Selling Books at IAM: and an extended list of books on the arts

Makoto Fujimura is a man you should know.  A painter, author, social critic, and cultural organizer, he is also a sweet Christian brother, a dedicated husband and dad, and the center of a multi-faceted, increasingly respected, truly fascinating, faith-based art group, known simply as IAM. (Started in Japan by Makoto the New Yorker, it stands for The International Arts Movement)

We have enjoyed brief moments with Mako over the years and have enjoyed promoting---more than enjoyed, we have felt called, obliged--- his earliest published work.  There is an early great chapter in the essential anthology of Christians in the arts, It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God edited by Ned Bustard (Square Halo; $24.99) and a fabulous interview with him in James Romaine's excellent tete a tete with visual artists, gloriously produced in full-color in Objects of Grace: Conversations on Creativity & Faith (Square Halo; $19.99.)  Mr. Fujimura's artwork itself has graced more than one book cover, and he has been often discussed as a contemporary leader in cultural conversations.  He is not the only reason to buy these two great books, but that he is in them is important.

Now, there is a brand new, very handsomely designed, collected of his thoughtful and refractions.jpeg
 fascinating essays, wonderfully called Refractions: A Journey of Faith, At, and Culture (NavPress; $24.99.)  It is doubtlessly the most exquisite book published by NavPress, and Caleb Seeling, the editor who worked on it (himself a bright light in the publishing world) deserves great credit for bringing Mr. Fujimuro's work to the reading public with such an attractive book design.  Here, at Conversantlife.com you can listen to a five part interview with Mako (and then continue on with some interviews Christy Tennant did with other IAM speakers.)

Fujimura has also released a small hardback volume of high quality reproductions of his stunning, reflective artwork, River Grace (self-published; $29.95) which we have stocked since it was first released through IAM.  His MFA is from Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music and is a National Scholar in Nihonga---his art style.   His work (highly regarded in Japan and his New York home), is shown in the Square Halo Books anthologies It Was Good, Objects of Grace, and in his own memoir River Grace. In River Grace he chronicles in allusive beauty and an amazing essay, his "transfer of alliance from Art to Christ."  In 2003 he was appointed to the National Endowment for the Arts (then headed by Dana Gioia.) To see such a young, talented and articulate follower of the Lord Jesus serving as a prudent spokesperson for our nations cultural health is a glory itself.

As great as Mako's refractions may be---in his writing and his gold-drenched Nihonga panels--- he is also known for his considerable ministry among artists, patiently befriending and networking painters, jazz musicians, donors, critics, film-makers, mentors, gallery owners, marketing executives and advertisers, models, actors, writers, dancers, sculptors, docents, and such, creating a movement of Christ-followers of all sorts (and others, too) working under the audacious banner of IAM.

It was the annual IAM Encounter 09 that called us to New York in yet another rented van commandeered by our midnight driver, Scott Calgaro.  We set up a large, large display of authors and musicians speaking or playing at the event, books on aesthetics, literature and poetry, culture-affirming theology, wise art history, and a ton of actual art books, including many of working contemporary Christian artists.  (For instance, do you know the UK publisher Piquant Press?  They have lovingly republished the multi-volume, expensive Complete Works of Hans Rookmaaker now in a $50 CD-ROM!  We had nearly all of their books--from Betty Spackman's esteemed---if a bit unusual---and much-discussed A Profound Weakness: Christian and Kitsch, to various coffee table works by Anneke Kaai, and more---about which I will write more, soon.)

 It wasn't an easy load-in or set up on the 18th floor of a Manhattan high-rise, but it was truly one of the more interesting events we've ever served.  Getting to feature our huge selection of book on the relationship of faith and art, media studies, pop culture, writing, philosophical aesthetics, music, and art books was a thrill.  Having all these creative types from all over the country as customers was even more so.  Or, as the Visa card ad says, Priceless.

Yale University philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff kicked of the IAM Encounter with a reasoned apologia for the arts.  Hardly necessary in this crowd, it was, nonetheless, magisterial; Wolterstorff is one of the world's leading philosophers (with recent academic publications on Oxford, Cambridge, Princeton University Presses; his early 80s release Until Justice & Peace Embrace (Eerdmans; $22.00) which were the Kuyper lectures at the Free University of Amsterdam, remains in print and is one of my all time favorite books.)

art in action.JPGart in action.JPGHis Art in Action: Toward a Christian Aesthetic (Eerdmans; $25.00) is considered a true classic among those interested in a distinctively Christian aesthetic theory.   In fact, it was none other than Calvin Seerveld (A Christian Critique of Art and Literature, Rainbows for the Fallen World, Bearing Fresh Olive Leaves, Being Human) who was chosen to first review it when it was initially released in 1980, I believe.  (Nic returned the favor, turning in a cautiously rave review of his old friend Seerveld's own Calvinistic, worldviewish, book on the need for aesthetic richness and responsibility in God's good world.)  This generation of Christian artists and writers affirm the significance of Dr. Wolterstorff, the logical and teacherly philosophy Prof., and the more colorful, Bible-preaching aesthetician,  Calvin Seerveld.  Their names pepper the footnotes of writers such as Mako, Lambert Zuidevaart, Michael Card, Steve Turner, Adrienne Chaplin, Ned Bustard, Luci Shaw, Albert Pedulla, Bruce Hermann, Bill Romanowski, Steve Scott, Jeremy Begbie.  Dr. Wolterstorff remained at the IAM Encounter (some famous speakers fly in and quickly depart events like this) and it was an joy to see him chatting with the participants, young and old, working artists and culture reformers, serious fans and those who had never heard of him before.
 
Other keynote speakers had written books and we of course featured them: we have often recommended the excellent Culturally Savvy Christian by Dick Staub (Jossey-Bass; $14.95.) Get the great subtitle of this excellent primer: A Manifesto for Deepening Faith and Enriching Popular Culture in an Age of Christianity-Lite!  It was sweet to have him around.  Our very good friend Steve Garber gave a packed out seminar----he's a heck of a supporter of the arts himself, citing Walker Percy and Bono and Seerveld and the novels of Wendell Berry and the poetry of Steve Turner by memory.  It is always a good day when we get to tell folks about how important Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior  (IVP; $18) is to us.

Maybe most memorable was meeting an author who works in the artistic field (and who would deny that it is an art?) of comedy.  Susan Isaacs has preformed in Hollywood comedies
angry conversations.jpg (Planes Trains and Automobiles) and television, and has written for Seinfeld, SNL and My Name Is Earl.  She was raised Pentecostal, joined the comedy sub-culture, and is a working gal using her chops to make people laugh.  We were the very first place in the country to snag her not-yet-released (as of late February) memoir Angry Conversations With God: A Snarky But Authentic Spiritual Memoir (Faithwords; $24.00) and now that it is officially out, we promise to review it in earnest, soon. The word the press review used---cheeky--- does indeed capture this crazy lady's style---and she rocked the big house at IAM.  As you might imagine, it will be a blessing (I say this seriously) for the often de-churched and spiritually marginalized creative types to hear her honest story, her journey of faith, her endurance in a pretty rocky world of performance, travel, fear, fame, and foibles.  She sometimes writes for the Burnside Collective, so you may know she is a thoughtful woman, rooted in a community of open-minded, big-hearted wordsmiths.

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Speaking of big-hearted wordsmiths, one of the most celebrated poets of our time---the former Poet Laureate of the United States, Mr. Billy Collins, read from his various works.  What an honor to be a part of a gig like this! (And how great to think that people of historic Christian faith have the wherewithal to pull it off!)   Of course, we had all of Mr. Collins' volumes (Sailing Alone Around the Room, The Trouble with Poetry, Questions About Angels, etc. etc.) but naturally stacked up his new one, Ballistics (Random House; $24.00.)  I just love The New Yorker when they write that Collins is "A poet of plentitude, irony, and Augustinian grace."  Entertainment Weekly writes that he "spins gold from the dross of quotidian suburban life..." Gotta love that, eh?
We have discovered that there is a CD recording package of him doing a live reading in 2005: tons of poety, well read, in an obviously classy venue. (Have you heard him on Prairie Home Companion?) It is introduced by Bill Murray (yep) and highly recommended.  We've got it here, now: Billy Collins Live (Random House audio; $19.95.)
  
What a joy it was, too, to be able to feature the 20th anniversary issue of Image: A Journal of the Arts and Religion, a classy arts and literary quarterly of great note.  Drawing broadly from faith-inspired artists, writers, poets, short-story writers and pop musicians, Image--dreamed up, legend has it, in part, by popular poet and evangelical writer Luci Shaw---has illustrated this integration of faith and cultural writing as well as any institution in the past generation.  Where else might one read, say, an interview with T-Bone Burnett, a scholarly piece on Flannery O'Connor, wood-cuts by Barry Moser, previously unpublished poetry by Scott Cairns, wonderfully-reproduced full color plates of the work of Sandra Bowden, a short story by an unknown lit prof, a poem by a cloistered nun, and long, serious essays by art critics fluent in Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox spirituality?  From Ron Hanson to Wendell Berry to Brent Lott to Annie Dillard, luminous and important writers grace their pages.  Their splendid 20th anniversary issue includes, by the way, a lengthy interview with Mako Fujimura about his own artwork, and his IAM mission.  Please visit their website---it will make your mouth drop open.  Subscribe to their blog, here: Even if one does not believe with Dostoevsky and Day, that "beauty will save the world", you know it sure can help.  Showing off Image at jsut $10 an issue at IAM sure made it feel that way.   We still have some back issues available, so let us know if you'd want to purchase any.
 
Another way towards this perspective is the tremendous, tremendous, very handsome little paperback (adorned with woodcuts of Barry Moser) of Image editor Greg Wolfe's essays (gleaned from years of Image) called Intrudingintruding upon the timeless.jpg Upon the Timeless: Meditations on Art, Faith and Mystery (Square Halo; $9.99.)  This should be on everyone's nightstand, a great collection of short, wise, and glorious essays.  It certainly would make a great little gift, too, for anyone who wants to impress a seeker who doesn't think that religious folks are interested in great literature, or that art must always be propaganda.  If I can't sell ya on it, listen to this endorsement by Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Dillard:
Intruding Upon the Timeless takes its title from a phrase of Flannery O'Connor.  That's apt, because not since O'Connor's Mystery and Manners has there been such bracing insight on the pile-up where art and faith collide.  This book will rev your engines and propel you down the same road.
So, we repacked, boxed up, loaded out--thanks, again, to IAM volunteers, the aforementioned S.C. and the NY union guys---propelling ourselves down that same snowy road back to PA, full of timelessness ourselves, for having been at IAM, selling these kinds of books to folks who care.  And now the harder job:  we wonder how to let our readership, customers and friends in on our remarkable time, this glimmer of God's beauty, truth, grace, glory, service, reform, kindness, care, excellence and all manner of goodness that we experienced in New York.  What else to do but tell ya about it (thanks for reading) and to offer a sale on some books from the IAM book display.  I hope that isn't anti-climatic.  It is what we do, after all.

Here, then, in no particular order, are a good handful of titles that we sold--or tried to---at the IAM Encounter 09.  Please recall that this is not an exhaustive list, but just a few recommendations.  Call or email if you want more ideas, or are looking for something specific.  We'd love to help.

ALSO:  if you haven't, you might visit the "vocation" portion of the website that describes foundational books from a Christian perspective for various careers, callings and vocations.  We obviously have a section designated for artists and list our top few. It is an excellent list for starters or students...

Walking On Water: Reflections on Faith and Art Madeleine L'Engle (Shaw; $13.99)  The paperback is out of print, but this squatty sized hardback is less expensive anyway, and a delight to hold.  Happily, holding it is something you will want to do, as this is captivating, well written, full of grace and truth.  A few artist friends insist this is the book to read first if one want to think through a Christian perspective in her art.  I love Michael Card's endorsement:

We do not learn creativity by means of 'how to.'  There are only incarnations of creativity, which speak, instruct, guide, and inspire.  In Walking on Water, Madeleine L'Engle shares the enfleshment of the Creative in her own life and in the lives of others.  She helps us hear the call to become what, in truth, we already are: creative imagebearers of the God who first reveals himself as an Artist.

Breath for the Bones: Art, Imagination, and Spirit: Reflections on Creativity and Faith
Luci Shaw (Nelson; $19.99)  Luci is a beloved poet, a great Christian writer, a leader in Christian publishing, and, in her older years, still as active and hopeful and generative as ever.  This is a book many of us have been waiting for, the reflections of her own creative process, her ruminations on not only how faith informs art, but how art animates faith?  From Emily Dickinson to Annie Dillard, she draws on the best writers of our time to discuss this grand, grand matter.  There are writing exercises for those so inclined and excellent discussion questions for the rest of us.  This is provocative and challenging, accessible and a joy to read.  We commend it often, wish that it might be read widely, and assure you that it, like the Walking on Water written by her best friend Madeleine L'Engle, would make a perfect gift for an artist you want to encourage, or an arts supporter who you want to more effectively inspire.  This is breath for weary bones!

Art for God's Sake: A Call to Recover the Arts  Philip Ryken (P&R; $5.99)  At this price, with this vivid insight, this is the bargain of the decade!  Perhaps what Schaeffer's little Art and the Bible did for a previous generation of culturally-savvy young evangelicals, this wonderful apologetic could also do for our own.  This makes a Biblical and theological case, rooted in historic faith---Ryken's father is the renowned literature scholar from Wheaton, and he, the pastor of 10th Presbyterian in Philadelphia.  With members of the renowned symphony in his parish, and students from the near by art school, he has to be up on this stuff.  As one committed to an intentionally faithful world and life view, he naturally has a keen appreciation for the common grace of excellence in the arts.  This is a manifesto, a Bible study, a call for gentle, caring action in a world in need of goodness and beauty.  Buy a bundle and give 'em out!

Finding Divine Inspiration: Working With the Holy Spirit in Your Creativity  J. Scott McElroy (Destiny Image; $15.99)  I don't know about you, but I sometimes worry when Spirit filled folks start asserting that it was God's own Dove that caused them to do this or that, told them this, led them there, simple of that, Praise Jesus.  Many of us are happy for such gracious moments, but prefer a more humble, subtle rubric in talking about it.  Still, I couldn't resist this author when we first spoke, nor his book when it came, and found it to be a true (dare I say it?) inspired work.  McElroy is a good, good, guy, who has done the requisite homework, has reflected on the need for a Christian perspective in aesthetics, and desires to hone his craft with excellence and nuance.  And, yes, he helps us remember to call forth the giftings of the Spirit, to rely on God, to fine, as he puts it, "divine inspiration."  Not a bad idea, ya know?  Kudos to Mr. McElroy.  His presence at the IAM gig was a delight, and we recommend his book to you.

Relectant Partners: Art and Religion in Dialogue Ena Heller (MoBia; $35.00)  Do you know the MoBia (Museum of Biblical Art in New York?  It is a thrilling, top-class art museum dedicated to art whose focus is something about the Biblical texts.)  Ms Heller is the energetic and brillantly aware curator director of this creative spot.  She's also a fabulous scholar of the interface of faith and art, and this major work shows her insight.  Packed with illustrations, plates and example of creative work.  Highly recommended.

God in the Gallery: A Christian Embrace of Modern Art  Daniel A. Siedell  (Baker; $24.95)  Ever since meeting Daniel at Jubilee 09, I am drawn more and more to this thick and serious book.  I've seen some of his compiled books of shows he has curated and watched him interact with other artists.  This may be, in many ways, a huge jump into a new circle of discourse, a shift and deepening of perspective and method.  Not every evangelical book on a Christian publishing house bears an endorsement by the prestigious (secular) scholar of contemporary art, Dr. James Elkins.  Nor do many bear a blurb by IAM founder and creative director, Makoto Fujimura.  There is a passionate embrace of common grace (as Books & Culture editor John Wilson puts it) and there is very, very much to celebrate here.  As much about modern art as art criticism, as much about a Christian worldview as the act of celebrating common grace.  A must-read for anyone serious about the conversations and practices of faithful Christian engagement with modern culture.

Visual Faith: Art, Theology, and Worship in Dialogue William Dyrness (Baker; $22.00)  This was one of the first in the prestigious Baker "Engaging Culture" series, and bears endorsements by world-class scholars such as Jeremy Begbie (Cambridge, St. Andrews, Duke) and E. John Walford and Gregory Wolfe.  I like the way this includes reflections on the role of art in modern society, how Christian artists might thrive in the secular gallery scene and larger art worlds, but also how arts can be properly "exploited" (is that a fair word?) for Christian worship.  The Protestant church, particularly, has for too long been largely insensitive to the traditions and joys of visual art, and this is a major, hefty contribution.

Sense of the Soul: Art and the Visual in Christian Worship William Dyrness (Cascade Books; $23.00)  This brand new book is, as the title reveals, much more about the nature of the artistic life of the church, and how good art can enhance good worship.  It is produced by the Brehm Center for Worship, Theology, and the Arts at Fuller Theological Seminary.  Surely one of the most important centers of its kind, this book is an indication of the rich traditions and insights that are in conversation with Christian folk of all sorts.  It includes some fascinating reportage of the grass-roots way art and visual elements are, in fact, incorporated into worship.  Dyrness has thought this through well (see Visual Faith) and now he has listened and observed well, using his interviews as springboards into illuminating insights.  An important bit of research, with important consequences for the health of the people of God.  

Inclusive Yet Discerning: Navigating Worship Artfully Frank Burch Brown (Eerdmans; $20.00) Anyone following the important conversations about worship renewal in the past decade has surely heard of the prestigious and helpful Calvin Institute of Christian Worship in Grand Rapids, MI.  John Witvliet has done heroes work, here, and in this "Liturgical Studies" series of books, he's brought out important and thoughtful resource for the renewal of contemporary worship practice.  This volume is about the relationship of theology, worship, and the arts---"a complex interweaving" as Jeremy Begbie puts it in his rave review.  Frank Burch Brown is known for his work in Indianapolis (Christian Theological Seminary) and the University of Chicago Divinity School.  Those interested in thoughtful Christian art criticism know well his book Good Taste, Bad Taste, Christian Taste: Aesthetics in Religious Life (Oxford University Press; $35.00) which was one of the most talked about books in Christian arts circles a few years back.  This new book is exciting as he offers insight based on his own obvious care for the subject and his interest in a practical theological aesthetic that will serve the churches well in their efforts for more lively and mature worship.  Still, it isn't a guidebook as he is in conversation with scholars such as David Bentley Hart, Pope Benedict, David Tracey, Carl Daw, Calvin, Luther, Wesley, Barth, and sociologists like Robert Wuthnow.  Fascinating stuff.

Art in Service of the Sacred  Catherine Kapikian  (edited by Kathy Black) (Abingdon; $25.00  This is without a doubt the most invaluable resource for anyone interested in seeing what contemporary artists are doing to adorn their churches, worship spaces, camps, retreat centers, chapels, fellowship halls and other sacred spaces.  Many congregations today are examinging the role the arts play in creating an more enhanced sacred space, and how the arts can help usher folks into the very presence of God.  The work of the artist and the work of the church are bound.  There is a DVD included in this book which shows numerous examples of good efforts made to enhance various sort of settings, with notes on the installations.  Art and art-making need not be done for the church, but it certainly should be one venue, for some artists.  Whether you are a visual artist or a creative type in the congregation, whether you are a worship leader or a supporter of the local arts, you should have this resource handy.  The author, by the way, is director of the Henry Luce III Center for the Arts and Religion at Wesley Theological Seminary.

Beauty:  The Invisible Embrace: Rediscovering the True Sources of Compassion, Serenity, and Hope John O'Donohue (Harper; $23.95)  I have a local artist friend who has found such inspiration here, she has me tell others about it.  I am not sure what mature Christian thinkers like Seerveld or Wolterstorff would thing of this glorification of the notion of beauty, but it is a moving experience to read these spiritual reflections, even if I'm not sure he gets it completely right.  Written by the beloved Celtic spiritual writer known for Anam Cara and his new great offering, Blessings. Here is the kind of stuff you will find in this charming work:

The Beautiful stirs passion and urgency in us and calls us forth from aloneness into the warmth and wonder of some eternal embrace.  It unites us again with the neglected and forgotten grandeur of life; for in some instinctive way we know that beauty is no stranger.  We respond with delight to the call of beauty because in an instant it can awaken under the layers of the heart some forgotten brightness.

Imagination and the Journey of Faith  Sandra M. Levy (Eerdmans; $18.00)  This book asks why we are so open to mystery, to glimpses of the Transcendent in our daily lives.  Levy is both a clinical psychologist and an Episcopal priest and she is a good guide, it seems to this journey to deeper imagination.  I suspect you should read Brueggemann's The Propehtic Imagination alongside it, and Seerveld's call to allusivity in Rainbows for the Fallen World. But this looks really, really good, and with endorsements from Jill Pelaez Baumgaertner (of Wheaton) and Jerome Berryman (of Godly Play fame) this is surely an important and vital new work.  Interestingly, she insists upon the irony that the postmodern culture has eroded the features of our imagination, and that sound theological inquiry must include a witness to this hurting, beleaguered culture.  Sacred stories and good art will help, she says, so this book should have been popular at our recent arts events.  Spread the word!

The Beauty of God: Theology and the Arts edited by Daniel Treier, Mark Husbands & Roger Lundin  (IVP Academic; $22.00)  Much, much has happened since IVP published in the mid-1970s Francis Schaffer's two brilliant little, life-saving essays Art and the Bible and Art in the Bible as a booklet entitled Art and the Bible (IVP; $8.00.)  How great that it was recently re-issued in a small paperback with a new forward.  Now, years later, after having done numerous enduring, excellent basic books on the arts like the wonderful Scribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creativity by Michael Card ($13.00), Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts by British rock critic Steve Turner ($13.00) and the must-read, top-notch, nearly perfect Art and Soul: Signposts for Christians in the Arts by Hilary Brand & Andrianne Chaplin ($30.00) they have now released a stunning collection of scholarly contributions in a variety of aesthetic and arts-related fields.  From Jeremy Begbie on Bach to Bruce Ellis Benson on David Bentley Hart, from E. John Walford on "Broken Beauty" to the thoughtful and prolific scholar/artist Bruce Herman on the same, to Roy Anker on film and Jill Pelaez Baumgaertner on poetry, and so much more, The Beauty of God is a noteworthy contribution for serious Christian artists and scholars approaching the questions of divine beauty and ruminations on the theological meaning of the arts in a fallen world.  This book is not only a serious addition to our libraries on the arts, but is a major step forward for theologians who are able to so cogently and respectfully write in interdisciplinary ways.  I still recommend IVPs early easy books for those starting out on the journey of relating faith and art.  For those more advanced, this is a true gift, and example of the maturity of the discourse emerging from the thoughtful Christian center.

The Portal of Beauty: Towards a Theology of Aesthetics
  Bruno Forte (Eerdmans: $30.00)  I will admit that this book is a bit pricey for the slim 120 pages, but it is, shall we say, nearly historic.  Forte is the Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto, Italy, and preached at the final retreat of Pope John Paul.  As a spiritual guide to the Pontiff, Forte was trusted as a deep man of faith, a thoughtful and solid theologian, and a good observer of the culture of the emerging 21st century.  Here, we have his reflections on beauty.  He is influenced somewhat by the magisterial work of Balthasar and Evdokimov, but also of Aquinas, Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky and other such luminaries.  Robin Jensen of Vanderbilt (The Substance of Things Seen is another recent, important work) calls him "lucid and eloquent" and that "we are reminded that beauty is both transcendent and terrifying, calling us to consciousness of our mortality."  Luci Shaw says  "if you are sick of banality and superficiality, dive into Portal of Beauty and be refreshed and enlarged."  Wow.

The Creative Life: A Workbook for Unearthing the Christian Imagination Alice Bass (IVP; $15.00)  This larger sized workbook is an excellent and thoughtful guide to, as she says, unearthing your imagination.  Not quite as "new agey" as, say, the useful classic The Artists Way by Julian Cameron (which we happily stock), this is an inspiring and useful guidebook full of exercises for Christ-centered artistic growth.  Very nicely done.

Creativity and Divine Surprise: Finding the Place of Your Resurrection  Karla M. Kincannon (Upper Room; $15.00)  This is a book that we don't always know where to shelve here in the shop.  It is, in fact, about spiritual formation, how to deepen your relationship with God as you discover your own creativity.  The endorsements are from the likes of Marj Thompson (Soul Feast) and Reuben Job, the renowned author of prayer books and meditative aids.  It may be a bit unusual for those used to more traditional devotional practices, but for anyone with a creative streak, this could be a real boost.  Not every book invites us to be artsy and spiritual, creative and God-like.  As one reviewer said, "Prepare to have your senses attuned to the Holy in all things."

The Soul Tells a Story: Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life
  Vinita Hampton Wright (IVP; $15.00)  Wright is a respected novelist, a serious Christian, and a good writer.  Here, she ably guides us into using writing as an avenue for our own spiritual growth.  Again, whether you are an artist or not, as one made in the image of a Creator-God, you can sense the sacred in your creative efforts.  Rave reviews from Luci Shaw, Lauren Winner and other fine wordsmiths make this a must-have for anyone interesting in the writing life.  (I assume, ahem, you have Bird-By-Bird by Lamott and The Writing Life by Dillard.  Right?  Of course you do.)

Writing Tides: Finding Grace and Growth Through Writing Kent Ira Groft  (Abingdon; $20.00)  I've been wanting to give another shout out to this brother for a while: Kent is a good friend, a dear, dear, man, and an accomplished spiritual director.  He's written very creative books about the spiritual journey, has helped folks learn experiences of the soul that help in knowing God more deeply.  (Another excellent book, on men's spirituality, is cleverly entitled The Journeymen.)  He is a compassionate coach, an inspiring writer himself, offering exercises, quips and quotes to help you on your way.  Again, not so much about being a professional writer, but how anyone can be more expressive in journaling, writing memoir or informal written storytelling.  Very nice.

The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World  Lewis Hyde (Vintage; $14.95)  This is a book, recently out in a 25th anniversary edition, is one that we have stocked in the store, but I don't think I ever realized how remarkable and important it is.  Mako Fujimura, in fact, built his Encounter 09 IAM talk around this, and all were truly impressed.  David Foster Wallace says of it, "No one who is invested in any kind of art can read The GIft and remain unchanged."  The famous novelist and critic Margaret Atwood writes, "The best book I know of for talented bu unacknowledged creators.  A masterpiece."  You know that we have been promoting for nearly a year, now, the wonderful work by Andy Crouch, Culture Makers: Recovering Our Creative Calling (IVP; $20.00).  I think he might like that line about "unacknowledged creators."    Yet, are all acknowledged, by God.  May our culture soon more appropriately realize the importance of cultural creatives, artists, writers, patrons and philanthropists who help keep the world turning with color and insight, sound and not too much fury.  Rainbows for a fallen world, Seerveld calls, em.  Fresh Olive Leaves brought back to the ark--signs of life amdist the destruction.  Given away for free, acknowledged or not.  Bruce Cockburn has a song called The Gift.  I wonder if it inspired by this book?

Tune in to the BookNotes blog soon as I do another list of actual books of Christian artwork.  From the latest glorious book by Bruce Herman to the work of Ted Prescott, to several books by Dutch painter Anneke Kaai, and a spectacular paperback collection of wood engravings by Peter Smith, we will have some descriptions and sale prices of some lovely gift books, collectors items, and books which show examples of the sorts of modern faithful art I've been writing about.