A friend oh so gently chided me, maybe in jest, for the Father’s Day list from a few days ago. It was a good list, I think, with a rather curious mix of titles. 7 Great Men by Eric Metaxas (Nelson) itself carries some very good writing about some very important men — from William Wilberforce to Jackie Robinson to Dietrich Bonhoeffer. So we remain confident that many of our readers liked the list. Thanks for those who send us some orders — glad to be of service to you.
But my friend’s insinuation was that, well, it did play up to some fairly standard themes — road trips, being a good dad, being a great man, a hunter’s/camper’s devotional, a Civil War book. Obvious. Good, but obvious.
So here are some other titles I might have listed, grabbed quickly to remind you that here at Hearts & Minds we enjoy suggesting things that you may not have heard of, or may not have considered. Betcha didn’t see these suggested at the Christian bookstore down the street. Or at the big box store, either.
Families Living in the Fabric of Faithfulness: Parents and Children Describe What Works Gloria Stronks and Julie Stronks (Outskirts Press) $18.95 Despite the bland cover, this is a book that I am confident will stretch you, make you think, invite you to deeper conversations, and will help you develop a worldview that is sufficient for the changing times and complex cultural crisis of the coming years. The allusion in the title to Steve Garber’s serious, must-read study (you’ve heard us mention it here often) The Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Believe and Behavior (IVP; $17.00) is intentional. It is a book taking Garber’s book and applying it to parenting. Stronks and Stronks have taught Garber’s book for years; they are educators and philosophizing moms, they are home-makers with a profound vision of how to struggle to raise families of compassion and service. They live the upside-down values of the ways of Jesus, in and for the world.
Ahh, but just how does one do that? How does one live what one claims to believe, how does one nurture sustainable, life-long faith, lived without cynicism, but with hope and vitality?
They take Garber’s 3-part thesis, and his elegantly told research, and his major points of cultural discernment and apply that work to parenting, teaching, home-making. This book examine the way different Christians try to parent and raise families in keeping with their most profound believes, and what kind of “integration” of their faith story and their parenting they’ve experienced.
As they say on the back cover “this book captures moments in time as we live ina world that has been redeemed but not fully reconciled to God. It captures our hopes, our beliefs, our struggles. And, it lets us learn not only from scholars, but from each other.”
If you’ve read Steve Garber’s Fabric of Faithfulness, you need to read this interesting, practical follow-up. If you haven’t read Garber, but you like parenting books, do consider reading this. You will then want to turn to his remarkable book, and dig in deep. Kudos to Whitworth University in Spokane who helped fund the Stronks mother and daughter team and their own unique research, inspired by Garber.
Kingdom Family: Re-Envisioning God’s Plan for Marriage and Family Trevecca Okholm (Cascade Books) $22.00 There are a lot of books by professional Christian educators and church school instructors, but it seems to me that most books on marriage and family are not written by those who do ministry with children. This woman has served for decades, currently at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian (USA) Church in Newport Beach. With an MA in Educational Ministries from Wheaton Graduate School, she knows what she’s doing. Her book should be better known among us.
What sets this apart and makes me list it here, is, well, this Kingdom vision that permeates the book. There is a lot of talk these days about being missional, or Kingdom-focused and we use that language ourselves, here. Have for years. But most books about upholding the family or inspiring parents are less than wholistic, not framed by Kingdom language, and fail to connect God’s redemptive work in the world with the intimacies of our daily lives in homes. Or it takes for granted, as this book does not, the legitimacy of the consumerist culture in which we live. As S. Steve Kang (who has written well on inter-generational teaching in the church) writers, “Okholm invites readers to re-envision — namely, to reflect, remember, recommit, and rehearse — the life of God’s Kingdom.” The world needs Kingdom people, and God’s reign a-coming needs Kingdom families. This invitation to a better way is very, very good.
Spirited Men: Story, Soul, & Substance Brian Doyle (Cowley) $14.95 We only have a few of these left (it has gone out of print) but wanted to highlight it as it is so very interesting and, admittedly, a bit unusual. You may know Doyle as a fabulous Catholic writer, poet, storyteller, teacher. He is the editor of the esteemed Portland Magazine. There are endorsements on the back from poet Mary Oliver and the novelist David James Duncan, which gives you a huge clue to its caliber. Here, Father Doyle ruminates in colorful prose about interesting soul men — from Van Morrison to Robert Louis Stevenson. What other book about men has a chapter on Plutarch of Greece (or William Blake or James Joyce?) Yep, many of these guys are shaped by their lives in the British Isles. But there is an Australian, an American jazz man (Paul Desmond) and an American children’s author. Many you have heard of and a few you haven’t. Boyle suggests that he is offering “resurrections, restoration, reconsiderations, appreciations, enthusiasm, head-long solos, laughing prayers, imaginary meetings with most unusual and interesting men.” Wow.
Cultivating Reality: How the Soil Might Save Us Regan
Sutterfield (Cascade Books) $16.00 I don’t know if listing this here,
now, traffics in gender stereotypes (I’m currently reading a social
history of farm women in Iowa!) But for anyone who cares about land,
farming, the agrarian vision, or who just likes getting one’s hands
dirty, this is an amazing, perhaps one-of-a-kind book. As Fred Bahson
writes of it, “Like tenacious alfalfa roots, which reach deep into the
ground and transfer essential nutrients to the soil’s surface, Ragan
Sutterfield digs deep into the subsoil of agrarian thought, Christian
faith, and his own experience as a farmer, and brings up life-giving
nourishment for all to share.” What a graceful and creatively done
work, ruminating on land and place and the agrarian worldview of
farming, food, and faith.
Green Leaves for Later Years: The Spiritual Path of Wisdom Emilie Griffin (IVP) $15.00 For those whose dads are getting up in years, and who are willing to read a book on contemplative spirituality by an older woman, this book is truly wonderful. She is a fantastic writer, has been writing about our interior lives for decades (and works still with Richard Foster’s Renovare ministry.) She has written about the workplace (she served in a corporate job in New York) and she has written about aging. But she is most know as an eloquent teacher and fine writer about prayer. This spiritual path of wisdom is for men or women, the aged, or those who plan to be. Ha. What a great little gem of a book. Her friend poet Luci Shaw writes “Emilie Griffin writes grittily, wittily, and transparently. For Emilie, pain and transcendence live in the same body… A story of amazing grace and faithfulness.”
Lamentations of the Father Ian Frazier (WJK) $10.95 I almost forgot about this — we had so much fun with it years ago. It is a small, comic, gift book, designed for dads with small children. It is written to children as if by an Old Testament prophet, or maybe as if from Leviticus.
Cast your countenance upward to the light, lift your eyes to the hills, that I may more easily wash you off. For the stains are upon you; even to the back of your head, there is rice, thereon.
This is how he starts a long diatribe about the complicate, but gracious, rules of getting desert.
For we judge between the plate that is unclean and the plate that is clear, saying, first, if the plate is clean, then you shall have dessert. But of the unclean plate, the laws are these:..
Or, a personal favorite,
And though your stick of carrot does indeed resemble a marker, draw not with it upon the table, even in pretend, for we do not do that, that is why.
Thou shalt howl with delight, thou wilt, and you will want to read it out loud to other irreverent parents. The great illustrations by Bruce Zick are fun, too. We have this edition, while supplies last. The pieces found here are also found in a larger collection of essays by the author, without the illustrations.
Under Construction: Reframing Men’s Spirituality Gareth Brandt (Herald Press) $13.99 Let it to the Mennonite’s to offer a profound, wonderful book that deconstructs the macho, pseudo-military, kick-butt, worldly vibe of many current evangelical men’s books. I have reviewed this before, and it celebrated it as a mature, wise, careful, nuanced, and good study of men’s ministry, pondering a truly Christ-like vision of masculinity. There is a foreword by the wonderful spiritual director and pastor Arthur Paul Boers. There are candid stories, it is disarming (in more ways than one.) I appreciate his rejection of the warrior imagery as a main metaphor for Christian men. He is a dreamer. He is a real man. He is a solid Christian. He’s given us, here, one of the more important studies in the field. Really, really nice.
From the Belly of the Whale: Poems of the Male Soul N. Thomas Johnson-Medland (Resource Publications) $17.00 Tom is an ordained United Methodist clergyman, has been a camp director, a garden-to-table chef, and now is CEO of a prominent hospice ministry. He is also a great writer and poet. There are some good poems here about hiking, including a whole section called “Yosemite at Fifty: The John Muir Poems” which are very nice.
As his Franscian friend and popular men’s author Richard Rohr writes, “Men are rediscovering poettry if it speaks to their honest experience, people are rediscovering poetry when it is accessible and evocative. Well, here it is — for your discovery and enlightenment!”
Weakness is the Way: Life With Christ Our Strength J. I. Packer (Crossway) $14.99 This is a small, compact hardback, sans dust-jacket, making it a cool-looking little gift. It is also a truly stunning work, a powerful remind of gospel-centered truth. Christ is our strength. We can embrace our frailties — whether one is wracked with pain, wracked with anxiety, or facing the common ailments of aging. Most of us try desperately to be sufficient on our own, and we resent our limitations and our needs. Packer (who you should know is a very popular, thoughtful, Reformed theologian and gracious Bible teacher) was hit by a truck as a young man and is of course himself facing now his own older years and he is candid about that. Drawn from 2 Corinthians. Watch this brief, but very moving,YouTube video of Packer talking about the book, here.
Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up with Your Teenager Eugene Peterson (Eerdmans) $16.00 Holy moly, did you know that Peterson had a parenting book? Written early in the career of the careful, slow, mature theologian and spiritual author, it is nonetheless nearly timeless. Granted, there isn’t anything in it about facebook or social networking with kids, but his wisdom is enduring and profound, his writing eloquent. He claims that adolescence is a gift from God to the parent of middle-age.” This is not your most typical book of can-do parenting advice but it is sage and solid.
Peterson is one of those authors that I think we should read anything he writes. I’m glad this is still in print, and we commend it, for Father’s Day or for anyone who cares about teens.
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