We show the regular retail prices but will deduct 20% off when you place an order. You can use our secure order form page at another part of our website. Scroll way down to safely use the link at the bottom of this column. May these recommendations stir you to make time during this upcoming season or Lent.
We love offering resources to help folks enter into the churches liturgical seasons. Whether you are a higher church Episcopalian or a free wheeling, hip mega-churcher or (like most of us) somewhere in between, all of us can appreciate the significance of being shaped less by the liturgical rites of passage like April 15th or the first day of school or the opening day of baseball season but by stuff that points us to Jesus. Advent and Lent, as least, help oriented our lives to a different sort of sense of the seasons and of the orientation of our life-times.
We love Bobby Gross’s lovely and thoughtful daily devotional called Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God: An Introduction and Devotional Guide (IVP; $18.00) that has a spectacular foreword by Lauren Winner that I read at least once a year. We have a host of other books on the church calendar, such as The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life by Sister Joan Chittister (Nelson; $15.99), Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality Through the Christian Year by Robert Webber (Baker; $20.00), or Sacred Days: Following Jesus Through the Christian Year byThomas Steagald (Upper Room Books; $16.99.)
For those that want to see how certain church year practices work out on our daily lives and why even non-liturgical church folk can take up this more catholic custom of “giving up something for Lent” we recommend The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent by Aaron Damiani (Moody Press; $12.99.) It is a very handsomely designed paperback that offers a good apologetic and some inspiration for trying out this practice.
We invite you to visit a few of our previous BookNotes columns HERE-2019 or HERE-2018 or HERE-2017 to learn about some long-time favorites that we routinely stock here during the season of Lent. (A few of the ones listed may not be available any more…) Great and perennial best sellers for us include the extraordinary anthology Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter by Plough Publishing ($24.00 ) or the great, great small sized The Art of Lent: A Painting a Day from Ash Wednesday to Easter by Sister Wendy Beckett (SPCK; $15.00) or the must-have classic God for Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and Easter edited by Greg Pennoyer and Gregory Wolfe (Paraclete; $21.99.)
Now that we are in the Lectionary Cycle Year A we are glad to be able to sell Lent for Everyone: Matthew, Year A: A Daily Devotional by the always-interesting N.T. Wright (WJK; $16.99.) By the way, his Reflecting the Glory: Meditations for Living Christ’s Life in the World (Augsburg; $14.99) is pretty much a Lenten project, too, and is amazing! It includes a 7-week study guide. And don’t miss our remarks a year or so ago about the pocket-sized Pauses for Lent: 40 Words for 40 Days by the amazing Trevor Hudson (Upper Room Books; $8.99) or the very useful 6-week study Forgiveness: A Lenten Study by Marjorie J. Thompson (Westminster John Knox; $13.00.)
I can’t wait until this time of year rolls around each year so I can remind you of one of my favorite books by a favorite memoirists, Sara Miles, who wrote a stunner of a book, a moving, feisty memoir structured around three Ash Wednesday services held on one day in 2012 (the main one celebrated and performed on the streets of San Fran.) It is called City of God: Faith in the Streets (Jericho Books; $15.99.) Our often-remembered, late friend Phyllis Tickle wrote of it:
Rarely, if ever, have I heard or read or experienced a more poignant or persuasive presentation of the city as metaphor and prototype for the Kingdom of God. Miles’s panorama is lived theology, and its result is a kind of holy magnificence.” — Phyllis Tickle, author, The Great Emergence
Of course, Sara’s good friend Nadia Bolz-Weber offered a great blurb, capturing much about City of God:
Gorgeously written, City of God takes Jesus from the walls of the church to the streets of the city, showing us that where two or more Anglicans or prostitutes or head-injured junkies or housewives are gathered, He is with us. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
SOME NEW RELEASE FOR LENT 2020
Lent 2020: Christ Is For Us: A Lenten Study Based on the Revised Common Lectionary April Yamasaki (Abingdon) $9.99 Every year we are glad to have this study in the “Scriptures for the Church Seasons” series which is designed for adult Sunday school classes or lectionary-based small groups. Unlike most Lenten devotionals which are designed for personal, daily use, this is a weekly Bible study to use in a class or group. Each of the seven lessons includes commentary and reflection on the readings for the week (the Old Testament, a Psalm, the Gospel, and the Epistle) and lots of discussion questions. There are some suggested activities or action steps. too, which is nice.
April Yamasaki is a pastor and author of books on spiritual growth. She has served as the pastor of Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford, British Columbia. She has written several books, including Sacred Pauses: Spiritual Practices for Personal Renewal and Four Gifts: Seeking Self-Care for Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength. The holds a Masters in Christian Studies from Regent College in Vancouver.
By the way, this had been released three years ago, so you might have that earlier edition.
Grace-Filled Wilderness: A Journey Through Lent Magdalen Smith (SPCK) $15.00 You may know that we import this British publisher through our good friends at IVP; many of the SPCK authors are rooted in the UK Anglican communion; Magdalen Smith, in fact, is not only an ordained priest but works in the office of helping future pastors discern their vocations and calls to the ministry. I have to admit I was first attracted to this book by the lovely cover and the allusive chapter headlines (which include provocative invitations to reflect on appetites and identity and calling and anxiety and pain and more.) The title is pretty captivating, isn’t it?
As the publisher says, “The Grace Filled Wilderness connects contemporary encounters of wilderness with traditional themes of Lent and Jesus’s journey to the cross.” These six full week’s worth of readings help us move (if only gradually) from wilderness to grace to hope and the joy of Easter. This looks really, really good.
The Radical Reconciler: Lent in all of Scripture Chris Wright & John Stott (SPCK) $15.00 One of my favorite Advent books which we promoted here last December was Rejoice! Advent in All of Scriptures which, like this new one, coupled older classic pieces by the so reliable and helpful John Stott with newer words by Chris Wright. Wright is one of the preeminent Bible teachers today — you should read anything by him you can! — and he directs Stott’s ministry, The Langham Trust. This benevolent, wholistic, evangelical ministry gets all the proceeds from the sales of their books, too, so this is a wonderful choice.
It is a wonderful choice, further, because of the great gift it offers us in seeing the coherence of the Biblical story, bringing together so much “in all of Scripture” as the subtitle promises. How does the “mission accomplished” message in the pained cry “It is finished!” help us face with confidence our own struggles and pains. If evil powers are defeated, death is destroyed, sinners forgive and peace being made, how do we live in this “now and not yet” time when all of history has not seemingly been brought under Christ’s Kingship? If it is “mind-blowing but true” that “the whole of creation has been reconciled to God” then how, then, shall we live? And how can we understand the Scriptures unifying message in a way that helps us life faithfully in the face of the cross and resurrection?
Very highly recommended!
Lent in Plain Sight: A Devotion Through Ten Objects Jill J. Duffield (Westminster John Knox) $14.00 I love the idea of this — and what a great cover. Don’t you just want to spend some time with this next month? And Ms Duffiled is a good writer (she has a couple of advanced seminary degrees, is ordained in the PC(USA) and is the fine editor of The Presbyterian Outlook.) I think this “ten objects” approach — which is sort of a thing these days in doing history writing — is really, really cool, and can be very illuminating.
Here is what the publisher tells us about it:
Uncovering the Love of Jesus: A Lent Devotional Asheritah Ciuciu (Moody Press) $12.99 I love it when evangelical publishers not known for much affinity with high church (let alone Roman) customs do good, surprising books like this, getting in on the practices of using Lenten devotionals and helping a broad readership take up this special season. This author was raised in the mission field of post-communist Romania and has seen a lot. And her passion for helping others understand the glorious love of Jesus is hard to miss. These forty devotions help us “reveal the love of Jesus poured out for us.” Each daily reading tends to look at some personal interaction of Jesus.
Chapter titles are plain and clear with headings like “Jesus Invites Us Close” and “Jesus Drives Out Fear” and “Jesus Offers Second Chances” and “Jesus Weeps” or “Jesus Loves His Enemies.” This really is what Lent is about, inviting us to enter directly into the narrative of Jesus’s life and times, his sacrifices and his service, helping us identify with him in his very death and resurrection.
By the way, this is a very handsome hardback with glossy paper and purple ink and some really nice touches. There are a few opening pieces about giving us something sacrificially during this time and it even, then, includes some optional family activities to help you “celebrate Jesus together.” It is a beautiful companion volume to Asheritah Ciuciu’s Advent one called Unwrapping the Names of Jesus. Kudos!
The Way of Benedict: Eight Blessings for Lent Laurentia Johns OSB (SPCK) $14.00 Many of us have heard of the sixth-century Rule of St. Benedict and a few of us have even dabbled in thinking about a rule of life (see, for a really cool and very contemporary sort of spin-off, The Common Rule by Justin Early (IVP: $16.00) who will be with us in Pittsburgh at Jubilee 2020 in a few weeks.) inspired by Saint B and his monastic guidance for prayer and work, community and hospitality. But, to be honest, I suspect most could use a nice, accessible guide to what this rule says, in light of Scripture, that could be applied to Lent.
Sister Johns does just this with lots of quotes and insights about the Rule of Benedict. She guides us to the RB (as it is called) and invites us a more intentional sort of living with two very curious and I am guessing solid and reliable insights about where these habits might take us: first, in the prayerful Benedictine sort of spirituality, the whole of life has a certain Lenten character, so this isn’t an unusual or odd sort of season disconnected with our daily discipleship. And, this focus leads to freedom and joy, even as we long more diligently for the resurrection. This is a great little Lenten read and each chapter has ideas for reflection and action.
Living Into Lent Donald K. McKim (Westminister John Knox) $14.00 This brand new release is a nice little volume, ideal for Presbyterians, especially. Dr. McKim was a beloved PC(USA) seminary professor, theologian, educator, and denominational leader in our big-tent Reformed communion and is the author of bunches of books, both big and smaller. (He’s known as a Calvin scholar, too, and just recently released Everyday Prayer With John Calvin [P&R publishers; $15.99.]) His is a 1971 graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and we have some mutual influences and friends; he’s a major thinker but has served as a small-town pastor, too, so knows how to communicate major themes in delightfully clear-headed ways. I think those who aren’t Presbyterian might like it, too, as it is so faithful and encouraging.
Here is how the publisher describes the tone:
The Lenten journey is a shared journey—Christians join with others along the way of faith, following Jesus and seeking to live out the will and purpose of God. Living into Lent, written by noted theologian, educator, and author Donald K. McKim, sets aside time during the Lenten season for readers to reflect on their Christian identities, listen to God’s Word and will, and engage in practices that deepen the Christian experience through discipleship.
Whether used for congregational study or personal reflection, each reading features Scripture, devotion, a theological quote, response, and prayer. Th theological quotes, drawn from the history of the Reformed church, will help readers better understand God’s Word and its implications for the Lenten journey. Readings are enhanced by a seven-session study guide and questions for conversation.
For the Beauty of the Earth: Lenten Devotional Leah D. Schade (Chalice Press) $5.99 I was hoping (as was a UCC pastor friend we talked to recently) for a Lenten book exactly like this, and we are so glad the Disciples of Christ affiliated Chalice Press offered brand new resource this year. It is a brief sort of daily guide, inviting us to the joy of recognizing the beauty of the Earth and to reflect on our call to care for creation. It draws on the lovely old hymn “For the Beauty of the Earth” and each week focuses on a different aspect of nature’s splendor. And its abuse and the needed outrage and commitment to be faithful in response.
This inexpensive study does call us to a renewed and reformed practice during Lent, reminding us and calling us to revive our commitment more ecologically wise lifestyles and to push towards making systemic changes. And, yes, then, to rejoice on Easter for the incredible saving gift God has given us in Christ, for the world God so loves.
I got to preach once at an Easter Sunrise service at the local Izaak Walton League and spoke about the creation groaning as described in Romans 8 and the completion of God’s plan to heal the planet accomplished on the cross and mighty resurrection. This nice devotional by a professor of homiletics — Leah Schade is a Lutheran who wrote Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology and the Pulpit — would have been helpful.
The short prayers at the end of each reading will seem for some, a bit unusual and the calls to action are sometimes rather serious. Which makes this a really good tool for anyone want to be more deeply committed to reflect about God’s care for all creation and its suffering during this season of the cross…
Wild Hope: Stories for Lent from the Vanishing Gayle Boss, illustrated by David G. Klein (Paraclete Press) $19.99 We so hope you recall our rave reviews in years past about this author/illustrator team’s wonderful All Creation Waits: The Advent Mystery of New Beginnings. That lovely book of artful woodcut illustrations of animals who hibernate evoked allusive reflection on winter and waiting and was ideal for Advent, wonderful for those who like nature writing and great for those whose Advent imaginations could see the metaphor and make the connections.
Well, this sequel and companion volume is very similar — with great, great writing, fantastic artwork (again, engravings or woodcuts) and a book laden with goodness and grace. The most obvious theme of this powerful — environmental activist and literature prof Bill McKibben calls it “overpowering” — Lenten book is the beauty and sorrow of endangered species.
As spiritual writer Christine Valters Paintner (founder of Abbey of the Arts) says:
Full of power and poignancy, love, and lament. Gayle Boss invites her readers to groan together with all creation in grief at the profound loss of species Lament is a cry of truth-telling, and in her portraits of these exquisite creatures, we hear the necessary and devasting truth of what we are losing.
Carl Safina, ecologist, NYT bestselling author of Beyond Words and Becoming Wild; MacArthur Fellow and founder of The Safina Center, writes:
Wild Hope is the only book whose table of contents alone gave me chills. Here’s the deal: the living world, life on planet Earth, is sacred. Author Gayle Boss yearns to show us that we live in a miracle. And she succeeds in showing us that we are not alone on this holy planet. This is a beautifully elegant, deeply excellent book, pursued by grace on every page, in every stunning illustration.
And listen to this endorsement from a first-class poet and Christian writer:
At first I wondered how a connection could be made between the Christian season of Lent and the human ravaging of Earth’s creatures in the wild. But Gayle Boss’s detailed, vivid accounts of an ark-full of wild lives in danger, as our climate changes, convinced and challenged me. In the stories, and with powerful woodcut images, the beauty of living wild beings is revealed to readers as designed and beloved of the Creator. –Luci Shaw, author, The Thumbprint in the Clay and Eye of the Beholder, Writer in Residence, Regent College
Saying Yes to Life: The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book 2020 Ruth Valerio (SPCK) $15.00 For years, now, we have happily stocked the famous Archbishop of Canterbury’s choice for their Church of England “all church” read. We’re not Anglican, but appreciate their effort to raise up theological and spiritual themes for the church that always have some implication for our public discipleship. These books are not for navel-gazing or only deepening personal piety during Lent, but to help us mature in our understanding and live well in a very needy world. Saying Yes to Life is surely one of those kinds of books. In fact, it is co-published and will profit Tearfund, a respected British relief and development agency. Thanks be to God.
Saying Yes captivated me right away — the embossed, raised printing on the cover gives it a delightful tactile feel that seems not just artful but somehow weighty. I wanted to take this book seriously, despite the cheery colors of the cover. And this is about right — it is lively and light even when it is grave and prophetic. It majors in teaching that we are made in the very image of God so are entrusted to share in God’s “joy and ingenuity in making a difference for good.” Nice and laden with implications, eh?
The book starts with Genesis 1 and explores the days of creation as Ruth Valerio imaginatively relates themes of light, water, land, the seasons, other creatures, humankind, and (of course) Sabbath rest. Her Lenten vision of eventual resurrection hope is allusively connected somehow to the very rest of the original garden. In that, it reminded me of the heavy, important book (which I named a “Best Book of 2019”) which explores this directly: God’s Sabbath With Creation by James W. Skillen.
Saying Yes to Life, like any contemporary theological or spiritual work should, offers God’s hope to matters of environmental, ethical, and contemporary social concerns. How could it not?
Ms. Valerio suggests (and this is good!) that “foundation to Saying Yes to Life is what it means to be human, and, in particular, to be a follower of Jesus.” Remember that line from the church Father who said the glory of God is seen in the person fully alive?
But, again, she organizes this creative set of chapters around the days of creation, so humankind must be seen in our glorious relationship to other creatures. Valerio is herself an environmentalist and works for the aforementioned Tearfund and in the acknowledgements thanks many women and men, a few who we’ve had the pleasure of knowing — Ed Brown, Elaine Storkey, Rusty Pritchard, and others. This is a lively, creative, solid, and wonderfully imagined call to prayer and transformation. Each chapter has voices and prayers from around the globe and offers ideas for contemplation and action (although it is not a daily devotional in format.) Saying Yes to Life is really good not just for individuals, but for classes or book clubs or small groups to think and reflect together. Wow.
Prizing His Passion: Why the Death of Jesus Christ Should Matter to You…a Forty-Six Day Journey John S. Oldfield (Resource Publications) $26.00 I wish this weren’t so pricey as I’d love to be able to promote this widely. I want to assure you that this is a rich and thoughtful, even a bit deeper, study, and would reward you with mature insight, even over multiple readings. At over 200 pages, it is a treausre.
John is an old friend who welcomed Beth and I to York when we moved to the area so many decades ago. I was involved in the anti-nuke movement, doing some protests and social justice organizing, and starting our ecumenical bookstore so to have this dear nearly fundamentalist brother invite me into his non-denominational, urban church was a bit refreshing and a real delight. He, I discovered, had studied at Denver Seminary under the legendary Christian gentleman and scholar, Vernon Grounds (who I had met and admired, also because I knew he had served Ron Sider well in helping start up Evangelicals for Social Action.) Before coming to York, John had served in global ministry (I think in Turkey and perhaps what they used to call Persia) and he maintains friendship with folks all over the world. One can’t be with him for more than a few moments without realize his heart for others, his desire to meaningful share the gospel, his passion for outreach and care. For years in York John continued to do old-school urban ministry, pastored a needy flock, did evangelism, radio ministry, thoughtful apologetics; he ran a friendly coffee house offering Christian music (before it became somewhat of a big-time industry; he’d have Phil Keaggy or John Michael Talbot doing acoustic sets and talking about Jesus to all sorts of seekers and skeptics.) John later joined the staff of the large First Assembly of God here in York and eventually moved away. His beloved wife of many years, Dagmar, died recently, and while in town we had opportunity to get caught up a bit. I say all this to put into context my encouragement for you to consider this no-nonsense, seriously Biblical, Christ-centered, gospel-focused, exploration of the passion and suffering and death of Jesus.
In John’s delightful, pointed way, he tells why he writes and his hope that it offers comfort and perhaps salvation to readers, as he points us all to Jesus,
Approaching the relevant biblical truths from multiple angles, it will provide you with a deeper understanding of what He experienced and said during the hours that culminated in His death on a first-century Roman cross. It will reveal the reality and relevance of it all for you as you struggle to find your spiritual footing here in the twenty-first century. Godspeed as you travel the road to Golgotha, to Calvary!
One of the most significant missionary leaders of our lifetime, I would say, is Greg Livingstone, the founder of Frontiers, that pioneered contextualized ministry among unreached people groups and seeking Muslims. Of course, John is friends with him, too.
Greg Livingstone writes of Prizing His Passion:
Every once in a while, we discover a treasure from a little-known pastor-writer-friend who offers us a penetrating thought-provoker. Prizing His Passion is an unhurried, meditative journey that causes us to look into the Father’s face and say, ‘Thank You!’ in true, overflowing gratitude. I found dwelling on its pages provoked a fresh outpouring of affection and appreciation to our Lord for His sacrifice, one I hadn’t experienced for far too long.
It is a joy for me to get to tell you about this Lenten book by an older brother in Christ, still running the race and publishing resources that can change people’s lives. Amen!
Lead Us Not into Temptation: A Daily Study in Loyalty for Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday Martin Shannon, CJ (Paraclete Press) $14.99 This brand new book may appeal to any of us that want to ponder the brokennes of the world, the temptations that afflict us, the real-world questions of fidelity and betrayal and sin. In our gut we know that this is part of the Biblical story, part of our own story, and stuff about which we should be honest about (in our lives and in our culture.)
As I skimmed the table of contents to see how this Episcopal priest (who is a liturgist and spiritual director and part of the Community of Jesus on Cape Cod, MA) handled all this, I was drawn in. It explores “examples of the problem” from the Bible, and moves from a week on the temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden, which he notes is “The Curse” to the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness which he calls “The Cure.” He draws considerably on Bonhoeffer’s famous Creation and Fall and offers summary lines at the end of each days reflection. This is good stuff, succinct and nicely offered. I hope you like the work of Paraclete Press as much as we do!
“I will be using Lead Us Not Into Temptation for Lent, not only because it is filled with wisdom on a topic not often contemplated, but because the format–short but weighty daily entries, spiked with insights from Bonhoeffer–is ideal for the introspection which the season invites. As Martin rightly says, temptation not only can turn us, but it can teach us so that we come to Eastertide more spiritually healthy than we were on Ash Wednesday.” — Rev. Canon Dr. Dennis Okholm, Professor of Theology, Azusa Pacific University; author of Monk Habits for Everyday People
And there I said it: it is little and a novel. More precisely, a novella (longer than a short story, but at 132 trim sized pages, it isn’t War and Peace.) But as a novella, Remember Me is not only entertaining, offering several hours of great reading pleasure, it is, also, an ideal resource for your own Lenten meditations. With a study guide, a reflection, and full color artwork, there is plenty to use. Let me explain.
You see, Remember Me is very much connected to a novel I raved about in this column last summer, a story called Shades of Light. It was a fictional account of a burned out social worker who takes up living with her aunt, who is a spiritual director at a retreat center. As a novelist, Ms. Garlough Brown has covered some of this general ground before in her “Stepping Stones” series, a beloved set of “spiritual fiction” stories (as the publisher describes them) about the lives of women who meet at a contemplative retreat. In Shades of Light we learn of the spiritual retreat leader, Katherine and Wren, who is facing anxiety and depression (and near poverty since she has lost her job) as well as the parents of Wren who are worried about their young adult daughter, and several other individuals involved in her struggles with emotional pain and a new sort of faith and spirituality. In that novel, the spiritual director (Katherine Rhodes) invites Wren to explore her sorrows by helping paint some Lenten artwork, a set of works on the Stations of the Cross. Since Wren is an avid reader of the letters and diaries of Vincent Van Gogh, she increasingly understands the inter-connections between mental illness and sadness, between art and faith, between depression and hope and creativity and grace. It’s a great story, a very nice novel (that includes a bit about Van Gogh) that moved me deeply.
Remember Me picks up the story and offers a series of letters written by Katherine to Wren. Katherine’s own grief has welled up, she is herself wondering how to recover from grief and loss and so much that is unresolved… Katherine (as it says on the back cover) “reflects on the meaning of Christ’s suffering and shares her own story of finding hope.” One wouldn’t have to read the first one, by the way, but I was glad to hear more of Katherine’s back story through this simple device of the letters she wrote.
Katherine and Wren make quite a literary/artful couple and as Wren moves forward in her commitment to paint the stations of the cross for the prayer experience at the New Hope Retreat Center, readers themselves will discover or recall their own similar journeys, or their visceral wishes for this kind of encounter. A real artist (Elizabeth Ivy Hawkins) agreed to try to play the role of Wren and paint “in her voice” for this book, so you can see and meditate upon the actual Stations of the Cross artwork. Ms. Brown explains more in the informative Acknowledgments section, which is very nice.
All good stories have the ability to probe and call us to self-reflection, but in this case — because it is a story about loss and grief and art and Lent — is is certainly appropriate to list here as a slightly different sort of Lenten devotional. In fact, IVP has created a Scripturally-based devotional guide with readings and prayer prompts (and full color art) to help use this story as a way to ponder Christ as a “man of sorrows” and the Lenten journey as a time to encounter the restoration and hope offered by the gospel. Remember Me is a handsome, compact sized hardback with a nice jacket, making a truly lovely resource for this season, or for any season. It would make a nice gift and a great book club title, too. Order it today!
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