Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God by Bobby Gross (IVP; formatio line; $17.00) is one of the most interesting and unique 52-week devotional books I’ve seen. We’ve mentioned it before, and we could hardly recommend it more gladly. I love even the first few pages about the power of stories, and what it means to have our story shaped by God’s Story. It is, as you might guess, a devotional guide to the church calendar, so it is arranged with daily readings from the cycle of Light— Advent, Christmas and Epiphanhy, through the season of Life Lent/Holy Week/Eastertide, and into the ordinary days, which he explains compose the “cycle of love.”
Although not all churches frame their year through this three-fold cycle, and even fewer attend to the lesser known festivals and feast days, nearly everyone knows about Advent; many non-liturgical churches have Maundy Thursday services or Good Friday sermons. So this is pretty universal stuff. We think it is a great way to learn about ways to live into the graces of God, in ways that may not come quite naturally, but, once considered and experienced, really, really do make sense. This is not just a quick pick-me-up sort of daily inspiration, but an invitation to deeper ways of being. “Inhabiting the Story of God” as the sub-title puts it.
Yet, few really plumb the deepest depths of understanding time–the rhythms of our days and weeks and seasons–in light of a truly spiritual view of the calendar. 20th-century Hebrew prophet Abraham Heschel, of course, gave us one of the great classics in his little book The Sabbath (Farrar, Struass & Giroux; $15.00) which explores notions of time from within the Biblical, Jewish worldivew. It is a serious and important work, highly regarded. (It is such a rich and lovely book that we stock a gift edition in a small compact hardback with ribbon marker that is very, very handsome to hold. Send me an email if you want more info.)
Also,surely one of the most elegant and insightful books I’ve ever read is Dorothy Bass’s sublime Receiving the Day: Christian Practices for Opening the Gift of Time (Jossey-Bass; $14.95.) Words can hardly express how much I enjoyed this when I first read it, very slowly, when it first came out. It is one of the three or four books on Sabbath that are “must reads” in my view. I always need to be reminded of this deeply faith-filled and wonderous view of time, so this is helpful for me.
Much more recently there is a lovely book in the “Ancient Practices” series by popular Benedictine sister Joan Chittister called The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life (Nelson; $17.99) So many folks are exploring this ancient and historic way of thinking about our lives, that it seems that we are reaching what might be a new ecumenical agreement. Evangelicals are learning about this from the Orthodox; liberal Episcopalians are teaching staunch Reformed folks, and Roman Catholic practices are enriching even charismatic and non-denominational folks.
I recall with glee how Marva Dawn once confided that she often dressed according to the colors of the church year. Many of us adore the writing of where Vigen Guroian such as the small and delightful Inheriting Paradise: Meditations on Gardening (Eerdmans; $12.00) where he tells of his garden, and how he plants flowers to bloom to compliment thinking about the liturgical colors andthe church year. Listen to his fabulous Krista Tippett interview from NPR, here. I think this is really quite interesting, how this ancient notion of an embodied spirituality, enhanced by thinking about time and seasons and our church calandar is cropping up in many, many circles.
Yet another example of this trend is seen in the wonderful new book on these themes published by the Alban Institute, that think-tank that most typically publishes reliable guides to parish life, mainline authors offering best practices learned from the thorough research within healthy mainline churches. It is by a Presbyterian author that we like and the title and subtitle shows how it is linking this year-long practice of attending to the church year and ordinary parish issues. It is called The Wisdom of the Seasons: How the Church Year Helps Us Understand our Congregational Stories (Alban Institute; $18.00.) Isn’t that just a fabulously rich idea? The book looks very good, and we’ve been happy to tell pastors about it— thinking that such a resource will firstly enrich their parish spirituality even as it strengthens their congregational management competencies. Knowing the church year is good for disciples of Jesus and it is good for congregations.
Which brings me to this great announcement, that we have Bobby Gross coming to our bookstore this Thursday to do a presentation on Living the Christian year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God. Actually, we are hosting the book talk and author appearance and book signing in the context of an Ascension Day service so we won’t do it here at the shop. We are inviting folks to gather at John Calvin chapel at First Presbyterian Church (York, PA) to celebrate this very significant holy day. 40 Days after Easter, you know—always a Thursday. Yep, we’ll sing and pray and Bobby will read from his book, and do a bit of a sermon on the significance of Christ’s ascension, his exaltation and reign. Then we’ll have some refreshments and hang out while he signs books. If you know anybody in central PA, we sure would love it if you’d spread the word. It is being co-sponsored by the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Emerging Scholar’s Network here in Central Pennsylvania (That’s Tom Grosh) who does creative work trying to reach and connect those in grad school, young scholars, and seasoned professors. (Bobby is the National Director of graduate and faculty ministries and is on the national board of one of our favorite organizations, CIVA (Christians in the Visual Arts.) Bobby is a very thoughtful guy, a good friend,
and, as we’ve noted, this is a topic of increasingly popularity. Come and join us if you can.
Want an autographed copy of the book? On sale, even!
It sells usually for $17.00 but we’ll be offering them at $15.00
okay, it might not look like this...
With a forward by Lauren Winner, and some helpful explanations about the seasons and cycles, Living the Christian Year is a daily reading guide really that is a wonderful, wonderful resource for you or your family. I’ll tell you a bit more about it in a post tomorrow, but, for now, let us know if you want us to get him to sign one for you. Tell us TO WHOM IT SHOULD BE SIGNED and we’ll take it from there.
takes you to our secure website order form page
Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street Dallastown, PA 17313 7117.246.333
So…will Bobby sign Hemingway’s name? 😉
Hee heee. That way it will be worth even more. 😉
My wife and I are using “Living the Christian Year” this year as our devotional and it has been a WONDERFUL experience. Hope lots of folks buy the book–and use it!