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.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Batch of Important, New Books

So many great new books in the shop, and I am behind it telling you about them. I’ll dispense with the stories and meandering commentary and get right to it.

The Dawkins Delusion? Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine Alister McGrath and Joanna Collicutt McGrath (IVP) $16 Science journalist Dr. Timothy Johnson notes its “rigorous logic and exquisite fairness…” Michael Ruse says, “The God Delusion makes me embarrassed to be an atheist, and the McGrath’s show why.”

The Grand Weaver: How God Shapes Us Through the Events of Our Lives Ravi Zacharias (Zondervan) $18.99 I believe it was Ravi who I first heard lecture against the meaninglessness of Dawkins’ view. Here, he shows that the threads of our lives are intentionally arranged. John Ortberg writes, “Zacharias never met a question he didn’t like. Here he explores life’s deepest questions in a tapestry that is personal, winsome, and clear.” Mark Buchanan says that “Ravi brings a keen mind, a tender heart, and a deft touch to the task…”

Can We Trust the Gospels? Investigating the Reliability of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John Mark D. Roberts (Crossway) $12.99 Scot McKnight’s blurb is helpful: “What F.F. Bruce did for my generation of students, Mark Roberts has done for the current generation. Any student who asks me if our Gospels are reliable will be given this book, and then I’ll buy another copy for the next student!” It has been called “brilliant” and “quite simply the best effort I have ever read by a serious scholar to communicate what scholars know about the Gospels…”

Without a Map: A Memoir Meredith Hall (Beacon) $24.95 So, Hearts & Minds raves about books offering a conservative apologetic for life’s meaning in a few recommendations, and then tells of a very, very moving memoir published by the renowned Unitarian publishers of Boston. So be it. This is more than a lovely memoir of spiritual journey, grief, examination and reflection and struggle, it is, Ivan Doig asserts, “one of the bravest stories…bone-honest and strong in every line.” David James Duncan calls it “a masterpiece.” Another lit critic says “Halls magnificent book held me in its thrall from the moment I began reading the opening pages.” With favorite writers like Sven Birkerts saying it is “like a geiger counter ticking along the radium edge of these recent decades. She gives us self as expert witness…” who wouldn’t be intrigued. That it is about her being kicked out of her Sunday school and family when unexpectedly pregnant at age 16, and her coping with this betrayal, makes is a matter of grave importance especially for those who care about righting the wrongs of toxic religion. We can learn much from those who tell the tale truthfully.

Signs of Emergence: A Vision for the Church That is Organic/Networked/
Decentralized/Bottom-Up/Communal/Flexible (Always Evolving.)
Kester Brewin (Baker/emergent village) $14.99 Last year, we nearly moved heaven and earth to import a copy of British release, The Complex Christ for one of my best friends, a young, emergent pastor in Pittsburgh. This is the brand new U.S. edition, with a very new title. With rave, rave reviews from Peter Rollins, Alan Hirsch, Tom Sine, Shane Claiborne and other urban workers and those who celebrate the complexity of new thinking, science, webs, change theory and new imagination---applied to urban churches, especially, this may be the book of the year. You really should know about it.

Soul Graffiti: Making a Life in the Way of Jesus Mark Scandrette (Jossey-Bass) $21.95 A friend just heard a pod-cast of Scandrette and said he was fascinating. (“Out there” I think were his exact words.”) Beautifully written, edgy, a great story of the authors brave journey to a lived faith. Mark Oestreicher of Youth Specialties says it is “a story-weaver’s bountiful spread---filled with chocolate and wine and artisan bread---of the present Kingdom of God.” Anybody who runs something called The Jesus DoJo has my interest…

The God Of Intimacy and Action: Reconnecting Ancient Spiritual Practices, Evangelism, and Justice Tony Campolo and Mary Albert Darling (Jossey-Bass) $21.95 Anyone who has heard Campolo knows that alongside his call to urban ministry and third world development, his call to serve God fully and to witness boldly, to be agents of social change, he also, always, gives a call to spiritual renewal, to contemplative prayer, to reliance on the Holy Ghost. Here, with a colleague at Spring Arbor College, he “reconnects ancient spiritual practices, evangelism and justice.” How nice to see a bold endorsement from Richard Foster, John Ortberg, Richard Rohr. Mary has been a leader in teaching about the spiritual disciplines (a Wesleyan taught by Jesuits) and her co-authorship of this important book makes for a fabulous energy and balance and depth. Spread the word!

John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace Jonathan Aitken (Crossway) $21.99 The esteemed Mr. Aitken was a distinguished MP in the British Parliament and went on to even more prestigious public service in the Cabinet there.** He currently is the Executive Director of the Trinity Forum in Europe, and active in human rights advocacy. An experienced and serious biographer, he has garnered rave reviews for this new, significant bio of the slave trader turned pastor and abolitionist. With endorsements from Mark Noll, Os Guinness, Chuck Colson, Alister McGrath, Rodney Stark and other important historians, scholars and cultural critics, this book is sure to be much discussed and on many “best of the year” lists.

**Jonathan Aitken, as Philip Yancey explains in his wonderful forward to this book, was convicted of perjury while in high government service and went to jail. Rather than a fall from grace as is commonly said, it was, rather, a fall into grace. Like Mr. Colson before him---and somewhat like the despicable Mr. Newton---Aitken knows well the struggle to find new life, to read while in prison, to emerge a new man. His own personal conversion is not the subject of this book, but his own obvious insight into the story of one like Newton, makes this a remarkably apropos author for a very important story. Amazing grace, indeed. Thanks be to God.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Vocation, calling and Leading Lives That Matter

Even as we pray for Shane and The Simple Way, and their damaged, Kensington neighborhood, (and please do follow the link I gave yesterday to consider making some donation to ease the plight from their awful fire) we continue on. I am leaving to speak at a conference---co-facilitate a conversation at a retreat is a better way of describing our hope---at Gordon College, north of Boston. The excellent chaplain there is a good friend, and he's invited a group of alumni from that college to gather (some of them more than a decade out of school) and reflect on their sense of vocation, the ways they are or are not holding on to a coherent vision of the faith that relates to all of life. Of course we trust that they have a mature spiritual life and are active in a local congregation, and hope they will share about such matters. But more, we want to create a safe and energizing space for them to give voice to their deepest yearnings about meaning, purpose, the integration of faith and work and the ways their education (years ago, perhaps) has influenced them as they discern vocational calls and professional stations in ways that are worthy of the name Christian.

My friend sent out some very good excerpts from a few books to them in advance and we will talk about others writings, too. Steve Garber will be joining us, which affords me yet another time to tell of the expanded edition of his Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior (IVP; $14) which is an astonishing book, ideal for the sorts of conversations we hope to have at this little retreat. And, of course, I'll recommend bunches of resources and tell some booksellin' stories.

The main source we used for finding essays and articles and poems is an amazing collection, a thick book that is a rich, rich resource that some of you may want to have on hand. Check out
Leading Lives That Matter: What We Should Do and Who We Should Be edited by Mark Schwehn and Dorothy Bass (Eerdmans; $24 .) With pieces as diverse as Frederick Buechner and Dorothy Day and Mark Twain and Dorothy Sayers, coupled with thoughtful introductions and questions, this literary reader is a great book to dip in to anytime the spirit flags and you need a thoughtful reminder of why you do what you do. Why do you do what you do? Does it matter?

Charles D. Drew just released a wonderfully clear and very helpful book which is smart and important in a quiet and unassuming way and serves as a fine introduction to the notions of calling, shaped by the general themes of the Biblical drama, creation, fall, redemption. It is A Journey Worth Taking: Finding Your Purpose in This World (Presbyterian & Reformed; $12.99.) I think my weekend journey to New England, rushed as it is, tense (I'm leaving behind a number of store duties and family health issues, etc. etc) will be well worth taking. I think I will tell take some of Drew's new book; if they need an intro to this topic that is fresh and Biblical, this is a gem. (Drew planted a sophisticated PCA church in New York, affiliated with Tim Keller's Redeemer, and church well-known for its ministry among professionals in Manhattan.)

I'd bet that many of our readers know Parker's Palmer's lovely little reflection, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation (Jossey-Bass; $18.95). Again, that is the kind of thing we will be recommending, hoping to generation conversations about listening well, attending to our lives, discerning together ways to live life fully, exalting Christ, making a difference, finding, somehow, joy through it all. Will you pray for us? Think about these things yourselves? Get these kind of books better known, as resources for churches or fellowships or schools or Bible groups that tend not to ask these kinds of questions, or use these kinds of resources? It is what we are about, here at Hearts & Minds. Thanks for being a part!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Tragedy. Please read about Shane Claiborne's community

We got word from a friend---a mail-order customer who has become a friend because we sold him The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne---that the community in which Shane lives, The Simple Way, lost their main building in a huge fire. Gone is their educational tutoring center, their arts center, the micro-business tee shirt printer, and other spaces for their urban activism. Although most of the members of The Simple Way household live together in a building apparantly unharmed, Shane resides (when he isn't on the road) in the building that was destroyed. He lost all his stuff and even for a guy who rails against matieralism, this must be incredibly painful. Loss of books, photos, music, clothes, personal mementos, yes, circus gear....

Shane is the real deal, and you should know we gave his wonderful little book a near five-star review at the website in March 2006. I was somewhat critical, though, for the counter-cultural schtick; I chided him for not offering a vision that calls forth involvement in the real worlds of the professions, business, corporate culture, science research, the fine arts, statecraft and such and suggested that the hard-core prophetic calling is not for everyone. Shane liked our remarks and gently thanked me. Although we rarely cross paths, I count him as an admired friend.

At times like this these little nuances of differences in approach fall to the ground, in ash, as it were. Here is a guy who has given up so much to gain the freedom of St. Francis; the freedom of Dorothy Day, the freedom of Jesus. He has thrown his lot in with the urban poor, has done much to better the quality of life in their Kensington neighborhood, and in their announcement about the fire, they spend more time offering up concern and arranging fund-raising for the hundreds of neighbors who have been displaced, they too, losing all their possesions. Our hearts are heavy whenever we hear of these tragedies, and they are too often. Yet when it is a friend, like Shane, (and a partner in the book world, no less) it feels harsher to me.

Here is the link to see pictures of the fire and to read the report from The Simple Way
. There you can connect to a link to make donations, either to Another World is Possible (to help Shane and the Christian community of TSW) or the Kensington Family Fund. Please visit their website and spread the word.

If you've bought the Irresistible Revolution from us over the last two years--and alot of you have---consider making a donation to them to help them get back on their feet after this sad set-back. Be sure to pray that God in mercy uses this to exalt Christ, to call attention to His reign of peace and justice, and to draw others into the story of, as Shane puts it, being an "ordinary radical." My hunch is the joyous pranksters of TSW will be back at it soon enough, but their neighbors will have a slower, harder go of it. Let us pray, and act.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

new Luci Shaw: Breath for the Bones

In my last post I told you about our bookselling trip to the CIVA conference, and included some links to several of the more prominent artists that were in attendence. Of course I only offered a few; if you want to get in touch with other artists, perhaps to buy a piece or commission something, CIVA can arrange connections. Perhaps you need a speaker on this topic, or just want to be supportive of these faithful and creative saints, maybe connecting with someone in your region. I hope that my last post, besides keeping you informed of our whereabouts and telling you about some of the best books we're thinking about this week, will get CIVA folks onto your radar screen (as the modern adage puts it.)
Click here for a very thoughtful description of the event written by John Wilson of Books & Culture.

Modern adages. Words. Creativity. Faith. Luci Shaw is a patron saint of this stuff, herself a poet (and proud, dues-paying member of CIVA, by the way.) Many of us have read her work for years, espeically her wonderful poetry. We carry plenty of her poem collections here at the shop and we still stock her (hard to come by) book on grief, God in the Dark. She and her good friend Madeleine L'Engle comforted one another over the losses in their lives, and have written books together about being sister soul mates. (A Prayerbook for Spiritual Friends.) If you don't know Luci's work, but like authors we mention here (like L'Engle or Eugene Peterson, say) you simply must get a hold of some of her books.

Her brand new one was one we featured at the CIVA event, and, although her art is crafting words, and not so much a painterly one, the vision is the same. Somewhat like the little modern classic, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by the aforementioned L'Engle, Breath for the Bones: Art, Imagination and Spirit offers Holy Spirited breath, for sure, the sort of breath that can inspire artistry of the highest sort. Excellent, thoughtful, prophetic, allusive, honest, cheerful, real--- these are words that describe the sort of interplay between her deepest faith and the ways in which she has lived out the artistic calling. It sounds rather simple, but she is profound when she reminds us that imagination and spirituality "work in tandem, each feeding on and nourishing the other." Faith informs art and art enhances faith. She draws heavily in this on her beloved C.S. Lewis and, happily, quotes her own poetry often (using these as examples of her points, ways further in to her teaching about these matters of allowing faith to animate our artful doings.)

That this wise book includes discussion questions for group reflection and writing excercises makes it useful for small reading clubs, creative groups or for personal consideration. It is very inspiring, a delight to recommend and a joy to sell. I hope you know her earlier work, but if not, this is a perfect place to come to know this wonderful and remarkable friend, Luci Shaw.

Breath for the Bones: Art, Imagination and Spirit Luci Shaw (Nelson) $19.99, hardcover.

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Breath for the Bones
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Monday, June 18, 2007

It Was Good: books, CIVA and working with artists

The last few days have been exhausting; the old pulling, packing, driving, and luggin’ books thing I sometimes tell you about is often pretty stressful. I know it is hard to generate much sympathy for my string of late, late nights and back-bustin’ hauling, though, when I report what a time we have selling books to interesting, good folks. This time, it was the great treat of setting up a large book room for CIVA (Christians in the Visual Arts) for their biennial conference, Transforming Spaces: Virtu(e) and the Virtual.

You can click on their website if you are interested---it is inspiring to see, so you really should---and you can learn of the serious thinkers and important cultural critics that appeared at their conference, hosted, this year, at the near-by campus of Messiah College. The hour long commute back and forth in the wee hours was a small price to pay to serve their crowd of several hundred artists, art historians, art lovers, art teachers, museum curators, architects, and the like. (I was so exhausted, though, after four nights in a row of only a few hours sleep that I had to pull over to sleep on the 45-minute drive home. Sigh.)

A highlight---besides the warm reception from the good folks there, and the way in which this gang of artistic activists wanted/needed good resources and enthusiastically made their purchases---was learning about the vast array of faithful folks bearing, as Calvin Seerveld as put it, “fresh olives leaves.” From every part of the continent, and with every sort of medium and art form, these folks displayed their work and told their stories, and talked about their tasks and struggles. Like the bird returning to the ark, these artists bear signs of life, offering hope and insight and healing for a culture decimated by avante garde angst, high-brow anti-religious bile and shows of postmodern meaninglessness, on one hand and, and a pseudo-spiritual, cheap sentimentality and kitsch from the church on the other (think “TestaMints or Thomas Kincade, for instance.)

A few of the books we talked about, and sold, there, on these themes include, of course, the Calvin Seerveld book I’ve mentioned, Bearing Fresh Olive Leaves, and a serious, coffee-table look at kitsch from a Christian perspective, wisely and lovingly compiled by called A Profound Weakness written by Betty Spackman. The small but foundational Art for God's Sake: A Call to Recover the Arts by Philip Ryken (pastor of Philadelphia’s Tenth Presbyterian, an arts-friendly church) sold well, as did the top-shelf and very insightful (and very up-to-date) call to artistic faithfulness, Art and Soul by Adrian Chaplain and Hillary Brand. I told many participants about the great collection of brief editorials done by Gregory Wolfe, drawn from his journal, Image, that is collected in Intruding Upon the Timeless (his piece on Kincade, by the way, is very good.)

One of the most important books these days on this topic is by the esteemed art historian at University of Chicago, the widely published James Elkins. There was a CIVA forum on his recent book, On the Strange Place of Religion in Contemporary Art, which offered space for a variety of views, some critical and some less so, about his significant take on the legitimacy of faith-filled art. Elkins does not claim to offer a Christian perspective, but Hearts & Minds bud, former CCO staffer and CIVA Board member Dayton Castleman is studying with him and had an upbeat take; Elkins, it seems, has even used some of Dayton’s slides (of his large art installations) in his lectures.

Alongside these helpful conversations, there were speakers who represented varoius artistic mediums, disciplines and perspectives. We were especially delighted to meet Ena Heller, who has done an outstanding job curating the extraordinary Museum of Biblical Art (MoBia) in New York city. Do check out their website to see what kind of great things they are doing...

And, I enjoyed renewing friendship and good conversations with Ken Myers of Mars Hill Audio. His opening and closing addresses were stellar, jam-packed with insight, challange and the grit of a worldview shaped by the texts like Romans 12:1-2. If you don't know of his audio subscription service, please check him out here. What a smart and important voice! We carry some of his books on CD, too, by the way...

I won’t test your patience by telling all the details, but it was an honor to chat with amazing and respected visual artists like Ed Knippers, Bruce Herman, Ted Prescott and the amazing leader of CIVA, Sandra Bowden. We’ve got autographed copies of her stunning book, The Art of Sandra Bowden (published by Square Halo) if you want a splendid example of a recent CIVA-related book. Faith + Vision: Twenty-five Years of Christians in the Visual Arts is a fabulous collection which she edited, again, released by Square Halo. I have a blurb about it at their website, alongside some very prominent folks in the CIVA community. Check it out here.

One evening of the conference included a very special autographing session with various artists and writers who are collected in the new edition of It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God, a book I raved about last month here at the blog. We snacked on rare olives and great cheeses surrounded by various works shown from It Was Good, hosted by the fine folks at Square Halo Books. You know that we love their stuff, and our friendship with them made these several days that much sweeter.

I hope my sharing of this brings encouragement to you----faithful folks from all over are doing very good work. Buy some books from us about the intersection of faith and the arts (consider donating them to your local library or church resource room) and pray for those who work in the fields of the fine arts. They are doing very special stuff, often against great odds, usually without much finanical security, as they offer their signs of life amidst the death of a modern culture.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Christianity for the Rest of Us

I loved Strength for the Journey: A Pilgrimage of Faith in Community by Diana Butler Bass not only because I love memoir, and I love churches, and this book told her spiritual biography by way of telling of the various congregations she has been a part of, but because she seems to be a born story-teller. She tells these stories---testimonials, if you will---so passionately and with such a good eye for the good detail, that you know that it really matters. It has been noted that this book may be the only such spiritual memoir that gets at a faith journey as it is seen through the lenses of her congregational life. That this is her professional area of research--parish life and American religious culture---doesn't hurt, either. She tells her own tale, and weaves together her important insights about the formative nature of churches, the changes in American Christianity, and her love for the people, of various sorts, that populate the congregations she describes. This truly is about faith and community, a memoir about churches. We've been commending it for years, and we're glad it is available in this attractive paperback edition.

As I said a few years back, it seems to me that the very, very important Broken We Kneel: Reflections on Faith and Citizenship, which narrates her struggles with post-9-11 unbridled patriotism and nationalism in the Episcopalian congregation where she worked, and her hard decision to leave the parish over her desire to be faithful to the ways of Jesus and to resist church complicity in jingoism and war-fever, is just like one more last chapter in Strength.... It seems very similiar; part-memoir, part Christian testimony, part congregational research. I often tell folks that it is one of my favorite books, that it is one of the most important books to come out after 9-11. As we move towards a year of increasingly common conversations about faith and civic life, I'd highly, highly recommend it (even if you are not, perhaps especially if you are not, a pacifist.) It is short, elequant, and will make you think. And, I hope, it will give you courage to know that some church ladies can stand up for what they believe in, even at great cost for themselves, pulling the prophetic move off with a measure of grace and care, even as very painful decisions are made. Ever been there? This is a very good aid for the journey.

Last weekend Beth and I sold books with Diana at a large gathering of our friends from the Penn SE Conference of the UCC. I am not UCC, but they are very good to us, praying about Beth's vertigo and giving me a chance to blab about our book promotions. Diana told some stories of her research on the best practices of mainline churches and her powerful communication of the gospel---God is alive and well in many ordinary churches, despite what the media says and despite the claim by many evangelicals that the mainline is hopeless---was thrilling. Her main research (years of travelling around visiting vibrant and mature churches of the ordinary, liberal mainline sort) is documented in the excellent, if a bit dense, paperback published by the Alban Institute, entitled The Practicing Congregation: Imagining a New Old Church. (The forward is by Loren Mead, who shows up in her first book, and the afterward is by her new bud Brian McLaren; isn't that something, a dean of mainline research, and a pastor of an indie evangelical church.) Lauren Winner has a blurb on the back and she calls it "buoyant." It tells an important story, and it is important.

This was followed by another Alban book, a collection of several stories written by pastors who lead churches that are doing this ancient/future, new bit of classic practice in a liberal, mainline setting, thing. From Nomads to Pilgrims: Stories From Practicing Congregations is edited by Diana and a colleague who worked in her Lilly-funded research. Each chapter is by a different writer, from several different denominations, and they tell of ways they've found renewal in the churches, by focusing on concrete Christian practices. Her long chapter there is especially good, making this a great resource to share with others. It is a great bit of inspiration for anybody who cares about American congregational life, especially within the too-often mediocre mainline.

Christianity for the Rest of Us is a book that we named, last year in our end of the year Best Books columns (here and here.) Indeed, it is one of the best of recent years. Full disclosure: I really, really like Diana, and want this book to do well, and am happy to do our little part to promote it. I care about the mainline churches, and want this book to do well. And, I think this book is a bit too often over-reactionary against evangelicals and verges on caricature, at times, which frustrated me to no end and was something I had to get over, because, as I said, I trust Diana's vision and I care about her project. So, I got over it....she is a memoirist, after all, and has her own baggage and perspectives. Those of us who hold to conservative theology more than most of our mainline friends, and perhaps see things a bit more traditionally than she does, would still be wise to work on this great book. It provides the best glimpse into good mainline churches (without merely telling of those successful mainline churches that are successful because they are evangelical, because they are huge, because they are borrowing from the learnings of the mega-churches) and is a vision of a what I am convinced is a movement of God. And, as I said at the outset, she is a great storyteller. Some of these stories will brighten your day; others will perplex you. This is messy stuff, this business of discerning new (old?) practicies that will get ordinary neighborhood folks, who attend ordinary neighborhood churches, to start living like they believe the prayers they say. It ain't easy, and it ain't pretty. This book shows it all, and I am delighted to tell of it once again. That she clearly documents examples of churches that are each doing one (or more) of the top ten practices makes this a very clear work.
We have some of her books left over from the conference, so we would like to make you a deal, a deal I was counting on offering.

Get any two of Diana's books and pick a third one free.
(The least expensive is free, of course. )
Tell us which two you want to pay for, and which one you want free.

Did you know that one Washington DC church, founded for free slaves and whites to worship together in service to the poor, was shut down by the feds in the mid-1800's because there were Northerners and Southerners worshipping together? That that church fell into liberal theology and big money and by the early-1990's had a huge paid choir, a huge staff, immense spiritual problems, and only a handful of parishioners, all white and upper-middle class? And did you know that a new pastor came to town, re-appropriated the old tradition of their founding mother (not the weirdo blip of a huge, powerful and monied crowd of the 1950's, the loss of which was causing great anxieties and identity issues) and began offering eucharist on the streets of Washington DC, gathering together a robust mix of various classes, ethnicities and theological persuasions? By rejecting the civil religion of their recent past, and re-learning the practices of their earliest radical discipleship (from healing services to keeping Sabbath to public justice advocacy) this dying parish has become a lively and faithful marker of what God is doing in mainline churches in a very tough city.

This is the kind of fascinating good news that Diana Butler Bass lives to tell. Her books are useful for all of us, and, even when I find things she tells about, things said and done that I don't quite get, I am very, very glad to be in company with this kind of a pilgrim. Maybe, with these testimonies and stories, practices and new ways, we can all take steps to make our congregations that much more fruitful and faithful. Please God, let the Spirit fall on all kinds of churches.

Strength for the Journey Jossey Bass $16.95
Broken We Kneel Jossey Bass $23.95
The Practicing Congregation Alban Institute $17
From Nomads To Pilgrims Alban Institute $18
Christianity for the Rest of Us Harper SanFransico $23.95

As described above, ask for this week's blog special. Just let us know which two you want to buy, and which third one you want free. read@heartsandmindsbooks.com OR 717.246.3333

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Just Generosity and other resources to help "Vote Poverty Out"

I would suspect that some, maybe many, of our readers subscribe to the Sojourner's/Call to Renewal email. A day or so ago they convened a debate among three Democratic Presidential candidates to grill them about "faith, values and poverty." Jim Wallis, as you should know, has long insisted that the Bible speaks about poverty more than any other social issue, and, although Sojourners magazine has written on a wide variety of issues---from being pro-life to taking care of land, from socially-transformative art to contemplative spirituality, from racism to worship renewal---they routinely come back to being committed to peacemaking and anti-poverty justice work. We have been subscribers since their very, very beginning (any of our BookNotes readers recall Post-American or am I dating myself?) and have sold the magazine consistently since the day we opened. (Well, we actually don't sell too many, but we have 'em here.) Even when we don't fully agree, or have our quibbles, we respect them. I will cherish times of not only protesting at the Russian embassy with Jim, but being in worship with them in DC . Jim gave a talk to a standing around crowd here at the shop for us years ago; now he's regularly on national TV, all trimmed up and wearing a tie. You can see his passionate interview from after the debate when he was interviewed on CNN here. You can sign their petition drive, saying that you will take candidate's poverty positions seriously when you vote, here.

I bring this up not only to tell you about Jim's CNN gig, but to note a few other books that may be helpful if you, too, want to "vote poverty out" (a slogan which, for the record, I find more than a bit odd.) We have a large selection of books on economics, politics, poverty and public policy, from all sorts of perspectives, but I will be brief. Here are a few new, essential ones. If, as Call to Renewal and Wallis hope, we will allow God's concerns for the poor to guide our thoughts about elections and politics, we will have to do some hard thinking about what sort of policies work best for the poor, how to craft policy proposals that are consistent with a Christian understanding of the role of the state, and that have some ability to get beyond the unintended consequences and failures of the bankrupt welfare state.

Just Generosity: A New Vision for Overcoming Poverty in America (updated and revised 2nd edition) Ronald J. Sider (Baker) $17.99 This new edition does for domestic poverty issues what Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger did for global justice. Simply a must-read, an essential, modern classic. With endorsements from across the political spectrum--from Jim Wallis to John Ashcroft, from John Dilulio to Chuck Colson---this is a work that deserves to be taken seriously, a book which we hope we can sell well. The new edition is really, really important. Come on, H&M fans, this is one to get behind.

Living God's Politics: A Guide to Putting Faith into Action Jim Wallis (HarperSanFransico) $15.95 This is a great study guide that compliments the popular God's Politics. It includes thoughtful readings, Scripture, activities for learning, resources for further involvement. Very useful. We commend this for small groups, Sunday school classes and such, but, for what it is worth, here is a friendly critique by Paul Marshall (author of the very significant God and the Constitution: Christianity and American Politics.)

Church, State and Public Justice: Five Views edited by P.C. Kemeny (IVP Academic) $19.00 Wow, was I excited to see this, finally. Kemeny, with a PhD from Princeton Theo, a ThM from Duke and an M.Div from Westminister and a professorship at Grove City College, is uniquely qualified to bring together this broad range of author-activists who go back and forth offering feedback and rebuttle to their respective pros and cons. Here is Clarke E. Cochran offering a very thoughtful Catholic perpsective, Derek H. Davis with the classical Separationist view, Ron Sider with his (nearly Reformed and quite evangelical) Anabaptist view, Corwin Smidt with a neo-Calvinist, Principled Pluralist persepctive, and J. Philip Wogaman with a more liberal church "social justice" perspective. I am thrilled to recommend this, and appreciate these five distinct views, each which offers instruction for the faithful in our efforts to be wise and civic-minded, Christ-like citizens who live out the political implications of the gospel. This is serious stuff, so you should start now. You are going to want to have this under your belt as folks start talking politics more and more in the upcoming year.

Compassion, Justice and the Christian Lfe: Rethinking Ministry to the Poor Robert D. Lupton (Regal) $9.99 Anybody who has worked in urban ministry knows Lupton's important name, and respects his good work in inner-city Atlanta. His Family Consultation Service Urban Ministries is a very important model for economic development. The forward is by none other than John Perkins, and this little quote is on the back, by bro Shane Claiborne "Bob Lupton is my favorite "responsible capitalist" but also a dear friend and brother. He's one of the most cutting-edge thinkers on ecomonic development on the planet, yet he's stubborn enough to keep his feet on the ground where struggle still has names..." Lupton's practical stuff about urban renewal (like "10 Questions Donors Ought to Ask Ministries But Seldom Do" and "10 Questions Ministries Ought to Ask Donors But Seldom Do") shows remarkable wisdom born of hard experience. Excellent, brief, clear.

The Fear of Beggars: Stewardship and Poverty in Christian Ethics Kelly S. Johnson (Eerdmans) $20.00 This is brand new in a series of academic books from Eerdmans edited by the Ekklesia Project. This is a must for those who like Shane Clairborne, but want to go deeper, and, more particularly, study the insights from personalists such as Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day. Kelly offers what looks like one of the most thought-provoking books in this field, breaking new intellectual ground. Christine Pohl writes "One does not necessarily expect a book on begging and reimagining property relations to sing with theological and historical insights, but (this) does just that. Her account is fascinating and beautifully written." New Monasticism leader Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove offers a rave review on the back, as does Ched Myers calls it "an elegant treatise...her commendation of Francis' 'economic unilateral disarmament' is welcome wisdom in our increasingly hard-hearted agnostic marketplace."


at 10% off

Saturday, June 02, 2007

York Sunday News op-ed piece on suburban sprawl and the erosion of beauty

A few years ago I was giving a major address at a large conference, and some old friends happen to be in the audience. Later they told me they were wagering on how many books or authors I'd mention in my hour-long talk. They figured they lose count with my name-dropping, book-citing, and author-quoting style.

I don't know about that time, but in my recent op-ed piece in our local York Sunday News column, I cited three books and one on-line article. Not bad for 800 words. The piece was about suburban sprawl and the erosion of beauty. "How does a community steward the aesthetic dimension of life?" I asked, moving my rant from a local political matter to the data about concrete and the dangers of sprawl, to the less tangible questions of charm in urban design, architecture and a region's natural and build environment.

There were other authors that I didn't cite such as Calvin Seerveld that, had space permitted, would have upped my citation quotient. (Anybody betting should know I've got to talk books.) On the question of the way God's world is structured and ordered with an aesthetic dimension "built-in", (and a human response-ability hard-wired in as well) Seeveld's Rainbows for the Fallen World is my favorite text. I wish I would have cited him in the paper as he calls us to attend to the allusive and suggestion-rich nature of human culture-forming. He shows how an opened up attentiveness to this can help us live more richly, as God intends.

I hope readers can see a multi-dimensional approach in my opinion piece in the paper, inviting regional planners and the citizenry to care about open spaces with scenic vistas, CO2 emissions, as well as the charm of our buildings; the beauty of local streams and the joys of roadside markets. Seerveld writes about aesthetics and the arts, but this call to attend to this dimension in everyday life comes directly from Rainbows. I hope you read my article. It is, after all, only 800 words. But I do cite a coupla books. Read it here.

The book I didn't cite, but should have, and three great ones that I did:

Rainbows for the Fallen World Calvin Seerveld (Toronto Tuppence Press) $22

The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Man Landscape James Howard Kunstler (Touchstone) $15
Home From Nowhere: Remaking Our Everyday World for the 21st Century
James Howard Kunstler (Touchstone) $15
Sidewalks in the Kingdom: New Urbanism and the Christian Faith
Eric O. Jacobsen (Brazos) $18.99