The Seamless Life: A Tapestry of Love and Learning, Worship and Work Steven Garber (IVP) regularly $20.00 (hardback with full color photographs.) OUR SALE PRICE = $16.00
This is a BookNotes post I’ve been eager to share as it is an announcement about a forthcoming book that is about to be released and, although it has an official 2020 publication date, will be here by mid-December. You can PRE-ORDER it now on sale as a Christmas gift and we promise to get it to you (or directly to your recipient) in plenty of time for gift giving on Christmas day.
Like those artsy Hollywood films that are released in December so they can qualify for that year’s Academy Awards, we just might count this as a 2019 release and will therefore surely name it as one of the very best books of the year. Then, I can name it again next year as one of the best of 2020, too. Believe me, I will. It’s that good.
Author Steve Garber is a very dear friend and an esteemed teacher and writer who is deeply respected by almost everybody who knows him. He smiles a lot, loves great movies and novels and pop music (and seems to have crossed paths in meaningful ways with smart bands such as the guys in Jars of Clay and respected visual artists like Mako Fujimura and so many more) and has talked about deep things with writers as diverse as rock poet Billy Corgan to the late urbane novelist Tom Wolfe to the great rural Wendell Berry. I say this not to name-drop or brag but to impress upon you that this quiet professor and skillful writer is a very, very interesting person who has been named as an influence upon important influencers. He talks about “conversations with consequence” and sometimes convenes gatherings with old theologians and modern makers, with writers and justice activists, with older scholars and young moms. He connects chefs and rock stars and poets and pastors. He cares about faithful Biblical thinking and beautiful, meaningful work in the world. He enjoys long walks outdoors. Like one of his mentors, Francis Schaeffer, he believes in honest answers to honest questions. With his sharp intellect and big picture of God’s work in the world and his patient capacity for long conversations over cups of hot tea, I have heard more than one informed person say he’s the closest thing to a combo of Edith and Francis Schaeffer we have these days.
The Seamless Life: A Tapestry of Love and Learning, Worship and Work is a collection of shorter essays, reflections, reports, if you will, of Steve’s travels and conversations, often (although not only) on the questions that come up when ordinary folks are trying hard to relate their Christian faith to their work, to their jobs and their responsibilities in society. He shares much about his anguish over this broken world and yet shares good glimmers of hope, stories of goodness and wonder and of those making a difference in constructive ways. The Seamless Life is a perfect introduction to Steve’s writing for at least three reasons.
First, it’s accesible and the entries are relatively short. These pieces capture his eloquence and unique way with words – he’s got some distinctive styles that are signature formulations – without being overly dense. I think his writing style is spectacularly interesting and moving, tender and at times so poignant, yet without ever being sentimental or shallow. Unlike some authors who turn up the prose to make it artsy, but aren’t writing about stuff that deserves such weighty words, Garber’s intensity as a writer matches his seriousness as a thinker and bears witness to his life lived with quiet zeal and utter integrity and a nerdy sort of sincere passion.
But here’s what is so good about this new book: as a collection of stand-alone pieces, many reporting on places he’s visited or people he’s met, the chapters are short and often nearly punchy; he meanders through history and the meaning of words or places he’s visited but quickly gets to the point. One need not wade through long arguments and complex analysis to get to the writerly pay-off. I hope you enjoy the genre of essays, and appreciate how this collection carries the benefits of this short-form approach, even if they are sometimes memoiristic — reportage, testimony. He has honed his writing craft and has so very much to say, but brings the insight easily, here, with a really nice touch. Some of these chapters were first published as Facebook posts but as anyone who follows Steve on social media will attest, one long Facebook post from Steve is worth a whole book from a less profound author. These shorter essays are a great “gateway” to his longer books — accessible and interesting and handsomely offered, with pictures. Even if they are not exactly succinct or concise, they are relatively brief.
Secondly, it covers a lot of ground, interestingly. The entries in The Seamless Life: A Tapestry of Love and Learning, Worship and Work are, besides being somewhat shorter than the weighty chapters in Fabric of Faithfulness or Visions of Vocation, a bit more diverse in content than those previous books. Both of those books are extraordinarily interesting and he brings in authors and artists and stories of unsung people he knows. He’s a born storyteller; he loves to hold up the work and witness of others to help us all be inspired to live more creatively and faithfully in-but-not-of this broken, broken, already-but-not-yet world. Yet, still, the movies and stories and exemplars in the other books are arranged to illustrate the big points of the book, so, interesting as they are, they are mostly connected to that particular theme and illustrative. In The Seamless Life, however, Garber covers more topics which allows him to introduce to us even more of his friends, his favorite writers, his discoveries about family and friendship and church and more. The stories are front and center. In a way, these pieces are just more of the same we’ve come to expect from Steve but the scope is a bit more broad, and the short form allows him to dip in to this topic or that, tell this episode or quote that lyric with even more personality and obvious wisdom. It makes for very inspiring and interesting and energetic reading, urgent reports from the road. I don’t want to overstate this, but it is almost devotional, doxological.
If you, like me, ever quote Steve’s previous two books, photocopy pages, cite certain stories or episodes, you will love The Seamless Life. It is eminently readable, quotable, and in that sense, very useful for those in ministry, who teach or preach or post. You can confidently give out this book as a gift even to those readers who you fear might not stick with his excursions into Michael Polanyi’s philosophy of science or Lesslie Newbigin’s view of truth or the political theory of Vaclav Havel (in Fabric) or the critique of the eroding influence of capitalism a la Wendell Berry or the notion of “proximate justice” (in Visions.) Not that either of those two previous books are too academic (they are not written for the scholarly market, even though Fabric was most interested in how lasting faith is developed in the young adult years within the context of higher education) and not that Seamless is overly light or cheap. Garber can’t write a cheap phrase and is always profound, even in his gentle storytelling and good humor. But The Seamless Life: A Tapestry of Love and Learning, Worship and Work is an easier read than his previous two and so it’s great to give out, sure to please anyone interested in faith and public life, about honestly weaving together worship and work, wishing for a life that ties together, coherently, seamlessly, a long obedience in the same direction, hard as that may be for us frail humans.
Thirdly, it helpfully revisits some of his previous concerns working them out in real places, reporting back from the journey. Please realize that Seamless… is not a greatest hits album, since that beloved genre offers a collection of previously recorded stuff, a compilation. This handsome hardback volume has the charm and familiarity of such a device, but is not culled from the two earlier books; it is absolutely not rehash. If you’ve read Fabric of Faithfulness or Visions of Vocation, it just sort of feels like you’ve heard some of this before. Which is to say, if you appreciated his two previous books – and let us be clear, some think his books are the most important books they’ve ever read – you will adore these shorter ruminations, revisiting themes and topics and concerns and passions that thread their way through his earlier books, his many classes and speaking engagements, his very life. These are Garber’s eloquent but short-form reports from the road. And what an interesting road he’s been on!
(By the way, Visions of Vocation has been translated into Mandarin Chinese, into the language spoken in Indonesia, and, just recently, into Slovak. Steve has travelled to these places to teach and mentor and celebrate with those who have found enduring wisdom and sturdy, thoughtful value in his work. Did I mention that the photos and pieces in A Seamless Life are mostly reports from the road? Did I mention what a very interesting road he has been on? I sometimes think of him as a global Frodo…and he invites us to follow along.)
If Fabric of Faithfulness and Visions of Vocation taught us anything it is that to live out an enduring faith, seamlessly and coherently, bearing some of the weight of the hurting world as we must, and our personal brokenness, as we do, we need models and mentors. If you want a glimpse of a life well lived, culturally aware and spiritually rooted, realistic and morally serious, knowing more about Steve Garber will be edifying and perhaps life changing for you. Even more than his previous books, The Seamless Life: A Tapestry of Love and Learning, Worship and Work tells more of Steve’s own story. He tells of his parents and grandparents, the geographies and places he has loved, writes sweetly about his beloved wife of many decades and his children (now grown) and ponders his various careers and callings, letting us in a bit more, telling great anecdotes about others, but also about himself. If you like his books or classes or legendary Facebook posts, you simply must read this. If it is a great gateway introduction for those who haven’t read him yet, it is also a perfect follow up and follow through to those who have been introduced to his good work in the previous books. Indeed, you will smile knowing a bit more about some of the folks that are mentioned in those previous volumes (like Hans of Elevation Burger and Bruno and Jay from the Mars Corporation Jubilee project.) Man, this is good stuff, and this new book delights to invite you into deeper membership of this broader circle of Garber’s friends and comrades.
I have read the soon-to-be-released manuscript of The Seamless Life and offered a heart-felt and glowing endorsement, which, I am told, may be inside the front cover. I count that as a great honor and I will copy that intentionally breathy endorsement below, along with others written by more important leaders, that I trust you will find informative and compelling, persuading you to care about this wonderfully written collection of shorter reports by my friend Steve Garber. You should know, too, that this hardback is designed almost like a gift book with full color photographs taken by Steve, often informally, it seems, capturing more of the embodied, real-world texture of these reports and stories and episodes of his life in the real world. I was unsure if reproducing these pictures (and doing the book in hardback) would be effective, but the more I think about it, the more glad I am about this. It really does create a reminder that these essays emerged from real places; this is not abstracted idealism. Garber has cared for a lifetime about places and cultures and people and institutions, in their beauty and sadness, so real shots of the scenes truly is apropos. I think you’ll agree that it’s a very nice touch.
I will tell you more about the various strengths of these essays later, but for now, we wanted to give you these reasons to pre-order this right away. The Seamless Life: A Tapestry of Love and Learning, Worship and Work has been announced as a January 2020 publication, but we have been told that it will be released early and we will have it soon. We can send it out promptly to you (or to another address for you) if you pre-order. We invite you to be among the first to get and give it. Send an order our way today by using the “order here” link below which takes you to our secure website order form page.
“The Seamless Life is a scrumptious feast for mind and heart, meticulously prepared in bite-size pieces of timeless wisdom, transforming truth, and life-giving grace. The depth and beauty of the poetic words as well as each breathtaking photograph point longing hearts to a God well loved and a life well lived. Steve Garber is a remarkably good man with a rare gift of storytelling. This may be his finest work. I highly recommend it.”
Tom Nelson, senior pastor of Christ Community Church, Leawood, Kansas, and author of Work Matters and The Economics of Neighborly Love
“In The Seamless Life, Steven Garber culls a lifetime of observation, reflection, and writing into what can only be called a masterpiece on vocation. With gentle, persuasive, artful language, Steven gives the reader a true picture of a faithful life. It is a seamless vision of word and work based in love, lived for the benefit of all and the glory of God. I cannot recommend this manual of meaning and mission more strongly. This book contains the truest truths, the deepest wisdom, and love that knows no limits.”
“This modern life often feels fragmented. Steve Garber’s new collection of words and writings, The Seamless Life, gently weaves coherence and grace from the far corners of vocation, friendship, and spirituality. A skillful storyteller, Garber puts himself forward effortlessly. The Seamless Life is like good conversation, and it reads as if you are sitting with an old friend across the table. These chapters can be savored daily, as each page is filled with sacred questioning, wisdom, and hope.”
Sandra McCracken, singer-songwriter and recording artist
“I do not think I can name another author whose books are so intensely esteemed and indeed treasured by a cadre of followers, readers who in many cases have become friends of the author, than Steven Garber. His transforming words are always given flesh in his books as he moves deftly from big ideas to daily consequences, between hearing and doing, principles and practice. But in this new collection of essays, stories, anecdotes, and reflections, he allows us deeper into his life, his work, and his marriage. The Seamless Life is a kingdom-sized glimpse of a good life lived with coherence and commitments, animated sometimes with rather ordinary days and then with astonishing episodes of extraordinary experiences. This is one of the best collections of essays I have ever read and is perhaps Garber’s finest achievement yet. Don’t miss this wise, achingly beautiful book.”
Byron Borger, Hearts & Minds bookstore, Dallastown, Pennsylvania
“The Seamless Life is wise, warm, and winning. Steven Garber generously offers a lifetime of thoughtful engagement with work, vocation, and worship (and many other topics) in photos and short vignettes that are poetic, full of good stories, and a joy to read. This is a nourishing feast in bite-size portions. I sat down to savor it and found I did not want to put it down. If you’ve ever wondered how your ordinary work—and ordinary life—matter to God or in the big, wide world, this book will encourage and inspire.”
Tish Harrison Warren, Anglican priest and author of Liturgy of the Ordinary
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