Lots of new books keep coming out, and I know that some of our friends are still in need for good Christmas gift ideas. How do I know this? Hmm. I could say a certain holiday elf told me or I could quote Ecclesiastes about how there is no end of new titles. (Who knew they had an issue with discerning what to read, even then.) It’s my joy to get to tell you about wonderful new or recent titles. These are all great and remind us why we value books so. Enjoy.
And, for those that stick to it, we even offer a free book at the end. A serious one, too!
Just for fun, I group these in handy little pairs. They are all on sale, any way you choose ’em. We’ll take 20% off when you click at the order link below. Or, if you’d rather, give us a call, old-school at 717-246-3333. We’re open 10 am – 8 pm (but always closed Sunday) EST.
ART and POETRY
Hungry Spring & Ordinary Song: Collected Poems (an autobiography of sorts) Phyllis Tickle (Paraclete Press) $18.00 This just arrived, and as I read the beautiful introduction (written in the very last season of her life) I was brought back to the last time I was with Phyllis; as anyone who knew her can testify, she made me feel like an intimate friend. We talked about other places we’ve crossed paths – she was passionately ecumenical and easy-going (and candid!) around varying denominations. What a delight to be in the setting of a liberal mainline denomination (which she loved), talking about the conservative Acts 29 church plant she attended, showing off books I wanted her to buy. And we talked about words, about her long life, about books and publishing and reviewing; on several occasions she honored us with great encouragement and kind blessings. We didn’t talk about poetry, though, and now I wish we would have! I had no idea!
Jon Sweeney, who edited the excellent anthology of her life-long writing work (Phyllis Tickle: Essential Spiritual Writings) says “I think Phyllis was a poet first and foremost, before anything else.” This is evident in the first glorious paragraph of her introduction (any aspiring poet should read it, as should anyone who wants to know what Tickle was pondering as she prepared her “autobiography of sorts” as she moved from this world to the next.) Yes, these are stunning poems, by an important woman in our literary landscape. That she gives occasional comments in this edition explaining the context or point of certain poems makes it that much useful, drawing us into her life as she shares it with us in such artful ways.
Several of these beautiful poems – some so very tender, some worshipful, some fierce — were written in the last years of her life, although many were written before she was famous, as a young mother, one who lost babies and who worked hard and noticed much on their Western Tennessee farm. These are stunning, so good that I would confidently recommend them to serious poets and readers of poems, but also to those of us for whom poetry sometimes seem to be nearly a foreign language. She has an exceptional gift of using words and phrases so very colorfully, but without being cryptic or obscure.
As Margaret Britton Vaughn, Poet Laureate of Tennessee, “Phyllis Tickle uses words as Vermeer used paint; both bring a unique light to their word. The page became a canvas, and master writer Phyllis Tickle’s pen brushed her life, family, friends, then framed them in a sense of place.”
The Operation of Grace: Further Essays on Art, Faith, and Mystery Gregory Wolfe (Image/Wipf & Stock) $25.00 I hope you know the sophisticated (dare I call it high-brow) arts journal, Image, edited so faithfully for years by the always brilliant, quite sharp Gregory Wolfe. We continue to stock Bearing the Mystery, their sturdy hardback anthology which served as a celebration of their 20th anniversary a few years back; which includes some of the best faith-based writers working today (Annie Dillard, Scott Cairnes, Clyde Edgerton, Densie Levertov, Ann Patchett, Wim Winders, etc.) Greg always has a fabulously written, often provocative, generative opening essay in Image and the first collection of these wonderful short pieces appeared in the very cool paperback (with black and white illustrations by Barry Moser!) published by Square Halo Books, Intruding Upon the Timeless. Who can resist a book with a title like that? Wolfe is learned and insightful and witty and in these pieces he offers a perfect representative of the best of the faith/art/literature conversation these days. Either one – the big Bearing anthology he edited, or the Square Halo Timeless book of short essays – would make great gifts.
Or this. The brand new The Operation of Grace brings together a second collection of his lovely, inspired, important essays from Image. These may be “occasional pieces” but as Lauren Winner says in an endorsing blurb, “they add up to a marvelous whole… at times winsome, at times bracing.” Yes, there are themes of grace, of mystery and there are reviews and studies and ruminations, references to art history and contemporary poets and pieces with titles such as “Why The Inklings Aren’t Enough” and “Scenes from an Editorial Life” and “The Culture Wars Revisited.”
I love the endorsement from Mako Fujimura who writes
Gregory Wolfe is to the burgeoning art and faith movement what Camille Pissarro was to the Impressionist movement – a central pillar, a wise teacher, an irreplaceable presence. One simply cannot imagine today’s art and faith conversation without his voice
DYING and GRIEF
A Faithful Farewell: Living Your Last Chapter with Love Marilyn Chandler McEntyre (Eerdmans) $15.00 I have often raved about Marilyn McEntyre, back when she was publishing handsome books of poetry, and, more recently, a lovely book reflecting on short phrases from the Bible (What’s in a Phrase? Pausing Where Scriptures Give You Pause, the lovely forward of which I’ve often read out loud in workshops) or her spectacularly inspiring and valuable Stone Lectures at Princeton on the stewardship of language, wonderfully entitled Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies. So when I saw she was doing a set of short reflections on the approach of death I was curious – why this? – and yet was confident it would be unlike anything in print. What a lovely little book!
Clearly and profoundly Christian without being sentimental or clichéd, it is just what we’d expect from a woman who cares for words: “refreshingly frank and deeply faithful” as Michael Lindvall puts it. Others who work with the dying or in health care professions have said it is “sensitive and helpful encouragement” and “quietly graceful and grace-filled” and “startlingly real and profound in hope.” If you know anyone who is interested in reading a practical set of Bible reflections on their own “long journey” (or not so long, as the case may be) A Faithful Farewell will be a beautiful companion. It seems obvious to me that those who care for the dying, or those preparing for the eventual loss of a loved one, or want to see in simple, clear, riveting prose a Biblically-informed vision for processing this final journey will also benefit from this extraordinary, beautiful, wise book. Thank you, Ms McEntyre, for stewarding words well, and for helping us all with these short pieces.
A Long Letting God: Meditations on Losing Someone You Love Marilyn Chandler McEntyre (Eerdmans) $15.00 Did I tell you that I often rave about Marilyn McEntyre? Ha – see above! Yes, this new book is a very handsome companion volume, a short collection of meditations in the spirit of A Faithful Farewell. This is a set of “wise, nurturing reflections for caregivers letting go of loved ones.” It is less about bereavement after the death of a loved one, but a book for caregivers as they are in that season of accompanying a loved one to their final days on Earth. It invites caregivers to slow down for reflection and prayer as they prepare to say good-bye to a beloved friend or family member, even as they are grieving that coming loss. I know that some of you need this book, and many know someone who does. It is a nice little gift, I assure you.
Based on McEntyre’s personal and profession experience with the dying, these gentle meditations – each consisting of a short opening quote, a reflection and a prayer – offer comfort, guidance, hope, respite. It is beautifully written (I’ve only dipped in briefly, but will cherish it over time, I’m sure.)
Michael Card (who himself has two must-read books on lament and expressing grief) says, simply but importantly, that “Marilyn McEntyre embodied simple, patient kindness in the pages of this book.” Samuel Wells (formerly of Duke, now vicar of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London) says “Going gently with her into the prison of death will set you free.” Wow.
JUSTICE and MISSION
Faith on the Road: A Short Theology of Travel & Justice Joerg Rieger (IVP Academic) $18.00 Just when I thought nearly everything that needs saying about a Biblically-rooted, spiritually rigorous view of social justice has mostly been said, here is a fresh and remarkably interesting new book, offering a vision of being “on the road” and how this might serve as a metaphor for justice ministries. It a shows so how such a view of being a ‘sojourner’ or ‘exile’ might gives us important angles of vision for activism and advocacy. Rieger is an internationally known theologian and activist and while he is not the first to develop these themes, his direct study of travel, here, is clever and helpful (and brief.) It looks like a fantastic resource.
You may know that I’ve written a lot about a sense of place, about being literally grounded, about a vision of discipleship that is creation-based, for the life of the world, tending towards the local and therefore resisting the glamour of moving up and away; the spectacular (dense) book Beyond Homelessness: Christian Faith in a Culture of Displacement by Steven Bouma-Prediger & Brian Walsh remains a central, vital book for our time, I think, and it sides with the marginalized even as it eschews a worldview that is place-less, inviting us to a sort of homecoming. My own book, the anthology of speeches that I edited called Serious Dreams: Bold Ideas for the Rest of Your Life, in fact, starts with an intro reminding young adults that they might not need to embrace glitzy visions of changing the world in far-away, big-city ways but might take up a small-town, staying-put sort of spirituality of home-making. These days we maybe need a Jayber Crow, or at least a Gene Peterson, to tell us it is good to stay put.
And then comes along Joerg Rieger – his other heady books that we stock include Occupy Religion and Christ and Empire: From Paul to Postcolonial Times – and he gives us here a succinct reminder that “God looks different from the dusty roads of Galilee than from the safety of the temple in Jerusalem. Today, God looks different from the street level of our cities than from the corner offices of economic, political, and religious privilege.”
What can we learn from those on the move, from various forms of contemporary travel? Might Christian and Jewish traditions that developed from communities in exile and on the road guide us in this new century? Rieger makes the case – maybe not the whole picture, I’d caution – that “from the exile from Eden to the wandering of Jesus and his disciples, the story of Scripture is a dynamic narrative of ceaseless movement.” Okay, so here is a brief “theology of the road” and “from the road” written by a liberation-oriented motorcyclist. (Yep, it’s true.) Can his proposals transform our hearts to be more than tourists in our sojourn on Earth, even as we embrace travel, at least as a metaphor of movement? This is punchy, stimulating stuff.
Christian Mission in the Modern World: Updated and Expanded John Stott & Christopher J.H. Wright (IVP) $17.00 Now is not the time or place to tell this story fully, but I think it can be argued that this is one of the most important books of the last 50 years; it was first published in 1975 – just after Stott’s contribution as principle framer of the 1974 Lausanne Covenant, an international gathering of evangelical leaders from around the globe (in part convened by Billy Graham!) which struggled to answer tough questions about the relationship of faith and justice, evangelism and social action, spirituality and cultural engagement. This little book popularized the wholistic vision that emerged from that conference and pressed the global church (or, might I say, the Western church, largely inspired by those in the developing nations who understood more than most in the West) to be agents of reconciliation and restoration, working out the implications of the Kingdom in all areas of life amidst the currents of the modernizing and secularizing world. The legendary work of Rev. Stott (carried on today by his Langham Partnerships) pushed this vision forward, combining creative but stubbornly orthodox theology with socially progressive calls to resist racism, overcome poverty, care for creation, and the like. Stott was theologically impeccable, charming, Biblically-helpful, and politically balanced/wise.
One of the helpful features of Christian Mission in the Modern World is how it reminds us, even amidst this huge matter of defining a wholistic Kingdom vision for mission in the third world, it also offers a delightfully clear-eyed and passionate call for ordinary folks to serve God in their daily callings into the work-world. In this, it anticipated not only the missional church movement, but the faith/work conversations which are growing so popularly nowadays with our realization that “work matters” as we live into “visions of vocation.”
(Indeed, a paragraph from the first edition of this book about serving God in industry and the arts and various professions and farming and public life graced a brochure announcing the CCO’s famous Jubilee conference, which remained in my Bible for decades.) The original edition of this book is a treasure, a classic, and I’ve often felt it ought to be more often read and used among us.
And now, there is this full revision, a brand new expansion done by Christopher Wright (the international ministries direct of the Langham Partnership.) You may know his many books on Old Testament ethics and his serious texts such as The Mission of God, or may have heard of his significant work drafting the 2010 Capetown Town Commitment from the Third Lausanne Congress. (That document, by the way, is available, as a nice, short booklet on multi-faceted, socially-engaged, evangelical mission. Let us know if you’re interested!) As an ordained clergyperson in the Church of England, Wright also serves on staff of the church Stott once pastored, All Souls in London.
Wright both slightly revised Stott’s chapters and added his own reflections as new chapters following Stott’s good stuff, chapter by chapter. So, you see, the new version of Christian Mission in the Modern World has five new chapters, each one by Wright moving Stott’s case further along, applying his writing to the hypermodern 21st century world. Thank God for this great, updated version of a classic, made all the more useful, interesting, reliable, and urgent.
DRAMATIC NARRATIVE and QUIET MEMOIR
Dangerous Love: A True Story of Tragedy, Faith, and Forgiveness in the Muslim World Ray Norman (Nelson) $22.99 This publishing house has done some excellent memoirs in the last decade – starting with Blue Like Jazz and other Donald Miller books, perhaps, they realized the usefulness of releasing well done, even edgy creative nonfiction. This, though, is less an artsy memoir and more a gripping narrative, a high-drama page-turner that, as Richard Stearns of World Vision puts it, “captures not only the violent clash of civilizations that has torn apart our twenty-first century world but also illuminates one thing that might just save us all – the power of faith and forgiveness to head and redeem.” Dangerous Love is a real life testimony that is a powerful read, urgent in these days of political pundits and even some religious leaders talking like worldly thugs, promoting retribution and violence. It is a book for our times, a story worth knowing and telling.
Ray Norman is the director for Faith Leadership, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene at World Vision International and former national director for World Vision’s program in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. (He is also a former academic dean at Messiah College, near us here in central Pennsylvania.) Norman was raised in rural West Africa, a missionary kid, and soon became an experienced expat, having lived all over the world, when he arrived in Mauritania around the turn of the millennium. I suppose I don’t have to tell you that in the aftermath of 9/11things were tense in many parts of the world. I will not spoil the story, but you will soon learn that both Norman and his daughter, Hannah, were shot by Islamic extremists, rushed to an emergency care facility in Senegal, fighting for their lives. In a story that could be pulled from this week’s news, the FBI and other international law enforcement professionals were investigating the shooters and their religio-political contacts. How did the Norman family get so deeply involved in this tragedy? What was his agency’s role in the country? What will they do next? In a moving and thoughtfully told part of the story, the family, years later, returned to Africa, only to meet those who attempted to kill them.
Dr. Norman (a respected world-class scientist – with a PhD from Cornell – and a recognized leader in global development issues) tells this story very, very nicely, drawing on fine writers and spiritual leaders, with a believable, but wise, seasoned voice. His good friend, Dennis Hollinger (now President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) writes, of Dangerous Love: A True Story…
A remarkable story of living and forgiving an ‘enemy’ in the aftermath of 9/11… Told with generosity, graced, and humility, Ray’s narrative goes against the grain of the politics of hate and revenge so prevalent in our world… This story needs to be heard everywhere!
Sky Lantern: The Story of a Father’s Love for His Children and the Healing Power of the Smallest Act of Kindness Matt Mikalatos (Howard/Simon & Schuster) $24.99 Okay, I’m just going to say it. I ordered this book firstly because I love the author, who has a very creative imagination, and who I’ve met, and who has written some hilarious books about what it would be like if Bible stories were played out in contemporary times. (The newest such lark is an updated retelling of the story of the book of Acts called Intro the Fray. You should order it!) So, I thought this was one of those. And, I loved the cover, I really loved the cover. Whatever; I blew the first assessment as this is, in fact, a true memoir, not a Bible study, spoofy or otherwise. (Although the cover is still awesome and inviting.) I cannot wait to read this book, as Matt is a heck of a writer, it carries a coveted Homer “Rocket Boys” Hickam blurb on the front, and, well, the story is just remarkable. You will hardly believe it. Here is what it says on the back cover:
“Love you, Dad. Miss you so much. Steph.”
A brokenhearted daughter scribbled those words on a sky lantern before setting it aloft. She had no way of knowing the lantern would fly halfway across the country.
Matt Mikalatos found the lantern, broken and crushed, the words still legible. As a father of three daughters, Matt could not let Steph’s heart-wrenching note go unanswered, but he wasn’t sure where he could find her. So he posted an open letter to her on his blog, which went viral overnight. Little did he know how that small act of kindness would lead him to the real Steph and change his family’s life in remarkable ways.
A poignant and lyrical account of the beauty and wonder of domestic life, Sky Lantern tells the miraculous events that followed Matt finding the sky lantern in his yard–of meeting Steph and forming a friendship that impacted him and his family–proving that the bond between a parent and their child is lasting and far-reaching.
Sky Lantern will bring a tear to your eyes and a smile to your face as you fall in love with Matt and his family in this heartwarming, beautifully written memoir.
This book is for people with questions about what it means to love, to be loved, and to love well. It’s for anyone who has had a parent relationship: absent, complicated, or amazing. It’s about embracing the truth about ourselves: that we are worthy of love, and that love makes our lives worth living.
NEW KUYPER and a FREE KUYPER
Our Program: A Christian Political Manifesto Abraham Kuyper (Lexham Press) $49.99 This is a handsome, large, and wonderfully made big book that is a flagship title in the “Collected Works in Public Theology” series that is being done in part by the good folks at the Acton Institute. You may know Acton as the producers of the wildly popular and enthusiastically appreciated DVD curriculum For the Life of the World: Letters from the Exiles. Perhaps, if you bought the Field Guide study booklet to go with the DVD you’ll know (or if you are a really, really astute viewer, or have read me at BookNotes describing it with gusto) that FLOW star Evan sports a tee shirt with the scribbled visage of the old Dutch statesman, Father Abraham himself (Reverend Kuyper lived in Holland from 1837 – 1920 and is a theological hero of a growing movement emphasizing uniquely Christian cultural and intellectual engagement for the common good.)
Our Program is Dr. Kuyper’s large, urgent work explaining his understanding of the task of the state, a Christian vision of government, various spheres of life working cooperatively, religious pluralism – freedom for all faith communities! – and why Reformed evangelicals, especially, needed to band together for principled social action for the common good. (His vision was set, largely, against the rising secularity which derived its humanistic principles from the violent French Revolution.)
Kuyper started the first Christian political party in modern democracy (as well as the first religious university not run by church or state, the Free University of Amsterdam, a Christian labor movement, a daily newspaper, and more) and was elected Prime Minister in the early 1900s. I cut some of my own teeth learning about worldviews and faithful vocations in the world with intellectual rigor hearing of this stuff in the mid-1970s, and our bookstore would not have quite the orientation it does had we not been taught this vibrant alternative, a third way between the so called left and right. We are pleased to announce the release of this big volume, and glad to offer it at a discounted price.
Here are some significant endorsements that might convince you this is worth having or giving to anyone interested in the conversations about mature faith and distinctive politics.
In describing how Kuyper was the intellectual force for a new way of doing politics, George Harinck of the VU University writes,
Our Program illustrates how Kuyper turned politics from an elite business into a public affair, how he changed the public involvement in politics from a single issue activity into permanent action, and how he challenged liberal politics based on reason and consensus by introducing a debating culture in Parliament based on conflicting worldviews. It is amazing how relevant this monument in political history still is. Read it, and you will be encouraged to make your voice heard!
James Bratt, professor of history at Calvin College, and author of the definitive big bio of Kuyper, Abraham Kuyper: Modern Calvinist, Christian Democrat writes:
Abraham Kuyper was trained as a theologian and self-trained as a political thinker and organizer. This comprehensive Program, which Kuyper crafted in the process of forming the Netherlands’ first mass political party, brought the theology, the political theory, and the organizational vision together brilliantly in a coherent set of policies that spoke directly to the needs of his day. Our Program served for decades as an inspiration to Kuyper’s followers and set a high standard for his opponents to match. For us, it sets out the challenge of envisioning what might e an equivalent witness in our own day.
Greg Foster, Program director of Faith, Work and Economics at the Kern Foundation, and author of the vibrant call to cultural renewal, Joy To The World says,
It is a scandal and a disgrace that we have all read Burke’s response to the French Revolution, but few in the English-speaking world have read the equally profound and equally consequential response of Abraham Kuyper – a response that has a least as much to say to twenty-first-century readers as Burke’s. It has been truly said that American never produced a really great political philosopher and has had to borrow them from Europe; Kuyper deserves a place besides Locke and Tocqueville as a titanic European intellect whose thought can help us understand the American experiment in religious liberty and constitutional democracy.
Kudos to the Kuyper Translation Project and the Acton Institute. And to the general editors Jordan J. Ballor and Melvin Flikkema for their labor of love, a historic undertaking of such a large, on-going publishing project. Hat tip to Harry Van Dyke for his own work as head of the team that did this particular volume. The prefaces and introductory materials are exceptionally helpful for those of us mostly unfamiliar with the details of this big work. I suspect they have no illusion that this volume will spur on a Christian political party, but it might offer some historically seasoned, Biblically-thoughtful, serious-minded principles to get us beyond the increasingly shrill and often stupid rhetoric from the right and left in North American civic life. If this can help, I can only say, read on! Spread the word!
FREE BOOK OFFER:
WITH ANY PURCHASE OF OUR PROJECT: A CHRISTIAN POLITICAL MANIFESTO BY ABRAHAM KUYPER WE WILL SEND TO YOU A COMPLIMENTARY PAPERBACK EDITION OF THE PROBLEM OF POVERTY, KUYPER’S DRAMATIC SPEECH GIVEN AT THE INAUGURATION OF THE FIRST CHRISTIAN SOCIAL CONGRESS IN 1891.
IT INCLUDES A FINE FOREWORD BY JAMES SKILLEN ILLUSTRATING ITS RELEVANCE YET TODAY.
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