About February 2017

This page contains all entries posted to Hearts & Minds Books in February 2017. They are listed from oldest to newest.

January 2017 is the previous archive.

March 2017 is the next archive.

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

February 2017 Archives

February 7, 2017

The Beatitudes, The Sermon on the Mount, the Book of Matthew -- resources for preaching, teaching, living God's Reign (ON SALE from Hearts & Minds)

Soon, I will tell you about some Lenten resources, and I have one very special new book that I can't wait to tell you about, written by a local Dallastown pastor, in fact. It's a remarkable, lectionary-based adult coloring book.  More on that, soon -- get your Crayolas ready; it is surprisingly intriguing.

Interactive, creative, personal or group reflections with experiential education activities (such as the tactile engagement using wooden pencils or colored markers or crayons) really are valuable for most of us; at least, certainly, for some folks. Although it may be a bit different, think of the fruitfulness found within contemplative children and youth curriculum such as Godly Play or the recent interest in praying the Scriptures, not just discussing them. (We have bunches of good books on lectio divina.) We hope you have numerous tools to help you explore the Scriptures in various ways. 

I hope you are in churches that teach the Scriptures well, and that you are in Bible study groups and adult education forums that help you explore the Bible. That's one of the reasons we did that BookNotes newsletter feature last time naming some introductions to the Bible and some opinions about our favorite study Bibles. These are, for serious Christians, tools of the trade.  If you don't need such items, maybe you know somebody who does. Campus workers, youth ministers, Sunday school teachers, growth group facilitators -- surely you know folks who need to learn to read the Bible better, right?  Maybe you could re-visit that BookNotes and see if anything seems useful for you or yours.

We also need classic, rich worship and, as part of that, good sermons. 

Those that use the Revised Common Lectionary may know that it soon will invite preachers to work through some of the texts typically known as the Beatitudes. The odd upside-down "blessings" there are kind of background stuff for some of us, part of the Christian mindscape, but we don't often get serious sermon series on those central chapters of Jesus's teachings on the mount (or the plain, as it may be.)  Two different pastors doing some study of this stuff contacted me last week for a listing of books we had on the Sermon on the Mount and/or the Beatitudes.

I compiled this list pretty quickly, on the run, as part of my daily job, telling folks about books on the shelves here in Dallastown. I've added a few more here, tonight, and figured I'd just share this quickly in case anyone else needs to reflect this season about the manifesto of what Donald Kraybill calls "the upside down Kingdom."  Give us a call if we can help further. We've got more than what we listed here, and we're eager to serve you by helping you find what you need. 

You can email us at read@heartsandmindsbooks.com or call the store at 717-246-3333 or, of course, use the highlighted links at the bottom of this newsletter which take you to either our inquiry page where you can contact us with anything questions or comments or to our certified secure order form page. Just tell us what you want and we'll confirm everything by email. Easy.


Of course, to get the full picture of the Matthew 5-6 we must take up the bigger context of the whole gospel according to Matthew.  There are too many great commentaries of various "levels" and sorts -- R.T. France in the Eerdman's NICNT series is said to be truly superior if one wants a very academic one to own and I'm a fan of the Zondervan NIV Application Commentary series (the one on Matthew is by Michael J. Wilkins) if you want a relatively easy to read one to guide preaching or teaching. But I'd also at least want to go on record suggesting these:

The Bible Speaks Today: The Message of Matthew  Michael Green (IVP) $22.00 I always appreciate the commentaries in the series called The Bible Speaks Today:The Message of... for basic, useful, inspiring content. The BST: The Message of Matthew is by the late scholar/pastor from the Church of England. He's fairly evangelical in orientation, passionate about outreach, and I like him a lot. There are even discussion/reflection questions at the end, making it that much more useful. Serious enough, but not weighty. For those who don't need a technical one, start here.

Matthew for Everyone Part 1 and Matthew for Everyone Part 2 N.T. Wright (WJK) $18.00 each  I hope you respect Tom Wright's historical, Biblical, and theological chops as much as I do and here we are given another glimpse into a remarkable gift he has -- he can speak to ordinary folks with common jargon without slipping into being maudlin or sappy or overly partisan. These are common sense, but with a powerful bit of insight along the way.  There is good exegesis, a bit of big picture background, and nice illustrations or stories for teaching or preaching. There are "...for Everyone" volumes for the whole New Testament, of course. Nicely done.

The Pillar New Testament Commentary The Gospel According to Matthew Leon Morris (Eerdmans) $55.00 This serious series is known for being mostly evangelical, straight-forward, with clear and good interpretation of the text for preachers and teachers; not a lot of big picture criticism or interaction with various theories and secondary sources. Just good explanation of what the text says, a bit technical, but not overly so. Leon Morris is an Anglican from Australia, I believe. Solid stuff.

Matthew: A Commentary Volume 1 and Matthew: A Commentary Volume 2 Frederick Dale Bruner (Eerdmans) $40.00 and $45.00 This is a spectacular two volume set that used to be called The Christ Book and The Church Book and are now out in less spiffy titles, but in glorious revised and expanded editions. These are fabulous for any number of reasons and I have heard from more than one customer that these are a great example of just what a good commentary should be. Kudos! It's very useful for serious teachers and preachers, I'd say, and a very worthy investment for anyone with a library of Bible resources.

Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible: Matthew Stanley Hauerwas (Brazos Press) $28.00  This series of commentaries, edited by R.R. Reno of First Things fame, brings a uniquely theological lens to the text, not just abstract exegesis, but is asking in stimulating ways what this book of the canon means. Professor Hauerwas is an academic genius, of course, and a legendary preacher who loves the church, too, and is also known as a rather crusty pacifist, so his insights on the Sermon on the Mount portion of Matthew might be useful in stretching you into pondering the theological implications of this part of the first gospel.

The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary Craig Keener (Eerdmans) $60.00  I wish this weren't so expensive as it is magisterial, without being too arcane. His encyclopedic knowledge of early church and other sources is legendary. He's especially strong on cultural stuff which is really interesting. (He was one of the editors of the NIV Cultural Background Study Bible that I described in our last post.) This major work covers every sentence and offers practical insight as well.  Fabulous, if a bit dense and expensive.

Feasting on the Gospels: Matthew Volume 1 and Volume 2 edited by Cynthia Jarvis and Elizabeth Johnson (WJK) $40.00 each  I am sure you know the Feasting on the Word commentary series. Those offer four takes (from four angles) on each lectionary pericope. This two part set are produced by the same folks, in that same nice size and follows that same "4-eyed" approach but is on the entire book of Matthew (not just the lectionary choices for any given year.) They have these for each of the four gospels, by the way. In these you solve the problem of wondering what voice to hear, which commentaries to buy; there's a variety of authors, short pieces from varying views on each passage (theological, pastoral, exegetical, and homiletical.)  Written by a range of mainline denominational folks. 


The Upside Down Kingdom Donald Kraybill (Herald Press) $16.99 This is one of those books in my own life that was seminal in many ways. I intuited much of this even as a high school kid struggling with the Viet Nam war-ear draft but reading it made in the late 70s allow much about the Kingdom of God gel into place. Dr. Kraybill, with Ron Sider, is one of those evangelical anabaptists that takes both the saving gospel and the radical ethics of Scriptures seriously. I think this is a tremendous book, and his explanations of the cultural backgrounds on the beatitudes is helpful, if quite challenging.

Story of God Bible Commentaries: Sermon on the Mount Scot McKnight (Zondervan) $29.99  Did you by any chance see in a recent BookNotes newsletter I did a shout out to this ongoing series, of which there are maybe six or seven books of the Bible done. They are easy to use, with a three fold approach -- the place of the book under study in the Biblical story, the teaching or exegesis of what the texts say, and then the application or insight for contemporary witness.  I like these a lot, and this one, on the Sermon on the Mount, is very useful for preachers or teachers, I'd say.  There are more sophisticated commentaries on Matthew (do you know the two volume set by Frederick Dale Bruner? So good.) but this on the Sermon is really useful.

The Bible Speaks Today: The Message of the Sermon on the Mount John Stott (IVP Academic) $18.00  No list on the Sermon on the Mount would be complete without this useful, sturdy, easy to use, compelling commentary. I like all the BST series of commentaries. This was first out under the title "Christian Counterculture" and although I don't think he embraces all of these counter-cultural ways vividly enough, it's very helpful and an important resource. 

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount  Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Eerdmans) $30.00  Lloyd-Jones was a London preacher and Bible teacher whom some consider one of the most influential in the 20th century. He's got Puritan instincts, is rigorously Reformed, and this is a thorough, nearly tedious, study. Some consider this a spiritual classic. For a quicker, less costly read in a somewhat similar vein see The Sermon on the Mount by the eloquent Scottish preacher Sinclair Ferguson (Banner of Truth; $8.00.) Sweet stuff, with some clear teaching about the role of law and grace and gospel-centered transformation.

The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God Dallas Willard (HarperOne) $25.99  Do you know Willard? He was philosophy prof who was also a deep Christian saturated in the classics, who early or mentored Richard Foster and encouraged him to write about the spiritual disciplines. His books were often about inner transformation, about God's revolutionary way of re-calibrating our hearts and changing our character into the image of Christ. This is his most groundbreaking book and most of it is centered on an explication of the Sermon on the Mount.

Living the Sermon on the Mount: A Practical Hope for Grace and Deliverance Glen Stassen (Jossey Bass) $22.95  This was going to be a series of books called"Enduring Questions in the Christian Life" but they only did three, I think. I loved this. Stassen took Lewis Smedes' chair as the ethics prof at Fuller, and he was a serious, Reformed thinker, a peacemaker and social activist of sorts. I so appreciated his taking theology, Bible, and applying it to life in these times. This is really good, sort of an applied living out of the ways of the Kingdom. He says that these are not legalistic rules or unreachable ideals but "a recipe for wholeness and healing in our human relationships and deliverance from the vicious cycles that we get stuck in."

Jesus' Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount Richard Rohr & John Bookser Feister (Franciscan Media) $14.99  I like Rohr's blend of charismatic leaning on the Holy Spirit, vibrant and serious Christian social witness, and a desire to read the Biblical text in such a way that it inspires folks to be transformed from the inside out, deepening their trust in God and their love of others.  When this came out years ago neo-liberal politicians were talking about a "new world order" and this invites us to see the coming reign of God and it's values explicated here, as the real new order. 

Father Rohr says: "I doubt that any major political leader would align a new world order in terms of cooperation, trust, service and redemptive suffering... For all the talk of a new world order, it's simply the old world order. The real New World Order, he says, "is the heart of the New Testament."

The Cost of Community: Jesus, St. Francis and Life in the Kingdom  Jamie Arpin-Rici (IVP) $16.00  Jamie is a Canadian lay Franciscan who is Protestant who serves the poor and builds community, inspired by the way the real St. Francis.  The first part of this moving book is on the Beatitudes, the rest on the Sermon on the Mount, but not as a typical Bible study but more by way of telling his own story of building a community and the hardships of living that kind of blessed life together. On the back it says "this book is a field report with insights about what life together in the spirit of Jesus' teachings offers and demands. Discover the true cost of community."

Become What You Are: Spiritual Formation According to the Sermon on the Mount  William W. Klein (IVP) $20.00 This sounds a bit like Dallas Willard, actually, and because it was first published in England, I never got any advanced stuff on it and only recently discovered it. Alas, I've never looked at it, although I'm interested:  here's what they say about it: "If you were sitting today on a hillside listening to Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, how ought you respond? Become What You Are is the insider's guide to Jesus' agenda?the goal of spiritual formation. This goal is a transformed heart, a change at the inner center of our being, that leads to a life that pleases God. Or, as a shorthand, it means becoming like Christ. This unique approach to the most famous sermon juxtaposes analysis with practice sections throughout. In the analysis sections, the essential meaning of the text?what Jesus and Matthew were driving at?is explained for each section of the sermon. A practice section follows, calling you to engage Jesus' meaning for yourself. By understanding what the Sermon meant in  its context and how you can take it seriously in this modern world, as a follower of Jesus, you will be able to become what you are.   

The Sermon on the Mount: Inspiring the Moral Imagination Dale Allison (Crossroad Publishing Company) $24.95  Allison is an amazing man, one of the top handful of world renowned Matthew scholars, a Presbyterian who favors Orthodoxy, formerly of the NT department at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and now at Princeton, and a bit of an eccentric mystic -- he has a book about ponderings about death and he's interested in the paranormal (but I digress.) This is mature, thoughtful, mind-blowing stuff. The promo on the book says: ...Dale Allison insists that the full meaning of these chapters in Matthew's Gospel can be seen only in relation to the broader literary context of the Gospel as a whole, with its Jewish Christian orientation. Indeed, the Sermon and the moral imperatives it contains must be understood: 1) in relation to the example provided by Jesus' words and deeds elsewhere in the Gospel; 2) with reference to the community of believers that constitutes the intended audience of Matthew's Gospel; and 3) in terms of what the Gospel says elsewhere about the end of the age. The Sermon does not present a simple set of rules, perhaps only intended for a small and select group within the Christian community, but seeks to instill a moral vision and to inspire the moral imagination of all who would follow Jesus

Preaching the Sermon on the Mount: The World It Imagines edited by Dave Bland, David Fleer, Warren Carter (Chalice Press) $15.99  I suppose this collection of essays and sermons will be very helpful for some mainline preachers although it is rooted in a fairly progressive theology.  Chalice is Disciples of Christ with an affinity for UCC, so you may know some of the contributors. I know a few -- Lucy Lind Hogan has done stuff on "roundtable" preaching as a feminist, Hauerwas, of course, speaks bluntly from Duke, Lee Camp has a book I like on radical discipleship, Richard Hughes is a wonderfully thoughtful guy who used to be at Messiah College near us here, although I think he is now at Lipscomb.

Here's what they say in the promo, saying Preaching the Sermon... offers:

speech of resistance to the forces and institutions that dominate the world. This two-part volume brings together the thoughts of biblical scholars and storytellers, theologians and historians, and evangelical and mainline scholars. Eighteen writers tackle Jesus' landmark sermon, as timely in today's discussions of empire, occupation, poverty, and wars as ever. They demonstrate that the Sermon on the Mount puts before us not an impossible ideal, but a vision of what God's people can be when they choose by God's grace to live in God's Kingdom. Contributors include: editors David Fleer and Dave Bland, Ronald J. Allen, Chris Altrock, Lee C. Camp, Charles Campbell, Warren Carter, Jeff Christian, Dennis Dewey, Stanley Hauerwas, Richard Hughes, Kenneth R. Greene, Lucy Lind Hogan, Charme Robarts, Rubel Shelly, John Siburt, Dean Smith, and Jerry Taylor.

The Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom R. Kent Hughes (Crossway) $32.99  This series "Preaching the Word" offers exegetical advice on expository sermons and, as such, is one of the best commentary series I know doing this kind of thing. It is conservative, Reformed, mostly, and impeccable, even if it is moderate in application -- that is, not radical like Crosby or literal like Kraybill.  It's thoughtful, sound, professional, although I'd wish for just a few more rough edges or wildness to it.  I like this whole series, mostly.  Funny, just today a customer asked about his book on Numbers, of all things, and I spent some time reading it. Really interesting! This is a good, evangelical series by top-notch communicator and working pastor.

Speaking Jesus: Homiletic Theology and the Sermon on the Mount  David Buttrick (WJK) $30.00  Since I'm on a roll, I thought I'd list this which we have under preaching. I really can't say I understand what it is about but Buttrick is legendary in some circles.  On the back it says: "In Speaking Jesus, Buttrick delineates the theological issues inherent in the Sermon on the Mount and presents a homiletical strategy for preaching its meaning and relevance. In Part One, Buttrick gives a general overview of the text and raises central theological issues imperative to its preaching, particularly the authenticity of Jesus' words and the sermon's relevance for today. In Part Two, he offers his commentary on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, provides suggestions for preaching, and includes some of his own sermons as examples."   


The Beatitudes George Hunsinger (Paulist Press) $19.95  This recent, slim hardback is quite an important little book written by a major theological voice of our day. Hunsinger, you may know, is one of the clearest interpreters of Karl Barth, graduate of Yale Divinity School, a former social activist, and, for many years, a esteemed professor at Princeton Theological Seminary. That he is deeply ecumenical is inspiring, and this book -- published by a Roman Catholic publisher -- is being widely lauded. 

Here are two nice blurbs from the back cover:

This is a very profound and moving book.  George Hunsinger not only deepens our appreciation of Jesus, but also brings out powerfully how the Beatitudes possess significance for today.  His treatment of world poverty, the environmental crisis, nonviolence, religious persecution, and much more, could not be more timely for the church and the world.  I cannot recommend this work too highly.  -- Archbishop Desmond Tutu


Generations of Christians have had their understanding of their faith and the nature of the Christian life deepened by reflection and meditation on the Beatitudes guided by the great theologians of the church.  George Hunsinger has given us such guidance for our time.  This book will surely find its way into the hands of pastors and congregants for generations to come.  This book is a gem.  -- Willie James Jenning, Yale University

The Spirituality of the Beatitudes: Matthew's Vision for the Church in an Unjust World Michael Crosby (Orbis) $20.00  This is nearly akin to liberation theology, rooted in radical Catholic social teaching, and I think it is really, really worth reading. I read the first edition, this one is "expanded and updated."  It's also about the best textual study I know of, although I haven't read Hunsinger (yet.)  I'd recommend it.

Momentum: Pursuing God's Blessings Through the Beatitudes Colin S. Smith (Moody Press) $14.99  This is a great example of how a very conventional preacher can offer messages that are straight-on Biblical teaching, informed by older interpreters (from the likes of the Puritans, Bonar, M'Cheyne, Spurgeon,  Martin Lloyd-Jones, and moderns like A.W. Tozer) and make them sound as relevant and compelling as if they were written yesterday. Even the marketing -- the cover and title -- make this seem seeker-sensitive and upbeat; the author is a gifted communicator and solid Bible guy. He is senior pastor of the fruitful multi-campus, Orchard Evangelical Free Church.

Gregory of Nyssa: Sermons on the Beatitudes Michael Glerup (IVP) $15.00  Well, how about this? These are modern paraphrases and adaptations of real sermons preached in the 300s.  Part of IVPs "Classics in Spiritual Formation" series. Wow.

The Beatitudes for Today James Howell (WJK) $14.00  This is part of a very nice, upbeat and modern series of books published by Presbyterian USA publisher, Westminster John Knox. Reliable, accessible, moderate in tone it's about 135 pages. Howell is a United Methodist pastor and did a book on Micah 6:8 as well.  There are discussion questions, too. 

The Beatitudes Darrell Johnson (Regent College Publishing) $15.99 Johnson teaches at Regent in British Columbia, where James Houston, Eugene Peterson, and Marva Dawn were. I have not read this but I know his excellent book on Revelation and a wonderful little volume on the Trinity. No-nonsense, solid stuff, I'm sure.  We stock almost everything Regent College Publishing does.

Beatitudes from the Back Side: A Different Take on What it Means to be Blessed J. Ellsworth Kalas (Abingdon) $14.99  Kalas is a fine writer, with the "from the Back Side" bit on a number of classic Bible stories. (Like Christmas from the Back Side, The Old Testament from the Back Side, etc.) He mostly means by "back side" just a slightly askew view, heading into the story slant, but it really is fairly ordinary stuff, not radical or odd. Actually, it's just creative enough to be interesting, but commonplace enough to be useful and edifying.  So, this is just a fairly ordinary book, with some discussion and reflection questions, too.

Sermons on the Beatitudes John Calvin (Banner of Truth) $20.00  Okay, now I'm just showing off. This book compiles messages of Calvin from what was apparently a sermon series he started in 1559 and was not even completed in 1564 when he retired.  

The Ladder of the Beatitudes Jim Forest (Orbis) $17.00 I actually am intrigued by Jim Forest, who I met years ago. He was a friend of Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day, part of the international peace group the "Fellowship of Reconciliation." In the 80s or 90s he lived in Russia as part of a peacemaking exchange and found his rather liberal Catholicism give way as he became seriously Orthodox. Now he writes mostly spiritual stuff (like a wonderful book on reconciliation rites) and this, on the Beatitudes as "rungs of a ladder" as some mystic readings have suggested. 

Seven: The Deadly Sins and the Beatitudes   Jeff Cook (Zondervan) $15.99  I really, really enjoyed this lively, but wise, book which contrasts the seven deadly sins with the Beatitudes. This was apparently an approach in the middle ages, and he shares it here in an upbeat, contemporary style.  



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February 9, 2017

Coloring Lent: An Adult Coloring Book for the Journey to Resurrection by Christopher D. Rodkey and Jesse & Natalie Turri ON SALE

coloring lent.jpg


Use our links below to visit the

secure order form page at the Hearts & Minds website.

More than a year ago, in November of 2015, a local UCC pastor and friend, Dr. Chris Rodkey, asked us for some Christmas-themed coloring books to offer during an adult Sunday school time during Advent. Hey, even out of the way places like Dallastown aren't immune to national trends and the adult coloring book thing was, well, a thing. 

Pastor Chris Rodkey, though, isn't a superficially trendy guy.

rodkey in blue.jpgHe's got a PhD in philosophy, drops the names of all kinds of ancient and postmodern scholars in conversation, has released two sermon collections bringing radical theologians and anti-empire  themes into conversation with the Biblical text.  He does like his pop culture so it didn't surprise me to see a lovely quote about music by George Michael on his church sign-board when the British singer died. I'm sure he's not the only preacher to have references to the Walking Dead in his sermons, but I suspect he's the only one who did so with quotes from the likes of Rene Girard and the Pet Shop Boys. I know.

So when this progressive voice for justice in our community - he made national news when a school board director from a near-by school district left threatening messages on the church voicemail because Chris had publicly wished our Muslim neighbors a happy Ramadan - wanted coloring books I was a little surprised. 

The Synaptic Gospel.jpgBut here's the thing: Rodkey is not only an attentive pastor, always on the look-out for ways to help his parishioners and church guests and seekers,  he also  wrote a book a few years back, cleverly entitled  The Synaptic Gospel: Teaching the Brain to Worship (University Press of America; $26.99) which is a study of worship through the lens of neuroscience, a fascinating book offering some basic insights about brain studies and faith formation.

I am sure it is not lost on him that there's been a lot of research on this coloring book phenomenon.  Apparently, there is something about the practice, the steady, careful, attentive work, the pace, the rhythm, the choices of color and hue that does something to the brain. Perhaps akin to yoga or deep breathing or tactile spiritual practices like using prayer beads or prayer walking, there's this integral connection between body and soul.  Not just a silly commercial flash in the pan, maybe there is something to this simple and creative practice; coloring books as prayer books.   Picking up a Crayola or wooden pencil as spiritual gesture.

I've rolled my eyes plenty about how Every Single Publisher is Getting In On This.

And it concerns me that many of the best-selling religious books in the country right now are coloring books with vaguely inspirational titles. But, again, there seems to be some real benefit to using these and there actually are some that are pretty cool  - I like an Aslan one we have, and there's one done by a Roman Catholic liturgical artist where the Bible characters are reminiscent of medieval icons. Plenty are about quietude or words from the the Psalms, "Be Still and Know"-type verses  to gently reflect upon as you color.

praying in color portable edition.jpgpraying in color.jpgSome of this trend, by the way, was anticipated years earlier when our friends at Paraclete Press published an important book, loved by many, called Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God by Sybil Macbeth. There is a slightly larger size ($17.99) and a smaller, "portable" version ($15.99) and they remain popular, even though they are about ways to organize one's prayer life. They even did one for those less likely to take up this DIY process called Praying in Black and White: A Hands-On Practice for Men ($15.00.)

writing in the margins.jpgI suppose it isn't quite the same thing, but maybe you recall my review a couple of years ago of the very useful book by Presbyterian pastor Lisa Nicole Hickman called Writing in the Margins: Connecting with God on the Pages of Your Bible (Abingdon; $16.99.) In that book, Hickman advises an interactive engagement with the Bible as we, literally, scribble on the pages of the Holy Book.  

True education bearing fruit of inner transformation takes more than what we used to call "book learning." James K.A. Smith has been saying that in his heady pair of Baker Academic books Desiring the Kingdom and Imagining the Kingdom and in the accessible , must-read Hearts & Minds Best Book of 2016, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (Brazos Press; $19.99.) Participating in rituals and experiences and whole-body engagement is part of how we embodied humans learn, truly.  As blue-collar work-world cultural critic Matthew Crawford says in The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction the stuff we do does stuff to us.

Which brings me back to Chris Rodkey, the brain studies/social justice worker/progressive pastor who wanted those simple coloring books for Advent.  In a season of Christmas consumerism and holiday hectic-ness and all manner of anxieties and stress that does stuff to us, his church folk loved the opportunity to play a bit, to get in touch with something fun, seemingly child-like, and it brought up adult-size conversations about quiet and peace and joy and rest and gospel.  This quasi-liturgical practice opened up space for God and, given that they've heard Chris's radical sermons (the kinds found in his two books of sermons, Too Good to Be True: Radical Christian Preaching,Year A and The World Is Crucifixion) a realization might have cropped up among them.  This stuff is subversive, its own little Advent conspiracy of resistance.

And so, Chris got to work.

He found an accomplished illustrator, called some folks at Chalice Press, and as quick as one can say Magenta or Periwinkle  they had a plan.  He would create two coloring books with thoughtfully meditative reflections on the Biblical texts for the lectionary, one for this coming Lent, another for next Advent. Chalice Press has been very excited, and we are too.

coloring lent.jpgColoring Lent: An Adult Coloring Book for the Journey to Resurrection by Christopher D. Rodkey & Jesse & Natalie Turri (Chalice Press; $12.99) just arrived and I'm tickled pink.

It does what most of the adult coloring books do, offering very nice line drawings for you to get your color on, but these are a bit more detailed than some (fine-tipped markers or wooden pencils might be advised.)  

In the opening essay, the fascinating, beautiful piece called "The Resurrection of the Body: A Theological Introduction," Rodkey writes:

As you color these pages, then, consider how your fingertips, your palms, your body have now become the habitat of God, and following the stories of Hebrew and New Testaments, consider how we might also walk the same journey as Jesus.

He gets the embodied nature of Christian formation. And this guidebook can be a way into it.

At least three things sets Coloring Lent apart from the zillions of others of adult coloring books, even the many, many religious ones.


First, this is the only adult coloring book that we know of that is geared to the Biblical texts of the Revised Common Lectionary.  What a brilliant idea!  Of course if you do not use the assigned lectionary texts these are still mostly well-known Biblical passages, the second half almost exclusively drawn from the last weeks of Jesus' life.  If you are a typical mainline Protestant, Roman Catholic or Orthodox believer, these Year A texts will be used in your own worship this season.


Secondly, this is the only adult coloring book that has Biblical commentary on these given texts, the sort one would find in resources like, say, Feasting on the Word or other mainline denominational, ecumenical, critical commentaries.  There are very nice, pithy, even, reflections on the page, in a classy type font, giving this a certain liturgical feel. The reflections are often quite orthodox, standard (which is not to say uninteresting; Rodkey has a way with words and shines in as some of these Lenten devotionals.)

chris rodkey red stole.jpgBut occasionally Dr. R throws in a rumination that is well worth pondering critically.  What is implied in his Ash Wednesday piece about kenosis as "exhaustion"?  (See the footnote on that one, for sure!)  What does he mean when he says that Jesus "died as much from doubt as asphyxiation"  in the entry for Lent Day 41 entitled "Into Your Hands"?  How comfortable will you be with his "Death of God" language throughout Holy Week?  I suspect if one enters into this quiet practice of prayerfully approaching these meditations there will also be some distress:  Cain's violence is depicted when the Lectionary reading is from Genesis 4 and Ephesians 2 - his take on being "children of wrath." It may at first seem cool, but I my heart was heavy as I pondered his page of Jesus overturning tables and cleansing the Temple. How does one enter into the story of Peter cutting off the ear of a soldier in the garden?  And wait until you see the stunning skeletons coming out of the grave in the page called "The Resurrection of Bodies" with art created by Natalie and Jesse Turri from Matthew 27 for Holy and Great Wednesday.

In fact, I think there is so much substance in these short reflections -- and endnotes!  There are endnotes and an index, in a coloring book! -- that I am going to use this as a daily devotional myself, even if I don't use it as a coloring book.  Most of the black and white drawings are so interesting that they stand alone as enhancing illustration. (I'm still pondering the Celtic cross image, designed from the curved body of a snake, to illustrate the Nuhustan of Numbers 21 - brilliant!) Sure, these drawings are awaiting you to pick up your colored pencils or pens to experience the process of engaging them, and the texts they illuminate, but even if you're not the coloring type, reading this in itself is a provocative bit of midrash.


Further, not only is there interesting, generative reflections for each page of art and Biblical text, the art in Coloring Lent itself has moments of brilliance. As Rodkey explains in the dense and beautiful introduction (the only coloring book I know of that has an almost scholarly introduction, citing Malcolm X and Thomas Altizer and Catherine Keller) there are, especially in certain streams of Christian tradition (the Orthodox?) intentional reflection on the image and metaphor of clouds.  There is the famous glory cloud in the Hebrew Scriptures, and there are numerous references to the cloudy glory of God - one of the lectionary readings is from the famous Ichabod story, another in the "cloud of darkness" what covers the earth as Jesus cries out in dereliction "Eli, eli, lema sabachthani?"  How will you experience this text, ponder this picture, engage it with pencil or pen?

For what it is worth, I might note this, too: there's artful detail, here, and a few entries are quite a bit more interesting than others; this isn't silly.  However, they were attentive to the use of these, knowing that this is to be a spiritual practice that is helpful.  These aren't over done or tedious like some 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle.


Rev. Rodkey's use of theopoetics and The Cloud as a stand-in for the name of God is constant and the cloud images in the pictures are everywhere throughout Coloring Lent.  I can't help but wonder if it is both his progressive sense of being denominationally ecumenical and his former background as a Pentecostal that has given him eyes to see this stuff.  The artists certainly are aware of much, too, working well with Rodkey's vision (or was he riffing off theirs?)  Other ecumenical images certainly make their way into the artwork - the one from Day 36 links the unpleasant and despised image of Jesus in the Lectionary reading from Isaiah 53 to the story of Veronica and her veil.

There is a beautifully written and illustrated epigraph page - a prayer inspired by St. Ephrem the Syrian - for "Clean Monday" (a day the Orthodox use to prepare for Lent by, in some traditions, flying kites, a custom somehow related, Chris suggests, to our central Pennsylvania Dutch Fastnacht Day habit of eating donuts almost like the Catholics feast in New Orleans on Shrove Tuesday.)  Who does stuff like this in the intro to a coloring book?

Besides Ephrem the Syrian showing up, we get literary and theological nods to the broader body of Christ - calling Psalm 91 by its Latin, Qui Habitat, for instance, or the book's Benediction from a "Chrism Mass" (the Maundy Thursday observation performed by Roman Catholic Bishops to bless the anointing oils which will be used the coming year. There is an extensive index to help you use the book in various ways and settings, for instance, a guide to using certain pages to accompany you on John Paul II's Stations of the Cross.   And there are plenty of ecumenical visual cues - perhaps you will see hints of Botticelli, and certainly one which seems iconic of Jesus the Pantocrator.

And gladly, some quirky radical theology stuff and footnotes to Zizek  notwithstanding, there are remarkably generative Biblical insights here, good solid stuff.  The ongoing visual of snakes - crushed by Christ, finally! - is simply solid historical-redemptive stuff connecting scenes from the ancient Hebrews to the New Testament, offering resonance in ways that guys like Richard Hays or N.T. Wright would call "echoes" of Scripture, finding the Old in the New and the New in the Old.  Perhaps the artists had radical Orthodox icons in mind and not Edmund Clowney, but the inter-textual allusions are fabulous.

The prayer for the Easter Vigil is from Proverbs 8, Song of Songs 4 and Baruch 3.  His paraphrased prayer from Hebrews 9 and 10 -- "A Prayer to Enter a New Temple" --  includes simple swirling art but the words are shattering: "May we in like manner encourage each other in our shared task of preparing our hearts to be liberated sepulchers of the Divine, which pours out perpetually as love for one another and especially the poor and hopeless."   Spend some time being intentional in focusing on that line or two, get out your Bible and look up the texts for yourself, and, crayons or no, allow this kind of goading to guide you to Jesus.

As I hope you can tell, I'm excited about the potential of this way to experience the stories of Lent in a vibrant, fresh way.  As it says on the back cover, you are invited to:

...engage both your heart and mind as you color and pray your way through dozens of evocative illustration and meditations from God's resurrection story. As you color and contemplate each image, you'll be drawn deeper into the story and your place in it.

coloring lent.jpg



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February 15, 2017

On to Jubilee! A thank you for being part of our work, and a request for prayer.

I hate to alarm anyone, but parking our big rented U-Haul right by our store's back door, and lugging literally hundreds of boxes out the door does give the impression we're closing down and moving out.  

Local customers that know us well just shake their heads at all the mess, stepping over packing supplies and electric cords and signs and paperwork and moveing around stacks of books almost as high as their shoulders, and say "It's that time of year again, isn't it, for that big Jubilee conference out in Pittsburgh?"  

A pop-up bookstore that we curate and build there takes two big days to set up and by Friday night we'll be ready to show books to nearly 3000 college students, brought to the David Lawrence Convention Center by the various campus staff from the CCO (Coalition for Christian Outreach.) Forty-one years ago Beth and I were on a committee planning this unique event designed to help college students relate faith to all areas of life, including their academic majors, developing the mind of Christ and a Biblically-informed vision for their calling into careers.

Which is why we take over 150 categories of books, from Christian views (or books by otherjubilee  booktable.JPG ethical or insightful writers) of engineering to film studies, from health care to mathematics, from urban planning to politics.  Of course we take lots of basic sorts of Christian resources for living into discipleship and spiritual formation. I know many of you have read our regular columns the week after Jubilee each year and have expressed appreciation for the good work of the CCO and our role in promoting reading and books to these earnest young adults.

The Friday of Jubilee starts earlier in the day with an event for adults, and although it is more-or-less indigenous to the 'burgh, hosted by the fantastic Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation, people fly in from all over the country to attend Jubilee Professional.  I'm nervous about my small role there, highlighting titles that relate well to their ministry among artists, entrepreneurs, and others in the work-world because they do such a very good job and there's so many interesting people there.  

And then I get to stand up three different times to speak in front of the 3000 folks on the main-stage at Jubilee, and then I'm doing a smaller workshop Sunday morning about the theme of the year of Jubilee from Leviticus 25, as promised in Isaiah 61, which served as the manifesto for Jesus's own first sermon, his inaugural address found in Luke 4.

A Mennonite scholar named John Howard Yoder first introduced me to this in the mid-70s through his legendary book The Politics of Jesus.  Later, some friends affiliated with the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto helped us clarify all that implies and invited us to call the conference Jubilee.  It is, after all, about the restoration of all things promised by the grand story of the Scriptures, and what it looks like to live out that kind of hopeful witness in every zone of life. God's promises of shalom and healing and peace and justice and linked to Christ's own role as the Jubilee bringer.

jubilee every square inch.jpgThis Jubilee conference -- this year using the motto "every square inch" drawn from Abraham Kuyper, whose early 1900s Dutch legacy of an all-of-life-redeemed worldview is always hovering around the edges of this event -- is about Christ redeeming all things.  The CCO's main motto, by the way, is "transforming college students to transform the world."  That would be every square inch of the world, since Christ loves and died for and is redeeming it all.  

Which is why work and art and science and sports and TV and sex and business and computers and families and education and churches all matter equally. It's all good, it's all mess up, it's all been bought by by the blood of the Lamb, risen now, sending us in the power of His Spirit into all the world.  

serious dreams copies fanned.jpgIt is inspiring to know that conversations about this kind of stuff --  about work and culture and taking faith missionally into the neighborhoods and "every square inch" of creation --  going on all over the country and we feel truly blessed by God to have been involved in some of this kind of work, on and off, for 40 years.

It was one of the motivating reasons I put together my book, Serious Dreams: Bold Ideas for the Rest of your Life, that hopefully captures some of what we've learned at Jubilee over the years, about integrating faith and work, serving God in little ways and in big dreams, helping young adults find God's story for their lives. We always come back from Jubilee so impressed with the CCO staff (to whom the book is dedicated, by the way) and the work they do with their college age students.

Since you, our customers, are part of this story, too -- you wouldn't subscribe to BookNotes and send orders our way if you didn't feel some connection to our work -- we just wanted to tell you where we are this week and ask you to pray for us. We really need God's energy and insight and we want the truths of the gospel that we affirm to touch our hearts so we trust that "things shall be well." 


We should be reminding you about our in-store event here in Dallastown with Jubilee speaker Michael Wear on March 10th (I hope you saw our review of his book Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About the Future of Faith in America) or our in-store coloring event on March 21st with Chris Rodkey, author of the Coloring Through Lent devotional I reviewed last week.

Our staff are here ready to continue to mail order's out, so let us know what we can do to serve you.


We wanted to share this video of Jon Tyson (pastor of Trinity Grace in New York City and co-author of Rumors of God: Experience the Kind of Faith You've Only Heard About) of his Saturday night Jubilee talk two years ago.Once he gets warmed up he explains "the Jubilee vision" as clearly as nearly anyone in the conference's history. It's well worth watching. He will be speaking Friday night this year, and we look forward to hearing him again.

And, just because some have asked, here's my own talk from last year's Jubilee where I had the great privilege of doing one of the Sunday morning presentations.  It's on big hope, and maybe it will help you in these troubled times in our nation.  It was the fourth in a series of Jubilee talks, each done by different speakers, on the big Biblical story starting with creation, lamenting the fall into sin and alienation, the truth of Christ's redemption, and the big hope of restoration.  Those four "chapters" of the Biblical worldview have been the framework for Jubilee in recent years -- students really appreciate seeing their lives making sense as they understand this narrative of how the Bible makes sense of things.  Anyway, I'm wrapping up the conference and get a bit enthusiastic.  Sorry to shout.

Well, it's a big event, a good part of our story, and we wanted you to be a part of it too.  Thanks.

Here is something I wrote to a friend the other day, asking for prayer for health and stamina, wisdom and graciousness:

Please pray for us, if you can.  As I wrote to somebody the other day, we're working 18 + hour days getting reading for the biggest thing we do, the Jubilee conference out in Pittsburgh (a college student event that we helped develop 41 years ago about the Lordship of Christ over all of life and integrating faith/learning in various vocations and studies) and our big display of nearly 150 categories. It's just crazy-making, keeping it all straight, finding the right stuff, juggling the various topics from Christian views of engineering to film to education to counseling to politics to math and on and on, lugging boxes here and there from our overstock room in the basement.  We rent a big truck and load it Tuesday and Wednesday and drive to Pittsburgh late Wednesday so we can start setting up early Thursday. It takes two whole days, with some volunteer help. We're pretty stressed by it all... 

We really do covet your prayers -- I've got a lingering cough that has me dragging, and we all are sore from all the lifting and lugging. Yesterday the computer/printer wasn't working right when Beth is making signs for all  the speakers who have books so the tech struggles are particularly frustrating and time consuming. She spends days on it... we're just exhausted, and the fun hasn't even begun.

But once we get there, the ministry with books and counseling students is so rich and rewarding we serve non-stop through the power of the Spirit (and adrenaline and caffeine that friends bring us like manna.) There is nothing like it that we do all year.  We hope we make a difference for God's good work, to Christ's glory. We hope people know that we really believe in reading as an act of Christian growth, as an act of discipleship and as a way to learn about our responsibilities in the world God loves.  I sometimes shout out, "Read for the Kingdom!" 

And while your praying, pray for our family and staff. My mom turns 90 today, and our staff are valiant holding down the fort in Dallastown while we're away.

Check it out at www.jubileeconference.com


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February 23, 2017

BUY TWO BOOKS, GET ANOTHER BOOK FREE -- an after Jubilee inventory clearance sale. expires 2-28-17

jubilee 2017 big shot.jpgThanks to all who prayed for us and sent encouraging notes about that last BookNotes column as we prepped for the intense work we do at Jubilee, the collegiate conference in Pittsburgh sponsored by the CCO.

Our partnership with Jubilee goes way back (and I even got to do a workshop on the history of the conference -- sharing with younger students what inspired CCO more than 40 years ago to start such an event focusing on the Christian mind, nurturing a Christian imagination which is culturally relevant, and which invites folks to be agents of  God's social renewal -- and how the Biblical teaching of the Year of Jubilee informed the first sermon of Jesus in Luke 4.  That was a fun lecture (sermon? diatribe?) but the real work Beth and I and our store staff did started days before as we lugged our loaded boxes into a large rental truck and then, with a great team of volunteers, set up the largest book display we've ever done.  It took an extra day to get it all loaded back up at the end and we're now, finally, unpacking the hundreds of boxes and the mounds of paperwork, back here in Dallastown.  

jubilee logo every square inch.jpgI won't remind you, gentle readers, of why we think all of this is so very important and why we believe, seriously, that if you order good books from us, you, too, are part of this grand, redemptive, Jubilee vision. We are pretty sure you have a sincere desire to be part of this kind of thing, and you are inspired by all of this.

I've done that post-Jubilee conference follow-up before, explaining why those of us in local churches should take notice here and here, if you need that shot of big picture energy.

And if you haven't yet watched the stunning 2 minute video clip inviting folks to last week's event, I really, really hope you do. It is just so beautifully done, all by our good friends at the CCO.  What a great message for young adults and others; you could use that first 70 seconds to generate good discussions in your group or family!

But now, let's get to what is a necessity for us and a savings for you:

the great, (occasional) Hearts & Minds post-event clearance sale.


Offer expires Tuesday, February 28th, 2017.

Naturally, the least expensive one is the free one.  

Sale_Tags.jpgThis should be fun not only because of the good savings for you, but it gives another glimpse into the sorts of books we feature at Jubilee.  Of course, we can't show many of the thousands of books we had there - a number were single copies, specific, even hard to find books on particular aspects of science or medicine, law or music, farming or technology.  It even amazed us when we spread out all the goodies, such riches of insight, calling readers to think hard about the world we live in and consider the implications for serious Christian living, "in but not of" the often troublesome world order.

But these sale items will give you a hint. Maybe your own heart is pulling you towards this sort of religious reading.  Yes, yes, we had tons of basic Christian living stuff, books on spirituality and prayer, Bible reading and evangelism, church life and theology, sexual ethics, wholesome family life, and other things you might find in more conventional religious bookstores.  

But since the gospel is for all of life and God's Kingship in Christ extends to -- as the Kuyper phrase has it, that was the 2017 Jubilee motto -- "every square inch" then we need to be reading in ways that help us integrate faith and scholarship, faith and work, faith and society. These are the tools of the trade, my friends. Take advantage of this big sale now while you can. Offer expires at midnight, the last day of February, 2-28-17.  Soli Deo gloria.

Every-Square-Inch ashford.jpgEvery Square Inch: An Introduction to Cultural Engagement for Christians Bruce Riley Ashford (Lexham Press) $14.99  It is no secret that the "every square inch" tagline for Jubilee 2017 was drawn from a famous speech by Dutch public theologian and prime minister Abraham Kuyper. This little treasure of a book works out something like a modern Kuyperian vision for how faith impacts our everyday lives, how we should be involved with culture, and how to think through questions facing you and your church and community in these contentious times.

I am sure most readers of BookNotes have a concern to apply faith to all sectors of our lives and to winsomely promote social policies that are healing and hopeful, guided by Biblical principles. This book offers varying models for how faith relates to culture, has a short chapter with a few case studies, and then offers some provisional principles for faithful thinking about the arts, politics and the public square, economics and wealth, scholarship and education, and what they mean by mission. Agree or not with all of it, this is an amazing resource to get good thinking going, to enhance and clarify conversations, and maybe enable many to be more faithful seeing God's gospel bring goodness and grace to every square inch of this hurting world that God so loves.

the-call-by-os-guinness.jpgThe Call: Finding and Fulfilling The Central Purpose of Your Life Os Guinness (Thomas Nelson) $17.99  Everywhere I go I meet remarkable people doing extraordinary work, leading conversations about faith and the marketplace, vocation and work, making a difference in big and small ways. Often, those who are the most articulate and passionate and admirable about their vocations almost always tell me, when we get around to talking about those "aha" moments that were most transforming and impactful for them, about their love for this book. It is essential, and we feature it every year at Jubilee, despite it being eloquent and mature in it's literary style.  You know I've talked about it before, and even wrote about it as my choice for a "must read" book in my chapter in the collection of book reviews called Besides the Bible: 100 Books... We are glad to offer it in this sale list now. Don't miss it.

Garden City- Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human.jpgGarden City: Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human.  John Mark Comer (Zondervan) $19.99 In recent decades there has been an understandable emphasis in some quarters saying that it isn't what you do that matters, but who you are.  The mid-twentieth century commitment to materialism and corporate culture over-emphasized success, status, prestige, accomplishment, productivity, making us all cogs in the wheels of progress and modernity. So wise people (not least those in the counter-culture) pushed back against that - we need not find our worth in our jobs!  Agreed.

But now, feisty John Mark Comer insists, we need another emphasize, one directly from the Bible.  Oh, how we need passionate, upbeat authors like the youthful Comer inviting us to realize that what we do does matter, that God calls us not just to be in religious relationship with our Maker but to serve God, to work, to play, to rest.  Younger adults need Os Guinness, as listed above, but they will perhaps more readily resonant with this very cool book, a white hardback sans dustjacket, well-designed.  Humans are called to be culture-makers and carve out a world. Work is a good thing, cursed, yes, but still part of what makes us human.  This is the biggest question of all: why are we here and what should we do about it?  This is a perfect book for the young adults at Jubilee, and some of us old-timers dig it too.

REINTEGRATE - book cover mockup 1-23-17.JPGReintegrate Your Vocation with God's Mission Bob Robinson (Good Place Publishing) $12.00 This small group study guide is worth twice the price and is one of the brand new books I'm most excited about.  I'll tell you more about it later but for now know that Bob caught the Jubilee vision himself (after studying under some of the greatest theological writers of our time) by joining up with the CCO and learning more about the Biblical creation-fall-redemption-restoration narrative and its implications for vocation and work, callings and careers.  This has some short chapters, tons of great pull-quotes and sidebars, and some good conversation starters or thought exercises for your own reflection and integration of this content. I am sure it will enhance your own spiritual formation as you learn how to deepend with your own sense of place and calling, work and purpose and, as he puts it, "re-integrate."  Blurbs on the back are from the best leaders in the faith/work conversation these days such as Tom Nelson (Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work), Steve Garber (Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common God), Amy Sherman (Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good), Hugh Whelchel (How Then Should We Work?) and, yes, a small town business guy named Byron Borger (editor of Serious Dreams: Bold Ideas for the Rest of Your Life.)  Other rave reviews are by Lisa Slayton (of the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation), Michael Wittmer (Heaven is a Place on Earth: Why Everything You Do Matters to God) and our good friend, Gideon Strauss, now teaching at the Institute for Christian Studies.  This is a great resource and you should pick some up now while you can, on sale.

Your Vocational Credo- Practical Steps to Discover Your Unique Purpose.jpgYour Vocational Credo: Practical Steps to Discover Your Unique Purpose Deborah Koehn Loyd (IVP) $16.00  This is one of my very favorite books to promote among younger adults seeking a wise resource to help them determine their own God-give purpose and vocation. This is fun, upbeat, practical, offering insights on everything from overcoming past pains to finding health and wholeness to understanding your own vocational skills and capacities -- all of this so you can learn how to develop a unique plan for your own life's work. One really does need a "vocational credo" and this helps guide you into it, with missional gusto.  Nicely done.

Consider Your Calling- Six Questions for Discerning Your Vocation.jpgConsider Your Calling: Six Questions for Discerning Your Vocation Gordon T. Smith (IVP) $16.00  If the above listed one by Deborah Loyd is upbeat and fun, broad-thinking and a very readable guide, this one is similar but shorter, a bit more intense, and a bit more spiritually-minded. By which I mean that the author is a deep and wise writer of books about spiritual formation and an experienced spiritual director. Although most of his books are about a sacramental sort of prayerfulness and inner transformation (see his hefty and substantive Called to Be Saints: An Invitation to Christian Maturity) he has also written a wonderful book entitled Courage and Calling, that explores this stuff deeply.

This smaller one is a bit of a follow up to that, offering six mature questions to ponder as you invite God to guide you towards better discernment of your calling.  Good for anyone in times of transition or those seeking God's guidance.  It is both a moving meditation and immensely practical.

Your Mind's Mission.jpgYour Mind's Mission Greg Jao (IVP) $7.00  This little 30-page book is so potent I wish I could put it into the hands of every Christian person, and certainly of every Christian student. Jao nicely explains what a worldview is, how our lens to see and interpret life and learning is always shaped by presuppositions--including things like race and class and gender - and that we simply must be more self-aware about how we think. Further, he reminds us that the Bible calls us to a transforming vision, to see in ways that propel us to make connections between faith and life, integrating the life of the mind with mission and ministry.  As it says on the back, "Discover how you can use your mind to extend the glory of God throughout the world" - and, for starters, at least, in your own life and work. If you believe that Jesus is Lord, you will be dazzled by the implications of this thoughtfully written booklet.  Buy a few and give 'em out!  Come people -- it even mentions Hearts & Minds!

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  Okay, okay, I know that those who have read our BookNotes newsletter for a while know that I keep bringing this up from time to time. The book is dedicated to me, and I am so very deeply honored by that, that I truly want to let folks regularly know why it is so  important.

In a way, this is one of the top books to explore the Jubilee vision, helping students be students that allow Christ to guide them into "every square inch" of their studies, their labs, their papers, their research in the library, and their finding God in the classroom. Older, esteemed Christian scholars like the eminent historian George Marsden say, "This is the sort of book that should be read by Christian students going to college and studied in campus fellowship groups... I hope it will be widely used." 

Popular philosophy prof and writer James K.A. Smith was an early advocate for this book, calling it "marvelous" and "one of a kind."  Even at Jubilee, even among the great CCO staff, there is some sort of reluctance to really dive deep into "academic faithfulness" and I lament that we don't sell more of these.  Why don't you buy some for college students you know?  I think it could be life-changing.  Youth pastors? College workers? Campus ministers? Parents of college age students?  It's a must.

god loves sex.jpgGod Loves Sex: An Honest Conversation about Sexual Desire and Holiness  Dan Allender & Tremper Longman (Baker) $16.99  Allender's books on sexual abuse (Wounded Heart and Healing the Wounded Heart) sadly sell well at Jubilee. The many others Allender & Longman do together are also hits; it seems their Breaking the Idols of Your Heart: How to Navigate the Temptations of Life is always popular. This year, though, this open reflection on the good and the bad (and the ugly) of our sexuality which is treated so well in this thoughtful book was their most popular.

(The other biggest seller in that area that we push is, by the way, Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity by Lauren Winner.)

Fun fact: both Dan Allender and Tremper Longman came to CCO conferences as students in the 70s and, in fact, knew Dr. Peter Steen, the Dutch, Kuyperian philosopher who helped us cast a vision for an event about Christian perspectives across the university curriculum and who helped us select the Jubilee name. No wonder so many intuit that Allender and Longman are voices that are so vital for our Pittsburgh gatherings.

storied leadership blue cover.jpgStoried Leadership: Foundations of Leadership from a Christian Perspective Brian Jensen & Keith R. Martel (Falls City Press) $18.00  I know if you follow BookNotes you've heard me talk about this before and I will admit that both authors are friends. I admire them greatly for the being so intentional about how this grand meta-narrative of Scripture -- this Jubilee vision of the unfolding drama of creation-fall-redemption-restoration -- should shape our understanding of leadership.  It has endorsements from the likes of Dr. Amy Sherman (author of the fabulous Kingdom Calling) and Steve Garber who says it offers "a seamless, story-formed vision of the good life and therefore what good leaders look like" I think this book should be much more known among us, on lists for leaders, and given out and discussed. It has the big picture stuff in the first half, tons of practical guidance and insight in the second.  There's a lot of talk about using the Bible to form leaders or to disciple younger Christians, but this book immerses you in the Biblical narrative in a upbeat, easy-to-absorb way.  Very nice.  Get it now while we've got this "buy two get another free" sale going on.  You'll be glad you did.

silence and beauty.jpgSilence and Beauty: Hidden Faith Born of Suffering Makoto Fujimura (IVP) $26.00  Of course we take all of Mr. Fujimura's books, including rare ones like the Square Halo paperback that compares his work with George Rouault and the brand new paperback edition of his previously self-produced Culture Care:) This one, though, didn't sell too well at Jubilee, perhaps because it is a bit mature for college students or because they were not familiar with the extraordinary Japanese novel by Shusaku Endo upon which is it based, Silence. (We did get to sell a few of those, by the way.) The recently released Martin Scorsese film adaptation of that novel has been much discussed in the thoughtful religious press but was snubbed by the Academy Awards nominations.  In any event, this handsome hardback was named as one of our Best Books of 2016 and we very highly recommend it.  Mako, too, has spoken at Jubilee in years past.

Culture Care new IVP cover.jpgCulture Care: Reconnecting With Beauty for Our Common Life Makoto Fujimura (IVP) $17.00 Ha!  What did I just tell you?  We carry all of Fujimura's books. We have been privileged to be one of the select stores in the nation to sell Mako's self-produced version of this when it came out two years ago, but we are thrilled now to offer it in a very handsome, nicely done paperback by InterVarsity Press.  It is a great and inspiring book for artists, musicians, dancers, writers, anyone wanting to think about their own creativity and role in doing creative work, but, more, perhaps, it is for any of us who want to be good stewards of the creative gifts around us, who want to be cheerleaders and patrons, seeking the common good by reminding our society how important the arts are.  Is it particularly urgent these days. Oh my.  There's a new forward by Fuller Theological Seminary President Mark Labberton, too, affirming that this is a wise and helpful way our deepest theological truths can find traction in the public square.  This is very, very nicely done, a wonderful contribution to thinking about societal flourishing, the role of beauty and the arts, and the common good.

Resounding Truth- Christian Wisdom in the World of Music.jpgResounding Truth: Christian Wisdom in the World of Music Jeremy S. Begbie (Baker Academic) $30.00  This year Jubilee seemed to have a lot of conversations about hip hop - with two electrifying rappers (Propaganda and Sho Baraka) performing and the Grammy nominated Lacrae  (yes, the evangelical, Reformed, gospel-centered rapper banned from Lifeway) speaking, so we sold some books like the little Does God Listen to Rap Music and the substantial Gospel.  But for those really serious about music or those who want a deeper study, this is simply magisterial, perhaps the best major work on Christian theory of music yet available.  I'm fond of the Christian philosophy of aesthetics Calvin Seerveld, not to mention Nicholas Wolterstorff, and Mr. Begbie (formerly a classic composer in the UK) is in their league, with endorsements on the back from Rowan Williams, N.T. Wright, Nick Wolterstorff, John Witvliet, Roger Lundin. Breathtaking in scope and range, written with a mature integration of faith and scholarship.

Why Business Matters to God (And What Still Needs to Be Fixed).jpgWhy Business Matters to God (And What Still Needs to Be Fixed) Jeff Van Duzer (IVP Academic) $20.00  This really is my favorite book on a Christian view of business. It is thoughtful, inspiring, offering a helpful framework and the "creative dimensions of God's purposes and meaning for business." It is thought provoking and I think so good it should be read not only by those in business but for anyone who cares about our corporate culture, economics, or the common good.  Very nicely done.  Van Duzer, by the way, is the dean of the School of Business and Economics and Professor of business law and ethics at Seattle Pacific.  Before that, interestingly, he practiced law in Seattle with an emphasis on finance and natural resources.

Business Through the Eyes of Faith .jpgBusiness Through the Eyes of Faith Richard Chewning, John Eby, Shirley Roels (HarperOne) $15.99  We are very fond of this whole "...Through the Eyes of Faith" series, which includes college-level Christian texts on history, music, literature, psychology, biology, mathematics.  I am especially fond of this one on business, and recommended it to every business major we could find. It is fascinating to me how few business people who are active in church haven't read anything like this before, so we are glad for the opportunity to get CCO students at Jubilee who are business or accounting or management majors learning faith-based stuff early one. There are small sections on advertising, profits, marketing, management and more.  This is so good, written by three scholars who themselves are from slightly different theological traditions (an Anabaptist, a Dutch Reformed neo-Calvinist, and a conservative evangelical.)  Nice.

Business for the Common Good.jpgBusiness for the Common Good: A Christian Vision for the Marketplace Kenman Wong & Scott Rae (IVP Academic) $26.00  This one is another personal favorite and one I tried to sell to young business majors.  It is, admittedly, a bit heavier than the other two mentioned above, has a less interesting cover (it is part of a heady series called "Christian Worldview Integration" which itself seems a bit dry and the covers don't communicate energy and passion) and is a few dollars more expensive. So it's a "next level" title,  harder to sell, but certainly a must-read for professionals in the field.   How many people have bad views of the business community, assuming it is all cut-throat and driven only by greed?  (And how often, perhaps, is that the case?)  This book is important for all of us. Brian Porter of Hope College, says, in fact, "If you read only one book on faith integration and business, Business for the Common Good should be it."  It is masterful and thorough.

The World Beyond Your Head paperback.jpgThe World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction Matthew B. Crawford (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux) $15.00  I do hope you recall our rave review of this when it came out in hardback a year ago, an eagerly-anticipated sequel to his must-read Shop Class as Soul Craft. Some years CCO has a workshop or two at the conference for those in trade schools on blue-collar work and this book has been useful in thinking about formative practices, resisting abstraction, and learning from the attention needed in "shop class"-- all in pretty mature, philosophical ways. Maybe Jubilee didn't have such a workshop this year and our extra orders of this standard work are sitting here, waiting for you to order them. Damon Linker of The Week says it is "The most cogent and incisive book of social criticism I've read in a long time. Reading it is like putting on a pair of perfectly suited prescription glasses after a long period of squinting one's way through life."  Another pundit said The World Beyond Your Head could "easily lure any cultural pessimist into considerations that pass beyond the symptoms, deep into the causes of our present ills."  The core of the book, though, is simple: Crawford interviews a handful of workers who are really good at their craft and explores how they've paid attention to the details of their work and job.

You Are Not A Gadget- A Manifesto.jpgYou Are Not A Gadget: A Manifesto Jaron Lanier (Vintage) $15.00  Last year students loved this book; Lanier was a pioneer of digital media, considered the father of virtual reality technology, now an " apostate of the internet age" and yet still passionate about programming.  Alas, foolishly, in our stress of setting out dozens of such books in the technology section, another book (with a similar cover - The Glass Cage by Nicholas Carr) got stacked on top of these and, alas, we didn't sell a one.  I kept wondering where it was, thinking it was lost or that somebody bought 'em all early on, and while tearing down late Sunday afternoon found this big stack.  Drats. Our loss is your gain - this is, as the San Francisco Chronicle puts it, "Thrilling and thought-provoking, a necessary corrective in the echo chamber of technological debates."  The Washington Post says it is "mind bending, exuberant, brilliant." Lanier is an important voice and I so wanted to get these into student's hands.  Check it out.

The Language of Science and Faith- Straight Answers to Genuine Questions.jpgThe Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions Karl Giberson & Francis Collins (InterVarsity Press) $22.00  This book (apparently published in cooperation with the thoughtful BioLogos organization -- who was at Jubilee with a great display booth, by the way) is one we so often suggest as a first step in relating faith and science and reminding readers that there need not by a conflict between faith and science.  Here's what the publisher says, briefly, about this fine work: "Scientists Collins and Giberson show how to embrace both science and faith without compromising either. Their fascinating treatment explains how God cares for and interacts with His creation while science offers a reliable way to understand the world He made."

God in the Lab- How Science Enhances Faith .jpgGod in the Lab: How Science Enhances Faith Ruth Bancewicz (Monarch) $16.99  We think this is one of the best book for young thinkers, those just considering a career in the sciences.  I like the title, and that is shows how real scientists of Christian conviction do their work.  I appreciate the way it's described by the British publisher.  (Yep, we get this from a publisher in the US who distributes UK books -- we think it is that good.)  It is compiled by Dr. Ruth Bancewicz and six other practicing scientists.

They say, "Science can be unglamorous and tough, but it gives the opportunity to use creativity and imagination, to appreciate the beauty of the natural world, and to experience the joy of finding out new things - thinking God's thoughts after Him."

How I Changed My Mind About Evolution.jpgHow I Changed My Mind about Evolution: Evangelicals Reflect on Faith and Science edited by Kathryn Applegate & J.B. Stump (IVP Academic) $16.00  This is another book published in partnership with BioLogos and we were delighted that J. B. Stump was at Jubilee, doing one of the several workshops on science.  We've got a huge science section in our small town bookstore and were delighted to share some of our wares with the science majors and others at Jubilee.  This one, of course, we've written about before and it is fascinating. It includes scientiests, pastors, Biblical scholars and theologians and philsophers (our friend Jamie Smith has a nice chapter in here.) What a fabulous little resource for anyone who thinks that orthodox Christian faith is unscientific or not able to make a solid contribtuions to standard scientific conversations. Agree or not with all of these conclusions -- and there are heady new books that explore this in detail such as the brand new one from Brazos Press called Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture After Genetic Science by Scot McKnight & Dennis Venema and a new one just out from Eerdmans (published in cooperation with the Colossian Forum) called Evolution and the Fall, edited by William Cavanaugh and James K.A. Smith For starters, though, this How I Changed My Mind... is a great read.

Caring for Words, better.jpgCaring for Words in a Culture of Lies Marilyn McEntyre (Eerdmans) $19.00  One of my all-time favorite books, I announced this from the main-stage as essential in this current political context.  Not long ago I heard a Christian worship leader exhort a congregation saying ad lib that outside of Christ "it is all fake news" -- which is patently stupid.  No, it isn't all "fake news" (much about the world as it is, the Bible tells us, declares the glory of God) and we must be shaped in the ways of Christ and the virtues of decency and critical thinking and kindness and honesty so we can do the hard work of discerning real from fake, wise from foolish, good from bad.   If only that worship leader had listened to Jubilee speakers!

This book admits that there is much to be alarmed about and offers strategies to be better stewards of the gift of language, using words well, caring about writing and reading so we might learn civility and grace and truth and clarity. Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies is a tool we so badly need to help us learn the art of discernment, resisting propaganda and ideology and nurturing within us the capacity and virtue of thinking well, speaking well, listening well and desiring truthfulness.

I didn't tell students this in my short spiel about the book, but it's a great background fact: our beloved Abraham Kuyper delivered a set of lectures at Princeton in the early 1900s (still in print as Lectures on Calvinism) which influenced the very first team that put together the Jubilee conference. These are known as the Stone Lectures.  Marilyn McEntyre delivered the lectures about stewardship strategies for using words well that became this book also at Princeton, also in the annual Stone Lectures, just a few years back. It would be a stretch to say she was in the line of Kuyper, I suppose, but it is more than incidental. Anyway, this is a beautiful and essential book, now more than ever.

just mercy.jpgJust Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption Bryan Stevenson (Spiegel & Grau) $16.00  I have often said, and I still say, that Stevenson should get the Nobel Peace Prize, and very well might, for his extraordinary service for those poor and often minority folks wrongly incarcerated, for his advocacy for youth in prison, and, more recently, for his brave and diligent project documenting the vigilante terrorism known as lynching.  We tell folks to read this before, or maybe after, The New Jim Crow, and to be prepared for one of the most riveting reads of your life.  We have been one of the early supporters of this book, and certainly one of the handful within the world of Christian bookstores who have promoted it. We have a few extras after Jubilee and we're happy to offer them in this sale now.  The first time I heard of Stevenson, by the way, was from Tony Campolo, many years ago (Bryan was an undergrad at Eastern before going to at Harvard Law.) The first time I heard him speak was - you guessed it - in Pittsburgh at Jubilee before he wrote this acclaimed book and before he was famous.  Students at Jubilee really are introduced to some of the most significant speakers and leaders in North America and we're happy to sell these kinds of serious books to these eager young adults. 

America's Original Sin.jpgAmerica's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege and the New Bridge to a New America Jim Wallis (Brazos Press) $17.99  CCO is passionate about multi-ethnic ministry and knows that the gospel insists upon both justice and reconciliation.  They are theologically pretty conservative/mainstream evangelical but on this topic they see the Biblical and theological trajectory towards a multi-ethnic new creation and want to practice now that glorious reality of racial reconciliation.  It not surprising that they had rapper activists like Propaganda speaking this year.  We stocked a lot of books on racism and civil rights and ethnic diversity at Jubilee and there was almost too much for students to take in. (Ohhh, if only the workshop leaders who facilitate these conversations would have been able to browse more; some have said we have one of the best-curated sections of this kind of stuff in any bookstore they know of and some of the leaders themselves might have benefited from the books in our selection.)  In any event, this one is a recent classic,  now in paperback, one that is strong and sturdy and sure to generate discussion. Agree or not with all of Sojo or all of Wallis's past books, I think this is simply a must-read book for anyone working on this topic. As one evangelical leader said it is useful to "rivet our attention and commitment to a different future. This is a sobering and motivating act of hope."  Glad it's now out in paperback.  Pick it up today.

Aliens in the Promised Land good.jpgAliens in the Promised Land: Why Minority Leadership Is Overlooked in White Christian Churches and Institutions edited by Anthony B. Bradley (P&R) $15.99  We carry most of the books by this outspoken, articulate Christian leader (and so appreciated his Sunday morning Jubilee main-stage talk about being ordinary, transforming culture full of the hope of God's final restoration, less by dramatic gestures of brave innovation by being, well, salt.)  We sold his collection of essays called Black and Tired: Essays on Race, Politics, Culture, and International Development evangelical, Reformed critique of James Cone and other black liberation theologians in Liberation Black Theology and the powerful collection he edited called Black Scholars in White Space and had on display his brand new Something Seems Strange: Critical Essays on Christianity, Public Policy, and Contemporary Culture. We even had a book he's been telling everyone (on twitter) to read, Doctrine and Race: African American Evangelicals and Fundamentalism Between the Wars (by Mary Beth Swetnam Mathews on University of Alabama Press.) I think this Aliens in the Promised Land collection is as good as any, though, put together by Dr. Bradley, offering a fine array of evangelical voices (of differing minority groups) pondering this vital question.

Prophetic Lament- Call for Justice in Troubled Times.jpgProphetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times Soong-Chan Rah (IVP) $17.00  Soong-Chan has spoken at Jubilee before and many of us respect him immensely. This is a fascinating resource that you may recall me touting before - it is, truly, a commentary on the book of Lamentations in the Bible, but with a very contemporary application.  Rowdy and energetic as Jubilee is, Saturday morning we heard hard truths about injustice and racism and other consequences of "the fall" which form our world in dysfunctional, idolatrous, and very broken ways. The worship team led us in slow, evocative songs and prayers were prayed that lamented our personal and corporate pains.  The American church - mainline, evangelical and others, I suppose - avoids lament. This is a nearly prophetic exposition of the book of Lamentations and will help us learn the role of lament, confession, and rejection of "success-centered triumphalism and hubris."  Powerful, necessary stuff.

to live in peace.jpgTo Live in Peace: Biblical Faith and the Changing Inner City Mark R. Gornik (Eerdmans) $26.00  There is, happily, an increased interest in urban life, in cities and in a theology of geography, so to speak, especially as we desire to serve our neighbors by being involved in the systems and structures that make up our neighborhoods, commercial centers, and under-resources ghettos. There are bunches of books about urban ministry, about Christian community development, and if anybody wanted anything along those lines we had stuff there. (In a special bibliography we put together for the conference, displayed on the Jubilee conference app, by the way, I described the very serious Beyond Homelessness Christian Faith in a Culture of Displacement by Steven Bouma-Prediger and Brian Walsh.)  To Live in Peace by Mark Gornik (formerly of Baltimore), I believe, is simply the best thing written on urban life, especially in thinking about serving communities of need. This is deep, thoughtful, very readable, sophisticated and vital for us all. Very highly recommended.

Sidewalks of the Kingdom- New Urbanism and the Christian Faith.jpgSidewalks of the Kingdom: New Urbanism and the Christian Faith Eric O. Jacobsen (Brazos Press) $22.00  I've reviewed this extensively over the years, as I have Jacobsen's brilliant sequel to this, The Space Between: A Christian Engagement with the Build Environment, which is more broadly on the built environment and one of our awarded Best Books of a few years ago.)  I suppose there aren't that many urban planning majors at Jubilee but many of us are concerned about the efficiency, aesthetics, justice, and charm of our sidewalks and commercial spaces and the wisdom of our zoning laws and policies that shape our towns and cities. This is a fine introduction for ordinary folks, written by a thoughtful, small town Presbyterian pastor, about how to take up the conversations propelled by the likes of the legendary Jane Jacobs, the feisty James Howard Kunstler (I hope you know his snarky, electrifying books like Home from Nowhere), or the anti-sprawl, new urbanists such as Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and Jeff Speck.  Sidewalks of the Kingdom, by the way, has a really nice foreword by Eugune Peterson.

Educating All God's Children- What Christians Can--And Should--Do.jpgEducating All God's Children: What Christians Can--And Should--Do to Improve Public Education for Low-Income Kids Nicole Baker Fulgham (Brazos Press) $20.00  One of Nicole Fulgham's staff from her wonderful, important ministry called The Expectations Project spoke at Jubilee this year (as Nichole herself has many times.) This book is nearly a handbook for any citizen or church group who wants to become allies and advocates for all children, especially those that are in lo0w-income schools.  With the recent cabinet appointment of the controversial Betsy DeVos - who I suspect isn't as bad as some opponents suggest but who clearly is inexperienced in public school work - this book may be more important than ever. Whether you are a teacher who cares about educational policy (inspired in college by Jonathan Kozol, maybe, as I was) or a parent interested in making sure all schools in your area are treated fairly, or whether you are a citizen advocate for justice, this book is important and will be a fabulous and motivational read for you. Glad to have had The Expectation Project at Jubilee!

Same Lake Different Boat- Coming Alongside People Touched by Disability.jpgSame Lake Different Boat: Coming Alongside People Touched by Disability Stephanie O. Hubach (P & R) $14.99  Here in the store we have a good handful of books about disabilities, about how the church should be more aware of and inclusive of those with disabilities, and how we should all be more sensitive to the image of God in those with serious handicapping conditions.  We like several books by Brett Webb-Mitchell, for instance, and of course the important books by Joni Earackson Tada. With a few caveats, I recommend the Crossway book, Disability & the Gospel: How God Uses Our Brokenness to Display His Grace and show it off at Jubilee, too.

One of the books we most often suggest to special education majors or anyone interested in being more inclusive of those with disabilities is Same Lake Different Boat. It includes a great forward by Joni Eareckson Tada, endorsements from activists such as former Pennsylvania First Lady Ginny Thornburgh and church ministry practitioners like Susan Hunt.  This helps us think transformationally about disability, for the sake of the wholeness of the Body of Christ and is, happily, and importantly, framed by the same categories of the Biblical narrative explored at Jubilee -- creation/fall/redemption/restoration.  Nice.

Go- Returning Discipleship to the Front Lines of Faith .jpgGo: Returning Discipleship to the Front Lines of Faith Preston Sprinkle (NavPress) $14.99 I pitched this in front of the crowd at Jubilee but in my short time up front perhaps didn't explain it well enough. It really is a fabulous book that does two or three things well. Firstly, it reports on the fascinating survey commissioned by the Navigators that helps us understand what Christian people think about the word "discipleship." Go offers sidebars and charts and info-graphics to explain this large-scale research on what is missing in the common understandings and attitudes about following Christ, making disciples, being salt and light and leaven in the world. Why is it that the church is often seen as weak, not very influential (even among its own members) and how many Christ-followers are drifting from a formerly robust, serious life of faith? How can we understand these deep concerns and how can we find solutions to chronic shallow faith and a privatized faith that doesn't think much or engage the world well?  Preston Sprinkle's book can help.

The Year of Small Things- Radical Faith for the Rest of Us.jpgThe Year of Small Things: Radical Faith for the Rest of Us Sarah Arthur & Erin F. Wasinger (Brazos Press) $17.99  Oh my, if only I had time to tell folks about this book -- it's surely going to be one on the big lists 10 months from now when we celebrate the best books of 2017.  In this lovely and wonderfully written memoir, these authors take up practices to make their lives more consistent with the teaching of Jesus. They are inspired by the likes of Mother Teresa who admonished us to do "small things with great love" and here explore how to actually do that. They write about raising kids, searching for community, make choices about diet and food and money and debt and they set out a path towards contemplative sorts of spiritual disciplines. One of the great challenges and invitations of the book is to find someone who can be in covenantal friendship with you, as they tell in this memoir, of doing life together in such as way that you really can take steps towards greater commitment, more Christ-like consistency, a better, saner life.  We can't do this radical stuff alone...

I'll tell you more about it later, for sure - Jen Pollock Michel (author of Teach Us to Want) is right to say "This is the best kind of spiritual formation book: serious and funny, smart and vulnerable - and, most useful of all, practical. Honestly, this is one of my favorite books this year."  Some of our customers, by the way, will know Sarah Arthur from her three books offering "literary guide to prayer" for the church calendar.  Maybe not for students, as part of their story is how they raise their kids, how they bring faith into their home lives.  I think those who loved (as we did!) The Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren will find this a perfect "next step" sort of book.

Comfort Detox- Finding Freedom.jpgComfort Detox: Finding Freedom From Habits That Bind You Erin M. Straza (IVP) $16.00  I am so glad that Erin Straza just released this wonderful book; she is a smart and good writer, the editor of "Christ and Pop Culture Magazine" and host of the Persuasion podcast. I've followed her for a bit as perhaps you have, and am sure she has a lot to offer in a crazy book like this.

At Jubilee I sometimes wonder how these earnest and eager young adults can possible take up the big call to mission and service, justice and a redemptive life in the world that they hear at the conference.  This is one way, one important way:  many of us who are used to middle class comfort simply have to learn to get out of our comfort zones, as they say. Which is really to say we have to learn to not cling to convenience, to ease, to safety.   In this very fun book that pokes at our " everyday complacencies" we are invited beyond this malady, beyond these idols, beyond the commonplace. Is there any sense we are almost addicted to false comfort? Can we take up a "comfort cleanse" program (as she calls it) to help us find real freedom? I'm eager to read this, wondering how her own vulnerability and honesty will guide us to deeper faith and more risky discipleship. Interestingly, this isn't the only book out these days about this theme -- there is a hunger for guidance out of the chains of abundance and into an authentic sort of freedom.  I think this could be the best.

Faith on the Edge- Daring to Follow Jesus.jpgFaith on the Edge: Daring to Follow Jesus Paul Tokunaga et al (IVP) $16.00  I could hardly believe it but this great publisher, who lives and breathes to serve others with thoughtful resources for evangelical, Kingdom living, offered to keep this book in print in part because they know I promote it at Jubilee this year.  It was listed and described in a special book list that was on the Jubilee phone app - so let's be glad this gem of a book is still available. It is a book I love and hope you consider buying as it will meet needs for your own reading and learning, I am sure.  Especially if you are mentoring others or need books that offer short pieces about various aspects of Christian living.  Faith on the Edge is a gem.

Although it was put together for college students I am sure it is good for nearly anyone.  There are short readings and thoughtful reflection questions, with the readings arranged around three themes, almost like concentric circles. There are a bunch of short chapters on the themes of being "Rooted in Christ" and then some on "Committed in Relationships" and then the final section of short pieces called "Disturbing the World."   From essays on experiencing God, knowing what it means to be a Christ-follower to how to find healing from broken relationships to thinking about work, calling, racial justice, serving the poor, doing evangelism, finding hope, and more, Faith on the Edge is a perfect little handbook for faith building groups, for mentoring young believers, for dipping into whenever you want some guidance on various aspects of wholistic Christian living. I even helped a tin bit with a couple of the chapters!  Highly recommended.

Pursuing Health in an Anxious Age.jpgPursuing Health in an Anxious Age Bob Cutillo (Crossway) $17.00  We have many books for those in health care fields - starting with Phil Yancey & Dr. Paul Brand's Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, In His Image, and The Gift of Pain, through excellent books like Called to Care: A Christian Worldview for Nursing, Transforming Care: A Christian Vision of Nursing Practice, or the exquisite The Finest Traditions of My Calling: One Physician's Search for the Renewal of Medicine by Abraham Nussbaum; we have been particularly taken by the luminous Attending Others: A Doctor's Education in Bodies and Words by Brian Volck.)  So much good stuff...

 Pursuing Health in an Anxious Age is also extraordinary, perhaps not just for those in health care but for all of us.  As it says on the back, "Despite all the care available to us, our society is more concerned about health care than ever. Increase technology and access to health care give us the illusion of control but can never deliver us from the limitations of our bodies..." Dr. Cutillo is a clinical professor in the department of family medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and an associate faculty member at Denver Seminary (and he provides patient care to under-served populations at the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.)  He writes in this profound book, weaving together his own story of serving the most vulnerable, "what if our health is a gift to nurture, rather than a possession to protect?"  How might we think about health a bit different in this secular age? This is a foundational book for anyone interested in the deepest meaning of health and the reform of health care systems and we were glad to hear it being mentioned at Jubilee. Highly recommend.

Christianity and Social Work- Readings on the Integration of Christian Faith and Social Work Practice .jpgChristianity and Social Work: Readings on the Integration of Christian Faith and Social Work Practice (fourth edition) T. Laine Scales and Michael S. Kelly, editors (NACSW) $24.00  What is NACSW, you ask? It's the North American Association of Christians in Social Work and this is the textbook type reader they produced for use in Christian colleges with social work majors or for any social worker wanting to think more faithfully about their calling into this line of work.  Every major should have such a fine, expansive reader, connected to a faith-based professional association like this. We are one of the few stores in the country that carry this, and we are happy to offer it on sale, here, now.  

Rebuilding-the-Foundations.jpgRebuilding the Foundation: Social Relationships in Ancient Scripture and Contemporary Culture John Brueggemann & Walter Brueggemann (WJK) $20.00  In many of our off site book displays I suppose we'd display this with the famous Old Testament scholar's other books of Biblical studies. However, note: the primary author of this is the son of Walt Brueggemann, John. And John is an esteemed sociologist in his own right.  (In fact, professor John Brueggemann is the Department Chair of the Sociology Department at Skidmore and has published books such as Rich, Free, and Miserable: The Failure of Success in America and Inequality in the United States: A Reader.)

This is what Gary Dorrien calls "a jewel of a book, offering a rich conversation between a Biblical theologian father and sociologist son on caring for each other and the world."  In fact, Mark Mulder (Chair of the Department of Social Work and Sociology at Calvin College) says of it, "Rebuilding the Foundations offers a clear, lucid, and compelling discussion of current social issues with insights from the intersection of biblical interpretation and sociology. A profound synthesis of the sociological and prophetic imagination."  See what we're doing at Jubilee, offering books like this to their sociology and social work majors?  I hope this book ends up in the footnotes of the papers students write next term.  Or in some sermons or Sunday school classes -- why don't you order it now while you can, on sale?

lawyers calling.jpgThe Lawyers Calling: Christian Faith and Legal Practice Joseph G. Allegretti (Paulist Press) $12.95  This delightfully interesting book is our first choice for pre-law majors, law students, or attorneys just starting to integrate faith and their vocation in the field of law.  The author is a Roman Catholic (who earned his J.D. from Harvard, cum laude) and an M.Div from Yale (summa cum laude, by the way) who, among other things, draws on Niebuhr. He is convinced that many lawyers are facing a crisis of meaning themselves, so need spiritual renewal and thoughtful theological insight about their calling.  I like this because it is basic, relatively short, inexpensive.

Redeeming Law- Christian Calling and the Legal Profession.jpgRedeeming Law: Christian Calling and the Legal Profession Michael Schutt (IVP) $27.00 This, I always say, everywhere we go, is the book for serious Christians thinking about law and legal theory from a Christian viewpoint. Mike is a very, very good friend and even if you don't agree with every jot and tittle of this large work, you will enjoy the conversation, learn much, and be well on your way to developing an integrated Christian vision of your work and faith by reading Redeeming Law.   He understands that God calls us into vocational arenas and wrote about that before the recent batch of books on this, and he then integrates a Biblical world-and-life view with a serious take on jurisprudence and the like. Kudos to Mike not only for writing this important book but for his upbeat work with law students through the Christian Legal Society.  We are big fans.  And, he has spoken at Jubilee more than once. He's had me on his Cross and Gavel podcast, too, talking about books, of course. Yay.

Counseling and Christianity- Five Approaches.jpgCounseling and Christianity: Five Approaches edited by Stephen Greggo (IVP) $25.00 I love these kinds of four views debates, with varying authors saying how they relate, in this case, faith to their counseling practices.  After each position paper, the others offer their feedback, and so by the end you get not only four models of faith/counseling integration, but also the critiques others might make to the faithfulness and viability of the model.  I was hoping psychology majors who so earnestly want to help people and want a Godly approach would be eager to struggle through these competing options. Well, we have a few too many on hand, now, so surely there's some BookNotes readers who would find this helpful.  There is another one that is a bit more scholarly/foundational called Faith and Psychology: Five Views and we have a lot of that one left over, too.  Any takers?  Order now while these are part of this buy two get one free dealio.

good of politics.jpgThe Good of Politics: A Biblical, Historical, and Contemporary Introduction James Skillen (Baker Academic) $24.00  I did a major, long review of this when it first came out and I maintain it is one of the essentials for anyone serious about thinking about the quandary of working out a Christian view of public justice in a pluralistic culture. A lot of church history and theology, Skillen is masterful in examining how different assumptions about politics, culture, history, institutions, the fall, the nature of redemption, all conspire to shape (or, more likely, to mis-shape) our views of the task of the state. Neither big government democrat committed to "progress" (whatever that means) nor a small-government conservative, Skillen really does work out political theory in light of a Kuyperian insight about the Bible, redemption, and the role of government. BookNotes subscribers know I've developed several lists of the best books about a non-partisan; uniquely Christian view of political life and responsible citizenship and this book is always on those lists.  Had I been with any poly sci majors I'd have pressed this into their hands.  Glad to offer a few here, now, on sale.

caring for creation.jpgCaring for Creation: The Evangelical's Guide to Climate Change and a Healthy Environment Mitch Hescox & Paul Douglas (Bethany) $14.99  I hope you recall that we've had this dynamic duo in the bookstore here in Dallastown and that we big fans of this easy to read study of climate change and responsible, non-partisan policy ideas.  This is such an accessible, balanced, and Biblically-inspiring little book I wanted all the Jubilee participants to know about it.  I described it briefly during the main-stage time Saturday morning when we were lamenting what Bible scholars call "the fall" which reminds us that things are "not the way they are supposed to be." Romans 8 overtly teaches that the whole creation is groaning, that the Earth itself is weighed down, awaiting redemption-at the hands of the new Adams and Eves that, in the Second Adam, can bring healing and hope to the planet.  There are more sophisticated books of eco-theology, more urgent books about push us towards climate change activism.  This is a great start, though, and in this current political era, it is clear that the Trump administration isn't going to be funding or enforcing anti-pollution legislation, so things are only going to get worse. This is simply a fact. As pollution increases the church is going to have to be prepared. Get this book now and read it as soon as possible. 

Making Sense of God- An Invitation to the Skeptical .jpgMaking Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical Timothy Keller (Viking) $27.00  Many, many young adults love Keller's astute sermons, listen to him on line and admire his fairly conventional worship and preaching at Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan.  Keller knows that the gospel is for all of life and has hosted conversations at his PCA church on everything from civility to the arts, bringing in folks as diverse as Pulitzer Prize literary figure Marilyn Robinson and poet Christian Wyman and social justice advocate Bryan Stevenson. His gospel-centered call to "seek the peace of the city" encourages many towards civic engagement (and, to be honest, learned some of this perspective  years and years ago through figures in the early 1970s who were also seminal in influencing the CCO and Jubilee; Keller himself has spoken for CCO staff.)

Alas, nonetheless, this book was maybe too pricey for young students and maybe a bit intimidating. We had a large section on "apologetics" for those wanting to defend the faith with concise answers to tough questions but many were less sophisticated and less costly, more suitable for younger students.  Further, we had a large section of books we labeled "finding faith" for seekers and skeptics.  (Yes, CCO staff persuade even intellectually antagonistic students to come along to this overtly Christ-centered event and we had numerous conversations with sharp atheists or other non-Christian students.)  Anyway, be that all as it may be, we have a some of these big books we're willing to add on to this sale offer.  This is sophisticated, thoughtful, engaging, and what is essential a prequel to his famous Reason for God. You should consider getting it and reading it's remarkable insight and/or sharing it with a skeptic you may know.

new heavens and new earth.jpgA New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology J. Richard Middleton (Baker Academic) $26.99  Our friend Richard Middleton helped do some CCO staff training decades ago (back when he was writing with Brian Walsh, doing extraordinary - and still relevant! - books such as The Transforming Vision and Truth Is Stranger Than It Used to Be.)  Beth and I got to supply the books for a book release event launching A New Heaven and a New Earth into the world, hosted by Redeemer Presbyterian in New York a few years ago. Some of us were tickled pink when we heard Richard was doing the Sunday morning message at Jubilee that year and ever since we've carried a b it stack of this hefty volume.  Granted, it is more than most want to know about the restoration of creation and even if most Jubilee kids appreciated the "salvation is creation healed" view of the end, this is a through (not to say tedious) study.  Blurbs on the back range from Walter Brueggemann (who had nearly said about his book The Liberating Image that is was the best book on the imago dei in all of church history) to Jamie Smith (who says this book, if widely read would "transform North American Christianity") to Lutheran Hebrew Scriptures scholar Terence Fretheim, to Biblical scholar and thermaculture farmer Sylvia Keesmaat to Creation Regained worldview author Al Wolters... This is a fabulous contribution and a must-read.  The last chapter explores living Jubilee a la Luke 4, by the way, and is nearly worth the price of the book just for that.

Adventures in Evangelical Civility- A Lifelong Quest for Common Ground.jpgAdventures of Evangelical Civility: A Lifelong Quest for Common Ground Richard Mouw (Brazos Press) $24.99  Mouw's wonderful little book of social wisdom called Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World is certainly a much-needed book these days, but I wanted to remind you of this more recent one - it seemed so germane at Jubilee for young scholars and faculty and others who grapple with intellectual and theological and social issues.  This is more or less a memoir by the former Calvin College political philosophy professor whose early books so influenced those of us creating the Jubilee conference in the late 1970s who ended up the President of Fuller Theological Seminary.

Mouw did Jubilee workshops early on, decades ago, and just a few years ago did a major main-stage address.  (His short piece in my own Serious Dreams by the way, was a lovely little talk at Messiah College on why higher education matters and hopefully "rearranged" the intellectual luggage one carries around. It is, in a way, what Jubilee is about, too, or, as rapper Propaganda said this year, college is a great time of life because one begins to understand that things are a lot more complex than we previously thought.)  Anyway, this memoir - named as one of my favorite books of 2016 - shows how Mouw sought common ground with the books and authors he was reading, being engaged and interactive with the scholars and the social trends and the theological voices competing for influence. It is, in a way, a perfect guide (by way as example and storytelling) on how to do this Christian learning thing, being both principles and gracious, being open-minded but grounded in the Bible, being a committed evangelical but open to other influences and always involved in the issues of the day.  Most of the most admired Christian scholars and though leaders I know, and many who have graced the podiums and classrooms and late-night talk sessions in the lobbies at Jubilee are themselves fans of Dr. Mouw.  We should read his book, take in his stories, learn by example of how to be "in but not of" the world, open but truthful, always on a quest...

Recovering Classic Evangelicalism- Applying the Wisdom and Vision of Carl F. H. jpgRecovering Classic Evangelicalism: Applying the Wisdom and Vision of Carl F. H. Henry Gregory Alan Thornberry (Crossway) $17.99  I've heard quite a bit about this bow-tie rocking New York President of The Kings College who ends up in The New Yorker or the Wall Street Journal, making a case for culturally relevant, thoughtful, distinctively Christian ideals, worked out in the real world by energetic, thoughtful young adults.

Dr. Thornbury is young, exceptionally bright, fascinated by pop culture, and, indeed, helped edited with my good friend Ned Bustard, the Square Halo book Bigger on the Inside: Christian Faith and Doctor Who which (as books with a cult following sometimes do) surprised us by selling out at Jubilee. We were glad he was at Jubilee Professional (where his presentation was fabulously insightful and energetic!) and we heard he attracted a good crowd for his Jubilee workshop.  We're glad the Doctor Who one was appreciated.

Yet his more conventional volume - although not at all stuffy for this kind of a book - about the former evangelical leader Carl F. H. Henry is a masterpiece.  I so wish others who are involved in contemporary cultural witness in these postmodern days would know this material. Whether the framework and approach of the then-young, socially-responsible, mid-twentieth century evangelical leader (now long gone) is adequate for our times is perhaps an unanswered question, but we should know his work and witness, know the history of ideas and practices and institutions developed by Henry (Christianity Today, for instance, and, in some convoluted stretch, the CCO itself.) Dr. David Dockery says, "This marvelously written volume brilliantly captures the essence of Henry's massive writings for a new generation of students, thinkers, and leaders."  I know that many of the 19 year-olds at Jubilee are still reading Crazy Love and Not a Fan; we hope our broader and perhaps more mature readership here will appreciate this important book - which suggests Carl F. H. Henry is "a key to evangelicalism's past and a cipher for the future" - and take it up to consider carefully.  It would make a great little book club study or a book to read with a partner.  In this recent election cycle and in all the news reporting we've learned that evangelicalism has come to lose concise meaning and almost anybody who isn't an excessive theological liberal is considered, these days, an "evangelical."  We all should ponder what "classic evangelicalism" is.  This book can help.

VoV.jpgVisions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good Steven Garber (IVP) $17.00  Steve spoke at the pre-Jubilee day (Jubilee Professional, or JPro as we sometimes call it) and was, of course, hanging around the conference itself; he used to be the director and brought globally-respected evangelicals such as John Stott and Hans Rookmaaker to Pittsburgh decades ago. So many respect him throughout the country, but he has a special affection for Pittsburgh and for this decades old event. I almost always announce his important books at Jubilee, since they literally emerged, in part, from his years directing the conference and caring about grad students in Pittsburgh via IVCF and CCO; some years I tell of Fabric of Faithfulness, some years Visions of Vocation.

This year I gave it a rest - so many books, so little time.  So here ya go, now:  my nearly every-other-week plug for Mr. Garber's luminous books.  Dare I say this has been one of the top two or three leaders who have influenced CCO and the Jubilee conference?  It is really true.

Somebody from the main stage this year said that Beth and I have been influential in the conference and gave us a very kind shout-out.  We appreciate being so honored and were humbled and grateful.  But let's face it: our role is in getting the best books into the hands of leaders and students, pastors and others who help spread the words.   Beth and I wouldn't have anything much to do if we didn't have books of this caliber and authors and publishers that are so supportive of our feeble efforts.  Thanks Steve (and other good authors.)  Thanks Jubilee.  And thanks to you - BookNotes readers.  We're in this together, reading for the Kingdom, serving God for the good of the world.



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February 26, 2017

2017 Lent Books -- brand new and a few classics (on sale from Hearts & Minds)

We hope you saw our last BookNotes newsletter, with almost 50 books on a clearance sale dealio.  In my annotations I tried to not only describe these (sometimes lesser known books) but explain how they fit into our big book display at the Jubilee Conference in Pittsburgh last week.  I didn't go on and on about the all-of-life-redeemed vision of CCO and their effort to help students connect faith and the collegiate experience (including "learning for the love of God" and "academic discipleship") by offering them a visions of vocation -- integrating faith and the story of redemption as it informs their future callings and careers -- but I could have. I mostly just listed those great titles, all on sale. That buy two get one free offer for you is still good until the end of the month, so don't delay.  There's good stuff there, for sure.  And a couple of helpful links of previous essays of mine to remind you of why we think this event is so, so important.

But, alas, in the run up to that demanding event, we only got one previous Lenten posts in (where we described Chris Rodkey's Coloring Lent, here.) Today we list a few news ones, published in 2017 and a couple of older classics about which we wanted to remind you.  We hope there is something here that will help you in you and your faith community's journey towards Jerusalem, the place of Jesus's final confrontation with the worst the principalities and powers could throw at Him.  This is a rich season of the liturgical calendar, and these books, surely, can help. May this Lenten journey bring peace to your hurting soul, if necessary, or break your heart for the needs of the world, if that needs to happen for you. Not unlike Advent, it is a vital time of waiting, pondering, doing some serious soul-searching. Let's stay in touch, if we can help you with resources you may need...

Many places in the country get two or three day deliver with US mail, which is cheaper than UPS, and sometimes quicker.  Why not place your order right away, in time for this first week of Lent 2017?

Please feel free to use our secure order form page, by tapping the link below.  Or send us an email or give us an old school phone call.  We're at your service, and will respond with a personal reply to confirm everything.

preparing for easter.jpgPreparing for Easter: FIfty Devotional Readings from C.S. Lewis C.S. Lewis (HarperOne) $17.99  My goodness, I could hardly believe it that no one had thought of compiling a book like this before: truly, this is almost like a brand new Lewis book.  It deftly puts together fifty excerpts of great Lewis reflections, each germane in its own way, to our own journey towards the cross and the vindicating victory of Easter.  Senior Vice President and Executive Editor of HarperOne Michael Maudlin has a very nice introduction that I've already read twice.  This book is the embodiment of a splendid idea, a handsome, compact volume, offering seven readings a week for seven weeks (and an extra for Easter Day.) Excerpts are from an array of sources, of course from Mere Christianity and The Weight of Glory and Screwtape Letters and God in the Dock but also from some of the Narnia books,  the science fiction "Space" trilogy, from his personal letters, from his own Bible studies (such as Reflections on the Psalms) and even a few poems.  Lewis, you know, called the resurrection the "grand miracle."  Enjoy reading all about it in this lovely, lovely, new volume.

Wind in the Wilderness- A Lenten Study from the Prophets .jpgWind in the Wilderness: A Lenten Study from the Prophets  DJ del Rosario (Abingdon Press) $12.99  Each year the United Methodist publisher, Abingdon Press, does two 7 week Lenten Bible study guides for small group or Sunday school class use. One is always themed (while the other is a study book for the given Lectionary texts for Lent.) This one is the themed one this year drawing on the prophets and what it means to live into God's vision of justice.  DJ del Rosario is an energetic pastor of a UMC in the Pacific Northwest and works with a project he founded that resources those who work with young adults called Spark12.

Lent 2017 Christ Is For Us- A Lenten Study Based on the Revised Common Lectionary.jpgLent 2017 Christ Is For Us: A Lenten Study Based on the Revised Common Lectionary April Yamasaki (Abingdon Press) $12.99 Just like they do at Advent, Abingdon releases not only a themed Bible study guide but a small group resource allowing classes or groups to reflect on the Sunday lectionary texts for the upcoming Lenten season.  Yamasaki is the pastor of Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford, British Columbia, and has written good stuff on creativity (Spark) and one called Sacred Pause, on spiritual formation and personal renewal.  Here she offers 7 studies on the upcoming Lectionary texts, offering a few pages of insight, side bars, background, and good discussion questions about how to live in this season which focuses on Christ's commitment to us, in His grace. Very nicely done.

On the Road to the Cross- Experience Easter With Those Who Were There .jpgOn the Road to the Cross: Experience Easter With Those Who Were There Rob Burkhart (Abingdon) $16.99  This is not only a useful study of the (shall we say) minor characters who witnessed Christ's last week (and there are a lot of them -- from Simon the Leper to Malchus, from Nicodemus to Simon of Cyrene, to Mary Magdalene, of course) but offers us a creative way to enter into the story: before each set of meditations there is a fiction-like dramatization of the encounter being explored, each offering their own unique perspective. Anybody who appreciates the art of "Biblical storytelling" or creative writing will enjoy this.

There are eight chapters, offering six readings within each, so it can be read one-a-day for 48 days. There is a lot here, not too heavy, but often quite poignant and inspirational. This author is a respected United Methodist clergyperson and church renewal leader.

A Way Other Than Our Own- Devotions for Lent .jpgA Way Other Than Our Own: Devotions for Lent Walter Brueggemann (WJK) $13.00 "We begin our Lenten journey," Brueggemann reminds us, "addressed by the remarkable assurance that the God who summons us is the God who goes along with us."  If Lent recalls times of wilderness and wandering (from newly freed Hebrew slaves in exile to Jesus' temptation in the desert) this book will help us explore our journey into uncomfortable places revealing paths we ourselves might not have chosen.  And leave it to Walt to help evoke within us a fresh imagination of what that may entail.

With readings on this Kingdom path -- short devotionals on humility and justice and peace-making and more -- Walt brings his characteristically intense prose that calls forth new images, new imaginations, which help us see Lent as an alternative way of life, alternative to the conventional empire and the pracitices of the American Dream.  There is a moving prayer at the end of each entry.  This is moving, Biblical, poetic, prophetic.... if you've not read Brueggemann, this is a good way into his work. Very highly recommended.

The Good of Giving Up- Discovering the Freedom of Lent.jpgThe Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent Aaron Damiani (Moody Press) $12.66  Although this seems to be designed for those who are not used to the customers of practicing Lent, or who may even be suspicious of such practices, it is ideal not just for beginners but for anyone; I think it is a fantastic read. The author is the lead pastor of Immanuel Anglican Church in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood (and has degrees from Moody Bible Institute and the evangelically-minded Wheaton College.)  I love the silk-screened hands on the cover, the hint of purple ink on many pages, the lovely feel of this good paperback.  But the big picture it offers -- a "mercifully short" history of Lent, some of the basic reasons for honoring this season of the church calendar, some replies to some objections to the traditions -- really does provide a "case for Lent" which will be inspiring for us all.

After that introductory sort of stuff (that, again, is good for all of us, no matter how liturgically minded our tradition), Damiani carefully explores "the path of Lent." Following this central part of the book, there are some wise and exceedingly helpful chapters on how to experience Lent with families and children and how to lead congregations through Lent (written, obviously, for pastors or church leaders.)  What a fine, fine book, with endorsements from the likes of Ruth Haley Barton, Bryan Lifton, A.J. Swoboda and other good writers. Good job, Moody Press!

41LrGE+trOL._SY346_.jpJourney to the Cross- Devotions for Lent Will jpgJourney to the Cross: Devotions for Lent Will Walker & Kendal Haug (New Growth Press) $15.99  New Growth Press is known for their "gospel centered life" curriculum (which Will Walker co-wrote) and for books that often help us apply the powerful gift of God's grace to our own inner foibles and conundrums.  That is, they consistently teach not only that God offers saving grace through His mercy, but that this same gospel transforms us, over time, from the inside out, as we cling increasingly to His promises.  Nearly all of their many books remind me of that verse that promises that God who began a good work in us will bring it to completion, in Christ.  Here, they bring that gospel-centered emphasis on the very good news to this season designed to re-focus our faith, allow God to re-calibrate our hearts, and move us closer to the heart of Easter.  This is a forty-day devotional in which Dan Doriani (Professor and Vice President of Covenant Theological Seminary) calls "a wise, pastoral, and Christ-centered approach to Lent. It focuses on Jesus' journey to the cross. It points to Jesus' love, devotion, and sacrifice, and so enriches our preparation to receive his gracious redemption."  Pastor Scotty Smith (who has written marvelous book of prose and of prayers) says Journey to the Cross is "the finest devotional resource in my library for the season of Lent." 

 To the Cross- Proclaiming the Gospel from the Upper Room to Calvary.jpgTo the Cross: Proclaiming the Gospel from the Upper Room to Calvary Christopher J.H. Wright (IVP) $16.00 Wright is an Old Testament scholar, author of numerous expert books on the unfolding drama of the Old Testament story (The Mission of God and Old Testament Ethics for the People of God are both nothing short of magisterial.)  He's a name you should know.

Now director of the Langham Partnership (and author of another brand new book called Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit), not to mention a brand new book on Daniel) Wright brings in this new one his global concerns and his passion for wholistic mission to the final days of Jesus. He reads the last leg of Jesus' journey through an Old Testament lens. Although these expositions (on five key texts) are good for either personal study or small group use, there is a good appendix offering wise guidance to preachers using these passages offering insight on sermon preparation. I think this looks very useful, solid stuff, very nicely done.

The Sign and the Sacrifice- The Meaning of the Cross and Resurrection.jpgThe Sign and the Sacrifice: The Meaning of the Cross and Resurrection Rowan Williams (WJK) $15.00  There is little doubt that the former Archbishop of Canterbury is one of the most fertile and widely respected minds within the global church; many in various quarters of the worldwide Body of Christ read his books eagerly.  In recent years Williams (now a Master at Magdalene College in Cambridge) has done exceptionally weighty volumes on political philosophy and on linguistics and two lovely, brief books published by Eerdmans, one on becoming a Christian and another on being a disciple.  Here in The Sign and the Sacrifice Rowan Williams brings his deep thoughtfulness and broad learning to bear in what is a fresh look at the very heart of the gospel.

Sister Wendy Beckett (the art critic) says it is "wonderful" and "life-changing" and Yale Divinity School's Miroslav Volf says it is "theology at its very best, and easily accessible too."  One reviewer exclaimed the mystery of how Williams can be "both poetic and straightforward" combining eloquence and clarity.  I am very eager to read this, and I know many of our BookNotes friends will be too.  There are three short chapters on the meaning of the crucifixion and two and a half on the meaning of the resurrection.  Just over 100 pages. Order it today.

According to Your Mercy- Praying with the Psalms from Ash Wednesday to Easter .jpgAccording to Your Mercy: Praying with the Psalms from Ash Wednesday to Easter Martin Shannon (Paraclete) $14.99 Father Shannon is an Episcopal priest who lives with the Community of Jesus on Cape Cod (home to Paraclete Press.) He holds a PhD in Liturgical Studies from the Catholic University of America and has written the lovely little book All God's Angels. Don't let the flowery cover fool you, this is not fluff.

I am teaching an adult ed class at my own PC(USA) church starting in Lent on the Psalms so am very eager to dive into this soon. The popular Catholic writer Bert Ghezzi gives a great review on the back, as does IVP's legendary editor and small group Bible study writer, Bob Fryling (who calls it "a beautiful spiritual book..." which causes the Psalms to "sparkle.")  If Bob Fryling says it is "a wonderful devotional guide for Lent" I'd believe him.  This really does look like a book that is more than lovely, but is substantive and rich.

coloring lent.jpgColoring Lent: An Adult Coloring Book for the Journey to Resurrection by Christopher D. Rodkey & Jesse & Natalie Turri (Chalice Press) $12.99  Well, I hope you saw our long review of this in a previous BookNotes a few weeks ago.  The text of this thoughtful devotional guide and adult coloring book is written by our friend and neighbor here in Dallastown, Chris Rodkey, a progressive UCC pastor who serves his church and our town well.  This is such a rich and interesting concept -- an ecumenical, adult coloring book that follows the key texts of the Revised Common Lectionary for Lent -- that we are happy to promote it. In fact, Chris will lead us through a couple of these devotionals, telling us a bit about the interpretation he brings to the text and the Story at a coloring book party here at the shop (on March 21st -- stay tuned!)  You can read my longer review of this here.

God Is on the Cross Reflections on Lent and Easter Dietrich Bonhoeffer.jpgGod Is on the Cross Reflections on Lent and Easter Dietrich Bonhoeffer (WJK) $14.00  Perhaps you have read (as many have) the compilation of Bonhoeffer excerpts, letters, prayers, and readings, turned into a powerful Advent devotional called God Is in the Manger

Well this, obviously, is the Lenten counterpart to that small book and it is full of powerful wisdom, provocative insights, exquisite challenges about the cost of discipleship, the way of the Cross, and the good grace of our surprising God.  What a privilege to read pieces from this 20th century martyrs Easter messages!

Grounded paperback.jpgGrounded: Finding God in the World -- A Spiritual Revolution Diana Butler Bass (HarperOne) $14.99 I've read this wonderfully written book twice, and parts even more often. I reviewed it (mostly) favorably when it came out in paperback (and I was honored to see a line lifted from my BookNotes column enhancing the pages of blurbs on the new paperback version that just came out.) I do not agree with everything Diana says, here, and wish she'd have given orthodox, historic evangelicalism a bit better spin, although much of her critique is not only valid, but vital.

Anyway, this newly released paperback is just in time as it includes a 40 Day Lenten Study guide in the back including prayers and devotional resources.  This makes it useful for personal use and certainly for book clubs or adult ed forums (anytime, actually -- it's a good study guide -- but especially for Lent.)  Reading a page-a-day devotional guide not your cup of tea? This challenge to explore a progressive faith which is down-to-Earth ("grounded") faith that is transforming the nature of the church and its ministry -- so that it might be a salt and light and leaven sort of presence in the world that already bears the redemptive marks of a gracious, Creator-God -- would make a provocative study, especially during this time of year. What is faith for? Why did Jesus die? What is the resurrection about? What is eternal life? Diana re-imagines these questions and more in light of her deep and beautiful appreciation of "original blessing" and the placed realness of God's work in the world.  You really have to listen to a book that starts with a Wendell Berry poem and is arranged in two major units called "Natural Habitat" (including chapters called Dirt, Water, and Sky) and "Human Geography" (with chapters on things like Roots and Home and Neighborhood and "Commons".)  This won the Religion News Association's Book Award last year, and we're glad for this nice paperback.  And the thoughtful resource in the back, making it a good choice for those who want a book to read for Lent that isn't about Lent as such. Like everything, we read any new approach with discernment and generosity, and I am sure this would be great for many of our readers to ponder well.


Between-Midnight-and-Dawn better.jpgBetween Midnight and Dawn compiled by Sarah Arthur (Paraclete) $18.99  We know many BookNotes readers have ordered Sarah Arthur's similar prayer guides using good literature (the one for Advent was called Light Upon Light and the one for Ordinary Time is called At the Still Point.) This is ideal for the liturgical seasons of Lent, Holy Week and Eastertide, joined by a company of poets and novelists from across the centuries. Kathleen Norris calls is a "delight... so extraordinary a collection" and the late Phyllis Tickles called it "a thing of beauty."  By the way, Sarah Arthur is getting all sort of attention (as in our last BookNotes newsletter) for her recently released co-authored memoir cum guide to radical Christian discipleship called A Year of Small Things: Radical Faith for the Rest of Us.

40 Days of Decrease- A Different Kind of Hunger. A Different Kind of Fast jpg40 Days of Decrease: A Different Kind of Hunger. A Different Kind of Fast Alicia Britt Chole (Thomas Nelson) $14.99   This book came out last year and we've already had more people asking about it this month than last year.  I think I'll just copy here what I wrote last year:

This is a hard book to describe, but I hope it is a big seller this season, a book that can have a huge impact as we learn to give up not the standard stuff like chocolate or designer coffee or facebook, but, rather, stuff like apathy and injustice, resentment and hypocrisy and such.  All of the love of God.

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

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

Reliving the Passion- Meditations on the Suffering, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus as Recorded in Mark .jpgReliving the Passion: Meditations on the Suffering, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus as Recorded in Mark Walter Wangerin, Jr (Zondervan) $14.99  I love hand-sized, compact hardbacks and so appreciate the fine, fine writing in this lovely little book. I suppose you know Wangerin who has garnered award after award for his fantasy novels, his memoirs, his Biblical work, his children's books and more. As a poet and preacher and, formerly, at least, an inner city pastor, this passionate Lutheran leader reminds us through Scripture and storytelling that "we crucify and we are crucified, are condemned and redeemed."  Eugene Peterson, who says he is one of the "master storytellers of our generation" insists that Wangerin "is at his best, writing on and around the Master Story."  This isn't new and we've described it other years here in BookNotes, but wanted to remind you of it again.  Not to be missed.

Bread and Wine- Readings for Lent and Easter .jpgBread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter (Plough Publishing) $24.00 This handsome hardback has brief readings from some of the world's leading literary and spiritual writers, offering just enough meaty and aesthetically rich writing to please and challenge anyone who wants to dip in to a more mature sourcebook. Bread and Wine (like its companion Advent volume, Watch for the Light) draws wonder-full excerpts from C.S. Lewis, Augustine, Phil Yancey, Jane Kenyon; from Frederick Buechner, Dorothy Day, Wendell Berry, Watchman Nee. As you can see, this is really diverse, delightful, thoughtful.  A wonderful devotional that you will keep for a lifetime, with each several- page excerpt linked to a brief Biblical text, this is a true gift from the tremendous thinkers and publishers at Plough Publishing.

Reflecting the Glory- Meditation for Living Christ's Life in the World .jpgReflecting the Glory: Meditation for Living Christ's Life in the World N.T. Wright (Augsburg) $14.99 Although we've fretted about the small print, this is just brilliant, with N.T. Wright doing his exceptional New Testament reflections here on New Testament themes (much from Galatians, actually, and more, for Lent.) Solid and stimulating Biblical mediations, one for each day some have said this is the richest Biblical devotional they've ever read... 

By the way, we have a lesser known book of Wright's, a small collection of sermons Tom preached in a depressed coal mining town in the UK where there had been a fateful disaster and ongoing injustice, a powerful little book called Christians at the Cross. (In England it was released as The Cross and the Colliery.) It is interesting to see how these sermons bring hope and comfort and a call to address evil, inviting those with faith to realize the scope of God's work and to make a difference in the world.  It is a book we routinely try to sell here at the shop.

devotions for lent mosaic.jpgDevotions for Lent from the Mosaic Bible (Tyndale) $2.99  This is a very  handsome, pocket sized booklet that has forty short readings, will full color art on creamy paper, with some Latin text, Celtic cross illumination, quotes from ancient saints, and liturgical prayers. The print is very small (but you will still appreciate the nicely crafted fonts and page design, tiny as it is.) We have promoted the wonderful Mosaic Bible which is an "ancient future" sort of product, in the contemporary New Living Translation, that has sacred art, iconography of sorts, and a prayerful, artful feel.  This little pocket book is drawn from readings and devotions and prayers from that Bible edition. A treasure to carry around for praying throughout the day, to take to work or school, or to give away prodigally.  Kudos to Tyndale for this unique offering.

God for Us Readers Edition.jpgGod For Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and Easter Reader's Edition edited by Greg Pennoyer & Gregory Wolfe (Paraclete) $18.99  This was once, like its companion Advent book called God With Us, available in a handsome hardback laden with full color art produced on glossy paper. It was expensive and is now out of print. We sadly do not have any of those any more.

However, we are pleased to remind you, as we did last year, that there is now a nice paperback called the "Reader's Edition" that has no artwork but is offered in an affordable, well-designed paperback.

Here is an edited version of what we wrote last year this time:

In December of last year we did a review of the wonderful Advent book God With Us. We have raved each year about the very handsome, artful, mature volume, and said one of the important things about it was that it "emerged from the mature writing in the pages of our best literary journal, Image, a sophisticated, faith-based quarterly of literature and art and criticism; Pennoyer & Wolfe are extraordinary thinkers and writers themselves, and have put together what is without a doubt one of the most glorious books you could own. (Except, perhaps for the long-awaiting, luxurious sequel, God For Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and Easter..."

Well, it is now Lent and we simply must remind you of this volume, the Lenten sequel to God With Us, called God For Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and Easter with its very good writers offering what may be one of the most thoughtful, ecumenical devotional books for Lent and Easter of which we know.

The introduction to this book is by the respected Catholic writer about spiritual formation, Rev. Ronald Rolheiser (author of the exceptionally good Holy Longing and more recent Sacred Fire.)  One could hardly ask for a better preamble to this season, and I suspect it will be read and re-read often through weeks ahead. I actually enjoyed quite a bit the next essay by Beth Bevis ("The Feasts and Fasts of Lent") which is very helpful for those less familiar with the historic spiritual rhymes of this time of the church year.

Each of the following weeks offers short daily meditations by one author. The first week's worth of meditations and prayers are by the popular activist Richard Rohr. The great writer (and now Episcopal priest) Lauren Lauren Winner offers the next week's reflections, followed by a week's worth of meditations by the Orthodox poet Scott Cairns. Next we read the work of the Dordt College prof, novelist and short story author James Schaap. The entries for the fifth Week of Lent are by the beloved poet Luci Shaw. The remarkable Holy Week reflections are by none other than Kathleen Norris, author of so many moving memoirs about her own faith journey, including her time as a Protestant living among cloister nuns. 

An additional feature includes very nice short pieces on the history of various customs and Feast Days within the time of Lent. Beth Bevis offers more than a dozen of these extra one page ruminations that are delightful and inspiring, perhaps especially for those of us not accustomed to thinking much about Shrove Tuesday, the Annunciation, Maundy Thursday or Holy Saturday.

Like the Advent one, God With Us brings to us some of the finest writers of our time, ecumenical, clear, artful. We are very grateful for Image and Paraclete Press for this fine release. 

As I noted in our announcement of the book's release last year in BookNotes, "they insist that Lent is not "a time of vaguely spiritualized gloominess" and who better to help us realize the "bright sadness" of Lent than good poets and deep thinkers and those gifted with artful skills of offering rich and evocative meditations on the Bible?  

What an absolutely great gathering of perspectives, from an a Orthodox poet to a Presbyterian contemplative, Catholic mystics, an Episcopalian priest and writer, a Dutch Reformed short story writer and a scholar of Victorian literature.  And dear, beloved Luci Shaw -- oh how her work thrills us!  

On the back cover it says "Lent and Easter reveal the God who is for us in all of life - for our liberation, for our healing, for our wholeness. Lent and Easter reminds us that even in death there can be found resurrection.

Make Room- A Child's Guide to Lent and Easter .jpgMake Room: A Child's Guide to Lent and Easter Laura Alary (Illustrated by Ann Boyajian) $15.99 Here is what I wrote when this first came out -- even though I really don't like the cover which doesn't do the art on the inside or the rich prose and moving insight justice, I really want to remind you of this little treasure. There is nothing like this that we know of, and it is so needed.  So, to repeat:

  Wow, what a wonderful children's book, delightfully illustrated and nicely told. It is an invitation for children to wonder about the Lenten story, helping children to experience Lent with all their senses.  They are taught to see it as a special time for creating a "welcoming space for God."  As it says on the back, "Simple activities like cleaning a room making bread and soup, and inviting a neighbor for supper become acts of justice and kindness, part of a life following Christ."

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

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

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

The Undoing of Death.jpgThe Undoing of Death Fleming Rutledge (Eerdmans) $24.00  This hefty paperback includes a large amount of sermons preached over the many years of the service this remarkable Episcopal pastor and preacher; a few of these are enhanced with artwork and illustration, all are meaty and substantive, drawn from deeper wells of good theological and exegetical study, and proclaimed with grace and wit and occasionally some prophetic bite. Now that Ms Rutledge has gotten more acclaim (Christianity Today awarded her last work, The Crucifixion, their coveted "Book of the Year" award, perhaps this anthology of seasonal sermons will be taken up more widely.  We hope so, as we announce it every years.  She has a small one called The Seven Last Words from the Cross and even her big book of sermons on Romans (Not Shamed of the Gospel) would be appropriate for reflective reading this time of year. But The Undoing of Death is truly one of a kind, highly recommended.

City of God- Faith in the Streets Sarah Miles.jpgCity of God: Faith in the Streets Sarah Miles (Jericho Books) $16.00  We love the extraordinary writing and remarkable storytelling of colorful Episcopalian convert and author and activist Sarah Miles. We recommend her stunning story in Take This Bread and the exceptionally moving, feisty, raw Jesus Freak.  Her City of God (now out in paperback) is a further rumination on her life among the under-resourced in the Bay area of San Francisco, working out of the famously eccentric St. Gregory's, framed by her experiences on Ash Wednesday, make this a memoir well suited as a Lenten reflection.

Here is just a little of what I wrote in a long review two years ago when it first came out and I first spent time with it:

.... I want to tell you about one of the most interesting books I've read in quite a while and it is perfect to read here as we approach Lent; as you'll see it is a memoir mostly about experiencing Ash Wednesday. It arrived into the shop a few weeks ago, but, because I know this writer is thoughtful and such a very good wordsmith (and would be writing about some fairly intense stuff that I would want to consider carefully) I wanted to hold it until I had time to savor, to appreciate, to ponder, and to grapple with it. 

Today I feel a little like Jacob after that long night of struggle, a bit banged-up myself, but blessed for the effort. I read the new book City of God: Faith in the Streets by a truly fascinating person and gifted, remarkable writer, self-confessed Episcopalian "church nerd" Sara Miles. I have read her earlier books and spent a few days at an event with her a year ago. I respect her a lot, as a writer and as a follower of Christ.

The City of God: Faith in the Streets is mostly about celebrating in high church fashion the service of putting ashes on the forehead on Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent.) And doing it out on the streets, for one and all.

City of God is an amazing book for several reasons. Firstly, it chronicles one day in Mile's life, a busy Ash Wednesday, and three Ash Wednesday services in which she was involved that day. 

You can read the rest of that review, herehttp://www.heartsandmindsbooks.com/booknotes/city_of_god_faith_in_the_stree/



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