LENT 2021 – Good books for complicated times. 20% off from Hearts & Minds Bookstore. ORDER NOW.

Please be aware that depending on where you want us to send the books, the United States Postal Service (USPS) may be considerably delayed. “Media Mail” is about $3.25 for one book but can take a while (weeks?) UPS is more costly (about $8.00, depending on weight and destination) but much more reliable. It is really helpful if you tell us what your shipping preferences would be so we can serve you well. Please call us if you have any questions.

It is really helpful if you tell us your shipping preferences so we can serve you well.          Please call us if you have any questions.

In the last few years we have delighted in sharing with you a complication of some of our favorite resources to read during Lent. Most obviously, these included daily devotionals and books designed for this 40 days of reflection, penitence, sober reflection, spiritual formation in the ways of the suffering servant. Some of these are still quite useful and some of the books are highly recommended. The Art of Lent: A Painting a Day by Sister Wendy Beckett (SPCK; $17.00) is the companion paperback to the fabulous Art of Advent and has been a big seller for us. There are standard books of readings like Bread and Wine (Plough; $24.00) the Plough Publishing volume that is a companion to their popular Advent anthology, Watch for the Light. Each year we tell about Paraclete’s God is For Us edited by Gregory Wolfe & Greg Pennoyer (Paraclete; $21.99.) Naturally, we sell all the Adam Hamilton resources, books, study guides, DVDs. And every year I love saying that Fleming Rutledge’s 2002 release The Undoing of Death (Eerdmans; $24.00) remains a book that means very much to me and that I read from every year. Last year her handsome, compact hardback Three Hours: Sermons for Good Friday (Eerdmans; $18.00) was especially popular near the end of Lent as we approached Holy Week.

All are still 20% off the listed prices.

You can see some of those previous Lenten BookNotes columns HERE, HERE, or HERE.

For a more wide ranging list — 40 books that aren’t Lenten devotionals but seemed somehow righteous at the time — check out this somewhat Lenten list from 2017.

This year, perhaps due to the great sadness of the public health crisis and the laments emerging from the brokenness of our body politic, I seem still stuck in exile. I still dip into Fleming Rutledge’s Advent (with its profound sermons on yearning for Christ’s coming in judgement and hope, seems nearly Lenten to me.) Quite practically, I’ve been so busy with our new workflow from our pivot to mostly mail-order and online correspondance, that we haven’t been able to write much about new Lent resources for this complicated Year of our Lord 2021.

Sorry if this is a bit later than you may wish. Still, we’re glad to send it out, hoping it helps somebody along the way. There are some good book ideas, for sure.

We’ve got two lists, here, now. You can, of course, order them by clicking on the link at the bottom that says “order.” That takes you to our secure order form at the Hearts & Minds bookstore webpage. We’ll be sure to write back and acknowledge the order personally.

If you don’t want to enter credit card info there at the “order” tab, please feel free to call us here at the shop from 10 am – 6 pm Monday through Saturday. You can reach us at 717-246-3333.

So, two lists:

First, a few new Lenten titles for those who want a brand new devotional designed for this seasonal use. Don’t forget to review the previous posts (see above) listing other specifically Lenten resources.

(In a couple of weeks, by the way, I’ll do a list of books about Easter, including some splendid children’s picture books, board books, resources for teaching about Good Friday and Easter. We know some of customers like to include books in the Easter baskets, so we’ll be on that.)

Secondly, after listing a few recommended brand new Lenten titles, I’m going to offer a random list of other stuff that I feel drawn to tell you about. I’ve been pondering this, prayerfully considering what to suggest, and these, for whatever reason, seem useful to share.


Where the Eye Alights: Phrases for the Forty Days of Lent Marilyn McEntyre (Eerdmans) $19.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.99

Few authors have routinely with each new release captured our attention as has Marilyn McEntyre. Anyone who has heard me speak about books and reading has heard me rave about her splendid Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies. This fall her sequel to that, Speaking Peace in a Climate of Conflict explores a handful of great writers whose prose and poetry is commendable. Some really liked her Make a List and her devotional Word by Word is great. A book that perhaps isn’t as well known but which we have often highlighted in books talks and displays (back when we did off site stuff) was a small paperback called What’s in a Phrase? She wrote wise and interesting reflections on phrases in the Bible that just happened to catch her attention.

Where the Eye Alights is a Lenten version of that. Has your eye, like hers, alighted on a phrase. Might you ponder it, meditate upon it, pay attention?  That’s the trick, she seems to say. Listen to this:

Lent is a time of permission. Many of us find it hard to give ourselves permission to pause, to sit still, to reflect or meditation or pray in the midst of daily occupations — most of them very likely worthy in themselves –that fill our waking minds and propel us out of bed and on to the next thing. We need the explicit invitation the liturgical year provides to change pace, to curtail our busyness a bit, to make our times with self and God a bit more spacious, a little more leisurely, and see what comes. The reflections I offer here come from a very simple practice of daily meditation on whatever comes to mind in the quiet of the early morning.

Rooted in Love: Lent Reflections on the Life of Christ edited and introduced by Sarah Mullally (SPCK) $17.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $13.60

What a great and clear idea this book is — Lenten devotionals written by the area bishops of the Diocese of London. Revered Mullally is a remarkable woman; before her call to ordained ministry she was the Chief Nursing Officer in the Department of Health and a midwife, which makes me think of the great women of “Call the Midwife.”  In this paperback you’ll find an introduction to the life and work of Jesus in 40 short reflections, each with a suggested action and a closing prayer.

An Ocean of Grace: A journey to Easter with Great Voices from the Past Tim Chester (The Good Book Co.) $14.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $11.99

Another book from the UK, Tim Chester is well known here in the states (with some of his books published by Crossway.) He is a pastor at Grace Church and this offers his good words inspired by words of believers of the past, from Cyril of Alexandria and Augustine to Catherine Parr and Charles Spurgeon, from John Calvin to Thomas Watson. He favors the Puritans of old England, hymn-writers and preachers who proclaim the mysteries of deep, deep grace.


Were You There? Lenten Reflections on the Spirituals Luke A. Powery (WJK) $13.00                 OUR SALE PRICE = $10.40

This is not brand new this year but it seems it is being discovered this year for understandable reasons. Powery, you may know, is the Dean of Duke University Chapel (he was formerly a great homiletics prof at Princeton and his brother, I might add, is a theologian who teaches near us at Messiah University.) This book does just what you’d think, reflecting on the spirituals written by those who were enslaved during the years of that American horror. They have often be held up as exemplary, of course, lament and hope mixed in code language, good for the soul and the body politic. The black church and the black church musical traditions have much to offer. Black theologians and leaders like Peter Paris and Bishop Michael Curry have rave reviews on the back. As does Parker Palmer.

And this, about it, by Lauren Winner,

Luke Powery has written powerful contemporary psalms of lament, psalms of hope. This volume offers sorrow, silence, and song as spaces in which our truest selves can dwell with God. A Lenten treasure.

The Villains, Heroes, Cowards, and Crooks Who Witnesses History’s Biggest Miracle Daniel Darling (Moody Press) $13.99   OUR SALE PRICE = $11.19

It was a bit more than a year ago when I finally met Dan Darling at the annual Christian Legal Society event in Chicago. We had reviewed and promoted his book on human dignity which offered an argument for and handbook about a consistently pro-life, just treatment of all people and it was a blast to meet him. He has written a lot, actually, and last year we sold a handful of his very intersting The Characters of Christmas. This one is just like that, each chapter a sermon on and exploration of  a character of the Easter story plot-line.

There are 10 chapters (each nicely set off with a bit of colored ink, too) with each complicated character being named with a certain attribute — titles such as “The Failure – Peter”, “The Beloved –John”, “The Rogue – Barabbas”, “The Powerless – Pilate”, and so forth. He looks at the religious leaders, the women at the tomb, those behind the scene, the Romans. His introduction “Why We Need Easter” is quite good

At the end of each easy to read chapter there are study questions and suggested hymns  and contemporary Christian songs. Very nicely done.

Essential Lenten Prayers (Paraclete Press) $10.99   OUR SALE PRICE = $8.79

What a nice collection. This is a small-sized, compact paperback that stands alongside others in their series (Essential Celtic Prayers, Essential Mystic Prayers, Essential Christmas Prayers and Essential Easter Prayers.)

It includes some prayers for Ash Wednesday, prayers for morning & evening, prayers for penance & fasting, seven Psalms of confession, some prayers, of course, for Friday and others, including some final ones by famous Christians from the broader ecumenical tradition down through the ages.

David’s Crown: A Poetic Companion to the Psalms Malcolm Guite (Canterbury Press) $20.99   OUR SALE PRICE = $16.79

Okay, I suppose this isn’t exactly designed for Lenten use although it just came out and it is a devotional companion to the Psalms, so I’m going to call it a Lent resource. Of course, the famous British poet is well known in church circles and has several thoughtful collections of poems for liturgical or devotional use.

His collection that is designed specifically for Lent is one we’ve promoted before, called The Word in the Wilderness: A Poem a Day for Lent and Easter Canterbury Press; $21.00.) You should also consider Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for Christian Year (Canterbury Press; $16.99) which also has some material for Lent and Easter and Eastertide. It’s really good.

David’s Crown is described by Canterbury in the UK like this:

A corona is a crown, the pearly glow around the sun in certain astronomical conditions, and a poetic form where interlinking lines connect a sequence. It is the perfect name therefore for this new collection of 150 poems by the bestselling poet Malcolm Guite, each one written in response to the Bible’s 150 psalms.


Invitation to Retreat: The Gift and Necessity of Time Away with God Ruth Haley Barton (IVP) $22.00   OUR SALE PRICE = $17.60

We stock all of the excellent “formatio” line of IVP and Ruth Haley Barton’s several books remain essential reads, in my view. We so respect writing and her work at the Transforming Center. This book came out a year or more ago and I wanted very much to highlight it when the stay-at-home quarantine orders went into place last Spring. Things conspired to prevent me from writing much during that time but as the seasons wore on, and we still have to be careful about staying home, I think that adapting this book into our current context would be a fabulous exercise for some of us.

For what it is worth, when I heard that this was a book Ruth was working on, I wondered if it would be that, well, interesting (for starters) and (more importantly) actually edifying. How to put together a little time apart? What to do on a retreat? Sounded to me like a blog post or brochure to pick up at the counter of the retreat center. I’m happy to report that I couldn’t have been more wrong. I should have known… she really has a heart for helping folks and digging well into a topic. This book deserves a careful bit of attention and you will enjoy it, I’m sure.

Ruth Haley Barton understands the process of spiritual transformation and writes in a way that is appealing to those just beginning their journey into a more contemplative spirituality. Yet, her books are read and re-read by those with a deeper bent and who have longer experience in the monastic sorts of practices. So, no matter where you find yourself on the spiritual journey, her work is wise and good, solid and redemptive.  This resource cries out to be pondered, inviting us to some self-examination about what makes us so tired, why we need to be intentional about planning for returning to our first love for God and discovering the life-giving rhythms of rest.

Ruth has long been a prayer partner and consultant for some very hectic, important, social justice missions, just as the International Justice Mission and Compassion International So she honed some of this realizing the need for those who are very busy doing demanding work, work that is hard to take a break from. In Invitation to Retreat she gives us what IJM human rights worker Jim Martin calls an “incredibly inviting description of ‘strategic withdrawal.'” Santiago Mellado of Compassion International says, “I was unprepared for such practical, honest, and open insights into the spiritual discipline of retreat.” Me, too.

As Jarrett Stevens (co-pastor of Soul City Church) says,

“You need this book more than you know. Trust me. You do.”

Living His Story: Revealing the Extraordinary Love of God in Ordinary Ways Hannah Steele (SPCK) $15.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $12.00

I can’t wait to read some of this myself in the upcoming weeks. I like that this book is The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book for 2021 and that we can read with other Anglicans all over is sort of cool. (And I’m not even Anglian or Epsiopalian!) Consider: if the Archbishop of Canterbury (Rev. Justin Welby) selected this new book of all the options out there to have his flock read it together this season, it is almost surely an excellent book. This certainly is relevant to the latest insights about apologetics and evangelism and faith formation, that we live in a world shaped by stories and the gospel ought to be understood as a story, a story we enter. Can we learn to listen well, “to understand other people’s hopes, dreams and interests” and thereby build bridges and convey the gospel more naturally. In this post-Christian culture, folks simply don’t know what story they are a part of, let alone the coherent plot of the Christian story.

Living His Story is a book about communication, about construing meaning, about gospel narratives, about sharing goodness the way Jesus and His disciples did.

Is this a book about evangelism, then? It seems so.  As the author reminds us, “Stories tell us who we are, where we belong, and how we related to the world around us.” But, as the publisher says:

This liberating book, ideally suited for Lent reading, suggests many ways of engaging in invitational evangelism. Through exploring accounts of Jesus and his first followers, we discover simple and practical ways of telling the gospel story afresh.

Without Oars: Casting Off into a Life of Pilgrimage Wesley Granberg-Michaelson (Broadleaf Books) $16.99   OUR SALE PRICE = $13.59

I read this book when it first came out as the topic is appealing but, more, the author is a man I admire greatly, a Hearts & Minds customer and friend. We’ve told you about him and his important books before; most recently we’ve commended Future Faith: Ten Challenges Reshaping Christianity in the 21st Century (2018) and, with Patrick Keifert, How Change Comes to Your Church: A Guidebook for Church Innovations (2019.) Wes has told some of his own story as a small-town evangelical boy who arose to global leadership in the World Council of Churches (with a season of working in DC with Senator Mark Hatfield and editing Sojourners magazine) in his auto-biographical memoir Unexpected Destinations.He has written books on eco-theology, on leadership, on his extensive involvement with the global church.

All of this has come together, tributaries flowing like in what Richard Foster calls “living streams”, into a great river. Lot’s going into it and still on the move. This gentle story offers the latest step in the journey for brother Wes. As I’ve said, he has written often about the relationship between inner spirituality and social justice work, between care of self and care of creation, and other sorts of theologies of integrated, missional holism, so you might know that we’re fond of his articulations. His ecumenical commitment to the global church is so beautiful and commendable and his good ideas rooted in a coherent worldview — he has served much of his life in the largely Dutch Reformed Church of America — resonates with me and my appreciation for public theology for the common good.

And yet, like many, Wes longs to deepen his discipleship in ways that often come for many of us; namely, in ways that transcends mere ideas and theology and even activism. Of course, he doesn’t renounce ideas or theology or public action, but he continues to voice concern about this oddly Western/modern notion that we primarily know God in our heads, by formulating doctrines about God. Or that faith is primarily about belief (rather than trust in covenantal relationship.) In Without Oars he “casts off” as the great Celtic mystics missionaries would, into strange waters in coracles (literally, boats without oars) to see where God’s winds would blow them. This is a book about spiritual pilgrimage and it is largely written as a memoir about his own experiences of actual pilgrimages.

Without Oars starts with and is anchored by Wes’s good writing about his journey on the El Camino. I hope you’ve read at least something in this genre (and have watched the splendid Martin Sheen film about hiking the El Camino trail called “The Way.”) This book captures much of this trail and the hard and funny and poignant stories that come out of that rigorous pilgrim’s journey. It’s so interesting and how he weaves inspiring messages through this lovely story in a way that isn’t too preachy makes it a book that’s hard to put down.

I must say, though, that the writing seems to shift a bit as Granberg-Michaelson moves from the El Camino stories to his experience, sometimes alone, sometimes with his wife, to other sacred sites of holy pilgrimages. (Some of these you may know about, like Lourdes, and others, like a place of miraculous dirt at a small Catholic church in New Mexico, or a vivid gathering in Nigeria, you may not have heard of.) With each leg of this journey, with each report from the road, he offers new insights about truth, goodness, the gospel, the way of Christ, the failures of the church, his own hopes and dreams, and new ways to live into the reign of God in these complicated times. This ancient future stuff is not really new for Wes, but this book brings it together in an almost stunningly beautiful story cum manifesto. I happen to know he is very glad that God has lead him to write this particular kind of book. Me too.

Rev. Michael Curry says “I found myself caught up ‘in the Spirit’ in the story, in the insights, in the wisdom in the pilgrimage. Wow!”  Shane Claiborne says “This book will help you declutter your soul.” Of course Wes’s good friend Richard Rohr endorses it, saying it describes the “promise and the joy” “that makes us want to start walking,”

I could say more about this entertaining, well-written story of the faith journey and this particular part of it, describing our discipleship as “our embodied practice of heading into the unknown and unknowable — with all the excitement, risk, and rewards that come with letting go.” There are so many good lines in the little book and so much to ponder. Even the cover has to be pondered carefully as you see the “letting go” of the oars themselves, sinking into the deep in the lower left corner…

Diana Butler Bass’s forward is only a few pages but is fabulous. She describes how the book is “sort of” like a map. She says, too, “If this book were only a map, it would be like a wedding invitation. But it is more.”

She summarizes much of what Wes offers, such as:

…what you can expect as you walk, like markers you see on some roadsides. How pilgrimages start with restlessness, how we are not really who we think we are, that patience is a gift, what we think makes us secure actually imprisons, faith is far more than we think the Spirit is reckless, grace is always surprising, turning our backs on injustice is necessary on this road, and the end of all is love.

Here is what the publisher says of it:

The way of the pilgrim begins with what we leave behind–not so much a journey to a holy place, but a holy practice of leaving the comforts of the familiar for a radical vulnerability, letting the very breath of God direct us on the unknown, stripped-down path of trust. In Without Oars, Wes Granberg-Michaelson blends history, storytelling, biblical insights, personal reflections, and spiritual formation in an inviting call to discover pilgrimage as a way of life. This book offers a unique perspective on the faith journey as an embodied practice of heading into the unknown and unknowable–with all the excitement, risk, and rewards that come with letting go.

I could write more. I loved this book (even if I most likely won’t ever go to the places he takes us and I may have wished for a different line or two here or there.) I highly recommend it. And, better, I recommend it as a Lenten read. I hope you consider sending us an order now.

Here is a free Reflection Guide for your own use or for those who want to pull together a Zoom group to study it together. Thanks for this, Wes.


The Way Up Is Down: Becoming Yourself By Forgetting Yourself Marlena Graves (IVP) $22.00   OUR SALE PRICE = $17.60

I’ve told you before about this great 2020 book and her previous one (A Beautiful Disaster: Finding Hope in the Midst of Brokennes.) Marlena is a very good writer, a church worker who has also done justice activism. (As one who used to be involved in the grape and lettuce boycotts of Cesar Chavez and the UFW, I was thrilled to learn that Marlena has worked with FLOC, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee in Ohio. Prayer and justice? Yes!)

So, this award winning book is ideal for Lent as it does invite us to a downward journey, following Christ on the journey towards humility and servanthood. Although it is a paradox (at best) this is good news she is exploring. She starts with that Kierkegaard line where he says, “Now, with God’s help, I shall become myself.” Or, in the harder words from Jesus from Mark 8 “…whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” Yep, this book is on solid ground but offers profound and well written insight about emptying oneself so God can move us toward Himself. In this she is offering ancient insight from the Russian and Orthodox tradition — it’s fun having this rural gal of Puerto Rican descent citing Russian mystics alongside old black spirituals and contemporary authors like her friends in Ronovare like Richard Foster and the late Dallas Willard.

Here are a few of the rave recommendations for The Way Up Is Down.

“I know of no one who cares less for the superficial ‘worries of this life’ (Mt 13:22) than Marlena Graves. She is a voice calling out in our generation, beckoning us to a vision of Christ that has nearly been drowned out by the rise of self-help pseudo-Christianity. And this book? This book is her heart on paper. If you want to sit under a spiritual giant, and if you want to remember just what kind of freedom we are called to in Christ, do not miss this message.”–Sharon Hodde Miller, author of Nice: Why We Love to Be Liked and How God Calls Us to More

“When conversations about discipleship or living into the kingdom of God seem heady and out of reach, I turn to writers like Marlena whose feet are firmly on the ground. She gives us a path to walk and practices to embody our big hopes and dreams about the upside-down ways of Jesus. If you’ve ever wondered how the last will be first (and what that even means for someone with privilege), Marlena is a faithful companion and guide to you. She is bold and pastoral–a rare combination–and best of all, she is the real deal. She has never lost sight of the people for whom this gospel is such good news, and in her words there is an invitation for all of us.” –Sarah Bessey, author of Miracles and Other Reasonable Things and A Rhythm of Prayer: A Collection of Meditations for Renewal

“Marlena writes with passionate urgency, nuance, and spiritual substance. She offers a much-needed word for a culture that prizes identity in what we achieve and make of ourselves. I found myself truly enriched by her powerful vision of relinquishment for the truly significant and flourishing life offered by Christ.”–Rich Villodas, lead pastor, New Life Fellowship, New York City, author of The Deeply Formed Life
“Breathtaking. A stunning achievement. This book aches for us, daring to offer its own raw beauty, courage, and unflinching light. What’s most gorgeous about Marlena Graves’s humbling book, however, is its call for moral imagination, even among we who are wounded. If we fall broken at Jesus’ feet, she teaches, we will all heal by his grace–mended and scarred but lifted together. What a brave, rare book for these unlikely times. An honor to read, it’s one of the most exciting theological reflections in recent memory.”–Patricia Raybon, author of My First White Friend and Undivided: A Muslim Daughter, Her Christian Mother, Their Path to Peace


A Rhythm of Prayer: A Collection of Meditations for Renewal edited by Sarah Bessey (Convergent) $20.00   OUR SALE PRICE = $16.00

This book releases February 8th so if you order it now from us (at our discounted price) you will be among the very first folks to get it. We have a waiting list already from those who pre-ordered it from us and we are simply thrilled to send them out Monday.

Sarah Bessey is a great writer and we’ve featured here at BookNotes each of her previous books, including Jesus Feminist and the excellent memoir-ish Miracles and Other Reasonable Things: A Story of Unlearning and Relearning God. She is an important voice, in the mold of her dear friend Rachel Held Evans, and here draws in a number of thoughtful women to create a collection of prayers and reflections. Some who she invited into this literary/spiritual conspiracy would call themselves evangelicals, some who used to but no longer do, some who are firmly within the conventional mainline church traditions. It’s the sort of generous ecumenism we love and although I have not seen it yet (as I write) I am confident that it will be rich, thoughtful, lovely, useful, good. There are a few women writers here I know and many that Beth and I respect — from Barbara Brown Taylor to Amena Brown to Lisa Sharon Harper to Nadia Bolz-Weber;  I hope you know the authors Kelley Nikondaha, Enuma Okoro, Kaitlin Curtice, and the aforementioned, wonderful Marlena Graves, to just name a few. I can’t wait to read their prayers and to see how Sarah ruminates on their good words.

One thing I discovered is that there are three main sections of prayers and readings, drawn from Walter Brueggemann’s commentaries on the Psalms: we have in A Rhythm of Prayer entries in categories of orientation, disorientation, and reorientation. Oh my, that works, doesn’t it?

The Library Journal gave the publishing world a what’s up:

“An inspiring compendium of original prayers and essays written by progressive faith leaders. Each entry is a meditative gift offering a gateway for one to sit with the challenges of living in the world today. . . . The words here allow spiritual devotions to be approached with a diverse lens while remaining God-centered. . . . A book that allows people to speak in their own words while reminding those in positions of privilege that their faith in action is a catalyst for change. This is a welcome addition for those who enjoy contemplative prayer collections that intersect with important topics such as social justice.”

Not having seen it yet (if any editors out there at Convergent are reading this — hey! Hand waving, here!) I can’t say much and can do no better than show this PR bit from the press:

For the weary, the angry, the anxious, and the hopeful, this collection of moving, tender prayers offers rest, joyful resistance, and a call to act, written by Barbara Brown Taylor, Amena Brown, Nadia Bolz-Weber, and other artists and thinkers, curated by the author Glennon Doyle calls “my favorite faith writer.”

(And I thought I thought I created run on sentences!)

It’s no secret that we are overworked, overpressured, and edging burnout. Unsurprisingly, this fact is as old as time — and that’s why we see so many prayer circles within a multitude of church traditions. These gatherings are a trusted space where people seek help, hope, and peace, energized by God and one another.This book, curated by acclaimed author Sarah Bessey, celebrates and honors that prayerful tradition in a literary form. A companion for all who feel the immense joys and challenges of the journey of faith, this collection of prayers says it all aloud, giving readers permission to recognize the weight of all they carry. These writings also offer a broadened imagination of hope — of what can be restored and made new. Each prayer is an original piece of writing, with new essays by Sarah Bessey throughout.Encompassing the full breadth of the emotional landscape, these deeply tender yet subversive prayers give readers an intimate look at the diverse language and shapes of prayer.

Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep Tish Harrison Warren (IVP) $22.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $17.60
This, you may recall, is a book I raved about before it came out and invited you to pre-order at our 20% off discount. We adored and continue to regularly recommend her wonderful Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices for Everyday Life and this book continues in that mode of memoir, reflection, teaching, and thoughtful application of nuanced theology to daily discipleship. Prayer in the Night is our biggest selling book so far in 2021 and it will surely be in the running for our favorite book of the year. It is that good and we very highly recommend it.
You can scroll back through out archived BookNotes and find our review last November (2020) to see a more thorough review but the short version of this remarkable read is this: Tish is an Anglican priest, then writing from Pittsburgh, where she suffered any number of sorrows — the death of a parent, a painful miscarriage, a medically dangerous pregnancy, and some standard fare sadness about missing home and being in a new city. She and her husband are good thinkers, dear folks, great writers. She does now whine or mope, but this book — about using the Book of Common Prayer‘s evening prayer of Compline — is gripping as it offers this fairly simple prayer practice in the face of the horrors of theodicy.
The first pages have her bleeding seriously during the tragic miscarriage under the bright lights of an emergency room; I know that hospital and know something of that feeling of great loss in an impersonal institution of that sort. I wept reading the first pages as she cries out for Jonathan to read Compline prayers with her in that complicated setting.
And so, Rev. Warren offers prayers for the night, practices of praying in the night. She writes well about the night — literal and metaphorical — in ways that brought to mind Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor (a book, by the way, she had not read as she was doing her own writing on the topic; I get that.) Her stories range from episodes of sadness and darkness to the glories of life in the dark. She writes about work (in very good ways —  thanks, Tish) and reminds us to pray in solidarity with those who watch and those who weep.
This new Prayer in the Night is an easy to read but substantive new classic, and reading it slowly during Lent would be a wonderful experience for you, even if you aren’t used to Compline Prayer.  We are glad she is speaking again at our (virtual) Jubilee conference in Pittsburgh on February 27th. 

Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World Kathy Escobar (WJK) $18.00                        OUR SALE PRICE  =$14.40

Back in our Advent BookNotes post we commended to you Kathy Escobar’s moving and very important A Weary World: Reflections for a Blue Christmas. I know a number of folks thanked us for sharing a resource that honored their greif during that cheery time of year. Of course, in one way or another, this included most of us who knew loved ones who were sick or lonely or worse.

Rev. Escobar is a progressive community organizer, trained spiritual director, and pastor of an inclusive faith community in Denver called The Refuge. Drawing on the often story-based teaching and formational work she does in her own church, she writes the book to flesh out her opening assertion — “You have more power to change the world than you realize.” Oh my, just when I was feeling comfortable with less hope, proximate justice, accepting the brokenness with lament and grief, she suggests that we deepen our spiritual renewal for the sake of the world with hope to make a difference.This isn’t glib or cheesy, but something true, offering hope of “substantial healing” as one once put it. Our personal practices really can spill over into the bigger world. In fact, they must.

I was reminded of the more overtly Reformed book on spiritual formation by Kyle Bennent, Practices of Love: Spiritual Disciplines for the Life of the World and the good forward by Jamie Smith insisting that the classic spiritual disciplines ought to form us in ways that change how we live in the world. That is, spirituality is not just for nurturing our own intimate relationship with God but should enable and cultivate a robust piety that is “for the life of the world.” Or, in the subtitle of Escobar’s great book, we seek God’s transformation so that we can “change the world.” Indeed.

Practicing is really good for a number of reasons. One is to just catch the mood and vocabulary — I guess in her bohemian faith community we can say the “vibe.” We can catch this shift in vocabulary from spiritual disciplines to practices. This language of “practices” is very common now, but for many it is just a word switch. For the best thinkers and spiritual directors, “practices” carries a different feel and denotes am embodied, habitual, and generally outward focus. (Granted in the ur-text of the recent renaissance in spirituality, Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster says that some of the classic disciplines are clear directed outward.)  Anyway, Escobar’s Practicing is about this matter of embracing practices to see personal change to set us on a trajectory of public discipleship and culture-making.
Pastor Kathy here inspires readers to take up practices that have the capacity to transform us, training us, shaping us, particularly in the ways of being better public citizens, living intentionally in the ways of Jesus for thee sake of others. Brandon Robertson (who has ministered tirelessly to create a more inclusive evangelical movement) says Practicing is “a healing balm.” He continues:

…offering a practical guide for people of faith to reconnect with our faith not just on a pious or intellectual level but in a way that impacts every aspect of our lives. If you are ready for spiritual renewal, read this book!

Each chapter (each starting with “The Practice of…”) focuses on a specific practice which she invites us to consider and guides us towards embracing. Here are the verbs — the habits of heart and lifestyle skills she invites us to as actual practices: healing, listening, loving, including, equalizing, advocating, mourning, failing, resting and celebrating. This is not a rehash of the standard sort of contemplative disciplines and is full of lively stories and application insights.

I loved the Sarah Bessy description on the back complimenting Kathy’s work as many seek a spirituality and sort of faith that is “healthy, life-giving, and truly an embodiment of good news.” Sarah says Kathy is “a faithful companion to those who wander, stumble, and, against all odds, continue to hope.” Sounds like a good Lent read,

Union with Christ: The Way to Know and Enjoy God Rankin Wilbourne (Cook) $16.99.                   OUR SALE PRICE = $13.59

Many who have entered the movement of spiritual formation and have guided people as soul friends in recent years have increasingly been drawn to the language of mystics and poets (emphasizing the journey inward) or of practices (the journey outward.) I get the allure and value of both and appreciate the great resources helping us in this allusive and often mysterious journey of encountering the Divine and learning to serve the world well.

Another important contribution to Christian spiritual growth, though, is too often missed. I think that books and pastors that offer fairly traditional, historic (Protestant) theological categories about union with Christ and being shaped into Christlikeness are very important. This book, some suggest, is one of the very best titles to explore this class notion of “union with Christ.” I read it and reviewed it at BookNotes; having taken up our recommendation, a few of our customers have ordered and then re-ordered it. It seemed right to offer it again, now.  Tim Keller says it is the best book on the subject , in one a Gold Medallion award, and it’s a great price.

I have not yet read much of Rankin Wilbourne’s sequel to Union with Christ, but it sure seems like it would be fitting to work through these next weeks. It is co-written with a young philosophy prof so it meaty, but accesible. It is called The Cross Before Me: Reimagining the Way to the Good Life Rankin Wilbourne (Cook) $22.99.  People who are clear thinkers and good writers themselves have commended this. For instance, Scott Sauls, an author whose books we promote, says:

Rankin and Brian have an uncanny ability to explain deep, complicated truths in a way that almost anyone can understand. The rare combination of intellect and accessibility that they possess shines in this wonderful book. They expand our vision for how the cross not only secures our pardon, but also establishes for us a pattern of life that will lead to freedom and flourishing.

Our friend Michael Gorman, noted New Testament scholar at St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute who has done some demanding work on this subject (in books like the masterpiece Cruciformity: Paul’s Narrative Spirituality of the Cross) says this:

“In this extraordinarily perceptive and powerful book, pastor and philosopher show us how the way of the cross is, surprisingly, the way of life, happiness, and communion with God. I firmly believe that the faithfulness of everyday Christians, the renewal of the church, and the flourishing of humanity depend on taking the sorts of insights and examples found in this book with the utmost seriousness–by embracing them as a way of life.”

Here are three more of the many rave reviews:

“The Cross Before Me heralds the upside-down wisdom of the cross–a paradox meant for settling into the marrow of our lives and forming us into the image of Jesus. But it’s not enough to think of the cross, the authors remind. Rather, if we’re to be led into God’s enduring joy, the glorious shadow of the cross must fall over every square inch of our longings and ambitions, hopes and dreams. Rarely do books cover as much important, theological ground as this one, which makes it a delight for me to recommend.   –Jen Pollock Michel, author of Surprised by Paradox and A Habit Called Faith

The desire for happiness is universal. We all want happiness. And yet we just can’t seem to possess it. Maybe it’s time to take another route, a cross shaped route. Rankin Wilbourne and Brian Gregor winsomely point us to the only true way to happiness, a way that necessitates death in order to truly be fully alive, to be truly happy.”  –Bryan Loritts, pastor; author of Insider Outsider

“I love this book! The Cross Before Me brings the reader on an extraordinary journey. Accessible yet deep, it invites readers into the wondrous caverns of Scripture and the Christian tradition in articulating a much-needed word to today’s church: if you want to flourish, pursue the way of the cross in Jesus Christ. The message is counterintuitive but true. Beautifully written, Wilbourne and Gregor make this case by drawing together a colorful tapestry of voices from literature, philosophy, theology, and popular culture. I give thanks to God for this book, and I plan to recommend it frequently.                        –J. Todd Billings, author of The End of the Christian Life: How Embracing Our Mortality Frees Us to Truly Live

The Glorious Pursuit: Becoming Who God Created Us To Be Gary Thomas (NavPress) $16.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $13.59

Here is another book that seems to me to be heading us in the right direction — not merely semi-mystical encounters with some vague Divine, but a oneness with Christ who can remake us into His own image if we let Him. I adore the good spiritual writing about holiness and a life that matters and joy and spiritual renewal in the many other books by Mr. Thomas. He’s best known for books on marriage and parenting (and even dating) but this is one of his best.

(Thanks to his other publisher Zondervan, by the way, for re-issuing an expanded version of his groundbreaking Sacred Pathways: Nine Ways to Encounter God and a new accompanying DVD curriculum.)

And to NavPress for the great “pottery wheel” on the cover on this one. Very nice.

The Glorious Pursuit, is perfect for this transformative time of the liturgical year. Curiously, they changed the subtitle in this brand new revised edition and it seems to me a bit annoying, capitulating to the trend to describe faith formation as finding your true self. It isn’t a huge deal and I understand the impulse but most often the Bible suggests our true self is a traitor to the Kingdom of God and as rebels, we ought not want to be true to our own selves. Rather, we get a new self.  We become new creatures.Well, this is a book that helps us do just that, receive the gift of our new, transformed selves. How, you ask? We take up the “glorious pursuit” of practicing the virtues of Christ. Yep, that was the older subtitle. I guess “becoming who God created us to be” is less daunting and more appealing than “putting on the virtues of Christ.” Maybe folks don’t even know what  virtues are, let alone the virtues of Christ. In any case, I hope the marketers are right and this wonderful book that calls us to Christ-likeness and helps us discover the long-term change that comes from following Jesus, is widely read. If so, we might “reveal His glory in how you live your everyday, transformed life.”

By the way, the chapters examine the lifestyle of Jesus, characterized by virtues such as humility, detachment, generosity, love, gentleness, fortitude, and many more. This is a great book.

Love Is the Way: Holding on to Hope in Troubling Times Bishop Michael Curry (Avery) $27.00           OUR SALE PRICE = $21.60

Well, you know what the Good Book says, over and over: the greatest of these is love. The above mentioned books certainly help us towards that. Christlike virtues and spiritual practices deepened during this intentional space of discerning God’s Lenten work in our lives all should lead us to love. Yes. Obviously so, eh?

But can we suggest as a Lenten read a book with such a happy guy on the cover?

Happily, this recent book by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church has been very popular among some of our customers who have ordered and re-ordered it these last months. We’ve hand delivered a number of these out back at our parking lot “curb side” delivery, too. It is upbeat and fun and, with chapter titles like “What Desmond Tutu and Dolly Parton Have In Common” you know it isn’t too gloomy. Again, could this be a Lenten read?

Well, yes, yes it can be. It is challenging, after all, to be people who love well. Maybe we could give up being unkind for Lent. And learning to find hope through embodying the virtues of love sure is a challenging way; some might say a “way of the cross.” There are chapters here that are blunt (“It’s Not Easy”) and challenging (“Leave No One Behind.”) Rev. Curry moves from “The Great Relationship Revival” to “The Real E Pluribus Unum.” Can we find “Hope, Help, and Healing” by living into the still more excellent way? Curry helps us believe it could be true. Yes, this mostly up beat book is perfect for this hard time of Lent. Listen to these profound endorsements:

“Bishop Curry proclaims and lives the way of love that has the power to transform broken systems and imperfect people. This book is a gift for our time, as is my dear brother. Listen to him.” — Bishop William J. Barber, II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign; author of We Are Called to Be a Movement“This is a profound and essential book. At once personal and universal, intimate and sweeping, it frames the great question of our time–which is, really, the great question of all time on this side of Paradise–with passion and eloquence. Michael Curry, priest and bishop, plays the prophet in these pages, drawing on his own remarkable life to show us the way we might make our own lives, and the lives of nations, warmer, better, and nobler.”– Jon Meacham, author of Destiny and Power, American Lion, and Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power

Michael Curry believes in love. Not the kind of love that sidesteps and softens our response to the most brutal realities of our deepest, racist, economic, and human oppression. But rather, like Dr. King and, more importantly, Jesus said; the kind of radical love that may be the only thing that can finally overcome such radical sin. On a personal note, Michael is and does what he says about being a follower of Jesus and the way of God’s overwhelming and overcoming love. Love is the Way is moving, heartfelt, and extraordinarily important. In this fearful time, more than perhaps ever before, the world needs this book because, as Michael says, ‘Love dreams visions.’     — Jim Wallis, Founder and President of Sojourners

Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers Dane Ortlund (Crossway) $19.99   OUR SALE PRICE = $15.99

I might want to note that it could be a tad ironic to mention this as a Lenten read because this exquisite, profound book draws much upon a Puritan writers who, I’m suppose, would find the language of Lent somehow a unhelpful (Roman) practice the suggest we have to do something to please God or perform some ritual the add to the free grace offered by our Sovereign, merciful Lord. But, be that as it may, or not, Ortlund has written a beautiful book that is elegant and serious, not to be read lightly or quickly. I reviewed it a bit when it first came out and the conservative evangelical and usually Reformed publisher ran out of them in the late fall. We are glad to finally have more in stock.

It is handsome book with a textured cover and deep green flyleaf pages which illustrates that it is a thing of beauty to be read with care. The blurbs are notable (from some of the usual suspects within this faith tradition — Ted Tripp, Paul Miller, Rosaria Butterfield, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, Michael Horton. Michael Reeves is a theologian and author who has written a lovely book on delighting in the Trinity and another on rejoicing in Christ. He says of Gentle and Lowly:

My life has been transformed by the beautiful, staggering truths in this book. Dane Ortlund lifts our eyes to see Christ’s compassion-filled heart for sinners and sufferers, proving that Jesus is no reluctant savior but one who delights in showing his mercy. For any feeling bruised, weary, or empty, this is the balm for you.

Sam Allberry, a PCA pastor and author, writes:

Only a few pages in I started to realize how unusual and essential this book is–it is an exposition of the very heart of Christ. The result is a book that astonishes us with the sheer abundance and capacity of his love for us. Breathtaking and healing in equal measure, it is already one of the best books I’ve read.”

Something Worth Living For: God, the World, Yourself, and the Shorter Catechism Randall Greenwald (Christian Focus) $12.99                       OUR SALE PRICE = $10.39

If you don’t know what the “Shorter Catechism” is, I don’t blame you for being annoyed by the publisher speaking only to their own. I guess they can’t imagine — and, hey, I don’t really blame them — anyone but conservative Calvinists who are not Dutch and traditionalist Presbyterians caring about the Westminster Shorter Catechism. It is a document that was created in the mid-1600s by the smartest Protestant cats in the British world in those days — “Divines” they oddly call them yet today — who gathered at (get this) Westminster Abbey. Yes, that Westminster Abbey. And they created a handful of documents that some Reformed people throughout the world still see as exceptionally important formulations of level-headed, Bible-based, Christian thinking. It is one of several officially recognized creedal documents in the mainline Presbyterian Church (USA) Book of Confessions but it is mostly used by those in the more conservative Presbyterian Church of America (PCA.)

Francis Schaeffer’s son-in-law, the beloved Jerram Barrs of Covenant Theological Seminary in Saint Louis wrote the foreword to Greenwald’s book and he is amazed by it. He says it is beautifully done, good even for skeptics or seekers, and that in it, we learn not only much about God and His truths but about what it means to be human. I liked that. He notes that the author writes with humility and vulnerability. Again, it’s true and good and a bit rare for this kind of teaching of dogmatics.

Barrs’s foreword is right — Greenwald has written a book like none other on this relatively obscure (for most people) theological teaching document. There are a number of dry manuals to both the Larger and the Shorter Catechisms (not to mention the Westminster Confession that was created also at that time back by the Divines at their several years long session at the Abbey.) Something Worth Living For is not like those. It is lively, witty, careful to explain its in-house lingo, pastoral and, at times, quite compelling. And short. That is, it is a short introduction to key theological themes that are explained in ways that are interesting and relevant.

It is, as the title puts it, a book about life, about something “worth living for.” (Again, why on Earth the Scottish publisher has a set of book spines in a book about living well is beyond me. I make an idol out of my love for books and this bored even me!) But trust me, the colorful but meaningless cover should not turn you off — you should check this out even if you aren’t familiar with this old Presby manifesto. Greenwald is a solid, caring pastor, a sharp, interesting guy, a bit funny, and a great writer. Some who follow his blog and know his years of honing his craft know him as a very good preacher, too. And did I mention he can be funny?

(And, I might note, Rev. Greenwald delightfully enhances his own good insights by drawing on writerly quotes from a wider range of sources than you might expect in a book about the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Authors like Kathleen Norris, Frederick Buechner, and Marilynne Robinson, lines from TV shows like The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a bit from The Princess Bride, and a reference to Luna Lovegood, all are alongside more expected quotes from the likes of Tim Keller and J.I. Packer. Fun!)

I would think that this Lenten season is a good time to commit oneself to discerning what one believes and why. A study of conventional, classic Reformed theology of an Anglo sort, could serve you well. Under Greenwald’s tutelage (offered, by the way, in a succinct Q & A style consistent with the WSC itself) you’re sure to come to a better vision of the meaning of our lives under the sun. It’s a big claim for a small book. Check it out and see for yourself.

And check out these endorsements — more glowing than one typically sees on books about the theological questions of those Westy Divines.

Finally a book of theology and the Reformed faith that won’t bore the reader to death. This is a book that will be such an incredible tool for small study groups, leadership training and laypeople who are often looking for an understandable and useful guide to the Christian faith. — Steve Brown of KeyLife Radio and author of many books such as One Free Sin

Randy has a great gift for finding illustrations, real parallels between the deep things of redemption and our present experience. This is the kind of teaching that will move modern people to study the Catechism, and the Scriptures, for themselves.  — John Frame, theologian and author of many books, including Christianity Considered: A Guide for Skeptics and Seekers

As a professional writer and editor, I’ve been consistently impressed by the quality of Randy’s writing; I’m also struck by his deep theological knowledge, and how it’s paired with genuine pastoral concern for those around him. This is a project that requires writing chops, theological acumen and a pastor’s heart. Randy’s got them all.— Nathaniel Espino, editor

… brings the deep, rich, biblical and reformed theology of the 17th century Westminster Shorter Catechism to life in the 21st century in a way that is warm, inviting, accessible, conversational and centered in Christ and the gospel of saving and transforming grace. — Mark L. Dalbey author and President of Covenant Theological Seminary

The Gospel for the Person Who Has Everything Will Willimon (Paraclete Press) $16.99. OUR SALE PRICE = $13.59

I suppose you may know that The Revered Doctor William Willimon is one of the most prolific Christian writers of our time. As the former Dean of the Chapel of Duke University and a former United Methodist Bishop, Willimon has spoken plainly about being Biblical people in a secularizing age. He calls the church to be the church and, in many of his books, he equips pastors to lead well, fearlessly and faithfully to the simple but challenging truths of Jesus. (His other new one, by the way — yet another on preaching — is called Preachers Dare: Speaking for God [Abingdon; $19.99.] Believe me, the dumb cover of the cutout figure on a tightrope doesn’t do it justice!

Well, Will was known for being sly and funny in an understated gentlemanly sort of way for much of his long career, a moving old-school storyteller. Yet he was forthright and candid about the church being faithful to the teachings of the faith. Once he started writing with the even more bluntly provocative Stanley Hauerwas, he became even more known for his call to live like “resident aliens” and live out the Bible against the worldview and ideologies of the American dream.

I suppose you know at least a bit of that, and maybe have read him in The Christian Century or heard your pastor quote one of his memorable lines (or maybe even remember when we had him at the Jubilee Conference back in Pittsburgh.)

I am simply thrilled to announce that his long out-of-print first book –his very first one — has just been reissued. The Gospel for the Person Who Has Everything is more or less a collection of sermons preached at his first church, somewhat inspired by Bonhoeffer’s call to “devastate the congregants in order to deliver them.” I read it decades ago when we were new to this work.

What do you say to a members of a congregation that seem blase about their faith, who don’t feel a “need” to rely on the gospel all that much? How to you preach not to the hurting and knowingly alienated and needy but those who are privileged and content? This was his first unforgettable attempt at preaching to the upwardly mobile person who thinks she has everything.

There is a great new preface to this old book and it’s great to read Will ruminating on these old messages. Even better, there is a great new foreword by UCC leader Lillian Daniel (author of, among others,When ‘Spiritual But Not Religious’ is Not Enough.) Her few lines about leaving her punk band to become a pastor of a New England church and hearing Willimon sermons on cassette are nearly worth the price of the book. I think I might have had some of those cassettes.

These mid-70s sermons are honest, real, challenging — without being haranguing.

I’ve always appreciated Willimon’s strong condemnation of cheap faith, of racism, of materialism, of the philosophies of scientism and Enlightenment notions of rights and social contracts. He takes the Bible seriously without being a fundamentalist. He’s not afraid to be outspoken. I’ve also enjoyed his own self-effacing admissions, at times.  For instance, he writes,

When I was serving my first student pastorate in George, I remember complaining to a seminary professor about how disappointed I had been over the poor quality of my church members. They had shocked me with their marital problems, their lack of commitment, and their general backwardness. Frankly, I thought that I deserved better. After listening to my long complaint, the professor replied, “But the really shocking thing is that Jesus said that people like them would be entering the Kingdom first. What do you do with that?”

This study, The Gospel for the Person Who Has Everything is as needed now as it was then — maybe more so. It isn’t condemning or shocking but it does point us to a more real faith and a more robust discipleship. Not bad for Lent, eh?

(Hey, believe it or not, we have a copy or two left of the original paperback published by Judson. If you want it, it’s yours with a purchase of this new one. Just ask; for the first two only of course.)

Praying With Our Feet: Pursuing Justice & Healing on the Streets Lindsey Krinks (Brazos Press) $17.99   OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39

Years ago we would have been stunned that a publishing house owned by an evangelical outfit in Grand Rapids is willing to do such a innovative, honest, and — let’s face it — controversial book about serving God in ways that include demonstrations and protests and a lot of time hanging with folks on the margins with colorful names that ring true to those who have spent time on the streets. That the irresistible The Irresistible Revolution with Shane Claiborne citing Dorothy Day and William Stringfellow was published by Zondervan back in the 1990s was ground-breaking and, I think, a bellwether of more interesting days for the evangelically-Christian publishing industry. Did these guys who published books by Ollie North even know who the Berrigan brothers that Shane sited were and realize his involvement in similar dramatic acts of civil disobedience? Our bookselling work really got more interesting when fresh voices like Brazos Press appeared. They (along with others, from IVP to Cook to NavPress to Waterbrook) are illustrative of evangelical publishing houses that have become more open-minded around social issues, publishing a newer generation of artful writers who draw on ecumenical sources and offer resources for those who want their love of God and commitment to Christ to lead to righteous acts of healing and hope and social change, culturally relevant, as we sometimes say. That the best books about racism and immigration and ecology and other burning social issues can be found on evangelical publishing houses is one of the great under-reported religious news stories of the last several decades.

But I didn’t foresee a book which includes a bit about the spiritual practice of protesting. This new book is a heartfelt and dramatic story of classic social activism, of hitting the streets as an act of worship and discipleship and love and hope. There is plenty of Scripture and Bible-belt church life in Praying With Our Feet, but the author also cites rowdy folks from Mother Jones to Paulo Friere to her beloved Dorothy Day.

Author and activist Linsdey Krinks is cofounder of Open Table Nashville (a homeless outreach nonprofit) who came to an analysis of the poverty of Nashville as a young activist with the Homeless Power Project and other street-level organizations there. She speaks throughout the country about the integration of action and contemplation and of a faith-based approach to social agitation and community development. For another look at community organizing which is more instructional in nature, see Transforming Communities: How People Like You Are Healing Their Neighborhoods by Rani Sandhya Jha (Chalice Press; $15.99) or Faith-Rooted Organizing: Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World by Rev. Alexia Salvatierra (IVP; $18.00.) For a more scholarly examination see the new God and Community Organizing: A Covenantal Approach by Hak Joon Lee of Fuller Theological Seminary (Baylor University Press; $49.95.) There are other books like this, to be sure, but Praying with our Feet is a must for anyone interested in public discipleship among the poor.

Praying with our Feet is written as a narrative, offering a captivating read and the hard-learned lessons of this organizer who grew up in a family plagued with mental illness, addiction, and who hoped to go to college with the simple dream of marrying and moving into a more conventional American middle class lifestyle. Who could blame her? At Lipscomb College, though, she met Christian leaders and professors like Lee Camp (his most recent book is Scandalous Witness: A Little Political Manifesto for Christians) who encouraged her study of Christian social action and the prophetic tradition from the likes of MLK. She met up with other students who were learning to relate their faith to the issues of the day and were eager to do some dramatic (if benign) attention-getting stunts. She quotes the famous line from Flannery O’Connor about needing to speak in sign language to the spiritually deaf. Once such “sign act” they did was cut out 29,000 little paper dolls which they hung up in the student center to dramatize the number of child that die of hunger each day. All they were doing was trying to break through the student apathy and get people to sign up for a World Vision “Planned Famine.” The college was not amused.

From Dorothy Day to Oscar Romero to the “New Monastic” movement of Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and eventually to Vanderbilt’s Emilie Townes (where Krinks studied after her undergraduate years) she took in and lived out a radical faith that was part anarchist, part liberation theology, and part old-time gospel revivalism. She protested and retreated to the famous Merton-related Gethsemani. She not only cared for the poor, but got to know folks on the streets. She organized and protested, planned civil disobedience, joined with and suffered with tent cities and social refugees. She joined campaigns to take on the powers that be. It wasn’t for years into this work that she heard a speaker citing Frederick Douglas about praying with ones feet in resistance and action and the lights came on.

I believe it is true, these protest actions and community organizing and campaigns on behalf of the socially hurting are prayers. But it isn’t easy and the anguish comes through these pages. It isn’t exactly Tattoos on the Heart or Barking to the Choir or Sara Miles and her exquisite Ash Wednesday/urban ministry memoir City of God: Faith in the Streets, but it’s similar territory.

Liz Theoharis ( who wrote the powerful, serious, Always With Us?: What Jesus Really Said about the Poor) notes that the book is “thoughtfully crafted and powerfully told.” But listen to this:

Praying with Our Feet is a story of a movement growing from those who are homeless but not helpless coming together to demand dignity, life, and change. I thank Krinks for treating the lives and wounds of so many of God’s people as serious and sacred, and for recognizing these people as moral and political agents of change.

I don’t know many books that capture the grit and hope and set-backs and trauma of those who work in this way organizing the marginalized. (But then, I don’t know many authors who called themselves “street chaplains.”) She tells of her journey into activism — the book begins telling about a meeting with her college administrators who were insisting that she and her friends call off a protest against the Nashville Mayor’s bad policies about homelessness — and readers can feel the tension of the episode where older religious leaders are trying to dissuade young idealists from their faithful efforts. (Hands up if you’ve been there!) Later, there is a very dramatic scene where a large evangelical church is outwardly hostile to a homeless shelter her team was creating — NIMBY and all that, with a religious gloss. It was painful but important to read.

In the epilogue we learn that the author and her husband lost their home (as did many neighbors) in an awful hurricane that ravaged through parts of Nashville. It isn’t much, but buying this book helps her and her work. We sincerely invite you to give Praying with our Feet a try. There is a discussion guide that can help you or a group process this remarkable story.

Always a Guest: Speaking of Faith Far From Home Barbara Brown Taylor (WJK) $25.00            OUR SALE PRICE = $20.00

Unless you are giving up the tactile pleasure of holding a well-made book in your hand, this hardback is a beauty and very nice to hold. The cover is slightly textured, the paper book, it just feels fairly solid, but not bulky. The wordsmith and thoughtful, expansive preacher deserves to be published in such a book. Always a Guest is a collection of sermons and it might make a fabulous book to have on hand as you ponder things this Lenten season.

The sermons are on Biblical texts and are sermons — although, like all good sermons, there some lovely language, some good stories, a couple of jokes. She’s a fine and classy writer but never obtuse or dense. Many have savored her handful of paperback sermon collections (Seeds of Heaven, Home by Another Way, Gopsel Medicine, Mixed Blessings and others) and this one is not much different than those.

There is a bit of a theme, though. Her other published books of collected homilies were, in fact, preached in her home parish where she served as an Episcopal priest and pastor. (Her poignant memoir telling the tale of her coming to leave the parish ministry is told in Leaving Church,) Now, when she speaks or preaches, she is at some other church, a retreat or conference or place like Chautauqua or the chapel at a seminary, say. That is, she doesn’t know the crowd, isn’t their pastor. She is an outside — “always a guest.” There is usually a bit of concern about this (any of us who do public speaking of any sort know this) and she is as always gracious and good as she delivers these messages in a variety of settings and context.

Cruciform Scripture: Cross, Participation and Mission edited by Christopher W. Skinner, Nijay K. Gupta, Andy Johnson & Drew Strait (Eerdmans) $35.00                                                                  OUR SALE PRICE = $28.00

Oh my, how can I explain this complex and valuable text? To whom will it appeal as a resource for Lent? Well, it isn’t that complicated. Cruciform Scripture is a book in conversation with, in response to, and in some ways, in honor of and for, our friend Michael J. Gorman. In this remarkable (if at times dense and demanding) collection of academic chapters, the work of Gorman is studied and explained, honored and refined. As Richard Bauckham of the University of Cambridge says, “This is a collection of first rate essays that celebrate Michael Gorman’s work by pursuing his own central concerns in fresh directions.”

As Bauckham points out, and which I concur fully, Gorman’s work always is both attentive to Biblical exegesis but “overflows into theology and the life of the contemporary church.” Indeed, these are the sorts of things our best Christian leaders do, weaving together good Bible study, generative theology, and good insight for living it out within the church and world. Gorman does that and this book in his honor does that.

The contributors to this party of a book are many and they include some of the most important Biblical scholars of the day. N. T. Wright, Rebekah Ecklund, Stephen Fowl, Richard Hays, Nijay Gupta, Sylvia Keesmaat, and Dennis Edmund are here, and more are included. Several who offer stellar pieces I’m not familiar with. A quick skim makes me eager to spend time studying this.  There are chapters on each of the four gospels and many of the Epistles. Some are general, others more specific — the meaning of certain words, phrases in certain key texts. We’ve got Sylvia Keesmaat on anti-empire themes in Ephesians (new ground there!) and a great piece by Tom Wright on Psalms 87 in Galatians.

Brent Laytham is the Dean at St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute where Michael teaches. He and his colleague Pat Fosarelli have a really lovely forward to this collection writing a bit more personally about Gorman’s teaching and ministry there at the Institute. (In an afterword his three grown children way in and, to be honest, I read that first!)

Here are two weighty endorsements that might illustrate how important this amazing collection of good chapters really is:

It is a sign of truly important scholarship that it not only receives recognition but also inspires other scholars to continue to press its insights. Michael Gorman has been one of the key providers of truly important scholarship in our generation as he has tirelessly promoted the significance of participation to any deep understanding of what the New Testament is trying to say. The debt we owe Gorman is attested not just by the fine assembly of scholars in this volume who honor his life and work but also by the way their scholarly contributions here engage directly with his interpretations and continue his work, deepening and widening its insights still further.– Douglas A. Campbell, Duke Divinity School

Michael Gorman’s participationist model has made peace with the other approaches to Pauline scholarship. Where some have said ‘I am of Luther, I am of Calvin, I am of Wesley, or I am of Sanders or Dunn or Wright or Campbell, ‘ Gorman took their best insights to find a more expansive place for exploring Paul. Each of these friends and students of Gorman expresses that peacemaking approach of Gorman, as his participationist model of redemption is explored in other facets of the New Testament. This will be a blessing for all of us.  — Scot McKnight, Northern Seminary

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