I Love Reading!
Here's a chance to understand just a tiny
bit more of my current thinking by seeing what I'm reading! Please
feel free to share with your thoughts on any of the books, magazines, or
articles that you've read!
[For a list of my regular magazines and
journals, scroll down this page, or
***For My Morning Devotions***
***For The Pure Joy Of Reading***
***For Continuing Education/Nurture***
"It: How Churches And Leaders Can Get
It And Keep It" by Craig Groeschel
the publisher's Website: Craig Groeschel, founder of LifeChurch.tv
(Edmond, OK), witnessed a powerful presence from God that he calls It at
work in many churches. What is this transformational force? How can you
and your ministry get—and keep—It? Combining in-your-face honesty with
off-the-wall humor, this lively book tells how any believer can obtain
When Craig Groeschel founded LifeChurch.tv, the congregation met in a
borrowed two-car garage, with ratty furnishings and faulty audiovisual
equipment. But people were drawn there, sensing a powerful,
life-changing force Groeschel calls “It.”
What is It, and how can you and your ministry get—and keep—It? Combining
in-your-face honesty with off-the-wall humor, this book tells how any
believer can obtain It, get It back, and guard It.
One of today’s most innovative church leaders, Groeschel provides
profile interviews with Mark Driscoll, Perry Noble, Tim Stevens, Mark
Batterson, Jud Wilhite, and Dino Rizzo.
This lively book will challenge churches and their leaders to maintain
the spiritual balance that results in experiencing It in their lives.
"The Life Of Jesus For Today" by Ronal
Westminster John Knox Press, 2008
"In this new volume in the popular For Today
series, Ron Allen provides an exciting introduction to the life of Jesus
and an engaging discussion of what Jesus' life means for modern-day
believers. Setting Jesus in his ancient context, Allen examines many
stories about Jesus' life and shows how these different stories relate
to one another to express the core of Jesus' message--a message that, as
Allen helpfully shows, is of central importance for believers today.
The For Today series was designed to provide reliable and accessible
resources for the study and real life application of important biblical
texts, theological documents, and Christian practices. The emphasis of
the series is not only on the realization and appreciation of what these
subjects have meant in the past, but also on their value in the
present--"for today." Thought-provoking questions are included at the
end of each chapter, making the books ideal for personal study and group
Review from: The Thoughtful Christian website:
On a personal note: Dr. Allen was the Bible
Lecturer for the 2010 Adult Conference and was magnificent! This
is a great book for folks who have not been to seminary, but who really
want to get into some of the current scholarship and thinking about how
the scriptures see Jesus and his message. ~ Pastor Allen
The Power Of Stories: A Guide For
Leading Multi-Racial And Multicultural Congregations by Jacqueline J.
Description from the www.Cokesbury.com
Most congregational leaders find it difficult to
resist the dominant cultural expectation that different cultural and
ethnic groups should
stick to themselves–especially when it comes to church. But some
congregational leaders have learned the secrets of breaking out of these
expectations to bring together communities of faith that model God’s
radical inclusiveness. What makes the difference?
Jacqui Lewis explains that it resides in the
stories these leaders tell: stories about who they themselves are, and
what the communities they lead are about. These leaders are able to
embrace the multiple, complex stories within these diverse communities,
hearing in the many voices a particular echo of the living voice of the
gospel. In this book Lewis shares with the reader examples of
congregational leaders who have successfully overcome the challenges of
leading multicultural congregations, and the lessons that can be learned
Jacqueline J. Lewis is Senior Minister for Vision, Worship, and the Arts
at Middle Collegiate Church in New York.
The Pastor As Minor Poet: Texts And
Subtexts In The Ministerial Life
by M. Craig Barnes
Today's pastors often expected to be multitasking
marvels who can make their churches "successful" are understandably
confused about their role. Craig Barnes contends that the true calling
of a pastor is to assist others in becoming fully alive in Christ to be
a "minor poet." The pastor absorbs the wisdom of major poets the
biblical poets as well as the churchs theological poets and distills its
essence for parishioners. / The Pastor as Minor Poet calls pastors to
continually search for a deeper, truer understanding of what they see
both in the text of Scripture and in the text of their parishioners'
lives. Discerning the subtexts beneath these texts reveals the core
truths that allow pastors to preach the heart of the Word and to
understand the hearts of the people to whom they minister. Written with
a seasoned pastors depth of understanding and a poet's sensibility and
sensitivity, this book will minister to and inspire pastors everywhere.
Where We Stand: Class Matters by
Pastor Allen's Review: Clearly this will
become, if it already hasn't, a standard textbook for the discussion of
class in America. Framing the discussion in her own story, which grounds
the book and gives it a rich authenticity, hooks looks at the
multifaceted issue of class from various perspectives: race (from both
African-American and White perspectives), gender, white poverty, age and
the youth culture, real estate, etc. This was *very* helpful.
In then end, I was most taken with hooks indictment of "predatory
capitalism" and the willing (even audacious) involvement of the mass
media in convincing people of all races, classes, ages, etc. that the
ultimate goal is to own as much stuff as possible, and that stuff has to
be bigger and more extravagant than anyone else's stuff. Without dealing
with historic injustices, this uber-selfish craving for consumption not
only maintains, but solidifies those injustices, albeit with minute
I've posted a few quotations from the book on my facebook page. I
strongly urge you to read this book. It has become part of my "toolbox"
A Framework For Understanding
Poverty: Updated Edition
by Ruby K. Payne
From the Amazon.com website:
Fourth Revised Edition. People in poverty face
challenges virtually unknown to those in middle class or
wealth--challenges from both obvious and hidden sources. The reality of
being poor brings out a survival mentality, and turns attention away
from opportunities taken for granted by everyone else. If you work with
people from poverty, some understanding of how different their world is
from yours will be invaluable. Whether you're an educator--or a social,
health, or legal services professional--this breakthrough book gives you
practical, real-world support and guidance to improve your effectiveness
in working with people from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Since 1995 A
Framework for Understanding Poverty has guided hundreds of thousands of
educators and other professionals through the pitfalls and barriers
faced by all classes, especially the poor. Carefully researched and
packed with charts, tables, and questionaires, Framework not only
documents the facts of poverty, it provides practical yet compassionate
strategies for addressing its impact on people's lives.
* Thanks to Claire Munley for buying me this book!
For more information, and to order this book, go
by Toni Morrison
From the Random House
ABOUT THIS BOOK
A powerful tragedy
distilled into a jewel of a masterpiece by the
Nobel Prize–winning author of Beloved
and, almost like a prelude to that story, set
two centuries earlier.
In the 1680s the slave trade was still in its
infancy. In the Americas, virulent religious and
class divisions, prejudice and oppression were
rife, providing the fertile soil in which
slavery and race hatred were planted and took
Jacob is an Anglo-Dutch trader and adventurer,
with a small holding in the harsh north. Despite
his distaste for dealing in “flesh,” he takes a
small slave girl in part payment for a bad debt
from a plantation owner in Catholic Maryland.
This is Florens, “with the hands of a slave and
the feet of a Portuguese lady.” Florens looks
for love, first from Lina, an older servant
woman at her new master’s house, but later from
a handsome blacksmith, an African, never
There are other voices: Lina, whose tribe was
decimated by smallpox; their mistress, Rebekka,
herself a victim of religious intolerance back
in England; Sorrow, a strange girl who’s spent
her early years at sea; and finally the
devastating voice of Florens’ mother. These are
all men and women inventing themselves in the
A Mercy reveals what lies beneath the
surface of slavery. But at its heart it is the
ambivalent, disturbing story of a mother who
casts off her daughter in order to save her, and
of a daughter who may never exorcise that
Acts of mercy may have unforeseen consequences
To learn more about this
book, or to order it, go to:
* Thanks to the Christian
Education Team for the gift card with which I
purchase this book!
Sabbath In The City: Sustaining Urban
by Bryan P. Stone and Claire E.
From the Cokesbury.com website:
Drawing on their research involving urban pastors
from across the United States, Bryan Stone and Claire Wolfteich identify
and examine spiritual practices that foster excellence in urban
ministry. After discussing the specific challenges facing urban pastors
and presenting the kinds of excellence required of them, Stone and
Wolfteich explore several practices that help sustain ministers working
in urban contexts, such as cultivating holy friendships, practicing
Sabbath, maintaining lives of prayer and study, and setting appropriate
boundaries. Throughout, the authors weave together stories from urban
pastors from a variety of denominations with insights from the history
of Christian spirituality and theology to chart a theological course for
the formation and renewal of pastors in diverse contemporary contexts.
Bryan P. Stone is E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism at Boston
University and cofounder and director of the Center for Practical
Theology. He is the author of several books, including Evangelism after
Christendom: The Theology and Practice of Christian Witness.
Claire E. Wolfteich is Associate Professor of Practical Theology and
Spiritual Formation at Boston University. She is the author of several
books, including Lord, Have Mercy: Praying for Justice with Conviction
To learn more about this book, or to order it, go
The Life Of Meaning: Reflections on
Faith, Doubt, and Repairing The World
by Bob Abernathy and William Bole
From the Seven Stories Press website:
PBS's Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, which Bob Abernethy conceived and
anchors, has been described as "the best spot on the television
landscape to take in the broad view of the spiritual dimension of
American life . . ." by the Christian Science Monitor.
“Finally,” wrote the San Francisco Chronicle, “something intelligent on
TV about religion.” Now, together with his coauthor William Bole,
Abernethy has turned his attention to making a book that asks all the
big questions—and elicits the most surprising answers from a who’s-who
of today’s serious religious and spiritual thinkers from across the
spectrum of faiths and denominations.
In this thoughtful collection, extraordinary people give their personal
and private accounts of their own spiritual struggle. Their insights on
community, prayer, suffering, religious observance, the choice to live
with or without a god, and the meanings that are gleaned from everyday
life form an elegant meditation on the desire for something beyond what
we can see and measure.
More than fifty contributors, including Jimmy Carter, Francis Collins,
The Dalai Lama, Robert Franklin, Irving Greenberg, Seyyed Hossein Nasr,
Harold Kushner, Anne Lamott, Madeleine L’Engle, Thomas Lynch, Martin
Marty, Mark Noll, Rachel Remen, Marilynne Robinson, Barbara Brown
Taylor, Studs Terkel, Thich Nhat Hanh, Phyllis Tickle, Desmond Tutu,
Jean Vanier, and Marianne Williamson.
To learn more about this book, or to order it, go to:
Grace (Eventually): Thoughts On
Faith by Anne Lamott
The sharp, funny, and heartfelt follow-up to her bestselling Plan B,
Anne Lamott's newest collection is a personal exploration of the faith
and grace all around us.
In Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith, Lamott examines the
ways we're caught in life's most daunting predicaments: love, mothering,
work, politics, and maybe toughest of all, evolving from who we are to
who we were meant to be. This is a complicated process for most of us,
and Lamott turns her wit and honesty inward to describe her own
intimate, bumpy, and unconventional road to grace and faith.
"I wish grace and healing were more abracadabra kinds of things," she
writes in one of her essays, "that delicate silver bells would ring to
announce grace's arrival. But no, it's clog and slog and scootch, on the
floor, in silence, in the dark."
Whether she's writing about her unsuccessful efforts to get her money
back from an obstinate carpet salesman, grappling with the tectonic
shifts in her relationship with her son as he matures, trying to
maintain her faith and humor during politically challenging times, or
helping a close friend die with dignity, Lamott seeks out both the
divinity and the humanity in herself and everything around her.
Throughout these essays, she writes of her struggle to find the essence
of her faith, which she uncovers in the unlikeliest places. By
turns insightful and hilarious, pointed and poignant, Grace (Eventually)
is Anne Lamott at her perceptive and irreverent best.
About the Author
The bestselling author of Plan B, Traveling Mercies, and Operating
Instructions, Anne Lamott is a past recipient of a Guggenheim
Fellowship. She is a former columnist for Salon magazine and lives
near San Francisco.
Awed To Heaven, Rooted In Earth:
Prayers of Walter Brueggemann
& Reviews from www.Powells.com
This is a thoughtful collection of prayers that emerged from
Brueggemann's thirty-five years of teaching in seminaries. Full of
reflection, hope, and dialogue, they reveal another side of this gifted
author from what his many readers are accustomed to.
This thoughtful collection of prayers emerged from Brueggemann's
thirty-five years of teaching in seminaries. Full of reflection,
faith, and dialogue, they reveal another side of this gifted author from
what his many readers are accustomed to. These deeply felt and
sparklingly articulated prayers reflect a wide range of life
experiences. As readers, we are taken from the depths of pain and loss
to the heights of joy and praise. The author takes on life in its
fullest as he utters his praise and lament, petition and thanksgiving.
Brueggemann's prayers lead us to deeper commitment, deeper faith, and
The volume also includes an index of biblical allusions that will be
useful for preachers as well as the general reader looking for the
biblical roots of these fears, hopes, struggles, and aspirations.
[Note: Other books used in my devotional time each morning are noted by
the subtle "DEVOTIONS:" in front of the description. AVH]
Lamb: The Gospel According To Biff,
Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore
Pastor Allen [finished October 2008]:
What a quirky, delightful, terribly irreverent,
and completely provocative book! I will never look at Jesus' life in the
same way. I highly recommend it, but not to the fainthearted or biblical
literalists (not that they would take my recommendation anyway.) But I
would encourage anyone who wants to know Jesus more fully and personally
to read this book. Biff is my newest, bestest hero!
Quite seriously, the author's take on what influences may have been
brought from Jesus' life history, and on the events that are recorded in
the biblical narrative, have deepened my faith. I read some of the
familiar stories of the New Testament with fresh eyes (not to mention a
wry smile on my lips.) Bravo to Moore! ~AVH
Everyone knows about the immaculate conception and
the crucifixion. But what happened to Jesus between the manger and the
Sermon on the Mount? In this hilarious and bold new novel, the acclaimed
author Moore shares the greatest story never told: the life of Christ as
seen by his boyhood pal, Biff.
The birth of Jesus has been well chronicled, as have his glorious
teachings, acts, and divine sacrifice after his thirtieth birthday. But
no one knows about the early life of the Son of God, the missing years
-- except Biff, the Messiah's best bud, who has been resurrected to tell
the story in the divinely hilarious yet heartfelt work "reminiscent of
Vonnegut and Douglas Adams" ("Philadelphia Inquirer).
Verily, the story Biff has to tell is a miraculous one, filled with
remarkable journeys, magic, healings, kung fu, corpse reanimations,
demons, and hot babes. Even the considerable wiles and devotion of the
Savior's pal may not be enough to divert Joshua from his tragic destiny.
But there's no one who loves Josh more -- except maybe "Maggie," Mary of
Magdala -- and Biff isn't about to let his extraordinary pal suffer and
ascend without a fight.
Take This Bread: The Spiritual
Memoir Of A Twenty-First Century Christian by Sara Miles
From Pastor Allen [finished September 2008]:
This is a great book for those who want to be
inspired toward making real their faith and who believe in practical
Christianity at its best. I love the fact that the author doesn't
feel the need to "prettify" her language or couch her feelings about
either her mystical experience with Christ nor her frustrations with the
organizational side of the church. She has come to know Jesus in
the breaking of the bread, and by God she's going to help others
experience the sacred through bread... and carrots, and ground beef, and
milk... if it kills her. And it almost does!
I was so inspired by this book that I scheduled
a visit and tour of the Cleveland Food Bank and several "Circle Service
Spots" for church members to get "down and dirty" and serve God's
people! We've taken an evening at the Catholic Worker Storefront,
are scheduled to stay overnight at with families in the Interfaith
Hospitality Network, and who knows what else.
I think that all-too-often we get so content
serving other Christians inside our beautiful church buildings that we
forget that Christ had nothing to do with such service! Miles
brings the beautiful but battered folks of the neighborhood into their
precious sacred space and allows Holy Communion to be what it was meant
to be -- hope for the world! ~AVH
From the Random House website:
Early one morning, for no earthly reason, Sara
Miles, raised an atheist, wandered into a church, received communion,
and found herself transformed–embracing a faith she’d once scorned. A
lesbian left-wing journalist who’d covered revolutions around the world,
Miles didn’t discover a religion that was about angels or good behavior
or piety; her faith centered on real hunger, real food, and real bodies.
Before long, she turned the bread she ate at communion into tons of
groceries, piled on the church’s altar to be given away. Within a few
years, she and the people she served had started nearly a dozen food
pantries in the poorest parts of their city.
Take This Bread is rich with real-life Dickensian characters–church
ladies, millionaires, schizophrenics, bishops, and thieves–all blown
into Miles’s life by the relentless force of her newfound calling. Here,
in this achingly beautiful, passionate book, is the living communion of
“The most amazing book.”
“Engaging, funny, and highly entertaining . . . Miles comments, often
with great insight, on the ugliness that many people associate with a
particular brand of Christianity. Why would any thinking person become a
Christian? is one of the questions she addresses, and her answer is also
“Powerful . . . This book is a gem [and] will remain with you forever.”
–The Decatur Daily
“What Miles learns about faith, about herself and
about the gift of giving and receiving graciously are wonderful gifts
for the reader.”
–National Public Radio
“[A] joyful memoir . . . advocates big-tent Christianity in the truest
sense . . . a story of finding sustenance and passing it on.”
–National Catholic Reporter
“Rigorously honest, Take This Bread demonstrates how hard–and how
necessary–it is to welcome everyone to the table, without exception.”
–San Francisco Chronicle
“Moving, delightful and significant.”
–The Christian Century
Don’t miss the reading group guide in the back of the book.
About the Author
Sara Miles is the author of How to Hack a Party Line: The Democrats and
Silicon Valley and co-editor of Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems
of June Jordan and the anthology Opposite Sex: Gay Men on Lesbians,
Lesbians on Gay Men. Her work has appeared in The New York Times
Magazine, The New Yorker, The Progressive, La Jornada, and Salon, among
others. She has written extensively on military affairs, politics, and
culture. She lives in San Francisco with her family. Visit the her
website at www.saramiles.net .
Sara Miles, author
To order this book from Cokesbury.com, click on the book jacket above,
or click HERE!
To read or hear Sara Miles thoughts on the National Public Radio program
"This I Believe," click HERE!
The Magician's Assistant by Ann
[AVH finished July 2008]
From the New York Times on the Web:
Sleight of Hand
In Ann Patchett's new novel, magic includes unexpected love and
Read the First Chapter
By SUZANNE BERNE
Parsifal is dead,'' reads the startling opening of ''The Magician's
Assistant,'' Ann Patchett's third novel. ''That is the end of the
story.'' Since more than 350 pages follow, the reader has been fairly
warned to expect surprises and a few contradictions. And sure enough,
they begin appearing like doves from silk scarves. Instead of a medieval
knight, Parsifal turns out to be a gay magician, the owner of a rug
store in Los Angeles who has AIDS and who has just died of a ruptured
aneurysm while holding hands with his assistant, Sabine, whom he
recently married. ''I love you,'' Parsifal had said. ''I want you to be
A contradiction in herself, the beautiful Sabine has rejected many
admirers to devote her entire adult life to loving Parsifal, assisting
his magic act and finally helping him tend his dying Vietnamese lover,
Phan. Now middle-aged and alone in Phan's enormous house in Los Angeles
with only a rabbit for company, she slides into a dangerous, somnolent
despair, mourning the loss of a man she never had -- which means there
is no need ever to quit mourning him. Like Sleeping Beauty, she has
fallen under a spell that seems impossible to break.
This curiously fraught situation becomes more so once it is revealed
that Parsifal had a secret history. The tragic, privileged background in
Connecticut he had described to Sabine was all smoke and mirrors; it
turns out he grew up as Guy Fetters in Alliance, Neb., where his mother
and two sisters still live, though he hadn't seen them for decades. When
the frumpy Dot Fetters and her daughter Bertie show up in Los Angeles to
meet Guy's wife and see his grave -- right next to Phan's -- what began
as a complicated story becomes almost baroque. The Fetterses prove to be
tolerant, caring folks. Alarmed by her unhappiness, they invite Sabine
to visit them in tiny Alliance, and she surprises herself by going,
hoping for some sort of connection with the Parsifal she has just
discovered. ''When Parsifal died she lost the rest of his life, but now
she had stumbled on 18 years. Eighteen untouched years that she could
have; early, forgotten volumes of her favorite work. A childhood that
could be mined month by month. Parsifal would not get older, but what
The difficulty with this unusual romance is that it
is never clear why Sabine loves Parsifal so obsessively. He was generous
and good-hearted, but so are his mother and sisters and nearly everyone
else she encounters, including Phan, who regularly visits Sabine's
dreams to report on the afterlife and advise her on her quest. We are
reminded several times that Parsifal was a magician, and ''without
magicians, the assistants were lost,'' but that answer isn't satisfying
either, even for a novel that insists on becoming a fairy tale. Sabine
remains an enigma, a woman entranced by her own enchantment. Which
explains why she never generates enough sympathy to make her predicament
Yet the kindliness of ''The Magician's Assistant'' is beguiling, and
Patchett is an adroit, graceful writer who knows enough tricks to keep
her story entertaining. She is especially practiced at the razzle-dazzle
of odd juxtapositions. As Sabine notes: ''People long to be amazed, even
as they fight it. Once you amaze them, you own them.'' Few readers will
be amazed that Sabine's search for Parsifal in Nebraska leads her to
find love unexpectedly or that by posthumously reuniting Parsifal with
his mother and sisters, she helps unchain them from a painful past. But
it is still gratifying to watch Patchett pull each rabbit out of the
The real appeal of ''The Magician's Assistant'' lies in the small,
accumulating ways in which Sabine and the Fetters family assist one
another out of isolation and sorrow. By the end, they have all been
somewhat transformed -- yes, by the magic of love. If it is hard not to
squint at some of the flashy paradoxes Patchett uses to construct her
narrative, then perhaps a struggle with credulity is precisely what she
wants to encourage. Improbable relationships can flourish; strange
havens do exist. Becoming accustomed to sad endings may be more naive
than believing, now and then, in happily ever after.
Suzanne Berne is the author of a novel, ''A Crime in the Neighborhood.''
The Relentless Tenderness Of God by
[AVH finished June 2008]
From the Back Cover:
A God you can know Is God a wrathful judge? A gentle healer? A father?
Brother? Friend? In The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus, Brennan Manning
brings you to a deeper understanding of the true nature of God. Through
poignant and unforgettable stories and challenging observations, Manning
helps you stretch your mind and reject simplistic explanations of who
God really is.
With rich insights you'll see how God can at once
be a roaring lion, pacing the globe and seeking you out; and
simultaneously a tender lamb, there to comfort you in any time of need.
A unique experience, this book will forever change the way you think
about God. "As I read these honest, grace-saturated, humbly
iconoclastic, distinctly un-sugarcoated but still somehow gentle words,
I could taste familiar water, living water that only people who are
thirsty for life can enjoy. Read it--and hope again!" --from the
foreword by Larry Crabb.
Brennan Manning is a former Franciscan priest and
author of a dozen books including the best-selling The Ragamuffin
Gospel. He has lived a faithful life of service to others and to God and
shares his intellect and love through the words found in this book.
About the Author
Brennan Manning is a best-selling author and spends more than half his
time on the road in a ministry of evangelism, directing weeks of parish
renewal, retreats and missions. Ordained a Franciscan priest in 1963, he
makes his home in New Orleans.
An Invitation to the
[AVH finished May 2008]
Walter Brueggemann, Author. Louisville, KY: Westminster John
Knox Press, 2007.
Walter Brueggemann provocatively explores the complexity of faithful
living and ministry amid contemporary forces that vie for the control of
our attention and allegiance. These essays are wide ranging—probing such
topics as forgiveness, welcome, hope, Sabbath-keeping, the need for
theological certainty, and the use of the Bible in American
Christianity. What holds them together is Brueggemann's insistence that
"the church in this demanding moment of its life must recover and
re-embrace its missional identity that sets it in significant tension
with major political-economic-ideological developments in U.S. society."
Also central is his conviction that—at its root—faith is about
"openness to wonder" and "awe in glad praise."
cringe at the boisterous, cocky new sound of religion in politics, if
you worry about the divisiveness of ‘red’ and ‘blue,’ and if you are
vexed that too many people claim to be speaking directly for Christ, you
might think that our Christian faith is all about getting the moral
issues right and leveraging others to think and act the right way, as do
we. But if you think that, you are very wrong, because such contemporary
loud posturing is not so much about faith as it is about anxiety and
maintaining control in the world. Our faith . . . is not about pinning
down moral certitudes. It is, rather, about openness to wonder and awe
in glad praise.”
—from chapter 1
In this his newest work, renowned Walter Brueggemann sets forth a new
vision of the Christian church in today’s world. Based on recent
speaking engagements surrounding his critical passion and
conviction—that the church in this moment must set itself in tension
with the rest of the world—the essays in Mandate to Difference
call the church to courageously defy political polarization,
consumerism, and militarism. “If this is God’s world and if the rule of
love is at work,” he writes, “then our mandate is not to draw into a
cocoon of safety; rather, it is to be out and alive in the world in
concrete acts and policies whereby the fearful anxiety among us is
dispatched and adversaries can be turned to allies and to friends.”
To order, go to:
Kitchen Table Wisdom (10th Anniversary Edition)
by Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen
Dr. Remen's New York Times bestselling book Kitchen Table Wisdom:
Stories That Heal is published in eleven languages and is presently used
in the standard Introduction to Clinical Medicine course in 18 medical
schools across the country. Kitchen Table Wisdom won the 1996 Wilbur
Award for best work of spiritual non-fiction and the Friends of
Libraries USA Readers' Choice Award for 2000.
"Rachel Naomi Remen is nature's gift to us, a genius of that elusive and
crucial capacity, the human heart. She has much to teach us about
healing, loving, and living." - Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., author of
"This is a beautiful book about life, the only true teacher." - Bernie
Siegel, M.D., author of Love, Medicine & Miracles
Review from the Barnes & Noble website:
Following Foo (the electronic adventures of the
Chestnut Man) by B. D. Wong
Pastor Allen's thoughts: I simply loved reading this
book. B.D. has such an energetic and quirky approach to life.
Plus, with my love of children and lost longing to be a parent myself,
this book offered a glimpse into what it must be like to be a gay
parent. I highly recommend it, especially for those people who
have no idea about how gay men or lesbians could really be parents.
Every now and then there comes along a literary voice so strong, so
originally sincere, and so uniquely distinct that the words on the page
seem to sing and to scream and to dance -- all at once and all on their
own. Such is the wonderful writing debut of acclaimed actor B.D. Wong.
With a remarkable mixture of upbeat optimism, unexpected hilarity, and
heart-wrenching sadness, Wong takes the reader deep inside both his
psyche and the neonatal intensive care unit where he spent the better
part of three months following the harrowing medical twists and turns
that took place after the premature birth of his twins."Once upon a
time," as Wong explains in his true story, Following Foo: (the
electronic adventures of the Chestnut Man), "my partner and I found
ourselves expecting, with the help of a surrogate mother, modern medical
science, and lots of good luck and prayers. To add to our blessing, she
was carrying twins! Things were pretty swell ... until the twins arrived
almost three months early. For those of you who don't know, babies that
come almost three months early are pretty little, and boy are they
scary-looking. Especially when you're their dad ... "
Originally based on a series of real-time E-mails sent to keep his
friends and family abreast of the daily madness and miracles of "early"
parenthood, this book is a gem, a joy, and an inspiration to anyone who
has ever taken a ride on the roller coaster of life and tried to keep
both sense of humor and sanity intact.
Review from the Barnes & Noble website:
Sidewalks in the Kingdom: New Urbanism
and the Christian Faith
by Eric Jacobsen
Description: There has been much ink spilled in the
evangelical community about "claiming our cities for Christ" and plenty
of lip service paid to the need to address urban concerns. But according
to author and pastor Eric Jacobsen, this discussion has remained far too
abstract. His Sidewalks in the Kingdom challenges Christians to gain a
practical, informed vision for the city that includes a broad
understanding of the needs and rewards of a vital urban community.
Building on the principles of New Urbanism, Jacobsen emphasizes the need
to preserve the nourishing characteristics of traditional city life,
such as shared public spaces, mixed-use neighborhoods, a well-supported
local economy, and aesthetic diversity and beauty.
Sidewalks in the Kingdom includes three appendices: a glossary of urban
vocabulary, an annotated bibliography of related sources, and a detailed
description of the principles and goals of New Urbanism. A companion
website with posted discussion questions,
www.sidewalksinthekingdom.com, makes it ideal for study
groups. Pastors, city-dwellers, and those interested in urban ministry,
politics, and development will be both encouraged and informed by
Sidewalks in the Kingdom.
Author Information: Eric O. Jacobsen is adjunct professor of theology
and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary. He previously served as
associate pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Missoula, Montana.
Jacobsen is a member of the Congress for the New Urbanism.
Where Have All The Prophets Gone?
Reclaiming Prophetic Preaching In America by Marvin McMickle
From the Pilgrim Press website:
"Prophetic preaching in the American
pulpit has suffered a decline in the last 20-25 years. Several things
are to blame: an overzealous preoccupation with praise and worship; a
false and narrow view of patriotism; and a focus on prosperity and
personal enrichment themes.
"Where Have All the Prophets Gone? is a call for preachers to learn the
importance of keeping their eyes on the vision of Jesus and biblical
prophets when preaching - that of doing justice, caring for others, and
being equitable. The book attempts to make a biblical argument for the
importance and the content of prophetic preaching, and argues that the
issue is not preaching from a text taken from the prophetic corpus but
preaching on the themes that echoed over and over from the biblical
"MARVIN McMICKLE is pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio.
He earned his Ph.D. From Case Western Reserve University, his D.Min.
from Princeton Theological Seminary, and his M.Div. from Union
Theological Seminary in the City of New York. He is the professor of
homiletics at Ashland University and the author of six books."
The World of Normal Boys
by K.M. Soehnlein
Book review by Jeremy Quittner
Karl Soehnlein's stunning first novel, The World of Normal Boys, reads
like a cross between the film American Beauty and Edmund White's A Boy's
Own Story. The book, set in 1978 suburban New Jersey, unfolds through
the eyes of precocious 13-year-old Robin MacKenzie, who feels the
stirrings of his nascent homosexuality while his family suffers a crisis
that nearly tears them apart.
Robin's discovery is that he can't ever be normal, and his realization
unfolds with a hyperclarity that scrutinizes the complex tangle of
emotions--rage, love, repressed desire--that govern suburban
relationships. Along the way Soehnlein skillfully excavates the 1970s,
pulling up old Patti Smith lyrics, Galaxie 500 convertibles, and
scoop-neck T-shirts that, say FOXY LADY. He sets these reminders against
a familiar backdrop of the idiotic gym teachers, hypermasculine jocks,
stoners, bimbos, and family tyrants who made life hell for gay boys
Even if you're not a child of the '70s, The World of Normal Boys will
force you to relive the most painful moments of your adolescence. In the
process you'll reaffirm your decision to be who you are now.
COPYRIGHT 2000 Liberation Publications, Inc.
Broken For You by Stephanie Kallos
From Stephanie Kallos' Website:
A buoyant debut novel
about two women in self-imposed exile whose worlds are transformed when
their paths intersect, and a glorious homage to the beauty of broken
Broken for You is a debut novel of infinite charm and tremendous heart
that explores the risks and rewards of human connection, and the hidden
strength behind things that only seem fragile. With a riotous energy
that recalls the works of John Irving and Anne Tyler, Kallos brings to
life a delightful set of characters—among them an old woman who
converses regularly with her porcelain collection; a young woman who can
fix a leaky sink but can’t stop her own tears from falling; a
Yeats-loving bowling enthusiast; and a woman who survived a world war
with her sense of humor (and her affinity for Hawaiian shirts) intact.
When we meet septuagenarian Margaret Hughes, she is living alone in a
mansion in Seattle with only a massive collection of valuable antiques
for company. Enter Wanda Schultz, a young woman with a broken heart who
has come west to search for her wayward boyfriend. Both women are
guarding dark secrets and have spent many years building up protective
armor against the outside world. But as the two begin their tentative
dance of friendship, the armor begins to fall away and Margaret opens
her house to the younger woman. This launches a series of remarkable and
unanticipated events, leading Margaret to discover a way to redeem her
cursed past, and Wanda to learn the true purpose of her cross-country
journey. Along the way, a famous mosaic artist is born, a Holocaust
survivor is reunited with her long-lost tea set, and a sad-eyed drifter
finds his long-lost daughter.
Funny, heartbreaking, and
alive with a potpourri of eccentric and irresistible characters, Broken
for You is a testament to the saving graces of surrogate families, and
shows how far the tiniest repair jobs can go in righting the world’s
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
A Minister's Meditations
"Gilead" by Marilynne Robinson takes readers inside the head of an
Review by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Reprinted with permission from Spirituality & Health on
This beautifully written novel is set in 1956 when John Ames, a
third-generation Congregational minister, has decided to write a long,
memory-filled letter to his seven-year-old son. At seventy-six years,
this reflective man has been diagnosed with angina pectoris and doesn’t
have very long to live. John wants to pass on the faith that has filled
his life with meaning, the love that has sprung from his second marriage
to a serious young woman, and the forgiveness that has been a challenge
to several generations in his family.
John Ames, the narrator of this epistolary novel, is a sensitive and
intelligent country minister in Gilead, Iowa. He wants to share with his
young son important bits of family history. One of his fondest memories
is of a month-long journey with his father to find his grandfather's
grave in Kansas. The two men did not hit it off very well: one was a
violent abolitionist who was connected with John Brown and the other was
a pacifist. John sees this fissure of father and son repeated in the
life of his best friend, Old Boughton, Gilead's Presbyterian minister.
When his son Jack returns to town, this former prankster seeks out John
Ames for counsel and advice. He wants to know what the minister thinks
of predestination. Suddenly, Ames finds himself assessing his negative
feelings about Jack and wrestling with the meaning of forgiveness. The
final meeting between the narrator and this prodigal son is capped with
a deeply spiritual event that demonstrates the remarkable healing power
of certain Christian rituals.
What is so wonderful about this novel is that it slows us down to the
rhythms of the elderly narrator and the regularity of life in a small
town. In his meditative letter, the minister touches upon the battles
between fathers and sons, the meaning of friendship, the wonderful
beauty in the natural world, the rituals of baptism and blessing, and
the healing he has sought and found in Gilead. The time span covers the
bounties of Christian faith and service during 100 years of family
history. Here is a clergyman who loves hymns and has preached thousands
of sermons. He reflects on his 2250 sermons stored in boxes and his
respect for theologian Karl Barth. Ames has learned to respect the
mysteries of life and the small pleasures of living by honing the
spiritual gifts of wonder, attention, and listening.
With sober-mindedness, Ames tallies up the legacies of his pacifist
father, his wild grandfather with one-eye and many visions of God, and
the impact of losing his first wife and child in childbirth. He has
spent much of his life listening to others, and at one point, states:
"That's the strangest thing about this life, about being in the
ministry. People change the subject when they see you coming. And then
sometimes those very same people come into your study and tell you the
most remarkable things."
Whether pondering the delights of baseball, appreciating the beauties of
nature, or commenting on the many books he has read, Ames demonstrates
how the Christian life can be awash with enchantments if one takes the
time to count one's blessings and give all the praise to God, who is
wrapped in one mystery after another.
For some of my all-time favorite books,
Magazines & Journals
I Read Regularly...
I started subscribing again to this "progressive
evangelical" magazine after having dropped it two decades ago because I
simply never had time to read it. I read it... every issue and
every article! I feel that even though not every author shares my
point of view, it is a powerful resource for people of faith who see
God's will being progressively manifested in creation and in the people
of God. It has humor, timely news stories, and compelling
It is critical that we keep ourselves informed
about the church beyond our own congregation's walls. I subscribe
to the print version of DisciplesWorld and I log into the website
regularly, which has a lot of additional content.
Not only is this journal in the long and fine
traditions of journals our denomination has had, it is also one of the
finest church journals around. I *highly* recommend it. ~AVH
It is important to me to grow in my understanding,
awareness, and appreciation of the African American Community, and this
little magazine is a great and easy way for me to do so! I grab
one off of the rack in the checkout line at Dave's Supermarket and read
it a little at a time over the next week. It's amazing how the
world opens up for me by reading it! ~AVH
I have been reading The Advocate for over 20 years.
It was a lifesaver as I grew into my awareness as a gay man, and as I
sought to navigate the ever so tricky politics of New York City LGBT
life and politics. It is an award-winning newsmagazine that has
kept its integrity and its wonderfully brilliant style throughout the
years and over many remakes. ~AVH
Gay People's Chronicle
Cleveland's Best Source of news and
information about what matters to the gay, lesbian, bisexual,
transgender and affirming community!