IVP - Behind the Books - Formatio Archives

January 18, 2012

Seeing, Tasting, Smelling, Hearing and Touching the Wonders of God

Thank you to Jeff Crosby, Associate Publisher and Director of Sales & Marketing for this post.

The Advent season we have just journeyed through is one in which our senses are often heightened beyond the norm: The fragrance of lit candles and the sound of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite; the taste of eggnog and the brilliance of multi-colored lights trimming homes and trees; the warm touch of friends and family who have gathered with us.

In spite of the oft-times hectic pace of the cultural trappings of the Advent season, it is one in which we are often more aware of the senses, more in tune with the wonder of Immanuel, God with us.

But what about the rest of the year?


If I'm honest, I realize that I'm very much like the people my friends Beth A. Booram and J. Brent Bill are writing to in their just-released book Awaken Your Senses when they say:

"Since we live so much out of our thinking, we often become divorced from our souls and our bodies. We lose a sense of place, of rootedness in life. Using our senses helps us live in present time." (emphasis added)

And we need to live in that present time. After all, it's the only time that we have. But how do we cultivate the disciplined use of our senses in seasons, unlike Advent, during which the world is experienced in gray rather than vivid color? When we hear the cacophony of suburban traffic more often and more loudly than the beautiful sound of the Wood Thrush? When friends and family are not near, but quite far from us and distant from our physical touch?

In a recent conversation about his reason for writing Awaken Your Senses, Brent Bill, whom I first met nearly a quarter century ago and whose written work I've followed and appreciated throughout the intervening years, explained it this way:

One reason the senses are so important is because we neglect to use them. Even though St. Paul tells us to 'present your bodies as a living sacrifice' to God, we rarely do so. We offer our minds and souls, but rarely think of how our bodies were also God-made and can be God-honoring. Our bodies open us in fresh ways -- through sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound -- to experiencing God present with us in tangible ways.

And that is exactly what Awaken Your Senses does: Open readers up to experiencing God present with us. Immanuel, throughout the year.

I've known Beth Booram, the book's co-author, for a much shorter period of time than Brent. But she, too, has become a friend and a trusted guide. We share a love of classical music, the outdoors, and family. We also share an appreciation for well-crafted - and kindly-spoken - words.

Taste image from AYS.JPG

In a section of the book titled "Tasting Words," Beth writes powerfully and metaphorically about the ability to "taste" words, whether those that are life-affirming, sweet and appetizing (words like loving, kind, honest, beautiful, sincere, valiant) or words that are bitter and distasteful (cruel, vile, worthless, ugly, ungrateful). She leads readers through a very poignant spiritual exercise she calls "tasting forgiveness" (see video link below) that is one we all should be mindful of in any season. But as the calendar turns from Advent and Christmastide to Lent and Eastertide in the weeks ahead, her message on the taste of forgiveness is all the more penetrating, and all the more timely. (Drawing on the right by Marcy Jean Stacey; one of several "sense" pictures in the book)

Awaken Your Senses was written for people like me - and, maybe, like you - who need wise and helpful guides on the journey of exploring the wonder of God in any and all seasons: Advent and Christmastide; Lent and Eastertide. And beyond.

Immanuel, God with us.
Throughout the year. Throughout the seasons.
Joy to the world.
Thanks be to God.

More information can be found at the book's Facebook page. Check there on Monday, February 6 to enter a contest based on each of the five senses. Win a gift certificate or a free copy of Awaken Your Senses.
Posted by Leah Kiple at 1:15 PM

April 13, 2011

Apprentice Series Continues to Impact Lives


When my friend Greg Bowman speaks, I can count on him to shoot as straight as a west Kansas highway - even when I may not like what he says. We all need people like that, right?

So I listened closely when Bowman, a close friend for more than a quarter century and a small group pastor for nearly that long, told me, “No resources have had a more profound impact on my life and ministry than the Apprentice Series,” and went on to declare that “the books are making true life-change possible for the first time for so many.”

I listened. And I liked what I heard.

Continue reading "Apprentice Series Continues to Impact Lives "
Posted by Rebecca Larson at 12:46 PM

March 1, 2011

Preparing for Lent with Juliet Benner

(Many thanks to Juliet Benner, author of Contemplative Vision, for this post.)

Lent is a time of preparation for Easter and the mysteries of life, death and resurrection that we celebrate during Holy Week. Many Christians understand this preparation primarily in terms of things that they choose to give up for the 40 days before Easter. But if Holy Week is a ritual walk through the events of the passion, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, perhaps the most basic way of thinking about preparation for this is to view Lent as spreading our engagement with these Holy Week events over 40 days rather than 7. What if you could use Lent as a 6 week journey with Jesus in which you spend time with him in Gospel meditation, watching his interactions with others and getting to know him? Think of how this would prepare you for Maundy Thursday when you accompany him to the Last Supper with his disciples. Or how it would help you enter more fully into his suffering and crucifixion on Good Friday, or your waiting with him on that longest day of the year - the Holy Saturday of his entombment. And think how this would help you then journey with Mary Magdalene to the tomb on Easter mornings, or be with the disciples when they first heard the news of his resurrection.


This is preparation that my book, Contemplative Vision: A Guide to Christian Art and Prayer can greatly assist. What I present in it is a series of guided meditations on Biblical passages and Christian art that have been based on them. Any of the meditations would be suitable, but after reading and reflecting on the introduction and first chapter, which present a discussion of the role of seeing and awareness in Christian spirituality and which would form an excellent focus for the first week of Lent, five are particularly well suited to Lent and could each serve as a focus for the next five weeks - Chapters 2, 3, 10, 9 and 12. Following them in this order they would lead you through a focus on Jesus’ preparation for ministry, relationships with others, journey to Calvary and death on the cross.

To enter into these meditations, I would suggest that after a moment of silent prayer, you read the text aloud, slowly and prayerfully. Do this several times leaving lots of reflective space. Then look at the piece of art that was based on this text. Again, don’t rush. Allow yourself enough time to really see it, and to notice what you sense and feel. Notice what God might be saying to you through the art, and how the art leads you back to the Scriptures. Then, slowly read the chapter in the book that brings together the art and the passage, moving your attention back and forth from the painting to the commentary. Then spend some time with the reflective questions at the end of each chapter.

When you have finished, take time to thank God for the gifts you have received. And think about how you want to respond to them. You might, for example, decide to respond in some creative way. But whether it feels creative or not, simply make your response your own, and do respond.

Spending some time in each of the six weeks of Lent in this way will unquestionably prepare you for Easter. But beyond this, it will prepare you to walk more closely with Jesus - more attentive to his presence and attuned to the realities of his incarnation. In short, it will help you know Jesus and it will deepen your relationship with him. If this is what you desire, consider this as part of your Lenten journey this year.

Posted by Rebecca Larson at 6:00 AM

May 2, 2007

Talladega Nights and Trinitarian Prayer

In the movie Talladega Nights we get a glimpse of how car racing superstar Ricky Bobby offers the blessing at a family meal. He addresses "Little Baby Jesus," thanking him for helping him win races, make money and marry a beautiful wife. When his wife asks why he's talking to "baby" Jesus, Ricky Bobby says that he wants to pray to "Christmas Jesus." And he continues, "Dear tiny infant Jesus." It's a funny scene (Yes, I did see the movie--my family made me! Really.), but it might also be a fair reflection of how we like to pray--and who it feels safe to pray to. Little baby Jesus isn't going to interfere much with our prayer agendas.

In my work life I have been pondering the value of addressing all three persons of the Trinity in prayer. In The Path of Celtic Prayer (an upcoming IVP book) Calvin Miller highlights Trinity praying as one of the unique features of Celtic faith. Care is taken to address Father, Son and Spirit as in this prayer from Andrew Carmichael's Carmina Gadelica called "A Prayer for Grace":

I am bending my knee
In the Eye of the Father who created me,
In the eye of the Son who died for me,
In the eye of the Spirit who cleansed me.

Today I was making a final check on The Ancient Christian Devotional, and I came upon Basil the Great making a comment on the importance of invoking the Trinity in baptismal rites (as it relates to Acts 10:38):

Do not be misled because the apostle frequently omits the names of the Father and the Holy Spirit when he speaks of baptism. Do not imagine because of this that the invocation of their names has been omitted. . . .To address Christ in this way is a complete profession of faith, because it clearly reveals that God anoints the Son (the anointed One) with the unction of the Spirit.

It was striking to me that this church father also wanted to be sure that we understood that we were addressing all three persons of the Trinity in the baptismal rite. Clearly, the Trinity factored high in his faith. And so I ponder: does our contemporary prayer life reflect a three-person theology? Are we prepared to have the power of the Trinity shape our agenda, or are we trying to control what happens in prayer by praying in ways that feel safe and easy?

Posted by Cindy Bunch at 7:55 AM | Comments (1) are closed

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