Scott Morris books at the Parish Nursing conference

Today we were selling
books at a local Parish Nursing conference, an event we do every year, an
event that inspires us as we hear of good folks doing innovative work in the
local church.  It is a delightfully
ecumenical event, with Mennonites mixing with Methodists, conservative
Catholics and liberal Episcopalians. 
I’m not sure who first came up with the idea of parish-based
nurses—probably Lutherans—but this event is a delight.

There is the aspect of thinking
Christianly about a field of science (nursing and health care), missional vision casting as they consider how to serve projects arising from vibrant congregational life, and the practical good that we
see—folks who care for others in their illnesses, chronic pain, grief and
sadness.  Congregations that hire parish nurses often have a good number of older members, or elderly neighbors, so they are attentive to the spirituality of aging; yes, to issues of hospice, death, and dying. This is salt of the earth work, and we are humbled to offer resources for them. 

Obviously, we need those
who are involved in health care in any venue to think Christianly and act with
spiritually-based integrity and innovation — that is the weight of the offer we make here, often, inviting everyone to read about their careers and callings in so-called secular jobs or public institutions.  But seeing folk do this within a
local church is very nice indeed.  We have
quite a few books on spiritually-informed health care, books about the human
body, Christian critiques of how we think of medicine, and, of course, books on
the ministry of prayer and healing. 
From the Catholic gem The Nursing’s Calling: A Christian Spirituality of Caring for the Sick by Mary Elizabeth O’Brian or The Healer’s Calling: A Spirituality for Physicians and Other Health Care Professionals by Daneil Sulmasy (both Paulist Press; $12.95) to a very thoughtful one we often recommend, Reclaiming the Body: Christians and the Faithful Use of Modern Medicine by Brian Volck and Joel Schuman (Brazos Press; $22.00) we enjoy sharing these kinds of books, and are glad for friends at the
Parish Nursing event who care about them.



The main speaker today
was a real saint, a guy who we have heard of often over the years.morris.jpg  Perhaps you have heard of Scott Morris,
too.  Paraclete Press released a
book years ago that he wrote about his Memphis, Tennessee, urban health clinic; his
mentor William Sloan Coffin mentions him in his own lovely memoir, Credo.
Philip Yancey dedicates an eloquent chapter to him in the excellent What Good Is God? a recent book which we’ve
raved about more than once.   Morris is known for founding the Church
Health Center
in Memphis. The center, formed in 1987 to
provide healthcare for working, uninsured people, and has grown to
become the largest faith-based clinic of its type in the United States.

To see a Christian family practice doctor, who serves an under-served population, whose
work is endorsed by such a wide array of folks, from charismatics who write on health and Godly wellness to mainline Bible scholars like Walter Brueggemann, to prestigious faith-based scientists
like Harold Koenig, M.D. of the Duke University Medical Center, well—-he’s our kind of guy!  And he has written a set of guidebooks for taking charge of various medical issues, and a great, basic book (more on that in a bit), one with a bit of cultural diagnosis, a bit of Biblical vision, and a whole lot of good medical sense.  Phyllis Tickle, known for being one of the most astute readers of our time, rarely says this about a book but she has said that “every single person” should read his book — especially those whose work impacts our health, such as “politicians, clerics, social workers, insurance executives, physicians or medical administrators.” 
So Dr. Mo was the right guy to bring the message today about the need to localize our health care and re-imagine what it could be like to work on daily preventive health and changing the nature of health care services.  Local churches are key to public health, and his free clinic is a great example. And (wow!) does he know a lot about the art and science of wellness.   Geesh, this guy is like Patch Adams, almost, although he is a solid ordained United Methodist clergyman as well. And doesn’t wear a funny clown nose.

We hope you enjoy knowing about this Central Pennsylvania event (maybe it will inspire you
to consider starting something like a parish nursing ministry in your church, or getting others
together to learn more, praying and brainstorming a bit, perhaps scheming up starting some clinic to meet needs in your community.)  And, of course, we thought you might like to purchase
some of the great books we have left over from the event.  There’s not too many left, but we have to tell you about them — on sale for 25% off, good for one week, or until we run out. 



What was
especially fun was that we got a large shipment of a brand spanking new book
about health care and congregation culture, a splendid read, that when we
ordered it, didn’t even quite realize that it was mostly about Dr. Morris!  Morris himself told everybody to get it as it really does do a great job raising questions about health care in our time.

This pale reproduction doesn’t do the cover art justice.  Sorry.  It’s very striking.

Dustd-b.jpg & Breath: Faith, Health — and Why the Church Should Care About Both is written by Kendra Hotz, Matthew Mathews, and Gary Guderson (Eerdmans; $14.00.) This great new book makes a very, very
important case, in truly lovely prose, inspired by Morris’ story and including
reflections for his own journal, that God’s church simply must be involved in
caring wholistically for the needs of people.  Not only are initiatives like parish nursing helpful to equip
and encouraging church members to live in greater wellness and health, but our
missional vision should compel us to reach out with social projects that aid
the poor, that advocate for normative proposals for public health.  Yes, the church must help us deepen our faith, enhance our health, and care about it all, seeing how we are to be stewards of all God has given us, including our bodies, health, relationships and such.  This little book is truly fantastic, and we have it at a good discount, hoping to get a buzz going about it.  It is the kind of book that could get lost, I’m afraid, but it really deserves to be widely read and considered.  We are among the first to promote it.  Don’t you know somebody who might care about such a book?  Hope so!  Order it now at 25% off, making it just $10.50.



Ggod health.jpgod, Health, and Happiness: Discover Wholeness in Body and Spirit Scott Morris (Barbour
Books) $5.99

We don’t often
promote such inexpensive, handy mass market paperbacks, but this is a slightly
abridged version of Morris’ earlier hardback, Health Care You Can Live With: Discover Wholeness in Body and Spirit (Barbour; $19.95) which we also have stocked. With our BookNotes discount, you can
afford to give out a few of these inexpensive paperbacks, although the expanded hardback might be best for a lending library.  The perspective and great information Dr. Morris brings is something you need, I’m sure of it! It is very, very responsible — not quite the radical organic living perspective of, say, Dr. Jospeh
but certainly a bit more insightful and useful than standard old-school
AMA or industry approaches. (And, happily,
even the most traditional docs these days are aware of the usefulness of complimentary
medicine and are open to more wholistic approaches, even prayer and spirituality, which is
increasingly recognized as a proven asset for healthy living.)  So, we’re fans, and love this little
book as well as the good hardback.


Morris’s health care
clinic of course grapples with big issues of urban poverty, racism,not all of us.gif
homelessness and the like.  It
shouldn’t have surprised us that he cites Not All of Us Are Saints: A Doctors Journey With the Poor by David
Hilfiker (Hill & Wang; $21.00) which is still one of the great books about service to the
dispossessed I have ever read. (He also inspired friends in both Pittsburgh and Philly to open Christ-centered practices, clinics oriented towards the poor and uninsured.) Obviously, the systemic problems of urban poverty are
multi-faceted and illustrate the great injustices of race and class in our culture.

(Although Morris wasn’t addressing this, he might have: see, just for one powerful example,fire in a.gif Jonathan Kozol’s new Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-five Years Among the Poorest Children in America [Crown; $27.00] for how
unjustly inequitable resource distribution in funding schools in America—what
in another book he calls “savage inequalities”—leads to all manner of
hardships in the lives of children. 
As I’ve reviewed elsewhere, this new Kozol book is exceptionally riveting and so very urgent.  In it, he follows up on some of the
people he so passionately wrote about in earlier books, giving us another
glimpse into the nature of the lives of the poor in our land.  He speaks the truth, up close and tender, and we should pay attention.)


In this God, Health, and Happiness: Discover Wholeness in Body and Spirit — guidebook for healthy living, mostly, Dr. Morris does not write much about his inner city clinic or his insights about public
health.  He is at heart an ordinary family
doctor and he cares about his patients well-being, helping them learn about what constitutes healthy eating, sensible but important stuff that we need explained, and new insights about how the body works.  He offers solid medical insight framed by a mature Christian
worldview, and his counsel is pleasant, helpful, and even inspiring. We need books like this, I am sure of it.


And, as I said, he does offer solid practical information. For instance, check out
these five small books, colorful, upbeat, practical and faithfully produced.  He put these together and they are just great.  We sold a bunch of these today and the parish nurses and pastoral counselors were really impressed about how inviting and interesting they were.  Each one includes a wonderful story of a real person, and walks you through the journey of a 40-day plan for step-by-step improvement.  I won’t tell you more about each one, but they are excellent, fun to look through, and very motivational. While supplies last, we have them at 25% off–now just $5.99 each.

40 - 1.jpg

40 - 2.jpg40 - 3.jpg

40 - 4 .jpg

40 - 5.jpg

These five small paperbacks are colorfully designed and really nicely produced — better than, say, Prevention, or other similar resources.  They are really interesting.  They guide you through information and action plans,  helping you achieve a God-inspired, balanced, wellness.  The first is on diabetes, the second on depression, the third shown is hypertension while the fourth covers various aspects of optimal health. The fifth, shown here, is about weight management and eating better.  All are very, very nice.

Each regularly sells for $7.99 but at our 25% discount they are only $5.99 each.  This offer is good for one week only, until October 5th.


Health, Healing and the Church’s Mission: Biblical Perspectives and Moral Prioritiehealth, healing and the church's mission.jpgs Willard Swartley (IVP) $24.00  We reviewed this a month
or so ago and won’t belabor it here, but we did feature this, as you might
expect, at the parish nursing event.  Again, it is just tremendous to
have a skilled New Testament scholar reflect deeply on insights about health
and wholeness, prayer and miracles, medicine and congregational life, healthcare and the public good.   Swartley has written an
interdisciplinary book that, frankly, ought to be read by folks in most
every congregation in the land!  It is that good, and so important to our life in these times. 
Who among us doesn’t get sick, doesn’t long for greater health, doesn’t
desire to understand wellness in deeply faithful ways? Who among us hasn’t heard that our current health-care system is changing, for better or worse, and that we need as much Godly wisdom as we can muster?  What does God’s gift of shalom and the
gospel’s fruit of reconciliation imply for our health, for our approach to
health care? What does the Bible say about healing, about wholeness, about caring for the sick?  The times are growing more urgent on these matters, and this mature book is a help, perhaps helping us understand the famous “balm in Gilead.” At our 25% discount offer — good until Friday, October 5th — you can nab this at the sale price of $18.00.

any book mentioned

25% off
while supplies last

Offer good until October 5, 2012.
order here
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inquire here
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Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street  Dallastown, PA  17313     717-246-3333








Selling books at Leadership Together — and why young adults buy these kinds of books!

next c.jpgDo you remember a month ago, in my essay preceding the list of books about vocation and work, I
noted that many young adults are interesting in relating faith and career, that
the integration of spirituality and daily discipleship is essential in their
way of doing faith.  (As it should
be for us all, eh?)  I suggested that ordinary churches should be thinking about this, and perhaps buy some of the books we listed.  I noted that there is much about this and one very specific chapter in the fabulous The Next Christians by Gabe Lyon (Multnomah; $14.99) which I think is must reading. And that the important book You Lost Me by David Kinnaman (Baker; $17.99)
documents how a lack of intentional theological conversation aboutyou-lost-me-book-kinnaman-big-291x400.jpg work, art,
science and the like is one of the reasons some young adults drift from church
involvement.  Again, this is a very useful book and we highly recommend it for a number of reasons, not least because of how it reminds of us of importance of this topic of work and calling and thinking creatively about our lives in the marketplace.  


I have relentlessly
talked and taught about this for decades, and there are times (if I may be honest) when I grow
weary: will a work-world revival, or, at least, for starters, a renewed
interest in labor from church quarters, develop and grow in our time?  Should we quite trying to sell books
about vocation, give up on the talk about developing a uniquely Christian
perspective on our various callings and careers?  As I’ve hinted from time to time, these books don’t sell as
well as we might wish, even though few people deny their importance.  We are glad for our best mail order
customers, and glad for those who pursue these kinds of topics.  But I do get discouraged.  I sometimes lay awake and wonder about
our internet work: is there anybody out there?  How can we inspire folks to take up more of these very inspiring and useful books.  I have to admit, I sigh a lot these days…


Well.  I received a wonderful gift of
encouragement this weekend, and want to celebrate it with, since I suspect that you, too, care about these things, and will be glad for some encouraging news.  I want to tell (again) of the extraordinary work of
my colleagues and friends in the campus ministry organization, the CCO
(Coalition for Christian Outreach.) Being around their staff is always energizing!  I just got back from a shindig they put
on in Northwestern Pennsylvania and I want to tell you just a bit about it. You may be interested to know what
books sold at this conference.


leadership together.jpgFor the fourth
consecutive year, CCO hosted a gathering of about 200 students from
colleges around Northwestern Pennsylvania—-if you are from around here, you
know them: Allegheny, Slippery Rock,  Edinboro, Butler
County Community College, Clarion, Penn State Barons, a branch of Pitt up at
Bradford, and more.  Some are
overtly evangelical and Reformed colleges like Grove City and Geneva, some are
church-related like Westminster and Gannon, a Catholic school in Erie.  Most, though, are state universities or community colleges
and the students attending “Leadership Together” were hearing about relating
faith and learning, integrating worldview and one’s collegiate way of life, in
fresh and perhaps new ways.  I
can’t wait to share with you some of the books they bought. 


Three of us were honored
to be the main stage presenters, and each of us ruminated on oneIn-the-Name-of-Jesus-9780824512590.jpg of the three
temptations faced by Jesus as explained in Henri Nouwen’s wonderful little book
In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership (Crossroads; $14.95.)  The late Father Nouwen, tempered by his move from
Harvard to L’Arche (a shared community household including the able bodied and
the mentally challenged and handicapped), reminds us in this poignant little
book of the Devil’s efforts to seduce Jesus–and us!  It is tempting (especially in this setting, eager young
adults, wanting to make a fruitful Christian witness at their postmodern
colleges, transforming the world, you know) to try to make faith relevant.  Or to over-do our efforts to be
popular.  And to try to grasp for
power, rather than being led by the Spirit of God in the ways of Christ.  Oooh, that was my topic, and it was
more difficult for me to speak about this than those listening may have

You see, for God’s greater glory
and the grand hope of wanting to love our neighbors and world well, I want
sharp and innovative Christians to have power.  Oh, I know we aren’t to be like the Taliban, and I can
critique the culture wars “take over” mentality with the best of them.  But, I told the students, I am such a
booster of the CCOs Jubilee conference and advocate reading these sorts of
books about faith and public life so very much because I want do want some sort
of power.  I want to help people be
salt and light and leaven in our needy world, and make a difference.  Yes, truth be told, I am tempted by the
idol of power.  Having to preach on
Nouwen’s rejection of worldly power-mongering, of naming the “gospel of
weakness” and citing passages like Mark 10 (and Jesus’ nonviolence when it
mattered most, in the garden and cross) was a vivid reminder for me that we are
to be leaven, a bit of light, but not heavy handed holy warriors.  As Nouwen reminds us, “it is easier
to want to control people than to love people.”  


If I may, I
would suggest that reading deeply and well allows us to be shaped into the
character and ways of Christ and thinking seriously about how His upside
Kingdom informs how we go about our daily living is one way to prepare for the
proper use of power. We have to hold out a vision of wanting to make a
relevant, winsome difference, but all of those idols can seduce us into doing
the Lord’s work in the wrong ways. 
We want to raise up a savvy group of leaders, but they must be servant
leaders.  Reading books like we
suggest, I think, can help prepare us for this task. 


So, it was great having
the chance to set up a book display–table after table—to help students consider
faithful and properly relevant ways of serving God in all of life.  They were invited to be counter-cultural
in tone and style and methods, but to realize the broad scope of our missional
outreach, living in God’s gracious newness, from the boardroom to the bedroom,
as they say, from how we think about sports to how we think about shopping,
from art to business to engineering to relating to popular culture.  And they were truly interested — it
was inspiring listening in to their table conversations as they developed “take
away” goals and ideas.  Some of
them were even citing Henri Nouwen and seemed to me to be speaking beautifully “in
the name of Jesus.”


Just in case you think
I’m making this stuff up, here are some of the books we sold at the CCOs
“Leadership Together.”  Of course
we sold books on leadership, several on relationships, a few on apologetics (Lee Stroble’s A Case
for Christ
and A Case for Faith, Tim Keller’s The Reason for God) not to mention regulars on
prayer and spirituality (The Praying Life bynot-a-fan.jpg Paul Miller and Sacred Rhythms by
Ruth Haley Barton, for instance.) 
Naturally, they picked up popular evangelical books from the category we
call basic Christian growth—Crazy Love, Love Does, Radical, Not a Fan, Blue
Like Jazz, Discipleship Essentials
and Undead: Revived, Resuscitated Reborn by Clay Morgan (Abingdon; $15.99), a very cool new book working on the zombie
theme).  And we often sell books on
social concerns—fighting sexual trafficking, say, or titles like the very
compelling Following Jesus Through the Eye of the Needle by Kent Annan (IVP; $16.00) (interestingly, a student standing next to the person buying that one raved about it; she had read his other one written after the earthquake in Haiti, Unshaken, as well.  It’s great when a reader does my job for me, telling about hos she loved a book.)  We sold a copy of  Zealous
Love: A Practical Guide to
Zealous Love.jpg Social Justice edited by Michael Yankoski  (Zondervan; $16.99) maybe because Bob col rm.jpgGoff has a chapter in it.  One student picked
up, out of the blue, not noting my endorsement on the back cover, Colossians
Remixed: Subverting the Empire
by my friends Sylvia Keesmaat & Brian Walsh
(IVP; $23.00.) I almost kissed her when she said it just looked really
challenging, and she was up for that.


We were obviously glad for these solid purchases, for the wide and relevant interests they represent.  But these young adults really seemed to be drawn to be, as Nouwen puts it, “formed in the
mind of Christ” as it related to their future careers.  Maybe it is because they don’t see
these books at other Christian bookstores, or maybe they don’t hear much about this
in their home churches.  Of course
I highlighted these themes, and their CCO workers and mentors maybe guided them
just a bit.  But, still, I was
profoundly encouraged by these sales. 
I still wonder why we don’t sell these day in and day out, but for now,
I’m glad for the idealism and vision and vibrancy of the students of Leadership



making-difference-christian-educators-in-public-schools-donovan-l-graham-paperback-cover-art.jpgOne education major bought
Christian Teachers in the Public Schools: 13 Essentials for the Classroom by Dalene
Vickery Parker (Beacon Hill Press; $12.99) and another chose Making a
Difference: Christian Educators in Public Schools
by Donavan L. Graham
(Purposeful Design; $21.99.) Both of these are quite good and surprisingly,
there aren’t too many books like this out there.  I showed Education for Human Flourishing: A Christian
by Paul Spears & Steven Loomis (in the IVP Christian Worldview
Integration Series; $22.00) to one young lady, but I think it seemed a bit
much—-I can’t blame her, it is heavy. But, wow.  What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the
by poetry slam sensation (and former urban, middle school teacher) Taylor
Mali isn’t particularly religious, but it seems to please a gal doing her
student teaching soon. We were glad to sell it. It is published by Putnam
($19.95.)  Google his youtube
spoken word piece called “What Teachers Make” (and, while your at it, the
spectacular “Speak with Conviction”) if you dis and the gos.jpg don’t know him.


As a former speech pathology
major myself, I was happy to meet a speech and hearing major.  And she was interested to see  a few special education themed
books.  For instance, Disabilities
and the Gospel: How God Uses Our Brokenness to Display His Grace
by Michael
Beates (Crossway; $15.99.) Warmed my heart, I must say.


language of faith and science.jpgA science major was
thrilled when I described Francis Collins as the former head of the Human
Genome Project and he snapped up his co-authored (with Karl Giberson) The
Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions
$20.00.) It wasn’t the only book on science we sold, and I was glad to see a
guy pick up another favorite, the reformationally-minded Science and Grace: God’s
Reign in the Natural Sciences
by Tim Morris & Don Petcher of Covanant
College (Crossway; $17.99.)  I’m not sure we sold any this time, but we did have some books about technology, Christian insights about engineering, and Mathematics Through the Eyes of Faith by Russell Howell & James Bradley (HarperOne; $19.99.)  Love the religious conversation about that STEM stuff.


green-like-god.jpgMy friend Jonathan
Merritt’s first book Green Like God: Unlocking the Divine Plan for Our Planet
FaithWorks; $16.99) was stacked up, and at least one environmental science
major got one. It wasn’t the only book we had on creation care, but I remember
selling Merritt’s.  Yay.

I have to admit we haven’t sold many of these yet, but one customer couldn’t believe his eyes: a serious and obviously well informed book on urban planning, new urbanism, and what some are calling “the built environment.”  I have reviewed a bit already, and will again, that book that caught his attention: Thespace between.jpg Space Between: A Christian Engagement with the Built Environment by Eric O. Jacobsen (Baker Academic; $22.99.)  


We sold a couple of books
on sports, like the small Game Day for the Glory of God by Stephen Altrogge (Crossway; $9.99) and The Reason for
Sports: A Christian Fanifesto
by Ted Kluck (Moody Press; $13.99.) I tried to sell The Long Snapper by Jeffrey Marx, and of course his book about Joe Ehrmann, TheSeason-of-Life-9780743269742.jpg Season of Life (Simon & Schuster; $21.00.)   I heard that the one fellow was a
collegiate athlete, another a big fan. 
One gal got the brand new Men of Sunday: How Faith Guides the Players,
Coaches and Wives of the NFL
by Curtis Eichelberger (Nelson; $15.99) as a gift
for somebody she knew.  Nice.


whybusinessmatterstogod.jpgBusiness majors, and an
accounting major, found Why Business Matters to God (And What Still Needs to be
by Jeff Van Duzer (IVP; $20.00) and Business for the Common Good: A
Christian Vision for the Marketplace
by Kenman Wong and Scot Rae (IVP; $24.00)
both of which are very substantial.  A thoughtful fellow studying finance looked at The Crisis and
the Kingdom: Economics, Scripture and the Global Financial Crisis
by British
economist and pastor, E. Phil Davis (Cascade/Wipf & Stock; $18.00.)  It is the only book like it, and I was
so proud to have it there, and so glad somebody cared. 


One open-minded student
admitted being a bit confused about contemporary politics.  She

just politics.jpgleft, right & Christ.jpg purchased the back-and-forth
discussion of Right, Left and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics co-authored
by Lisa Sharon Harper & D.C. Innes (Russell Media; $22.99.)  I was really jazzed that two students got
Ronald Sider’s excellent, comprehensive, Just Politics: A Guide for Christian
(Baker; $19.99.) One was a politico, it seemed, but the other just
wanted to learn.  She admitted to
never really thinking about how her own faith would inform her voting. Thanks
be to God.  That’s why we do this
work, folks….ya know?

We sold a copy or two of
the Student’s Guides in the “Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition”
series that I wrote about a month ago. 
We sold the fantastic  one
called Literature by Louis Markos and the one called Political Thought by Hunter Baker. These are published
by Crossway and sell for just $11.99 each.  Speaking of those little guides, I can’t tell you how excited
I was to have the newest one in the series, Philosophy: Aphilosophy a student's guide.jpg Student’s Guide by my very good
friend, and esteemed philosophy prof from the great program at Dallas Baptist
University, David K. Naugle. It is the fifth in the “Student’s Guides series published by Crossway; $11.99.) 
David—a great teacher, and dear mentor to many—had graced me with an
advance peek at some of this, and it is excellent.  Not just for philosophy majors, I think every serious-minded
student should get this.  And—I’m
not just saying this—the first chapter or two are worth the price of the
book.  Anybody interested in the
life of the mind or intellectual things should read this.  This whole project about the
integration of faith and scholarship, and what it means to have the mind of
Christ about the academic world, well, it is the best.  So we were glad to have a stack of
’em.  I don’t have to tell you that
this isn’t the sexiest title on the table, and the word philosophy may scare
some people away.  As I told one
student, this is as painless a way into this grand tradition of relating faith
and philosophy as one is going to find.


transforming care.jpgWe sold a copy of
Transforming Care: A Christian Vision of Nursing Practice by Mary Molewyk
Doornbos, Ruth Groenhout and Kenra Hotz (Eerdmans; $24.00) who are thoughtful
scholars from Calvin College.  We have other books on health care, of course.

We sold at least one on the arts; it is always fun when artists see stuff like Calvin Seerveld, or the many titles published by Square Halo Books or God in the Gallery: A Christian Embrace of Modern Art (by Dan Siedell) or even the wonderful older book by Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. I  talked with a
film-studies major about Romanowski and Overstreet.  We sold one of the brand new book of prayers for writers, a delightfully
edited book by Gary D. Schmidt & Elizabeth Stickney called Acceptable
Words: Prayers for Writers
(Eerdmans;ac words.jpg $16.00)  which is a delight for anyone who loves reading or writing—you may know Schmidt as a popular YA novelist.  We had some other books on lit and writing, sold one which was a religious exploration of Harry Potter, although that student maybe wasn’t even a lit major.   And what a joy to have a young woman pick up the new The Terrible Speed of Mercy: A Spiritual Biography of Flannery O’Connor by Jonathan Rogers (Nelson; $15.99.)

We sold one book that we took on semiotics — Changing
Signs of Truth: A Christian Introduction to the Semiotics of Communications
, fabulously written by the fabulous Crystal Downing, of Messiah College,  published audaciously by IVP Academic for $24.00 changing signs.jpg— to a communications major. 
A lively, heavy Christian book on
postmodern semiotics — are you kidding me?  Getting to show off this kind of stuff is, as the kids say,
ridiculous!  What a joy!   


I have a hunch that for
some of these students, they were buying these resources because they’ve been
nurtured, over a year or so by CCO friendships, by last year’s Leadership
Together event, by being at the big Jubilee conference in Pittsburgh in February, maybe the Ocean City Beach
Project or a CCO outdoor wilderness trip, perhaps by reading our blog, even.  Like anyone might be in your own circles
of influence, these kids were stepping up to what they’ve been hearing about,
taking the advice of friends, being enfolding into Christian practices like
Christian reading about vocation and culture.  They are allowing a truly Christian worldview to become
their way of life, bit by bit. 
They bought books about various aspects of life and they wanted to glorify
God in fruitful, faithful ways in their life’s work.  They are getting it, because somebody is inviting them into
this Kingdom way of life.


This insight, that lasting growth comes in part through mentors and in friendships, remindsfabric of f.jpg me of another book we sold there on Friday night (in fact, one that was mentioned more than once from up front) Steve Garber’s Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior (IVP; $16.00.)  You know this is a thoughtful and important book, and we often commend it for serious readers.  If you want to get a flavor of the sorts of ways Steve gets all this said, earnestly and thoughtfully,  check out this short talk from Q Ideas.  His book comes up often in these conversations and the sort of people Steve has mentored and influenced indicates the caliber and importance of his eloquent book.

So, some students book books because they are being mentored, they are being discipled into intregal ways of missional living.  I hope being reminded of this (and hearing about the books such disciples are buying) encourages you to influence and mentor and teach others who are around you. 



Others, though, bought
books—or at least looked —for the first time ever.  Granted, reading Christianly, about
these sorts of things, may be a new thing.  Heck, these days, reading anything is a bit of a stretch for
some.  Yet, invited into faithful
leadership in the name of Jesus, they began the life-long journey, committing
themselves to what might be a new practice—reading a bit about something
they’ve never read about before. 
How about you?

Again, thanks to the CCO
for doing stuff like Leadership Together. And a special shout-out to friends at
Grove City College for hosting me so well in the days I was there, too.  We are grateful.

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Just War, Pacifism, and Evangelicals for Peace

Not sure why, but my blog platform stopped allowing me to post pictures, and I didn’t quite get this post finished.   I apologize for the text-heavy reading, here, but it is important, and I worked a while writing these reflections of the EfP conference and describing just some of the books we recommended there.  If you want to see the book covers, you can find them at the publisher’s websites, or google images, but do come back and order them from us.  Thanks!  Click on the links below to order, at our special BookNotes 20% off discount.  We show the regular prices in the review, but will deduct the discount for you when you order.

Perhaps the word I’m looking for is ironic. Or poignant. Timely, certainly works; relevant, spot-on. Providential?  Yes, providential.

If you look carefully you can see our books against the back wall under the lights.
evangelicals-for-peace-summit.jpgEven while the world’s leading news story was the unfolding drama of the savage attacks on US Embassies throughout the Arab world, inspired by stupid anti-Islamic propaganda, a group of us gathered in a small hall at Georgetown University to discuss and debate and learn about the Biblical call to peacemaking.  A major theme of the Evangelicals for Peace conference was Christian-Muslim relations and  speakers included former missionaries to Muslims and relief and development activists who, in fact, have friends throughout the Arab world. Even as we were listening to presentations, asking questions, confabbing away, one speaker was on his cell phone, talking to contacts at Al Jarzeera, begging them to restrain their descriptions of the offensive movie.  He at least got them to stop calling it an “American” film, which he had reason to believe might stop some of the rioting, maybe even save some lives.  Our speakers, our questions, our prayers, and our conversations were weighted with a sense of urgency.
And gladness.  For many of us it is rare to hear such a clear witness to the peaceful ways of Christ’s Kingdom, rare to hear evangelicals, especially, with such morally serious and politically sophisticated insights.
And what a joy for me to get to talk about Yoder and Kuyper (yes, he came up!) and Hauerwas, etcetera.  And to showkingdom-ethics-following-jesus-in-contemporary-context-david-p-gushee-hardcover-cover-art.jpg off titles like Ron Sider’s new book Just Politics: A Guide for Christian Engagement (Baker; $19.99) and to commend Lisa Sharon Harper’s pro-Democratic back and forth conversation with a political conservative, Left, Right & Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics, co-authored by Kings College political science prof D.C. Innes (Russell Media; $22.99.) We think the world of the excellent study Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context by Glen Stassen and David Gushee (IVP; $35.00) and enjoyed stacking ’em up with both authors there.  I only wish we had sold more. It’s a great book. 
After a few muffled “amens” were heard during one of the impressive keynotes, I whispered to Dave Gushee, “Can’t an academic conference also be a bit of a gospel revival?”  How great that an event designed to help us struggle with questions of global conflict resolution, even when religious differences are at the heart of those conflicts, is also quite intentional about naming the Name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.  Glory, Hallelujah, indeed!
Several perspectives and voices and vantage points were prevalent at the Evangelicals for Peace conference.  That it was mostly organized by Rick Love, founder of Peace Catalyst International was evident: there were different sorts of leaders—scholars and activists and missionaries, and a delightful mix of views, Reformed, Anabaptist, charismatic, mainline, and others.
We were taught by scholarly but passionate ethicists like Stassen (Fuller Theological Seminary), Gushee (Mercer University) and Eric Patterson (Georgetown University, Regent University.)  They presented heavy-duty lectures, clear and interesting, theologically foundational with huge implications for policy.
Lisa Sharon Harper, an old IVCF friend, now active in mobilizing folks for Sojourner’s, kept it real as she talked about the Biblical call to peacemaking and preached a bit about her own evangelically-guided sense of shalom.  Although she tilts to the left, I like the title of her book, Evangelical Does Not Equal Republican or Democrat (The New Press; $24.95.) It carries a nice forward by John Perkins.  
There were think-tank scholars who serve as citizen diplomats, working in partnership, even, with the State Department and the Pentagon. Douglas Johnston (President of the International Center for Religion & Diplomacy) has taught courses for our own diplomatic corps on how to be more aware of global religions and has shown in book after book how a lack of religious awareness has caused us to miss cues, creating havoc all over the world.  Recently he has been teaching even in the infamously militant madrasahs of Pakistan; I don’t know if I have ever heard anyone speak that had first-hand friendships with Jihadists and it was extraordinary, and heartening!  Of course not all madrasahs are ultra-conservative or related to Islamic fundamentalism, let alone breeding ground for terrorists.  Yet some are, and it is remarkable that Johnston, who is so esteemed as a scholar, is helping strategic people understand respectful ways to approach faith, even in diplomatic work. His most famous books are Religion: The Missing Dimension in Statecraft (Oxford University Press; $50.00) and the edited collection Faith-Based Diplomacy Trumping Realpolitik (Oxford University Press; $22.95.) His latest book, which he himself nicely explained, is called Religion, Terror, and Error: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Challenge of Spiritual Engagement  (Praeger; $49.99) which is a handbook on these things for anyone who works in international affairs.
Similarly, Joseph Cumming, the Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture Reconciliation Program, has extraordinary contacts in the Muslim world, doing profound work building bridges of collaboration with Muslims, Christians Jews—perhaps you know the important book The Common Word: Muslims and Christians on Loving God and Neighbor edited by Miroslov Volf and Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad Bin Talai (Eerdmans; $14.00.) That came out of the Yale Center and has proven to be very fruitful. Cumming has a chapter in it.  What a delight to have an evangelical (and former missionary) at the helm of a prestigious think-tank at Yale.  Doors have opened for him, and he is doing incredibly important work.
Most of us
were very deeply touched by Lisa Gibson, Executive Director of the Peace &life-in-death-lisa-gibson-paperback-cover-art.jpg Prosperity Alliance. A charismatic Christian attorney, her simple message of forgiveness offered to the Libyan terrorists who killed her brother (murdered in the PanAm Flight 103 that explode over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988)—earnestly told in Life in Death: A Journey From Terrorism to Triumph (Xulon; $15.99)—moved us all.  That she now does workshops on forgiveness all over the world, including in Libya (and had a rare race-to-face encounter with Muammar Gaddafi before his execution) is clearly an indication that God is blessing her, opening doors to preach the gospel, to talk of grace, and to call enemies to reconciliation.
It was a delight, and felt like an honor, to be around the wonderfully esteemed Mennonite gentleman missionary, David Shank, who has worked his whole life on these missiologicalshenk trio.jpg issues. He has had his book, co-authored with Badru Kateregga, A Muslim and Christian in Dialogue (Herald Press; $14.99) translated into Arabic, and he has been invited to share his it with radical Muslim leaders (who reported being astonished that a Christian could be so gracious, and that Jesus spoke so much about peace and love of enemy.) His Journeys of the Muslim Nation and the Christian Church: Exploring the Missions of Two Communities (Herald Press; $14.99) is nearly as classic and the riveting Teatime in Mogadishu: My Journey as a Peace Ambassador in the World of Islam by (Somalian convert to Christ) Ahmed Ali Haile as told to David Shenk (Herald Press: $14.99) is fabulously inspiring.  I hope you consider these, perhaps for a book group or adult ed class as they are really quite interesting.

transformation.gifAnd what a joy it was to recommend titles to Texas mega-church pastor and author Bob Roberts, whose books Transformation: How Glocal Churches Transform Lives and the World (Zondervan; $19.99) and Glocalization: How Followers of Jesus Engage a Flat World (Zondervan; $18.99) help ordinary churches reach out in more global ways.  We laughed about the word “glocal” which he borrowed from Len Sweet, who maybe swiped from VisaCard.  Check out his Domains video  to see how Rev. Roberts equips the folks in his Northway church to use their

ordinary job skills and workplaces–domains, he calls them—to

glocalization.gifserve the world.  His preaching and teaching this missional vision has paid off: the government of Viet Nam asked them to help create a curriculum to teach special education teachers; he is sending short term workers from his church to Afghanistan, too, doing simply extraordinary work. If you are inspired by that video idea, order his useful book Real-Time Connections: Linking Your Job with God’s Global Work (Zondervan; $16.99) which is pretty darn great. His flock are the real deal, doing stunning stuff in hard places.
And how we enjoyed the conservative Republican former Governor of SC, David Beesley, telling stories of talking about Jesus and the Koran with radical Muslims in Yemen.  His administrative assistant is an acquaintance of ours and even while we were talking books at the book display, his cell phone went off—it appeared that their flight to Yemen was on time: yes, despite the ugly and threatening uprisings there in the previous 24 hours, they were heading into the conflict zone.  Beesley is a real character, happy to admit he wasn’t very internationally astute, but that he knew the One who was: Jesus! 
And to think that the always-grumpy journalist Mark Tooley of the Institute of Religion and Democracy reported at Frontpage online that this was a lightweight gathering of lefty pacifists, complete with a snarky graphic shouting “surrender” as if the EfP was advocating a position (against whom?) of appeasement.  I thought of his disapproval of this event when one speaker said that it is often the case that those who are most vivid in their anger and alarm against the threat of radical Islam have never met any Muslims, let alone have  they ever been imprisoned or stoned by hostile Muslims, as he had been.  No, these EfP speakers did not romantically idealize “the other” or gloss over the violence of those who do grave injustices to others, enemy nations or violent terrorists.  Yes, there were concerns about religious freedom — of course, we had Paul Marshall’s must-read, sobering book about the growth of blasphemy laws and religious repression in Islamic countries called Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedom Worldwide (Oxford University Press; $35.00.) Many of the speakers at Evangelicals for Peace have indeed seen the harsh ugliness of human sin up close; there was little naïveté or political idealism (although there was confidence in the goodness of God and the hope of the gospel.)  There was, again, in the exciting conversations about building peace, a weight, an urgency, and a sense of realism and of the potential costs of our proposals.
Jim Wallis told us of the day he was with a church in Ohio, decades ago, doing a talk about peace-making. During his visit, he got word that Ocotol, a town in Nicaragua, had just been attacked and children massacred by U.S.-backed contra rebels.  As Jim reported the grim news to this congregation, they started to sob: some of them had recently been to Ocotol as part of the Witness for Peace efforts (where US Christians nonviolently went into war zones to serve as human buffers against the bombings) and so they had new friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, even, in that town. Did they survive, they wondered?  How was Manuel, or Roberta, or her little child, Sofia? (My own sister-in-law was with a Witness for Peace group when that massacre had happened, and they took bloody clothes of children to the U.S. Embassy, who mocked them. So the story was particularly poignant to Beth and me.)
Wallis’ point is a good one: as we do these kinds of ministries of reconciliation, as we travel in short-term mission trips and learn the names of others, even others that our government calls enemies, it changes everything.  Our view of international diplomacy, foreign policy, and warfare, is no longer abstract.  As we try to discern the truth of things, the best we can, we consider not just the briefings offered by the State Department or White House, but from friends on the ground, brothers and sisters who can give us feedback that is less colored by U.S. foreign policy goals.  Sometimes, our own friends are under assault and such a “human face” tempers us in profound, important ways.
Of course, this is stil
l tricky, and there are nonetheless differences of opinions about the ethics of violence, the role of military action and war.  And, among those who favor some military involvement, there are obvious disagreements as to when that is most appropriate or acceptable.  I have said before that our bookstore carries many books from a variety of viewpoints on these issues, even though few people seem to care to study much about such things.  It was an honor to display some of them at the EfP gathering, and we were glad to meet folks seriously rooted in the Biblical material about peacemaking and reconciliation. We were glad to learn more from those who have taken the gospel message, including its political implications, into hard places.  Scholars, activists, organizers, prayer-warriors, missionaries—what a gathering!
Two other speakers (besides the favorites I’ve mentioned) left their mark on the gathering.  Eric Patterson is an astute just war theorist, one who holds to the tradition’s legitimizing of state violence (often called “force” since it isn’t considered to be inappropriate orbetween p and j.jpg antinomian in this school of thought, so it to be considered differently than raw violence.) He reminded us quickly of the jus ad bello and the jus in bello criteria, and recommended the well-informed, no-nonsense book, War, Peace and Christianity: Questions and Answers From a Just-War Perspective by J. Daryl Charles & Timothy Demy (Crossway; $25.00) which we carry.  I somewhat prefer, by the way, and featured, Charles’ earlier book, Between Pacifism and Jihad: Just War and Christian Tradition (IVP; $21.00) as it seems to me to be written with less caricature of the pacifist view, a bit of a downfall of the feisty Crossway one. We stock most of the standard just war theory texts, too, Walzer, Elshtain, Weigel, James Turner Johnston and the like.

Patterson’s own academic books are quite astute, themselves, especially as he makes a major contribution regarding how the jwt relates to ending wars and their aftermath; see, for instance, his important edited collection Ethics Beyond War’s End (Georgetown University Press; $29.95) and the highly regarded, recent Ending Wars Well: Order, Justice, and Conciliation in Contemporary Post Conflict (Yale University Press; $55.00.)  It was good of the conference to have this heavy call to attend to the serious questions raised by the just war theory.  And it was good of Dr. Patterson to speak to this tradition within this gathering.
Glen Stassen also was very important as he implied that one need not be a hawkish just warJust-Peacemaking-9780829817935.jpg theorist that justifies nearly every war or a pure pacifist that refuses to engage the details of realpolitik.  Rather than endlessly debate the matter about violence, why not work together to find ways to actually reduce the likelihood of armed violence?  His edited volume–including 23 scholars, each offering a chapter on one of the just peacemaking principles—called Just Peacemaking: The new Paradigm for the Ethics of Peace and War (Pilgrim Press; $18.00) is a vital resource showing, from serious research, just what sort of things might happen to prevent warfare, to minimize injustices, to develop diplomatic pressures for human rights, all of which can help us find alternatives to war.  Some may derisively dismiss this as “crypto-pacifism” but it is a good start, I think.  Just war theorists and pacifists alike should agree that we should work to find solutions to conflict so that war would be, at least, usually, a last-ditch resort.
Stassen, by the way, has a new book coming out soon, and we are taking PRE-ORDERS forthicker jesus.jpg it at almost half price.  The publisher is giving us a bit of a deal, and we’re happy to pass the savings on to you.  For a just a few weeks, we are offering A Thicker Jesus: Incarnational Discipleship for a Secular Age (Westminster/John Knox; $25.00) at a special pre-publication price. If you order it now, it is $10.00 off — just $15.00.) I’ve read some of the early version and it is serious, intense even, and draws on Bonhoeffer a bit.
Here are a handful of other good books that illustrate this exact point, books that show that Christian peacemaking is viable, that the science of faith-based diplomacy is advancing, and that “overcoming evil with good” is not only a Bible mandate, but a sensible approach that, sometimes, it seems, actually works.  I think it is sad that these kinds of books—-proving that lives can be saved and faithful efforts can work—are so little known among us.  Spread the word, friends.  If most Christian bookstores don’t carry this kind of stuff, we have to try harder to get the news out: Christian peacemaking is alive and well.  God’s people are leading the way, in quiet and experimental ways, to help us deal with the human propensity towards violence.
Thanks to friends old and new at Evangelicals for Peace.  Thanks to co-sponsors Peace Catalyst, Evangelicals for Social Action, Sojourners, The New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, and the WEA.  May it be that through God’s merciful grace, we may be called—as promised in Matthew 5:9–the very children of God.

War: A Primer for Christians Joseph Allen (Southern Methodist University Press) $5.95  When asked for something basic and simple on this complex topic I often recommend this first of all.  The “crusades” chapter condemns holy war as unacceptable. Then the pacifist chapter seems to embrace nonviolence as the best Biblical option.  But wait, the just war theory is not only clear, but rather compelling.  Hmm.  Yep, he is fair and clear and allows readers to think it through for yourselves.  Not nearly enough, of course, but for an inexpensive, short primer it is nearly perfect.

Peacemaking: Resolving Conflict, Restoring and Building Harmony in Relationships: A Study Guide Dr. Rick Love (William Carey Library) $19.99  This is an 81/2 x 11 workbook style book, a fabulous Bible study guide and a thorough resource by a seasoned missionary and church planter.  Endorsements on the back are from David Powlison (a leader in the Biblical Counseling movement, formerly of Westminster Theological Seminary) and Dr. Greg Livingstone, founder of Frontiers and one of the great missionary figures of the last 40 years.  Love has searched the Scriptures well, and offers here 21 units (sessions) on all manner of instruction on how to be agents of God’s reconciliation, resolving conflict and building harmony in relationships.  A must for every church who wants to equip people to know how to act like Christians even in interpersonal conflict. Very positive, a wonderful gift for the church — not so much on international affairs or military concerns, but still a wonderful intro to the grand themes of shalom and reconciliation. 

Just War, Lasting Peace: What Christian Traditions Can Teach Us  edited by Dolores R. Leckey (Orbis) $16.00  There is much debate these days in some circles about the just war theory, and many of the most rigorous scholars are, well, exceptionally scholarly and quite detailed, seeming to some to be a bit too arcane to be inspiring for ordinary folks.  And, of courses, there is the common accusation that too often the theory is used to justify sadly gross things, civilian causalities and such.  (And, also, some make rude pot shots at all just war theories, as if they are merely glossing over all injustices and the horrors of war, a view that I find ill informed at best.)  Here, Catholic thinkers with a clear hope to inform lay people (there are good discussion questions to ponder) try to garner the jwt for peaceable purposes.  As R. Scott Appleby (of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at Notre Dame) writes, this book “brings together many of the leading authorities on the ethics of the use of force, makes their ideas accessible to a wide audience, shows them thinking on their feet in conversation with others, and provides a kind of “how to” manual for those who want to go deeper… this smart survey is a reliable and exacting starting point for an intellectual and moral journey that may inspire a lifetime vocation.”   
Just War as Christian Discipleship: Recentering the Tradition in the Church rather thanjw as cd.jpg the State  Daniel Bell, Jr. (Brazos) $21.99  Well, this is a book unlike most just war resources.  As Chaplain Lt. Col. Scott Sterling writes in the forward “Bell has written a book that I wish I had during my deployments…contributes to the Christian soldier’s desire to embody the principles as a lifestyle…”  Bell studied at Duke, teaches at a Lutheran seminary, and is ordained in the United Methodist church.  I know of know book that does what this does, and we highly recommend it for anyone studying this topic.  As Hauerwas says, Bell has “breathed new life into these debates…we are in his debt.”
Reborn on the Fourth of July: The Challenge of Faith, Patriotism and Conscience  Logan Mehl-Laituri (IVP) $15.00 My brief chat with Logan was one of the great pleasures of the conference for me, although pleasure might be overstating it.  You may recall my rave review of this important story in my summer list of favorite memoirs.  A serious soldier in Iraq as a forward observer/fire support specialist he had a change of conscience and applied for conscientious objector status.  After his discharge he was involved in peace-building efforts in Palestine (and involved with Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove in their “Gospel of Rutba” episodes.)  His testimony of embracing a nonviolent sort of discipleship, and a devout patriotism that calls into question hurtful nationalism, is riveting.  Regardless of your views on these volatile subjects, I highly recommend this book.  As he says, finally, it is not a book about war, it is a book about God.  Thank you, Logan, for the hard work it took to share this hard, hard stuff.
Alone with a Jihadist: A Biblical Response to Holy War Aaron D. Taylor (Foghorn Publishing) $18.95  Probably not too many people recognized Aaron Taylor when he was thanked from the main stage at Evangelicals for Peace.  Rick Love gave the shout out and noted that it was Aaron’s vision to do this, and his compelling plea that so touched Rick’s heart.  This is a stunning story, plainly told, and I cannot recount it all here.  The short version is that Taylor was a fundamentalist missionary, trying to convert Muslims.  We evangelicals, naturally, appreciate such missionary zeal and applaud those who risk much for the sake of the gospel.
Yes, but what happens if our approach is essentially hostile?  (Brian McLaren explores this in his own fascinating way in the brand new Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha  and Mohammad Cross the Road? Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World published by  Jericho; $24.95)  Well, Aaron, with the surprising help from a secular filmmaker, and seven solid hours in a room face to face with a Jihadist, came to realize that he was perhaps missing a profound love for his Islamic targets. He had to reevaluate his views of the Kingdom of God, the politics of the Middle East, the role of nationalism, and, supremely, the call of Christ to love even our enemies.  What an honest, powerful story, by one of the behind the scenes organizers of Evangelicals for Peace. Thanks be to God.
Just Policing, Not War: An Alternative Response to World Violence  Gerald Schlabach,just policing.jpg editor (Michael Glazier) $27.95 Schlabach is a Mennonite pacifist who has long been engaged not only in conflict resolution studies, but it fabulous conversations with just war theorist of the Roman Catholic tradition.  Here, he offers the mutually agreed upon legitimacy of policing as a paradigm for thinking about some common ground, a different model than the conventional military one.  There are serious ideas floated here, and solid debate.  There are ten good chapters, from Anabaptists and Jesuits, Presbyterians and Catholics, both more conservative and more liberal.  Nicely dedicated to both John Paul II and John Howard Yoder.

Transforming Violence: Linking Local and Global Peacemaking  Edited by Robert Herr & Judy Zimmerman Herr (Herald Press) $12.99  This is another excellent, mostly  (but not exclusively) Anabaptist, collection, pulled together expertly by old friends of ours from Pittsburgh.  Noted writers from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas weigh in on both the theories of conflict resolution and on specific case studies. The late Walter Wink has a chapter here as does the German Dorothee Soelle, both ecumenical, mainline Protestants.  Roman Catholic (although now orthodox) Jim Forest pens a good piece as do others who are involved in the international Fellowship of Reconciliation.  What a fine ecumenical conversation, both on the questions of violence and how to influence the world’s hurtful systems in ways that are faithful to the nonviolent ways of Jesus. Fascinating!
At Peace and Unafraid: Public Order, Security, and the Wisdom of the Cross  Edited by Duane Friesen & Gerald Schlabach (Herald Press) $19.99  This includes robust (Mennonite) peace theology, dozens of case studies of conflict resolution, and ways to consider the foolishness of the gospel and the need for justice, order, freedom and security. 21 chapters, 455 pages. Excellent.
Getting in the Way: Stories from Christian Peacemaker Teams  edited by Tricia Gates Brown (Herald Press) $18.99 There are other books on this, but this is the one to start with — stunning, honest accounts of those who boldly, in faith and humility, entered war zones to offer a Christian presence with victims, and to with their bodies say no to war.  These are thrilling, courageous and informative telling of ordinary women and men who do some
pretty amazing ministry.  This is vivid and harrowing and unlike nearly anything you’ve read before.
The Early Church on Killing: A Comprehensive Sourcebook on War, Abortion, and Capitol Punishment  edited by Ronald J. Sider (Baker Academic) $27.99  Harold Attridge of Yale Divinity School notes that it is “racing to be reminded of this cloud of witnesses from the early church of the value that early Christians places on human life.”  This is a definitive study, a sourcebook including bits from Christian writers before Constantine (The Didache, First and Second Clement, Tatian, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyprian, Lactantius and the like.) It includes relevant passages from the Church Orders and Synods, and describes the evidences of Christian soldiers before Constantine (and their martyrdom.)  It is historical research of excellent quality with, I’d think, considerable implications.  The acknowledgements are remarkable as he drew on help from Patristic scholars and translators who studied inscriptions.   It was neat at EfP running into Rob Arner whose Consistently Pro-Life: The Ethics of Bloodshed in Ancient Christianity (Pickwick) is cited in Sider’s valuable sourcebook.  Ron’s book, by the way, Christ and Violence (Wipf & Stock; $15.00) was the first book I ever reviewed professionally — back in the ’70s when my little review appeared in Sojourners.  It is still one of my favorite books, a compelling call to Biblical nonviolence, based, largely on Romans 5.  While we were yet his enemies, Christ died for us.  I am forever grateful for Ron’s solid exegesis and Christ-centered call to radical discipleship.  And I’m glad it is still in print.  Not sure how long it will remain available, so you should order one while you can.  Very, very clear and compelling.


any book mentioned

2O% off
order here
takes you to the secure Hearts & Minds order form page
just tell us what you want

inquire here
if you have questions or need more information
just ask us what you want to know

Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street  Dallastown, PA  17313

Beauty Given By Grace: The Biblical Prints of Sadao Watanabe

Beauty Given By Grace:
The Biblical Prints of Sadao Watanabe
Square Halo Books  $29.99  On Sale for $26.99.


I don’t know if it is wise to be so candid in my first line: I don’t know much about art.   Ibeauty given by grace.jpg have not traveled to the great
museums and we don’t have much good art in our own home.  We have been privileged to come to know
a few artists and have sold books at conferences and gatherings of groups such as
CIVA and IAM, so we feel close to their righteous efforts. I read a lot about the interface of Christianity and
the arts and have dabbled in studying theological aesthetics; we have more books on these topics in our
small town shop than most bookstores, I guess, and we have several big lists about Christianity and the arts at our website.  (See, here, for instance, or here or here.) 
But I am not schooled in the arts and not very experienced.


I don’t need to write much to convince the well-schooled art experts about the value of this stunning
new book featuring the brilliant work of the late Japanese print maker, Sadao Watanabe, as they already know of him and how impressive a new book about him must be.  The soon to launch
traveling exhibit which inspired this book, curated by Sandra Bowden and
sponsored by CIVA, is getting some good publicity, and the Mr. Watanabe
is, perhaps curiously, known all
over the world.  (His Bible scenes,
portrayed in traditional Japanese folk art prints, are displayed in the
Vatican, and have been in the White House; a large collection is housed at
Valiparaso University* and the World Council of Churches commissioned pieces
for their headquarters.  Many of the world’s finest museums show is work.  His art
has graced book covers and his calendars are in homes wherever Japanese people
have immigrated.)

*For those in the mid-West, the Brauer Museum of Art at Valiparaso University is also hosting this Fall an exhibit of their own large collection of Watanabe works.)


I am more interested,
however, in promoting this good book among those who may be unsure if it is a necessary purchase for them (given the long wish-lists and short budgets so many of us have.)  I’m eager to help persuade people who are…well, people like me, who are not terribly
well-schooled in the arts, to see the immeasurable value of this wonderful book,
and to invite you to celebrate (and assist) the publisher Square Halo Books in getting
this work to a broader audience.

It is, I want to announce, one of the great (if under the best-seller radar) publishing events of the year. 
That I sat outdoors at a nearby cafe and, embarrassed, quickly wiped
tears from my cheeks as I read, is some indication of my profound gratitude that a book
like this exists, and that we are privileged to sell it.  I hope you can share my joy in honoring this faithful
Christian culture-maker, the story and work of a man who came to Christian faith amidst the ugliness of
World War II and the grim post-war years.  He was baptized at age 17 after considerable investigation and internal struggle, and, once committed to Christ, offered his
talents and gifts to God for the next 60+ years.  


The book title itself is rich with meaning, beyond the obvious. Beauty Given By Grace is a line from one of Wantanabe’s early teachers, an intellectual mentor to a movement of Japanese print makers who founded an influential arts journal, uniting Buddhist principles of art, but often citing the West’s best spiritual traditions, the likes of Thomas Aquinas or even William Blake.   It was this “people’s philosopher,” Soetsu Yanagi, who wanted to recover “beauty in common things” and who called Wantanabe to a deep
humility and spiritual sensitivity, away from fame or the industrial/production
workshop methods.

This 111-page,  9″ x 12″ book is mostly a collection of brightly colored, intriguing,

Sadao-Watanabe-Flight-to-Egypt-300.jpg curious, (even funny, at
times) Bible pictures.  As a
coffee-table type art book, it excels—great printing, glossy paper, expertly
designed and arranged with color on every page! It will be a lovely addition to your end-table stack (and as I suggested last year with the fabulous Art That Tells a Story compiled by Chris Brewer) it will surely be a fruitful conversation starter for guests in your home or office.  Yet, it is more than an intriguing, handsome, art book, as there are four
well-written, informative, inspiring essays scattered throughout the book. 


The artwork, as we’ve
said, mostly portrays Bible episodes, and the designers helpfully chose to arrange
the prints not chronologically (not showcasing the artist’s oeuvre as it grew over the more than
half a century he worked) but rather corresponding to the Biblical chronology, showing artworks illuminating passages from
Genesis to Revelation.  A few
pieces were purchased specifically to fill in a few vacancies in their
collection, assuring attendees at the show and readers of the book a truly helpful visual
Bible, with over 50 artworks, and their corresponding Bible texts, capturing the unfolding drama of promise and deliverance, from creation to new creation.

21_Madonna_and_Child.jpgFamilies could use this, I’d think, in creative family devotions.  Some
readers might find it helpful in their prayerful lectio divina practices;  resourceful church
educators will find it invaluable. 
If it included only these colorful, playful, moving, depictions of Bible
stories, it would be well worth the reasonable cost–we need good and creative
art to help us see things anew, and who among us doesn’t need some
right-brained help in hearing God as we see His Word?  But there is more here, much more.  There is plenty for devout art lovers, certainly, but I think especially for us who
don’t know much about the details of the international art world.  This book will expand your horizon and, as C.S. Lewis put it, “baptize your imagination.”


The four essays in Beauty
Given By Grace
are excellent, informative and inspiring. What joy to get an
inside glimpse into the life of a quiet Christian artist and those who collect
and promote his work.   Included
first is a fabulous introduction to the traveling CIVA Exhibition project told with insight and
enthusiasm by Sandra Bowden (who has one of the finest collections of
Biblically-informed art in North America. 
She has been a leader in CIVA, a trustee of the MOBiA, the Museum of
Biblical Art, and a generous supporter of many of the best recent initiatives for
faith-based creatives.) Bowden tells fascinating stories of Watanabe’s work,
compares him with the French Catholic painter George Rouault, and tells us
about Wantanabe’s only private student. She mentions his large Last Supper piece,
found in a church in Schenectady, and, later, takes us to the massive (and
only) stained glass installation done by Watanabe, a part of the sanctuary of
Westminster Presbyterian Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The 1987 stained
glass work, more than 12 feet long, is called The Covenant Window and was
fabricated by Willet Hauser Architectural Glass, Inc. of Philadelphia.


This opening chapter is so very
interesting and informative, one cannot be feel graced, knowing that there are
people like Ms Bowden who offers pieces from her own collection, and gets things like this done.  She initiates and networks, promotes and shares, teaches and tells
of the many good things that art and artists can do and that back-story itself should energize us.  I have read this chapter more than once and am moved, made
glad, and feel a bit better for knowing about her curating and promoting of this
humble Japanese Bible artist. 



Maybe it is this: we hear about so much bad stuff done in the name of Christ — religious
work that is manipulative, Christian art that is bad, political efforts that are contentious, preachers that are creepy,  authors that are crude.  And in my own life I discern shallowness and boredom and
despair (it is easy to point the finger at religious knuckleheads, but my own heart and lifestyle, well….you know.)  So I rejoice in the decent hope
that this book represents, the legacy left to us by the likes of Sadao, the efforts of Ms
Bowden, the organizational witness of CIVA, the publishing projects of Square
Halo, all witnesses of beauty truly given by God’s great grace.  May it please Him that this book be
bought and used, shared and discussed, that we all might resist the worst of
our religion, and enhance the best of it. 
Yes, that is it: this book and all it stands for gives me hope!  I believe it is hope you may need, too. Am I


Well, these four chapters are
good, even if they aren’t trying to be spectacular — they examine and point to the artist and his work, after all.  But they are good.

stories_right_Fujimura.jpgThere is a deeply
poignant piece by the contemporary Japanese-American artist (whose work is, in
fact, grounded in another traditional Japanese style of painting) Makoto
Fujimura.  How touching to hear
Mako tell of his own boyhood studies in Japan, his return there as a graduate
student to study art and begin his career,  his involvement in a campus para-church fellowship group, and
his own struggle to find his own artistic voice, wanting to honor his ethnic and cultural background and his own new-found evangelical faith.  His chapter is entitled “My Journey With an Artist I Never
Met” and is a tender, honest piece for artists or fans.  Or any of us, really: we all must walk
that road, don’t we, journeying alongside heroes and mentors—some whom we’ve never actually met—grounded in our
place and ethnicity, and yet wanting the gospel to seep through in beauty and
truth as we take up our vocations in the world. Fujimura’s chapter is an example
of the kind of thoughtful and faithful memoir that sounds a bit like testimony. 


The longest and most
substantial essay is written by John A. Kohan.  Kohan is perhaps the world’s leading scholar on Sadao
Watanabe and his chapter serves to tell us more about Watanabe’s background,
conversion, his interesting and circuitous route in finding tools and mediums that
allowed him to bring Biblical insight and narratives naturally to his countryman. 

Watanabe, Boat in the Storm 1981 Blue 2.JPGInterestingly, and importantly, in a
story that speaks volumes, it is told that Watanabe went into a Christian
bookstore in Japan shortly after his conversion.  The book-covers, he noted, were often poorly designed, or
had exclusively Western art.  He
had a passion to find ways to show forth the gospel and capture the energy,
emotion, and sensibilities of Asian culture.  Without having the serious missiological vocabulary, the young Japanese artist understood incarnation and
contextualization.  (A 1980 print,
one of the few that are not Bible scenes, is called The Padres Are Coming and
shows the ambiguities of Western religious colonization.)


Kohan obviously cares for
Watanabe and explains his body of work well, by telling us about his
marriage, his studies, his artistic teacher and mentors, a bit about how he
created these stunning prints. The process, which you will enjoy learning about,
is related to katazome, the ancient ways Okinawan artisans created print blocks
for cloth, especially for kimonos. Watanabe was, in this sense, a folk artist,
developing skills in an age-old trade, developing his craft, and allowing fresh
winds of creative grace to blow through his innovations in the use of paint and
color on the kappazuri prints.  All
natural methods were used, of course, including using paper made from the fibrous bark of the paper mulberry tree grown by farmers in northern Japan.  Read this amazing description.  Persimmon tannin??


 His shibugami (stencil paper) consisted
of three-ply sheets of kozo paper, hardened with persimmon tannin, then dried
and cured in a smokehouse, which gave it a brown coloring. The small-format
prints were made on plain mulberry paper known simply as washi.  Watanabe preferred the textured look of
momigami (wrinkled paper) for his folio-sized stencil art.  Momigami is a type of paper once used
for lining clothes, coated on both sides in konyaku (devil’s tongue root), a
gelatinous ingredient in Japanese cooking, which gives the paper strength and
flexibility.  The treated sheets
are kneaded, crumpled, rolled, and stretched to create a creased, textured
surface.  Wantanabe hand-painted
his momigami sheets before applying the stencil patterns, using solid colors
with occasional variegated lines.


Sadao2.jpgKohan tells us a lot
about the artistic vision and meaning of Watanabe’s work, (and explains why
James Michener’s explanation of the meaning of a 1960 piece, Listening, is
surely wrong) but these details about the doing of the craft are equally fabulous to read.  I found his telling utterly
absorbing, creating a real appreciation for the dedication of artists who do
these kinds of things–curing paper in a smokehouse!—with such patience and integrity, slowly getting the
whole process right, working hard with hidden treasures buried within God’s creation.  One story
tells how Watanabe had to learn how the natural color pigments were (or were
not) absorbed by the handmade paper. 
We learn about the protein in the milky binder his wife Harue prepared
from soybean dripping and how it helped fix the color to the paper.  And the ingredients!


 Black was made from pure carbon and
white from crushed seashells.  Red
came from the pulverized bodies of the female cochineal, a cactus-feeding
insect, and blue came from the leaves of the indigo plant.  Wantanabe’s favorite color was king’s
yellow, made from the mineral orpiment, containing arsenic trisulfide.  This beautiful but poisonous pigment
has proved the least stable of Watanabe’s natural colors; older momigami prints
with yellow backgrounds often show signs of fading.


Perhaps most interesting
to some theologically-minded readers will be the chapter written by I. John
Hesselink, emeritus professor of Systematic Theology at Western Theological
Seminary in Holland, Michigan (where he served as President from 1973 to
1985.)  Hesselink studied under
Karl Barth in Basel, and discerned a call to teach Reformed theology in Japan.  He and his wife moved there as missionaries for the Reformed Church of America (RCA)
in 1953 where they studied the language, until they returned to Switzerland to complete his PhD studies.  They then moved back to Japan in
1961.  Providentially, while
getting a Japanese wood block print framed near his home in Tokyo, Hesselink overheard the non-English
speaking framer/gallery owner struggling to serve a US customer;
after offering his informal translation help, the frame shop/gallery owner
“hired” Hesselink to translate for showings and lectures at his shop, paying
him in art pieces.  So began Hesselink’s immersion in the
Japanese art world and, soon, a life-long friendship with the up-and-coming
young Christian artist whose Bible scenes were so very striking. 


(Included in the book, by
the way, is a rare piece that Watanabe was commissioned to do in his unique
style—a portrait of John Calvin! 
Hesselink was part of a commission doing translation work, painstakingly
translating Calvin’s writings into Japanese, and Watanabe’s portrait graced their


Hesselink tells wonderful
stories about the workspace in Watanabe’s home, and his partnership with his
wife and children.  “It is
amazing,” he writes, “that he could be so effective and productive, given the
crowded conditions in which he and his wife worked. I don’t think they ever took
a vacation.  Except for Sunday
when they went to church, they spent all their time fulfilling their calling:
making prints that could serve as a witness to the gospel.”


As I
got to know Watanabe better, I would occasionally suggest biblical subjects to
him that he had not yet covered.  He
respected me as a theological professor, but I don’t think he ever followed my
suggestions in his artwork.  He
knew the Bible very well and was not about to let anyone tell him what biblical
scenes his art should portray. 
His quiet self-confidence in what he was doing, however, was not a sign
of arrogance – he was one of the most humble men I have ever known – but was
born of the conviction that he was an instrument of God and that whatever he
was able to accomplish was through the grace of God.


All four authors note
that although Mr. Watanabe’s work is esteemed — known world-wide, collected and
studied in the prestigious art world, Sadao and his wife (and, eventually, his
son, Tatsuo) were committed to these works being widely seen by common people; he was a
folk arts/craftsman and an evangelist or sorts, wanting Bible stories to be known in ways
that Japanese folk could appreciate. 
This lead him to make his work available as popular pieces, calendars,
even Christmas cards.   As the great artist himself put it, “I don’t want my works simply
decorating churches.  I would most
like to see them hanging where ordinary people gather, because Jesus brought
the gospel for the people.” 

The gospel for the people.  May
this book, lovingly produced by Ned Bustard of Square Halo, be used for this
very purpose.  The gospel for the
people, indeed. Thanks be to God.

beauty given by grace.jpg



Beauty Given By Grace:
The Biblical Prints of Sadao Watanabe

(Square Halo Books)
regular price $29.99
sale price $26.99

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Wisdom Meets Passion by Dan Miller & Jared Angaza 20% off

It dawns on me that some who browse this BookNotes blog may not realize that we recently posted a huge bibliography over at the monthly column part of our website.  There was a Labor Day reflection, sharing (again) why we sell books about calling and vocation, work and careers, and why these resources are urgent and valuable, for church groups and for individuals.  The list is pretty ecumenical, something for everyone. 

They are mostly listed in four categories:

-books about the Biblical and theological vision of calling

-books about the theology and structures of work

-books that are more practical about daily issues at work

-books about discerning God’s call into a particular vocation or career

Here is some of what I wrote there as an intro to that big list.

Having a few of these suggested titles in your church library (on on
your own shelf if you mentor college students or professionals) is a
good witness; essential tools for your own toolkit.  Helping people
learn about these life changing books will bless them and bless you as
you encourage them.  Maybe you can step up to be a bit of an informal
mentor, inviting a couple of thoughtful folks to read about vocation and
calling, careers and work, and see how it goes. You’ll love doing that,
I bet.  And God’s Kingdom will be advanced.

If you are a pastor
or work with collegiates, dare I say that not having some of these kinds
of books around is nearly ministry malpractice?  Yes, I dare, because I
believe it.  Unless you are in children’s ministry or are a chaplain at
an retirement home, if you are a pastor and you haven’t read these
kinds of books and haven’t shared a few with anybody in your circles of
influence, I believe you are not doing your job.  There isn’t much shame
in that, mind you; most clergy aren’t taught this in their seminary
training.  But you are invited here and now to remedy this.  Get on this
train, as it’s on the move.  Not a few analysts predict that this will
continue to be a vital aspect of ministry in the next decades.
Christians, especially, long to see their faith integrated into their
deepest passions, using their gifts in meaningful employment and to have
their local church help them with this.  It may be a deal-breaker or a
game-changer for some. In fact, the important research on why
20-somethings are leaving your church presented in You Lost Me
by David Kinnaman (Baker; $17.99) indicates that this is exactly one of
the reasons.  Additionally, consider the good chapter “Called, Not
Employed” in The Next Christians by Gabe Lyons (Multnomah;
$14.99) if you don’t believe me that this is a passion of some of the
folks who now feel excluded from your congregation.  Or come to Jubilee
2013 this February in Pittsburgh and see for yourself as 2000+ college
students show their enthusiasm for taking up their vocations and
callings corem deo, Soli Deo Gloria. Yep, they talk like that there.  At least if I have anything to do with it.  Ha!

Pray for us as we try to sell these sorts of books, please.  We long to
have conversations about these very things. We have inventory here,
waiting to be utilized, dispatched to places where, we believe, there
are leaders who need an easy way to start some conversations and cast
some vision.  We know that you resonate with this aspect of our
bookstore work, and trust you see yourself as part of this story.


By the way, just to show you that new stuff keeps coming out on this, we just yesterday got in a newwisdom-meets-passion-when-generations-collide-and-collaborate.jpg book that carries a bunch of vibrant endorsements and looks useful and fun.  Dave Ramsey says of Wisdom Meets Passion “A solid, comprehensive plan for attacking your life and career goals.”  It looks great.

Wisdom Meets Passion: When Generations Collide and Collaborate by Dan Miller & Jared Angaza (Nelson; $16.99) is refreshing, upbeat, and offers a good approach to discerning a call, seeking new life and career objectives.  I wish it had been on my desk when I was compiling the September Labor Day column–I would have listed it.

Dan Miller is known to some for his 48 Days project, helping folks increase their job satisfaction and find greater success and his down-to-business books like 48 Days to the Work You Love and No More Dreaded Mondays. We’ve stocked them for years. 

Jared is his edgy young son, a branding consultant, philanthropist, and blogger. He founded KEZA, an ethical fashion company and works on contemporary issues (in Africa, on gender equality…)  They’ve brought their different generational styles and social visions together here in a perfect combo.  Bob Goff has a blurb on the back and notes that after reading it and taking in its help in releasing our own unique wisdom a passion, “you might be surprised by what you end up doing.”  If Goff might be surprised, well, hold on…

WMP-Dan-Jared-300x189.jpgI don’t think you, or the people you influence, want to live in mediocrity.  Even in this tricky economy, God may be inspiring some of us to new entrepreneurial projects or ways to find more meaningful work. There are ways to draw on solid thinking and great vision, living inspired by both our wisdom and passion. 

As creative novelist and motivational speaker Andy Andrews puts it, Wisdom Meets Passion “is the book you’ve been waiting for!  Dan and Jared have created a treasure map just for you.  Read and be amazed as they peel back the mystery of tapping into the wisdom and passion that you and I have overlooked for so long.” 

Is this just motivational hoopla?  Just a whole lotta pizzazz?  Yeah, I worry about that, too.  But as I skim the cool design and layout, I want to give it a try.  And when I look at the pull quotes and the footnotes, I realize they’ve done good work creating an upbeat guide that isn’t about formulas, but not just “follow your bliss” either. They help us set life goals and discern a call in ways that integrates thoughtfulness and emotional intelligence, that brings together principles and passion, conventional motivational styles and more postmodern, youthful energies.  They draw on solid sources like Os Guinness and Dan Allander, use interesting citations from everybody from Eleanor Roosevelt to Richard Rohr to Frederick Buechner, remind us of scenes from popular films (from the requisite Braveheart to Dumb and Dumber.)  They tell stories of Proust and they talk about Bono and give links to great TED talks.  My, my, this is going to be interesting.

Like the others on the big bibliography over at the September monthly column, we are offering this at the BookNotes 20% discount.  Order it at our website or give us a call.  Thanks!


any book mentioned

2O% off
order here
takes you to the secure Hearts & Minds order form page
just tell us what you want

inquire here
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just ask us what you want to know

Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street  Dallastown, PA  17313

Books on Vocation & Calling, Books on Work and Jobs

As we were leading up to Labor Day weekend, I was thrilled to know that the High Calling blogLewis_Hine_Power_house_mechanic_working_on_steam_pump-350x490.jpg offered resources for use during this season since it is a natural time for church folk to teach, honor, and celebrate ordinary Christians and their calling into jobs.  We are sent into all manner of work places, and we can serve God and neighbor there.  Our bookstore is known for trying to affirm that.

You know we often recommend books about “thinking Christianly” about our callings and careers, and we often link to articles, sermons, essays and other resources that help us bridge the all-too-common gap between church life and work life, between Sunday and Monday, as we sometimes put it.  Besides The High Calling, we often tell folks about the Washington Institute on Faith, Vocation, and Culture, Redeemer Presbyterian’s Center for Faith and Work, the Cardus’ think-tank page on work and economics, Pittsburgh’s Serving Leaders, and other such good organizations.

I would be eager to hear if your church did anything special for Labor Day—we have tweeted and commented on facebook about the resource The High Calling was offering—and I know some of you were considering using their worship aids.  Of course, this sort of worship project doesn’t have to be done on Labor Day Sunday—in fact, that may be to easy, seeming perfunctory. Let us know what your church does to equip the saints for their work in the world, especially this idea of relating Biblical principles and practices to the job site.

stack o books.jpgWe have often reviewed books on vocation and calling, as well as books about work and career (not to mention offering for free at our website the extensive bibliographical tool “books by vocation” for Christian perspectives on everything from science to law, art, medicine, education, business, counseling, engineering,and more.) We have not lately gathered together a large bibliography on vocation and work all in one big list. It has taken some time, but what a joy to pull together this list for you.

The following list isn’t comprehensive—visit our shop and you’ll see even more on the shelves!  But it is an intentionally curated set of selections and the descriptions should be a bit entertaining to read.  As you know, we stock things from diverse publishers—from liberal Episcopalians to books from conservative Calvinist sources; there are books here by United Methodists and Roman Catholics, Pentecostals and non-Christians.  And we find that many of the best books are themselves drawing on rather wide circles, offering surprises and depth.  So it is quite a list with a handful of unique perspectives, all useful in their own way, we think.

We are happy to share it as our Labor Day gift to you.  Print it out, pass it on.
Having a few of these suggested titles in your church library (on on your own shelf if you mentor college students or professionals) is a good witness; essential tools for your own toolkit.  Helping people learn about these life changing books will bless them and bless you as you encourage them.  Maybe you can step up to be a bit of an informal mentor, inviting a couple of thoughtful folks to read about vocation and calling, careers and work, and see how it goes. You’ll love doing that, I bet.  And God’s Kingdom will be advanced.

If you are a pastor or work with collegiates, dare I say that not having some of these kinds of books around is nearly ministry malpractice?  Yes, I dare, because I believe it.  Unless you are in children’s ministry or are a chaplain at an retirement home, if you are a pastor and you haven’t read these kinds of books and haven’t shared a few with anybody in your circles of influence, I believe you are not doing your job.  There isn’t much shame in that, mind you; most clergy aren’t taught this in their seminary training.  But you are invited here and now to remedy this.  Get on this train, as it’s on the move.  Not a few analysts predict that this will continue to be a vital aspect of ministry in the next decades.
Younger Christians, especially, long to see their faith integrated into their deepest passions, using their gifts in meaningful employment and to have their local church help them with this.  It may be a deal-breaker or a game-changer for some. In fact, the important research on why 20-somethings are leaving your church presented in You Lost Me by David Kinnaman (Baker; $17.99) indicates that this is exactly one of the reasons.  Additionally, consider the good chapter “Called, Not Employed” in The Next Christians by Gabe Lyons (Multnomah; $14.99) if you don’t believe me that this is a passion of some of the folks who now feel excluded from your congregation.  Or come to Jubilee 2013 this February in Pittsburgh and see for yourself as 2000+ college students show their enthusiasm for taking up their vocations and callings corem deo, soli deo gloria. Yep, they talk like that there.  At least if I have anything to do with it.  Ha!

So. Pray for us as we try to sell these sorts of books, please.  We long to have conversations about these very things. We have inventory here, waiting to be utilized, dispatched to places where, we believe, there are leaders who need an easy way to start some conversations and cast some vision.  We know that you resonate with this aspect of our bookstore work, and trust you see yourself as part of this story.

Maybe you can think of ways to integrate this vision into your own circles at your church, fellowship, small group or Bible study class. Maybe you can find liturgies and prayers to help your own worship services relate well to your parishioners, the butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers who sit in your sanctuary.  (Not to mentioned the unemployed and under-employed.)  Let’s us know what your doing, and if we can help in any way.
I recall a great time I had speaking at a special chapel service at a Christian college a year or sothe call.jpg ago.  The Career Development office put together the service, and they included a responsive reading from the book The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life bu Os Guinness (Nelson; $17.99.)  Did they know it is one of my all-time favorite books?  Did they expect that I would cite it?  It was such a fitting way into a liturgical celebration of God’s call into His kingdom, and the subsequent duties to serve the great King in every zone of life.  Of course we shouldn’t reduce our many callings to only our paid jobs, and, in fact, the director of the Career Development office explained to me that they (ironically) try not to use the word “career” for a variety of reasons, noting the baggage and ass
umptions such a phrase carries.  So, yes, we are called to a variety of places, various “offices” or tasks, with all sorts of God-given opportunities and obligations.  We are called and sent.  Dr. Guinness is still my favorite author on this and The Call is a book I revisit over and over.  If you don’t have it, please, please, consider it. The discussion guide in the back is very strong, too, making it an exceptional resource.   And, hey, you can make a responsive reading out of it for your next liturgy that worships around this theme.


Bass-Leading-Lives-that-Matter.jpgLeading Lives That Matter: What We Should Do and Who We Should Be  edited by Mark Schwehn & Dorothy Bass (Eerdmans) $26.00  With their huge involvement in the Lily grants programs to encourage vocational thinking at Christian colleges and seminaries, it was natural that they compiled this great, great (and great big) resource about living lives with purpose and influence.  I’ve raved about this at BookNotes from time to time as it includes great literary figures (many not necessarily Christian) and is just such a rich and wonderful resource—at least for those who love great writers, etc.  Poets, mystics, reformers, philosophers, writers and leaders of all sorts are excerpted nicely, from Homer and Milton to Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Dorothy Day, Wendell Berry to Robert Frost.  Highly recommended.

Everyday Missions: How Ordinary People Can Change the World
  Leroy Barber (IVP) $15.00  Believe me, I could list a dozen good books on vision, purpose, making a difference, but this one is a favorite and is the sort of resource that helps us approach the topic of vocation.  Barber has excellent Bible studies here of people who have been called, relates these Scripture case studies to ordinary folks today, reminds us of the vision of cultural renewal as we deepen our discipleship, taking up the call to love and serve others in all that we do.  The centerpiece chapter, by the way, is exactly on vocation.  Barber is the president of Mission Year so the book naturally carries endorsements from Tony Campolo, Shane Claiborne and urban activist Bob Lupton.  Yes, there are burning bushes and ladders to heaven in the Bible, but when it comes to what we do with our lives, Barber helps us realize that that isn’t usually how it works. God calls us to respond to Christ’s love and the world’s needs, seeking the Kingdom in our sphere of influence.  Good, good stuff!

Calling: A Song for the Baptized Caroline A. Westerhoff (Seabury) $15.00  This more recent edition of a book published by Cowley in the 90s is considered a classic by some.  Westerhoff is a great, Southern storyteller and a mature Episcopalian priest and consultant.  These stories weave together a profound book, noting that we must listen to the narratives that shape who we are, attend to baptismal themes, and, in community, discern notions of calling.  This is less about vocation and work, but is still a moving and rich reflection, especially for those who are called to ministry. A few chapters are very, very rich.

The Preaching Life Barbara Brown Taylor (Cowley) $17.95  The first half of this is a beautifully rendered memoir of her conversion to faith, her sense of calling into ministry, and her eventual vocation as an Episcopal preacher.  There are a few extended passages from which I often read out-loud in workshops and talks—God speaking to her through creation, the role of sacraments, the significance of the ordinary (themes she unpacks wondrously years later in her beloved An Altar in This World.) Her well-told reminder on how everyone’s workplace can be a place for sacramental experience of God’s goodness and grace is worth the price of the book.  A few of these pages mean the world to me, and I had to list it.   

A Journey Worth Taking: Finding Your Purpose in This World  Charles D. Drew (P&R)journey w taking.jpg $12.99  Some have told me this was the best combination of the Biblical overview of creation-fall-redemption-restoration story of Scripture and the language of purpose (exploring, then, the themes of vocation and call) that they’ve ever read.  Rev. Drew is certainly a solid writer, well crafting mature sentences in wise and wonderful ways.  We suggest it often and heartily commend it for any readers.  Endorsements from the likes of Tim Keller remind us that it is highly regarded, well considered, helpful and theologically rich, without being arcane or abstract.  Excellent.

Don’t Waste Your Life
John Piper (Crossway) $13.99 This doesn’t fully develop the theme of vocation and calling, but it is a compelling sermon, inviting us to take up our duty to find joy in Christ alone, make a difference for His Kingdom, to glorify God in all our days, and to think about what God might demand of us as we risk all for Christ’s reign and glory. From young adults to retirees, Piper doesn’t let anyone off the hook. Life is short, don’t give up the call to exalt Christ!  Some may find it carries a bit too much belligerence and brimstone, but many have appreciated his Godly passion and tone of no compromise. 

Besides the general challenge to live for God, there is a very thoughtful chapter called “Glorifying God in the 9 to 5” that I think is nearly brilliant, listing four ways human work is different than the work of animals.  He explains what it means to do our daily jobs (a) intentionally to God’s glory, (b) for our neighbors good, (c) using the gifts and passions God has given to us uniquely, and (d) doing so in ways that are consistent with the way the creation is structured; that is, we think about the very way we do our jobs, making sure we do them in a normative way, fittingly.  (He doesn’t cite, but could, William Tyndale’s old admonition for tinkers to “look at their shoes” to learn what God wants them to do, or how Isaiah that tells how farmers learn from God by paying attention to the planting of seeds, the creation itself.  Sounds a bit like Dorothy Sayer’s famous essay “Why Work” doesn’t it?  

What’s Your Call: What Are You Doing Here? Gary Barkalow (Cook) $14.99   Kudos to the “new” David C. Cook for bringing out upbeat and relevant books, each loaded with faith and gusto and youthful verve. There are cool graphics and good pictures, here, even.  I like this book, a broad examination of all sorts of senses of calling.  It is pretty inspiring, energetic, inviting us to “discover God’s destiny and design” and live alerted to the “choreography of God.”  It talks about story, about the assaults against our sense of calling, and ponders if call is a “job or a role.”  The author works with men and women through The Noble Heart,  and this carries an enthusiastic endorsement from Len Sweet, who says that “Gary believes your calling makes you an artist.  Read this book to discover the beauty of your art.”  See what I mean?   Fun!

This is Our Calling  edited by Charles Richardson, foreword by Rowan Williams (SPCK) $18.00  We import books from England not only because we enjoy serving readers interested in global authors, but because, in this
case, the Church of England has done some remarkable work in some areas. SPCK is renowned as a thoughtful, liberal, mainline denominational press.  Here, they’ve convened a handful of authors to do reflection pieces, Biblical and theological, on various aspects of knowing one’s calling. The authors are women and men, but most are Ango-Catholic priests.  It is not just for those involved in ministry, and there are remarkably practical and evocative study questions, sidebars, conversation starters.   The study that produced this book was done jointly by Affirming Catholicism and the Society of Catholic Priests.

What is V.gifWhat Is Vocation? Steven J. Nichols (P&R; $3.99) This is a wonderful, small booklet,  similar to the companion booklet What is A Christian Worldview by Philip Ryken (P&R; $5.00) that we often promote.  It could be used in small groups, a quick adult ed class, or given to high school seniors.  Steve gets it just right; he’s a nearly local guy, by the way, a Lancaster friend, writer of popular level books on church history and several biographies of folks like Luther and Edwards.  This brief staple-bound booklet is as handsome as it is readable and could be life-changing.  Steve is evangelical and Reformed but I am confident that this little book could be used in any sort of congregation. Maybe you should order a dozen or so and pass ’em out—at least to youth who are thinking about going off to college, or young students needing to be encouraged to think about calling as they consider their majors, or for adults who may be longing to be affirmed in their line of work but aren’t up for reading a big study. (Oh, if only pastors did this more for their flocks, affirming the work-life of the laity! What a difference it could make!) The best small (and least expensive) resource of which we know.

here I am Q.jpgHere I Am: Now What on Earth Should I Be Doing? Quentin Schultze (Baker) $14.00  What a great little book, wise and helpful, about being stewards of the various gifts God gives us, in the various spheres he calls us to!  Easy-to-read, this is one of the best, with reasonable theological foundations and lots of great illustrative stories and anecdotes  Quent is a great storyteller—he is the head of the communications department at Calvin College in Michigan (and has a remarkable book on virtues needed for our electronic age and another which is the definitive book on communication and mass media from a Christian perspective)  What a story this guy has, and how wonderfully he’s used his own scholarly vocation to help others with these basics.  Highly recommended.

God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in all of Life
 Gene Vieth Jr (Crossway) $14.99  I like this a lot–and he brings a bit of a Lutheran flavor.  You may know Vieth (he writes for World magazine) as a writer that teaches how Christ’s Lordship affects all of life.  I like his insistence that we are not called to just one thing, but have various callings and offices — “masks” as Luther called them.   Very clear, comprehensive.

Liberating Tradition: Women’s Identity and Vocation in Christian Perspective  Kristina LaCelle-Peterson (Baker) $24.00  You will notice that a number of these books–on calling and vocation, and on work and careers—are by women authors.  But few are precisely for and about the unique ways in which woman are called, and how the doctrines of vocation are experienced by contemporary women.  This book is like none other, important, serious-minded but very clear,  irenic, and helpful.  As CEO of World Hope International Jo Anne Lyon writes “If one wants to read a single book to understand gender issues, this is it!” LaCelle-Peterson has a PhD from Drew University and teaches at Houghton College in NY.  She is an elder in the Free Methodist Church.  

Vocation: Discerning Our Callings in Life  Douglas Schuurman  (Eerdmans) $22.00  We don’t sell this too often as some aren’t interested in its slightly arcane theologically struggles—but for geeks like me (and thee?) who love this stuff, it is wonderfully interesting.  He explores the differences between the Reformed framework of Lee Hardy who draws on creation order, grounding our human callings in creation, and an earlier work by Miroslov Volf (Work in the Spirit) who grounded his sense of vocation in the giftedness that comes from the Spirit. Young theological types wondering how to get at this whole topic? Check it out.

Callings: Twenty Centuries of Christian Wisdom on Vocation  edited by William Placher (Eerdmans) $30.00  I might say this is one for those really wanting to dig deep: this is a remarkable, thorough, big collection of what great Christian thinkers have written down through the centuries, so it should be known by seminarians, leaders, pastors.   It was edited by the late Bill Placher, a beloved professor and theologian from Wabash College. There is simply nothing like it in print, and we are in debt to Dr. Placher for showing, era by era, what the church has said about vocation.  This is a good and important reader, but I wish there was a bit more comment or a critical apparatus with it to allow undiscerning readers to evaluate the insights of the various church history authors. Not everything said in every era was wise or helpful.  Still, this is an amazing anthology, and, at nearly 470 pages, a great bargain.

The Way of Life Gary Badcock (Eerdmans) $16.00   This is a short study, calm and reasoned, about what we mean by calling and how God’s call is to us all, firstly to follow Christ–which necessarily moves us into a certain sort of way of life.  No, we aren’t called just to a job, and, now, not everyone in the church agrees with the best way to get all this said.  The author is a fine Barthian scholar, and this is a provocative, rich read.

Forgetting Ourselves on Purpose: Vocation and the Ethics of Ambition  Brian J. Mahan (Jossey Bass) $15.95  Wow, what an evocative, beautifully-written, mature book.  It isn’t overtly evangelical, but it is wise and good.  Do you know it?  The author is a college teacher and he tells moving stories about students and their sense of vocation, their desire to make a difference and have integrity, but also this pressure to be successful.  I love the title, which captures the wise and eloquent style of the author and his vision.

A Sacred Voice is Calling: Personal Vocation and Social Conscience John Neafseysacred voice is calling.jpg (Orbis) $22.00  All right, forgive me for pushing your envelope a bit here.  This is liberation theology (at best) and is a bit odd theologically (we’re one with the universe, you know.)  Still, there is something really right about this, about how our callings and vocations are discerned somewhat in light of the great needs of the world.  How can we be transformed to care deeply about the injustices of our day, and how can we “hear” God’s call to work in ways and places that are touched by the griefs of this broken world? You may not appreciate all of the author’s theological baggage (or maybe you will) but, regardless, the heart of this book and its h
elpful invitation is vital.  A moving Marcus Borg quote on the front.


For All God’s Worth: True Worship and the Calling of the Church N.T. Wright (Eerdmans) $13.00 We recommend this often because of how it brings together two big themes—worship of God in liturgy and worship of God in work.  That is, serving in worship in the sanctuary and serving in the world.  The first half is about what one might consider traditional worship, and the second half is about worshiping in the world, daily living out the claims we make in our liturgy. So this is basic, inspiring, an ideal starting book.

what do I do with.jpgWhat Do I Do With My Life: Serving God Through Work  Kenneth Baker (Faith Alive) $9.99  This is a small group resource that is excellent for small Bible study groups or adult Sunday school classes.  There is a bit to read —five short readings for each day of the week (so each member will need one) but it is mostly designed for good conversations. It has helpful discussion questions, some activities, lots of Bible verses to consider exploring what the Scriptures say about the 9 to 5 and our other callings to work in various aspects of our lives.  This is a very fine and solid overview of missional thinking and how our various labors matters to God—I don’t know of any resource like this for small groups.  Thanks to the CRC publishing arm for doing such quality work. in this case for small groups.

work matters stevens.jpgWork Matters: Lessons from Scripture R. Paul Stevens (Eerdmans) $16.00  Paul Stevens, long-standing professor at Regent College in B.C., has been one of the best voices and most steadfast allies in the effort to educate about the meaning and dignity of labor. He has encouraged this conversation for decades, and we’ve included several other books of his on this list.

Stevens’ newest book is gleaned from hundreds of workshops, lectures, sermons, and classes where he has offered Biblical case studies of those who viewed their jobs as related to the unfolding work of God. In another person’s hands, studies about “jobs in the Bible” would seem superficial at best (and betray an unhelpful view of the Bible itself). By contrast, Stevens avoids forced or cheesy interpretations, but has the eyes to see remarkable insights in stories as familiar as Joseph in Pharaoh’s empire and Daniel exiled in Babylon, and as freshly interesting as Bezalel and Ezekiel and the “enigmatic” professor in the wisdom literature. He visits Ruth to teach about “survival work,” David to ponder “royal work,” and Martha to esteem “contemplative work.” I can hardly think of a better small group study or adult Christian education resource that combines insightful Scripture reflections and helpful application as we think about our work as integral to God’s mission in the modern world. Discussion questions are included. Highly recommended.

Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work Tom Nelson (Crossway)work matters.jpg $15.99  A few friends of mine have had some opportunity to teach and consult with the folks at Tom Nelson’s church and it seems to be nearly one of the nation’s best centers of culturally-engaged, thoughtful nurture of the gifts and insights of laypeople and professionals for marketplace service.  After years of reflecting on the Word as it is broken open in their midst and equally paying attention to the contexts of the various workers at the church, this brave pastor has learned to equip the people for relating faith and work, Sunday and Monday, prayer and public life.  Reverend Nelson and his staff and congregants are really doing it, and their vision for why it all matters is nicely spelled out in a way you’ll surely appreciate.  There are numerous two-page sidebars, too, documenting the stories of some of the folks in the church—a brilliant, Christ-honoring architect, an ethical businessperson, a good teacher, a Christian lawyer, and the like.

This is the best book I’ve seen in years on this topic. If this topic is somewhat new to you, please consider buying this (and, even better, buy one for your pastor.)  If you are a fan and connoisseur of this topic and have read well in the field of relating faith and work, I can assure you that you will be pleased to own this, will be encouraged by it, and will find new insights and stories that will bolster your own journey and allow you to more clearly explain to others your passion for developing a Christian perspective on the work-world.  Three cheers for a great, accessible, inspiring book!  Here is a brief review I did of it  in Comment magazine.

Your Work Matters to God Doug Sherman & William Hendricks (NavPress) $15.00.  I have recommended this over and over for many years, and while it is a bit longer than it needs to be (there are a few extra chapters for younger folks about finding a job, finding a church, managing your money) it is very, very clear, and remarkably thorough. It is very strong in noting that work is not primarily for evangelism, that the work itself matters to God.  It nicely contrasts a pagan, Greek worldview that disdained bodily work and the robust, gritty Hebrew views.  It asks some questions about being agents of structural change, work-world reform.  It is rare to see such vibrant, evangelical authors writing with such a broad view and such clear-headed counsel.

Mastering Monday: A Guide to Integrating Faith and Work John Beckett (IVP) $18.00  The story behind this book is fantastic; apparently a national news show (20/20 perhaps) did a feature on business ethics, and Mr. Beckett was featured, sharing about his faith-based work in the heating oil industry.  No fancy corporate exec, not a college professor, this is a rough and ready small business owner from Ohio.  The viewer feedback was overwhelming, convincing the producers to come back and do a show just on him.  The book came out of that experience, with Beckett—who ends ups being an excellent teacher and good writer—offering solid Biblical and practical introductory advice.  Very nice.

Work & Leisure in The Life of a Christian (Burlington Reformed Study Centre) $7.95 This slim little volume includes fabulous but brief essays by the extraordinary Gideon Strauss (at the time,of the Christian Labour Association of Canada and the brilliant and innovative Work Research Foundation) and his good colleague, the amazingly thoughtful Ray Penning. Then these guys are treated to a robust feedback/response panel—these are talks from some conference or retreat and bear that tone. The transcribed dialogue portions, too, are very interesting—don’t skip them! These conversations are useful as they offer wise, foundational thinking about the meaning of work, the curse, the implications of a redemptively Christian worldview, and not just for work, but also for rest and leisure.

I would suggest that no one in North America has done as solid and sustained thinking on these things over recent decades as the CLAC and it is a delight to announce this rare little book. Packed with work-world insight from the revival of Dutch neo-Calvinism that has always affirmed the layperson’s calling into the sphere of labor.

Good W
ork: Christian Ethics in the Workplace
  Esther D. Reed (Baylor University Press) $24.95  This is a meaty little book, “needed and most welcome” according to Gilbert Meilaender.  It is engaging, interesting, and solid, but it moves in important fresh directions, touching down on matters of vocation and liturgy, social justice, human rights, the integrity of creation and our role as stewards.  Reed is a theological prof in the UK at the University of Exeter, has been a part of the Center for Theological Inquiry at Princeton, is published by a serious Baptist house, and, interestingly, as David Gushee writes in his good review, “includes a striking focus on Eastern Orthodoxy’s traditions and insights.”  A very helpful contribution.

How Then Shall We Work? Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work Hugh Whelchel (Westbow) $13.95  Just when you thought there wasn’t much more to be said about the general overview of a Biblical view, Whelchel adds some new ideas, really good Scriptural material, lots of clarity and solid passion about the role of jobs in God’s redemptive work as His history unfolds from a garden to a city.  A great endorsement by Steve Brown of Key Life Ministries raves about it.  The author is a former businessman, now a leader of a conservative think-tank in Washington DC.

Christians at Work: Not Business as Usual  Jan Wood (Herald Press) $10.99  As we scan our bookshelves here at the shop, and this big list, I realize that some may seem a bit redundant.  Not this one!  The author is a fine writer, clear and interesting.  She is a Friend (Quaker) and her vision is informed by this deeply spiritual and socially prophetic tradition.  That the Mennonites published this makes obvious sense, and we are grateful for Wood’s overtly Christ-centered approach, her deeply Biblical orientation, and her practical, down-to-earth concerns. Can, as Wally Kroeker, editor of The Marketplace journal, asks, “the love of God transform the life in the office, board room, factory floor?”  She she’s our daily work as sacred and she knows that we must be salt and leaven. Very nicely done.

every good endeavor (keller).jpgEvery Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Plan for the World  Timothy Keller (Dutton) $26.95 NOT YET RELEASED, DUE NOVEMBER 2012.  I hope you know about the Redeemer Presbyterian Center for Faith and Work, one of the premier ministries offering encouragement to professionals in several spheres of service. This book emerges from Kellers good concern for the laypeople in his Manhattan church and his strong realizations that we are all called to serve in various institutions across all of culture as agents of God’s Kingdom.   You can pre-order it now by just typing it into our order form page.  We will have it on sale for at least 20% off. I am confident it will be excellent.

work a kingdom p.jpgWork: A Kingdom Perspective on Labor Ben Witherington (Eerdmans) $18.00  This is pretty short but don’t be deceived by its simple size and shape.  Ben Witherington is one of the finest New Testament scholars on the planet (he teaches at the United Methodist seminary, Asbury) and has a profound awareness of the teachings about the Kingdom of God deep in his bones.  As he writes about work one can sense his great vision, his good concerns, his practical, Biblical insight, especially as he unpacks some of the parables of Jesus to help us get a Kingdom vision of our jobs and labor.  This helpfully breaks down the pagan sacred-secular divide and calls us all to a robust way of life where discipleship colors all we do, even our daily 9-to-5 labor.  Very, very good and its Biblical teaching makes it ideal for adult Sunday school classes or to inspire a sermon series on work. 

The Heavenly Good of Earthly Work  Darrell Cosden (Hendrickson) $18.00  First published in England by Paternoster, this stellar study explores whether a person’s day to day work has any ultimate, lasting value from the perspective of Eternity.  This really does ask the basic questions, and has garnered excellent recommendations from important folks, such as J. Richard Middleton (who is working on a book about the relationship between this age and the next) and  David Smith, who teaches missiology, who says it is “cutting-edge theology of the highest order.”

kingdom calling.gifKingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good by Amy Sherman (IVP) $16.00 We have celebrated this excellent book on several occasions, thinking it to be one of the very best books in years on this topic.   Truly, this is masterful and adds excellent new insight, new layers of meaning, and teaches in great and helpful detail about four ways of relating faith and work. See our comments here and here.  Kingdom Calling is a serious, thorough, study of how our jobs can become avenues of social change honoring God and loving neighbor as we steward our vocations for the sake of the common good.  Not for beginners, but if you’ve read a book or two on calling and on work, this is simply a must-have, must-read.

shopclass.jpgShop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work  Matthew Crawford (Penguin) $15.00  I hope you recall how we touted this when it first came out, and the buzz it gathered (including a “notable book” of the year award from the New York Time Book Review.)  This is beautiful, thoughtful, rousing—Crawford was a white-collar scholar at a think-tank who hated his job, and felt the disconnect between what he was doing and who he was becoming untenable.  He quit, opened a motorcycle repair shop, and offers here this extended meditation on shop classes, liberal arts, unhelpful education, working with one’s hands, and finding fulfillment in blue collar jobs. How many philosopher/mechanic’s do you know?  This is entertaining and profound, hoping to restore greater honor to the manual trades.

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work
  Alain de Botton (Vintage) $15.95  De Botton is beloved by those who like his high-brow reporting, journalism-meets-philosophy-meets cultural criticism.  His book about place, The Architecture of Happiness, is an all time great.  You may know his book on Proust. These essays are similar, inviting us to deeply ponder the “delight and despair” in our daily working lives.

Working: Its Meaning and Its Limits  Gilbert Meilaender (University of Notre Dame Press) $18.00  This is another really, really great anthology with excerpts of great literature, poetry, Bible passages, parts of novels and essays. each offering engaging insights about the nature of work..  Very thoughtful stuff.  Meilaender has written much on ethics and other themes, and has his own extended mediation and collection of essays, some of which are on vocation and calling, in The Freedom of a Christian: The Grace, Vocation, and Meaning of Our Humanity (Brazos.)

The Other Six Days: Vocation
, Work and Ministry
R. Paul Stevens (Eerdmans) $27.00  Anyone who has followed this conversation about work-world ministry, about nurturing a Christian view of labor, of finding a sense of calling in one’s daily grind, knows the name of Stevens.  He teaches Marketplace Theology at Regent College in Vancouver and knows more than just about anybody on the spirituality of the ordinary and the mission of the laity in the world.  Here he offers a serious anthology of some of his best essays, solid teaching, good thinking, profound and important writing.  Excellent.

Working  Darby Kathleen Ray (Fortress) $15.00  This is in a series of books called Compass: Christian Exploration of Daily Living which is a very interesting set of short but meaty books, all with fairly creative theological reflection, offering mainline Christians ways to think about the experience of faithfulness in daily life.  From clothing to shopping, eating to playing, this is a very interesting series.  Glad they did one on working.  Ms Ray brings her liberationist voice and offers, in concise and provocative ways, excellent contributions to ponder.

All Labor Has Dignity Martin Luther King, Jr, edited by Michael K. Honey (Beacon Press)all labor has.jpg $26.95  It is worth recalling that King lost his life while organizing garbage collectors.  He often spoke of the dignity of all work, the need to serve God with the work of one’s hand, to strive for excellence and integrity in any job.  And, of course, he spoke out against injustices in our economic system, advocated for worker’s rights.  This is an amazing collection of his writings and speeches–most never published before!—on this topic.

Blue Collar Jesus: How Christianity Supports Worker’s Rights Darren Cushman Wood (Seven Locks Press) $14.95 You’re not going to find this just anywhere, either, and it is an important and moving call for workplace justice and concern for the underpaid and underemployed. The author is an esteemed United Methodist pastor and theologian and professor of labor studies.

Business as a Calling: Work and the Examined Life Michael Novak (Free Press) $25.95 For the thoughtful executive, or deeper reader of business literature, this may be the best of its kind. It is eloquent, serious, profound.  Magnificently thoughtful by an astute, conservative Catholic.


God at Work: The History and the Promise of the Faith at Work Movement  David W. Miller (Oxford University Press) $29.99  This is the definitive study of the faith-at-work-movement, a fascinating and fabulous overview of who is doing what, and why, how many Christians have been organizing around this topic and working to get it more known.  Excellent survey of various models, how different groups define terms, and the key theological themes guiding those who have been pioneers in the field.  Very useful, although much has happened in the last few years since it was released.

How the Church Fails Businesspeople (And What Can Be Done About It) John C. Knapp (Eerdmans) $15.00. I mention this as practical mostly because it could be very practical for pastors or church leaders.  This is a very important recent book, and I think may be more important in the long run than a dozen of the big name popular books calling us to high-energy, mega-church, big-time visions of making a difference. It is written by a person who has worked in the business world, and is also a theologian, helping the church bridge the divide, so to speak, between worship and work, between church and world. It isn’t bitter or strident, but it does show how serious corporate types often say they don’t get much help for their important work for the teaching at their church.   Here is a nice youtube clip of the author explaining about the book and the authors findings of how the ethos of many congregations seems indifferent to the public lives of most members. 

The 9 to 5 Window: How Faith Can Transform the Workplace Os Hillman (Regal) $19.99 This book may not be as sharp or as sophisticated as some, but it is energetic and passionate for what God can do as people serve Christ at the job site. The cover art is nearly worth the price of the book—what a treat to see a stethoscope, wooden spoon, fountain pen, adjustable wrench and paintbrush all lined up, clean as a whistle. This book has a strong and specifically charismatic bent, with some stuff on spiritual warfare, miracles and Godly impact on entire cities through spiritual transformation of institutions of commerce.

Joy at Work: A Revolutionary Approach to Fun on the Job Dennis Bakke (PVG) $24.95 It isn’t every book that bears an endorsing blurb by Jack Kemp, Peter Block, and Bill Clinton.  Bakke presented some of this unique material at the Pittsburgh Jubilee conference a few years back and folks loved it; he is renowned as an innovative Christian leader in international energy work and hugely important in philanthropy. His brother, Ray, you may know for his considerable work and writing in urban ministry. This is an innovative and exciting book which, while profoundly meaningful, doesn’t come across like a Biblically-oriented “Christian” book. Use it in your workplace!  Have fun. We have the big study guide, too.

taking your soul to work.jpgTaking Your Soul to Work: Overcoming the Nine Deadly Sins of the Workplace  R. Paul Stevens & Alvin Ung with a foreword by Eugene Peterson (Eerdmans) $14.99  If there was a “lifetime achievement award” in the field of Christian marketplace ministry, daily discipleship for ordinary folks, for “seven days a week faith” (as one of his many books puts it) Paul Stevens would be just such an honoree.  He has given his life to thinking hard and writing well about the interface of faith and the work-world, and, especially, Christians in the business environment.  He is professor emeritus of marketplace theology and spirituality at Regent College in Vancouver, perhaps the finest place to study this topic. (You can see a bit about his books here.)  As we’ve suggested above, anything he writes is commendable, serious, important.  

This is a recent one, and his writing partner, Alvin Ung, is himself a breakthrough leader who has lived in the high- powered business world of Southern Asia (he is a Fellow at Ghazanah Nasional, the national investment agency of Malaysia.)

As  you can see from the sub-title, these conversational chapters—each rounded out with an action plan or case study—explore in simple, but important ways, the ways to avoid the “soul-sapping struggles of the work world.  They look at the “nine deadly sins” of the workplace, the nine-fold fruit of the Spirit that can meet our workplace needs, and nine positive outcomes of integrating spirituality and work.  Friends, this is good news, indeed.  Serious, uplifting, honest, and very, very insightful.  Few books in this field are as deeply spiritual, theologically informed, and yet nicely practical.

In, But Not Of: A Guide to Christian Ambition and the Desire to Influence the World  Hugh Hewitt (Nelson) $15.99  I like this handsome new paperback edition of a classic that has helped many young people, especially, navigate the concerns about ambition, where to
seek employment, how to make a difference.  A good study guide in the back for ambitious young professionals, especially.

Work, Love, Pray: Practical Wisdom for Young Professional Christian Women  Dianework_love_pray_zondervan_zv_large.jpg Paddison (Zondervan) $14.99   People who we trust say that this is truly helpful; several sharp young women who care about their own unique struggles studied it over and concluded it was worth purchasing.  Everybody wonders if the shoes on the cover work.  The allusion to Eat Pray Love in the title, isn’t developed at all in the book; it would have been a hoot if she had.  The author is a top-shelf executive, does important work in the corporate world and brings both Biblical vision and practical advise for women in the work-world.  It is pretty interesting to see how she was able to raise her children and hold down a demanding job, and how she maintained a solid and inspiring faith through it all.  It may be a cliche to say she understands how to juggle career and family and how she and her husband navigated their otherwise conservative, two-career marriage.  Early reviews have been passionately favorable—“buy this book for your granddaughters” one grandma writes.  Another said it was the first book she ever read that understood the tensions of her own life.  And ya know what?  Not surprisingly, several folks at a recent conference said that it would be very helpful for husbands of career women, too.

Workplace Grace: Becoming a Spiritual Influence at Work  Bill Peel & Walt Larimore (Zondervan) $16.99  I think it should be clear that God cares about work, that we must attend to imagining what we do through God’s eyes, as ways to serve our neighbors, as a legitimate calling in and of itself.  However, surely we would like to, when appropriate, share the good news of God’s grace with others as we can.  We needn’t be as weird and stubborn as the dedicated young man in the must-see The Big Kahuna (Danny DiVito, Kevin ) but we should, at some point, consider ways to appropriately and effectively do gentle evangelism with our colleagues at work.  This book is a helpful step, written by an evangelistic trainer and a medical doctor, who brings some real-world insights from his own job site.  There is a well-made, six-session DVD curriculum too that might be useful for you or your group (Zondervan; $19.99)  The book was previously titled Going Public With Your Faith.  

our souls at work.pngOur Souls at Work: How Great Leaders Live Their Faith in the Global Marketplace  edited by Mark Russell  (Russell Media) $19.95  This is a vibrant, colorful, book, handsomely designed with some contemporary, graphic pizazz and exciting testimonials and clear-headed insight to match.  One of the best new books in this whole “marketplace ministry” field, it is essentially a gathering of short pieces by a variety of business leaders, arranged by topic, most quite practical.  So you’ll hear a handful of businessmen or women talking about balance, or integrity, or leadership, or character.  There is a section on calling, a section on handling money, a section of stories on relationships.  There is one called “pluralism” which is very strong (and still a vexing matter to some, how to respect and honor the diversity of views in the modern workplace.)  There is a section on sharing one’s faith, and a section of important lessons about ethics.  The section on giving could inspire young philanthropists and remind us about giving back, as they say.

There are a few business leaders here you may have heard of, but most contributors, though, are not particularly famous in the religious book world.  This should be seen as an asset; these are folks who are the real deal, businesspeople who spend their days in the trenches of global capitalism.  It gives it a very practical, feel, showing that transformed Christian living in the business world is not only interesting, but do-able.  

Sequencing: Deciphering Your Company’s DNA  Mike Metzger (Game Changer Books)  $17.95  I’ve written about this interesting “game changer” book before and almost every week or so find myself re-tweeting Mike’s fascinating and learned Doggie Head Tilt web column.  This is a complicated book to explain, but I can say two simple things: it is cool and it is crafty.  Firstly, it is stunning to read and enjoy, with large graphics and interesting black and white photos offered in a arresting, eye-catching design.  Secondly, besides the look and pithy quotes, this is a book that will help you explain profoundly Biblical principles without any religious jargon.  Almost none.  Mike doesn’t want to compromise his evangelical faith but he also knows that long-term cultural renewal of the sort we so desperately need will have to bubble up from institutions and organizations—like businesses—who rethink their purpose and retool their internal DNA. 

This book helps explain what is often called the four-chapter gospel story (creation-fall-redemption-restoration),  or what N.T. Wright calls the five act model of the Biblical drama,  in ways that are creative and based in our shared experiences, using common language of the workplace, not theological lingo.  Jesus said to be harmless as doves but crafty as snakes.  Metzger is one of the best I’ve ever seen at this important virtue.  Consequently, this is a Christian business book that might actually be read by a non-Christian executive or nonprofit leader.  It can help you unlock the culture of your organization, and how to determine if your company will be able to be innovative, or renewing, over the long haul, interestingly, by using phrases he proposes that are rooted in the Biblical story. Mike also makes an appearance as one of the session leaders in the Q Ideas curriculum DVDs, the one called The Kingdom Way of Life.

Faith Dilemmas for Marketplace Christian
s  Ben Sprunger, Carol Suter, & Wally Kroeker (Herald Press) $7.99  A small book of case studies, inviting conversation, or for your own pondering. You are not alone in having vexing matters, day by day.  Helpful.  A good forward from the Director of the Mennonite Economic Development Association.


Courage and Calling: Embracing Your God Given Potential (revised and expanded) Gordon T. Smith (IVP) $17.00  This is a tad dense at times, but nonetheless truly remarkable — it is really, really good and this author is a deep and generative thinker. (His other books bring an evangelical eye to medieval spirituality and invites mature thinking about contemplative spiritual formation.) Here he combines two important themes: a profound and helpful understanding of vocation/calling and mature guidance about discerning God’s will for one’s life.  I like his bit about decision-making and discernment, the way he on occasion indicates that he has vast insight into Ignatian spirituality (not bad for a CM&A pastor.)  Highly recommended for those wanting a solid foundational study which at least begins to point towards practical assistance in figuring out how to discern one’s calling.

let-your-life-speak.jpgLet Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation Parker Palmer (Jossey Bass) $18.95 This is short and contemplative, written by a passionate, sweet Quaker with huge concerns about inner integrity and public justice.  He’s all about finding that place where you can best serve by being reflective and intentional about one’s own heart’s truths.  Yeah, he’s a bit touchy feely for some, but it is honestly written, elegant in a subdued manner, caring, and full of gentle passion.  Very impressive for such a short rumination.  A lot of people love this, making it one of the biggest sellers in this topic.  Is it wrong to say “to thy own self be true?”  Or, as Beuchner has, “listen to your life?”  Lovely.

The Echo Within: Finding Your True Calling Robert Benson (Waterbrook) $13.99 I just love this book, elegant and thoughtful, wherein this fine guy (who is now an Episcopalian spiritual writer) tells of his work in his father’s famous gospel music biz in Nashville. He just couldn’t live with himself following his dad’s and grandfather’s shadow into this great position, and had to follow “the echo within” to hear what God was telling him to do.  Which meant taking some risks, being honest about his desires, and finding ways to be a writer.)  He has some very good theological insights, but it is still a short memoiristic reflection on his journey to decide how to follow his own sense of calling into a vocation unlike what his family had expected. Especially good for anyone sensing a desire to be a writer or artist.  Very, very nice.

The Messy Quest for Meaning: Five Catholic Practices for Finding Your Vocation messy quest for.jpg  Stephen Martin (Sorin Books)  $14.95   The first section of this wonderfully written, recent book is nearly a memoir as Martin tells of his growing dis-ease at his journalistic job, his struggle to understand his ill-health and anxiety, his religious confusion, and his mental state–worrying about death, almost unable to finish even a simple task.

Interwoven within this narrative, though, is another story, and it becomes the heart of the book. Martin was raised in a serious Catholic family, and has an uncle who is a priest. A conversation about calling, vocation, purpose, “the distribution of talents,” and such soon put him on a quest: how do monks come to learn that they are called to their particular vocation? Might insight from that process–monastic insights about desires and vocations, the will of God and the grace to pursue our callings–help him in his own struggle to make sense of life and to find his purpose and place and career?

Well, indeed it did, and he lived to tell about it. The Messy Question is not a career-guidance handbook, but something more profound, more foundational. Early on, in high school and college, Martin dabbles with existentialism and other faddish philosophies, but through a particularly scholarly mentor at Duke University, he returns to his childhood faith; the book therefore draws overtly on Catholic teaching. Yet, non-Catholics (perhaps especially non-Catholics) might find that this moving story and the process he chronicles resonates with them. Drawing on hefty chunks of his own life, as well as inspirational anecdotes from his own acquaintances–from basketball star Danny Hurley to literary star Reynolds Price to movie star Martin Sheen–he highlights the stages of discerning and living into a clear sense of calling.

Merely listing those stages does not do justice to his storied and nuanced telling of them, but here they are, with the aim explored in each phase: Desires (Digging for What You Really Want), Focus (Channeling Your Passions), Humility (Embracing What You Don’t Know), Community (Getting Outside Yourself), and The Margins (Probing Your Potential), followed by the concluding chapter–“Holy Ambition: Sustaining What You Start.” In each chapter, he tells of his life and his discovering of various Catholic mystics and activists, and shows how seekers can integrate the wisdom of the saints into their own journeys of faith. Wonderful!

By the way, Steve grew up in Dallastown, and more than one public school teachers get a shout out.  He’s a good guy.  Catholic or Protestant (or neither) you should buy this book, not just to support a local boy, but because it is a tremendous read, interesting and helpful.
What Am I Supposed to Do With My Life: Asking the Right Questions  Douglas Brouwer (Eerdmans) $14.00  This Presbyterian pastor has guided many into these deeper questions, stuff about identity and values, achieving vocational integrity, determining vocation and/or career goals. Very nicely written, nuanced and wise.  More about meaning and purpose and calling than details about the job market, but it is nonetheless the sort of profound rumination that ends up offering very helpful guidance. Calm, thoughtful, and I think quite reliable.

Getting a Life: How to Find Your True Vocation  Renee M. LaReau (Orbis) $15.00  This young Catholic woman is a wonderful writer, clear and creative, interesting and challenging.  She offers important insights about steps and stages.  She is a facilitator for the renowned Notre Dame Vocation Initiative, a program that offers weekend retreats for young adults in exploring their vocation.  U.S. Catholic magazine raves, saying it is for seekers of any age, needing help in figuring out “life’s big questions about career, relationships, and self.” Nice.

the-fabric-of-this-world.jpgThe Fabric of This World: Inquiries into Calling, Career Choice, and the Design of Human Work  Lee Hardy (Eerdmans) $20.00  If the previous few are a strong because they are anecdotal, testifying to God’s own tender leading in the lives of their authors, useful for those wanting gentle guidance, this is strong because it is painstakingly clear about his solid, Reformed worldview and the distinctives of a Biblical view of work.  This, actually, was one of the early, really good books, written in the late 70s that we promoted then; a recent look through reminded me how good it is, how thoughtful, how nicely rooted in what some call a Kuyperian or reformational vision.  It does have a bit about the corporate world, so is especially good for those entering that milieu.  His insights on management (and his critique of classic management philosophies that are not congenial to Christian convictions about calling) are foundational and very important.  Dr. Hardy teaches philosophy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids.

SHAPE: Finding & Fulfilling Your Unique Purpose for Life  Erik Rees (Zondervan) $14.99  The foreword from Rick Warren gives a hint: this is the very interesting and useful resource developed at Saddleback, helping each person discover their spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality, and experiences.  Filled with Scripture, real-life stories, and a strong workbooky inventory for your own self assessment. Thrilling!

Made to Count: Discovering What to do with Your Life  Bob Reccord & Randy Singer (Nelson) $13.99  I love Randy Singer—lawyer, novelist, mentor— and with his upbeat pal they have here developed a very useful guide to evaluating your strengths, discerning your passions, and realizing that God wants you to make a difference in ways consiste
nt with how you are meant to be.  There is a great, free, online personality profile and spiritual gifts analysis included with every purchase of the book.  Interestingly, a strength of this book is in naming our greatest fears and working with that in pretty interesting ways.  Inspiring.

Live Your Calling: A Practical Guide to Finding and Fulfilling Your Mission in Life  Kevin & Kay Marie Brennfleck (Josssey-Bass) $16.95 There are many books like this.  Practical, workbook, offering step-by-step guidance for self reflection, goal-setting, living into one’s sense of call.  This one is truly one of the bests, with endorsements from all kinds of faith-based groups, colleges, churches, career centers.

The tools and principles in this book can help young adults get their bearings and conquer obstacles.
Rebecca Horst, director, CALL Project, Goshen College.  

This book offers help for the reader to form a Life Calling Map that can guide them into a greater sense of significance for their lives. I commend it for its practicality, strong theological rootedness, and its psychological soundness.
Dr. Archibald D. Hart, senior professor of psychology and dean  Graduate School of Psychology, Fuller Theological Seminary

This remarkable book will enable every follower of Christ to recognize and respond to God’s calling on his or her life. I commend it heartily and unreservedly.

Dr. Ted W. Engstrom, president emeritus, World Vision

Hearing-God1.jpgHearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God  expanded and revised Dallas Willard (IVP)  $16.00  I suppose I should end on a note like the one above, directly about calling and career, vocational choices and practical tools for assessing one’s life.  But I’d like to end here, a basic, solid, mature, and thoughtful guide for any and all of us.  Do we all not want to learn how to hear God’s voice? Can we align ourselves with the promptings of the Spirit? Do these wise and practical spiritual disciplines form us in ways that allow us to take up our discipleship callings into all of life?  Of the many books exploring what we mean by “God’s will” and the practices of determining our life direction, this is simply the best..  A must-read, in my view.

When the expanded edition came out in 2012 InterVarsity Press also released a useful six week DVD video curriculum which we recommend.  It, too, is called Hearing God ($30.00.)  Maybe study of this spiritual practice might be helpful for your group to precede more detailed study of vocation and call.  Or perhaps it could follow a study of calling. Excellently produced.

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