JOIN US FOR A FREE WEBINAR THIS TUESDAY NIGHT – An Evening with Paul Metzger discussing “Setting the Spiritual Clock” 7:00 PM (E.S.T.) REGISTER NOW


TUESDAY NOVEMBER 28TH – 7:00 PM (Eastern Standard Time.)



I know it is a busy weekend with many folks travelling to be with relatives, meeting up with turkeys and parades and — hopefully — offering prayers of gratitude and hopes for peace. Our last BookNotes was sent into the holiday maelstrom of Facebook ads, email spam, and social media posts about everything from great family meals to profound losses. I hope, somehow, you saw it, and spent a little quiet time pondering the great books we described about Advent. We’ve got ‘em, and if we can help, we’re here to serve you further. Thanks.

In that last BookNotes column I started with a book by my friend Dr. Paul Louis Metzger, and now we are inviting you to join me as I chat with him in a free webinar this Tuesday evening. Maybe you tuned in to the last conversation I had with him and if so, you know the time went fast. We think this one is going to be a blast.

Paul is a scholar at Multnomah University and Seminary in the Pacific Northwest town of Portland, Oregon — it’s the place where, among other things, the popular Bible Project guys came from. Metzger teaches there and also directs The Institute for Cultural Engagement: New Wine, New Wineskins, which is a think-tank/learning center to help Christians more intentionally and faithfully engage, as they say, the culture of which we inevitably are a part. As Calvin Seerveld has written, “culture is not optional” — it is where God has placed us, like it or not. We can study our context and enjoy God’s world and work to repair the dark and broken parts — alert to even the subtle things that erode human flourishing in this secularizing era —or we can go with the flow and get carried along by the ubiquitous social forces and steams, which, well: you know how that ends. For God’s glory and our neighbor’s good, we’ve got to put on holy armor and (with whimsy and joy and faith and hope) resist with all we’ve got.

It isn’t just the big stuff we must fight — starvation, racism, ecological destruction, elder abuse, porn, war, dishonest politics, the ideologies that give us the idolatries of nationalism and technicism and such. (As a matter of fact, Paul has written a scholarly work of applied theology about these very things called More Than Things: A Personalist Ethic for a Throwaway Culture.) Actually, though, the deeper questions are matters of the heart — sure, they flow out to shape culture and society for better or worse, but the Bible suggests there is a profound interplay between the state of our hearts (the things we love and value) and the state of our cultures. Idols are personal — oh, so personal — but also social, communal. We live within our social contexts, our habitus, as some call it, and yet we shape the very contexts. If we’re not careful, we end up looking like the idols we serve.

We need the mind of Christ and the practice of virtues and some friends along the way. We need churches who are aware of all of this and whose worship is thoughtful, intentional, and formative for us. I think this is why the Setting the Spiritual Clock is part of a series (“Worship and Witness”) put out by the Calvin Institute on Christian Worship.

It is not uncommon knowledge that we live in a secularizing culture, what the grand philosopher Charles Taylor has famously called “the secular age.” James K.A. Smith is an expert and helpful companion as we try to learn Taylor’s insights (see his How (Not) To Be Secular: On Reading Charles Taylor) and I am glad that Paul Metzger has studied this stuff well.

This Tuesday night we here at Hearts & Minds are hosting a webinar with Paul to help us figure out how — even in the hectic month of December — we can keep this secular age from eclipsing the meaning and joy of our days. Please join us.


If the page this takes you too seems a little funky — no worries. They’ll send you a conformation for the event 7:00 PM this Tuesday. You’ll be able to chime in with questions and comments, too, via a Zoom chat, although your face won’t be on the screen. 

The word “eclipsing” in the subtitle is important, as we will see. Paul is drawing on the sorts of cultural studies offered by Smith and Taylor (and others) to make a case why the seasons of the church year are so important.  What some call the “liturgical calendar” is that orientation we get as people in the church (or at least we should!)  Waiting in Advent, honoring the incarnation at Christmas, standing in the glory of epiphany, moving with Christ towards the humility and sacrifice of the cross during Lent. You know the rest, right? Holy Week, the death and bodily resurrection of Christ, the promise of power and presence, ascension, Pentecost.

If we are attentive to this cycle of events our days will, sooner or later, be less attuned to or shaped by back to school and Halloween and April 15th and Memorial Day and July 4th but rather more profoundly by the moments and seasons that teach us, year by year, about the life of Christ and the Triune God of the Bible.

Paul’s book Setting the Spiritual Clock has a lengthy introduction which includes some of the best writing I have read about all of this. The bulk of the book is a big devotional (not exactly a daily devo, but a bit sporadic, weekly, seasonal) just chock-full of teachings, explorations, inspirations, and applications of the practical stuff of this kind of life, a life shaped by sacred time. I love it.

One need not be a high church Episcopalian (I am not) to appreciate the gist of this approach to time, to seasons, to counting our days in truly Biblical fashion. And one need not be a cultural historian or social critic to realize that we live in a fast-paced, ever-changing world, what Len Sweet used to call “hot wired” and it is getting to us, eroding our faith, deforming our habits, hurting our children. We need to learn a new way of considering not just our daily discipleship, but the frame that gives it all meaning, subconsciously informing all we do. This framing context for a uniquely Christian habitus to counter the secular creep comes from our understanding of our calendar. It comes, by keeping time, in church and at home.

Join us, won’t you, for this free Zoom presentation. All you have to do is REGISTER HERE and then you’ll get the free access code sent right to you.

The fun begins at 7 EST this Tuesday. We’ll go a bit more than an hour, I’d guess.

Our event is graciously co-sponsored by the great Calvin Institute on Christian Worship in Grand Rapids and the publisher, Wipf & Stock, out in Oregon. What a joy that these institutions are trusting me to interview Paul and give him some Hearts & Minds hospitality, setting the stage for him to share a bit about the book, why he wrote it, its goals and value, and how we might make sense of this new year, Advent season 2023.

I know this is short notice — could you please share this with folks who might appreciate it? I’m sure most BookNotes fans will enjoy it, but we’re especially hoping pastors, worship leaders, church liturgists and musicians, educators, youth ministers, and other ministry workers might join in. It’s going to be lively, interesting, and I believe helpful as you set your face to the new year.


Setting the Spiritual Clock: Sacred Time Breaking Through the Secular Eclipse Paul Louis Metzger (Cascade) $34.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $27.20

I’m starting our BookNotes Advent list here for two reasons, at least. First, this is an absolutely fantastic devotional with some excellent Advent content, one I can hardly speak of with enough vigor and enthusiasm. I’m absolutely not just saying this because I did a Facebook Live session with Paul around his previous IVP Academic Book More Than Things: A Personalist Ethics for a Throwaway Culture when it first released last August. Granted, I loved that heady book and came to admire the author very much (and had a blast chatting with him.) But, no, I’m not just pushing the work of a friend. I really, really value Setting the Spiritual Clock and think it adds much to the conversations on these themes about the importance of understanding time and the flow of our days. There is hardly anything like it (as Gordon Lathrop implied in a fabulous Christian Century review.) I will speak in greater detail in another BookNotes, soon.

We are doing another Facebook Live gathering on the evening of Tuesday, November 28th where I interview Paul about this book (register here) and I couldn’t be happier, set, as it will be, right after Christ Our King Sunday and what will then be the week before the first Sunday of Advent. Paul is an ecumenically-informed, learned evangelical scholar, and he will tell us why the church calendar is important, how understanding sacred time helps us focus our lives around the life of Jesus. It’s going to be fun (really, it will be.)

Setting the Spiritual Clock is not only an Advent devotional although there are a good handful of excellent devotional readings for the season. It covers the whole year, so you’ll find good pieces on Christmas and Epiphany as well. From there, he has smart and theologically wise reflections on all the major church seasons (and a few other important days, from Black History Month to Mothers Day to a fascinating entry on Hanukkah.) We all worry about the “secular creep” in our lives and not only has Paul read Charles Taylor and Jamie Smith’s important How (Not) to be Secular, he realizes that one of the great tools to resist creeping secularity is keeping the ecclesial year. This is part of our spiritual formation and his book can help. As Kristen Deede Johnson of Western Seminary puts it,

“This is a gem of a book…. Its content deserves to be mined and treasured as we seek to follow Jesus in these complex cultural and political moments.”

If you purchase this hefty volume you not only get some great ruminations on Advent and Christmas and Epiphanytide, but more than 275 pages on the whole year through. Whether you are in a high liturgical church, part of a more moderate mainline Protestant congregation, or worship in a free-flowing nondenominational auditorium, this is a book that “serves as a guide and traveling companion for the liturgical year, which circles the glorious Son as he breaks through the secular eclipse.” Fantastic.




The weight and destination of your package varies but you can use this as a quick, general guide:

There are generally two kinds of US Mail options and, of course, UPS.  If necessary, we can do overnight and other expedited methods, too. Just ask.

  • United States Postal Service has the option called “Media Mail” which is cheapest but can be a little slower. For one typical book, usually, it’s $4.12; 2 lbs would be $4.87. This is the cheapest method available.
  • United States Postal Service has another, quicker option called “Priority Mail” which is $8.50, if it fits in a flat-rate envelope. Many children’s books and some Bibles are oversized so that might take the next size up which is $9.20. “Priority Mail” gets much more attention than does “Media Mail” and is often just a few days to anywhere in the US.
  • UPS Ground is reliable but varies by weight and distance and may take longer than USPS. Sometimes they are cheaper that Priority. We’re happy to figure out your options for you once we know what you want.

If you just want to say “cheapest” that is fine. If you are eager and don’t want the slowest method, do say so. It really helps us serve you well so let us know.


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Sadly, as of November 2023 we are still closed for in-store browsing. COVID is not fully over. Since few are reporting their illnesses anymore, it is tricky to know the reality but the best measurement is to check the waste water tables to see the amount of virus in the eco-system. It is bad and now getting worse. It’s important to be aware of how risks we take might effect the public good — those at risk, while not dying from the virus, are experiencing long-term health consequences. (Just check the latest reports of the rise of heart attacks and diabetes among younger adults, caused by Covid.) It is complicated, but we are still closed for in-store browsing due to our commitment to public health (and the safety of our family who live here, our staff, and customers.) Our store is a bit cramped without top-notch ventilation, so we are trying to be wise. Thanks for understanding.

We will keep you posted about our future plans… we are eager to reopen.

We are doing our curb-side and back yard customer service and can show any number of items to you if you call us from our back parking lot. It’s sort of fun, actually. We are eager to serve and grateful for your patience as we all work to mitigate the pandemic. We are very happy to help, so if you are in the area, do stop by. We love to see friends and customers.

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