Faith.

God's Justice BIBLE.jpgNIV God's Justice Bible: The Flourishing of Creation & the Destruction of Evil  (Zondervan) $39.99  There have been a handful of niche market Bibles that have come out in recent years -- The Green Bible in the NRSV has, rather than certain verses in red letters, texts in green, all the passages about creation and creation-care. There is the Poverty and Justice Bible which is designed with craft paper and has sidebars about poverty, naturally.  There are men's and women's and leadership and Holy Spirit Bibles. We don't really like most of them very much (although the "green letter" is a pretty neat idea.)  We are not so sure that shoe-horning texts into a pre-determined theme or offering sidebars and devotionals that may be fine content, but linked to texts with dubious interpretation, well, it's just not the best way to read the Bible.

This God's Justice Bible, though, looks just tremendous. It is made by an international team of 56 global Biblical scholars, which gives it a true study Bible quality -- not just super-imposing devotional content here and there. That the "flourishing of creation and the destruction of evil" is a major and appropriate interpretive lens is doubtless, so, again, this could be a major assist in helping people really understand God's Word.  

Even the back cover copy is good. It says,

God's justice -- his plan for 'setting things right' -- is a foundational principle in the Bible. His plan for justice to triumph is traced from Genesis to Revelation, and as a theme, it forms the backbone of Scripture. God['s plan is to restore the flourishing of creation and to see the end of evil, and every book of the Bible is infused with hints of this powerful and redemptive process.

The book introductions are quite good, the study notes look excellent and speak to many contemporary problems (from sexual trafficking to governmental oppression to financial inequality and more.) There are prayers (a nice touch), there are questions for reflection, and there is a full color interior design that has wood-carving images of trees from around the world. (That's very, very cool.)

We know some of the scholars who offered input in this, and know of others.  Our good friend, and former co-director of ESA, Al Tizon (of Filipino descent) did the book of Revelation!  Christopher Wright from the UK did Deuteronomy, and many women and men who are scholars who I do not know - from Kenya, Mexico, Taiwan, Argentina, Singapore, India -- are represented. Andy Crouch did the notes for Philemon, Ron Sider did Amos, and C. Rene Padilla did 2 Corinthians.  Bethany Hanke Hoang, who we just saw at Jubilee? She did the notes for Zechariah.  (I wonder if she saw the display we had of this at the Jubilee book display?)  What a joy to peruse the insights and Biblical wisdom of these international sisters and brothers!

This weighty, well-made study edition is a good bargain, packed full of helpful study aids. It's release last week by Biblical and Zondervan is a publishing event.  Hooray.



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