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.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Born Again in Baghdad

I hope that readers took me up on the invitation to read my long reflection on the wonderful and important new book by Shane Claiborne and his pals at The Simple Way community in Philly. You will not want to miss Shane's punchy and powerful reflections, The Irresistable Revolution and I hope my mild critique didn't dissuade anybody from taking him seriously. His book, I believe, deserves to be discussed and debated.

I would like to suggest another book, a parallel book, in which, interestingly, Shane makes an appearance. (His broken arm episode from the wreck while doing peace work in Iraq is quite a story, and I was glad to read more about it in this new book.) It is calledTo Baghdad and Beyond: How I Got Born Again in Babylon, written by another formner student from Eastern U., a thoughtful young man involved in their best classes: Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. Not unlike Shane, young Jonathan came to college with a conservative, evangelical faith intact, a sharp mind and a desire to take his discipleship seriously. He ended up embracing a pretty radical tradition, seeking to embody faith by following ancient practices, and thinking through social issues in light of the primacy of loyality to Jesus.

The title alludes to the heart of the narrative---a peacemaking expedition with CPT (Christian Peacemaker Teams) to be a Godly presence and international nonviolent witness to the possibilities of peacebuilding ways of solving international problems. You may know about CPT due to the recent news reports of a recent delegant (a Candadian Quaker named Tom Fox) who was murdered after being kidnapped there. There has been much right-wing sputtering about the military-led rescue of the remaining captured peacemakers and this book is a wonderful window into some of what goes on in these trips. It is by turns frightening, funny, theological and a great travelogue, all in the genre of spiritual memoir. It allows us a glimpse into the soul of one who would put his life on the line for peace and helps us understand the Christain basis for peace activism in the manner of Voices in the Wilderness or the Christian Peacemaker Teams. Our family has been aware of the history of the CPT movement (my sister-in-law went on an early, dangerous, version of this, Witness for Peace, into the war zones of Nicargua during the Contra war there.) Jonathan's book means very much to us for any number of such reasons.

Upon returning home---especially with a tender recollection of being rescued by a Muslim doctor in the town of Rutba, where their hospital had just been bombed by coaltion forces---Jonathan and his wife helped start an intentional community, living among the poor and trying to flesh out a more overtly and prophetically Christian way of life, here, amidst the underbelly of the American empire. The Rutba House community is in Durham NC. (Learn more about their work at www.newmonasticism.org.)

As contemporary American Christians read the book of Revelation within the dominant societal system in which we live, we must ask ourselves whether or not our own nation-state has become the modern equivalent of the Roman Empire. We must ask "Has America become Babylon?" That is the question that Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrave endeavors to answer.

Tony Campolo from the Preface

For those who may want a more detailed study of the Christain Peacemaker Teams and their work, see the new collection Getting in the Way: Stories form the Christain Peacemaker Teams edited by Trician Gates Brown (Herald Press) $17.99 From Hebron to Haiti, Iraq to Columbia, these brave folks are doing what we all know needs to be done if the faith-based peace witness is to have integrity: sacrifice for peace as much as others sacrifice for war. Highly recommended.

To Baghdad and Beyond Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (Cascade Books) $16.00

Monday, March 27, 2006

I missed that memo.

A funny saying making the rounds these days---I missed that memo--suggests that sometimes we feel out of the loop, missing something, unaware.

Well, this time, it isn't your fault. Our automatic notification "subscription" went a bit hay-wire and somehow the thing got, to use the proper term, xed out. Or maybe disabled is what they call it now.

It has been re-enabled and you now can see that I've posted a couple of really important book annoucements in the past week. Please scroll down and check them out, since I've got a few more up my sleeve, coming down the pike.

Sorry about the inconvenience. It is gratifying to know that some of you missed these reports (well, just a few) although it is weird to think that you thought I'd have any idea how to fix it.
As always, kudos to Scott the Ubiquitous Cyber-Man who can fix these things and to fellow blogger Denise Frame Harlan, who told us how. You should subscribe to her blog of lovely and powerful prose because she is going to be a famous author someday. Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Irresistible Revolution

Here is how I start the long review--mostly positive, with a few qualifications--that I did for the monthly column over at the website. I hope you read it all and catch our enthusism for this book.

I have been eager to tell you about a wonderful, fun, challenging, interesting and provocative book written by a young Christian who is getting some publicity these days; it is a guy we’ve come to know a bit, that we’ve heard of for several years, and are very encouraged to know of the release of his new book. Shane Claiborne is a hoot of a guy---radical in his commitment to evangelical social action, delightful in his lack of guile, inspiring in his show of guts and goofiness. I have a few reservations about the book, a pages-long backstory about my own journey (which I will try to tell only briefly) and more enthusiasm about selling this new book than anything that has come along in ages. It is called, if you don’t know, The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical and is published by Zondervan ($12.99.) This in itself is a story that is curious since most evangelical publishers wouldn’t risk telling the tale of a young man who lives with the poor, protesting the role of the military and who has been regularly arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience. Martin Luther King’s famous words to the more cautious status quo Reverends in his "Letter From a Birmingham Jail" are still pretty needed today, since most mainstream folks tell our idealistic social activists to cool down and go more slowly. I am overjoyed that Zondervan took a risk on this guy, and trust that the integrity and wholeness of Shane’s life, and the Biblical basis for his human rights activism, will become plain. For now, though, the release of this book is a huge thing. This is Zondervan, not Orbis Press! Shane came out of an evangelical Christian college, for crying out loud, not Oberlin or Koinonia Farms! He has spoken at Willow Creek! How did he even hear of the Berrigan Brother’s at his college? That is itself quite a story. I thought we were the only bookstore in the world that carries Max Lucado and Ammon Hennacy; Chuck Colson and Howard Zinn; Rick Warren and Dorothy Day. But I’m ahead of myself...read more

Sunday, March 19, 2006

excerpt from N.T. Wright's Simply Christian

In Simply Christian, N.T. Wright's brillant, new introduction to the Christian faith, an apologetic work somewhat like Lewis's classic Mere Christianity, he starts with our longing for making the world right, our desire for justice, wonders what to make of these echoes we hear of a better world. In the next substantial section, he walks readers through an overview of the Bible story, with the unique take that his scholarly work has developed. With pleasant illustrations and thoughtful argument, he writes about God, Israel, exile & homecoming, and Jesus. From the final pages of the chapter "Israel":
...we can see at last the multiplicity of ways in which the Israel of Jesus's own day was able to think and speak about the coming together of heaven and earth. We noticed in the previous chapter how the Temple functioned this way. The Glorious Presence of YHWH, dwelling in the tent, and then in the Temple itself, was referred to as "the tabernacling"---that is, the Shekinah; it was a way of the God of heaven being present on earth with and for his people. By Jesus's day similar ideas were being developed in relation to the Torah, God's gift to his redeemed people; if you kept the Torah, it was as though you were in the Temple itself--that is, at the place where heaven and earth met. We saw a moment ago another strand that points in the same direction: God's "word," the word by which all things are made, will go out once more to make all things new. Similar things could be said about God's "wisdom," an idea which begins, it seems, with the notion that when God made the world he did so wisely, and develops until "Wisdom" becomes a figure in her own right ...Finally going back once more to Genesis, God's powerful wind, his breath, his Spirit (all three are ways of translating the same original word) is let loose in the world to bring new life.

Presence, Torah, Word, Wisdom, and Spirit: five ways of saying the same thing. The God of Israel is the creator and redeemer of Israel and the world. In faithfulness to his ancient promises, he will act within Israel and the world to bring to its climax the great story of exile and restoration, of the divine rescue operation, of the king who brings justice, of the Temple that joins heaven and earth, of the Torah that binds people together, and of creation healed and restored. It is not only heaven and earth that are to come together. It is God's future and God's present.

It's a wonderful dream. Rich, multi-layered, full of pathos and power. But why should anyone suppose that it---or anything else that might be built upon it---is anything more than a dream? Why should we imagine it's true?

The whole New Testament is written to answer that question. And the answers all focus, of course, on Jesus of Nazareth.
Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense N.T. Wright (Harper SanFransico) $22.95

Friday, March 17, 2006

N.T. Wright's Simply Christian

Most serious contemporary readers and certainly those familiar with religious writings of the last 50 years know the acclaim of C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity. Originally spoken on the BBC, and then published as smaller booklets---The Broadcast Talks---this book is one of the wiser, deep yet popular cases for the Christian faith in our lifetime. It is widely read and widely cited. Happily, a new book was recently released which documents Lewis's turbulent rise to broadcast fame during the war years. Pretty interesting.

Most serious readers of Christian books today know that certainly one of the most brilliant, popular and influential writers of this generation is N.T. (Tom) Wright. Beloved known by some as "The Bish" he is an evangelically-minded, progressive, erudite and prolific writer. He has done major, major work in Jesus scholarship, published popular-level Bible commentaries, a few collections of sermons and essays, a daily devotional and has written scholarly work on the authority of the Bible, the writings of Paul, the echoes of Hebrew scriptures in the New Testament. He is interested in these postmodern times and yet is resolutely committed to being an Anglican church leader and a Biblical theologian.

Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense is his sterling call to do popular level, thoughtful and compelling apologetics. It is, in a phrase, his version of Mere Christianity. With rave reviews from diverse authors---the fiction writer Anne Rice, the Reformed theologian J.I. Packer, Walt Brueggemann...It is a remarkable book that has this many important leaders commending it.

I have started this wonderful introduction to Christian faith and it is characteristically Wright.
He starts off with the big question of where our desire for justice comes from. These first chapter invite us to realize that we have dreams, here "echoes" of a voice. The second part is called "Staring Into the Sun" which looks at an overview of the Bible, the culmination of the story of Israel found in Jesus, and how Christ's inaugurates the kingdom. The final third of the book illustrates ways that church folk can be agents of this new Kingdom, this realization of our echo, our desires for the world made right.

I've jumped ahead--I'm so bad--to see how he handles the big ending of living in beauty, as a step entering the new creation brought by the resurrection. It is a wonderful, wonderful ending.

Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense N.T. Wright (Harper SanFransico) $22.95

Monday, March 13, 2006

Athanasius, Owen, Machen

For my Sabbath reading I had a wonderfully blessed experience reading the new fourth volume in John Piper's collections of character studies in short biographies called (from a line about Augustine) "The Swans Are Not Silent." In each volume he looks at three heroes of Christian faith, illustrating how they taught and lived out a particular truth. For instance, the first, called The Legacy of Soverign Joy looks at the understanding of saving grace in three church greats; the next one, The Hidden Smile of God, looks at the role suffering played in three church leaders; it is not surprising that it is very moving. The third is on keeping up your ministry despite all opposition and struggle, called The Roots of Endurance (the chapter on anti-slavery activist William Wilberforce is splendid, and important, but all three are exceptional.) All three of these books are informative, moving, brief and make significant contributions to our pracitical piety today. Although they come out of a conference designed for pastors, and would make an excellent gift for pastors you know, I think they are great for anyone, since most of us know little about the lives of these previous theologians or Christian leaders. I've been waiting for a fourth one for a while.

Contending for Our All: Defending Truth and Treasuring Christ in the lives of Athanasius, John Owen and J. Gresham Machen is a great book on why we must sometimes take a vital stand to defend orthodox theology. I will admit that I sometimes worry that the ever passionate Piper sometimes verges on being to self-assured of his positions, too bombastic, too strong. But, as I have often said as I commend his many books, it is rare to find such generous care, pastoral desire, clear joy and a strong call to sacrifical service. If he errs on the side of being too sure of his views, my hunch is that it doesn't matter too much---most of us will only apply a portion of his teachings, anyway. So even if he overstates a bit, I love and respect and have been helped by his solid guidance and Christ-centered passion.

Readers of my blog or monthly column know that I enjoyed and had sympathies with McLaren's Generous Orthodoxy so you might understand that I worried whether Piper would be promoting harshness or needlessly strict dogma. I was happy that he addressed this on the very first page. Here, he starts off his study of the fight for orthodoxy by insisting that we ought not be prideful, but humble. It is a paragraph worth reading slowly:

Some controversy is crucial for the sake of life-giving truth. Running from it is a sign of cowardice. But enjoying it is usually a sign of pride. Some necessary tasks are sad, and even victory is not without tears---unless there is pride. The reason enjoying controversy is a sign of pride is that humility loves truth-based unity more than truth-based victory. Humility loves Christ-exalting exultation more than Christ-defending confrontation---even more than Christ-defending vindication. Humility delights to worship Christ in spirit and truth. If it must fight for worship-sustaining truth, it will, but that is not because the fight is pleasant. It's not even because victory is pleasant. It's because knowing and loving and proclaiming Christ for who he really is and what he really did is pleasant.

I learned quite a bit about all three of the characters in each of the three chapters. I had no idea that the Council of Nicea (325) created such ugly battles in the generation following its formulation of Christ's divinity. Although an Egpyptian Bishop and Middle Eastern theologian, Athanasius was most beloved as a pastor; I had no idea how he suffered exile and how his flock cared for him. (The famous desert fathers and mothers cared for him, too, a fascinating sub-plot of its own.)

John Owen, too, the 17th century British Puritan, was a serious scholar who took a firm stance for a high view of Christ and his saving work, and his writings propelled him into international politics. (Local Pennsylvania tidbit: William Penn studied under Owen and learned of religious toleration from him) He is the giant of Puritan theology, a dense and deep writer, yet all the while sweetly communing with the Christ that he theologized about.

And Machen. What a character, ceaseless in his reasonable defense of historic faith amongst those that denied the classic forumaltions and truths (you know, little stuff like the bodily resurrection.) Piper's take on him--including some concerns and questions--was very moving for a Presbyterian like me. Machen was kicked out of the church and left his position at Princeton, yet turned down opportunities to teach at more fundamentalist institutions. How he helped evangelicalism grapple with the forces of modernity---between the extremes of liberalism and fundamentalism--is as relevant now as in the middle days of the 20th century.

All of the Swans books are worth having. This one struck me as very relevant, illustrating Piper's passion for truth, his conservative bias in standing for traditional theological forumulations (it is no surprise he takes a shot at the emergent folks) and yet his truly kindly writing and desire for grace and peace is evident. He ends, I'm glad to report, with a reflection on a small book that had a huge, huge impact on me years ago: Francis Schaeffer's The Mark of a Christian. There, you should know, Schaeffer, at the height of his work on cultural apologetics, his defense of historic faith admist nihistic existentialism and worse in the 60's, insisted that the final apologetic, the last defense, the truest compelling arguement, was love in the life of the believer. To start a book like this with a mediation on humility and end it on love is as it should be. As is usually the case, Piper gets it right.

Contending for Our All: Defending Truth and Treasuring Christ in the Lives of Athanasius, John Owen, and J. Gresham Machen John Piper (Crossway) $17.99

Friday, March 10, 2006

Doug Pagitt

Whewie--- what a day! Getting to sell books at a one day event billed merely as a "day apart" with this emergent church leader was a fun thing, even if I did strain my back (again) lugging the boxes. Thanks to Russell Hart of the Central PA conference of the United Methodist Church whose Center for Spiritual Formation hosted this gig with the guru. Fun stuff---hello to any participants who came home and looked us up here on the postmodern network. (Like he said, we can all be connected in these inter-locking circles.) Those who follow these things know that the emergent conversations---nearly five years old and counting---has spun off oodles of experimental churches, nifty new ways of doing things, postmodern theology and participatory, "post-contemporary", ancient/future worship experiences. There have been a handful of key books in the movement, but now there are plenty. From McLaren and Webber (elder writers) to hipster guys like Doug or Dan Kimball, they have been appreciated, questioned, debated and now there are books that evaluate and critique them. This isn't a goofy little trend but a fairly significant bit of paradigm shifting that isn't going to go away.

For what it is worth, Doug grabbed off the book table and waved around the recent work by Eddie Gibbs & Ryan Bolger, Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Culture (Baker; $19.99) which he assured us is the best introductory volume to read (he's correct, I think, for any number of good reasons.) He also promoted The Church in Transition: The Journey of Existing Churches into Emerging Culture by his buddy Tim Conder, with a forward by Dan Allender. (Zondervan $15.99.) It looks like a real "bridge-building" book and one that we will want to promote here.

But yesterday, in this conversation in the round, there were few young folk there, hardly any body piercings (or even anyone complaining about the very bad coffee); nobody seeme
d too fluent in how film studies can shape church life, seemed too interested in counter-cultural voices for fair trade, say, or noting how Walsh & Middleton use Foucalt to do their study of Colossians---you know, the tone in a gathering that seems, to illustrate pomo sensibilities. Older mystics like Russell and his Center for Spiritual Formation folks and fairly ordinary smaller-town pastors and members, though, all wanted to hear what this free-range, post-evangelical with a church called Solomon's Porch had to say. From their fairly ordinary middle-class settings, it seemed, they were very, very interested and engaged in good, pastoral questions. Thank goodness that ordinary churches have good-hearted folk who are willing to stretch into new arenas of mission and buy a few books on new stuff.

Paggitt made it clear, happily, that he (nor most others who have planted postmodern community churches) do not want to set forth a grand plan for others. They were just following their noses, creating a space---granted, an artsy place that sounds more like an organic coffeehouse than a typical church---where Christian faith seemed plausible. Straight-rowed pews with authoritarian lectures called sermons organized around majority-rule business meetings just didn't seem to be able to cut it with Pagitt; it didn't make sense and it didn't seem all that Christian; he and his companions felt compelled to try to new ways of being faithful to the spirit of Christ. Holy-moly, it was interesting; he has read up on quantum physics and network theory, talked about his multi-racial family, and my hunch is he has checked out the best deconstructive literary critics. Whether he has or hasn't, I have rarely been around anyone who so naturally breathed the good insights of cultural studies and who so regularly asked the big questions---what does it say to have the pews all in a row, facing one direction. Facing one direction for crying out loud! I don't know what my Russian Orthodox friends would say, and one Pentecostal pastor there was revved up, but I am sure that standard denominational folks, the proverbial person in the pew (ha!) wouldn't quit get how he could get all worked up and speak theologically for so long about such a simple architectural feature. Educational wings for our buildings? Calling the worship gathering a service? Don't even get him started.

I could go on and on telling of the interesting and important and fruity things he said. And I could nearly cry about the things that went unsaid. I remain pretty vexed by the whole movement (as I wrote back on our monthly review when I first reviewed an early batch of books that branded this emergent name.) Still, for a good-hearted effort at doing church in a way that makes sense in this context, and which tries to capture the New Testament struggle--the old way of Jewish exclusion doesn't seem right, according to the Spirit as the story is told in Acts, and others get to get in on the good news, now, too!---and develop a set of practices that open up folk to live into 21st century questions in light of this grand Story, well, it is pretty exciting.

Here's the skinny on Doug Pagitt's three books. The new little prayer book, Body Prayer: The Posture of Intimacy with God ($15.99), speaks volumes about his anti-Gnostic and non-dualistic spirituality. With a couple of good mediations and poetic prayerful notes, it really is a guide to different body postures that themselves become prayer. Complete with little line-drawing sketches. We love it.

His hardback one on participatory preaching, Preaching Re-imagined ($18.99) makes most sense when you feel how deeply he believes that every person counts and that spiritual formation should be communal and dialogical. No hogging the center stage (for The Porch that would be a stool in the round) for him---sermons are created in community and are delivered in a multi-voiced, dialogical, free-form way. His first book, now retitled, Church Re-Imagined ($16.99) lays out an example of emergent thinking by showing a typical--typical?---week at Solomon's Porch.

We have some of these last two left over (I almost always over-order for author appearances, not wanting to let anyone down.) We need clear out a few of these, rather than send 'em back. Here is my blog-special, good for all of the month of March (or until supplies run out.)

2 for $20

Buy both books for $20.00 and save $16.00.
That is $7 off the paperback and $9 off the hardcover.

Email us at read@heartsandmindsbooks.com or call 717.246.3333. Or use the webpage order form. Please don't place orders on the comment section---although would love to see commenty type feedback there. Thanks.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Four Brand New Books

On the heels of the season’s biggest gig, our big book display at the CCO’s JUBILEE conference, we packed up some books, scribbled notes on a yellow legal tablet, fetched our out-of-date NYC map and trekked to Manhattan. We were honored and thrilled to be sponsored by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s alum program, an innovative effort to track young college grads and see how they are doing, particularly around discerning vocation, work-world faithfulness, maintaining the vision of making an impact in the marketplace or in their ongoing efforts in advanced higher education. Ed Miller of the New York/New Jersey region hosted us well and convened a gang of sharp young adults to help us lug the books up from the freight elevators into the Trinity Place building and prepare us for a day long conference on mentoring, staying connected, maintaining the vision and seeking to make history in the New York region. Thanks to the mentors who came to encourage the younger workers and thanks to everyone for allowing me to do a plenary talk, to do a workshop, and to have great conversations around books, integrating faith and life, and equipping young Christians to live out the implications of God’s care for the city in their callings and careers.

So, now, I am finally able to tell you about some books that have arrived in the middle of all this book-sellin’ caravanin’. Each deserve lengthy reviews and I am confident you will see them listed in many a “best of the year” lists 11 months from now. These are important, top-drawer titles so you should cut and paste this post, forwarding it to anybody who cares about serious Christian books. I will be brief.

Living the Resurrection: The Risen Christ in Everyday Life Eugene Peterson (NavPress) $16.99 Even if you only remove the jacket, frame the cover with the skyscraper buildings forming a cross, it is worth the price of the book. More importantly, one of our generation's finest pastoral theologians here gives us more insight from the teaching he did in his award winning Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. Our church is going to form aSpringtime adult ed class around this book, a study of the post-resurrection narratives in the gospels. What a joy to think that in the ordinary stuff of real life we can experience the same power as rose Christ from the dead, and live into the mystery of the New Creation breaking in. Transformation teaching plain and simple.

The Word Than Redescribes the World: The Bible and Discipleship Walter Brueggemann (Fortress) $25.00 Serious essays from the pen and preaching of our times most significant Old Testament scholar. Those who follow this blog may recall my talking about selling books for him at an Episcopalian gig last December. He was at his best, prophetic, interesting, pastoral, challenging, fascinating. These various articles, essays, and journal pieces have been compiled under three sections: “The World Redescribing the World,” “The Word Redefining the Possible” and “The World Shaping a Community of Discipleship.” Take a deep breath and dive.

To Own A Dragon: Reflections on Growing Up Without a Father Donald Miller & John MacMurray (NavPress) $13.99 When we got back from Jubilee and found that this had come right after we left, I almost cussed; Miller, you must know, is the hottest writer among college age folks we have ever seen. This long-awaited memoir piece about his personal journey of redemption through the crisis of fatherlessness is important and will surely be darkly funny and really interesting. Hey, it isn’t every evangelical book that has an endorsing review from The Washington Post and Jeff Foxworthy. Uh-huh. This is it.

Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons Frederick Buechner (Harper) $24.95 A handsome hardback collection of various sermons from the writer/memoirist/theologian. Most have appeared in some of his smaller paperback collections but there are also some new ones. The introduction by Brian McLaren is exquisite, really exquisite. Speaking of back cover blurbs, this is graced by wonderful endorsements by John Irving, Annie Dillard, John Ortberg, Will Willimon, Max Lucado, and Rob Bell. Nice.

Monday, March 06, 2006

A wonderful book story

Every now and then I get these blessed reports of people who use the books we sell to minister to others, or have found, somehow, some insight or inspiration in them. These notes keep us steadfast in our calling and remind us that this book reviewing and bookselling stuff really can be worth it.

After the post-Jubilee post last week, when I suggested that a few really good books didn't sell as many as we might have wished, we got this kind note. I share it with you not at all to toot our own horn or to suggest that everyone should go out of their way to send us these stories (although occasionally it really does boost the spirit.) I share it to remind us all that a little paragraph read here, a page copied there, a book devoured by eager readers or a section shared with those who otherwise wouldn't buy the book, all, in their own way, can make a difference. Thanks to the friend who sent this in. Kudos to you for your good and creative work. Note not only how she used the book with the leaders in her college dorm, but the writing excercise and the passing out of roses. Now that is a cool program.

Even though Free of Charge wasn't a big seller, I happened to be one
of the patrons who did purchase a copy. Periodically I get to do stuff
with the RA staff in my building. Last semester I read a chapter to
them from Blue Like Jazz (the one on community--living with freaks)
and facilitated a discussion with them.

Well today I had the opportunity to work with their team again. All
week long I've tried to figure out what to do and I couldn't make up
my mind. Well this morning I read the prelude to Free of Charge and
instantly knew that I would use it with them.

I've noticed that aside from school books the students I work with
aren't "big readers" so I've thought, "well if they won't read then
I'll read to them." I read them the prelude and then did a 20 minute
guided writing activity with them( kinda like Lauren Winner did in
her memoir workshop). It was fantastic!

I'm not sure I've ever been with them when they've been that quiet. I
didn't have folks turn in their writing to me, I wanted to have the
freedom to write what they "really" wanted thought. And they all
seemed to write for the majority of the time. I ended our time
together by giving them a rose to remind them of the gifts they've
been given and the gifts they have to give. As I was leaving the lobby
I noticed that one of the cleaning ladies had a rose in her hand, I
wonder who passed it along to her. :)

All that to say I'm looking foward to reading all the other gems that
Volf has to offer. Thanks for sharing your love of books! It is

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Jubilee not-so-big sellers


If you've followed my posts from last week, you know how much this big JUBILEE event means to us. (Don't even ask how many of the boxes we've re-shelved or how many of the crumpled notes in my pockets we have deciphered or how many bills we've tried to collect; it takes weeks for us to dig out from under it all.) JUBILEE is important and strategic as its intent is to invite college students to surrender their whole lives---their whole, daily, mundane, studying, working, playing, lives--to Christ, so that God can use them to bring about His Kingdom "on Earth as it is in Heaven” thereby bringing honor to God and gladness to people in need. When such serious-minded and good-hearted faith emerges in a new generation, the hope is that they will begin to "think Christianly,” re-learning their studies in Kingdom perspective. Then, (forgive the military metaphor) they will invade the secularized, post-Christian culture to do true good everywhere. Poor schools, warring nation-states, shallow art galleries, dishonest media, unhelpful therapists, greedy businesses, unjust lawyering, vulgar TV, unethical science, boring churches.... the list goes on. And this generation of robust Christian young people will--if they learn the habits of heart to connect belief and behavior AND develop a faith thoughtful enough to allow for both personal piety and institutional reform---take from this past weekend a dream to make a difference. Some of the books that were bought will reinforce and further explain this hope; these printed pages are seeds sown, some which will be read, pondered and will bear fruit in months and years to come.

Last night I posted a few Jubilee best sellers. Here are a few that we displayed, promoted and imagined that they would fit well the theme of our gathering, but, uh, didn’t do so well. We were disappointed that we didn't sell more of these, so, here, we present the shoulda coulda woulda list of those which are still sitting in dirty cardboard boxes in our damp basement. They are in good company, at least, fine titles all:

Engaging God's World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning & Living Neal Plantinga (Eerdmans) $15.00 I am encouraged to push this title every year, but the great quote on the back from John Ortberg saying that this is a great book written so well that every college student should read it didn't win the day. The first chapter is on that sense of longing that all younger folk feel--the desire to know what to do with ones life, the need for a sense of vocation. The middle of the book is a beautiful explication of the CCO shorthand for the gospel (creation-fall-redemption) and then comes a final invitation to fight the good fight wherever one finds oneself, taking up a post in the Kingdom coming. What a great book. We shoulda sold a bundle.

Creation Regained: The Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview Al Wolters (Eerdmans) $12.00 This new edition, I explained from up front, not only has a crisp new typeface and cover, but a great final chapter, linking Al's seminal teaching on worldview to the recent writings of Lesslie Newbigin and N.T. Wright. That young folk don't know these names is a shame. That their older friends didn't say "Holy creation-regained, Batman, this is a must-have" is an even greater shame. This is one of the top two or three books in the history of the Jubilee conference, and Professor Wolters played a pivotal role in the CCO explaining the Biblical basis for the wild-eyed prophetic talk of Pete Steen, the one who nearly single-handedly re-framed the Jubilee conference in the 70's to be what it became, even if many were perplexed by his nearly apocalyptic energy. Praise God for this new edition. Coulda promoted it better.

The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story Craig Bartholomew & Michael Goheen (Baker) $19.00 Up front I preached that any philosophical talk or political posturing or seminar wisdom at this content-heavy event needs to be measured by how well it lives up to the worldview of the Scriptures. This book, I said, was the best one-volume overview of the grand Story I've yet seen. Shoulda sold dozens and dozens instead of two or three. Or, at least, we should have sold the much thinner re-issue (yeah!) of Lesslie Newbigin's A Walk Through the Bible (Wipf & Stock; $9.00) which were his final radio talks on the BBC before he died a few years ago. Newbigin was the Anglican Bishop of the Church of North India and one of the finest missionary thinkers of the 20th century. His overview of the basic plot-lines of the Biblical story is sweet and simple and very helpful. While I'm on a roll, there should have been more of a buzz about Walsh & Keesmaat's spectacularly important postmodern reading of Paul, found in the most exciting Bible study book in years, Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire (IVP; $22.00.) I sold quite a few last year when I pointed out my name on the back. Ha! Didn't want to use that ploy again this year, and now I regret it. Woulda if I coulda.

Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace Miroslav Volf (Zondervan) $12.99 Maybe younger folk aren't ready for this kind of serious reflection on the Cross, written by a world-renowned theologian (who teaches at Yale Divinity School and did his first theological work reflecting on the Bosnian genocide in his homeland a few years back.) Still, given that this generation watches Hotel Rwanda and kids were wearing Invisible Children tees, this should have been more popular. I blogged about it a few weeks back, noting that it is the Archbishop of Canterbury's Lenten book, so people are reading it this season all over the world.

Adventures in Missing the Point Brian McLaren & Tony Campolo (Zondervan) $16.99 What a fun and rowdy book, two amazing thinkers, funny and thoughtful men who care deeply for the broad church and the evangelical tradition spout off their concerns about how the gospel has become "neutered" by a cultural accommodating church. These two best-selling guys (Campolo was there, remember) shoulda been seen as a Lennon-McCarthy, Laurel & Hardy, dynamic-duo, one-two-punch that can't be beat. New in paperback, complete with study guide, I shoulda pushed this harder, told more people about it, inviting people to read a page or two. A few short paragraphs would show off the brilliance of these guys together, the issues they raise, the differences they debate. Don't miss the point---this kind of feisty banter will help us get it right.

Not Just Science: Questions Where Christian Faith and Natural Science Intersect edited by Dorothy Chappell & E. David Cook (Zondervan) $24.99 What a great collection, with wise, introductory chapters on math, computers, engineering, chemistry, agriculture, biology, geology, environmental science, neuroscience...Jennifer Wiseman, a lead astronomer at NASA who works at Hubbell was the science speaker at Jubilee and she has a very nice chapter in here. So does Vincent Bacote, who brings his theological mind to bear on the relation to theology and the natural sciences. This has basic stuff that any collegiate (or anyone who reads the popular science magazines or watches PBS) would find helpful. And there are some unique treasures---a bit of Christian insight about science in various cultures, for instance, and a good piece on health care (not the only piece that swerves towards the social sciences a bit.) The forward by Harvard historian of science (himself a devout Mennonite Christian), Owen Gingerich, shows this to be a pretty significant work. It is a grand, a good collection, and we loved showing off its bright orange cover. Unless one is majoring in poetry at a school that demands no math or science, this kind of a resource could be a lifesaver.

Talking the Walk: Letting Christian Language Life Again Marva Dawn (Brazos) $22.99 Marva was a huge hit at this event a few years ago, when she did three keynote presentations. She was willing to return a year later to do a smaller workshop—she was that thrilled with this exciting event so laden with potential. Her Sabbath book was popular, and her one on sexual ethics is standard. We even sold a few of the one that critiques the ideologies of affluence and the subsequent hopelessness of our times. This new one contains elegant and brief meditations on words that are demeaned, theological concepts that have become commonplace but misunderstood, all suggesting ways to recover the kind of mature theological language that will sustain radical discipleship.

How do you speak of the significance of such things under the blare of the loud band, after the salsa dance, between students asking for books on dating or a book to give to a disbelieving roommate? What is the place of explaining the meaningful importance of these good books when the first question a sophomore asks is if we have books to help her recover from the broken heart she has from her parents divorce? Amidst all this personal need, between Tony’s exciting call to missional service and the workshops serious call to think Christianly in the classroom, somewhere, we shoulda raised the question of theological integrity. This book coulda helped.

Here I Am: Now What On Earth Should I Be Doing? Quentin Schultze (Baker) $11.99 My, my, what a lovely little book, powerful, clear, compelling and full of Godly good sense. I think Q should be a Friday night Jubilee speaker, offering this nice teaching that takes us beyond Purpose Driven Life. I gave it a pretty quick shout-out in my Saturday morning promo, but to no avail. Still better, deeper, wonderfully written, is one of our all time favorites: The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life by Os Guinness (Word; $17.00.) You know I think it essential. I shoulda tried harder. That is a classic to read and re-read. I think I first heard Os at an old Jubilee in the mid-70’s. I woulda been sweet to sell a bunch of that one. That would have made Jubilee nearly perfect.