We hope you saw our last BookNotes newsletter, with almost 50 books on a clearance sale dealio. In my annotations I tried to not only describe these (sometimes lesser known books) but explain how they fit into our big book display at the Jubilee Conference in Pittsburgh last week. I didn’t go on and on about the all-of-life-redeemed vision of CCO and their effort to help students connect faith and the collegiate experience (including “learning for the love of God” and “academic discipleship”) by offering them a visions of vocation — integrating faith and the story of redemption as it informs their future callings and careers — but I could have. I mostly just listed those great titles, all on sale. That buy two get one free offer for you is still good until the end of the month, so don’t delay. There’s good stuff there, for sure. And a couple of helpful links of previous essays of mine to remind you of why we think this event is so, so important.
But, alas, in the run up to that demanding event, we only got one previous Lenten posts in (where we described Chris Rodkey’s Coloring Lent, here.) Today we list a few news ones, published in 2017 and a couple of older classics about which we wanted to remind you. We hope there is something here that will help you in you and your faith community’s journey towards Jerusalem, the place of Jesus’s final confrontation with the worst the principalities and powers could throw at Him. This is a rich season of the liturgical calendar, and these books, surely, can help. May this Lenten journey bring peace to your hurting soul, if necessary, or break your heart for the needs of the world, if that needs to happen for you. Not unlike Advent, it is a vital time of waiting, pondering, doing some serious soul-searching. Let’s stay in touch, if we can help you with resources you may need…
Many places in the country get two or three day deliver with US mail, which is cheaper than UPS, and sometimes quicker. Why not place your order right away, in time for this first week of Lent 2017?
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Preparing for Easter: FIfty Devotional Readings from C.S. Lewis C.S. Lewis (HarperOne) $17.99 My goodness, I could hardly believe it that no one had thought of compiling a book like this before: truly, this is almost like a brand new Lewis book. It deftly puts together fifty excerpts of great Lewis reflections, each germane in its own way, to our own journey towards the cross and the vindicating victory of Easter. Senior Vice President and Executive Editor of HarperOne Michael Maudlin has a very nice introduction that I’ve already read twice. This book is the embodiment of a splendid idea, a handsome, compact volume, offering seven readings a week for seven weeks (and an extra for Easter Day.) Excerpts are from an array of sources, of course from Mere Christianity and The Weight of Glory and Screwtape Letters and God in the Dock but also from some of the Narnia books, the science fiction “Space” trilogy, from his personal letters, from his own Bible studies (such as Reflections on the Psalms) and even a few poems. Lewis, you know, called the resurrection the “grand miracle.” Enjoy reading all about it in this lovely, lovely, new volume.
Wind in the Wilderness: A Lenten Study from the Prophets DJ del Rosario (Abingdon Press) $12.99 Each year the United Methodist publisher, Abingdon Press, does two 7 week Lenten Bible study guides for small group or Sunday school class use. One is always themed (while the other is a study book for the given Lectionary texts for Lent.) This one is the themed one this year drawing on the prophets and what it means to live into God’s vision of justice. DJ del Rosario is an energetic pastor of a UMC in the Pacific Northwest and works with a project he founded that resources those who work with young adults called Spark12.
Lent 2017 Christ Is For Us: A Lenten Study Based on the Revised Common Lectionary April Yamasaki (Abingdon Press) $12.99 Just like they do at Advent, Abingdon releases not only a themed Bible study guide but a small group resource allowing classes or groups to reflect on the Sunday lectionary texts for the upcoming Lenten season. Yamasaki is the pastor of Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford, British Columbia, and has written good stuff on creativity (Spark) and one called Sacred Pause, on spiritual formation and personal renewal. Here she offers 7 studies on the upcoming Lectionary texts, offering a few pages of insight, side bars, background, and good discussion questions about how to live in this season which focuses on Christ’s commitment to us, in His grace. Very nicely done.
On the Road to the Cross: Experience Easter With Those Who Were There Rob Burkhart (Abingdon) $16.99 This is not only a useful study of the (shall we say) minor characters who witnessed Christ’s last week (and there are a lot of them — from Simon the Leper to Malchus, from Nicodemus to Simon of Cyrene, to Mary Magdalene, of course) but offers us a creative way to enter into the story: before each set of meditations there is a fiction-like dramatization of the encounter being explored, each offering their own unique perspective. Anybody who appreciates the art of “Biblical storytelling” or creative writing will enjoy this.
There are eight chapters, offering six readings within each, so it can be read one-a-day for 48 days. There is a lot here, not too heavy, but often quite poignant and inspirational. This author is a respected United Methodist clergyperson and church renewal leader.
A Way Other Than Our Own: Devotions for Lent Walter Brueggemann (WJK) $13.00 “We begin our Lenten journey,” Brueggemann reminds us, “addressed by the remarkable assurance that the God who summons us is the God who goes along with us.” If Lent recalls times of wilderness and wandering (from newly freed Hebrew slaves in exile to Jesus’ temptation in the desert) this book will help us explore our journey into uncomfortable places revealing paths we ourselves might not have chosen. And leave it to Walt to help evoke within us a fresh imagination of what that may entail.
With readings on this Kingdom path — short devotionals on humility and justice and peace-making and more — Walt brings his characteristically intense prose that calls forth new images, new imaginations, which help us see Lent as an alternative way of life, alternative to the conventional empire and the pracitices of the American Dream. There is a moving prayer at the end of each entry. This is moving, Biblical, poetic, prophetic…. if you’ve not read Brueggemann, this is a good way into his work. Very highly recommended.
The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent Aaron Damiani (Moody Press) $12.66 Although this seems to be designed for those who are not used to the customers of practicing Lent, or who may even be suspicious of such practices, it is ideal not just for beginners but for anyone; I think it is a fantastic read. The author is the lead pastor of Immanuel Anglican Church in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood (and has degrees from Moody Bible Institute and the evangelically-minded Wheaton College.) I love the silk-screened hands on the cover, the hint of purple ink on many pages, the lovely feel of this good paperback. But the big picture it offers — a “mercifully short” history of Lent, some of the basic reasons for honoring this season of the church calendar, some replies to some objections to the traditions — really does provide a “case for Lent” which will be inspiring for us all.
After that introductory sort of stuff (that, again, is good for all of us, no matter how liturgically minded our tradition), Damiani carefully explores “the path of Lent.” Following this central part of the book, there are some wise and exceedingly helpful chapters on how to experience Lent with families and children and how to lead congregations through Lent (written, obviously, for pastors or church leaders.) What a fine, fine book, with endorsements from the likes of Ruth Haley Barton, Bryan Lifton, A.J. Swoboda and other good writers. Good job, Moody Press!
Journey to the Cross: Devotions for Lent Will Walker & Kendal Haug (New Growth Press) $15.99 New Growth Press is known for their “gospel centered life” curriculum (which Will Walker co-wrote) and for books that often help us apply the powerful gift of God’s grace to our own inner foibles and conundrums. That is, they consistently teach not only that God offers saving grace through His mercy, but that this same gospel transforms us, over time, from the inside out, as we cling increasingly to His promises. Nearly all of their many books remind me of that verse that promises that God who began a good work in us will bring it to completion, in Christ. Here, they bring that gospel-centered emphasis on the very good news to this season designed to re-focus our faith, allow God to re-calibrate our hearts, and move us closer to the heart of Easter. This is a forty-day devotional in which Dan Doriani (Professor and Vice President of Covenant Theological Seminary) calls “a wise, pastoral, and Christ-centered approach to Lent. It focuses on Jesus’ journey to the cross. It points to Jesus’ love, devotion, and sacrifice, and so enriches our preparation to receive his gracious redemption.” Pastor Scotty Smith (who has written marvelous book of prose and of prayers) says Journey to the Cross is “the finest devotional resource in my library for the season of Lent.”
To the Cross: Proclaiming the Gospel from the Upper Room to Calvary Christopher J.H. Wright (IVP) $16.00 Wright is an Old Testament scholar, author of numerous expert books on the unfolding drama of the Old Testament story (The Mission of God and Old Testament Ethics for the People of God are both nothing short of magisterial.) He’s a name you should know.
Now director of the Langham Partnership (and author of another brand new book called Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit), not to mention a brand new book on Daniel) Wright brings in this new one his global concerns and his passion for wholistic mission to the final days of Jesus. He reads the last leg of Jesus’ journey through an Old Testament lens. Although these expositions (on five key texts) are good for either personal study or small group use, there is a good appendix offering wise guidance to preachers using these passages offering insight on sermon preparation. I think this looks very useful, solid stuff, very nicely done.
The Sign and the Sacrifice: The Meaning of the Cross and Resurrection Rowan Williams (WJK) $15.00 There is little doubt that the former Archbishop of Canterbury is one of the most fertile and widely respected minds within the global church; many in various quarters of the worldwide Body of Christ read his books eagerly. In recent years Williams (now a Master at Magdalene College in Cambridge) has done exceptionally weighty volumes on political philosophy and on linguistics and two lovely, brief books published by Eerdmans, one on becoming a Christian and another on being a disciple. Here in The Sign and the Sacrifice Rowan Williams brings his deep thoughtfulness and broad learning to bear in what is a fresh look at the very heart of the gospel.
Sister Wendy Beckett (the art critic) says it is “wonderful” and “life-changing” and Yale Divinity School’s Miroslav Volf says it is “theology at its very best, and easily accessible too.” One reviewer exclaimed the mystery of how Williams can be “both poetic and straightforward” combining eloquence and clarity. I am very eager to read this, and I know many of our BookNotes friends will be too. There are three short chapters on the meaning of the crucifixion and two and a half on the meaning of the resurrection. Just over 100 pages. Order it today.
According to Your Mercy: Praying with the Psalms from Ash Wednesday to Easter Martin Shannon (Paraclete) $14.99 Father Shannon is an Episcopal priest who lives with the Community of Jesus on Cape Cod (home to Paraclete Press.) He holds a PhD in Liturgical Studies from the Catholic University of America and has written the lovely little book All God’s Angels. Don’t let the flowery cover fool you, this is not fluff.
I am teaching an adult ed class at my own PC(USA) church starting in Lent on the Psalms so am very eager to dive into this soon. The popular Catholic writer Bert Ghezzi gives a great review on the back, as does IVP’s legendary editor and small group Bible study writer, Bob Fryling (who calls it “a beautiful spiritual book…” which causes the Psalms to “sparkle.”) If Bob Fryling says it is “a wonderful devotional guide for Lent” I’d believe him. This really does look like a book that is more than lovely, but is substantive and rich.
Coloring Lent: An Adult Coloring Book for the Journey to Resurrection by Christopher D. Rodkey & Jesse & Natalie Turri (Chalice Press) $12.99 Well, I hope you saw our long review of this in a previous BookNotes a few weeks ago. The text of this thoughtful devotional guide and adult coloring book is written by our friend and neighbor here in Dallastown, Chris Rodkey, a progressive UCC pastor who serves his church and our town well. This is such a rich and interesting concept — an ecumenical, adult coloring book that follows the key texts of the Revised Common Lectionary for Lent — that we are happy to promote it. In fact, Chris will lead us through a couple of these devotionals, telling us a bit about the interpretation he brings to the text and the Story at a coloring book party here at the shop (on March 21st — stay tuned!) You can read my longer review of this here.
God Is on the Cross Reflections on Lent and Easter Dietrich Bonhoeffer (WJK) $14.00 Perhaps you have read (as many have) the compilation of Bonhoeffer excerpts, letters, prayers, and readings, turned into a powerful Advent devotional called God Is in the Manger.
Well this, obviously, is the Lenten counterpart to that small book and it is full of powerful wisdom, provocative insights, exquisite challenges about the cost of discipleship, the way of the Cross, and the good grace of our surprising God. What a privilege to read pieces from this 20th century martyrs Easter messages!
Grounded: Finding God in the World — A Spiritual Revolution Diana Butler Bass (HarperOne) $14.99 I’ve read this wonderfully written book twice, and parts even more often. I reviewed it (mostly) favorably when it came out in paperback (and I was honored to see a line lifted from my BookNotes column enhancing the pages of blurbs on the new paperback version that just came out.) I do not agree with everything Diana says, here, and wish she’d have given orthodox, historic evangelicalism a bit better spin, although much of her critique is not only valid, but vital.
Anyway, this newly released paperback is just in time as it includes a 40 Day Lenten Study guide in the back including prayers and devotional resources. This makes it useful for personal use and certainly for book clubs or adult ed forums (anytime, actually — it’s a good study guide — but especially for Lent.) Reading a page-a-day devotional guide not your cup of tea? This challenge to explore a progressive faith which is down-to-Earth (“grounded”) faith that is transforming the nature of the church and its ministry — so that it might be a salt and light and leaven sort of presence in the world that already bears the redemptive marks of a gracious, Creator-God — would make a provocative study, especially during this time of year. What is faith for? Why did Jesus die? What is the resurrection about? What is eternal life? Diana re-imagines these questions and more in light of her deep and beautiful appreciation of “original blessing” and the placed realness of God’s work in the world. You really have to listen to a book that starts with a Wendell Berry poem and is arranged in two major units called “Natural Habitat” (including chapters called Dirt, Water, and Sky) and “Human Geography” (with chapters on things like Roots and Home and Neighborhood and “Commons”.) This won the Religion News Association’s Book Award last year, and we’re glad for this nice paperback. And the thoughtful resource in the back, making it a good choice for those who want a book to read for Lent that isn’t about Lent as such. Like everything, we read any new approach with discernment and generosity, and I am sure this would be great for many of our readers to ponder well.
HERE ARE JUST A FEW FAVORITES FROM OTHER YEARS THAT ARE REGULAR BEST-SELLERS FOR US. WE HOPE YOU KNOW ABOUT THEM.
Between Midnight and Dawn compiled by Sarah Arthur (Paraclete) $18.99 We know many BookNotes readers have ordered Sarah Arthur’s similar prayer guides using good literature (the one for Advent was called Light Upon Light and the one for Ordinary Time is called At the Still Point.) This is ideal for the liturgical seasons of Lent, Holy Week and Eastertide, joined by a company of poets and novelists from across the centuries. Kathleen Norris calls is a “delight… so extraordinary a collection” and the late Phyllis Tickles called it “a thing of beauty.” By the way, Sarah Arthur is getting all sort of attention (as in our last BookNotes newsletter) for her recently released co-authored memoir cum guide to radical Christian discipleship called A Year of Small Things: Radical Faith for the Rest of Us.)
40 Days of Decrease: A Different Kind of Hunger. A Different Kind of Fast Alicia Britt Chole (Thomas Nelson) $14.99 This book came out last year and we’ve already had more people asking about it this month than last year. I think I’ll just copy here what I wrote last year:
This is a hard book to describe, but I hope it is a big seller this season, a book that can have a huge impact as we learn to give up not the standard stuff like chocolate or designer coffee or facebook, but, rather, stuff like apathy and injustice, resentment and hypocrisy and such. All of the love of God.
Yes, this is a zippy evangelical author (with a degree from George Fox Seminary) and there is a blurb on the back from the even more zippy Hillsong worship Leader Darlene Zschech (who, by the way, says it is “intuitive, prophetic, and profoundly inspiring, calling forth a revolution of soul health”) but also from Reverend Dr. Otis Moss (of the large and famously radical African American congregation, Trinity UCC in Chicago) and from the intellectual, Reformed apologist Ken Boa and the poetic singer-songwriter Sara Groves and the edgy social worker /contemplative, Nathan Foster. In other words, this book — which draws on Russian Orthodox theologian and beloved leader Thomas Hopko, Alexander Schmemann, and Thomas Merton, and quotes historical scholars like Martin Hengel and the ancients like Philo — has a pretty wide following.
40 Days of Decrease invites us to work out this stuff, day by day, with forty good chapters, each day letting go of those things that rob us of meaning and deep spirituality. This helps us move into a time of holy decrease — “holy when its destination is love. We thin our lives,” she says, “to thicken our communion with God.’ What a line, eh? This is a very good, and very nicely arranged book, designed to help.
Reliving the Passion: Meditations on the Suffering, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus as Recorded in Mark Walter Wangerin, Jr (Zondervan) $14.99 I love hand-sized, compact hardbacks and so appreciate the fine, fine writing in this lovely little book. I suppose you know Wangerin who has garnered award after award for his fantasy novels, his memoirs, his Biblical work, his children’s books and more. As a poet and preacher and, formerly, at least, an inner city pastor, this passionate Lutheran leader reminds us through Scripture and storytelling that “we crucify and we are crucified, are condemned and redeemed.” Eugene Peterson, who says he is one of the “master storytellers of our generation” insists that Wangerin “is at his best, writing on and around the Master Story.” This isn’t new and we’ve described it other years here in BookNotes, but wanted to remind you of it again. Not to be missed.
Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter (Plough Publishing) $24.00 This handsome hardback has brief readings from some of the world’s leading literary and spiritual writers, offering just enough meaty and aesthetically rich writing to please and challenge anyone who wants to dip in to a more mature sourcebook. Bread and Wine (like its companion Advent volume, Watch for the Light) draws wonder-full excerpts from C.S. Lewis, Augustine, Phil Yancey, Jane Kenyon; from Frederick Buechner, Dorothy Day, Wendell Berry, Watchman Nee. As you can see, this is really diverse, delightful, thoughtful. A wonderful devotional that you will keep for a lifetime, with each several- page excerpt linked to a brief Biblical text, this is a true gift from the tremendous thinkers and publishers at Plough Publishing.
Reflecting the Glory: Meditation for Living Christ’s Life in the World N.T. Wright (Augsburg) $14.99 Although we’ve fretted about the small print, this is just brilliant, with N.T. Wright doing his exceptional New Testament reflections here on New Testament themes (much from Galatians, actually, and more, for Lent.) Solid and stimulating Biblical mediations, one for each day some have said this is the richest Biblical devotional they’ve ever read…
By the way, we have a lesser known book of Wright’s, a small collection of sermons Tom preached in a depressed coal mining town in the UK where there had been a fateful disaster and ongoing injustice, a powerful little book called Christians at the Cross. (In England it was released as The Cross and the Colliery.) It is interesting to see how these sermons bring hope and comfort and a call to address evil, inviting those with faith to realize the scope of God’s work and to make a difference in the world. It is a book we routinely try to sell here at the shop.
Devotions for Lent from the Mosaic Bible (Tyndale) $2.99 This is a very handsome, pocket sized booklet that has forty short readings, will full color art on creamy paper, with some Latin text, Celtic cross illumination, quotes from ancient saints, and liturgical prayers. The print is very small (but you will still appreciate the nicely crafted fonts and page design, tiny as it is.) We have promoted the wonderful Mosaic Bible which is an “ancient future” sort of product, in the contemporary New Living Translation, that has sacred art, iconography of sorts, and a prayerful, artful feel. This little pocket book is drawn from readings and devotions and prayers from that Bible edition. A treasure to carry around for praying throughout the day, to take to work or school, or to give away prodigally. Kudos to Tyndale for this unique offering.
God For Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and Easter Reader’s Edition edited by Greg Pennoyer & Gregory Wolfe (Paraclete) $18.99 This was once, like its companion Advent book called God With Us, available in a handsome hardback laden with full color art produced on glossy paper. It was expensive and is now out of print. We sadly do not have any of those any more.
However, we are pleased to remind you, as we did last year, that there is now a nice paperback called the “Reader’s Edition” that has no artwork but is offered in an affordable, well-designed paperback.
Here is an edited version of what we wrote last year this time:
In December of last year we did a review of the wonderful Advent book God With Us. We have raved each year about the very handsome, artful, mature volume, and said one of the important things about it was that it “emerged from the mature writing in the pages of our best literary journal, Image, a sophisticated, faith-based quarterly of literature and art and criticism; Pennoyer & Wolfe are extraordinary thinkers and writers themselves, and have put together what is without a doubt one of the most glorious books you could own. (Except, perhaps for the long-awaiting, luxurious sequel, God For Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and Easter…”
Well, it is now Lent and we simply must remind you of this volume, the Lenten sequel to God With Us, called God For Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and Easter with its very good writers offering what may be one of the most thoughtful, ecumenical devotional books for Lent and Easter of which we know.
The introduction to this book is by the respected Catholic writer about spiritual formation, Rev. Ronald Rolheiser (author of the exceptionally good Holy Longing and more recent Sacred Fire.) One could hardly ask for a better preamble to this season, and I suspect it will be read and re-read often through weeks ahead. I actually enjoyed quite a bit the next essay by Beth Bevis (“The Feasts and Fasts of Lent”) which is very helpful for those less familiar with the historic spiritual rhymes of this time of the church year.
Each of the following weeks offers short daily meditations by one author. The first week’s worth of meditations and prayers are by the popular activist Richard Rohr. The great writer (and now Episcopal priest) Lauren Lauren Winner offers the next week’s reflections, followed by a week’s worth of meditations by the Orthodox poet Scott Cairns. Next we read the work of the Dordt College prof, novelist and short story author James Schaap. The entries for the fifth Week of Lent are by the beloved poet Luci Shaw. The remarkable Holy Week reflections are by none other than Kathleen Norris, author of so many moving memoirs about her own faith journey, including her time as a Protestant living among cloister nuns.
An additional feature includes very nice short pieces on the history of various customs and Feast Days within the time of Lent. Beth Bevis offers more than a dozen of these extra one page ruminations that are delightful and inspiring, perhaps especially for those of us not accustomed to thinking much about Shrove Tuesday, the Annunciation, Maundy Thursday or Holy Saturday.
Like the Advent one, God With Us brings to us some of the finest writers of our time, ecumenical, clear, artful. We are very grateful for Image and Paraclete Press for this fine release.
As I noted in our announcement of the book’s release last year in BookNotes, “they insist that Lent is not “a time of vaguely spiritualized gloominess” and who better to help us realize the “bright sadness” of Lent than good poets and deep thinkers and those gifted with artful skills of offering rich and evocative meditations on the Bible?
What an absolutely great gathering of perspectives, from an a Orthodox poet to a Presbyterian contemplative, Catholic mystics, an Episcopalian priest and writer, a Dutch Reformed short story writer and a scholar of Victorian literature. And dear, beloved Luci Shaw — oh how her work thrills us!
On the back cover it says “Lent and Easter reveal the God who is for us in all of life – for our liberation, for our healing, for our wholeness. Lent and Easter reminds us that even in death there can be found resurrection.
Make Room: A Child’s Guide to Lent and Easter Laura
Alary (Illustrated by Ann Boyajian) $15.99 Here is what I wrote when this first came out — even though I really don’t like the cover which doesn’t do the art on the inside or the rich prose and moving insight justice, I really want to remind you of this little treasure. There is nothing like this that we know of, and it is so needed. So, to repeat:
Wow, what a wonderful
children’s book, delightfully illustrated and nicely told. It is an
invitation for children to wonder about the Lenten story, helping
children to experience Lent with all their senses. They are taught to
see it as a special time for creating a “welcoming space for God.” As
it says on the back, “Simple activities like cleaning a room making
bread and soup, and inviting a neighbor for supper become acts of
justice and kindness, part of a life following Christ.”
The story unfolds telling the child what “we” do — meaning the church
of which she is a part. Maybe your church isn’t “dressed in purple” and
maybe you don’t have a Maundy Thursday service (but I sure hope you
do!) I don’t go to a lake for a sunrise service as this parish does, but
kids can realize that it’s the kinds of things some churches do. I
think it is a fine book for almost any kind of Christian and happily recommend it.
As Gary Neal Hansen (author of Kneeling with the Giants) writes,
book reveals what is usually hidden: what we knew as penitential is
actually life-giving and faith-building. After reading the book to my
kids, my five year old daughter exclaimed “I can’t wait for Lent! I just
The Undoing of Death Fleming Rutledge (Eerdmans) $24.00 This hefty paperback includes a large amount of sermons preached over the many years of the service this remarkable Episcopal pastor and preacher; a few of these are enhanced with artwork and illustration, all are meaty and substantive, drawn from deeper wells of good theological and exegetical study, and proclaimed with grace and wit and occasionally some prophetic bite. Now that Ms Rutledge has gotten more acclaim (Christianity Today awarded her last work, The Crucifixion, their coveted “Book of the Year” award, perhaps this anthology of seasonal sermons will be taken up more widely. We hope so, as we announce it every years. She has a small one called The Seven Last Words from the Cross and even her big book of sermons on Romans (Not Shamed of the Gospel) would be appropriate for reflective reading this time of year. But The Undoing of Death is truly one of a kind, highly recommended.
City of God: Faith in the Streets Sarah Miles (Jericho Books) $16.00 We love the extraordinary writing and remarkable storytelling of colorful Episcopalian convert and author and activist Sarah Miles. We recommend her stunning story in Take This Bread and the exceptionally moving, feisty, raw Jesus Freak. Her City of God (now out in paperback) is a further rumination on her life among the under-resourced in the Bay area of San Francisco, working out of the famously eccentric St. Gregory’s, framed by her experiences on Ash Wednesday, make this a memoir well suited as a Lenten reflection.
Here is just a little of what I wrote in a long review two years ago when it first came out and I first spent time with it:
…. I want to tell you about one of the most interesting books I’ve read in quite a while and it is perfect to read here as we approach Lent; as you’ll see it is a memoir mostly about experiencing Ash Wednesday. It arrived into the shop a few weeks ago, but, because I know this writer is thoughtful and such a very good wordsmith (and would be writing about some fairly intense stuff that I would want to consider carefully) I wanted to hold it until I had time to savor, to appreciate, to ponder, and to grapple with it.
Today I feel a little like Jacob after that long night of struggle, a bit banged-up myself, but blessed for the effort. I read the new book City of God: Faith in the Streets by a truly fascinating person and gifted, remarkable writer, self-confessed Episcopalian “church nerd” Sara Miles. I have read her earlier books and spent a few days at an event with her a year ago. I respect her a lot, as a writer and as a follower of Christ.
The City of God: Faith in the Streets is mostly about celebrating in high church fashion the service of putting ashes on the forehead on Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent.) And doing it out on the streets, for one and all.
City of God is an amazing book for several reasons. Firstly, it chronicles one day in Mile’s life, a busy Ash Wednesday, and three Ash Wednesday services in which she was involved that day.
You can read the rest of that review, here: https://www.heartsandmindsbooks.com/booknotes/city_of_god_faith_in_the_stree/
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