We are glad to welcome some new friends to Hearts & Minds - perhaps you'll become one of our tribe, our gang, our fam. We are grateful for those who read BookNotes (you can subscribe so that the reviews come right to your inbox) and we are very appreciative of those who send orders our way. Some say that they really like the mix of titles we suggest, our curated lists and unique inventory here at the shop, and we are glad for customers who become friends, friends who become almost like family. Sometimes we joke, saying we give new meaning to the idea of a family business! Anyway, thanks for caring, about books, about God's work in the world, about Christian literature, and about our work. Our team here couldn't do this without writers, publishers, readers, and book-buyers. We think this kind of reading can make a difference, for God's glory and our world's repair.
Which leads me to mention yet once again the vivid For the Life of the World DVDs and the newly published Field Guide study books ($9.99. on sale here for $7.99.) If you decide to use this video curriculum with a small group or class this fall, you really should have a few on hand, especially for those who many not be able to easily access the on-line version. It really is a good participant's resource, full color, nice paper, great discussion questions, background stuff, packed with ideas to maximize your use of the films. I hope you are thinking about calling some folks to watch this together this fall, if you haven't yet. I love it and the conversations you will have around it will be provocative and interesting, I'm sure.
For now, I hope you are enjoying the good days of summer, maybe using this time to reflect on the goodness of God's world, the ways in which Christ's glorious atoning work brings redemption to all areas of life, and how we can live faithfully in every zone of life and society with real hope. I've recently re-read a little of N.T. Wright's classic Surprised By Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (HarperOne; $24.99) and have again recommended the DVDs by the same name (Zondervan; $36.99 for the six session DVD and a participants guide.)
The For the Life of the World DVD - which is abbreviated FLOW -- is a good follow up for those who have used that down-to-Earth hope-ster stuff from the always-eloquent Tom Wright. Or, vice-versa: Surprised by Hope would be a great DVD curriculum to follow up your use of FLOW. There really are some theological connections, for those with eyes to see...
FOLLOWING THE FLOW
Here is a handful of resources that seem to me to be useful follow-ups to at least some of the themes of the For the Life of the World DVD. If you want to live well in the world, aware of the abundant, orderly economies of creation and the creation-wide scope and consequences of redemption, you may need some help. To wit, some practical and inspiring resources to help you in your journey into a life in-and-for the world. Enjoy.
Astonished: Recapturing the Wonder, Awe, and Mystery of Life with God Mike Erre (Cook) $14.99 One of the great themes in FLOW is that God made a good world, the various economies and spheres are themselves wondrous, and we are invited to a world of wonder. The interview in episode 6 with Mako Fujimura may seem to be about the value of the arts, but the deeper theme is that while most of us are not artists, we are all able to nurture the eyes to see and to stand in awe. (Read the wonderful essay inspired by this episode by my friend Bruce Herman, "Wonder Is Not Just For An Artistic Elite" here.)
Well, Mike Erre's easy-to-read, playfully good book is less about awe in the world at large, but how we can respond in awe to the mystery of faith. It is a book about, as Rick McKinley puts it, "rescuing us from being underwhelmed by a God of our own making." In a way Astonished: Recapturing the Wonder... reminded me of another lovely book I often recommend, WonderStruck: Awakening to the Nearness of God (Worthy; $14.99) by the ball of energy and goodness known to the book world as author Margaret Feinberg. Erre and Feinberg are both creative and fun, upbeat and energetic, offering insight about knowing God better, nurturing one's spirituality in ways that help us attend to the beauty and realty of the world around us and God's awesome presence around us. Perhaps a more subtle and sophisticated approach would be to read the updated second edition of the Oxford University Press book, now out in paperback, Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue by philosopher and classicist Paul Woodruff ($17.95.) That is a very impressive work, helping us "see" our world and our place in it with great dignity and deep meaning.
No Home Like Place: A Christian Theology of Place Leonard Hjalmarson (Urban Loft Publishers) $16.99 This may be the most important book that you've never heard of.
I say this, that it is so important, for three reasons. First, a sense of place is a huge theme these days (thanks, Wendell) and localism is a major interest (thanks, IndieBound, ShopLocal and anybody who shops at the farmer's market) that most of us still need to ponder and pursue. It is an important principle, but even if one isn't quite fully enchanted by the locavores, it could be argued that you should read up on this because it is a theme of importance to your neighbors, and to the rising generation. So, it's important; you should know what the fuss is about, and this will help.
Secondly, I say this book is important because it is so very rare. There are a few books that develop a Christian perspective on place, and the two other must-reads (Where Mortals Dwell by Craig Bartholomew and Beyond Homelessness: Christian Faithfulness in a Culture of Displacement by Brian Walsh and Stephen Bouma-Predigar) are thick and a bit heavy; rewarding, important, but not easy. No Home Like Place is meaty enough and considerable, but perhaps a better primer. It is winsome; Brad Jersak nicely says "to find someone rebuilding place after the great postmodern deconstruction is beautiful." So, it is very well written and nicely engaging, even "joy-filled" as another reviewer said.
Thirdly, you need to know this book because it is, without quite saying so, part of the vision of FLOW. The Acton Institute that funded and produced the FLOW project seems to stand in a mostly Catholic tradition where small is, most often, better than large, and local control is better than distant rule - the Catholic social teaching calls it "subsidiarity." Those in the line of Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch Reformed theologian and social architect that influenced the actual writers of FLOW, had a distinctively neo-Calvinist approach which also has tendencies towards the local, if not the whole "small is beautiful" view. Although this has complex implications for the ordering of society - populist and democratic - at the very least we can say it means starting where you are, attending to your neighborhood, caring about your own context. No Home Like Place will give you the theological and missional foundation for appreciating a sense of home, a sense of place, resisting the homogenization of the Big and the loss and injustices experienced in, as Walsh and Bouma-Predigar put it, "a culture of displacement."
Leonard Hjalmarson helps us with all of this in ways that are theoretically insightful, theologically beautifully, and spiritually alive. He co-wrote the wonderful Missional Spirituality: Embodying God's Love from the Inside Out (IVP; $16.00) which was substantive and inspiring, bringing together the too-often separate themes of the inner journey and the outer, piety and politics, formation and faithfulness in the world. The very notion of missional spirituality is ripe with potential, and that book has helped readers grow deeper in their interior lives as well as see that spiritual transformation as part of a Kingdom vision, missional, engaged. Hjalmarson brings that same vision of caring about God's work in the world and our aligning ourselves with the redemptive purposes of God in how he approaches this neighborhooded view of place.
There are a few important themes in No Home Like Place. We are "sent" of course - this is missional 101 - but can our sentness effect how we inhabit our own places, our homes? Is there, as Dwight Freisen puts it (in his rave review blurb) a way to attend to our locatedness?
Or, as sociologist Mark Mulder of Calvin College writes, "In a world of increasing mobility, No Home Like Place: A Christian Theology of Place makes a compelling case for Christians to be more attentive to the places they inhabit. Hjalmarson calls us to consider how cultivating connection is integral to the incarnational mission of the church. Moreover, this book prompts a re-imaging of how the recovery of place might foreshadow the coming Kingdom."
Notice the words: inhabit, incarnational, cultivating connection. These are themes that are common in various missional organizations and networks these days and it is no surprise that the book has gotten rave reviews from the prominent leaders in these movements such as J.R. Woodward, David Fitch, A.J. Swoboda, Alan Hirsch, Paul Sparks, MaryKate Morse, Stuart Murray, and the like. That No Home Like... draws on the savvy analysis of culture and cultures makes it in itself a good intro or reminder of the conversations and discoveries in church life these days. Hjalmarson not only draws on his strong educational gifts (he is an adjunct professor at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Chicago, at Tyndale Seminary, Toronto, and George Fox Evangelical Seminary in Portland) but on his own leadership in the Parish Collective, and his missional community on the shores of Thunder Bay, Ontario. The Parish Collective, I might as well say, published the stellar book about local missionalism, The New Parish: How Neighborhood Churches Are Transforming Mission, Discipleship and Community written by Paul Sparks, Tim Soerens, and Dwight Friesen (IVP; $17.00.) It's in this same ballpark, too.
There are generative ideas in this book about place and localism, stuff about theology and eschatology and culture, creation, and covenant. There is good advice about exploring place and the practice of place. He looks wisely and knowingly about the urban landscape and is helpful in a good chapter called "Politics and Public Space." Here is a surprise, though: one chapter is called "Re-placing the World Through Pilgrimage." (Yep, go figure; there's nothing wrong with travel, of course, and our sense of home can be enhanced by our trips.) There is another really important chapter about localism and the arts, enhancing our sense of home and place by deepening our embodiment and creativity. (It isn't a simple chapter, by the way, and it left me glad for the fresh thinking but wondering how to live it out.)
Put this book on your list as soon as you can, and ponder it for years to come. Read it alongside the aforementioned books on place, and resources on neighborhoods such as the two by Eric Jacobson (Sidewalks of the Kingdom and The Space Between, which are essential.) I am sure that you will learn something new, be inspired to new, ground-level commitments, and your own neighborhood and locality will be blessed by your attentiveness. There are even some prayers and litanies that have been used that give voice to these good concerns.
Small: Because God Doesn't Care bout Your Status, Size, or Success Craig Gross (Nelson) $15.99 If I were just reviewing this one book, and had unlimited time and attention, I'd just copy the foreword by Josh McCown, Quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who talked about his short stint in the NFL, being traded, demoted, his dream of stardom not panning out as he had hoped. Inspired in part by reading an early version of this, he determined to lower his big dreams and overly visionary expectations and focused on being good and kind to whoever he was with, which ended up being a small high-school team in Waxhaw, NC.
Well, you get the point: the old adage "go big or go home" is not, according to Gross, a sustainable way to live, and it is an cultural attitude which chews people up and debilitates us all with chronic unhappiness. Rather, he suggests that it is in the seemingly ordinary moments of life that God does His greatest work, and that to trust God and serve Christ well, we neither have to go big nor go home. We can endure, day by day, in the small stuff, the mundane, even. "It's time to invest in stamina, to cultivate endurance, to recognize the miraculous world of the ordinary, little things." It's time to go small, and keep at it. This is inspiring, includes upbeat Bible stories, and helpful reminders about humility, acceptance, and the "wrench in the works." Gross has done a lot of pretty extraordinary things, so there are exciting stories, and lessons learned, making this fun for small groups that need nice and practical resource.
Is Reality Secular? Testing the Assumptions of Four Global Worldviews Mary Poplin (Veritas Books/IVP) $18.00 As I considered resources to share to accompany you and your group in your journey into the FLOW DVD sessions, I didn't want to just cite the obvious. So I let my thoughts ramble a bit, and I couldn't stop thinking of this very thoughtful, richly written, substantive book that offers an evaluation of the claims made by those worldviews which insist that the world is secular. What does this even mean? Who makes these claims? And what do the most vital world philosophies say about it? Maybe this has something to do with the other big book here this summer, Jamie Smith's How (Not) To Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor.
I've written in the last post on memoirs about Mary Poplin, the brave, faithless college teacher whose life was transformed by working alongside Mother Teresa in Calcutta, who advised her to "find her own Calcutta" back on college campuses. Ms. Poplin took up her call with gusto, involving herself in relating faith and scholarship, bearing witness to her new life among colleagues and academics, students and parents. She became friends with Dallas Willard (who wrote a very good foreword to this book.) She studied and loved and cared and entered into dialogues with not only thoughtful Christians, but many who were antagonistic to her new-found faith.
As the back cover puts it, "at the root of our deepest political and cultural divisions are conflicting principles of four global worldviews - material naturalism, secular humanism, pantheism and Judeo-Christian theism. While each of us holds to some version of one or more of these worldviews, we are often unconscious of their differences." The For the Life of the World DVD doesn't directly evaluate alternative visions of life under the sun, but they are not unaware that the multi-dimensional, whole-life, Kingdom vision they propose is to be lived out in ways that are different than the typical visions of the meaning of life on offer. (The center of each film is, after all, a "Letter to the Exiles.")
This book by Mary Poplin will help us be aware of the spirit of the age, the issues of the day, the ideas that matter. This is a stunning, brilliant work -- even the non-Christian writer Michael Ruse affirms her: "Mary Poplin and I take very different sides on the topics discussed in her book. That is why I prize her writings, because they are so fair and comprehensive. She shows me clearly what I must grapple with and defeat - or give up and join her side! Very much recommended." Other heavyweights have raved, as well - Robert George of Princeton and John Lennox of Oxford and J. Budziszewski of University of Texas at Austin.
Not only heavyweight philosophers, though. Popular pastor John Ortberg says this: "Truth, as wise man said, is valuable because it is what allows us to navigate reality. Mary Poplin has done us a great service - she helps us explore where truth lies and how it guides." I think that captures why I couldn't escape thinking about this as a serious follow-up to the down-to-Earth pleasantness of the For the Life of the World movies. This will give some intellectual grit and deep cultural criticism to our life "in but not of" the world in which we sometimes seem as exiles.
Journey to the Common Good Walter Brueggemann (WJK) $17.00 I do not need to belabor the importance of Old Testament scholar, Dr. Brueggeman, and he remains one of my favorite authors, and a church leader who has influenced me significantly. I recommend almost all of his books (a new one on the Psalms called From Whom No Secrets Are Hid is to be released by WJK in few weeks, and the much anticipated Ice Axes for Frozen Seas: A Biblical Theology of Provocation comes from Baylor in mid-September.) I have enjoyed almost all of his many works. His most recent - Sabbath as Resistance -also comes to mind as a very appropriate study to enhance our joyful life as exiles who are "against the world, for the world" as envisioned by the good folks of FLOW. I am not sure they would be as enamored with Walt as I am, but these do seem apropos.
This one, Journey to the Common Good, is a true favorite, the transcripts of stunning talks he gave at Regent College in British Columbia. His evangelical vision is evident as he invites us to deep study of the Hebrew Scriptures to fund our commitments to the common good. That FLOW mentions this phrase (and many of the speakers who make cameos like John Perkins insist on our commitment to Biblical justice and love of others as the true heartbeat of any Christian lifestyle) is notable. The very title of the films - For the Life of the World -- and the question it seeks to answer ("What is our salvation really for?") should make it clear that a perfect follow up would be a study of the notion of the common good. Journey to the Common Good is sophisticated and invigorating Biblical reflection that once again shows how deep, thick reading of nearly any part of the Bible yields a grand vision of public justice, social righteousness, and a "seek the peace of the city" orientation that desires the flourishing of all peoples and cultures and the deepening of the common good. It's a journey worth taking with Walt.
Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology Eugene Peterson (Eerdmans) $16.99 I still love my first Peterson books - A Long Obedience in the Same Direction (on the Psalms of Ascent) and Run with the Horses (on Jeremiah) which I read in the late 70s. Perhaps these are your first, too; they remain very popular and highly regarded. Like his many others, they certainly are consistent with the vision of FLOW - embodied, patient, non-ideological, nurturing habits of faithfulness that over a lifetime lead to life as it was meant to be lived, in God, for others. Yes, yes, those are good.
Yet, there was no doubt that I wanted to cite this one from 2005, for what should be obvious reasons. If you read my review you will know that FLOW cites the famous Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, the very "Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places" poem from which this Peterson classic takes its title. I have discussed this mature book before, and it is complex, but orderly. It is the first of an extraordinary set of five volumes that Peterson calls his "spiritual theology." Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology goes to great length to show how - according to the Bible! -- Christ shows up in creation itself, in history, and in community with other believers. In each of the three long sections he shows how Christ's birth, death, and resurrection are the good news that affirms these three locations of grace. (There are three attendant threats to getting this right, too, and he offers three necessary practices to overcome these threats to the true good news.)
And, yes, again, the title is from Hopkins. Evan, in FLOW, is wearing a Hopkins tee-shirt in one of the episodes (you can learn about all seven of the tee shirt portraits in the Field Guide.) The reading in the DVD of that good portion of the poem is nearly worth the price of the whole set. I'm sure that the FLOW guys knew this poem previously - many do - but I also bet that Pastor Peterson's work was an inspiration. The whole set of his momentous spiritual theology books are exceptional, but this one is foundational. As Marva Dawn observes it's "Eugene Peterson at his best - poet, storyteller, wonderer, biblical scholar, sage, practiced disciple, and lover of God... A life-transforming and liberating book." Yes!
A Movable Feast: Worship for the Other Six Days Terry Timm (ImaginationPlus) $11.99 Well, you may not know this name, but I'm happy to share that he is a hero to many, a great, caring pastor of a fine missional church in the suburbs of Pittsburgh. Terry has worked with Steve Garber (using his Visions of Vocation) to help his parishioners get a vision for their lives, framed by Garber's line that "vocation is integral, not incidental, to the missio Dei." Pastor Timm has focused on his lay people and their own Kingdom callings, equipping them well, and holding up this wholisitc vision of the common good, cultural renewal, creational flourishing.
As a celebration and follow up to this year-long study of vocation and calling and the mission of serving the common good, group from his church took the four hour road trip to Hearts & Minds, allowed me to share with them our vision for using books to help think Christianly and creatively about this "in the world but not of it" sense of taking up the tasks of serving God in careers and callings. You've got to love a pastor like that, eh?
So it should come as no surprise that Terry Timm and his church have been big supporters of a cadre of churches in Pittsburgh using the For the Life of the World videos. (This gang is even bringing in Jars of Clay for a concert where they'll play some of the live tunes recorded for the FLOW project.) This new book, in so many ways, is a fantastic follow up (or prelude to) FLOW. As Gideon Strauss (of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary) puts it, "A Moveable Feast will be a gift to those of us who know ourselves to be called into struggle with, and gratitude to, God who loves every thumbprint patch of this wondrous, shattered world."
Terry has shaped his congregation around this very theme -- that worship is a "moveable feast" and that we worship, actually, 24/7. As Lisa Slayton, the President of Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation puts it, "This book tells the story of what it looks like when a Biblical community truly begins to realize that God desires their 'everyday, walking around life' to be offered as an act of worship, that worship is not just what we do on Sunday morning corporately but what we don Monday... We all need help bridging our theology to our praxis. This book serves as such a bridge."
Although the vision of this book is, indeed, how we serve God in all areas of life, in all our endeavors, the heart of it truly is about the recovery of worship, mature and solid, good and effective, honorable and fruitful. I think many a contemporary worship leader would benefit from it for its wise council. And, the implications of this God-centered, gospel-fueled view -- "worshiping for the other six days" as well -- are so very nicely spelled out, too.
We are thrilled to be one of the first bookstores to carry this brand new indie press book by Rev. Terry Timm. It is handsomely done, nicely written, covers much good ground, and includes a good study guide ("feasting together.") There is even an appendix called "an ordinary, everyday liturgy" which outlines an entire worship service with prayers and litanies designed to honor the ordinariness of daily life, the goodness of work, the calling to serve the common good. I think that this powerful book could help nearly any kind of congregation deepen their sense of these things, and I hope church leaders buy it and use it. Terry is the real deal, a friend to Hearts & Minds, and his book is yet another example of the fresh sorts of things being written during this 21st century renaissance of "all of life redeemed" wholistic faithfulness. Whether you've used FLOW or not, Movable Feast: Worship for the Other Six Days is a delight. Thanks be to God.