It’s been a busy time in the publishing world and even though sales are down across the country we are not giving up. We know that many of our BookNotes readers are eager to know what good books are out and what we recommend. Here, then, without ado, are a whole bunch of brand new ones.
Two quick asides:
YES. Yes, you can order these by scrolling to the very end of this long column and clicking on “order.” That takes you to our Hearts & Minds website’s secure order form page. Do it! And don’t forget to tell us if you have any shipping preferences or time-sensitive needs.
NO. No, these aren’t the only new books we’ve received in the last month. We are a full-service bookstore and even though we are closed for in-store browsing right now, we are happily showing all kinds of merchandise to all kinds of folks with our famous back-yard customer service. From local curbside to distant mail order, we are here to serve you. How can we help?
33: Reflections on the Gospel of Saint John Andrew Roycroft with artwork by Ned Bustard (Square Halo Books) $21.99
OUR SALE PRICE = $17.59
Whenever the good folks at the rather indie-minded, boutique publisher in Lancaster, PA, Square Halo Books, releases a new title, it’s cause for much hoo-raying and hand-waving celebration. We were so excited that they put together the remarkable collection of essays about children’s literature (Wild Things and Castles in the Sky edited by Leslie Bustard and others) and, recently (as you saw in a recent BookNotes, Advent Is the Story by Daniel Spanjer.) Now, just in, a small sized collection of liturgical poetry on the gospel of John. Wow.
33: Reflections comes with an impressive foreword by the impressive Malcolm Guite and with each poem there is, on the facing pace a striking linocut by Ned Bustard, whose art you should know, graces both volumes of Every Moment Holy and Guite’s beautiful rendition of The Tales of Sir Galahad and is seen nicely in his own 2021 children’s book, Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver. Mr. Bustard’s art always seems to enhance good books, and his contributions to 33 is just very, very nice, white on black, black on white.
But the heart of 33 is, of course, the beating, jumping, caressing, whispering, sometimes shouting, lines that explicate passages from the Gospel of John. Roycroft is an Irish poet — a local Irish Presbyterian friend knows him well, actually — and we are delighted to commend him, somewhat in the very tradition of Mr. Guite.
Here is what is wild, though: the poems are each 33 words. Is that an Irish thing? A wordy haiku? (Billy Collins’s brand new book is all very short poems, btw.) I have no idea where this idea comes from, but it’s very cool.
As Square Halo puts it, “Dwelling on the life and death of Jesus Christ is a key discipline for growth in Christian grace, enriching the mind and drawing out our affections after the Savior.” Here you are given the opportunity to slow down, reflect, even contemplate the key points of the whole gospel of John. In 33-word poems. (And, for what it is worth, there are some further study notes and reflective meditations in a quite thorough appendix.)
Perhaps you know the popular contemporary hymnist, Kristyn Getty, author of the lovely little book, Sing! How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church. She commends Messrs. Roycroft & Bustard and their new little volume:
You will find here beautiful words that let the light in, warming the heart with holiness and firing the imagination with life. Slow your step, come and linger with the poet on the best of thoughts… Christ. — Kristyn Getty
Life’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious – Reframed and Expanded David Dark (Broadleaf Books) $18.99
OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19
Oh my, if you know my affection for David, you know that I have to say a lot about this. Yet, I’m wanting to keep this listing relatively brief, so I’ll have to wait to speak about it in greater detail. We do have a stack of this new, expanded edition, with a stark black cover (the previous was bright red) and I’m eager to discern how it is “reframed” and what is different about this one. David suggests it is, in part, an act of repentance, and I take his words seriously. So we must study this new version, with care and an open heart.
Here is the short version: the first edition came out on IVP in 2016 and we reviewed it at BookNotes. I raved, and a line or two of my enthusiasms remain on the page of blurbs on the inside of this new version. I’m honored and glad.
In that earlier BookNotes review of the first edition, I exclaimed:
David Dark is a national treasure, a witty and wise Christian voice — a humane human voice — and it’s good to know this brand new one has been so eagerly anticipated. As Jessica Hopper (of the very important indie music magazine Pitchfork and author of The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic) says, “David Dark is one of our most astute and necessary cultural critics. His work gracefully opens new doors of understanding and breaks down barriers between secular and non-…”
This book is so rich and interesting and fun and important and wonderfully written — it’s been called a “bracing manifesto” and an “optimism-infused love song” and an “irresistible triumph” — that it deserves more of a serious review than I can render here, now. It’s been a hard month, a hard week, and I’m nearly flabbergasted (I’d say gobsmacked but I’m not sure what it means) by how great this book is and how it has brought joy to me these last few days. I’ve read paragraphs and whole pages out loud to Beth (and anybody else in earshot.) There are great lines, great stories, great revelations. Apocalypse now, indeed.
That “apocalypse” line was a segue towards mentioning his fabulous book on pop culture called Every Apocalypse, which notes, as you probably know, that the ancient scary word actually means “a revealing” — an unveiling; a revelation. And that is what he does as a writer, conscientiously and with a lot of verve. He’s fun and deadly serious, generous and at times as keenly critical as a Hebrew prophet. For such a relentless advocate (have you followed him on twitter?) he can be remarkably tender. And kind.
It seems that the first version of Life’s Too Short to Pretend was sort of an open letter to a dear loved one who found herself in the tribe of those who claim to be “spiritual but not religious.” Or, maybe “none of the above” when asked about religious affiliation. David’s not having it — not because he’s a fundamentalist (although he was raised and continue to live in the Bible Belt) but because he truly understands that nobody is disinterested, no one is neutral in this life, everybody believes in something. We all live out of (and informed by) the story we find ourselves in.
As Christina Edmondson, co-author of Truth’s Table puts it, David “grants the gift and burden to think deeply about the imagination, scaffolding, and consequences of our religiosity.”
It may be that this book is a love letter not just to his beloved sister-in-law, but to all of us, to those struggling with faith in a post-2020 season. He looks at Black Lives Matter, the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements, he weaves in current themes around the pandemic and vaccine responses, and, yes, tackles the nonsense being spoken about Critical Race Theory. In other words, he has significantly updated this.
The meaning of his “reframing”, though? What makes this classic text a repentance? What is unique about this fresh, reconsidered edition? Read it for yourself, naturally. I am sure there is much to learn, much to reckon with. I hope to share more, soon. For now, please know how glad we are to see this book revised and reissued. It offers, as his friend Charles Marsh (of Evangelical Anxiety) puts it, “Luminous reckonings with the real.” Hooray for that. Order it today by using the order form at the end of this column. 20% off, too.
All Our Griefs to Bear: Responding with Resilience After Collective Trauma Joni S. Sancken (Herald Press) $18.99
OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19
Perhaps you recall my commendation in the last BookNotes of Herald Press, a Mennonite publisher that does excellent work on various topics, releasing books that are really fresh and interesting these days, and how we stock most of what they do.(I gotta tell you, their brand new, lavish Comfort Baking by Stephanie Wise is amazing!) This brand new Sancken one is a good example: All Our Griefs to Bear is a book that brings some ancient wisdom into the very contemporary era of mass trauma and collective injustice. You know the litany these days — the coronavirus pandemic. Continued racial trauma. Economic uncertainty. As Rev. Sancken writes,
“The griefs of this time have revealed difficult truths about the wounds we carry, and the damage of the traumas has affected every part of our lives together.”
Dr. Sancken is a professor of homiletics at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, a largely United Methodist institution, and she has written previous books on preaching. We’ve appreciated her Stumbling Over the Cross: Preaching the Cross and Resurrection Today, and, more recently, her Words That Heal: Preaching Hope to Wounded Souls which is really wise.
In the last few years she has come into our area working with her friends in the ELCA’s Susquehanna Synod. (Indeed, she thanks our neighbor Richard Jorgenson and our friend Marsha Roscoe and their Bishop James Dunlop for helping hammer out some of the very ideas in this stunning book.) “Trauma-informed” is a catchphrase these days and she uses it well: perhaps this could be called trauma-informed pastoral care.
But yet, this is not pastoral care in the sense of how ministers can meet with hurting parishioners in their offices for informal counseling and one-on-one Christian therapy. Actually, this is, as a United Methodist Bishop puts it, “A necessary summons to the church, often distracted by questions of relevance, to be the church for a world battered and bruised by trauma.”
The church for the world. That is the theme of this much-needed book, a book that Grace Ji-Sun Kim calls “a gift to churches wondering “What now?”” That Will Willimon wrote the forward makes sense with his old cry to let the church be the church — therein lies our deepest relevance and our transformational vision. In Joni’s book we are reminded of key practices of being church — it is organized around lament, storytelling, and blessing. It will offer profound insight and encouragement for nurturing resilience and deepening compassion.
Certainly pastors should read this but we gladly recommend it to church leaders of all sorts. It is extraordinary.
Unruly Saint: Dorothy Day’s Radical Vision and Its Challenge for Our Times D.L. Mayfield (Broadleaf Books) $26.99
OUR SALE PRICE = $21.59
A few of you have watched some of my online adult Sunday school class which, this season, has been doing quick and fun introductions to a handful of church leaders and important Christian figures with a bit of a view to how they engaged the Bible and how their own faith and theology were shaped by their reading of Scripture. A week or so ago I had the great privilege of doing a short bit on Dorothy Day, a woman about whom I could talk for hours. I did not meet her, but knew people who had, and I’ve read a lot of books about (and by) this unruly saint. I’m here to say that Unruly Saint is an excellent — indeed, one of the best — books about Dorothy I have ever read.
One of the unique features of this compelling read is that there is a small bit of personal memoir here, as D.Ll Mayfield tells a bit about her own spiritual struggles, her drift from traditional evangelicalism, and her discovery of this feisty woman who served the poor even as she read Russian novels and enjoyed opera. What a complex and wonderful woman Dorothy was, an early 20th century communist (and lifelong anarchist) who found her way to Christ and converted into the Catholic Church. In a way, this great biography is, as it says on the back, a way to “uncover the wisdom activist Dorothy Day offers today’s justice seekers.” Indeed, it is that.
The blurbs on the back (from Lisa Sharon Harper and Randy Woodley, for instance) signal the author’s relationship with a progressive sort of evangelicalism; that is, she is not Roman Catholic herself. Like Mayfield, some of us in this similar sort of context are drawn deeply to Dorothy and are fascinated with her own loyalty to the formalities of the Roman Catholic Church. Even as she fought with Bishops (and fasted for peace in Rome during Vatican II proceedings) over and over. She was a one-woman party of loyal opposition.
I adored Dorothy Day: Dissenting Voice for the American Century by John Loughery & Blythe Randolph (surely the definitive book and very impressive) as well as the poignant and well-written book by one of Dorothy’s granddaughters, Kate Hennessy, Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Save by Beauty. But there is something about Unruly Saints, it’s punchy style, it’s shorter reading time, it’s passion, it’s relevance. I loved it and very highly recommend it.
Naturally, if you are new to reading about Dorothy, it is fantastic, especially if you want to hear how this committed activist today was inspired by her. If you are a serious fan, then, of course, you’ll want this as it truly is one of the good ones. There are plenty more — write to us and we’ll give you a list — but, for now, we very highly recommend this tremendous new volume.
The forward, by the way, is really good, written nicely by Robert Ellsworth, who found himself living in the New York CW house for years in the late 60s and 70s. He’s an important figure among those who have first hand knowledge of their friendship with Dorothy and the Catholic Worker movement under her leadership. He raves about the book, too. Kudos.
The Holy and the Hybrid: Navigating the Church’s Digital Reformation Ryan Panzer (Fortress) $21.99
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There are short and upbeat little books about getting over the pandemic, about switching to a hybrid model of church or maybe letting go of the hybrid model practices developed during the pandemic. You can skip most of them. This is one of the few that realizes, rightly, that we really must reimagine what it means to be church in the digital age.
Panzer is a leadership development professional in the technology industry and he often writes about the interface of faith and technology. He is concise and clear and seriously informed. I like deeper theology and deeper cultural criticism (like, say, Restless Devices: Recovering Personhood, Presence, and Place in the Digital Age by Felicia Wu Song) and thoughtfully eloquent writing (like one of my favorite books of this year, Andy Crouch’s The Life We’re Longing For: Reclaiming Relationship in a Technological World) but for practical congregational development and stimulating stuff about church life these days, The Holy and the Hybrid is quite useful. In a way it follows up his 2020 Grace and Gigabytes: Being Church in a Tech Shaped Culture.
In this recent one Panzer is helping congregational leaders to develop hybrid ministries through “aligning the shared mission of the church with the collective values of our tech-shaped culture.” The goal of this book, they tell us, is to “help build communities that serve as the hands and feet of Christ simultaneously online and offline.”
Listen to this quote by Jim Keat, the digital minister of Riverside Church:
The Holy and the Hybrid is a book every pastor and church leader needs to read. It invites us to reflect on the ways we were all thrown into the digital deep end during the pandemic, and most importantly, it offers a way forward for churches to develop sustainable hybrid ministries that will be essential for the future of the church.
Or consider this from a guy I trust a lot, David Daubert pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Elgin, IL, and lead consultant for Day 8 Strategies; he is the co-author (with our friend Richard Jorgensen) of Becoming a Hybrid Church which has been our “go to” book on the subject for the last two years. David says:
Part memoir, part manual, this readable book will help readers make sense of their own journeys into hybrid ministry — the places where the physical and the digital offer both old and new ways of doing ministry. Panzer is both committed to digital ministry and aware of its limits, which makes this book an honest and helpful guide for readers reflecting on how God is calling them to design the next chapter of ministry in their own settings.
The Incarnation in the Gospels Daniel Doriani, Philip Ryken, and Richard Phillips (P&R) $14.99
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Recently I did a radio interview on WORD-FM in Pittsburgh about seasonal books for Advent and Christmas and I found myself telling them about the lasting significance of On the Incarnation by Athanasius (and C.S. Lewis’s mighty words about it.) Sure, it is a bit demanding, but it truly is a beautiful and lasting book, perfect for this time of year.
This brand new one, a collection of sermons, picks up on themes of incarnation in Matthew, Mark, and Luke and is a collection of Christmas sermons offered by these preachers in the conservative Reformed tradition. They are reliable in their analysis of the passages — doing solid exegesis, as the fancy folks say — and they are themselves interesting, even creative writers. So these sermons bring a fresh understanding of incarnation, straight and solid. As the back cover puts it, these sermons “draw on the complete arc of biblical teaching.”
As Scottish Presbyterian Sinclair Ferguson puts it,
Here is exposition modeled by pastors with scholarly gifts and scholars with pastor’s hearts.
The Thrill of Orthodoxy: Rediscovering the Adventure of Christian Faith Trevin Wax (IVP) $24.00
OUR SALE PRICE = $19.20
This important, new hardback book deserves a much longer review but, for now, I just wanted to announce it, reminding you also of our sale price. I’m seriously hoping at least three kinds of readers will consider it.
Firstly, obviously, those with deep concerns about the drifts from orthodoxy theology in our churches and ministries these days will want to use it to clarify and bolster their concerns. It clarifies wisely why this sort of commitment to the best and wisest sort of faith perspectives is essential. These readers will be reminded of what they already know and yet will deepen and maybe broaden their approach. In many ways, it is for this community, helping them regain a sense of wonder and awe at the great truths.
Secondly, I think this is really, really good for those who are less concerned about an erosion of orthodoxy. Call these readers progressives or liberals or those happy to be in a left-leaning mainline denomination (as I am, by the way), we still must be aware of what is at stake if we are eager to move on, re-imagine and re-define the core tenements of the Christian faith. Wax reminds us of the importance of good maps and invites us to be careful. He is right, mostly, and we simply must engage more in this vital conversation. I commend this book to our mainline folks, readers who might typically not care about historic theologians and their musty creeds.
Thirdly — and this is a huge group, so hear me out — I think The Thrill of Orthodoxy might be useful for those who either don’t follow or don’t care about this perennial debate between those who are deeply committed to traditionalist theological claims and those who are less loyal to older formulations. Whether you tilt happily evangelical or devoutly mainline, if you don’t care about this, then you really need to read this book. It is a lovely work — inviting us to the “thrill” of an “adventure.” Don’t care about all that? Pick this up and give it a try. From the first paragraph of the forward, you will be, dare I say, thrilled, despite the real rarity of that these days. It is, as the well-read Carolyn Weber (who wrote Surprised by Oxford) describes it, “a masterpiece” that shows the “weary, world-worn, or simply disinterested pilgrim, how right belief has laid a path through the darkness into bright adventure ahead.”
“A masterpiece that shows the weary, world-worn, or simply disinterested pilgrim, how right belief has laid a path through the darkness into bright adventure ahead.” — Carolyn Weber
The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times Michelle Obama (Crown) $32.50
OUR SALE PRICE = $26.00
Publishers were understandably tight-lipped about this massively important new book, a major release, and I had not seen any of it until we opened the box and posted that fun Facebook picture of Beth and me waving ‘em around. And then we watched Mrs. Obama on Colbert and just grinned and grinned.
Alas, this is not just a feel-good book by an exceptionally articulate former First Lady. She is honest about how hard life can be — especially as we struggled with isolation during the quarantining and grief during the pandemic and frustrations during the stupid Stop the Steal nonsense and the horror of January 6th. We all know that these are uncertain times. She, too, has struggled and in The Light We Carry she will be vulnerable and talk about her own fears and foibles and her hopes and dreams about bringing our best selves to the process of overcoming. I gather she is speaking for a whole lot of us.
In a way, it seems that The Light We Carry is a bit of a sequel to her best-selling and very interesting memoir, Becoming. This is not just her story, though, but the stuff she’s learned, guidance offered on “overcoming.”
As she puts it, “I’ve learned it’s okay to recognize that self-worth comes wrapped in vulnerability aka d that what we share as humans on this earth is the impulse to strive for better, always and no matter what.”
This, we find, allows her to work for common ground, highlighting our shared humanity, our fears and foibles, and, yes, the deep sense of knowing our own stories. This is, she says, the “bedrock of all things. One light feeds another. One strong family lends strength to more. One engaged community can ignite those around it”
We’re honored to carry this, glad to offer it at our BookNotes discount. Order it now — I’m sure it would make a lovely Christmas gift for somebody you know.
Becoming Human: The Holy Spirit and the Rhetoric of Race Luke A. Powery (WJK) $22.00
OUR SALE PRICE = $17.60
I hope you know how important Dr. Luke Powery is (not to mention his brother, central Pennsylvania professor at Messiah University, whose books we also carry.) Luke Powery is the Dean of the Chapel at Duke University and a professor of homiletics at Duke Divinity School. He has written much about preaching, especially black preaching, and has both an Advent and a Lenten devotional based on old spirituals. He is quite a thinker and quite a communicator.
Becoming Human may be his most important book yet. Besides his work as chaplain at the university and professor at the Divinity School, he also holds a faculty appointment in Duke’s legendary Department of African and African-American Studies. Here, he brings all three of his academic passions together writing a powerful book about rhetoric; the rhetoric of race. He is redefining, here, as Donyelle McCray (of Yale Divinity School) puts, “what it means to preach in the power of the Spirit.” Or, as Kenyatta Gilbert (another famous professor of homiletics, from Howard University School of Divinity) puts it “Pentecost is pedagogy for the human race.” “This is,” he says, “is the grounding thesis of Luke Powery’s revolutionary work.”
I love Amos Young — a learned professor of theology in mission at Fuller and an outspoken Pentecostal scholar — who says this:
Two thousand years ago there were Arab, Cretan, and Roman (among other) tongues spoken on the streets of Jerusalem. It took a physician known as Luke to record these voices declaring the wondrous and powerful works of God. In our fraught 2020s, we can thank another doctor (of divinity), Luke Powery, for translating the witness of (especially, but not only) Black communities to all of us (including especially but not only white readers) so that we can appreciate how these experience testify to and declare prophetic words of God for our time.
Do I hear an Amen?
Becoming Human: The Holy Spirit and the Rhetoric of Race has a brilliant forward by Willie James Jennings which, in itself, is well worth reading. Yes! This is one that should get a lot of attention.
The Wonders of Creation: Learning Stewardship from Narnia and Middle-Earth Kristen Page (IVP) $22.00
OUR SALE PRICE = $17.60
There is so much to commend this small book and we are very happy to celebrate it, invite you to not only consider it, but to spread the word. You know there are bunches of Narnia fans and Tolkien loyalists; sadly, Matthew Dickerson’s academic books on these topics may be too pricey and lesser known, even though they should be highly regarded among us.
(What books, you ask? That would be Narnia and the Fields of Arbor: The Environmental Vision of C. S. Lewis and Ents, Elves, and Eriador: The Environmental Vision of J.R.R. Tolkien, both published by the University Press of Kentucky. We’ve got ‘em!
In any case, we should really get the word out about this new IVP one — it is a delight to read and carries a huge ethical plea. It is interesting, entertaining, and righteous.
The Wonders of Creation is not expensive and it is upbeat, fabulously well-informed, interesting, curious, and deeply inspiring. Can the fictional landscapes of Narnia and Middle-Earth, in the world of eco-theologian Steven Bouma-Prediger, “help us learn to care for the damaged landscapes of our world today?” Indeed, yes, by all means, yes. I believe this and have stacked our professional career on this very truth. What we read, even (maybe especially) fiction, can change us.
Bill McKibben says of this wonderful read,
For anyone who grew up mentally wandering the forests of Narnia or Middle-Earth, this book will be a joy and a revelation — you’ll be reminded just how deep those images went into your heart.
If you love literature or love ecological writing, if you care about Lewis and Tolkien or care about the world Clive and JRR loved, this book is for you. The three major chapters are “Stepping Out of the Wardrobe – Searching Fictional Landscapes to Guide Our View of the World” and, then, “A Lament for Creation: Responding to the Groaning of God’s World” followed, then, by “Ask the Animals to Teach You: How to Regain Wonder and Join the Chorus.”
Wonders… is offered with the cooperation of the exquisite Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton and is an expanded version of the beloved Hansen Lectureship Series. Dr. Page is a biology prof at Wheaton, by the way. Here she brings in contributions and responses from Christiana Bieber Lake, Noah Toley, and Emily Hunter McGowan. Hooray.
Everyday Activism: Following 7 Practices of Jesus in Creating a Just World J.W. Buck (Baker Books) $17.99
OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39
I often say this, but this time, man, I really mean it: I wish this book was around when I was younger. Like in my college years or really my twenty-something years or even in my 30s. I’m in my late 60s, and I rejoice that a book like this is now available, one of several that so naturally integrate the life of faith, spiritual practices, devout piety with powerful and experienced insight about the life of daily activism. I need such a book. Do you want to join God in the work of justice and restoration in what we sometimes call our ordinary lives? J.W. Buck and this book can help, I guarantee it.
Buck is a church planter, filmmaker, teacher and faith-base entrepreneur. He’s got an undergrad degree in Biblical studies and ministry and his PhD is in intercultural studies (with a focus on the problem of racial violence.) He is a cofounder of a great ministry called Pax, an organization designed to inspire and equip the next generation (as they put it) “through slow, beautiful, Jesus-centered content created by people of color.” He and his wife Sarswaite, live in Tucson, Arizona.
Blurbs on the back are from John Perkins (which speaks volumes, right?) and Osheta Moore, whose book Dear White Peacemakers is a must-read. They both affirm that this book shows us how to live like Jesus in ways that can lead to Christian social action, a lifestyle of spiritually honest activism.
It shouldn’t surprise us that Shane Claiborne wrote a very good forward — he talks about how beautiful the book is, how practical and how inspirational. Quite a combo, eh? Not unlike Dorothy Day (who believes, with her beloved Russian novelists, that “beauty will save the world.”) J.W. lives into a life of goodness, beauty, joy, seeking forgiveness and rest and mindful resistance. He shows how young (or not so young) activists can be inspire by seven different practices of Jesus, clearly based on the gospel accounts.
Want to see justice roll down? Want to “be the change” we want to see? This is a guide to meaningful sorts of approaches. Whether you are a newbie at protest and service or a seasoned politico, I think Everyday Activism will be a cherished companion helping you honor God and be shaped by Christ’s ways as you attempt to make a difference. Highly recommended.
Claiming Your Voice: Speaking Truth to Power Norvene Best (Liturgical Press) $24.95
OUR SALE PRICE = $19.96
Well, speaking of searching out a uniquely Christian and deeply spiritual sort of lifestyle of activism, being an agent of change and “speaking truth to power” as the Bible calls us to, this, too, is a rare sort of resource that will invite you and equip you to more faithfully do this very sort of stuff.
If J.W. Buck offers a Jesus-centered, gospel-clear lifestyle for activism, Norvene Vest brings a lifetime of careful consideration of Scripture and spiritual direction to the task. Yes, you should know Vest (an Episcopalian laywoman who is a Benedictine oblate) as a respected guide to adult faith formation and spiritual direction. She knows much about the Benedictine contributions to common life, of course, and helped create the renaissance in writing about spiritual formation and direction in recent decades. Her Friend of the Soul offers a Benedictine spirituality of work and her mid-1990s Upper Room book Gathering in the Word is about praying the Scriptures in small groups. A book she compiled by older spiritual directors is called Still Listening; nice, eh? Anyway, she is a mature and respected author in these deeper waters.
But here’s an interesting thing: before Dr. Vest entered her life of spiritual writing and directing, she was a public servant. She knows something about social justice and political advocacy. She carries questions about the nature of American polity in her bones.
Here in Claiming Your Voice she explores four deforming contemporary patterns: market culture, American empire, climate crisis, and racism. Here’s how the back cover describes the visions of this work of deeply contemplative public theology that so nicely melds the Hebrew prophets and the Benedictine wisdom tradition:
“In consideration of the Christian foundations in prophetic imagination and Benedictine spirituality, she illustrates that Americans are called to provide energy for hope, to cut through public numbness, and to penetrate the deceptions of imperial consciousness so that God and the sacred again become visible and empowering for all our people.”
Laughter and Lament: The Radical Freedom of Joy and Sorrow Steve Brown (New Growth Press) $16.99
OUR SALE PRICE = $13.59
I so, so appreciate Steve Brown, a conservative theologian and gracious talk-show host who brings on and delightfully honors the likes of the edgy, progressive Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber. It isn’t everybody who writes books like Three Free Sins which invites folks to, uh, lighten up about their fears of sinning all the time.
He’s not flippant, exactly, and certainly not un-serious. He just likes to laugh and invite people to the gospel. He’s a PCA pastor and a good writer.He loves that verse about being set free.
Therapist Dan Allender calls this a “stunning book” that — get this: “holds the heartache of the cross and hilarity of the resurrection as the doorway for the kind of healing that will touch not only the heart but relationships and even our polarized cultural travail.”
The heartache of the cross and the hilarity of the resurrection. Wow — that’s it!
Hear well the amazing Aimee Byrd:
Steve Brown shares something that matters to our humanity: the freedom in gritty lament, the laughter that rises from relinquishing our false notions of control, and the boldness to invite others into this love.
Dane Ortlund (author of the remarkably book on the heart of Jesus, Gently and Lowly) predicts that this new Brown book “will fend off cynicism and foster joy.” Call it Christian realism, perhaps, but healthy folks know well what this is about, the need for uproarious laughter and bristling anger. As Ortlund says, this “fortifies us to live life well.”
I am so eager to read this. I met Steve once and am in awe. This book is going to be great.
The Emotions of God: Making Sense of a God Who Hates, Weeps, and Loves David Lamb (IVP) $18.00
OUR SALE PRICE = $14.40
Just earlier this week I was helping a customer find some book on the troubling question of violence in the Old Testament; I recommended some pretty academic and serious ones but started with the accessible, honest, fair-minded classic God Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist? His Prostitutes and Polygamists: A Look at Love, Old Testament Style is worth reading, too. He may be an Old Testament prof at a seminary and a dean of faculty (at Missio Seminary in Philadelphia) (and penned a major commentary in the splendid Story of God series (on I & II Kings, no less) but he’s a hoot — fun and funny, compelling and wise.
The brand new The Emotions of God is a book I’ve been waiting a long time for. I couldn’t believe we didn’t have anything quite like this (although I’ve suggested in these very pages the lovely, 100-plus year old The Emotional Life of Our Lord by Princeton B. B. Warfield.) Now gladly, we’ve got a solid, introductory level, deeply wise study of God’s emotional life. Yep.
Lamb looks at seven divine emotions — hate, anger, jealousy, sorrow, joy, compassion, and love — and argues “that it is not only good that God is emotional but also that we can express emotions in such a way that reflects God’s goodness in the world.” There are suggestions for application and great discussion questions making this a fabulous resource for adult ed classes, small groups or book clubs.
This will help us know God as God really is and help us comport ourselves more appropriately, with deep wisdom. As Scot McKnight says, this is “a must-read.” Kudos to IVP and to Dr. David Lamb.
Good Boundaries and Goodbyes: Loving Others Without Losing the Best of Who You Are Lysa Terkeurst (Thomas Nelson) $28.99
OUR SALE PRICE = $23.19
There is no doubt that Lysa Terkeurst is on to something. She has gone from being a small-time author doing good stuff on a small-ish publishing house to a force to be reckoned with; we loved her clever Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl and its passion for application and transformation long before many knew who she was. She then went on to write about issues common to many, especially women, including eating disorders and fear and loneliness and forgiveness. It seems that this brand new one is, in some ways, a necessary follow up to her important Forgiving What You Can’t Forget: Discover How to Move On, Make Peace with Painful Memories, and Create a Life That’s Beautiful Again.
We are called by God to faithfulness but also so flourishing. Her work captures this blend of upbeat spirituality and being known by God and the helpful ways in which Kingdom grace can help us cope with life’s rough patches. This book starts off on the back cover noting that “relationships are wonderful… until they’re not.”
She is surely not alone in thinking I can’t keep doing this — something has to change. Right?
Terkeurst has struggled through these questions and more. She understands the “dance with dysfunction” on a deeply personal feel. She is that friend that comes alongside you with compassion and support insisting that it is not unloving to set boundaries. It isn’t un-Christian to say good-bye. She thinks this approach is actually God’s idea.
Find out why — and what to do about it — in Good Boundaries and Goodbyes. There are, by the way, reflections questions and even a closing prayer at the end of each chapter.
Home Is the Road: Wandering the Land, Shaping the Spirit Diane Glancy (Broadleaf Books) $25.99
OUR SALE PRICE = $20.79
We stock other important books of literary star Diane Glancy, a Christian woman of Cherokee heritage. She is the sort of writer that wins the Pablo Neruda Prize for her poetry and receives grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. She is professor emerita at Macalester College in St Paul, MN. We’ve long been impressed, to say the least.
Again, as with others on this list, I have not had time to explore the riches of Home is the Road but I am particularly interested in this. You may be, too. I’ll admit I’m a bit conflicted (although eager to learn.) You see, I’m drawn to work about staying put, about nurturing a sense of place, about loyalty to location. But this book does seem to be more than a spiritual travelogue or valorizing being nomadic, but is a better story about finding oneself while “traveling the land.”
I notice that Ms Glancy does not talk about travel as a consumerist tourist; she “travels the land” which sounds to my ears like she is informed by her indigenous sensibilities. Or maybe her Canterburyian medieval studies. I don’t think it working the bohemian / romantic “on the road” schtick a la Kerouac. It is about what she calls “journeying” which is something like being a pilgrim, perhaps.
This is, as one indigenous elder put it, “a strikingly original work. Glancy takes us all on a spiritual road trip. She lets us see a fragmented landscape of both longing and belonging.”
This is, finally, a study, I think, of identity.
I trust Daniel Taylor, a great thinker and a great writer. He’s written a lot, including a wonderful one called Tell Me a Story. He says of Home is the Road:
Relax. Set aside your rationalistic insistence on linearity, plain meaning, and predictable connections. You are in the hands of Diane Glancy, writer of excellence in many genres, who will take you on a poetic journey across the landscapes of America — physical and spiritual — accompanied by the Spirit. Enjoy the drive.
The Philosophy of Modern Song Bob Dylan (Simon & Schuster) $45.00
OUR SALE PRICE = $36.00
Holy Smokes. This is an amazing book, full color, lots of random and often vintage photographs, odd-ball illustrations, gonzo graphics. It’s not what I was expecting — I should have realized the “philosophy” in the title was a joke from the Jokerman — and it’s terrific. Here Mr. Zimmerman weighs in on dozens and dozens of songs — 66 in total, I think. There are a few pages per song (some essays longer and better than others) and while Dylan is known for being a bit opaque at times, he is creatively straight-forward here. Except in the other parts of the book, a free-association riff which the publisher lauds as “dreamlike riffs” which cumulatively amount to “an epic poem”, which “add to the work’s transcendence.” I don’t think that’s supposed to be part of the joke but it is, perhaps, a bit much. There is a lot that Bob knows and tells, what one reviews describes as of the “cracker barrel” variety. That seems about right and it’s not a bad thing.
He usually tells something about the song, riffs on this or that, imagines stuff about the production or the playing or the memory or the meaning. I’ve only dipped in and it is more glorious than I expected.
There’s some cryptic stuff here as you’d expect. We know Dylan knows his stuff, especially about early Americana, blues, soul, country. He chooses some pop classics, though, from “Volare” to “Ball of Confusion”, from Bobby Bare to Bobby Darin, from The Clash to Roy Orbison to Judy Garland (“Come Rain or Come Shine” from her Judy album released in 1956. Sure his guys like Waylon and Johnny Cash are here, but so are older rockabilly stars and black singers, jazz, blues, and soul singers. It’s wild — he has a vivid piece on “War” by Edwin Starr (released in 1970 on the Gordy label) and “Take Me From This Garden of Evil” by a neighbor of the young Elvis in Tupelo, Jimmy Wages, recorded in 1956, released on Sun Records.
This is delightfully surprising at times (he looks at Jackson Browne’s classic “The Pretender” and, baffling, perhaps, Cher’s “Gypies, Tramps and Thieves.”) and really informative, exploring important work by say, Nina Simon or Rosemary Clooney. Of Dean Martin’s “Blue Moon” (1964) he says “This is the Dino that Elvis imitated.” Dylan dissecting the Allman Brothers next to explicating Carl Perkins and doing Little Richard (Tutti Fruitti, of course), Billy Jo Shaver and Pete Seeger? What Elvis songs does he explain? Which Frank Sinatra tune? What song from 1924 does he call “a blast furnace of a song”? Why in the world did he include Witchy Woman by the Eagles? And who was Mack the Knife, anyway?
The Philosophy of Modern Song is a hoot, by a Nobel Laureate — brilliant and energetic, wonderfully designed. We’ve got it, of course, at 20% off.
My Theology: Batman Is Jesus Siku (Fortress Press) $16.99
OUR SALE PRICE = $13.59
We have gladly stocked a dozen or so of these “My Theology” books from Fortress, compact sized, smallish paperbacks where famous authors share their deepest convictions or their keenest insights. We are fond of the more evangelical ones — Scot McKnight on why he is a pacifist is just wonderful (The Audacity of Peace) and the testimony of Alister McGrath of his conversion from scientism and atheism (Return from a Distant County) is brilliant. I have often mentioned Malcolm Guite’s The Worlds within the Words. There are a number in this series and we have them all, from Grace Ji-Sun Kim’s Spirit Life to Finding God in the Universe by Jesuit Guy Consolmagno, the director of the Vatican Observatory to Cynthia Bourgeault’s The Corner of Fourth and Nondual
When Batman is Jesus came in, I was surprised that it wasn’t compact-sized and that it is full color on the inside. It’s stunning with cartoons, graphic illustration, edgy photography. Siku you see, is the creator of the Manga Bible and has worked for Marvel UK. And is a serious graphic artist. If this “My Theology” series offers opportunities for Christian thinkers to express the principle tenets of their faith, artist-theologian Siku, here, tells us about Narrative Theology and the specific subset of Graphic Theology. Who knew?
Through the visual language of superhero archetypes, legend, and lore, Siku “demonstrates a contemporary method of engaging with the Bible that resonates with how the Hebrew sages and prophets of pre-antiquity read Scripture.” This is one vivid and delirious work. Short, serious, wow.
Meeting God in Matthew Elaine Storkey (SPCK) $13.99
OUR SALE PRICE = $11.19
Those who follow the cycle of the lectionary know that soon we will be diving in to Matthew. Year A. Yes!! And this long-time friend of ours, a broadcaster and public theologian the UK is perfect to help you through it.
I do not know if this is why this renowned British publisher released this now, but surely for those who want a helpful overview of Matthew, Storkey is a very capable guide. She is known in the UK as a respected Bible teacher, a social activist and policy advocate, a missional public theologian and great communicator. She directed Stott’s London Institute for Contemporary Christianity and was the President of Tearfund for 17 years. She has books on a variety of topics (most recently the urgent, excellently done Scars Across Humanity: Understanding and Overcoming Violence Against Women and the excellent and useful Women in a Patriarchal World: Twenty-Five Empowering Stories from the Bible.
Dr. Storkey has a much needed disposition and ability — I’d call it a spiritual gift — to learn from very wide reading and experience and has a lovely blend of progressive and conventional evangelical vision. She knows the injustices of the world and longs for a full reformation of the very architecture of our good but fallen creation and yet she is equally clear that we are invited to a personally meaningful saving faith in Jesus the Lord. She helps us see the Bible and its grand redemptive story with fresh eyes.
Each chapter in Meeting God in Matthew has questions for discussion and reflection, making the book ideal for small groups. Start now (or maybe consider it for a Lenten group.)
Andrew Fellows, formerly of the UK L’Abri says, “I can’t think of a better book to read on this Gospel.”
Elaine Storkey leads us gently and winsomely through Matthew’s Gospel to meet with Jesus… This book is down-to-earth, accessible, illuminating. I loved it. — The Rt. Reverend Jill Duffy, Bishop of Lancaster
The Scripture and Hermeneutics Seminar: Retrospect and Prospect edited by Craig Bartholomew, David Beldman, Amber Bowen, and Will Olhausen (Zondervan Academic) $34.99
OUR SALE PRICE = $27.99
It was nearly 25 years ago that the Scripture and Hermeneutics Seminar (SAHS) started producing a steady stream of big, fat volumes offering what they properly suggest were “influential, global, diverse, and ecumenical” world-class research and launching the careers of many important young theologians. These volumes grappled with important questions about the Older and Newer Testament, the redemptive story of God, the trajectory of the Biblical narrative and how to best understand God’s Word in light of contemporary issues and the vital teachings of the past.
This middle part of this book is a greatest hits, so to speak, highlighting some of the key insights from the previous 8 volumes, but more than that; it is a celebration and summary, a distillation of the work of the Seminar and testimonial of its value by scholars and pastors and Bible teachers alike.
Here are vibrant scholarly pieces by the likes of the editors alongside Susan Bubbers, Murray Rae, Anthony Thiselton, Bo Lim, and more. These diverse voices offer a “unique perspective on the architecture of the biblical interpretation in the first quarter of the twenty-first century” and is presented “in hope of preparing fertile soil for the next generation of women and men to cultivate biblical interpretation for years to come.”
This one-volume compendium is a treasure-trove of fresh scholarship and encouraging case studies, complete with stories and anecdotes about the value of this unique project. It’s a group and a movement offering some good ideas that you should know about.
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