Hearts & Minds BookNotes

annotations, blurbs and ruminations

to enlarge the heart & stimulate the mind

and to happily generate mail order business for Hearts & Minds bookstore

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Location: Dallastown, PA

My lovely wife Beth and I own and operate--proprietors makes us sound more classy than we really are--a cluttered, diverse and independent bookstore in Central Pennsylvania. After well over 20 years, we are still not sure what to say when people ask if our shop is a "Christian bookstore." I do a monthly book review column over at our website; we hope that these new blogged bits will afford friends and customers the chance to see other books I happen to be reading, wishing to read, pretending that I read or at least believe that others should, if not read, know about. We have three children, attend a Presbyterian church in York, PA and have no hobbies.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Late night picnic and The Call

Last night was an absolutely wonderful evening for a late night picnic. After the serious heat here the last few weeks, it was a delight to feel the cooler breeze, to sit behind our home, with the bookstore lights glowing out onto the lovely back yard with huge trees. Our house isn't well-ordered, we've got junk too often laying around in places that would lead the casual observer to think I've never heard of beauty or truth, let alone love Calvin Seerveld books. (See this month’s review over at the website of Rainbows for a Fallen World to see his invitation to take the aesthetic dimension of life more seriously.)

Still, the grill was on, with my son Micah doing the honors, and we had a casual picnic with a gang of friends of the CCO staffer over at Elizabethtown College, the droll and hilarious and brilliant Derek Melleby (who sometimes blogs at Aslan Is On The Move.) I say the group was friends of his; actually, most are friends of ours, too, since he has driven them the 45 minutes here to the shop on many occasions.

Derek and his wife and some other sharp folks connected to their church have been leading a couple of groups of mostly younger adults through a guided reading of Os Guinness' The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose in Your Life (Word; $17.99.) You may know that this is one of my all time favorite books, an absolutely essential resource for a deep and balanced whole-life discipleship kind of Christian worldview. Written with insight and grace, the CD lectures are Dr. G at his finest. The book is a must-read. Every church library should have a couple of copies and every pastor should recommend it often.

After reflecting on the sense of vocation that the book celebrates, some of the folks in the study group decided that they would want to spend some time talking intentionally with somebody who embodied these kind of truths, who seemed passionate about calling and intentional about vocation. Beth and I were chosen—foolishly, perhaps—to be the case studies. Derek brought the burgers, others brought the fruit and salad and chips. I made a big deal about the fair trade all-organic coffee and as the air grew chilly we told stories about the store. We remember the hopes and dreams of our young adult years, our prayerful discernment of our own vocation, the struggles of the early years (including everything from fundamentalist customers who thought we were satanic for selling Richard Foster or medieval spirituality, my Marxist buddies who hated our pro-life activism or the death threat we got from the KKK for our window display against racism.) We told of the ups and downs of trying to hone our craft as booksellers and our efforts, such as they are, to be faithful to our convictions in the mundane details of display, accounting, advertising and competition. We listened as they tried to tell us what they thought of Guinness (many had come to hear him when we hosted his lecture in the Spring) and together we pondered how to connect conviction and behavior, faith and work, an authentic Christian worldview and the too-often constricting vision of the Christian Booksellers Association, the public’s presumptions about religious books and, more generally, the Christian life.

Of course, we ended up with a digression (that maybe wasn’t a digression at all) about our favorite books, and most beloved novels, what we’re reading now.

It was a great night for us---I sometimes think Derek’s group humors me as I try to wax eloquent about trying to be a somewhat different kind of religious bookstore. Beth and I hope they at least enjoyed the backyard breeze.

A quick question that arose but that we didn’t explore in detail: in what ways are The Call by Os Guinness and The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren similar or dissimilar? And, further, how do either help fund or energize and sustain a lifestyle that is redemptive in the workaday world, especially if one is working in a non-professional capacity (it isn’t too hard to think purposefully in light of vocation if one is an inner city lawyer or an heroic teacher or compassionate hospice nurse, of course)? Are there some jobs that are so degrading or mindless that one could hardly think of them as holy callings or filled with purpose? There are serious resources that help answer that, I think, but the night was getting late. Any thoughts?