Lent is approaching, a bit early this year, it seems, and I am sure, like us, many of you have huge and important distractions. In our personal lives, our church lives, our work lives, and in the broader world of the world’s opportunities and tragedies, we are all in need of God’s guidance and strength. May God bring discernment and, where it is needed, healing and hope. Maybe Lent will be a time to focus on the call to discipleship, spiritual formation, and seeking renewed desires to be found on the road with Jesus, even if that road has us walking towards hard stuff.
For some BookNotes readers, inhabiting this season of the liturgical calendar comes as almost second nature. (Perhaps it is even too routine, for some?) For others it is new, or feels that way. Maybe you’ve recently read one of our Best Books of 2022 award-winners, Jamie Smith’s How to Inhabit Time or Fleming Rutledge’s Advent and you’re interested in taking up some new Lenten practices. Of course, that means picking up a book or two to guide and motivate you further. Obviously, right?
Here are a few new ones and a couple older ones we invite you to consider this season. All are 20% off, of course, and you can order them from us by using the link to our order form page which is shown at the very bottom of this column. Scroll down to see all the books mentioned and then see the order link.
Lent: The Season of Repentance and Renewal Esau McCaulley (IVP) $20.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $16.00
I’m sure you know of Esau McCaulley — African American Bible scholar, college prof, PhD guided by N.T. Wright — whose brilliant Reading While Black not only inspired thousands but helped get him a gig writing op-ed pieces in the New York Times. That a Wheaton College evangelical writes for the Times it is a very interesting thing, and that he is an Anglican, who now has a series of books he is editing called the “Fullness of Time” series, is maybe even more remarkable. This one called Lent is the first in this series (there is one coming from Tish Harrison Warren on Advent, one next year on Easter by Wesley Hill, one by Fleming Rutledge on Epiphany.) These slim, compact hardbacks are going to be a major gateway to the theology and spirituality of the church calendar, especially for those somewhat new to these things.
Lent, by Esau McCaulley, is fabulously interesting. It reminds us, of course, that Lent is “inescapably about repenting.” Okay, then. Let’s so it.
Each volume in the Fullness of Time series will not only invite readers to engage with the riches of the church year, but will explore prayers, Scriptures, traditions, and rituals that can help point us to the way of Jesus.
Saturated with biblical wisdom, McCaulley’s practical guide is the perfect introduction to newcomers to this practice of self-examination and renewal. — Garwood Anderson, Dean of Nashotah House Theological Seminary
By the way, if you don’t know Esau’s writing, see, for instance, “What Easter Says About Black Suffering” published in The New York Times April 17, 2022.
The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent Aaron Damiani (Moody Press) $12.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $10.39
I have mentioned this the last few years and now that his new one, Earth Filled with Heaven: Finding Life in Liturgy, Sacraments, and Other Ancient Practices of the Church has become known (we highlighted it in our Best Books of 2022 list last month), I thought I’d mention it again.
Just to remind you, Fr. Aaron Damiani is one of these great cats who was once an edgy evangelical, full of church planting energy and hip theological insight. Over time — a story for another time — he became Anglican and now is rooted in the teachings of the Scriptures as well as the church fathers and the liturgical renewal of the 1500s in Britain and the 2000s in the US. I’m not Anglican and I’m not that high liturgically but this is really good stuff.
The title The Good of Giving Up should not be taken to literally. It isn’t only about “giving up something for Lent and not even only about self-examination and repentance, although, naturally, that is part of it The three sections of this fine introduction are “The Case for Lent” and “The Path of Lent” and “Leading Others to Lent.” (These last three chapters include a helpful one on leading children through Lent and another on leading congregations, together, into this season.)
How do we observe Lent with proper motivation and how can it reform our habits and convictions? How do we do this in families and in the broader family of the local church? This book can help.
A Busy Parent’s Guide to a Meaningful Lent Marcia C. Morrow (Our Sunday Visitor) $16.95 OUR EXTRA SALE PRICE = this week only $10.00
Yep, we have this at a great extra discount. I’m being honest — somebody ordered a bunch and then didn’t take them so we have them at a great discount so we can entice you to take a few off our hands. It is specifically Roman Catholic and, for better or worse, Catholic folks have been as experienced as anybody in this ancient tradition and contemporary Catholic writers bring a rich experience (and a lot of evangelical-like fervor.) This woman is an adjunct professor at Seton Hall, has a PhD in theology from the University of Dayton, and is a mother of seven so, uh, she gets it. When she calls her quick and easy-to-use all-in-one Lenten resource “a busy parent’s guide” she knows what she’s talking about.
For some, Lent and the time heading towards Easter may be considered a nearly overwhelming season; well-intentioned efforts to try to experience God’s grace in fresh ways, may end up adding more stress than grace. Morrow’s been there. She lays out a practical plan that can transform your forty days. I think this daily plan has a lot to commend it and we’re happy to sell it on sale, now. After this week it will go back to our more typical BookNotes 20% off. Order it now, on extra sale, while supplies last.
Finding Jesus in the Psalms: A Lenten Journey Barb Roose (Abingdon Press) $17.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39
- Finding Jesus in the Psalms: A Lenten Journey Leader’s Guide $15.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $12.79
- Finding Jesus in the Psalms: A Lenten Journey DVD $44.95 OUR SALE PRICE = $35.96
This book (and accompanying DVD) is by a dynamic African American woman from Toledo, Ohio who hosts Facebook Live events and speaks at the upbeat Aspire Women’s Events, She Speaks, and more. We’ve stocked other Bible study material she has done and this one invites you to “immerse yourself in a meaningful encounter with Jesus and the Psalms through the season of Lent.” As author Kathi Lipp notes, “When I am in those hard places, those needy places, those places where I need to see God’s tenderness, I always turn to the Psalms.”
Yes, the New Testament Jesus read and prayed and sang and quoted the Psalms. This is a beautiful guide to this very use of the holy poetry of the Hebrew Psalter by Lord Jesus. This weaves stories and Biblical insight into the use of the Psalms during this season.
The book has six chapters making it ideal for a Sunday school class, small group Bible study or weekly book club choice. Most chapters link a Psalms (or two) to a Gospel text. The book stands on its own, but the DVD and leader’s guide for the DVD study is fabulous, too. This is lovely, solid stuff. Somebody has compared Barb Roose with Beth Moore which illustrates her honorable commitment to the glory of God and the saving power of Christ, but also her honesty about mental health stuff and her inspiring, upbeat style. I’m a fan.
Meeting Jesus at the Table: A Lenten Study Cynthia M. Campbell and Christine Coy Fohr (WJK) $17.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $13.60
A somewhat smaller, trim size makes this a perfect compact book to hold, a lovely one to study, as it provokes the question (as Elizabeth Caldwell notes) “For what are you hungry this Lenten season?” This book, like the meal it evokes, is rich and inviting, calling us to eat, to receive nourishment, to ponder amongst friends. Might we truly meet Jesus at this table?
This is an eight-week study (including a week for Easter) that can be read individually, of course, or used in an adult class or Bible study group. There’s a leader’s guide in the back with good questions and lots of Scripture. (There are also nice drawings by the late Kevin Burns, who was an architect and ruling elder at Highland Presbyterian Church in Louisville KY. Campbell (a former President of McCormick Theological emissary) is the retired pastor of Highland; Fohr is also a Presby pastor in Louisville.
The sessions of this lovely Lenten book remind us that Jesus spent time at meals with people and the gospel accounts tell us a bit about these holy encounters. This includes “Dining Alfresco” (which is on the feeding of the multitudes in Mark 6), “The Welcome Table” (where he is accused of eating with tax collectors and sinners as recorded in Matthew 9), a dinner that is interrupted (see Luke 7) and an important chapter on “relationships and reciprocity” where room is made at the table (in Luke 14: 7-14.) There is a chapter on “empty chairs” at the table, another on “hospitality and discipleship” (The first verses of John 12 tell of a meal with a chosen family.) There is a “meal of memories” which they call “not the Last Supper”) and of course “revived by the breaking of bread” in Luke 24.
What a great and interesting study this is. Come to the table this Lenten season!
Toward the Cross: Heart-Shaping Lessons for Lent and Easter Taylor W. Mills (Abingdon Press) $13.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $11.19
The format of this used to be more common but resources in this style are harder to find these days. It has a chapter for seven weeks, one for each Sunday of Lent (and Easter Sunday, too.) This makes it ideal for an adult class, a weekly small group Bible study, or a weekly book club. However besides the seven short chapters to be discussed together as a group, there are also a week’s worth of short daily readings for personal devotional use. It’s a great combo — a book that can be used in a class setting and/or a daily devotional for Lent.
As you can see, this is about the classic Lenten theme of moving towards the cross. His exploration uses the language of the heart, inviting us to traits and characteristics that can be shaped by our season’s practices.
The chapters are “A Humble Heart”, “A Committed Heart”, “A Gracious Heart”, “A Heart for Seekers”, “A Purposeful Heart”, “A Heart of Extravagant Love”, and, for Easter, “A Joyful Heart.”
Rev. Taylor Mills is a United Methodist pastor who has served in many cities and towns in North Carolina. He get an assist, here, from Gary Thompson (of Mississippi) and Michel Morris, who is a lead pastor of First United Methodist in Bentonville, Arkansas.
Wild Hope: Stories of Lent from the Vanishing Gayle Boss, illustrated by David G. Klein (Paraclete) $19.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $15.99
I suppose you recall our enthusiastic promotion of Boss & Klein’s amazingly nuanced and very thoughtful Advent study All Creation Waits: The Advent Mystery of New Beginnings which, curiously and effectively, developed Advent reflections inspired by the hibernation patterns of animals, each artfully illustrated, week by week. Just this past Advent they re-issued it in a celebratory bright hardback with a ribbon marker which gives you a sense of how many loved it and how the publisher was behind it.
We’ve mentioned this companion volume to it which I believe is as good or better (although not yet released in hardback.) This handsome, just slightly oversized volume offers a beautiful bit of nature writing, profound spirituality, vivid lament about species loss, and, yes, all related to the practices of Lent.
As poet Luci Shaw notes, it includes “detailed, vivid accounts of an ark-full of wild lives in danger.” As the extraordinary scientist (and founder of the Safina Center) Carl Safina wrote, Wild Hope is the only book whose table of contents alone gave me chills.” These beautifully rendered stories invite us to reflection and renewed commitments to safeguarding God’s precious creatures. It is a Lenten practice worth taking up and this is a resource well worth having and sharing.
Please read this important endorsement:
Full of power and poignancy, love, and lament. Gayle Boss invites her readers to groan together with all creation in grief at the profound loss of species. Lament is a cry of truth-telling, and in her portraits of these exquisite creatures we hear the necessary and devastating truth of what we are losing. — Christine Valters Painter, Earth, Our Original Monastery: Cultivating Wonder and Gratitude Through Intimacy with Nature
A Just Passion A Six Week Lenten Journey compiled and edited by Tianna Haas (IVP) $12.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $9.60
Wow. Just wow. This is the best little collection of pieces I think I have ever seen compiled to be used as a Letter reader, mostly around the relationships of spirituality, discipleship, and working towards a culture of shalom and racial justice. The readings are all drawn from previously published IVP books and these are some of the best contemporary writers working these days in this space. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the list of contributors and am so glad for the expert gleaning and curating done by the team at IVP. Editor Cindy Bunch has a very useful forward about spiritual practices, about Lent, and some wise words about using this little volume intentionally and helpfully.
Authors include Ruth Haley Barton, Marlena Graves, Donna Barber, John Perkins, Eugene Peterson, Sheila Wise Rowe, Tish Harrison Warren, Terry M. Wildman, Natasha Sistrunk Robinson, Christina Edmondson, Soong-Chan Rah, Esau McCaulley, and the poet Drew Jackson, among many others.
The devotional format of A Just Passion is not merely a short reading, but some Bible texts and prompts for a weekly “breath prayer.” It is a handsome, useful little paperback and we recommend it heartily.
The Resilient Disciple: A Lenten Journey from Adversity to Maturity Justine Allain Chapman (SPCK) $20.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $16.79
Resilience. In Lent. Oh my. Many know about the Japanese art of kintsugi, repairing with gold, which restores a cracked object even while it retains some image of the damage, making the item even more beautiful than it was before. The crack on the paperback book cover, embossed with the lines in gold, makes this UK title itself a poignant beauty.
Alone on an eight-day retreat in the Egyptian desert, author Justine Allan Chapman encountered first hand the physical, spiritual, and mental struggle many have endured there before her. As it says on the back cover, “our own desert experience may involve attending to challenges that come upon us suddenly — such as illness or bereavement — or to difficult relationships or patterns of thinking that have long been draining us of life and joy.”
A Lenten pilgrimage, she assures us, is testing. The forty daily readings in this vividly written book includes wide-ranging prayers, Scripture readings, and guides to using the material with groups, or even in preaching and worship. It’s not only an encouraging read, but “bringing us to Easter with both a deeper sense of self and a deeper engagement with God.” This book offers challenge and consolation, perhaps even tender healing for our brokenness.
Sacred & Desecrated: Forty Days with Wendell Berry John Hewitt, Elie Jackson, Emily Mosher, and Michelle Shackelford (independently published) $14.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $11.99
I can hardly believe we found this last year and I’ve been waiting nearly a year to announce it here. Sacred & Desecrated is the work of a group project “to reflect not ehe season of Lent in light of the poems, essays, and stories of Wendell Berry.”
Here is how they put it:
We hope these devotions will help you develop a greater appreciation for GOd’s creation and the way our everyday choices affect our bodies, families, land, community, and world.” As part of Lent, this book honestly acknowledges the deep hurt and brokennes that exists in all these areas of life but it also looks forward to the salvation promised us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the redemption of all creation through the power of the Holy Spirit. As you engage with the challenges and opportunities presented by Berry, you may even find that God is present in the places and things you thought were desecrated, boring to transform what has been violated into something holy once more.
The book is divided into six sections, or for six weeks leading us through Lent. After each daily reading there are three reflection or discussion questions and a closing prayer. Attentive Berry readers will know that the phrase of the title is drawn from a poem “How to Be a Poet.”
The Desert of Compassion: Devotions for the Lenten Journey Rachel M. Scubas (WJK) $17.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $13.60
For many, Lent is a time when we are intentional about our relationship with God. The classic practice of “giving up” something is less old-school self-denial based motivated by shame or guilt but a time to create space for God. It is a time to be more intentional about our interior lives and wonder how things are in our souls. For my money, a book by a Presbyterian pastor who is also a Benedictine oblate who lives near a real desert (the Sonoran, near Tucson) has all the right features of lived experience, solid theology, and a robust vision of social and cultural concern.
Each day’s rich entry opens and closes with an eloquent and deep prayer.
As the great Marjorie Thompson (author of the spiritual classic Soul Feast) writes:
Rachel Srubas weaves a rich fabric of spiritual and psychological wisdom, knitting the personal and communal, inward and outward, ordinary and profound. Each meditation sparkles with a vivid story and masterful metaphor. Over and over, her words led me to depth reflection and contemplative awareness. I didn’t want this book to end. It is one I will return to often and gift to others. — Marjorie Thompson, author of Soul Feast
I have become a fan of one of the great scholars of the mystical tradition (and a good guide to the contemplative life), the prolific Carl McColeman. He is one who knows about these things, and reads very widely, and he writes:
During Lent we recall Jesus’ sojourn in the desert — a time for generosity, simplicity, and, most of all, prayer. Rachel Srubas’s vivid meditations make the season come alive as she invites us into our own desert places where Christ meets us with a love that will transform our hearts. — Carl McColman, author of Unteachable Lessons: Why Wisdom Can’t Be Taught (and Why That’s Okay), Eternal Heart and The Big Book of Christian Mysticism
The Way of Thomas Merton: A Prayer Journey Through Lent Robert Ihchausti (SPCK) $13.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $11.19
I have long admired Robert Inchausti for his work on Merton and a few other books about education, creative thinking, and deep spirituality. This new book is patterned after others done by SPCK The Way of Julian of Norwich: A Prayer Journey Through Lent by Sheila Upjohn and The Way of Benedict: Eight Blessings for Lent by Laurentia Johns (both $20.99 — our sale price = $16.79.) It is a standard daily reader, with a good reflection guiding us from a passage from Merton. There are astute reflection questions, too. And, man, does he know Merton. I’ll let Parker Palmer explain.
Just listen to this amazing quote by the amazing Parker Palmer:
This Lenten devotional is unlike any I’ve seen. It’s not about giving up something trivial for a few weeks. It’s about getting free of the “false self” that alienates us from ourselves, from each other and God. Nobody understood that transformation better than Thomas. Merton — and nobody understands Merton better than Robert Inchausti. — Parker Palmer, author of On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity, and Getting Old
The Art of Lent: A Painting a Day From Ash Wednesday to Easter Sister Wendy Beckett (IVP) $17.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $13.60
I adore this small sized book that has wonderfully full-color reproductions of paintings old and modern, well known and most likely not familiar, overtly religious and otherwise, a fine painting reproduced on one page with a meditation on the facing page. Like the Advent and Christmas ones in this series, The Art of Lent (and, new last year, The Art of Holy Week and Easter) are just splendid ways to meditate on the meaning of the season.
These are really well designed, so very nicely done, the reflections handsomely arranged (but maybe smaller print than some may wish.) This will help you become informed about masterpieces and you will be glad just for that. More significantly, this leads you into a deeply prayerful response to all that these paintings convey. It is exceptionally useful to have around and we very highly recommend it.
An Easter Book of Days: Meeting the Characters of the Cross and Resurrection Gregory Kenneth Cameron (Paraclete Press) $18.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19
In An Easter Book of Days Gregory Kenneth Cameron invites us to “encounter anew the story of Jesus’s passion” with these twenty-five profound meditations accompanied by beautiful illustrations that inspires us to “enter the heart of each character” (from the disciples to Pontius Pilate, from Mary and Marty to Simon of Cyrene, and more.) We adored Cameron’s handsome little An Advent Book of Days and this is like it — compact sized paperback on good quality paper, with glassy French folded covers. The illustrations are not masterpieces of renaissance or modern art but are stylized contemporary paintings that are somewhat in the style of, or after, icons. It’s perfect for a liturgical season, it seems to me.
For what it is worth we really, really like a book by David Darling called The Characters of the Cross, that stands with his Characters of Christmas and The Characters of Creation. These are creatively written, offered by a Southern Baptist preacher, drawing out Biblical themes. Those are well worth reading and I’ve announced The Characters of the Cross before. I mention it here because it fit, but also to note that Cameron is an Anglican Bishop in Wales. His tone is a bit more academic, a bit more direct, a bit more about the history of the setting, rooted in the larger church tradition than perhaps the upbeat Darling ones. Kudos to Cameron for his original art that enhances the book very nicely.
Word in the Wilderness: A Poem a Day for Lent and Easter Malcolm Guite (Canterbury Press) $21.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $16.80
We have stocked and promoted Guite’s books for years and we are so grateful that more are coming to know about him. He is increasingly known in both in the Anglican communions and in broader church circles. We’ve had friends who have met him this past year and were delighted by his friendliness and literary brilliance, in places as diverse as Virginia Theological Seminary to Rabbit Room’s Hutchmoot gathering. (And he will be in Lancaster PA on February 18th and the intriguing Square Halo Books conference. They, after all, published one of his excellent books, lectures on the Christian imagination called Lifting the Veil.)
In any event, this book includes a Guite-chosen poem — one for every day from Shrove Tuesday to Easter Day and for springtime saint’s days, from George Herbert to Seamus Heaney to Gwyneth Lewis to Rowan Williams to John Donne to many of his won, that hold up nicely next to Yeats and Lewis. He has a substantive devotional for each, arranged over the weeks with themes such as preparing for action, beginning the pilgrimage, deepening the life of prayer, knowing ourselves, facing pain, and more. As he puts it, each is a “window into heaven to light our Lenten road.”
Hearing God in Poetry: Fifty Poems for Lent and Easter Richard Harries (SPCK) $14.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $11.99
This is a remarkable collection, piece very nicely together by a very notable British leader. Harries was at the Bishop of Oxford from 1987 to 2006 and is both a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a member of the House of Lords. Rowan Williams says he is “one of our greatest Christian intellectuals.” From our vantage here, we gave a very positive review to his book Seeing God in Art: The Christian Faith in 30 Images.
Here he offers six poems for every week of Lent, with a short reflection by Harries with each, often telling about the poet. There are ten specifically chosen for Easter. You will perhaps learn of authors you did not know and discover poems well worth remembering. His repository is wide, but many of the expected classics of Brit lit are here, from Yeats to T.S. Eliot, from C.S. Lewis to Malcolm Guite, from Chaucer to Emily Dickinson. You will find poems by Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes, and “No Coward Soul Is Mine” the famous Holy Saturday poem by Emily Bronte. It’s a good book.
A Book of Days for Lent: Daily Reflections for the Season of Lent edited by Steven G.W. Moore & Father Richard Ganz, SJ (Murdock Charitable Trust /Seedbed) $19.95 OUR SALE PRICE = $15.96
Have we told you about this before? Or the beautiful companion hardback, A Book of Days for Advent. We are fortunate to stock this as we so believe in the remarkable work of the Murdock Charitable Trust that funds all sorts of common good project in the Pacific NW. This sharp volume — with heavy glossy paper and some full color, classic art nicely reproduced — is a compilation of pieces compiled by folks who are involved with or have been funded by the Trust. Most are on the cutting edge of social work, although some are what we might call cultural curators, thought-leader, wise influencers. Murdock encouraged serious thought about all sorts of things and this wonderful collection testifies to their deepest faith commitments. It’s a joy to behold.
Many of the women and men in this volume are people many of us don’t know, but a few are authors we care for — Steve Garber, A.J. Swoboda, Cam Anderson, Kate Harris. Although we never met, the late Brian Doyle has a contribution. A Book of Days for Lent is a rare treat. Order it while supplies last…
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