About August 2016

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

July 2016 is the previous archive.

September 2016 is the next archive.

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

August 2016 Archives

August 2, 2016

Ruined: A Memoir by Ruth Everhart ON SALE

a-womans-place-.jpgRuined: A Memoir by Ruth Everhart (Tyndale House Publishers; $14.99.) Our sale price = $13.49

Our last Hearts & Minds BookNotes newsletter was well received and we are grateful for those who cared about the lovely, interesting, thoughtful work by Katelynn Beaty, A Woman's Place.  It is a rare sort of book that offers insight and stories, sprightly told, about not only the role of women in our culture - leaning in and daring greatly and all that - but does so within a nicely worked out view of vocation and calling. By bringing together these two topics, based on lots of interviews and astute observations about gender and work, Beaty, a gifted journalist, offers us a very great gift. It is highly recommended for men and women.

Ms. Beatty attended Calvin College in Grand Rapids Michigan. That she learned much about gender justice and the doctrine of Christ's Lordship over all of life, lived out within the context of conversations about the imago dei, culture-making, and vocations in the work-world, while at that respected liberal arts college run by the Christian Reformed Church is notable; perhaps it is an indication of some things that have changed there in the last generations. It is true that their world-and-life view (as they used to call it, drawing from their heritage in the culturally-engaged public theology of Abraham Kuyper) has long emphasized forming the Christian mind for all-of-life-redeemed service for the common good, but, not that long ago, women were not central to that project. Like at most Christian colleges, the last decades have seen more women scholars with PhDs, more female students taking up philosophy or science or engineering, and a much more lively conversation on campus about gender, date rape, the problems with purity culture, and the like.

It was not always so.

ruined.jpgI did not plan it this way, but the book I am eager to tell you about today begins at Calvin College, starting in one horrific weekend in early November 1978, when two young men from Grand Rapids raped four female students living together in an off campus house.  As the riveting, occasionally gruesome, first 50 pages of Ruined: A Memoir describes, the young women were tied together, taken to the cellar floor, back again to their bedrooms, and terribly violated. Two of the women were raped twice, two only once, while another housemate was oddly spared.

Given the statistics of how many women are molested, raped, or abused in our society, it is nearly a certainty that you, as you are reading this, know women who have been assaulted; I feel a knot in my gut even as I type this, knowing this is true in my own circles. Even in our little Christian bookstore the small cards from a local rape crisis center offering assistance, which we have in the restroom, are routinely taken.

I am a bit surprised, actually, that we don't sell more books about this topic.  Like the upbeat Beaty book on work, Everhart's Ruined is another book that I want to promote widely and press into the hands of many. It is illuminating about so very much, and a captivating story; hard as it is on several different levels, it is, truly, a good read. (The prestigious Kirkus Review said it has "everything readers should want from memoir.")  The crime, the aftermath, and the trial are the narrative center of the memoir, but it is - as most coming of age stories and spiritual memoirs - about so much more. At times I wanted to cheer, and at times I wiped away tears from my eyes.

Everhart is herself a respected Presbyterian (USA) pastor and a good writer. (We loved her previous book, a story of her travels through the Middle East, called Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land.) Her style is not flamboyant and her prose is sensible, solid, not at all purple, for which I was grateful. The book carries us along not on sheer brilliance of the dazzling language, but on the strength and integrity of the story.

And what a story it is.  Any narrative of such horror and the quest to bring the perpetrators to justice is bound to be suspenseful and gripping, but what is also quite moving is her telling of her story of doubt, the struggle about God's presence in the middle of the evil perpetrated, and her honest, logical rejection of simplistic language of God's blessing. There is an understated scene that captures this: in their fear during the hours-long episodes they recited the Lord's Prayer and the Twenty-third Psalm. Yeah though I walk through the shadow...  Of course they cried out to God for protection. Weeks later in the school coffee shop where the victims gathered daily for support and to nurse their fears and anger, Ruth heard the roommate who was not sexually violated say that she was thankful God her heard prayers.  Can you see how weird this kind of talk is: does that mean God did not hear the prayers of the other girls?  Did God choose to spare the one but inflicted the evil upon the others, cowering in fear on the floor?  Is God playing some game with human lives, doling out suffering here, helping some, hurting others? It's a fair question.

faith and other flat tires.jpg(By the way, coming of age spiritual memoirs written by those trying to make sense of their lives are useful for all of us to read and sometimes useful to share with others, as a friend or road map or guide to the journey. I think of Faith and Other Flat Tires: Searching for God on the Rough Road of Doubt by the very fine writer Andrea Palpant Dilley which I reviewed a few years ago, also set on a conservative college campus, just for instance.)

This is the quandary of the ages, but it was particularly vexing for Ruth and the others there in Grand Rapids in the middle of the 20th century; God's electing sovereignty is prominent in all Reformed theology but is perfected to a staggeringly systematic cornerstone among her branch of Dutch Calvinists - more so than in the writings of the famous Reformer himself, Ruth later suggests. But this was apparently the heart of the Sunday school and catechism and formation within the CRC and the girls had absorbed clichéd truism after clichéd truism with their mother's milk: I have been a good girl, so things like this won't happen to me.  If God allows - sends? - such trouble, am I to be glad that He (always a He) is chastising me? Am I being punished? Are we to rejoice in all things No Matter What? Do not question these things.

Oh, how these toxic clichés hurt, oh how majestic and grand theological notions can be hardened into Slogans and Truths that do not match our lives lived East of Eden. Oh how selective some of our faith traditions (and some of our most vocal leaders) can be, citing this text, but not that one, telling this Bible story, but ignoring that one. Such theology becomes simple and firm and, while helpful to a few, necessarily unhelpful to most tender hearts or inquisitive minds.  One major theme of Ruined is how this dogma from her CRC past was ruined for her. Bad advice, cheap slogans, failure to listen, refusal to host pain and doubt and lament, all plagued her (or at least this is how she tells the story.) The college was less than helpful - I am positive they handle such matters very differently now - and the Student Affairs staff and the chaplain himself were not helpful, let alone comforting and wise.

Ruined tells well the story of the criminal investigation, the trial, the delays in the trial, how each victim - it took a while and some doses of empowering feminist theology to help them learn to describe themselves as survivors - responded to the publicity and the eventual indictments. Still, although this reads at times like a true crime story, it is mostly a faith journey. How does a young woman steeped in conservative evangelical and Reformed theology cope with a worldview crisis, when the things she assumed she believed no longer seemed to work? How do young women in the evangelical world remain in a denomination that (at that time) refused ordination to women? What social classes and associations and friendships can help a young woman come into her own?  What kind of insights and churches allow such daughters of Sarah to flourish in the bosom of Abraham?

Another part of the story is explored carefully (although I would have wished for just a bit more, although it may not be my place to make such wishes known as it is her story to tell) is her struggle, in post-traumatic stress fashion, to be fair to African American men.  Even though her assailants where a certain age and build, Ruth's visceral response to black men was informed by what we now call triggers. At one point her rapist wiped a tear away from her cheek, showing even in the dark the pink of his palm. How does one untangle the maleness and the blackness of her assailants? She could not, she understood, hate all men. She could not, she also understood, hate all blacks. Her father, interestingly, worked as a principle of a very urban, multi-ethnic Christian school, so she grew up comfortable around folks of various socio-economic status and diverse races. Her coping with what felt to her like racist instincts after the attack as she continued to live in racially mixed neighborhoods is candid, raw, remarkable.  ("My capacity for hatred bothered me," she tersely writes. "I hadn't known I was capable of such a thing. But I was.") There were times nearer the end of the book that I had to put the book down just to ponder her experiences, rejoice in her honesty, glad for her desire for growth, wholeness, healing, justice.

Ruth-Everhart-memoir-challenge.jpgYet another part of this tremendous book is how Ruth's faith journey led her to a new friend and an inner city Lutheran church community that indeed offered a safe place to grapple with theodicy, with questions about the role of women in society and church, to explore her love for philosophy and theology, kindled in spurts with good professors at Calvin. She attends an upstart seminary in a ramshackle building in Minneapolis, learning more about more mainline denominational voices, women's theology, liberation theology, and more.  She develops a sense of call into ordained ministry, blending her evangelical and Reformed heritage, her experiences in charismatic renewal, and her newly discovered contemporary theological skills with a keen pastoral sense.  I needn't tell you the rest, but it is always a delight, I think, to lean over the shoulder of one who is discerning a call, trying honestly (through a glass darkly, even, at times) to hear the voice of God and to pursue discipleship in a way that is coherent and faithful.

I loved Everhart's story at this point, even details about how she shared these new directions with her parents and extended Dutch family.  These were painful days for the CRC and anyone whose faith has moved in somewhat different ways than one's own beloved family will relate to her telling of her family dynamics.

How much of Everhart's theological views of "divine mysteries" and sense of calling into the ministry came about because of the awful rape and the less than admirable response among many in her conservative Calvinist setting?  Can this story that begins with an unspeakable act of violence - as the promo copy for the book says - "end with tremendous healing and profound spiritual insights about faith, forgiveness and the will of God"?
Yes, this is a story of coping with the aftermath of a rape. It is the story of struggling with the perennial questions "where is God when it hurts?" and "why is God silent?" and "why does God allow evil?" and "will I ever be whole again?" It is the story of doing theology, live, in real time, trying to make sense of one's assumptions about faith, about what the Bible does and doesn't say, about how to articulate in helpful ways stuff about faith, life, suffering, gender, justice and God's will. This is a memoir about faith and about life.

And, I might say rather gladly for some of us, it is a snapshot into life in the decades of the 1970s and 80s. She mentions her fashion choices, and little details - bean bag chairs, listening to Gordon Lightfoot, the names of cars she drove, the phone booth wire coiled in steel - made me smile. That she mentions hangout spots in Grand Rapids was fun (we have good friends there, and a daughter who lived in Eastown where some of the book is set.) Her moving around the country - including a beautifully crafted episode of canoeing on Lake Superior where she meets (spoiler alert) her husband - rings true as she navigates her transition after college.

ruth everhart head shot.jpgThere is an epilogue to the book, set off in italics, that, even though only a few pages, have haunted me and touched me.

These pages are an open letter written to her daughters, one in college, one in high school. The girls apparently didn't know that their mother was raped and their own response to this awful discovery was complicated. Her letter to them about being loved, about God's grace, about possible hurt and trauma in life, was beautiful and poignant and powerful, the words incredibly moving. God will, she testifies, bring something new and beautiful out of the pain.  You are loved no matter what. They are words I wish every parent could say to every child.





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August 8, 2016

10 (mostly new) books to follow up the exquisite memoir Ruined ALL ON SALE

ruined.jpgThe book I told you about in the last H&M newsletter, Ruth Everhart's Ruined, was (as Kirkus Review put it) "everything a reader would want in a memoir." It works especially well for those of us who are intrigued by stories of those struggling to figure out what they believe and why; call it a "faith journey" or a "spiritual coming of age" narrative, such books about forging a coherent faith amidst personal struggle are almost always inspiring.  Ruined is about more than the rape and its aftermath in the life of a Christian college woman, much more. But her life in those years was obviously shaped by this horrific event, so we follow her journey, cheering for her as she is called into ministry and into a life-giving marriage. 

Those who work with others in ministry - pastors, campus workers, youth ministers, parents, guidance counselors and the like - should read these kinds of stories often, to become more attuned to how people narrate their lives, how they make meaning in their search for a story that makes sense.

I recall Frederick Buechner writing somewhere that the best theology, in fact, comes in the genre of autobiography.


Here are 10 more books that came to mind last week as I was reviewing Ruined: A Memoir. I didn't want to clutter up that column but was itching to name some other titles.  Hope these short descriptions inspire you to think about these good ones.

Maybe you'll be inspired to share this post, perhaps. These are books that deserve to be known. I am sure they could be life-giving and helpful to many. And we love the idea of our recommendations getting to those who need them. We love getting new subscribers to BookNotes, too, so thanks for passing this on.

healing the wounded heart.jpgHealing the Wounded Heart: The Heartache of Sexual Abuse and the Hope of Transformation Dan B. Allender (Baker) $16.99;  Workbook; $14.99 Our biggest selling book on helping survivors come to terms with sexual abuse in the past has been Dan Allender's 1989 book Wounded Heart. We have long respected Dan and have devoured many of his other books - The Healing Path is about the recovery of faith, hope, and love, for those who have experienced trauma and deep hurt; To Be Told has the subtitle "God Invites You to Coauthor Your Future" and it is brilliant; Leading with a Limp is counter-intuitive and right.) I am not alone in appreciating his self-help stuff like Wounded Heart; it is considered nearly a classic in some circles.

Listen to what Shauna Niequist says: 

Through Dan's skillful and tender writing, I've been given a vision for how to love and walk well with the members of my community whose stories have been marked by sexual abuse. I'm so very thankful for his gentle, prophetic voice, and for the many ways his words have been healing and life giving for generations.

The new one, Healing the Wounded Heart, is nearly a sequel to Wounded Heart although the publisher assures us it stands alone. It does seem like it could be read without having read the first one. Here is what the publisher says:  "Now, more than twenty-five years later, Allender has written a brand-new book on the subject that takes into account recent discoveries about the lasting physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual ramifications of sexual abuse."

"With great compassion Allender offers hope for victims of rape, date rape, incest, molestation, sexting, sexual bullying, unwanted advances, pornography, and more, exposing the raw wounds that are left behind and clearing the path toward wholeness and healing. Never minimizing victims' pain or offering pat spiritual answers that don't truly address the problem, he instead calls evil evil and lights the way to renewed joy."

If you do ministry at all, befriend others, work with young adults, or do any sort of counseling, I hope you have one of these one hand for that moment when you will need it. Tragic as it may be, it is true; if you are open to the pain of others, you will need to share this (or something like it.)  I'm not always a fan of workbooks, but it looks very, very useful as well.  Both are highly recommended!

Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife- My Story of Finding Hope after Domestic Abuse .jpgBlack and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife: My Story of Finding Hope after Domestic Abuse Ruth A. Tucker (Zondervan) $16.99  This compelling and anguishing book deserves a more lengthy review than I can do here, but you should know at least a bit about it. Firstly, Dr. Tucker is an important Christian writer, having penned books on women in leadership, on famous women of church history, and a magisterial, award-winning history of global missions (From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya.)

As she was writing on world-class publishing houses and teaching seminary courses at solid evangelical divinity schools and speaking in debates with her friend John Piper (who holds an exceptionally conservative view of the roles of women in the church and world) she was literally being beat black and blue and bloody by a man who comes across as a psychopath.  She attempts to be generous and discreet in the telling of the tale but she explains forthrightly her husband's obsession with male headship and his brutal ways which seemed connected to his harsh reading of the Bible. Her "submission" to him was harsh and bizarre -- he would withhold her book manuscripts until she changed certain lines, she would be pummeled if she disagreed with his particular interpretation of an obscure Bible doctrine, she would be forced to have demeaning sex before heading out to lecture on women in the mission field.

This book is more than a memoir, though. Much of it is Tucker's good Biblical teaching about mutuality in marriage, about the theological issues surrounding discussions about the roles of men and women in the church and world.  And it is reminder that domestic violence occurs even within the most seemingly devout religious homes, sometimes even minimized by those who have narrow Biblical interpretations and weird attitudes.

She bravely talks about her efforts to work things out, her faith in reconciliation and Christian counseling, and how none of that worked. The allusions to complicity among pastors and dangerously unprofessional pastoral counseling are staggering.  This is a hard book to read, but includes dispassionate counsel and Bible teaching. I very highly recommend it.

Perhaps you know someone who needs hope for overcoming the devastation of domestic violence, or maybe you know someone who would benefit from Ruth's story, another example of good theology coming from autobiography.  The story is harrowing, the expose of the theological abuse of Scripture important to reflect upon, and her lovely testimony of a new marriage and a truly decent marriage is inspiring.  Kudos to the publisher and to Ruth Tucker for daring to share this shocking story.  We hope many order it and are helped.

Notice the damage on the wall in this handsome, important book cover. Well done.

Scars Across Humanity- Understanding Violence Against Women.gifScars Across Humanity: Understanding and Overcoming Violence Against Women Elaine Storkey (Cascade Books) $16.00  I announced this when it first came out in England, and then again when the US edition came out earlier this year.  Elaine is a well-known Christian thought-leader and social activist in the UK (as is her husband, Alan Storkey.) Elaine has written excellent books on the roots of feminism, on our understandings of worldviews and gender, and why Christian faith ought not be used to oppress women.  Her connection with Toronto's Institute for Christian Studies and the US policy think tank the Center for Public Justice illustrates her thoughtfulness and rigorous scholarship weaving together lively faith and public life. (She spoke at the CCO's Jubilee conference years ago and we are glad to be long-distant friends.)  In this new book (years in the making) Elaine documents the global impact of various sorts of oppression faced by women throughout the globe.  From forced marriages, sexual slavery, "honor killings" and religiously-inspired domestic violence, there is much about which we should lament and much we can do. Through compelling research and great personal stories, she not only investigates the problems but points us towards renewal and hope.

As is Dr. Storkey style, she not only offers an overview of the problem, but surveys how different worldviews might respond to this crisis and discerns the value of the answers most commonly offered. She looks at those who approach the problem from the point of view of evolutionary psychology and those who offer a critique of patriarchal power structures.  As it says on the back, "she also considers the role that religion can play -for good or ill - in the struggle against this universal evil."

Suffering and the Heart of God- How Trauma Destroys and Christ Restores.jpgSuffering and the Heart of God: How Trauma Destroys and Christ Restores Diane Langberg (New Growth Press) $24.99  Dr. Langberg is globally recognized for her with trauma victims.  We have heard her lecture and stock her previous books (both serious textbooks on counseling and more popular level resources such as On the Threshold of Hope a book for those who have been sexually assaulted.) Again, this "master-class in counseling and pastoral care" (Richard Winter) deserves a much more thorough review - allow me simply to note that it is very nicely written, very thorough, and - as it should be - passionate. She has, as one reviewer notes, "looked into the eyes of those4 wounded by evil and been a powerful voice for healing, justice, and truth."  The wounded heart, damaged by abuse and betrayal and unspeakable evil, can be healed through the power of the gospel.  This is Christ-centered, grace-filled, deeply Christian stuff and her insight is profound. The body of Christ, if we are to express his love for the hurting, simply must pay more attention to those who are silently suffering. We can say that trauma and abuse - painful as it is, never to be minimized or treated with glib clichés - do not have the last word. 

This is an excellent book for anyone and feels a bit like a resource one can dip into on and off as the needs arise. The first six chapters of Suffering and the Heart of God are about suffering, God's solidarity, and the spiritual impact abuse, are brilliant and moving.  The next seven chapters are about doing ministry with the hurting in the context of Christian community; these pieces include wise insight about trauma memories, living with grief, and the pathologies of bad leadership and the abuse of power within churches and Christian organizations.  There are then several chapters for clinicians on understanding complex trauma and sexual violence. The book ends with three great chapters under the heading "care for the counselor." There are two appendices "A Survivor's Expression of Faith" and a lament.

Oh if only Ruth Everhart had this kind of uniquely Christian counselor during her years documented in Ruined. And oh, if Ruth Tucker had these kinds of allies in her years of harrowing abuse.   Storkey's book is a bit broader but Langberg is certainly a resource for her work, as well.  

Unashamed- Drop the Baggage, Pick Up Your Freedom, Fulfill Your Destiny .jpgUnashamed: Drop the Baggage, Pick Up Your Freedom, Fulfill Your Destiny Christine Caine (Zondervan) $19.99  By now, I hope you know the name Christine Caine.  She is a tireless speaker, an upbeat, Spirit-empowered communicator who lives to help others find a big hope and a destiny of world-changing influence. Her own story is thrilling, having been trusted and empowered by the Hillsong Community in Australia to work with at-risk youth (see her fun book Undaunted) which soon led her to the A21 Campaign, a global movement to fight sexual trafficking.  In 2015 they also founded Propel Women, an organization designed to "honor the calling of every woman, empower her to lead, equip her for success, and develop a sense of God-given purpose."  Unstoppable tells the story of her becoming a leader and how we can "pass the baton" on to others. 

I'm very excited about this very new book, even though it is about a topic that seems so trendy - shame. There may be more clinically-informed books, and you know we love The Soul of Shame by the neurologist and psychiatrist Curt Thompson.  And if you haven't read Daring Greatly and Growing Strong yet, well, you ought to get on that right away!  Caine's Unashamed seems to combine the best of several of these books, written with her fast-paced, story-telling and motivational style, inviting us to allow God to set us free from the limits of shame and take up new freedom.  I like!

Listen to what Lisa Harper writes, as she recommends that you pass these out widely and wildly:

I memorized the verse from Romans about there being no shame or condemnation for those of us who are in Christ Jesus when I was a little girl; unfortunately, I was still crippled by shame as a grown woman decades later. From my experience, shame is one of the most effective tools the enemy uses to oppress believers and emasculate the church. Which makes this book a must read. 

Unashamed DVD set.gifWe also have the brand new DVD presentations of this content as well -- it would make a great resource for a small group, an adult ed class, or home or dorm group.

We have a pack with the DVD and one participants guide for $38.99 before our discounted price.  Five sessions. Fantastic!

How to Survive a Shipwreck- Help Is on the Way and Love is Already Here .jpgHow to Survive a Shipwreck: Help Is on the Way and Love is Already Here Jonathan Martin (Zondervan) $16.99  I am three-quarters through this passionately written, eloquent book and I'm already wishing my experience of reading it wasn't almost over.  I have read portions out loud to Beth (including his long excerpt of one of my favorite, moving parts of Barbara Brown Taylor's Leaving Church.) Martin is a crazy dude - a young, hip, Dylan-quoting church planter, a son of a Pentecostal preacher, himself Pentecostal, with a degree from Duke Divinity School where he studied under Stanley Hauerwas. His book Prototype: What Happens When You Discover Your More Like Jesus Than You Think makes a couple of big points, mostly around the humanity of Jesus and how salvation and union with Him causes us to flourish as real humans, incarnated in the messy, beautiful, broken world which we are to relish.  I was really, really struck by it, surprised that such a feisty, profound book was being written by a Southern mega-church guy.  So much for my prejudices.

Well.  This super smart and driven guy apparently hit the rails and although I don't know exactly the shape of his existential crisis and marriage problems, he came to realize he wasn't the person he once was, wasn't able to continue on pastoring the church he found, and had to admit he was a ghost of his former self.  What does one do when one can't do the only thing one knows to do? (Believe, there are times I relate!) Was he becoming more human, less willing to fit into the constraints of and expectations for a charismatic church leader, finding himself, truly? Or, what he just becoming burned out from legitimate callings, and making stupid choices, standard fare dumb stuff, drifting from his true self and real faith? I'm not done with the book yet, but I can say his metaphor of being ship-wrecked - in his case, he seemed to run his ship aground himself-- was very compelling.  Shauna Niequist's beautifully written and wise foreword notes how she and her family are sailors, and sailors take shipwreck very seriously; nobody jokes about the dangers of the water.  So she appreciated his heavy tale and was glad for the lessons learned. 

There is a bit good of storytelling here, although it is mostly not a memoir of his wreckage. There is pathos and lament and new hope and new birth emerging from the scummy, dark waters.  His practical guidance and his bigger picture stuff rings true to me and will be valued by those going through very hard times who like a creatively written, raw, poetic approach, that is, helpful pastoral wisdom offered with visionary artistry.  Although there is much good Bible study here he brings in other colorful authors - from James Joyce to Parker Palmer, David Bentley Hart to Thomas Merton, Rene Girard to Elisabeth Lesser.  I like an author who uses good citations, and love one who can shift from Gustavo Gutierrez to Margaret Wise Brown.  If you are in the midst of failure or loss and want to discover the love at the very bottom of things, How to Survive a Shipwreck could be life saving.

soul bare.jpgSoul Bare: Stories of Redemption edited by Cara Sexton (IVP Crescendo) $16.00  I suppose given that this wonderful anthology is published by the "Crescendo" imprint at IVP we should assume it was written for women. There are men authors here and I found some of these chapters (mostly by women) gorgeously crafted and helpfully wise.  From provocative to painful, these testimonials by some published authors (Emily Freeman, Sarah Bessey, Trillian Newbell, award-winning Seth Haines) and many who are known as bloggers and speakers, show in artful, creative ways just how God works to bring healing and hope to the befuddled, hurting, wounded or lost.   Idelette McVicker (founder of SheLoves Magazine) captures the experience of reading through these pieces when she says "I held my breath...I whispered prayers...Most of all I fell more deeply in love with Jesus through these words and stories."

One of our staff (herself a youngish woman who has seen her share of hardships) loved it; another friend assured me it was "just what she needed" after only having read a few chapters. These authors are brave baring their stories, taking the risks of exposing their sins and foibles and fears - "real life laid bare" - but believe there is beauty and redemption in these short writings honed in the deepest places of the heart.  

In a helpful move, the editor has arranged these soul-baring stories in three units. Firstly, "Letting Go" and next there are those under the rubric of "Leaning In." Lastly, the tales are about "Hope and Healing."  

I like how these mostly youngish authentic writers talk about it all: "To tell our truth is to link arms across the divides that keep us out, to close the gaping lie that says our wounds do not matter."  Their advice through it all?  "Even if your edges are chipped, your story is beautiful. Tell it."

9780830846085.jpgThe Gift of Hard Things: Finding Grace in Unexpected Places Mark Yaconelli ((IVP formatio) $16.00  We stock everything in the IVP formatio line and I have read almost every one. I cannot wait to dive into this, but am waiting: it will be a sacred experience, I am sure, and I'm wanting to create the right space and time to consider it well.  It is what I am positive is a very well-told set of stories, with spiritual practices and actionable steps that emerge from them.  I want to work with this, and I suspect many will benefit from its artistry and poignant storytelling and spiritual guidance.

Yaconelli, you may know, is an impressive author of serious youth ministry books whose contribution has been largely around a call to center youth ministry in contemplative practices. Fun, funny, but also weighty, Yak 2 as I call him (his famous father, Mike Yaconelli, was called Yak) may be as edgy and creative as his dad, but he is deeply rooted in ancient, serious stuff.   He is also a moving, raw, honest poet whose reflections and prayers (Wonder, Fear, and Longing is truly extraordinary.) Mark has been written up in mainstream media outlets (from the Wall Street Journal to ABC News Tonight) which I mention only to indicate that he's an important voice and to help convince you to take him seriously. Perhaps his most legendary (or notorious) bit of fame was as a Presbyterian youth pastor who befriended Sam Lamott, Anne's famous son.

In fact, Anne has a beautiful blurb on the back of The Gift of Hard Things which is worth hearing in full:

To my thinking, Mark Yaconelli is one of this country's most important and articulate spiritual teachers. Anyone seeking knowledge and union with God will be informed, edified, nourished and utterly charmed by The Gift of Hard Things. I savored every story and was nurtured by the expression and depth. It is a book absolutely after my own heart.

As it says on the back cover, "using extraordinary stories from his own life and the lives of others, Yaconelli offers a narrative journey through ways in which disappointments have turned into gifts. In these pages are a wealth of spiritual practices that will carry us deeper into the grace we find in unexpected places.

Night Driving- A Story of Faith in the Dark .jpgNight Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark Addie Zierman (Convergent) $14.99  I have mentioned this at least twice before, and I'm going to alert you to it again - I think it is a heck of a good read, a fun and moving story, by a woman who can write circles around many current memoirists. Her first book, about leaving a strict and nearly toxic sort of fundamentalism was called When We Were On Fire and was named by Publishers Weekly as one of the top five religious books of 2013.  I loved most of it; it drew me into the story as a really good memoir does.  This new one showcases her storytelling once again as she takes an emotionally-charged spiritual road trip, literally, searching for God as she takes her little ones on a trip to her roots, her homeland, down South. Do you have to "run away to find home?" What does one do when one doesn't feel God's presence? (Lauren Winner's Still, anyone?)

At book workshops I did this spring I so enjoyed reading some of this memoir out loud -- it's funny, curious, poignant, and mostly hopeful in a desperate kind of way as she "stumbles towards a faith that makes room for doubt, disappointment, and darkness." I'm creating this list, you know, as somewhat of a follow up to Ruined, the memoir of Ruth Everhart and her own coming of age at Calvin College after a searing rape and the lack of a supportive network to help her think through the theological implication of her story. Addie's story is not Ruth's, but it is a glimpse into a woman turning 30, no longer able to claim as her own the sort of faith she once had.  A memoir about a woman's road trip, searching for a coherent faith, living out a story that is haunted by God even if no longer shaped with certitude and the simple joy of her youth?  Yep, Night Driving is a fine slice of life road trip tale and I think you (or somebody you know) would enjoy it -- it's quite a trip and quite a journey of the heart.  Although less didactic, it would fit well for those who like the popular writing of Sarah Bessey (Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith) or Rachel Held Evans (Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding Church.)

after college - erica young reitz.jpgAfter College: Navigating Transitions, Relationships and Faith by Erica Young Reitz (IVP) $16.00  It was a truly great joy a few weeks ago to be with Erica and her colleagues from the campus ministry organization the CCO to celebrate the release of this brand new book.  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.

You may know that I asked Erica to write in my own collection of essays -- graduation speeches, really -- called Serious Dreams: Bold Ideas for the Rest of Your Life; I was confident her short piece would stand up alongside Nicholas Wolterstorff, Amy Sherman, Steve Garber, John Perkins. I trust her immensely and love her clear, reliable writing style that has just a bit of zest.

Perhaps the above memoirs or studies of abuse or  stories of seeking an allusive faith after struggles are a bit much.  Maybe you have need of something a little less intense, but still a very good guide to help young adults navigate the transitions and inevitable rocky roads facing life after college.  I can't say enough good things about Erica's book, and I thought I'd list it here since Ruined itself is, in many ways, a story of late college life and life after college. Erica's book will help those who are hurting, but 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.

Please read my comments about it here, back when I was inviting folks to pre-order it.  I tried to explain how excited we were.  Now that it has indeed been released, we are eager to continue to promote it, letting folks know it makes a great, great gift for any young adult transitioning out of college life. http://www.heartsandmindsbooks.com/booknotes/pre-order_after_college/

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




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August 11, 2016

Books for students heading off to college: TOP FOUR (on sale now.)

college bound logo.jpgThe other day a well-educated friend asked me about what book to give her soon-to-be heading off to college daughter. Just a few short months ago, she was mostly known as a high school graduate; within a few weeks she will be a first year college student. It's a big transition and a new identity, freighted with all kinds of joys, concerns, fears, excitement, opportunities, shaped by that biggee: change. Ch-ch-ch changes, indeed.

I won't wax on and on about all this -- you probably know I've written a lot about college ministry and young adults and such before.

So, without further ado, here is a quick little list which I think you can trust. Four great books to give to any kid going off to college this month.  I bet they'd appreciate it. Order from us today by clicking on the link at the bottom.  We'll do a 10% discount, and ship your order out right away. See how easy we're making this for you? You were wondering what to give her or him, weren't you?

These are listed in order of their "level" so that you could give the first to a first year student, the next to a sophomore, the next to a somewhat more advanced (but still young) student, and the last to a more serious senior.  More or less, anyway.  Sound good?

Make-College-Count-Hardcover-218x300.jpgMake College Count Derek Melleby (Baker Books) $12.99  Okay, okay, I've mentioned this a lot over the years. Derek is one of my best friends. Our bookstore is mentioned in it as a resource for young adults trying to make their way as a responsible, thoughtful faithful college student. Still, as unbiased as I can be, I want to insist that it truly is the best book of its kind, the only really great book I know of that I'd give to a recent high school grad that is a general sort of introduction to the biggest questions to ask and answer as one is entering college.Melleby's MCC is Ideal for those heading to school for the first time although some entering their second year might even like it.

I know many a parent or youth pastor or older sibling wants to offer this kind of profound (but not preachy) encouragement to a student they love, helping them to make the most of these so-called critical years. This book will provide you with this great opportunity to raise these good questions and offer some last-minute guidance. I think you'll feel good sending it.

In this lovely, interesting, compact-sized, hardback, Melleby invites students to consider these seven questions (notice the subtitles to each chapter which illustrate where he's going with each inquiry.)

1. What Kind of Person Do You Want to Become?
    Following Jesus During the Critical Years

2. Why Are You Going to College?
    Finding Your Place in God's Story

3.  What Do You Believe?
     Taking Ownership of Your Faith

4.  You Are You?
     Securing Your Identity in Christ

5.  With Whom Shall You Surround Yourself
     Connecting with Christian Community

6.  How Will You Choose a Major?
     Putting Your Faith into Action

7.  How Do You Want Your Life to Influence Others
     Leaving a Legacy

I like this from the publisher's promo info: "There's more to college than classes, credits, and a nonstop social life. It's more than getting a degree to improve one's job prospects. College is a time where students develop into the adults they will be for the rest of their lives, a time to explore the big questions about life and human destiny, a time when they form their character and faith."

I'm not alone in promoting this great little volume.  Here's a few rave reviews from some of the most knowledgeable and reliable voices in young adult ministry:

"For years I have been looking for the right book to give to Christian high school grads: readable, real, honest, grace-focused, Christ-centered, and practical. Finally, I've found just the ticket--Make College Count is that book."  Chap Clark, author of Hurt: Inside the World of Today's Teenagers; professor of youth, family, and culture, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Christian college students hear a lot about what to avoid during their college years. So it's refreshing to encounter a book that explains what students should embrace in college. It's clear that Derek Melleby understands the world of today's students." Joseph M. Stowell, president of Cornerstone University

"Make College Count is just right! What Derek Melleby has done is find a way to come alongside someone on the way to college and offer guidance about things that matter most."  Steven Garber, director of The Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation & Culture; author of The Fabric of Faithfulness and Visions of Vocation.

"Make College Count offers an accurate preview of college life and encourages and equips students to thoughtfully make the most of college (and the rest of their lives) by embracing a real and vibrant faith that's not an extracurricular add-on but a foundation for all of life. This could be the most important book students read during their college years."  Walt Mueller, president, Center for Parent/Youth Understanding

Here is a link to an previous, longer review I did of this great book, Make College Count.

King of the Campus Stephen Lutz.jpgKing of the Campus Stephen Lutz (House Studio) $14.99  Again, I've suggested this before and carry it to any event where we sell books to college students. My own blurb on the back shouts my enthusiasm: there isn't any other book on the market that does what this very cool paperback does. Yeah!

What I mean by this is that there are some books that ask foundational questions (like Melleby, above) and some that are mostly about basic Christian discipleship, how to not party or have sex or stop going to church.  And some excellent ones that offer a reminder that God cares about the classroom (see below) and the life of the mind.  Lutz, in his missional vision to invite students to join with God to honor Christ's Lordship and discover God's redemptive purposes on campus and at college, does all of the above. Yes, there's solid stuff here about basic discipleship, helping readers understand grace and revel in gospel good news.  Yes, there's some practical advice about habits and character and growing in personal faith -- but wise and thoughtful, in the context of the kinds of stuff Melleby writes about. It's solid.  And, happily, there is a nice section about studies, about academics, about thinking well and studying faithfully, for God's glory and our neighbors good. Yep, King of the Campus is a gospel-centered, Kingdom-vision kind of book about living for Christ in college. And it is fantastic, mature, interesting, and a great study. I really do recommend it.

Here is what the publisher says:

God's purpose for you at college isn't merely to get an education. It's to join him in the work he's already doing there. You have been gifted and shaped to participate in the kingdom of God right now, on your campus.

In King of the Campus, author Stephen Lutz considers why the kingship of Christ really matters, and examines what it looks like to have Jesus as King over five key areas of university life:

Church and Christian fellowship


Academics and work

Organizational leadership

Partying and pleasure

The story God has for you is bigger and more compelling than a list of do's and don'ts. Learn to thrive as you partner with God in the change he is bringing to your life,to your campus, and to the world.

Sounds good, eh? Steve has worked at Penn State University with the CCO and I know him and trust him.  This book emerges from his own intense work on campus and his own passion to be a church planter amidst the university culture.  If you know a Christian student, this hard-to-find, little known book (colorfully written by a Reformed guy, on a Nazarene publishing house, quoting pop culture and N.T. Wright!) would make a fantastic gift. 

Here is a link to Steve Lutz's webpage that shows more about the book. You will see some really great endorsements there, including my own. Enjoy.

learning for the love of god.jpgLearning for the Love of God: A Student's Guide to Academic Faithfulness  Donald Opitz & Derek Melleby (Brazos Press) $14.99  I wonder if there is any other book I so enjoy selling, feel so glad to get into the hands of young students? It is not ponderous or weighty but has the potential to revolutionize lives, faiths, and futures.  I really believe in the power of this book, and want to invite you to send some out to college students you love.

Just last week I was doing a three hour workshop with an energetic group of college students, using some of this material to invite them to think about using their minds more deeply and thinking well about how to be a student for God's glory. They had the book, and were not unfamiliar with some of its themes. ("Recall how Bach signed all his music soli dei gloria," I said, quoting a section of this book, and then asked what it would be like for them to see their academic life -- writing papers, doing textbook reading, lab experiments, studio work, computer stuff, class projects -- in a manner that naturally integrates a Biblical vision of life and a Christian worldview into the work they are doing. What obstacles would have to be overcome to serve God in the classroom.  In fact, we went over a list of things that other students came up with that is an appendix in the book. It was a really interesting conversation, believe me.  Time ran out so we missed to the "liturgy for learning" that is also in the book.  Oh how I wanted to read that out loud together as a closing blessing on these  young scholars.

I got a little choked up explaining (in a way I suspect they didn't fully grasp) why it is so very, very meaningful to me that this book is dedicated to me. I'm not bragging, but affirming that these two authors gave me a great, great gift and a boatload of affirmation in doing that. Optiz and Melleby are esteemed friends -- Optiz  is surely one of the smartest guys I know with an advanced theological degree from Gordon Conwell and a PhD in sociology under Peter Berger, and a gifted, colorful writer, and Derek is truly one of the most energetic, thoughtful, and impactful young men I know; his work with the CCO, and the the Center for Parent & Youth Understanding and now with the OneLife gap year program is nothing short of extraordinary. (Oh yes, did I mention he wrote a lovely little book called Make College Count?) Interestingly, both have a pretty stellar former basketball careers, or so I've heard.

Both of these authors are excellent translators of often daunting concepts gleaned from serious philosophical reading, allowing serious stuff into accessible and even enchanting lines. That is, Learning for the Love of God is a fun read, even funny at times, with tons of stories and lots of "on ramps" for learning and pondering and taking fresh steps. It's not heady or dry. Yet, this whole idea -- academic faithfulness, as they put it -- is considered "outrageous" by many.  They make it sound normal, or at least a high and holy adventure: learning for the love of God.

I have explained in greater detail elsewhere why I think this book is so very important. I sure hope somebody sends some out to some college students this week. It is good and it is important; it is a vital rebuttal to both sentimental faith that implies Christianity is mostly about one's inner piety and not intellectually interesting and a rebuttal to the dualisms that suggest God doesn't really care about art or science or engineering or communications or business or physical therapy or law or education.

I'm not alone in saying this, that this book is life changing and useful. The wise and good little book isn't as known as it ought to be, and others who follow and study the world of nurturing young adults making the transition to college say so, too.

James K.A. Smith (author of You Are What You Love) says:

What does discipleship have to do with learning? How do I follow Jesus "as a student"? What does the Lord require of me at university? This marvelous book answers just these sorts of questions. It's one of a kind, an expansive vision of Christian learning written not for professors but for students. Best of all, this is a book that can profit students in any educational context, secular or religious. Buy a box of these and give them to every high school senior you know.

And listen to CPYU founder and director Walt Mueller, again a person I respect very, very deeply, who knows better than most the need for this sort of stuff to be written for beginner students:

This book addresses numerous timely issues related to college transition, the place of academics in the life of the Christian student, and the development of a lifelong Christian perspective on issues of calling and vocation. Nothing I have seen yet addresses these particular issues with the combination of theological depth and easy accessibility that marks this book.

Here is one review
of Learning for the Love of God: A Student's Guide... written by a former campus worker, Bob Trube from his "Bob on Books" blog -- very fair and nicely explanatory.

Here, I ruminate in a longish essay on a large handful of books (including Steve Garber's then brand new Visions of Vocation, and tell quite a bit about why I so love Melleby & Optiz and their then brand new Learning for the Love of God.  Pull up a chair and enjoy.


Okay, if by some grand blessing in life your beloved young one read Make College Count before their freshman year, and took up serious Christian discipleship in (but not of) the ethos of the college campus by studying King of the Campus and then moved on to buckle down with Learning for the Love of God in their second or third year, what next?

Well, let's just suppose they read the books recommended by those authors -- for instance, Greg Jao's wonderful, brief, inexpensive must-read booklet Your Mind's Mission (IVP; $7.00) or Neal Plantinga's eloquent, profound, beautiful Engaging God's World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning, and Living (Eerdmans; $16.00.) They've picked up some curiosity from those books, checked out the footnotes seeing who they drew upon and circled back and read some things on worldview -- most likely The Transforming Vision: Shaping a Christian Worldview by Brian Walsh & Richard Middleton (IVP; $22.00) or Al Wolter's Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview (Eerdmans; $15.00.)  Hopefully, they've noticed Andy Crouch's Culture Making: God's Creative Calling (IVP; $22.00) along the way, as his books have been influential. Maybe they've discovered Os Guinness' rich, rich volume, The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life (W Publishing Group; $17.99) and certainly reading something on discerning vocation has entered their heart and mind.

They noticed in some of these books that the authors recommend reading BookNotes, so your eager learning student maybe ordered from us Reading for the Common Good by C. Christopher Smith and know that I've been insisting that You Are What You Love by Jamie Smith will be our pick for 2016 Book of the Year.  They've noticed that we describe books on racial reconciliation and social justice. They've understood the need to read up on community. Probably they've read something on spiritual formation - perhaps the books of Ruth Haley Barton or the spiritual resources by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun -- or at least a daily devotional or a book about praying. Since they've gotten involved in a healthy, learning-loving Christian fellowship group and local campus church they've heard of other books that have touched other students. Real Sex by Lauren Winner, hopefully. C.S. Lewis, Henri Nouwen, Tim Keller, John Perkins. They have -- inspired by Melleby and Optiz, no doubt -- sent me an email asking for a book on their major, offering some Christian reflection on nursing or teaching or architecture or art or biology or environmental science or business or engineering or design or writing or economics or psychology.

Man, these students are taking their faith seriously, wisely, growing into real flourishing and for the common good. Wow.

What next?

fabric of f.jpgFabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior Steven Garber (IVP) $17.00  Again, I have written about this often, and some know that although it is a serious book to read carefully, to savor the rich sentence and ponder the incisive cultural analysis, it is, certainly, one of the great books of our time. I would rank it -- if I really had to do such a thing -- in my own top ten of best books I've ever read. You may know his somewhat more popular and recent Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good (which I named as the book of the year when it came out in 2014.) 

Here is the very short version of this wonderfully rich and wise book: Garber -- always the good listener -- interviewed a handful of folks who were approaching or in the beginning of their mid-life years, people he seemed to think were living well, their faith intact and lively, inviting them to think back on their college years. What happened to them, he wondered, that shaped them when they were in those "critical years." Ends up, almost everyone who had "kept on keeping on" over the long haul of their lives, with their idealistic vision of culture-shaping and whole life discipleship, said the same sort of things. People whose faith was integrated into their real lives, those who had a robust vision of vocation and related their discipleship to their careers and callings and public lives, who were active in church and even through hardships were not giving up or "privatizing" their faith, all had profound and shaping experience in college. They all in on way or another told of the same three things.  I was one of those people interviewed in that book, and it rings true. Exactly.

Those profound experiences, the sort of faith formation that lasted in healthy ways, were -- in his research developed from these many interviews -- described as learning to (a) have a commitment to true truth, (2) having a mentor that showed that these Biblical truths could be lived out in the real world (moving, that is, from head to heart, or from conviction to character), and (3) the experience of finding and forging life-long friendships in those years.  And so it is that Fabric of Faithfulness shows that these three things -- to use Stanley Hauerwas's alliterative phrase, "conviction, character, community" -- should matter to those who are in college. The first edition of the book actually had as the subtitle "weaving together belief and behavior in the college years" indicating it was perhaps written for collegiates.  As it was.

Alas, FoF may be a bit too serious-minded for many young students (although there are good stories, references to movies, novels, discussions of pop music and the like.) It is a classic within this genre of formational work for young adults and it is well, well worth studying closely for those who have some basic vocabulary and cultural awareness under their belts. It is no accident (and certainly no exaggeration) that each of the above books for students have been significantly informed by conversations of consequence with Steve and with close readings of his work over the years.

VoV.jpgThe authors listed above, and this Dallastown bookseller agree: Garber's work is important, mature, sophisticated, and eloquent.  Fabric... is well worth reading, and would make a great book to give to a mature student, perhaps a college senior or one going off to grad school.  In fact, give her or him both of Garber's wondrous books: a little set of FoF and VoV.  Both books are, among other things, about this fundamental question: what does it mean to care, and, then how can we learn to care well, and what do we do with what we know? In other words, what difference does education make if it doesn't touch our deepest desires and habits of heart and how we live.  Wow.


It's not too late.jpgIt's Not Too Late: The Essential Part You Play in Shaping Your Teen's Faith Dan Dupee (Baker Books) $15.99  Okay, I know some of you now are fretting, worrying about making that long drive back from taking your daughter or son to college for the first time.  Or, maybe -- as some of us know - you are maybe looking forward to sending 'em back to school; maybe the summer home was a bit stressful at times. This empty nest thing is a crazy roller coaster ride of emotion, even if the nest isn't empty yet.  Maybe you are wondering if your role as a parent has pretty much reached its climax, that from here on out you'll just have to hope for the best.

As we've explained in another review, Dupee's first hand research from hundreds of conversations with many focus groups and gathering input from teens, college students and their parents, parenting of older teens obviously changes from the parenting skills we exercised when the kids were little. But this book is very good news for most: it is not too late. This is the best book of which we know for parenting the college age teen, the young adult transitioning out of the house. They do want our involvement, parents, and Dan shows you how to stay sane and influential in these so-called critical years. It's Not to Late is a one-of-a-kind resource and it would be great for some parents to have it early this fall.  Believe me.




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August 15, 2016

Listen in to an audio podcast where I talk about books about Christians and politics. ALL BOOKS MENTIONED 25% OFF this week only!

I love writing about books and really appreciate those who have encouraged us, bought books from us, sent our BookNotes reviews out to their friends, pastors, church leaders, campus ministry staff. I know I often get a bit wordy, but, hey, that's half the fun, eh?

Well, as they say, you ain't seen nothin' yet.  

byron talking to a guy.jpgNow you can listen to me talking about books, talking fast, trying to squeeze bunches of helpful book descriptions into an upbeat, 45 minute interview.

mike schutt w mic.jpgMy good Texan friend Michael Schutt works in student ministry with law students through the Christian Legal Society (and is on staff at Regent University School of Law) and is the beloved, funny, emcee at the annual CLS national conference; Mike authored the serious-minded, one-of-a-kind book called Redeeming Law: Christian Calling and the Legal Profession which shows just how smart he is.

cross & gavel bigger.jpgMike hosts a bi-weekly podcast called "Cross & Gavel."

It is designed for lawyers and others interested in the interface of religion and law. In a recent edition, for instance, he interviewed Professor John Inazu about his new University of Chicago Press book Confident Pluralism: Surviving and Thriving Through Deep Difference and they've hosted other excellent conversations about legal theory, justice, and issues of interest to those living out Christian conviction in the field of law. But sometimes offers conversations on less specialized topics. You can see the whole list of archived talks at itunes.

This new edition of the "Cross & Gavel" podcast features 45 minutes-worth of Mike asking me about books which I think are useful to help people of Christian faith sort through what to think about politics.

I start off talking about how we started the store and give quick descriptions of a few of my favorite books of this year -- You Are What You Love by Jamie Smith, Andy Crouch's Strong and Weak, Chris Smith's fabulous Reading for the Common Good , the new Os Guinness, Impossible People -- and then implored folks to pick up and study Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World by Richard J. Mouw.  It is one of my favorite books and it will give you many "aha" moments as you work through it.  Could a book possible be more timely?  I could have said more, but the clock was ticking and I had more than a dozen other books to talk about.

So here ya go:  listen in to Mike and me chatting about authors from Yuval Levine to James Skillen to Miroslav Volf, naming a couple of older classics about Christian views of government  to a few very new ones.  If you download and listen to podcasts often, you know the drill; you can even take this in the car with you.  (Or so I'm told.)  Even if you aren't used to doing this, it's simple. Just click on the link below and you'll enjoy this fast-past chat about important books to help us "think Christianly" and approach our citizenship through the eyes of moderate, wise, winsome, interesting Biblical faith.

I love giving my quickie summaries of oodles of books, and you'll hear a bit about us here at the shop, and you'll learn about thoughtful Christian books that just might help us survive the crazy-making election season.

(Of course, even though we really packed a lot into that conversation, there are others I'd wished I had mentioned.... write me if you need a more thorough or diverse list. Really. But listen to the list, first.)



You can get a 25% off discount on any of the books mentioned there at the "Cross & Gavel" podcast if you order by Saturday, August 20, 2016.  Just use the link below that takes you to our secure website order form page.

After 7/20 we will still offer a discount to our faithful on-line friends, a more customary 10% discount.
But order now and get 25% off.

cross & gavel bigger.jpgClick this link here to listen to the interview hosted by Mike Schutt.

Or, go to the nice Cross & Gavel site: http://crossandgavel.libsyn.com/byron-borger-talks-books-on-politics-more



25% off**
**offer expires Saturday, August, 20, 2016
order here
takes you to the secure Hearts & Minds order form page
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inquire here
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August 22, 2016

50% OFF recent Jim Wallis book "America's Original Sin" (Brazos Press) SPECIAL OFFER

Wallis and AOS book, 2.jpgWe have mentioned the most recent Jim Wallis book a few times since it released earlier this year and are thrilled to partner with Brazos Press (part of the Baker Publishing Group) to offer it at a bigger discount.  I know it is a hardback, and not a light-hearted read, but we think it would make a fabulous book group title, a fine book for an Adult Sunday School class or a small group. Heaven knows it is a topic which deserves some extra attention here near the end of a very hard year.

We are here offering a special rare deal (an offer cooked by the good people at Baker Publishing) for anyone buying at least 20 copies. 

You can get 50% off if you buy 20.

That makes them just $11.00 for a nice hardcover.

AND you get some special resources to help you process the material, including free access to a good study guide and an exclusive, six week on-line webinar conversation with Mr. Wallis. It's a really good deal, and would make for a very special small group event.

You can use our link below and if you order 20 we'll hook you up with the extra connections.

Jump down to the link to our order form right away, if you'd like.  If you aren't sure about this title, though, let me tell you all about it.

America's Original Sin.jpgAmerican's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America (Brazos Press; usually $21.99) is a book that has been long in coming with Jim Wallis finally visiting a topic in a book length treatment that has been on his heart for most of his lifetime.

He opens the book with the story (which he has shared before) of having grown up in the 60s in the suburbs of Detroit very involved in a mostly healthy, friendly, tight-knit if rather fundamentalist Christian denomination.  As racial discrimination and social inequities deepened, as Dr. King preached and racial troubles become more known (if still not particularly understood among white church folks) and the voices of African American writers, poets, rock stars, and activists became more strident, Jim asked tough questions within his own faith community. His parents were leaders in that evangelical congregation and they seemed to unite in one voice with the other adults in the church: such questions not welcome. God didn't care much about politics, and faith was personal.  Hearing this drove Jim out of his church and those years were painful as he sought a faith that was personal "but never private" and a renewed conversion to the ways of Jesus by hearing the voices and taking seriously the views of the oppressed.  Matthew 25 became a key to his new spiritual search.  

Importantly, in those high school years in Detroit he was hanging around other teens and young adults, like Butch, with whom he shared a job in downtown Detroit. Butch was black and he allowed Jim into his home to meet his parents, into a family that was in some ways similar and yet in some ways very different than his own. In those days "social location" was a fairly new idea in contemporary theological studies and Jim wandered into it squarely: where you stand, where you live, what you see day by day, colors how you experience life and how you see society (and faith!) Given his early, intense experiences with families that lived in urban ghettos, who had dangerous encounters with the police, who mistrusted the government, who saw Christ as a liberating King with exceptional relevance for their daily social and political life, I would suspect he didn't need Francis Schaeffer to tell him by the early 70s about worldviews. He didn't need to overcome the evangelical dualism of separating faith and culture or prayer and politics because he was so very informed by the experience of his new black friends and their lively, socially-engaged faith.

call to conversion.jpgpost american covers.jpgJim, I suppose you know, didn't stay out of the church for long. He found other like minded friends who were reading Thomas Merton or Jacque Ellul or Bill Pannell and started an underground-type rag called The Post American; I am proud to have a copy of that first controversial edition.  He attended a firmly evangelical seminary (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) and wrote a book entitled Call to Conversion which is still in print, and still one of the most important for my own journey.

If you look carefully you'll see the cleverness of the cover of this second edition -- the newspaper and the Bible being read together -- which, of course, plays with the famous line from Karl Barth and those who were resisting Hitler out of Christian conviction.

I didn't know it in the early to mid-70s that Wallis's story was a larger more dramatic version of my own, but I resonated deeply with the new authors and writers and young evangelical leaders I was learning about in what eventually became Sojourners. Their appreciation of some of the voices of the counterculture drew me in and their theological vision made sense.  It was Jim and his scruffy band of renewed and radical evangelicals who introduced me to names like John Perkins, Caesar Chavez, Dan and Phil Berrigan, Dorothy Day, Senator Mark Hatfield, Richard Mouw and other 'zines like Daughters of Sarah and The Other Side. That the woman I would soon marry was visiting Koinonia Farms in Georgia and meeting Ladon Sheets and Millard Fuller and learning about Baptist integrationist Clarence Jordon is fascinating--those were people I came to admire, too, and some are now discussed in Wallis's new book.  The book is dedicated to an African American leader we came to appreciate in those years and who was nearly an Uncle to Wallis's own children, Dr. Vincent Harding.  His books such as There Is a River and Hope and History not only documented the civil rights movement but implored us to keep telling the stories.

And so we do.

Such voices compose the backstory of much of Wallis's very contemporary study, America's Original Sin. In some derivative, third-hand way, it is part of the backstory of Hearts & Minds and why we carry this book and why we are encouraging you to form a group to study this book. It's a good story we all could stand to be a part of.

Which is all just a way of saying that we care about the work Wallis does, have read all his books, have hosted him here at the bookstore, and think that this new one is truly worthy your consideration.  Agree or not with every detail, it is a great, great book to discuss together.

Especially with this limited time offer of deep discounts and an opportunity for your group or class to actually converse with Jim about the book.

America's Original Sin.jpgAmerican's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege and the Bridge to a New America is among his best. It is, as they say, his wheelhouse. Some of it was surely written on a quiet study retreat.  It's good he took the time and effort to share more thoroughly the fire that has been in his bones a long, long time on this topic.  Few writers today can tell stories from his friendship with Desmond Tutu or Alan Boesak or Dr. William Barber II or Cornel West.  It is beautiful to see white evangelicals like Mark Labberton and black church preachers like Otis Moss and Cynthia Hale global leaders like Geoff Tunnicliffe offering endorsements. Wallis has studied and learned and written well.

wallis, cornel, sharon in march.jpgBut some of it was surely scribbled out in the streets, interviewing people in Ferguson, discussing issues of mass incarceration and the need for reform in community policing, learning in workshops and activist teach-ins about racial bias, profiling, and the like. The stories that have emerged in recent years that have found their way into the book show that there is a new generation of leaders and Wallis is not only offering us good information, but he's learning new stuff as he goes, listening well to this new movement for social change.

I suspect that many readers of BookNotes know a bit about the Bible's call to the church to be more multi-ethnic, the spiritual need for racial healing and reconciliation, the gospel truths that point the way towards the beloved community. I trust that you know about some of my earlier writing on this topic, and the books we've most eagerly recommended. I hope you've used them.  See some of our previous BookNotes lists here and here and here.

living in color.jpgGracism- The Art of Inclusion.jpgIf you have never tackled this topic before, and desire a deeply gospel-centered, evangelically-minded, Biblical reflection on this race and racism, maybe Living in Color: Embracing God's Passion for Ethnic Diversity by Randy Woodley (IVP; $18.00 or Gracism: The Art of Inclusion by David Anderson (IVP; $17.00) might be great to start with. I certainly think Chan-Rah's Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church (Moody; $14.99) is useful, a good overview of our situation and the many colors.jpgshifts in The Very Good Gospel.jpgthe cultures of the West.

We really promoted Lisa Sharon Harper's The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right over and over this summer (and loved hosting her at a special Hearts & Minds lecture out in Pittsburgh.) I do hope you recall our review of that.  

A recent one which I reviewed at BookNotes the week it Heal Us, Emmanuel- A Call for Reconciliation, Representation, and Unity in the Church.jpgcame out earlier this spring is Heal Us, Emmanuel: A Call for Racial Reconciliation, Representation, and Unity in the Church edited by Doug Serven (Storied Communications; $16.99) which emerged out of pastors in the conservative Presbyterian Church of America (PCA.)  We know some of the contributors to this book full of honest lament and struggle, and commend them for putting it together. It is an important contribution and we highly recommend it.  

Any number of these basic sort of guides to a wholistic gospel that offers insight into racial diversity and a move towards deeper understanding would be great.

But Wallis's recent book goes deeper, even though it isn't difficult to read and is not dense or dry.  

America's Original Sin.jpgAmerica's Original Sin goes deeper in three ways.

First, it examines the recent tensions created by - or brought to a head by - the police shootings of the last few years. He explains the crisis situations in cities like Ferguson and Baltimore, looking at the backgrounds of those places, reporting on things he learned from interviews with folks on the ground, and citing the reports and documents that came out of the investigations after those tragic situations. 

It is obvious that Wallis is wanting to stand with those who have been oppressed, he wants us to repent of complicity in systems and structures of injustice (including police misbehavior) and he is blunt in his denunciation of racist undertones in the hard stuff we see day by day by day. Some folks will think his bias gets the best of him at points, but fair readers will certainly give him credit for wading through lots of conflicting testimony and many perspectives on these episodes. He is careful and attempts to be balanced. He listens to conservative journals and cites preachers and pundits like the Southern Baptist Russell Moore and, in a chapter about restorative justice and prison reform, Chuck Colson. 

A few hot-heads on the internet have jumped to awful conclusions about Wallis, insisting he is not to be trusted, but I'd advise you to read the book and make up your own mind. Valid and thoughtful critiques can be made, and not everyone will find all of his evidence compelling. There's a few things I wish he might have said that he underplays.  Why not read it with others and with the help of a discerning community of readers, together form your own opinion?

Again, this great book offers more than moral rhetoric about unity or spiritual talk about reconciliation. This is a step deeper into the conversation, studying the President's Task Force, evaluating documents that comes the U.S. Department of Justice, and helping us appreciate some of the data and proposals that has emerged from some of the best think tanks and civil rights research agencies.

If you read modern magazines or listen to media outlets like NPR you've certain heard good scholars and pundits and researchers opine on topics related to this question of race in America, and Wallis seems to know about the best thought leaders out there. I think of him as a passionate prophetic preacher, a bit of a public theologian, but he's studied this policy stuff well, and he knows how to bring just enough data and scholarship to help us know what we need to know. It is very informative and I found it very compelling.

just mercy and b.s..jpgHe cites data from nonprofits like the Equal Justice Initiative and The Sentencing Project and quotes thinkers such as Michelle Alexander and Bryan Stevenson (who wrote the forward) as well as some of our finest historians about things like Affirmative Action. The footnotes are remarkable, drawing on articles about Community Policing and Restorative Justice. This stuff could be daunting but Jim navigates the social science and the policy proposals deftly, and he brings this call to reform always back to the Biblical call to repent. That is, he nicely makes this book a very useful handbook to up-to-date evaluations of our troubled current state of race relations, but roots his evaluation in a classic, solid of foundation of Biblical teaching and spiritual conversion.  

One chapter in AOS called "From Warriors to Guardians" is an excellent overview of questions of race and policing.  There is a chapter on mass incarceration and more faithful ways to think about crime ("The New Jim Crow and Restorative Justice") and there is a chapter in immigration reform.

This whole book is a great case study of exploring "through the eyes of faith" the policy reforms we need to consider, ideas that need to be embodied in our social architecture. That is, he is taking seriously Christ's call to be agents of public justice for the sake of the common good; he is showing us how to take steps as a people to rectify some of our broken social systems.  Good feelings about racial diversity aren't enough;  talk about forgiveness and grace aren't enough; we must educate ourselves about what can be done, what needs to change, how to resist the tendency to be complicit with unjust practices and social organization.

Part of this -- one very, very good chapter -- reflects on what we call white privilege.  I'll come back to that in a bit, but it is another example of how American's Original Sin is inviting us to an experience of study that is a bit deeper.

For those who were able to join us in Pittsburgh when we hosted Jim's colleague Lisa Sharon Harper, you may recall she highly recommended that we take the Harvard implicit racial bias test.  Jim recommends a webpage hosted by the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University as a "great place to start to get valuable implicit bias information." (Did you know there is even an annual report on the "state of the science" reviewing the implicit racial bias social research? Wallis cites it. Fascinating.)

talking to each other banner.jpgAOS goes a bit deeper in a second way, not just by exploring serious policy documents and research and interpreting them for church-based readers, but by calling us to a robust interpersonal conversation.

america's orginal sin poster.jpgHe insists that it is long past time for white parents to invite their black and other minority friends to level with them about their own experiences. This is hard stuff and although any number of books have recommended better friendships and more candid conversations, Wallis is clear and wise and helpful in saying what this might entail, how to pursue it, and what it might cost us all if we move in a direction of having such awkward, hard conversations. In a way, even though this book includes complex analysis and plenty of informative facts, it is a deeply personal book. It is about beginning or renewing conversation.

And then there's that social location thing, again: we have to be in some kind of proximity to people unlike ourselves, and we have to have some sort of social intelligence to learn to reach out well across differences.  Jim talks honestly from his own experiences of  moving out of his own comfort zone over the years, from church planting in urban DC , being mentored by Gordon Crosby of Church of the Savior, and being inspired by the call to live among people of need coming from John Perkins and the CCDA.  He affirms the younger voices such as Shane Claiborne and his Simple Way Community in Philadelphia. 

He opens the book with a plea for a new conversation, and talks about "the talk" parents of black children have to have. He comes back to it later, too:

It's time for a new conversation on race in America, and this time it will be a new generational discussion. The old talk is the one that black and brown parents still have with their children about how to behave in the presence of police - to protect themselves from them - an almost universal conversation that white parents know little about, as we discussed in chapter 1. The new talk is to make that old talk known to white parents and to together have a new conversation about the kind of country we want for all our children. Again, the issue is proximity. Our separated racial geography prevents those new talks from ever happening, so the changing of our geography has to be deliberate. 

jim wallis coaching b ball.jpgHe then looks at three great venues for such new conversations (even talks about "the talk") where that can happen: schools, sports, and local congregations.

He quotes his wife Joy who reminds us that "diversity doesn't just happen."  She and Jim have been PTA parents and he has coached his two boys and their teams in serious baseball. (If you don't know that Wallis likes baseball, you don't know Wallis!) These are good suggestions and down to Earth ideas for those of us who can't go heading out to national protests or who aren't asked to work with faith leaders in cities throughout the county. This is Jim writing out of his experience with global experience -- from Detroit to South Africa, from DC to Ferguson -- but also as an experienced localist, a coach, a parent, a guy in the neighborhood, and it is good stuff.

So America's Original...  goes a little deeper than some good books on racial reconciliation and multi-ethnic ministry by interpreting the social science on this and giving us the data and insight about the policy debates around urban policing, racial profiling, implicit bias, structural matters of historic injustice and the like. There's plenty of theology and Bible, but there's this good guidance into the latest literature and research and analysis.

And it goes a little deeper than some books by inviting us into conversation, guiding us on how to have heart-to-heart talks with others in generative, redemptive ways.

Lastly, one of the ways AOS goes a bit deeper is how it helps us grapple with what is called white privilege. Some may react to this phrase, but I beg you to hear him out.  He offers some remarkable data and insight from good studies and helpful social critics that show us how this works.

One of the very helpful insights comes in a few pages about what multicultural educator Robin DiAngelo has termed "white fragility." (Why do some folks seem to be nearly unable to handle tense conversations about race; why is there so much indignation when this stuff comes up? I've noticed that some people are more angry about any slightly overstated accusation of racism than real, brutal, racial violence. What is going on here with this intense defensiveness?)

I found this section really helpful, and I am still pondering it. We all have heard the phrase white privilege and while the book doesn't dwell on this, it's insights and suggestions are valuable. In setting the stage for thinking about white privilege, Wallis writes that we:

... simply have to admit that the experience of people of color is very different from the experience of white people. White people tend to see racism as an individual issue, about good and bad behavior by moral or immoral people. And because most white people don't think we are "bad" or "immoral" and certainly not deliberately "racist," racism can't be applied to us. As I said above, "I am not a racist" is a regular response in the white community, either expressed or strongly felt. And defensiveness is a common reaction, as opposed to trying to really hear what black coworkers or fellow citizens are saying. 

This section includes some vital theological contributions and calls us to expose idols that may be operative. He parses what is commonly meant by supremacy and privilege, naturally doing a bit of a history lesson. And this matter doesn't just effect black and white relations in American, but the dominant culture's relationships to Native people and, of course, to immigrants.  Ugly stuff keeps happening -- I learned of a hurtful episode just this morning -- and we dare not pretend otherwise. By drawing on some helpful sociology (helping us understand "where white privilege comes from") and how different cultures construe and construct the social realities of race and difference, we can begin to see aspects of this matter than we perhaps didn't see before. Like a fish knowing it is in water, it isn't easy.  This chapter helps us gain new insight and then make commitments to stand against radicalized systems and structures.  As Wallis puts it, citing the radical Pentecostal leader of ESA (Evangelicals for Social Action), Paul Alexander, "we can no longer 'indulge in the luxury of obliviousness' to implicit bias and the embedded history of white privilege." 

Like I said, this book is a bit deeper than some.

And reading it will be a fascinating learning experience, a good ride, especially if done with others.  We invite you to take advantage of this limited time offer of half-off for an order of at least 20 copies.

Wallis asks if we are "a segregated church or a beloved community"?  He asks us how we are doing in the Christian practice of "welcoming the stranger." 

Selma_poster.jpgAmerica's Original Sin.jpgIn one inspiring chapter near the end he talks about "crossing the bridge to a new America."  The cover of the book has historic photo of folks crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge, that bridge named after a Confederate general who became a Grand Dragon in the Ku Klux Klan.  If you know your edmund pettis bridge 50th.jpghistory, or if you say the excellent, award winning film, Selma, with David Oyelowo,  you know that that infamous bridge was "a powerful and threatening symbol of white power and supremacy in Selma Alabama." 

Mr. Wallis was there on Saturday, March 7, 2015 for the fiftieth anniversary of that "Bloody Sunday"and his few pages on that are beautiful. He met a woman there who asked if he had seen the movie The Help and she talked about her own grandmother making 25 cents per day. She was a teen during the Montgomery bus boycott and they talked about that. Wallis, of course, knows Rep. John Lewis (who had been beat very badly on the bridge that day fifty years earlier) and they got to chat.  Of course, Wallis shares some of President Obama's speech that day -- including a wonderful line that "America is not yet finished."  The whole telling is fascinating and makes a great, inspired ending to a challenging, illuminating and important book. 

Thanks to Baker Publishing Group and Brazos Press for allowing this limited time half off deal. We are glad to particpate and will be happy to rush to you your order, at the extra discounts.

We will happily send out any other orders of any other books mentioned here at a 20% off.


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August 24, 2016

15 RECENT BOOKS THAT YOU SHOULD KNOW. Stuff you can use, books you'll enjoy. ON SALE

I've done some lengthy reviews of some very important books lately.  I hope you've enjoyed knowing about them; it means a lot to know of those who have shared the reviews, who have considered the authors and the books.  As Chris Smith's Reading for the Common Good so wonderful reminds us, books can make a difference in people lives, and in the visions of "social imaginaries" they help us adopt. What we long for, what we work for, how we come to perceive our lives is all informed and revised and clarified by (among other things) the books we read.

We do not take it for granted that you invite us into your own lives, allowing our bookselling ministry to shape you. We realize this is very important stuff, sacred ground, even.


Here I will offer descriptions of a handful of great books, 15, if you don't count the ones I note in passing, that have come out lately. Sometimes just seeing new releases so inspire us we want to tell you about them even before we've read them. These all deserve to be known, I'm sure of it. We think you'll like hearing about them.

All are on sale for our on-line friends; use the secure order form page by clicking on the link below. If you wander into the  Dallastown shop and mention that you are a newsletter reader, of course we'll do the discount, then, too. 

present over perfect.jpgPresent Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living Shauna Niequist (Zondervan) $22.99  This will be, I assure you, one of the biggest selling religious books of the fall, but it will be popular in more general market bookstores, too. She has a way with words and is a poignant, moving storyteller. I hope you knew her lovely reflections, memoiristic ruminations about finding God in the ordinary of life - Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet.  Her Bread and Wine is truly a glorious, beautifully written, fabulous book about food, friends, fellowship (with recipes.) Her collection of pieces, taken mostly from other books, arranged as a handsome daily devotional is Savor. One can see this trajectory, and as a church worker and Christian speaker (and Bill Hybel's daughter) she has developed a workaholic obsession, and this gut-wrenching and beautifully written manifesto is her big effort of saying no to some of the craziness this frantic way of life creates.

Beth just finished this and loved it, and I'm almost halfway through, deeply moved and grateful for her message. I need it - believe me, there are days... Still, I'm rolling my eyes just a little - in the preface she tells of meeting Brene Brown, who invited her into her home for a meal (I know) and she writes touchingly about falling apart as she tries so, so hard to keep up appearances with her friends and family, even as she is sitting with her feet in somebody's backyard pool pulling icy drinks out of an cooler. She isn't unaware of the privilege and unique way this problem manifests itself for somebody with her upper middle class sensibilities and a large extended family (of high achievers) and a lake cottage. Still, even for those of us with more pedestrian aches and pressures, Present Over Perfect is a gift.

Endorsements on the back are from Jennifer Hatmaker, Donald Miller, and Glennon Doyle Melton (who says it is "equal parts elegant and urgent.") This book, they all seem to say, moves us to something better than merely keeping at it, shoulder to the wheel, toughing it out. It reminds us of our beloved-ness, that we belong, and it's going to be all right.

a call to mercy.jpgA Call to Mercy: Hearts to Love, Hands to Serve Mother Teresa; edited by Brian Kolodiejchuk (Image) $25.00 This handsome hardcover collects previously unreleased (and in some cases, previously unknown) writings of the woman who will be soon become the next officially canonize Saint in the Roman Catholic Church.  Of course, it also coincides nicely with Pope Francis' "Year of Mercy" as it guides readers to see how mercy and compassion can be shown in our day-to-day lives.

Father Brian was the postulator of Mother Teresa's cause for sainthood and knew her well. Included are some testimonies of people close to Mother Teresa and prayers and suggestions for putting the reflections into practice. 

By the way, the good folks at Paraclete Press recently released a small paperback version of the much discussed account of the saint of Calcutta and her good humor and her dark side. See I Loved Jesus in the Night: Teresa of Calcutta, a Secret Revealed by Paul Murray (Paraclete; $11.99.)

poets & saints.jpgPoets & Saints: Eternal Insight, Extravagant Love, Ordinary People Jamie George (Cook) $16.99 Speaking of saints, one of my favorite books in recent years is Accidental Saints by emergent Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber in which she tells the stories of messed up and graced people in her rag-tag House of All Sinners & Saints faith community in Denver. Well, Jamie George isn't quite as colorful, but he's a fine writer. He founded Journey Church in Tennessee as a safe haven for the religiously wounded. (An acclaimed worship band, All Sons & Daughters, was birthed in that church.) As one of the singers of that band puts it "Jamie George is one of our generation's most inspired storytellers... it was a privilege to read his words and be reminded that God has woven the past and present together in a remarkable and vibrant way."  Yep, here the exceptionally hip J. George tells of eleven historic Christ-followers, from Saint Therese, George MacDonald, and C.S. Lewis, to Calvin, Luther, Saint Francis - with a lovely interlude on the architecture of great cathedrals. Poets and Saints offers a cool and inviting reflection on these characters who can helps us "love like poets, live like saints."  Looks great!

The Dwelling Place of Wonder Harry L. jpgThe Dwelling Place of Wonder Harry L. Serio (Resource Publications) $19.00  Harry is a legendary, now retired UCC pastor in Berks County, PA, and the founder of the fabulous (and famous) Berks Jazz Festival. It isn't uncommon to see Facebook pictures of this Pennsylvania Dutch-ish E&R pastor with some of the hottest jazz stars playing today. It shouldn't surprise us, though - Harry has apparently always been a bit of a card, a colorful, inquisitive, open-minded, big-hearted guy. He is a bit of a mystic, interested in the research about consciousness (and after-death experiences.) This collection of pieces is a lovely cross between a memoir and a true autobiography, although it is episodic. He grew up in a feisty, fascinating family outside of New York City, with charming - and occasionally breathtaking - stories of early 20th century urban life.  (For instance, they knew Betty Davis!)

 As Maren Tirabassi writes:

Harry Serio transports us to many places - a kitchen table in a cellar surrounded by paint cans, the drawer a toddler escapes to see a star, an old woman's doorstep with a loaf of bread, a highway diner with a French waitress in the middle of the night. But more than those, his reflections on wondrous dwellings invites each reader to remember personal holy moments, sacred streets, and occasions of spontaneous laughter.

I have a little blurb on the back of this, too - it is a real treat to be able to tell Harry's many friends and fans about this nicely written, interesting collection of reflections and memories.

Renewing the Christian Mind- Essays, Interviews, .jpgRenewing the Christian Mind: Essays, Interviews, and Talks Dallas Willard (HarperOne) $24.99  This collection of some previously unpublished or published in obscure places makes this feel like a brand new book, and in a way, a greatest hits - so good!  It has been called the "definitive collection" and it cannot be understated how important and transforming this all is. There are chapters here that appeared in other anthologies, papers presented at conferences, good interviews (like a fabulous one conducted by Luci Shaw for Radix magazine) and wonderfully-written pieces that were forwards or introductions to other people's books.  This was curated and edited by Gary Black of the Azusa Pacific University Honors College who co-wrote with Willard The Divine Conspiracy Continued, edited a collection of Willard's stuff called Preparing for Heaven, and is the author of a book about Willard, as well as one about calling on Fortress Press.) I often tell people to begin their journey reading Willard by starting with Renovation of the Heart or Spirit of the Disciplines but this, this is wonderful. Highly recommended.

closer than close.jpgCloser Than Close: Awakening to the Freedom of Your Union with Christ Dave Hickman (NavPress) $14.99  As a Presbyterian, I learned a long time ago that one of John Calvin's deepest teachings and a nearly constant motif was "union with Christ." Of course, all of our best spiritual teachers, from the monks and mystics to those highlighting a lively encounter with the Holy Spirit have all talked about this key topic. It is a rich Biblical motif and there is much to gain from pondering it.  For those who want to go a bit deeper into spirituality, without drifting away from solid Biblical approaches, this new work by a young and thoughtful church planter (founder of Charlotte One, a huge network of churches) could be very, very helpful. It is rooted in the gospel -- we don't have to conjure up, let alone earn intimacy with God. God takes up residence in us, inviting us to be a new creation in Christ. I need all the help I can get, and if the Dallas Willard (above) seems a bit daunting, this could be a similar sort of approach.  Good reading as we move into the busy fall season!  Nice study/reflection questions, too, making it useful.

By the way, in the acknowledgments, Hickman mentions the majesterial Life in the Trinity by Donald Fairbairn (which draws on the early church fathers) and that's a good sign. When he mentioned J. Todd Billings, I knew it would be good stuff -- his book Union With Christ is brilliant. And then he notes he was listening to Bon Iver and Iron and Wine as he wrote, and, well, I was all in.

Praying for Your Pastor- How Your Prayer Support.jpgPraying for Your Pastor: How Your Prayer Support Is Their Life Support Eddie Byun (IVP) $15.00  Byun is a pastor of a church in Seoul, South Korea and wrote a book on how his church has been involved in fighting sexual trafficking (Justice Awakening) which was very good. Here, he writes a book that we've needed for a long time - serious, but not overbearing, deeply spiritual, but not weird or off-putting, handy, but not simplistic. I'm very excited about this, looking for its guidance in helping us pray for our pastors, and pray for them wisely.  It has good and informative chapters about 7 key areas for which we might pray -- from rest to strong families to "a yielded heart" and the like. It is a good glimpse into the lives of ministry about which some of us don't know much. In fact, I might suspect that some clergy don't think deeply about some of these things...

I wonder what would happen if a handful of people in every church had this book? Somebody in your church?  

us versys us.jpgUs Versus Us: The Untold Story of Religion and the LGBT Community  Andrew Marin (NavPress) $14.99  I have been touting this wherever I can as it offers tremendously fascinating - groundbreaking and historic, I'd even say - research into the religious beliefs and attitudes of the GLTBQ community in the US. Andrew Marin (who wrote the excellent Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community) has a huge heart and a serious passion to repair breeches between the religious community and GLTBQ folks. He commissioned a scientifically serious (the largest ever done) research project on this topic, and got some of the best statisticians and sociologists to crunch the data. What they discovered is breathtaking, indicating that (by far) LGBT persons report to be more interested in religion than any other subculture in America. Surprisingly, 86 percent of LGBT people spent their childhood in church. More than half left their religious communities as adults. And 3 out of 4 would be happy to return.  I couldn't put this down.

As my friend Jonathan Merritt, a senior columnist for the Religious News Service (and author of Jesus is Better Than You Imagined) says of Us Versus Us

No conversation in the church is more explosive than the sexuality debate, and no voice in this conversation is more effective than Andrew Marin's... A page-turning collision of stats and stories with the power to revolutionize the modern debate.

A senior fellow at the Brookings Institution says this "richly textured book will shatter stereotypes and help us all think better. And love better, too."

Brian McLaren in Focus- A New Kind of Apologetics.jpgBrian McLaren in Focus: A New Kind of Apologetics Scott R. Burson (Abilene Christian University Press) $22.99 This book deserves a very careful review and I hope it is widely read - what a great bit of research where the author does a gracious, critical read of Brian's roots, writing, trajectory, based not only on his many books, but on lengthy conversations and interviews (some of which are included in the book.)  Brian was remarkably important to the postmodern and postcolonial movements that influenced what was called for a while the emergent village and the emergent church movement. (Phyllis Tickle was one of the many who documented this trend in books such as Emergence Christianity: What It Is, Where It Is Going, and Why It Matters.)

Brian has increasingly become known in mainline denominational circles that are less averse to progressive theology but remains a widely read and influential activist, blogger, author. Even if he is not the trailblazer he once was, he is a genuinely good guy and a very interesting writer, somebody to know and understand. This critique is a balanced appraisal, attempting to move beyond seeing him as either a "villain or hero." As Jerry Walls of Houston Baptist University says of Brian McLaren in Focus "this probing analysis is both critical and charitable. Burson pulls no punches in assessing McLaren's theology from the standpoint of classical orthodoxy, even as he recognizes that there are valuable lessons to be learned from his work."  Part of Burson's interest is Brian's early days as a Calvinist (he listened to hundreds, if not thousands of hours of tapes by R.C. Sproul and Francis Schaeffer) and his eventual rejection of the basics of Reformed theology. (Burson himself is not a Calvinist so the Reformed vs Armenian debate comes up a lot.) This is all really interesting and it a good example of the shifts in theological discourse in these days.  The very nice, and very informative forward, by the way, is by none other than Brian McLaren himself, who likes the book a lot.

great spiritual migration.jpgBrian McLaren's next book is due out September 20, 2016 and are taking pre-orders. I haven't seen it yet. It will be called The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World's Largest Religion Is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian (Convergent Books; $21.00.) 

Check out these advanced blurbs: 

McLaren continues to have his finger on the pulse of a new kind of Christianity that challenges familiar and limiting structures of faith. A prophetic and winsome invitation for all to the join the work of the Spirit in spiritual, theological, and missional transformation.
Peter Enns, author of The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires Our Trust More Than Our Correct Beliefs

Brian McLaren is a leading thinker in articulating the disenchantment so many of us feel regarding Americanized Christianity and the hope we have that there is, as McLaren says, "a better way to be Christian." The Great Spiritual Migration calls us, not to wander aimlessly in the wilderness of pseudo-spirituality, but to follow Jesus forward into the promised land of a more authentic Christian faith. I applaud this important and encouraging book!
Brian Zahnd, author of A Farewell To Mars 

Embrace- God's Radical Shalom for a Divide World.jpgEmbrace: God's Radical Shalom for a Divide World Leroy Barber (IVP) $16.00  I read anything this good brother writes. This is co-sponsored by the CCDA (Christian Community Development Association) and is under the Missio Alliance imprint. Barber, who once directed the urban "Mission Year" project, and now is the chaplain of Kilns College and director of the Voices Project, has written passionately about racial diversity, about urban ministry, and about how all of us can develop a missional vision of daily, whole-life discipleship. (I highly recommend his Everyday Mission book as a great read or small group study.)

We hear much about the Christian practice of hospitality, and how we ought to be more inclusive within our faith communities. But how to we get to true peace and unity? How can we embrace one another when the walls seem impenetrable? Jo Anne Lyon (General Superintendent of The Wesleyan Church) asks "Could Embrace be a groundbreaker for the racial healing that is so desperately needed and that our Lord desires to accomplish? An unequivocal yes!"

The Wired Soul- Finding Spiritual Balance in a Hyperconencted Age.jpgThe Wired Soul: Finding Spiritual Balance in a Hyperconnected Age Tricia McCary Rhodes, PhD (NavPress) $14.99  I am always on the lookout for faith-based books that are nuanced, wise, thoughtful, inviting us to think critical about our accommodating to the fast-paced, hot-wired, digital world. Almost all of us struggle to figure out a more sane use of our energy and time, to pray, to be attentive, to "be still and know that God is God." We have our idols, our bad habits, and these are not made easier by our on-line habits. But shutting down and going off the grid isn't necessarily helpful for most of us. What we need is a critical but also appreciative analysis of technologies.  I like what Quinten Schultz years ago called in his book "habits of the high-tech heart." This new book written by a very fine writer of contemplative prayer practices (The Soul at Rest and Sacred Chaos) looks to be like one of the very best I've seen. Gary Moon says it is "a beautifully written book for digital immigrants, digital natives, and second- generation net-surfers." The Wired Soul uses the language of "slow reading" and "receptive reading" and offers guidance for meditative spirituality for those shaped by digital cultures.

Next Door As It Is In Heaven- Living Out God's Kingdom in Your Neighborhood .jpgNext Door As It Is In Heaven: Living Out God's Kingdom in Your Neighborhood Lance Ford and Brad Brisco (NavPress) $14.99  Wow, is this wonderful and I am very, very excited about it.  It is not the first book this year that has explored a sense of place (see, for instance, the fabulous Staying Is the New Going by Alan Briggs or Leonce Crump's Renovate,) but yet it brings more insight and more energy for this down to earth, missional vision; it is not redundant. In the early chapters he cites classics like Ray Oldenburg (The Great Good Place) and James Howard Kunstler (The Geography of Nowhere) so he had me there. Soon enough they are exploring the important work of Peter Block - are we the only Christian bookstore that carries that stuff? 

I'm sure this is not just one more re-hash of the incarnational, "the good news is more than words" call to love our neighbors, although that is obviously the heart of it. Like these other localistisa books, they are linking this to a study of place, a critique of placelessness, and inviting us to consider how to be citizens in a place who have learned the art of neighboring well. Next Door As It Is... uses phrases like "common grace" and has a robust theology of the Kingdom of God.  Yay. I'm excited, and hope you'd consider it, sharing it with your own church or fellowship. The retro cover is fun, but was a design risk, I think.  I hope it isn't dismissed or not taken seriously because it really, really is good.

Saving the Bible From Ourselves Learning to Read and Live the Bible Well.jpgSaving the Bible From Ourselves: Learning to Read & Live the Bible Well Glenn R. Paauw (IVP) $18.00 I mentioned this earlier in the season and I felt like somehow it may have gotten lost in the shuffle of other books by better known authors. Paauw is vice president of global engagement at Biblica, which used to have connection to the American Bible Society. Anyway, he loves the Scriptures, is very interested in how people are reading and using the Scriptures, and offers here 7 "kinds" or sorts of ways we think of the Bible, and counters each with a more faithful sort. (For instance, in contrast to our presumption that the Bible is essentially "complicated" he unveils the "elegant Bible." Instead of a "snacking" Bible he invites us to "savor the feasting Bible." He says we need saved from "my private Bible" and speaks of "sharing our synagogue Bible."  Of course, instead of "our otherworldly Bible" he says we are to be "grounded in the Earthly Bible."  On great problem, "our de-dramatized Bible" takes two sections to refute. He shows how we can "rediscover the stroiented Bible" and then shows how we must "preform the stroiented Bible."  There's more and it is rich, solid, creative, helpful stuff. Blurbs on the back and long and rich themselves, by Walter Brueggemann and Mark Noll, who both commend it earnestly.  Yes!

The Mission of the Church- Five Views in Conversation .jpgThe Mission of the Church: Five Views in Conversation edited by Craig Ott (Baker Academic) $22.99  Wow, is this every useful, with great, great discourse around one of the most urgent questions of our time (or of any time, I suppose, but particularly urgent now.) It is asking what is the very nature of the church, and, therefore, what is the fundamental mission or task or calling of the local church. Few would disagree that there needs to be an outreach and service component to the church; but if it is only a side bit, then it ain't really 'missional.'  So, what are people saying about this debate?  Are we to be mostly externally or internally focused? About building community or doing mission? how does formation happen? What are the roles of worship and sacraments? Can we agree on this or that or what?  This is stimulating stuff as five major "camps" or views are presented. The second half of the book is a "response" chapter by each author, offering his or her evaluations and replies and feedback.  Kudos to Baker and to Craig Ott for pulling together such a one-of-a-kind, urgent resource!

Here are the five perspectives and the scholars:

1. A Prophetic Dialogue Approach - Stephen B. Bevans, a Roman Catholic priest and scholar
2. A Multicultural and Translational Approach - Darrell L. Guder, a Presbyterian professor emeritus at Princeton Theological Seminary
3. An Integral Transformation Approach - Ruth Padilla DeBorst, a Latin American evangelical leader, activist, scholar
4. A Sacramental Vision Approach - Edward Rommen, a Rector of an Orthodox church and professor at Duke Divinity School
5. An Evangelical Kingdom Community Approach - Ed Stetzer, the Director of Lifeway Research and author of many books

Listen to what Christopher Wright of the Langham Partnership and author of The Mission of God and The Mission of God's People writes: of The Mission of the Church: Five Views in Conversation:

I know that I shall read this book again and often. The contributors provide both a breadth of perspectives and a depth of historical background that are illuminating, instructive, and challenging. The book has increased my understanding of and respect for divergent confessional views on Christian mission, while compelling me to re-examine and clarify my own. Like the Bereans, I am motivated afresh to search the Scriptures to see if these things are true--and such an effect is surely the mark of a truly stimulating and worthwhile book.

Overplayed- A Parent's Guide to Sanity in the World of Youth Sports.jpgOverplayed: A Parent's Guide to Sanity in the World of Youth Sports David King & Margot Starbuck (Herald Press) $15.99 We've recommended this before, telling about it when it first came out this Spring. What a great book, and what a great idea to combine the clever, upbeat - dare I say energetic - writing of the playful Margot Starbuck and the sporting expertise of David King who is the Director of Athletics at Eastern Mennonite University. For years, we've stocked a book or two from Dordt College Press (such as Christianity & Leisure: Issues in a Pluralistic Society) that were collections of academic papers presented by Christian scholars who work in physical education, sports, coaching, and leisure studies in order to nurture the Christian mind to reform our practices about faith and athletics and playfulness.  Most of those pieces were fairly academic, and wonderfully important work such as Paul Heintzman's Leisure and Spirituality: Biblical, Historical, and Contemporary Perspectives seemed to be more for sociologists and others who wanted scholarly reflections. We've needed a book that was thoughtful, but practical, for ordinary families, seeking to figure out this whole big deal. This is it!  Overplayed: A Parent's Guide is informed by a healthy appreciation of sport, but is brave enough to be critical of the ways in which we've come to embrace athletic culture; again, it is designed for ordinary families (although I could see church groups reading it together.)  Three cheers for Overplayed. Mom and dad, you need this.  Pastors, children's ministry professionals, youth workers, coaches, sports fans - you need this.

The very fun journalist Scott Dannemiller says "every page of this book screams common sense." The beautiful writer Caryn Rivadeneira (author or Broke) says "this is the book for parents of any kids involved in the abundance of activities our culture offers (demands of!) our kids. Overplayed offers biblical and developmental wisdom to help our children grow appropriately into the people God mad them to be."  I think you'll enjoy it, it will help many, and it will, finally, help us learn not only about setting boundaries regarding overdoing sports, but helping gets obtain more healthy sources for their identities. 




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August 30, 2016

Great books for children's ministry workers, Christian educators, and parents, too. ON SALE

A large part of many of my days is taken up making lists for people. We enjoy recommending reading options -- hard books, easy books, theologically conventional works, edgy new stuff, this new one, that old one. Something for everyone, you know.  On all kinds of topics. From faith and the arts to Christian views of science to all manner of personal questions and individual needs. And this week, one about church work.

I thought you might like to see this book list about children's ministry that I did yesterday and the book descriptions -- added to and tweaked just a bit for a more general readership here -- that I put together for a friend who has taken a new job in as the director of children's ministry in a medium sized, thriving, evangelical church. 

She is thoughtful, open-minded, trained at a seminary that is known for solid, thoughtful orthodoxy and warm faith that yields energetic ministry and cultural engagement.  I knew she'd want a real variety of good titles from which to choose so I went to town.  I named stuff I liked or that has been useful to others or that I thought she should know about.

I've added in a few others, all of which we have in stock here, and you can order them from us by using our secure order form page, below. If you want us to bill you or your church, just let us know. We're happy just to send the books off with a smile and an invoice. 

A little request: if this topic doesn't interest you might you forward it to somebody who might find it useful? I'm sure you know somebody who cares for children, who works in a church, or who reads about congregation-based Christian education. Or who should.  Help us spread the word, please.


Thanks for inviting me to list some resources for your new job in children's ministry... How exciting for you, and what a joy to get to describe just a few of our big CE section. We're really interested in this whole field, and read a lot of titles in this area. We've got tons of "practical" curriculum type stuff and lesson books for any age, too, but wanted to start with some that are more foundational, vision casting, if you will. Thanks for caring about these kinds of books.

(By the way, do you know Godly Play stuff? Our  own children's ministry at our church has truly been blessed by using it a bit; it is prayerful, imaginative, almost sacramental. The Episcopalian leader who development it, Jerome Berryman, was influenced by Montessori. We carry all the Godly Play books, if you want to explore that later...)

Anyway, here are some that we'd recommend for sure. Let us know if you have any further or specific needs or topics...

We show the regular prices. We'll do the discount when you order.

children matter.jpgChildren Matter: Celebrating Their Place in the Church, Family, and Community Scotty May, Beth Posterski, Catherine Stonehouse, and Linda Cannell (Eerdmans) $28.00  Wow, this is a mature and thoughtful collection of about 15 chapters, around themes of a theology of children, the context and content of children's ministry, and the practices and "how we do it" stuff.  The authors are thoughtful evangelicals, mostly, good scholars, offering important wisdom. Remarkable for a solid foundation. It's meaty, thick, and so, so good.

The Spiritual Child- The New Science .jpgThe Spiritual Child: The New Science on Parenting for Health and Lifelong Thriving Lisa Miller (Picador) $16.00  This was a New York Times bestseller, a very thoughtful book merging neuroscience and parenting and grit to help ordinary parents realize that spirituality nourishes our children's well being. As one reviewer noted, it is, "perceptive, thought-provoking, and heavily researched, this is a valuable book for anyone interested in spiritual development in children adolescents, and families." I have yet to read this (sorry!) but serious educators I respect have assured me it is a must read. Dr. Miller is a professor Psychology and Education and director of the Clinical Psychology Program at Teachers College, Columbia University in NY. She is the coeditor of the American Psychological Association's journal Spirituality in Clinical Practices. Common grace for the common good, I'd say, right here.

marva dawn.jpgIs It a Lost Cause? Having the Heart of God for the Church's Children Marva Dawn (Eerdmans) $18.00 I hope you've read some of Marva's great books, and I think this is one of her best, not nearly known enough. Very inspiring, if a bit counter-cultural. It not only has such a high regard for children, and insists on their full role within the church, but it has a sturdy and serious ecclesiology, the church as true Christian community. I suppose you know that I'd read anything Marva Dawn writes; we are glad she wrote on this! A must-read.  Yes!

Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey.jpgListening to Children on the Spiritual Journey- Guidance for Those Who Teach and Nurture.jpgJoining Children on the Spiritual Journey: Nurturing a Life of Faith Catherine Stonehouse (Baker Academic) $24.00  I think this is really, really good, nearly a modern classic, wonderfully done. And I like her next one (co-written with Scottie May of Wheaton College), too Listening to Children on the Spiritual Journey: Guidance for Those Who Teach and Nurture (Baker Academic; $22.00) -- maybe even more. Highly recommended. There's rave reviews on the back, from the editor of Christian Education Journal, for instance, and the founder of Godly Play, Jerome Berryman. Dr. Stonehouse, by the way, teaches as Asbury Theological Seminary where she is highly respected. These are both must-reads!

Formational Children's Ministry.jpgFormational Children's Ministry: Shaping Children Using Story, Ritual, and Relationship Ivy Beckwith (Baker Books) $15.99  Oh my,  oh my, I so loved this!  A very strong book and truly interesting! There's a very nice endorsement from Dan Allender, who says it is "genius" written by "an enormously gifted child educator..." Highly recommended for some new energy and new ideas!  

Children's Ministry in the Way of Jesus.jpgChildren's Ministry in the Way of Jesus David Csinos & Ivy Beckwith (IVP) $18.00 I'm very impressed by this and enjoyed it a lot. It may seem a bit radical, emergent, almost, but done by IVP so it is still  orthodox and reliable for evangelical churches. The author is a good writer, and really thoughtful about so much. Highly recommended. An endorsement by Scottie May of Wheaton is quite positive, by the way. I like its language of "practice" its frame of being "on the way" and its focus on Christ-like discipleship. You really should consider this.

Faith Forward- A Dialogue on Children, Youth, and a New Kind of Christianity.jpgFaith Forward Reimagining  .jpgFaith Forward: A Dialogue on Children, Youth, and a New Kind of Christianity and Faith Forward Volume 2: Re-Imagining Children and Youth Ministry edited by David Csinos and Melvin Bray (Copperhouse) $19.95  Well.  I've mentioned these before. I wish I could promote these more widely as there is nothing quite like them, even if they have some chapters that will unsettle some with their progressive and curious theological vision. They were both put together out of two lively conferences with Brian McLaren on children, youth and family ministry for emergent/progressive/justice-seeking Christians. (Hence the "new kind of Christian" subtitle of the first one, since that was the title of his new book at the time.) They called these popular, energizing events "Faith Forward" conferences and these books are essentially the papers presented there. Some chapters are general, if passionate and creative, about children, children's faith development, how to nurture kids into a broad and redemptive and gracious view of God's love. It is helpfully multi-ethnic and trans-denominational. A few of the contributors are famous, many are not. Most are really good.  Other chapters are quite specific, often about inclusion, exploring white privilege, racial justice, ministering well to gay students and non-traditional families thinking through new ways to do children's and youth ministry that is wholistic and intentionally just. For those seeking innovation and fresh expressions of faith that bears good fruit in cultivating the life of kids, this could be a provocative and useful resource. As we often say, agree or not with every detail, it's good to grapple with big ideas. Check these out.

Perspectives on Children's Spiritual Formation- 4 Views.jpgPerspectives on Children's Spiritual Formation: 4 Views edited by Michael Anthony (B&H) $24.99 Here is how the promo material explains it: Perspectives On... "presents in counterpoint four views of children's spiritual formation and four related methods of Christian Education. Each chapter is written by a prominent person representing his or her view. Contributors also respond to the other viewpoints. Views include the contemplative-reflective model (cultivating a quiet, worshipful spirit), instructional-analytic model (involving child evangelism and Bible memorization), pragmatic participatory model (focusing on high-energy activities, often seen in mega-churches), and the media-driven active-engagement model (using a video-based curriculum with limited teacher training)." Whew. This has a lot to make you think, a lot to ponder, maybe even causing you to re-consider assumptions and goals and strategies... Some of us just plough forward, without asking these kinds of foundational questions and assessing our models.

Habits of a Child's Heart- Raising Your Kids with the Spiritual Disciplines .jpgHabits of a Child's Heart: Raising Your Kids with the Spiritual Disciplines Valerie Hess (NavPress) $14.99  I've mentioned this from time to time over the years and it is still one of the few good books that explore spiritual formation and practices of nurturing contemplative spirituality with kids. Can kids learn to meditation, can families engage the Scriptures together with a prayerful gentleness? Can we simplify our lives and change our priorities so new habits of service and community emerge? What a great guide to some great , good matters. This is a book for parents, but I could see educators and children's ministry makers using it to equip parents, or using the ideas in traditional Sunday school settings.

Relational Children's Ministry- Turning Kid-Influencers into Lifelong Disciple-makers.jpgRelational Children's Ministry: Turning Kid-Influencers into Lifelong Disciple-makers Dan Lovaglia (Zondervan) $16.99 The big question on the back of this new book is "Are you building lasting relationships or just running a program?" It shows how children's ministry leaders can "disrupt status quo approach to discipleship with children, realigning their ministries for greater long term impact."  Looks great -- inspirational and full of good ideas. It's not to revolutionary, though (like, say, the Faith Forward ones above) as Lovaglia is a conventional evangelical leader. He is the director of new ministries and parent engagement at Awana. It looks great, not too complex, nothing to provocative, but a good read.

 I Wonder- Engaging a Child's Curiosity About the Bible.jpgI Wonder: Engaging a Child's Curiosity About the Bible Elizabeth Caldwell (Abingdon) $19.99 Libby Caldwell is a very well loved CE leader in many circles, including within APCE (the Association of Presbyterian Christian Educators) which is the PCUSA professional organization for CE staff and Children's Ministry leaders. We are pretty involved with the Eastern APCE, and we heard her more than once in that setting.  She's written some helpful books for mainline Protestants, published by Pilgrim Press.

This recent book is remarkable, just really, really interesting and valuable. It would have a bit more of a liberal theological bias than some conservative congregations might want, but it is fascinating to read and ponder. Who among us doesn't want to teach the Bible well, and have kids really learn to love the Scriptures, and the God who is revealed in them?  We all need all the help we can get, and this is a book unlike any on the market.

Mostly, Calwell is surveying various children's Bibles to see how they tell the story, what they leave in, what they leave out, wondering why that is, and how that fits our hopes of helping kids learn for themselves to love the Scriptures. She thinks we close down "wonder" and therefore authentic and lasting spiritual desire by teaching in ways that are too "black and white" and don't open up curiosity. She is critical of some parts of some favorite children's Bible storybooks and this could generate all kinds of interesting conversation in your church. We do want to open the Bible up, don't we, not close it down? We need good writing, good artwork, and a fearless fidelity in getting the Word right. (Funny how some evangelistic type kids Bibles on evangelical publishing houses say stuff -- making it chatty and intending to be helpful, I'm sure -- that simply isn't in the Biblical text. And she has issues with all of that. God bless her.

We think I Wonder is a strong book, even though I disagree with some of her opinions. I've talked with her about some of this, in fact... There is a lot of info about different children's Bible storybooks, their quality and art and biases, making it a really good book to have on hand...

text image and otherness.jpg

By the way, if you are really interested in this, there is a very academic book from SBL's "Semeia Studies" series which we carry that is fascinating. It is called Text, Image & Otherness in Children's BIbles: What's in the Picture? edited by Caroline Vander Stichele & Hugh Pyper (Society of Biblical Literature; $36.95.) Yep, it is informed by critical and feminist theory, asking about "the other" and exploring how representations of otherness appears in all kinds of Bible stories, from Veggie Tales to global religious education courses. Whew. I appreciate it because there just isn't that much deep scholarship on children's religious imagination and our teaching of the Bible to them, so, peculiar as these pieces may be, it's fascinating and we commend it. But get I Wonder, for sure.

dwell jessie schut.jpgDwelling: Helping Kids Find a Place in God's Story  Jessie Schut (Faith Alive) $5.99  I'm always fond of the stuff that comes out of the CRC, and I love this small, accessible guide to helping children see themselves as part of God's redemptive work. If I were a Christian ed director (or children's ministry staff person) I'd try to get this into the hands of every volunteer.  Almost 45 short chapters on all manner of subjects, covering wisely all kinds of situations and topics. Nice.

Leading KidMin- How to Drive Real Change in Children's Ministry.jpgLeading KidMin: How to Drive Real Change in Children's Ministry Pat Cimo & Matt Markins (Moody Press) $14.99  This new book looks fantastic, full of energy and passion and ideas and principles... not simplistic and not shallow.  Pat Cimo has led in children's ministry for decades and is now the director of marriage and family life at Willow Creek.  Matt Markins serves on the global leadership team at Awana. Both of these are strong, well read, significantly experienced leaders. In many ways it is about transforming our approach to leadership, allowing our ministry to be transformed by what is going on within us and our own sense of identity, our own leadership voice and what we ourselves are learning. 

Attract Families to Your Church -- And Keep Them Coming Back .jpgAttract Families to Your Church -- And Keep Them Coming Back Linda Ranson Jacobs (Abingdon) $18.99 There are several books like this, and I think something around family ministry would be important to have. This one is insightful and practical. We think it is accessible and inspiring. 

For the deeper debate about models and approaches on family ministry, see, for instance, Perspectives on Family Ministry: 3 Perspectives on Family Ministry- 3 Views.jpgViews edited by Timothy Paul Jones (B&H; $19.99.) The three views are "Family-integrated Ministry" where the emphasis is on intergenerational discipleship and "Family-Based Ministry" which advocates for organizing programs according to ages and interests but also developing intentional activities and training events to bring families together and "Family-Equipping Ministry -- maintaining age-organized ministry while reorganizing the congregation to call parents to be active partners...) I suspect most churches don't have any strategy or model, nor have they thought about what vision is most theologically acceptable and appropriate.  So, here's to starting that conversation!

A-Place-at-the-Table.jpgA Place at the Table: Welcoming Children to the Lord's Supper -- A Guide for Congregations DVD and Study Book Thea Nyhoff Leunk (Faith Alive)  $19.99 for DVD; $7.00 for the book  Although this was published by the Christian Reformed Church to help congregations learn about and embrace their 2011 denominational recommendation to open the communion table to children, it really is useful for anyone wanting to have this conversation and move in that direction. Very nicely done.  I suppose many of us might first need to talk about the role of children in worship, eh?  Send us an email if you want a small list on that whole topic, being inclusive of kids of all ages in conventional worship. The kids can't receive communion if they aren't there...

Feasting-on-the-Word-Childrens-Sermons-for-Year-A.jpgFeasting on the Word: Children's Sermons for Year A Carol A. Wehrheim (WJK) $20.00 I suppose you know the now the very popular, almost legendarily so, Feasting on the Word preaching commentaries (and the ancillary product, the worship companions, the Advent and Lenten worship guides, the guide to doing children's sermons, and the daily devotional.)  Last year -- speaking of legendary -- the wonderfully wise children's educator Carol Wehrheim did a book of children's sermons connected to  Feasting on the Word Year C. It was very, very nice.  The new one for liturgical year A - starting this Advent - just arrived here at the shop. There is a short message and prayer for each Sunday of the year, and a few additional ones, for special occasions. 

100 Things Every Child Should Know Before Confirmation- A Guide.jpg100 Things Every Child Should Know Before Confirmation: A Guide for parents and Youth Leaders Rebecca Kirkpatrick (WJK) $17.00  Again, this is a PCUSA resource, the author on staff at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian. Still, these succinct and clear summaries of different topics are very useful -- maybe you could supplement or edit.  This emerged from the author's frustration of what kids did or didn't know in their junior high years as they were going through confirmation. A good argument for serious educational work with children!

I Belong to God- A Catechism for Covenant Children Rich Lusk.jpgI Belong to God: A Catechism for Covenant Children Rich Lusk (Athanasius Press) $5.99  I really liked the preface to this, a heartfelt essay by a Christian father wanting to help others nurture their children in ways that they can grow up and into their baptism as covenant children. The author used the 1998 PCUSA children's catechism and revised it extensively. He had seven features, particularly, that guided him in his creative revision and it is good stuff. Lusk is the pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church (CREC) in Birmingham Alabama. He has previously served at Auburn Avenue Presbyterian in Monroe, LA and Redeemer Presbyterian in Austin TX. 

best-practices-for-children-ministry-leading-from-the-heart-by-ervin-andrew-0834131609.jpgBest Practices for Children's Ministry: Leading from the Heart Andrew Ervin (Beacon Hill Press) $14.99  Beacon Hill is a publishing house of the Church of the Nazarene and they do some very good stuff. This is pretty simple, exciting, a great compendium of best practices and positive examples. Lots of stories from pretty conservative evangelical churches, each with a strong and effective program or activity. Lots to learn, lots to emulate. 

Leading Kids to Jesus- How to Have One-on-One Conversations About Faith.jpgLeading Kids to Jesus: How to Have One-on-One Conversations About Faith David Staal (Zondervan) $14.99  This came out of Willow Creek, with a great forward by Bill Hybels. It is an "essential resource for children's ministry workers" and helps us learn to communicate God's love in ways that kids will understand. Really has a lot of good stuff. I suspect almost anyone who works with kids, from any sort of church, will find useful insights here, will be touched by the stories and examples, and will be reminded of really basic, good stuff. 

Show Them Jesus- Teaching the Gospel to Kids.jpgShow Them Jesus: Teaching the Gospel to Kids
Jack Klumperhower (New Growth Press) $17.99  This was created by Serge (formerly World Harvest Mission), the ministry that gave us the intense gospel-centered life curriculum, the SonShip materials, etc. Strong on grace, insisting that the Christ-centered gospel is transformational. This is meaty, serious, and exceptionally clear about the core things of the faith and how to help kids understand and embrace Christ.

Give Them Truth- Teaching Eternal Truths to Young Minds.jpgGive Them Truth: Teaching Eternal Truths to Young Minds Starr Meade (Presbyterian & Reformed) $14.99  Starr Meade is a very bright woman -- she's taught Latin, for crying out loud -- and has much experience as director of children's ministry at a local church. You may know her many books such as Training Hearts, Teaching Minds or a series of Bible studies.  Here she insists (our of a fairly conservative, evangelical context) that children are born theologians, that we have a great opportunity to go after the biggest questions and the deepest things rather than being shallow or superficial. Truth, she reminds us here, isn't just intellectual, it is personal. Only being well rooted in the deep gospel will allow kids to endure the contemporary challenges of our modern culture. How do we begin, as parents or educators? Starr Meade can help. Give Them Truth.

Give Your Child the World- Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time .jpgGive Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time Jamie C. Martin (Zondervan) $16.99 Okay, friends, this is it: one of the books I am most excited about this new season. This is why we sell books for a living, this is why you read BookNotes, this is why you care about the power of story and the beauty of the printed page.  This is what LaVar Burton -- you remember him from Reading Rainbow, surely -- says is "an invaluable resource!"  Tsh Oxenreider wrote a lovely forward setting the table for what is a feast, tons of ideas about tons of books that we can use to help our kids grow to love the world God so loves.

Who doesn't want to raise insightful, compassionate kids who are inspired to change the world?  What parent or teacher does want his or her students to have a love of books and a care for the world. This should be in every church library, passed out to parents and teachers meetings, offered at missions conference or justice meetings. We will be writing about this more, I am sure.

Read-Your-Way-Across-the-Globe-with-Give-Your-Child-the-World-by-Jamie-C.-Martin.jpgYou can introduce your kids to the world from your own home and church, watching them grow into deeper awareness and empathy and insight. This book helps solve  your problem of how to do that, with guidance, insight, and book lists galore (annotated well, so you know just what to check out at the library or order from us.) I'm almost choked up thinking about the possibilities. Help us get this book purchased, talked about, passed around. Order one today! Kudos to Zondervan and to Jamie Martin, who obviously knows kids books well and is my new hero! She, by the way, has a couple of children adopted from different countries, and sips tea with her British husband in Connecticut. She's well equipped for helping us all through this project. Cheerio.

Make It Zero- The Movement to Safeguard Every Child .jpgMake It Zero: The Movement to Safeguard Every Child Mary Frances Bowley (Moody) $13.99  This is passionately written by two young evangelical women who invite us to be advocates for children against any sort of abuse -- poverty, hunger, neglect -- and certainly that we must safeguard our church facilities and programs against putting children at risk. It's a passionate, thoughtful, energetic book that will re-inspire you to justice for kids. Nicely done.


I wasn't going to list any actual kids books, children's storybooks, Bibles and the like, but this new resource is so great, so usable, so special, I have to give it mention now. Right now.

The Biggest Story- How the Snake Crusher.gifPerhaps you recall that we raved about the remarkably colorful, very creatively created and truly thoughtful overview of the Bible story, The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden by Kevin DeYoung, illustrated by Don Clark (Crossway; $17.99.) I reviewed it a bit at a previous BookNotes (last December) where we highlighted some great gifts for children. It is so handsome and colorful that although it is for young children, it has an appeal to older kids, too.

Now -- drum roll, please -- they've done this as a feature film, or at least a short doc DVD video. You've got to see this!

The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden --  The Animated Short Film narrated by Kevin DeYoung illustrated by Don Clark (Crossway) regularly $14.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $13.49

biggest-story-dvd-cd.jpg The Biggest Story: The Animated Short Film offers in 26 beautiful minutes remarkable animations adapted from The Biggest Story book. It will, as it says in their promo, "captivate children and parents alike as they are led on an exciting journey through the Bible -- connecting the dots from the garden of Eden to Christ's death on the cross to the new heaven and earth."  It is ideal for teaching children the core message of the Bible at home, at church, or any kind of a classroom. Maybe you should get it for your adult Bible study group!

This DVD features 10 chapters, each 2-3 minutes long, narrated by Kevin DeYoung. It has original music composed by John Poor and features the vibrant, very creative illustrations by award winning contemporary designer Don Clark.

Get it on sale from us now.



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