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.

Monday, October 31, 2005

excerpt of Fabric of Faithfulness

I don't usually post on Sunday, but my heart is full in many ways, in part because of the richness of the experience at the week-end YADA, YADA, YADA conference at Issachar's Loft (see I Chronicles 12:32) at Messiah College that we told about on Friday's post. Kudos to Derek, Tim and Krista and the omnipresent Scott Calgaro for hosting author and mentor Steve Garber, me and Hearts & Minds as we served over 55 students. A shout-out to those from Shippensburg U, HAAC's G-burg campus, Penn State-Altoona, Elizabethtown College and to Ken VW, the IVCF dude who drove from north Jersey to join the good gang from Messiah.

Dr. Garber, as expected, was excellent as he offered gentle and wise guidance on being responsible with what one knows. Using resources as diverse as Walker Percy and Simone Weil, Wendell Berry and Bono, Tom Shadyac (Patch Adams, Bruce Almighty), Thomas Wolfe, and Abraham Kuyper, he invited us to consider deep ways to relate faith and life, ethical living with the meaning of our vision for life. As we had hoped, participants not only purchased books from our display on developing a Christian world and life view (see the list we shared as posted at our October website column) but a few bought novels and poems by Wendell Berry. Hard work lugging it all over there, but a nice, nice feeling afterwards...

Below is a quote from Fabric of Faithfulness which I cited in my opening meditation. (I also read the first chapter of early elementary kid's book Junie B. Jones Is Not A Crook, about her lovely mittens, too, but that is a another story.) The Garber paragraph was a good choice to read to the group--thanks, God!--since much of the day really seemed to come back to this very theme, over and over again. How does one maintain deep commitments and loves over the course of a lifetime? How can we truly be sons and daughters of Issachar--who understand and do? How does one maintain integrity and care about the world in an info-glut age (AIDS in Africa, 9-11, tsunamis, Katrina and on and on and on) without falling into either jaded cynicism or overwhelming sorrow? How does one keep one's heart from becoming like that which Jesus told about in the story of the four soils, whose commitment to the truth is strangled by the many cares and riches of this world? Here's Garber:
How is it possible to see into the meaning of one's moment in history and to act responsibly, rather than be overwhelmed by either cynicism or sorrow because the brokenness seems so deep, the pain so profound? In a certain sense, everything we do as human beings is rooted in that question. Decisions we make within families either nourish or destroy our connectedness. Choices we make about our vocations lead to deeper commitments or greater dissatisfaction. Attitudes we nurture about common good responsibilities cause us to either be more fully engaged or to retreat into the sphere of those who do not care. Day by day we are forming characters and forming cultures in the way we respond to the world around. If we are to avoid the paralysis of destructive cynicism and debilitating sorrow, somehow, somewhere, we have to make sense of the world--not only of our own lives, but of life.
Another helpful way into the themes which Steve guided us through is to read his excellent essay, Learning to Love What God Loves a printed copy of which was passed out to participants. By reading it, you, too, can join our learning community as we ponder this together. It is well, well worth reading. Also, a very good summary of much of what Steve is talking about these days can be found in his wonderful sermon entitled Learning to See What You See: On Liturgy, Learning and Life which is in Get Up Off Your Knees: Preaching the U2 Catalogue, another book we blogged about in our last post. Steve, as we said, has two chapters in there. As the aforementioned pre-schooler Junie B. Jones might say, "It fills me with glee, that's why."

By the way, does anybody want to suggest what my three Y-words from the last post had to do with Garber's Fabric of Faithfulness book? Yada, Yoda, and the Ya-Yas? How about if we offer a prize? Yeah, a prize. We will give a 25% off your next ordered book to the first person to tell us what the heck I'm talking about---Yada, Yoda and the Ya-Yas? And Fabric...? Come on, who wants to explain...

Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior in the University Years
Steven Garber (IVP) $14.00

Thursday, October 27, 2005

YADA, YADA, YADA: The Fabric of Faithfulness

I hope you noticed that our October book review column over at the Hearts & Minds website was a reflection on a few new books dealing with college life, and then a bibliography of a handful of good books for students. One need not be a college student, or a campus minister, to appreciate this. Or so say I! There are too few of us book lovers that go the extra bit to forward reviews and essays, book lists or (dare I say it? Hearts & Minds stuff) to those who may find it most germane. Germane. Yesindeedie. Who do you know--a parent, pastor or professor--who might find helpful a book list of evangelical worldview resources for students? Please do check out and tell others about the monthly column. We really hope they help people.

And, more: the reason for that little listing was for an upcoming conference with Steve Garber, good, good friend and author of Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior in the University Years. YADA, YADA, YADA (the Hebrew word to know) is the name given for this little gig, to be held Saturday at Messiah College (at Issachar's Loft, if you're in the region.) I will do an opening keynote, preaching about changing the world through discovering a sense of vocation, and re-thinking the theoretical, structural and institutional matters that must change if the emerging generation is going to truly bring healing hope to our sad world. Then, Steve will do some lectures, guide some discussions, engage in some interactive conversations with students as they try to know deeply that which they think they know. That is, Steve will prompt them (and we hope that the book display will help them, think through the moral implications and ethical trajectory for their academic years. Particularly for students who are followers of Christ, this is a huge and often untapped conversation.

I wonder if Steve will show clips from the movie Wit as he sometimes does (a woman dying of cancer, who thought she knew death because she was a expert on the poetry of Blake and a nearly uncaring doctor who though he knew health because he was an expert on oncology.) I wonder if he might talk about one of my all time favorite books Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed by Phillip Hallie, about the risk-filled ministry of Andre Trocme and his small, faith-filled, Protestant community in France who resisted Nazism and took in threatened Jewish families (Steve, too, loves that book.) I wonder if he will help us ponder Simone Weil's final lines, that the most important task is life is learning what it means to know. The rich Hebrew word yada certainly implies a tender and wholistic embrace--think of Parker Palmer's wonderful book on the spirituality of education entitled To Know As We Are Known--and a moral responsibility. I hope he shows the Numb video of U2, helping us once again feel the angst of our info-glut society which knows so much and feels (and does) so little. And I am sure he'll tell of a short story or poem or essay of Wendell Berry, the Kentucky farmer-writer who embodies the kind of a life well lived that we want students imagine. The Hebrew prophets make it clear that people of faith, to be authentic in what they claim they know, must live out the radical implications of God's care for creation, for history, for others. I've heard Garber quote elequant passages from The Prophets by Rabbi Abraham Heschel, a book we've long promoted. (Are you seeing why I love this guy?) Ahhh, what does all this mean for the formation of younger people, for the doing of education, for careers and callings as studied in colleges and universities? (Many standard ones teach students just to get a job--as if punching the clock, for personal happiness or to pay the bills, is the meaning of true knowledge, while the more expensive ones may imply that salvation comes from obtaining a lot of factual content. Learning for a job in the American workplace or learning to prove yourself an intellectual--- can either of these approaches measure up to the profound and lovely implications of yada?)

Do please consider checking out the monthly column and seeing the descriptions of the books I will promote at this conference. And pray for us, if you're the praying type, that this time with students will be fruitful for them. Pray for Steve and I, and the key organizers (big tip of the hat to Derek & Tim and their compatriots. And Lilly for helping to buy the meal.)

And if you haven't, for crying out loud, get your mouse going and order Fabric of Faithfulness from us. It is one of the books I've reviewed on the website over the years and have actually re-run the review. Christianity Today even reprinted an edited version of it, as did some academic journal that goes out to the boards of colleges (who knew there was such a periodical?) So this is one of our H&M top books, one that is thoughtful, important, well-written and laden with insight. If you have it, read some of it again. Or give it to somebody who cares about higher education.

(Garber, by the way, also has two really, really fine sermons in the wild collection Get Up Off Your Knees: Preaching the U2 Catalogue edited by Raewynne Whiteley & Beth Maynard, put out by Cowley Press. One is the wedding sermon for two CCO friends; the other was a message offered at a campus-wide chapel service at Calvin College in Michigan. That one semon summarizes much of Steve's insight about higher education, and, delievered on the heals of a meeting he had backstage with the boys in the band, it may be one of the best semons in the book! Brian Walsh's two sermons, btw, are also rockin' and extraordinary in their attention to Biblical text and U2 lyrics; these four--Garber's two and Walsh's two-- make that book well, well worth it!)

My opening talk at the Messiah gathering on Saturday will summarize some of Steve's points in Fabric. My title? Yada, Yoda and the Ya Ya Sisterhood. If you are familiar with his thesis, you might get my pun. Can you crack the code? Any comments?

The Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior in the University Years Steven Garber (IVP) $14.00

Monday, October 24, 2005

Adventures in Bookselling: Elevation Hosts Van Eman vs SimGospel

Some who read these posts tell me that they like knowing what new books I'm enthused about. Others like to feel a part of our escapades in the bookselling biz---a few even pray for us, a service for which we are very, very grateful. You may have little idea how badly we feel we need it, how we feel stretched to our capacity with our feeble wisdom and resources taxed, from event to event, customer to customer. Oh, to better know the mind of Christ as we recommend stuff on this or that, suggest novels, recommend kid's books, help clients and counsel customers. It is fulfilling, but dicey. So thanks for looking after us.

Tonight, I'd love for you to know of a fun story, a small gig where we sold some books, an event that is important because (a) it was at a very cool and strategic location, (b) it involved an excellent and urgent topic, and (c) a good friend was the speaker who (d) just wrote a book. What's not to love?

Nearby Living Word Community Church, with the official address of Red Lion, PA, has long been one of York's better-known churches, innovative, caring, theologically solid, mission-minded and truly growing. They reach folks who haven't darkened the door of a church, and they do good work--from prayer labyrinths to extensive small groups, to artistic attention to worship experiences. A few weeks ago they invited me to speak briefly at their anti-porn event, where they showed the extraordinary documentary of the triple x church (a respected, anti-porn ministry, complete with an unusual and effective website.)

One of the important ministries at LWCC is facilitated by our good friend, and remarkable Hearts & Minds promoter, John Miller. John--whose dad wrote the great book Love Walked Among Us (NavPress)--leads Elevation (yes, the U2 allusion is intentional), a young adult ministry with a loose but powerful and nearly gritty praise band, all kinds of supportive community-building groups, and service projects. One of our staff employees attends Elevation, too, and it has been my delight to speak there from time to time, most recently on Exodus 3.

Tonight, our friend and CCO staffer, Sam Van Eman, who I've blogged about before, led the group in a very helpful discussion about cultural discernment, the ways advertising presents a simulated gospel (SimGospel, he calls it) and how legitimate human needs (for community or meaning, identity or value, relationship or direction, acceptance or peace of mind) cannot--cannot---finally come from purchased products. And that it is disturbing how readily corporate advertising attempts to say otherwise. He played one of the coolest and foulest Levi's commercials and did a Powerpoint show of great quotes about consumerism, print ads and the like. His talk was well recieved and I am sure that learning to do this kind of cultural criticism and media deconstruction is an essential aspect of relevant Christian discipleship in this age of images.

Sam is quite the man to do this not only because he has worked hard nurturing this kind of discernment, but because he has published a recent book, the only book of its kind. On Earth As It Is In Advertising: Moving From Commerical Hype to Gospel Hope (Brazos Press; $14.99) is an excellent resource, offering entry-level discussion on the whole topic of advertising, popular art and the influences of media. I've mentioned it before, and the quotes from the likes of Bill McKibben, Tony Campolo, Walt Mueller, T.M. Moore and Jean Kilburne grace the back, indicating that a wide variety of folks are affirming it's significance and celebrating this brother's important contribution.

And--let's hear it for the 20-somethings at Elevation--they bought all the books I took! They are, as I say, not only a cool ministry, but an important gang of folks. May they be nurtured in radical habits that equip them to resist the SimGospel. May Sam's good book be used far and wide, helping us all to raise a prophetic voice against the lies, psychological damage and ecological consequences caused by the over-blown, idolatry of the ad gurus, pimping the pseudo-religion of consumerism.*

*At an upcoming conference on pop culture at Messiah, Mr. Van Eman will also be presenting another workshop, however there he will offer a bit more positive take on the normative artistic contributions of contemporary advertising. With a proper Christian worldview, of course, one need not throw the baby out with the bathwater. We are called to be critical of the distortions of bad ideologies and disruptive social forces when necessary and yet affirm the good gifts of God's common grace, which show up everywhere. Including Madison Avenue. We will be selling books at the good event, with Steve Turner, David Dark, Ken Heffner, and an array of folks exploring Christian engagement with pop culture.

On Earth As It Is In Advertising: Moving From Commerical Hype to Gospel Hope Sam Van Eman (Brazos Press) $14.99

Friday, October 21, 2005

Wee Kirk/small churches

Just a quick post tonight--I'm really tired and my head is spinning from a day of getting caught up on emails and orders after being away. Just wanted to let the faithful know where we've been and why I didn't post anything this week. Ahh, there are some great books sitting here--the stack growing more precarious each day--but can't write about them now.

For the past several days, Beth and I journeyed to Western PA for the annual Wee Kirk conference. Wee Kirk is Scottish (I guess) or Presbyterianese, at least, for Small Church. This retreat is organized by a Pennsylvania team funded in part by Presbyterians for Renewal and is an event we look forward to each year. It serves pastors and lay leaders of small and struggling congregations and offers workshops--from stewardship issues to youth ministry and all kinds of other congregational matters--customized for the wee kirk. And, you should know, most chuches in America are on the smallish size. The mega-church is a rare beast; the larger tall steeple church not at all the norm, either. Mid-to-small is the average, despite what the PR image is. These guys and gals we worked with are the salt of the very earth.

Of course our book display showed off our regular fare: Reformed theology, the missional church, charistmatic renewal, contemplative theology and spiritual formation, social justice, cultural engagement, social action, racial reconciliation and all kinds of stuff about worship, liturgical renewal, congregational life, church conflict, preaching, Christian education and other studies of routine parish stuff. Although our website and blog posts often feature Kingdom visions for laypeople serving God in the marketplace or sensing vocation or thinking Christianly about pop culture and the like (there's that Kuyperian perpsecitve, again) we DO stock tons of stuff about church life and congregational development, parish life and church leadership. Too many to list here, but we have a very extensive selection.

We featured a whole table of helpful resources written specifically for the smaller congregations (like, for instance, Single Digit Youth Groups or O For a Dozen Tongues to Sing, about small church choirs, obviously.) There really are a good fifteen or so excellent titles like this, from doing pastoral care in smaller congregations to classic Lyle Schaller stuff like Small Congregation, Big Potential or the new and cleverly-titled The Small Church At Large by Robin J. Trebilcock which is about how smaller congregations can do global thinking and mission outreach. Our friend Phil Olson (a small church pastor and ESA staffer) who co-wrote, with Ron Sider & Heidi Unruh, Churches That Make a Difference (a book I've blogged about before) was there. He reminds us that this book, about wholistic, evangelical, urban outreach not only examines larger congregations doing full-orbed ministry, but that several of the model parishes they studied were, actually quite small. But small or not, they combined word and deed with relevance and faithfulness to good effect. So he helped us plug that Hearts & Minds fav, too.

And, we did some showing off of our "sense of place" kind of books; sold some Wendell Berry (yeah!) essays and novels, an important new book by Fortress Press called Sustainable Agriculture: A Christian Ethic of Gratitude by Mark Graham, and other titles about small towns, rural life, doing ministry in the country life setting, blue collar ministry and good books of essays on appreciating creation (do you recall my blog posts about Holdfast late this summer?) Fewer big city churches, I'd say, have members who hunt or farm or live close to the land, so those kind of books are nice to show off at the Wee Kirk event (even though not all small churches are rural.) We think these kinds of books resonate with more rural folk and is an example of contextualizing the gospel. Thank goodness there are books for nearly everybody, Christian resources for living into the reign of God in any setting.

And thank God that the small town churches, the rural farmers, the weary wee kirk leaders are not ignored. This event is a good, good thing and we were pleased and honored to play a small part.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Marriage bibliography: best books part 2

If you are just dropping in, you should know that this is part two of a book list we here at Hearts & Minds put together for good friends at a church which is doing a marriage retreat. Rather than do a consignment book display as we sometimes do, we sent 'em this list and they will pass it out, hopefully taking some orders. Thanks for joining in our joy as we get to do such nifty things. Please, please look at the previous post, which has some of the more important and foundational books described. This part of the list tends towards some specific issues in marriage renewal, quite good, but not the most basic. Hope they are helpful.

Why not add some you've found helpful (or unhelpful ones, for that matter) in our comments section? Or order some to give to sombody who may be in need? God's peace to you all.

Part two...

Selling Ourselves Short: Why We Struggle to Earn a Living and Have a Life
Catherine M. Wallace (Brazos) $22.99 Our friends at Brazos Press are known for finding great writers with deep faith and a savvy sense of cultural criticism.
This may not be exactly a marriage book, but what couple or family or community doesn't struggle with the demands of fragmentation and the hectic speed of life? With rave endorsements from Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Jean Bethke Elshtain, and Stan Hauerwas, it is obviously a very thoughtful book, laden with a richness of insight that makes it worth your very limited time...

Keeping Our Troth: Staying in Love Through the Five Stages of Marriage James H. Olthuis (Harper & Row) $14.95 Yes, this rare hardback is the sequel to the out of print but respected I Pledge You My Troth which was our fav of the 70's. You may recall Jim O's name from the Radical Orthodoxy and the Reformed Tradition book I posted about a few days back. This is out of print but remains in the Hearts & Mind stash, while, as they say, supplies last.

Unclaimed Baggage: Dealing With the Past on Your Way to a Stronger Marriage Don & Jan Frank (NavPress) $11.99 Who doesn’t have issues from their past? Who doesn’t wish to strengthen their marriage by understanding their past? Very important for nearly any couple.

Starved for Affection: Why we crave it, how to get it and why it’s so important in marriage Dr. Randy Carlson (Tyndale) $13.99 A simple matter on the face of it, this important book explores ways to re-ignite a closeness and connection between couples. Life-giving and helpful.

I Love You More: How Everyday Problems Can Strengthen Your Marriage Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott (Zondervan) $12.99 Formerly entitled When Bad Things Happen To Good Marriages this is an excellent collection of pieces and testimonials and advice from those who have gone through marital and family stress---from financial problems to special needs children, from sexual dysfunction to a loss of joy and romance. There are study guides for him and her, too. Very, very useful for nearly every couple.

Reconcilable Differences: Hope and Healing for Troubled Marriages Virginia Todd Holeman (IVP) $15.00 A serious and gracefully written study on what it takes to really make right a severely damaged relationship. One of the best.

Saving Your Second Marriage Before It Starts: Nine Questions to Ask Before (and After) You Remarry Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott (Zondervan) $17.99 One of the best of its kind, with study guides for him and her. Very, very useful.

Sexual Character: Beyond Technique to Intimacy Marva Dawn (Eerdmans) $14.00 Here, one of our favorite authors offers up well-written and provocative essays on various aspects of sexuality, relationships, family, and ethics. Solid, brief, helpful. Highly recommended.

Sex and the Supremacy of Christ edited by John Piper & Justin Taylor (Crossway) $15.99 Piper’s joyful and unabashed commitment to the glory of God is radical and exhilarating, even when I worry about his views on gender roles. These serious essays are theologically rich reading for anyone desiring a God-drenched view.

A Celebration of Sex: A Guide to Enjoying God’s Gift of Sexual Intimacy Douglas Rosenau ($17.99) One of the very best of this kind of practical guidebook. Candid and helpful.

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Marriage bibliography: best books, part 1

If you noticed, I sort of hedged and apologized for my furious little foray into arcane theology in my last post. Those two books---still available as a pair at a blogsite special discount--are very important and the new one, Radical Orthodoxy and the Reformed Tradition, really is very, very thoughtful and unique. The authors are just fabulous and it raises so many various theological questions that it could keep you busy for quite some time. I am pleased--more than pleased, deeply glad--that a few people noticed and emailed me about the books. This neo-Calvinist tradition has opened up so much insight about God's covenantal care for His whole wide world, and the ways in which we can be a part of the great rescue plan of Christ's redemption that I never tire in telling about Abraham Kuyper and his descedents, authors and activists from Herman Dooyeweerd to Bill Romonowski, Calvin Seerveld to Al Wolters, Bob Goudzewaard to Cornelius Plantinga, Pete Steen to Mary Stewart Van Leeuwan, Jim Skillen to Elaine Storkey. Et al, et al, et al.

I hesitate to push any deep theological and worldviewish scholarship without offering equal doses of down to earth reading, helpful stuff that keeps our daily discipleship growing and ever-faithful. So, tonight, I will offer a bibliography that we here at Hearts & Minds was asked to put together for a church that is doing a little marriage retreat. This is what we often do---recommend stuff that hopefully is a bit more substantial than what you might find in the religious section of WalMart or the typical evangelical gift store chain. But, still, a book list that is servicable, helpful, a practical gift to those who need it. Maybe some of our heady BookNotes bloggers will want to check it out, knowing these resources could be very, very urgent to somebody you know. Maybe even those who are deep theologians...

Thanks for allowing us to share, here, the fruit of our work and the stuff we do. Enjoy.

I will break this up into two lists and add just a couple that were not on the orginal church retreat biblio. Make sure you look at 'em both, as both have really great titles listed. Thanks.

Marriage: Just a Piece of Paper?
edited by Katherine Anderson, Don Browning, Brian Boyer (Eerdmans) $25.00 This remarkable companion to a PBS documentary last year (hosted by Cokie Roberts) has the narratives of interviewees talking about their lives and loves; theologians and social sciences add insight about the erosion of meaning in our frayed culture and how strong marriages are not only the concern of the far religious right. Gripping real live stories of real life Americans of a vast array of races, settings, values and opinions, woven into a very strong resource.

As For Me and My House: Crafting Your Marriage To Last Walter Wangerin (Nelson) $13.99 A very moving book laden with stories---some funny, some heartbreaking, all illustrating the importance of communication and forgiveness in a Christ-centered marriage. Powerful and enjoyable.

To Become One Chris Seay & Chad Karger (Relevant) $13.99 A hip, young book with this phrase on the cover: After ‘I Do’ the real journey begins. A very readable, relevant and insightful introduction that covers nearly every aspect of a marriage.

Intimate Allies Dan Allender & Tremper Longman (Tyndale) $12.99 Rediscovering God’s design for marriage and becoming soul mates for life, by exploring case studies of real couples—and what they learned by revisiting God’s intentions as spelled out in the first chapters of Genesis. Very helpful.

The Five Love Languages: How To Express Heartfelt Commitment To Your Mate Gary Chapman (Moody) $13.99 The sheer popularity of this indicates that it has touched a great nerve and met a real need. Chapman shows how different folks are “wired” to hear differently, and communication styles must match the needs of the listener. Very, very practical, insisting that good and effective communication is essential to really “speak the same language” and deeply express love, not just in words, but in appropriate actions.

The Intimate Mystery: Creating Strength and Beauty in Your Marriage Dan Allender & Tremper Longman (IVP) $15.00 A handsome, slim hardcover, this is a very readable and insightful study. You can also purchase a DVD to watch alongside the book, and a series of seven different small group (or couples) study guides around different topics from forgiveness to sexual intimacy, dreams and expectations to gender roles.

Marriage Made in Eden: A Pre-Modern Perspective for a Post-Christian World Alice Mathews and M. Gay Hubbard (Baker) $16.99 The subtitle shows that these authors are savvy about culture and the deeper worldview issues that frame our understandings. It is a profoundly Biblical book, very thoughtful and multi-faceted. Excellent.

Just Don’t Marry One: Interracial Dating, Marriage and Parenting edited by
George Yancey (Judson) $18.00 A rare and realistic look, written by a variety of racially diverse Christians as they share their experiences and faith and recommendations for effective interracial marriage and family.

Gender & Grace: Love, Work & Parenting in a Changing World Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen (IVP) $18.00 Although not everyone will agree with this serious Christian scholar’s call to Biblical equality between men and women, her offering a Biblical framework for thinking about gender roles makes this an essential book to know and ponder.

Real Love for Real Life: The Art and Work of Caring Andi Ashworth (Shaw) $10.99 Not exactly on marriage, but on crafting a home based on beauty, service and care-giving. Very, very insightful and a good edition to anyone’s library.

The Mystery of Marriage: Meditations on the Miracle Mike Mason (Multnomah) $12.99 This twentieth anniversary paperback is a glorious example of what it means not just to give people self-help advice, but to offer a deep and contemplative reflection on the spiritual meaning of our marriages. Well-written and a lovely example of the spirituality of ordinary. Highly recommended.

The Sacred Marriage and Devotions for the Sacred Marriage Gary Thomas (Zondervan) $12.99 and $14.99 Gary is a fine writer, a prayerful contemplative, but not quiet as mysterious as Mason (see above.) He tells wonderful stories, makes practical suggestions, but is always rooted in a deep awareness of the call to holiness and spirituality in marriage. The book is superb; the devotional includes a year’s worth of new material, more stories, and wise meditations on Scripture. See also his similarly done Sacred Parenting and Devotions for Sacred Parenting.

Faith Tango: A Liberating Approach to Spiritual Growth in Marriage Carolyn & Craig Williford (Waterbrook) $10.99 We certainly don’t mean to suggest that praying together or sharing a devotional life isn’t helpful, but these authors believe that many suffer from unnecessary guilt or frustration about failed attempts to do these activities with their spouse. They offer an alternative to traditional practices, inviting a pattern of spiritual growth that really works.

to be continued...
Books available from:

Hearts & Minds
234 East Main Street
Dallastown, PA 17313

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Radical Orthodoxy and the Reformed Tradition

Sometimes, I wonder just what new books I should note here at BookNotes. Some of my readers, I think, are pretty postmodern and interested in emergent church stuff; others clearly less so. Some are political and social activists; some look to us for resources on the inner journey of contemplative spirituality. Some may want to know that I am listening to the new Denison Witmer CD, Are You A Dreamer. (Don Peris from Lancaster---you may recall the wonderful work he and his wife, Karen do--produced it. Sufjan Stevens plays on alot of it, along with some other cool neo-folksters.) Check out his artsty stuff at Dennison's website, here.

So, what to feature? Something lots of people might enjoy, or, this time, maybe something that will stretch us a bit?

Forgive me if this shoots a bit afar from what many of you may find helpful. But I am so eager to be the first to tell sombody about this, that I have to cite it tonight. It is book which makes a connection between an obscure tradition and an even more obscure one. Nobody said this would be easy.

Radical Orthodoxy and the Reformed Tradition: Creation, Covenant and Participation is a dense collection of wide-ranging essays edited by Calvin College postmodern prof--say it like RoboCop, PomoProf--James K. A. Smith, and his mentor, psychotherapist and Christian philospher, emeritus at Toronto's Institute for Christian Studies, James Olthuis. It is published by Baker Academic, which should finally lay to rest any dumb stereotypes about evangelical publishing houses, Christian publishing from Grand Rapids or Calvinism's conservativism; this once again illustrates the sea change (for better or worse, mostly better, I'd say) at places like Baker and Eerdmans, as they continue to be ecumenical and engaged with the most scholarly and cutting edge theological notions of the day. It makes some of the more typically liberal presses look silly and weak and the pop emergent kids look like they are playing games with candles and film clips. (To the emergent's credit, they published an excellent, brief review of Smith's first book on radical orthodox, Introducing Radical Orthodoxy: Mapping a Post-Secular Theology (Baker Academic; $21.99) with a view to how it might help these new churches at the always-interesting theooze.com. Read it here.)

Okay, I admit this is a pretty obscure and if what I just wrote doesn't make much sense, don't fret. But for those who do have stereotypes about evangelical publishers, you are not alone---a young student friend of mine two days ago, working on a major senior thesis at a fine liberal arts college, was told by his professor not to feature books put out on evangelical publishing houses, as if (a) all evangelical houses publish the same kinds of stuff and (b) that said evangelical publishing houses are shallow and right wing and (b) religious and academic freedom isn't really valued in his department. But I digress.

"Radical Orthodoxy" is an important, if cryptic movement that is beyond me to explain easily. (Ha--I say easily implying that I could explain it if I had the leisure of long sentences and plenty of time. Don't fall for it.) RO has something to do with how the liberal tradition within Christianity has petered out (they cite Nietzche a lot, but, you know, "you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows", it seems to me) never really having the intellectual and theological substance to last. But, rather than counter the bankruptcy of theological (and classic) liberalism, et al, with conservative evangelicalism or old school orthodoxy, this largely Anglo-Catholic theological movement invites a reappropriation, a rather postmodern reappropriation of St. Augustine and --gasp!--St. Thomas Aquinas. They write deep, deep books about Christian practices, embedding deep gospel insights into ordinary lifestyles, thinking hard about how secularized modernity and its mono-culture effects living and thinking, and how church proclamation should lead to renewed engagement and uniquely Christian ways of living that leads to radical deconstruction of the idols of our time. Their book series include work on the nature of cities, linguistics, writing, gender stuff and other down-to-Earth research, done up in neo-Aristotlian ways*. (Please recall what I implied above; I really don't quite know what I'm saying here as I try to give an impression of the novelty and creative fidelity of this important movement. For better guides, go to the links I gave above to James Smith's homepage and the review in theooze.com or, for a more substantial reflection, read R. Reno's piece in First Things.)

*Acutally, the RO movement seems, oddly, despite its good emphasis on embodiment, to draw much on Mr. Plato. Smith's good chapter illustrates his (Reformed) allergy to Platonism, to kindly suggest a point of conversation with Calvinism and RO. That chapter looks very, very, important. I know some (if your reading, you know who you are!) may find it simplistic or irrelevant, but the unhelpful influences of Plato via Plotinas on Augustine and, similiarly, of Aristotle on Aquinas, remains a contested topic of great importance. I haven't read Jamie's chapter yet, but I am sure it will be illuminating and helpful.

So, this new book, Radical Orthodoxy and the Reformed Tradition is a reply to radical orthodoxy by a friendly gang of Calvinists, mostly those who don't use the phrase too much, at least not in the typical PCA-R.C. Sproul-Banner of Truth kind of way, as if the Reformed tradition is only about the so-called five points and the sovreignity of God. Some are using the phrase neo-Calvinism, implying mostly a connection to the tradition of thinking and social renewal that I write about here sometimes, inspired by the cultural, political and theological renewal that was lead by the likes of Abraham Kuyper in the late 1800's in Holland. (For a bit on Kuyper, see here, here or here.) Some serious neo-Calvinist believers in the mid-20th century immigrated from the Netherlands and started all kinds of reformational, Kuyperian institutions, and the leaders, students and grand-children of these orthodox, culturally-engaged, Dutch neo-Calvinists now stand as those who want to relate the Reformed tradition thus construed with the issues and thinkers of the day. Toronto's Institute for Christian Studies continues to be a scholarly center for this kind of thinking, and they have influenced, in small ways, folks as unique as the evangelical campus ministry the Coalition for Christian Outreach, the alternative Christian Labor union, the CLAC, and the new generation of L'Abrai folks. (It could be said that Francis Schaeffer himself popularized Dutch neo-Calvinism which he picked up from his friend, art critic Hans Rookmaaker.)

So, take this Dutch neo-Calvinist movement, reformationally-busy doing post-foundationalist philosophy in light of a Reformed, Biblical worldview and see how it replies to the British, post-liberal, quirky, medieval, leftward leaning, postmodern (?) movement of radical orthodoxy and you've got the papers presented at this learned gathering, now published. It is an exciting collection that is rarified, to be sure. Read it now, though, and you will be well-equipped to process the stuff you will be hearing about RO over the upcoming years. Mark my blogged words.

Rave reviews on the back are from Nicholas Wolterstorff (surely a Kuyperian in the broad sense of being a son of the Christian, Dutch philosophical efforts and friendly with ICS) and Catherine Pickstock, a lecturer at Cambridge and one of the major spokespersons for radical orthodoxy, and John Franke of Biblical Theolgoical Seminary here in central Pennylsvania. Franke was a good buddy with the late, great Stan Grenz (oh, how I'm loving his recently re-issued Prayer: Cry of the Kingdom) who is considered by some to be the most important theologian representing the concerns of the emergent community. All three blurbs insist that this collection of serious pieces will help the broad body of Christ, whether one is radically orthodox, Calvinian or not. Nice.

Happily, in the hospitable tradition that the Institute for Christian Studies has become known for (they've hosted atheistic philosophers, even Derrida, over the years) this collection developing a Calvinist reply to RO, starts with two chapters by radical orthodoxy scholars, John Milbank and Graham Ward. Although some authors have some serious critique and concern, it seems to be that it is a favorable book, largely affirming the contributions and directions that RO may have, and refining their views within a neo-Calvinist framework. It is a model, so these reviewers say, of theological dialogue among differing tradtions at its best. Maybe that, too, is reason enough to celebrate, as differing movements hear and honor and rebuke one another in Christian charity. Now that is an example of reforming, radical, orthodoxy!

Many of the authors who weigh in are from Calvin College, whose Center for Christian Scholarship co-hosted the Working Group that eventually lead to the conference from which this book emerged. A few, though, are neither ICS/Toronto nor Calvin College/Grand Rapids Kuyperians; Michael Hortonof Westminister-West is here, as is Hans Boersma from Regent in British Columbia (a Richard Baxter scholar whose serious book on the atonement, by the way, Violence, Hospitality and the Cross, is must reading for recent debates about the nature of the work of the cross) and Justin Holcomb, a post-doc at UVA, and Nathan Kerr of Vanderbilt.

Baker is to be supported, Calvin College and ICS are to be commended, and, I guess, Hearts & Minds should be considered crazy for thinking I can explain this book with any clarity in a brief blog blurb. Trust me, though: if you follow any of this, this book is the definitive collection to read. Don't think you have to wade through the Routledge series of RO books, either--this can serve as an important introduction and guide to the discussions. If you know anybody doing serious philosophical or theological work, this could be a much-appreciated gift. Or, perhaps better, start with James Smith's first book on the subject, Introducing Radical Orthodoxywhich I mentioned above. Do a google search on radical orthodoxy and you will see it is a jolting and important movement. I hope you don't find us too obscure promoting this kind of stuff. As I said, I think you will be hearing more about this...

ORDER BOTH--not on the comment section, but by email or phone, please--and get a 20% discount. Just let us know you heard about the dealio here. Thanks for your support of interesting books and indie stores.

Radical Orthodoxy and the Reformed Tradition: Creation, Covenant and Participation James Smith & James Olthuis (editors) (Baker Academic) $24.99

Introducing Radical Orthodoxy: Mapping a Post-Secular Theology James Smith (Baker Academic) $21.99

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Os Guinness

What? No comments on the last post, my announcement of the new acoustic, instrumental CD of Bruce Cockburn? Nobody thought it notable that we had a picture for the first time on this feeble little blog? I want to sound like a 1oth drama teacher and plead Come on People, work with me here.

None the less, thanks to Gus for the cool picture. And the one sole person that ordered one of these incredible albums, taking us up on the first ever Hearts & Minds BookNotes special.

Well. Since that big plan didn't go over too well, I will try another. A few nights back I had the privelege of sitting in a lecture of Os Guinness, doing a similiar keynote as he did when we hosted him here in the Spring. But this time, I didn't have to do anything, didn't need to stress about it, didn't have a book display, got to sit with my very smart oldest daughter, and good friend Dick (from Viewpoint), my brother who knows something about nearly everything, Harry, a long-time best friend and go-to carpenter guy, Paul, and really early H&M customer/friend, journalist Dave. What fun.

To sit in Carlisle at Dickenson College in a quaint, old lecture hall and hear Os invites us--those who are followers of Christ and those who are not, those who are naturally reflective about deep matters and those who are not--to the often-cited "examined life", was a thrill. As always, he was erudite and passionate, elequant and tough-minded, Christ-like and clear.

Thanks and kudos to The John Newton Center who is a doing a good job of bringing together important speakers, vital topics and fine conversations at both the college and law school in that lovely town. It reminded me again of how important Dr. Guinness's latest book is, not only for those who are working hard at framing life in these times in a Biblical view, but for anybody who needs some help--he gives seven steps--working through the questions of evil and the problems of suffering. My review of his book, Unspeakable: Facing Up To Evil in an Age of Genocide and Terror was one of the ones I was most proud of this year over at the monthly column. I thought that for tonight's blog, I would refer you to that. You can read that review here. It is a bit longer than my usually wordy blog posts, but, I think, it explains some aspects of Guinness' work and commends this particular book. Maybe you can cut and paste it and send it on to sombody who might find it stimulating.

If anyone orders the book and says--in an email, on the order form at the website, or in a phone call to the shop--that they saw the review here, we will offer a 25% discount.

The book is important. It isn't coming out in paperback quite yet (maybe in the winter, perhaps.) It is one to buy, one to work into your life, perhaps to give away to a thoughtful person who needs less consoluation and more assistance with sustainable answers. Less cliche and more honest approaches. There is a place for crying out in lament, as I posted about last month. And heaven knows there is a time for a Scripture passage offered in kind hope. But there is a time to put on the old thinking cap and buckle down and figure this stuff out. Jesus, Os insists, was angry at the disorder and pain in the world he so lovingly crafted. He expects us to be as well. Within the Christian answer to the problem of evil is an imperative. As Bruce Cockburn put it in his powerful song about injustice to First Nations peoples, Stolen Lands,

What steps are you gonna take
make things right?
In these stolen lands.
I would not be honest (nor very good at this line of work) if I didn't say that I truly believe one of the imperatives to social reform and to cultural restoration is to first think through the very big questions Guinness guides us through. Buying this book isn't just for those who "need it" or who are intellectually curious. It is a foundational contribution to a worldview formation that can lead to lives of integrity and truthfulness, and pave the way for serious and effective social action and, Lord willing, cultural reformation. We owe it not only to ourselves, and our Risen Lord, but our needy neighbors and dysfunctional culture to read and respond.

Sorry to preach. Read the review if you can and give us a holler. Thanks.

Unspeakable: Facing Evil in an Age of Genocide and Terror Os Guinness (Harper SanFransico) $21.95

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

new Bruce Cockburn-Speechless

Aw right, I've been wanting to write this. This is it. Years ago (like maybe the early to mid-80's) I made a mix tape, recording off my records the instrumental pieces of various Bruce Cockburn albums. I have often said that if Jackson Browne got me through the 70's it was Cockburn that most helped us survive the '80's. (And, VOL and Bill Mallonee surely was one of the most poignant and helpful soundtracks to the 90's. And U2. But don't get me started on that tangent...)

SO: Cockburn's little cassette of quiet and charming and vivid and remarkable instrumentals has long been lost---and I don't know how to do the CD-burning thing, so I've not made another. And with the breathtakingly good instrumentals on his last couple, I have been wishing for this kind of recording, again, passionately. When I heard that just such a project was in the works, a CD collecting some of Bruce's best instrumentals, and a few new ones, I was in six-string heaven.

Speechless: The Instrumental Bruce Cockburn(True North/Rounder Records) has a cool cover, some wonderfully evocative full-color photography on the inside and some spare liner notes. Colin Linden helped with some of the middle-period ones (and T-Bone, of course.) Mr. Linden, whose solo work I listen to often, did production work with Bruce on the three new cuts, too, that grace this collection.

How to describe Cockburn's rare talents that put him in the highest level of renown instrumentalists today? I can't even begin.

Here are the opening words of a review of one of Cockburn's legendary live shows (from a few years back) on the Rounder Record website, written by one of the chief music critics of our time, The New York Times, Jon Pareles. It stuck me as a nice way to introduce this brand new instrumental release:
The hardest-working right thumb in show business may belong to Bruce Cockburn, the Canadian songwriter, who played a sold-out solo show at the Bottom Line on Saturday night. With quiet virtuosity, on his acoustic guitar, Mr. Cockburn materializes chords and modal filigrees while his thumb provides the music's pulse and its foundation. It is at once a deep Celtic drone, a drumbeat and the throb of a vigilant conscience.
If you are a fan of Windham Hill or Narada type guitar noodling, Speechless will blow you away. If you like a more melodic and song-driven approach, this, too, is spectacular. If you don't know Cockburn's folk-rock-jazz-tinged-world-music- spiritual-political-songwriting-and-gritty- beautiful vocal work, you should know he is an amazing worker with words and a world renowned person of faith. He has endured making meaningful and gutsy and dark and glorious, mature pop music for decades, often reporting not only from the inner regions of the human heart, but from the social landscape of a war-scarred and broken world. So you really should check his work out--we've got 'em all. But for now, please know of ourgreat joy in this collection of instrumental compositions that show-case truly one of the great guitar players around.

There is a pretty great Cockburn website that documents stuff Bruce has said about his many songs. It is fun to mess around and hear how he has introduced pieces on stage or has defended them in print. The Bruce Cockburn Project. I wouldn't think it wasting time to scroll around that goldmine of a Cockburn resource.

Some of the absolutely richest reflections on Cockburn's vision, though, can be found by visiting the website of my good friend, campus worker and author Brian Walsh. Spend some time reading any number of Brian's provocative articles and Bible studies reproduced at this website, but, today, do click on some of his Bruce Cockburn essays and album reviews. Excellent, excellent stuff. Visit Walsh here.

Speechless: The Instrumental Bruce Cockburn Bruce Cockburn (True North & Rounder Records) 2005. $17.98 Order from us here.Order at this website link or send us an email saying you saw it here on the blog (don't use the comment section for this, but send us a real email order) and we will give you a blog-site 20% off discount. Maybe that won't leave you utterly speechless, but it should help.
Support the indie stores that have long supported the indie artists. Thanks.

For serious fans who may want to know, here are the songtitles and what albums they are lifted from. The place and time refer to when and where the song was actually recorded. The liner notes of the orginal album may tell you more of the circumstances of when he actually penned the song, which is sometimes quite fascinating. Enjoy.

1. Foxglove
Bruce Cockburn Guitar
Taken from the True North Album Night Vision
Toronto between February and May 1973

2. Train In The Rain
Bruce Cockburn Guitar
Taken from the True North Album Dart To The Heart
Bearsville NY, March 1993

3. Water Into Wine
Bruce Cockburn Guitar
Taken from the True North Album In The Falling Dark
Toronto between September and November 1976

4. Elegy
Bruce Cockburn Guitar
New recording *
Canada, June 2005

5. Mistress of Storms
Bruce Cockburn Guitar
Gary Burton Vibes
Taken from the True North Album The Charity Of Night
Toronto, Summer of 1996

6. Rouler Sa Bosse
Bruce Cockburn Guitar
Jack Zaza Clarinet
Taken from the True North Album Salt, Sun and Time
Toronto between May and August, 1974

7. Salt Sun and Time
Bruce Cockburn Guitar
Taken from the True North Album Salt, Sun and Time
Toronto between May and August, 1974

8. Islands In A Black Sky
Bruce Cockburn Guitar
Taken from the True North Album Night Vision
Toronto between February and May 1973

9.Rise And Fall
Bruce Cockburn Guitar and bells
George Koller Bass
Ben Riley Drums
Previously available only in Japan -- [on the Japanese edition of 1999's
Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu]
Toronto, 1999

10. Sunrise On The Mississippi
Bruce Cockburn Guitar
Taken from the True North Album Dart To The Heart
Bearsville NY, March 1993

11. King Kong Goes To Tallahassee
Bruce Cockburn Guitar
New recording *
Canada, June 2005

12. When It's Gone It's Gone
Bruce Cockburn Guitars
Edgar Meyer Bass
Booker T. Jones Organ
Michael Blair, Ralph Forbes Percussion
Mark O'Connor Mandolin
Taken from the True North Album Nothing But A Burning Light
Hollywood CA between May and July 1991

13. Deep Lake
Bruce Cockburn Guitar
George Koller Bass & Dilruba
Rick Lazar Percussion
Taken from the True North Album Breakfast In New Orleans Dinner In Timbuktu
Toronto, 1999

14. The End of All Rivers
Bruce Cockburn Guitar, Tibetan bowl, Navajo flute and baritone guitar
New recording *
Canada, June 2005

15. Sunwheel Dance
Bruce Cockburn Guitar
Taken from the True North Album Sunwheel Dance
Toronto between September and December 1971

All songs written by Bruce Cockburn

Monday, October 03, 2005

Travelers on the Journey

I've been writing, as you know, about this wonderful conference Beth and I attended---setting up a large Hearts & Minds book display, complete with draped shelves, wooden cartons, specially made signage and the rest. It was held in Washington DC at the National Press Club and gathered authors who had contributed to a brand new Jossey-Bass release, edited by Mark Nepo, entitled Deepening the American Dream: Reflections on the Inner Life and Spirit of Democracy. If you haven't looked at our last two or three posts, we'd love it if you would. They told of our adventures at the Big Event, shared of our joy in meeting some of these fine organizers and authors, and plugged the book a bit. We think it is a book you should know about.

A new paperback arrived this week from Eerdmans, one of our favorite and certainly one of the most esteemed religious publishers in the biz. My sales rep Bruce had assured me I'd like it--socially engaged and well written! And it seems to me to be germane to our reflections these past days. Travelers on the Journey: Pastors Talk About Their Live and Commitments by Mark D. Constantine ($20.00) carefully tells of, and offers splendid interviews with, a handful of socially engaged pastors. From homelessness to racism, troubled schools to fraying families, domestic poverty to employment issues, most of us agree that the church must, somehow, address the social issues of the day with healing insight, compassionate care, and political savvy. Here, you can follow the journey of some of the best, who have done the work, paid the price, taken the stand, and done so to illustrate care for the common good, and who have done so as Christian pastors. We have often promoted Ron Sider's very useful Churches That Make a Difference: Reaching Your Community With Good News and Good Works* (Baker; $19.99) since it came out a few years ago; his co-authors, the very diligent and sharp Heidi Rolland Unruh and the ever-energetic Presby pastor, Phil Olson, are friends, and their efforts, with Ron, to document some of the best examples of wholistic social outreach is thrilling. It seems right to mention it, too.

This new book, Travelers on the Journey, yields not only well-written inspiration, but gives helpful guidance for those that may want to take some next steps towards faithful community action. Like the Sider book, it looks at particular congregations, but, more so, at the pastors who are the visionaries who lead in their churches in this work. This is a book to study, to share, to give to church leaders and pastors you know.

Here are a couple of blurbs that are on the back of the book:
Mark Constantine has captured the authentic voices of moral leaders who rarely make the headlines but who, in addressing social injustices, continue the effort to form the more perfect union of which America's founders dreamed.
James Joseph, former U.S. ambassador to South Africa
With an eye for detail and nuance, in prose that often sings, this volume tells the stories of outstanding, inspired, and inspiring human beings whose calling is service to others....Students, parents, clergy, congregations, public officials, anyone listening to his or her social conscience---all owe it to themselves to read Travelers on the Journey and learn from the experience of kindred spirits.
Lynn Huntley, President, Southern Education Foundation
*When Ron, Heidi and Phil did their research and wrote the stories and published Churches That Make a DifferenceSaving Souls, Serving Society (Oxford University Press; $35.00.) It is a major contribution to the scholarly literature on faith-based social action.

Oxford University Press took notice. They were invited by the prestigious academic press to follow up these effective, wholistic churches, asking what motivates them, what sustains them, how the faith-factor serves their church-based social ministries. Heidie and Ron just released that serious, scholarly work, years in the making, and it is called
Here is what Nancy Ammerman says: Faith-based organizations do a lot of good in society---that much we already know. What Unruh and Sider tell us is why and how. Knowing that the answer is not a simple one will surely help policymakers choose more wisely. Knowing that the answer doesn't fall neatly into liberal versus conservative boxes will surely enlarge the imaginations of religious leaders and social scientists alike. All of them should read this book.

All three of these are useful books to help churches get more involved, to sustain current involvement, or to struggle with the painful and joyful complexities of doing this kind of hard work. I wish the American Dream project had, given their interest in spirit and such, brought a few traditional church workers on board. These folks really are keeping the Dream alive.

Travelers on the Journey: Pastors Talk About Their Live and Commitments Mark D. Constantine (Eerdmans; $20.00)

Churches That Make a Difference: Reaching Your Community With Good News and Good Works Ronald J. Sider & Heidi Rolland Unruh (Baker; $19.99.)

Saving Souls, Serving Society: Understanding the Faith-Factor in Church-Based Social Ministry Heidi Rolland Unruh & Ronald J. Sider (Oxford University Press; $35.00.)