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Serious Dreams cover.jpgSerious Dreams: Bold Ideas for the Rest of Your Life  edited by Byron Borger (Square Halo Books) $13.95 

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If you are a new reader of BookNotes, you may not know this: I released a book a year ago, which I edited, called Serious Dreams: Bold Ideas for the Rest of Your LifeSome people had been encouraging me to write and publish, although creating these on-line BookNotes reviews and regularly dispatching them into the world is more than enough for me to do each week. But when I got inspired to put this book together – Beth and I cooked up the project ourselves, with encouragement from the team at Square Halo Books – I pulled it together between our conference book displays, road trips and speaking engagements, and the day to day work in the shop. Our good staff here kept 234 East Main Street humming along and I put myself to pulling together a book of short essays, discussion questions, and a big ‘ol introduction by yours truly.

You can read all about Serious Dreams: Bold Ideas for the Rest of Your Life in a typically energetic BookNotes review here where we first announced and celebrated it last Spring.

Byron at podium at Geneva.jpgHere’s the gist: two years ago I was asked to deliver a commencement speech to the graduate schools of a Christian college in Western Pennsylvania. They awarded me an honorary doctorate which embarrassed me and gave me a shot at pouring my heart out about the impact of higher education on a young Christian life, and how to move out into the world, integrating what was learned and how one will live in the world.  The talk went well and a number of people wanted the transcript of my speech inviting students into a life based on 1 Chronicles 12:32 — becoming sons and daughters of Issachar who “understood the times and knew what God’s people should do.” My passionate call to the gathered young adults to be prepared to suffer for the sake of God’s reign, to understand our cultural moment and context in order to their use careers and callings (and the legacy of their particular college education in that storied place) for the sake of the common good, to use the tools of having been taught to think deeply and love well seemed to resonate and I was happy that a few people wanted copies. 

One person said it sounded like a keynote speech from the collegiate-oriented Jubilee conference, which, of course, I took as a great compliment.

A few weeks later Beth and I were very deeply moved watching the commencement speech given by Claudia Beversluis, then the Provost at Calvin College – which drew on a poem by Wendell Berry and beautifully described her hopes that students will draw deeply on their four years at college to serve the world well. I realized that that beautiful, generative speech should be printed and widely read. (You can watch it here, starting at 1 hour in.) That very moment, with tears welling up in my eyes, I sensed God’s prompting to find and edit and publish a handful of similarly inspiring speeches that we could make into a handsome little gift book for college graduates. 

As a bookseller and book lover and one who promotes the writings of others, I must say it was a very strange and glorious day when we unpacked the box, here at the shop as we usually do, but realized it was a case of my own little volume. Our staff treated it like the special moment it was, and we even got a cake to celebrate.  That was exactly one year ago.

My Serious Dreams: Bold Ideas for the Rest of Your Life is that book, firstly designed for college graduates, but also good for any twenty-something. This past year people have given it to any number of people in all walks of life. But it really was created for graduates entering the workforce or wondering what comes next as they move into the world as young adults.

And how nice it has been to autograph them, inviting readers to dream God’s dreams as I get to personalize each one.


serious dreams copies fanned.jpgWe wanted the book to be short but nicely designed (and oh what fun it was working with Ned Bustard, a graphic designer who manages Square Halo Books, known for beautiful design touches in all their artful books) but with a touch of whimsy, inviting for younger readers.

Ideally, it would be given as a little gift by churches, mentors, parents, friends or campus ministry organizations that have cared about the student over the years. 

(If your church doesn’t honor its college grads, you might take this up as an urgent project in the next week or so!)

 Serious Dreams: Bold Ideas for the Rest of Your Life is compact, nice to hold with a bit of a matte feel and paper with a slight creamy look. The occasional illustrations of leaves and acorns throughout allude to the cover art of mighty oak trees.  Okay, maybe that’s hoping a bit much, but we do think that reading serious Christian reflections about the transition out of higher education and into the world of work and public service will help young adults find their way, see their life (their whole life, every square inch of it) as the theater of God’s work.  There are heady tomes about linking the gospel to vocation and God’s grace to missional visions of the Kingdom coming. There are self-help books Christian and otherwise helping people learn to become all they were meant to be. This little book is meaty and mercifully brief, beautifully written and yet down to Earth. We think there is nothing quite like it, making it a very good choice for young adult readers.

We just edited a second edition, correcting typos and computer glitches and switched around a few grammatical quandaries that worked well when the speeches were first given, live, but that we needed to improve a bit for the printed page. We tried to retain the energetic tone of the speeches, given live as they were to real audiences, but needed to tidy it up a bit to make it better as a book.  My own was a bit tricky to edit since, well, let’s just say there was a lot to work on.  Ha.

I owe a real debt of thanks to the authors who presented the talks captured in this little book. I am very, very grateful for their generosity in allowing me to edit their pieces for publication.  I know personally almost every one of these authors/leaders and have studied all their work for years; in a way I have told some people that Serious Dreams is a Hearts & Minds primer. These are authors that mean a lot to me, and whose “visions of vocation” and whose own serious dreams shaped my own.  If you appreciate anything about our work here at the shop or the book displays we do at events or if you find our BookNotes reviews somehow helpful, I think you’ll like reading this curated collection of chapters, whether you are a recent graduate or not.

I hate to sound pushy, but the little indie publishing house that did such a nice job creating this for us doesn’t have much of a budget for publicity.  We’ve got no PR firms or agents or marketeers. I am counting on Hearts & Minds fans and friends to help us get the word out.  I’m asking you to consider buying a few of these and spreading the news. (Is there an indie bookstore in your community that might want to stock a few yet this Spring?)  I think you won’t be disappointed, and I am confident that those young adults who read it will be shaped, perhaps decisively, to think and care more faithfully about their own lives, their dreams, their passions and their vocations.

Here are the titles of the chapters and the names of the great speakers who delivered them:

Live Well, Be True, Do Good an Introduction by Byron Borger

In this introduction I frame the messages in the book, and remind young adults that starting small and living locally with an attentive sense of place, is a fine, good thing. We actually don’t have to change the world.  “Small things with great love” Mother Teresa once said. I have been deeply gratified to hear back from some readers who found this chapter particularly helpful, especially as they face less than inspiring circumstances. It’s going to be all right…

What It’s All About by Richard J. Mouw

Rich Mouw is a prolific author and hero to many who want to “think Christianly” and relate evangelical faith to public life in civil, fruitful ways. This nice chapter reminds young grads to remember that which they’ve learned in their college years and live it out in the real world, for the glory of Christ. It is basic, clear, and delightfully compelling. Mouw is a Kuyper scholar and past President of Fuller Theological Seminary and this is a very nice opening chapter. 

You Need Two Eyes by Nicholas Wolterstorff

Arguably one of the preeminent philosophers working in the world today, this very helpful chapter powerfully reminds us that we need both competence and compassion, Christian excellence in thinking well and the virtue of caring for the hurting. I have read this a dozen times and it still inspires me. One reader wrote and said this chapter alone was well worth the price of the book!

Rejoicing Your Community by Amy L. Sherman

Ms Sherman delivered this very upbeat and inspiring talk drawing upon insights from her excellent book Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good.  This chapter invites us to the many implications of Proverbs 11:10 which reminds us that faithfulness to God must be connected to service of the community, responding to the needs of the hurting world. Her longer book — or even this great little chapter — if taken seriously, could change how we think about our own work, and could truly transform our part of the world! 

The Memory in the Seed by Claudia Beversluis 

I noted that this was the speech, delivered at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI, that so moved Beth and I to compile this book and have this chapter be a centerpiece. (Talk about a bold idea – I can’t believe we actually pulled it off!) Claudia’s use of the Wendell Berry poem is itself beautiful, and the call to long-term, whole-life, culturally transforming discipleship is priceless.  The world needs you she said, and she is right. Do you believe it, really? Do the young adults you know believe it? How might they draw on the best visions of your past as you move with virtue and depth towards the future, God’s future? What “hard earned” memories do we carry with us?

Common Grace for the Common Good by Steven Garber

I suppose you know that Garber is one of my good, good friends, and his two books (Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior and Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good) are among my own personal favorites. He is morally serious, always eloquent, drawing here profound connections between the Biblical use of the word covenant and the sorts of work and the kind of economy we want to envision in our times. And he cites Wendell Berry and U2.  This address was delivered at Covenant Theological Seminary in Saint Louis and although offered for those going into vocations in ministry, it is substantive and offers thoughtful words and big ideas for us all.

Three Cheers for Sons and Daughters of Issachar by Byron Borger

Here is the one where I preach about cultural relevance, personal transformation, the integration of faith and learning, the need for hearts aflame and a robust, coherent worldview, through thick and thin, bearing witness to God’s ways in every area of life. I was so honored to speak about Geneva College’s heritage of promoting the Kingship of Christ and how that can inspire ordinary folks to live out their faith in the rough and tumble of a post-Christian society.  And I tell about Mahalia Jackson singing to Martin Luther King, long before that great scene in Selma.  I hope you enjoy it.

The Three Roads and the Three Rs by John M. Perkins

I hope you know John Perkins, a Mississippi-born, evangelical, civil rights leader, racial reconciliation mentor, and social justice advocate who has earned a number of honorary doctorates even though he only has a third grade education.  Considered a true elder statesman by many of us, I thought early on that if I were doing a book like this, I wouldn’t do it without Dr. Perkins involved. I was honored that he gave us his exceptional sermon delivered at  graduation ceremonies at Seattle Pacific University.  You may have heard or read in his many books about his vision of the 3 Rs but his “three roads” message was fully new and just fantastic. Right on — we all need to be on those three roads:  Damascus, Emmaus and Jericho.

Launch Out, Land Well an Epilogue by Erica Young Reitz

The sermons offered in Serious Dreams are all exciting and stimulating, provocative and inspiring. I think the little discussion questions after each are helpful.  I framed the big picture, breathy messages of the book in my introduction with a more quiet call to live well in our own unique context, inviting readers to listen to their hearts and pay attention to small stuff.  I wanted one more piece in the book, though, an epilogue by a wise guide to help young adults make transitions well with some clear-headed, practical advice. Erica Young Reitz is a dear friend whose own book After College: Navigating Transitions, Relationships and Faith is coming out in August 2016. Erica has done college ministry with the CCO mentoring seniors, helping them “launch out” well.  We are very glad for this practical afterword. Her suggestions are good for those leaving college or, actually, for anyone in times of change or transition.  Thanks, Erica.

Serious Dreams Facebook Timeline banner.jpg

We would be delighted to have you support our work by ordering one of my Serious Dreams books. We think the pieces are strong, and the main chapters are written by Christian leaders who are certainly some of the most important women and men writing these days. (My own pieces excluded, that is, although I am proud of both of my chapters.) Without exception the chapters are nicely written and inspiring, each offering a vision of the Christian faith as a coherent world-and-life-view, calling forth a lifetime of robust, gracious discipleship. This proposes a faith that is a way of life that is strong enough to help young people not only thrive in their transition into post-college adulthood, but to come to desire that God uses them to impact the world, in big and small ways. I believe the title captures this bold idea well: we offer very serious dreams. For the rest of your life.

Might I ask you to share this with those who might have budgets or reasons to buy gifts for the young people in your church or fellowship? It sure would be cool to get to sign a stack of these, sending them out with love and big hope. Thank you very much.

Serious Dreams cover.jpg

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