BRAND NEW: Tim & Kathy Keller’s “The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms” — and a review of our journey to New York City for the (Redeemer Presbyterian) Center for Faith & Work Conference

songs of jesus.jpgWe just got in the brand new daily devotional by Tim and Kathy Keller entitled The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms (Viking; $19.95) which we have at our BookNotes 20% off.  You can see my comments about this high quality, handsome hardback below, as well as our convenient link to our secure website order form page. First, though, a little bit about a recent conversation with Tim, and, more importantly — I hope you agree — a bit about books sold at an important, recent event.  What an adventure we recently had, complete with burning brakes and selling books at three different off site venues.

As you probably know, our bookstore is in a small town. We attend a medium size church of the mainline variety.  Our customers come in all sorts, and we love the mix of folks that show up here day by day.  Amy, one of our long- standing employees, greeted lots of local folks at the Christmas in Dallastown event this past weekend; it was just one of the local things going on here at, as they say, our bricks and mortar store. At the same time, we had some off site things going on, too.

We have been honored to set up book displays or give talks to small, rural congregations (we’ve done book displays at gatherings with a dozen folks) and at large institutions, hospitals and colleges and at out of state conferences. We’ve been to camps and retreat houses and fancy hotels to do our thing. Sometimes, we do events that take us days to set up, with thousands in attendance (like our beloved CCO Jubilee conference every February – you should come!)

Indie bookstores like ours with an odd niche get some nifty opportunities, but the pool of those interested enough to order from us is a bit small.  We’re known, I suppose, for providing thoughtful, ecumenical Christian resources, for all sorts of churches, but especially books for folks who want to learn more about social concerns, cultural engagement, and the many implications of a robust sense of the Kingdom of God in the here and now, helping readers embody the ways of Jesus and Christian wisdom in all areas of life.  Consequently, we have to hustle around to even come close to making a living selling these kinds of books. Fortunately, we enjoy doing out of town events, even though sometimes, well oftentimes, they are stressful.

This weekend, for instance.

uhaul8.jpgEn route to lower Manhattan to set up books for the Redeemer Presbyterian Center for Faith & Work event (certainly the classiest and most interesting event we serve) we realized our brakes were burning; the newly replaced rotors were crumbling and we had no choice but to head home. It was too late at night to find a rental truck, so we had to delay our start until the early morning, repacking and reloading in the mist, adding stress and strain to our already nerve-wracking journey to this significant church in this world class city.

(Did I mention that we’re from a small town? Did I say that the Redeemer event is classy? I fret about everything, even including what to wear! I don’t get to serve as a reading consultant to playwrights and Wall Street investors and urban planners and software engineers and rising PhD students that often, so, believe me, we do a lot of planning and praying.)

When we do off site events we struggle hard to determine what books are best to take; in this case we curated a selection for (mostly) evangelical Christians in art and architecture, marketing and management, drama and dance, urban planning and politics, those wanting to honor God in science and sex and spirituality.  Stringing clever lines together like that easily flow off the keyboard, but finding mature and interesting books that enhance faithfulness “in the world but not of it” in various vocational spheres is a bit harder, and I’m nervous heading into these events. Our book-heavy van breaking down doesn’t make it any easier.  I won’t tell which of us cussed and which of us prayed, but you should know that my wife and co-pilot is a saint.

flow package.jpgSo, we keep on, keeping on, lugging books to interested buyers, here and there.  The Redeemer event was only one we pulled off this weekend. Thanks to friends at Calvary Baptist Church in State College PA for allowing us to offer a book display at their great conference — similar to the NYC Redeemer CFW event, actually – which was built around the stellar For the Life of the World DVDs. (See our review here if you haven’t bought these yet.)  It would have been great to hang out with FLOW star Evan Koons and the Gospel Coalition’s work-world writer Bethany Jenkins and the CCOs Terry Thomas and to join in that town and gown event, reflecting on the relationship of God’s grace for all of life.  It is inspiring to know that there are folks working out this “all of life redeemed” vision of culturally-savvy, whole-life stewardship, living into the wonder of the economy of God.

god in the gallery.jpgAnd thanks to Trinity Lutheran Church in Lancaster, PA, for allowing us to sell a few of Daniel Siedell’s insightful God and the Gallery: A Christian Embrace of Modern Art (Baker Academic; $25.00) and his new Whose Afraid of Modern Art? (Wipf & Stock; $21.00) during a lecture and conversation they hosted on modern art. What a cool thing for a church to sponsor! That we also had Dan’s good books at the Redeemer CFW event in New York as part of our arts section there made me smile a bit, too.  And we still have some left over for you to order, now. 

I can’t recount most of the books we displayed at these events, other than to say that Tim Keller’s Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work, co-written by our friend Katherine Leary every good endeavor.jpgAlsdorf (Dutton; $16.00) is a masterpiece, truly one of the very best in this burgeoning field. Obviously it is a key title for anyone interested in their CFW event. It is theologically sound, savvy about the corporate world, and inspiring with stories and examples to consider. It is gospel-based, historically informed, and not the least bit simplistic or sentimental.

Surely, though, I also like meditative ruminations on the deeper meaning of all this, too.  For instance, I hope you recall our review of the luminous memoir-like Finding Livelihood: A Finding Livelihood.jpgProgressive of Work and Leisure by Nancy J. Nordenson (Kalos Press; $14.95) or unique, formational ones such as Paul Stevens & taking your soul to work.jpgAlvin Ung’s Taking Your Soul to Work: Overcoming the Nine Deadly Sins of the Workplace (Eerdmans; $15.00.) These are excellent, at least for those who have already read more foundational books like Keller’s or the slim, no-nonsense volume How Then Should We Work: Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work by Hugh Whelchel (Westbow; $13.95) or Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work (Crossway; $16.99) that remind us that jobs in the work-world are every bit as important before God as those called to traditional ministry or the mission field.

Every pastor should be thinking of how to honor and inspire their congregants who have calling in the world; Faith as a Way of Life: A Vision for Pastoral Leadership by Christian Scharen (Eerdmans; $16.00) is a title that illustrates why this matters and how it might be done. It starts with a good foreword by Miroslav Volf about their work together on this project at Yale Divinity School.

Of the dozen tables we had piled with books – two layers on each table, with shelves we created with boxes and boards – there were six books that stood out as best-sellers among the thousand-plus we took.  I suppose it was because I highlighted them in an announcement, but also because they truly are compelling must-reads, beautiful and important and well-worth owning.

The six biggest sellers were:

every good endeavor.jpgEvery Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work  Timothy Keller (Dutton) $16.00  Obviously, this is one I wanted to announce and describe. Since it is Keller’s church that sponsored this great event, I wasn’t sure if we would sell many, but apparently not everyone had it already, and some of the folks attending this were new to the topic. (And some, like some serious Christian scholars from important universities, just hadn’t picked it up yet.)  People were in for this event from other states (and as far away as Australia!) so to remind participants that this is a key text in this conversation was a no-brainer. I didn’t brag about this to them, but inside the paperback cover there are some excerpts of some favorable reviews.  I wrote one of ’em, so it was nice to see that blurb in there. We were glad we sold a bunch!

the-call-by-os-guinness.jpgThe Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life Os Guinness (Word) $17.99  I know I mention this a lot. It is one of my favorite books, and its’ insight, eloquence, historical learnedness and relatively short chapters makes this an ideal Christian book in my view. I said with a degree of boldness I had not rehearsed, that this conference, and the others like it going on these days, may not have developed in our generation as they have if it were not for this book being published a decade or so ago. It is that important.  (Have you ever seen the book Beside the Bible?  It is a collection of 100 book reviews of books that are important in contributing to the formation of a healthy culture. I wrote just one chapter, and, yep, it is on the Guinness classic. I was thrilled to be included in that collection of reviews, and was insistent that The Call had to be included in that top-100 list.)  Anyway, I was glad to promote it at the CFW event.

how not to be secular.jpgHow (Not) To Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor James K.A. Smith (Eerdmans) $  One of the things that draws so many young adults to Tim Keller’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church at their various locations in New York, and their affiliates in the City-to-City church network, is, interestingly, not glitzy, loud worship or hip progressive theology or theatrical stunts or religious fads. He preaches old-school, grace-based, conventional Reformed theology and he engages the cultural milieu with the seriousness of Abraham Kuyper or early Francis Schaeffer.  In his opening address to the conference, Keller explored individualism and unhelpful views of the self that permeate the contemporary work world. With his tweed jacket and jeans, he seemed like an Ivy League prof, less like an evangelical church leader. In his talk he highly recommended the often-cited, still-relevant Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life by Robert Bellah et al (University of California Press; $29.99) and then hung out on insights gleaned from the heavy, heavy The Secular Age by Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor (Harvard University Press; $50.00.)

Dr. Keller was certainly right to remind us of the need to understand how people think about themselves and their identities and their jobs and how we all tend to “lean into life” if we are going to be agents of Godly transformation and human flourishing in our cities and towns, workplaces and civic institutions. He has been sensitive to “worldview thinking” since his studies as a seminarian, at a seminary that helped offer pastors skills in cultural analysis and which emphasized a theological critique of Western philosophy.  Ohh, that all preachers would similarly astute about such things, helping us become what Leonard Sweet has called “spiritual semioticians.” Anyway, Keller recommended Bellah, of course, but to get at the thick conversation going on in Charles Taylor’s dense work, he recommended How (Not) to Be Secular by Jamie Smith.  I had a hunch this might be on his mind, so brought an oddly large amount. We sold ’em all.

visions of vocation.jpgVisions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good Steven Garber (IVP) $16.99  This is another truly remarkable book that I press into the hands of anyone that will let me; it is smart, beautiful, honest, profound. I told the gathered crowd that it is rich and helpful for those of us who have a dream of making a difference in the world, maybe seeing ourselves as social entrepreneurs or agents of God’s reign or those wanting to be idealistic about our witness in the world, and yet who realize, sadly, that it may be that we will not make much of a difference. Can we settle for what Garber calls “proximate justice”? Can we keep on, despite all odds, loving the world as God does? What will it take to be alive to the things of God in this missional sense, even in the work-worlds of the world, without growing cynical or jaded or weary? We sold out.  It was, by the way, one of the key books at the State College Faith/Life/Work event as well. 

Community- The Structure of Belonging Peter Block.jpgCommunity: The Structure of Belonging Peter Block (Berrett-Koehler) $21.95 I suspect Block wouldn’t want to be known as a religious writer, although there is much in his work that gives the impression that he is aware of the profound theological implication of his work. (His very well-received book about business was called Stewardship.) The theme of this year’s CFW conference was “Beyond Collaboration” and explored the communal nature of calling. We are not merely called as individuals, but into communities, in which we are called to collaborate. I held this book up, insisting it was the best thing I have ever seen on community in the work-place or neighborhood.  Of course there are fabulous church-related books on community like Bonhoeffer’s beloved Life Together or the must-read Living in Community: Cultivating Practices That Sustain Us by Christian Pohl or the delightful missional call to a “sense of place” found in Staying is the New Going: Choosing to Love Where God Places You by Alan Briggs but Community by social critic and neighborhood activist Peter Block is one of a kind.  Joy at Work author Dennis Bakke says “From the author who gave us the best book about business stewardship now gives us the best book about how to transform the places where we live, work, and play…”  

soul of shame.jpgThe Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe about Ourselves Dr. Curt Thompson (IVP) $22.00  I have written at length about this powerful, moving, Biblically-informed study of neuro-science and shame. (Read my BookNotes review, here.) It is an exquisite and important follow up to his very nice and engaging The Anatomy of  A Soul: Surprising Connections Between Neuroscience and Spiritual Practices That Can Transform Your Life and Relationships (Tyndale; $15.99) which itself is a great book.

I hope you know this author, his books, and our appreciation of them.  To be honest, I think this was our biggest seller at the CFW event, not only because it just seemed to resonate with folks and it intrigued people (even before they heard him speak) but because, frankly, he brought the house down, clearly the most energetic and lively speaker of the event. (And his quip, “I want to be like Tim Keller, with hair,” was gutsy, and well-received…maybe Keller doesn’t get much ribbing up there, I don’t know.)  Kudos to the team at CFW for realizing that the insight and healing carried in this book about shame is needed if we are to pursue collaboration and community in the workplace. As Thompson makes clear, being vulnerable in order to be open to relationship and community is risky business, and Evil doesn’t want us to be that free, or bring hope to culture in this way. This fine book ends with a rousing and important call to think about these matters, even as they relate to being creative in public life and in our callings and work. A very apropos contribution to an excellent gathering.



Well, I could tell you more about the event and our display.  Just imagine seeing some of these titles, each anchoring a section of other books in their respective fields: God in the Gallery: A Christian Embrace of Modern Art (Daniel Siedell), The Space Between: A Christian Engagement with the Built Environment (Eric Jacobson), To Live in Peace: Biblical Faith and the Changing Inner City (Mark Gornick), Performing the Sacred: Theology and Theater in Dialogue (Todd Johnson & Dale Savidge), Church, State and Public Justice: Five Views (edited by P.C. Kemeny), Unleashing Opportunity: Why Escaping Poverty Requires a Shared Vision of Justice (Michael Gerson, Stephanie Summers, Katie Thompson), The Language of Science and Faith (Francis Collins & Karl Giberson, Shaping a Digital World: Faith, Culture & Computer Technology (Derek C. Schuurman), Business for the Common Good: A Christian Vision for the Marketplace (Kenman Wong & Scott Rae), On the Altar of Wall Street: The Rituals, Myths, Theologies, Sacraments, and Mission of the Religion Known as The Modern Global Economy (Scott W. Gustafson), From Shop Class to Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work (Matthew B. Crawford), Educating All God’s Children: What Christians Can – and Should – Do to Improve Public Education for Low-Income Kids (Nicole Maker Fulgham), To Know As We Are Known: Education as a Spiritual Journey (Parker Palmer), It Was Good: Making Music to the Glory of God (edited by Ned Bustard),  Redeeming Law: Christian Calling and the Legal Profession (Mike Schutt), Redeeming Mathematics (Vern Poythus), Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (Bryan Stevenson),
or Transforming Care: A Christian Vision of Nursing Practice (Mary Molewuk Doornbos et al.)

Obviously we had more specific categories (fashion, engineering, creation care, sociology, ethnic/racial studies, international affairs, film studies, marketing, higher education, food and home-making, and more.)  And, we lead off with lots of general titles about engaging the culture and resisting the brokenness and fragmentation and loss of meaning, how to serve as winsome agents of Kingdom renewal. From Andy Crouch’s thoughtful but lovely pair (Culture Making and Playing God) to James Davidson Hunter’s important To Change the World to James K.A. Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom, Imagining the Kingdom and his Discipleship in the Present Tense: Reflections on Faith and Culture we had rows and rows of such titles. We even sold a few of the recent Eerdman’s book – missional before missional was trendy – by early/mid 20th century Dutch neo-Calvinist, J.H.Bavinck,  Between the Beginning and the End: A Radical Kingdom Vision.

Renaissance -  Os Guinness.jpgWe had some pretty new, scholarly works (for instance Nicholas Wolterstorff’s brand new Oxford University Press title Art Rethought: The Social Practices of Art) and some that, although very well written, would be inspiring for nearly any thoughtful person of faith — like Os Guinness’s important Renaissance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times or Richard Mouw’s wonderful Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World

So, you get the point: we had lots of interesting books, a selection and mix that is hard to find elsewhere, or so we are told.  We believe people are hungry for these kinds of books. We’ve staked our own livelihoods on it.

Maybe you, too, are hungry for thinking more deeply about your own life, your professional field, your own passions, your own callings and a theology that can inform and sustain your involvements and endeavors. Give us call or send an email if we might help develop a reading plan along those lines.


Timothy-Keller.jpgI got to chat just a bit with Rev. Keller after his talk, and we reminisced about how we value Jamie Smith’s book on Charles Taylor.  I was fully sincere when I told him that his own quick survey of the significance of Taylor’s insights about secularization in the modern world that he offered in the middle of his short book on communicating the gospel to the late modern mind called Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism (Dutton; $19.95) is itself a wonderful overview of understanding Taylor and the modern milieu.  I described it in a previous BookNotes and commend the whole Preaching book but especially those middle two chapters for anyone who is a preacher, of course, but also to teachers, evangelists, Bible study leaders, college or youth pastors, parents of young adults… it actually covered some of the same material Keller taught in his opening lecture at the CFW “Beyond Collaboration” conference, which explored individualism and unhelpful views of the self that permeate the contemporary work world.

He was certainly right to remind us of the need to understand how people think about themselves and their identities and jobs and we all tend to “lean into life” if we are going to be agents of Godly transformation and human flourishing in our cities and towns, workplaces and civic institutions.  One does not need to be in agreement with all of his views or tendencies to appreciate that he is one of the preeminent Christian leaders of our generation, and his widespread influence has been one of the significant contributions to the deepened tone of much evangelicalism in our day.  I am nothing but grateful, glad to know his work, and pleasedl to have some small connections to Keller and his work.

Which brings me to this.

His brand new book that we just got in today!

songs of jesus +.jpgThe Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller (Viking) $19.95  Our 20% on line sale price = $15.96

We are thrilled to have received the shipment of his latest book, hitting bookshelves today.  We would be grateful if you ordered it through us.  Songs of Jesus is a daily devotional, compact-sized and handsome. It will be widely reviewed and beloved, I’m sure, as there has long been a desire to have a Keller-written daily devotional.  More, so, it taps into the increasingly common interest in the Psalms.  Chatting with Tim a bit about it at the conference, he assured Beth and me that he’s uncommonly happy with it — he, like many authors, are sometimes a bit chagrined when they actually see their books in print. “It’s not as good as I had remembered it to be” some say.  Ha.

Well, Keller is usually humble about his books – unlike some authors, he is not a salesman,  and doesn’t ever seem to promote his own work much – so that he told us that he is pleased about this one is striking.  It is, simply put, a year’s worth of short readings, devotionally ruminating on every verse of every Psalm. 

Perhaps you appreciate, as I have, The Case for the Palms by N.T. Wright.  (You can read my review of it here.) I think I might re-read it before starting the Keller devotional.

Perhaps you have drawn on Walter Brueggeman’s many books on the Psalms, or read Tremper Longman’s wonderfully clear guidebook How to Read the Psalms.

I occasionally dip into Derek Kidner’s wonderful two-volumes on the Psalms in the IVP Tyndale commentary set and recommend them highly. (So does Keller, by the way.) Some of our CCO friends, I know, have read together the big volumes by Bruce Waltke, James Houston and Erika Moore, The Psalms as Christian Worship: A Historical Commentary and The Psalms as Christian Lament: A Historical Commentary. 

Heck, although they aren’t straight commentaries, there are many of us who count among our all time favorite books Eugene Peterson’s two sets of Psalm reflections, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction (on the Psalms of Ascent) and Where Your Treasure Is: Psalms That Summon You from Self to Community (on the more public, communal Psalms, those calling us to “un-selfing” and towards the common good.)  His Answering God has been valuable for many on using the Psalter as a tool for prayer and for nurturing what he calls “Earthy spirituality.”

You see, the Psalms are important and there are so many resources to help us appreciate them more fully, as the church always has – as Jesus himself obviously did.  Thoughtful Christians study them, use them, sing them.  Keller himself, you may want to know, started reading through the Psalms every month years ago.  His wife, Kathy, started this practice herself during a period of serious illness. (They wrote a bit about this in their co-authored book about marriage, called The Meaning of Marriage.) In a way, this new work may be their most intimate book, reflecting not only years of study, but of their own interaction with these songs of Scripture during their own journey into hard times. 

So, we are very excited to commend this little hardback as a guide to the Psalms, and as a tool for your own devotional practices, as an aid in your worship, and to stretch and challenge and comfort you, even if you are in a hard place (maybe especially if you facing hard times.) Read, reflect; pray, protest; lament, love; worship, work; rest, renew; the Psalms famously have it all. (Eugene Peterson’s Where Your Treasure Is was originally called, swiping a line from G.K. Chesterton, “Earth and Altar” which alludes to the divine in all things!) The Psalms are essential to help us embrace a Christian imagination, a faithful sense of things.

tim and kathy keller.jpgThese short studies by Tim and Kathy – part commentary, part spiritual reflection – will be helpful, I am sure.  The book is a bit bigger than compact, but smaller then a typical hardback; there is some classy, discreet color on the glossy pages, a ribbon marker, making it very nice book. There is a good flow to each page, with each day’s reading inviting us to a three part process of studying and learning from these inspired songs. There is a mature, short prayer for each day, too.  And, of course, Keller cites great commentaries and classic authors but interesting literary sources as well — from Ray Bradbury to their beloved Tolkien.

We are eager to get the word out about all of Keller’s good books, but this one is going to be very, very special, accessible and obviously edifying.  Order it from us, and we’ll have it to you promptly.  The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms is a rare gem, an easy book to read and pass on to others, accessible and personal, yet grounded and informed by thoughtful and wise appropriation of these Biblical texts. It is surely one of the best devotionals to come out in years.

songs of jesus +.jpg



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