January 14, 2013
I love books that urge you to read more books — and I say that honestly as a reader, not just because I work for a publisher. One of our new titles, Toddy Holeman's Theology for Better Counseling, makes a particularly good case for reading more.Continue reading "Better Theology for [Your Job Here]"
January 18, 2012
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:
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:
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.
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.
Posted by Leah Kiple at 1:15 PM
December 20, 2011
Every summer I work at a wilderness island, Isle Royale National Park, in Lake Superior close to the Canadian border. One thing I love about living so far north is the seemingly never-ending amount of daytime. I rise with the sun at 6 AM, and then watch the last glow of sunset around 11 PM. It's a season of light.
There's no cell phone coverage, no roads, no cars. My groceries arrive every two weeks on a small boat. Here, I am forced to slow down, make do, and get by with what I have.
On my hike to work at the ranger station each morning, I might snack on wild raspberries, or stop to enjoy the fog wisps over the harbor. A moose and her twin calves may block the trail, and I marvel at their gawky grace. Wolf tracks imprint the shoreline. The quiet is broken only by birdsong and wind in the birches.
As I relax into the rhythms of creation each summer, week after week, I find myself remembering something deep in my bones. In wilderness, I feel connected to the one who created it all. And, I love the days... filled with light.
At home, just outside of Chicago, it's the Christmas season. I find myself sucked into the tyranny of the must-dos. There's holiday baking, Christmas cards, and shopping for my self-imposed ideas of the perfect gifts for friends and family. I dash to the grocery store each time I run out of shortening or eggs, and I find myself in the car more than I'd like, driving on endless errands. Horns blare, "Santa Baby" plays on store intercoms, and jets roar overhead.
I wake up in darkness, and by afternoon I'm snapping on lights around the house to fend off the twilight. The sense of connectedness to something deep that I felt in the summer is almost obliterated by now, victim to white noise and busyness. I miss the light.
It's now, right before Christmas, that I remind myself to slow down and spend time remembering. Remembering how to be quiet. How to pay attention. And, remembering to soak up some light.
One way to go deeper and slow down is to spend time with the prayers and writings of the church fathers and mothers, and the scriptures that frame the Advent season. It is in these ancient words that we remember our connections to something deeper than the passing whims and demands of the moment. It's a way to be quiet, and pay attention. And it's a reminder of the light that has illuminated our faith.
As I compiled the Ancient Christian Devotional series during the past five years for IVP, I fell in love with some of the writings of Ambrose of Milan. He lived around 333-397 and was known as a pastor of souls as well as a scholar. When I meditate on his words, I can understand why. His writings from so many centuries ago remind me of whose child I am, and of the deep roots of my faith. His words bring me back to the light.
One of my favorite Ambrose passages is excerpted in the Christmas week readings in the Ancient Christian Devotional (Lectionary Cycle C). Ambrose writes of Jesus:
Such ancient words! But they still illuminate the darkness.
As I paged through old prayer books and stacks of Ancient Christian Commentaries, looking for writings and ancient prayers to include in the devotional series, I came across this prayer from a Celtic abbot, Columbanus. He wrote, "We ask nothing other than that you give us yourself. For you are our all: our light, our salvation, our food and our drink, our God. Inspire our hearts, I ask you, Jesus, with that breath of your spirit."
"You are...our light." This Advent season, amid the tumult of to-do lists and self-imposed expectations, I'm trying to slow down and connect again with those ancient words. I am reminded of the light, even when the season dictates that these are the darkest days of the year. I rejoice with the familiar lines from the ninth chapter of Isaiah that open the readings for Christmas week:
May 18, 2011
Now that warmer weather is finally on its way, the summer planning begins. Here come the family vacations, backyard BBQs, trips to the beach, church picnics and long, sunny walks with the dog. This warmer weather also means you can finally get around to those outdoor projects you’ve been able to put off all winter. But before you leave for vacation or make that honey-do list, remember that summer is a great time to relax and read a book!
IVP has plenty to offer! Browse our website or check out these four easy-reading titles on different aspects of our demanding culture. Happy reading!
Hollywood Worldviews by Brian Godawa
“Any Christian wanting to understand modern film from the viewpoint of its message, its moral premise, will find Godawa’s Hollywood Worldviews a must-read. A film must be approached from more than one direction to do justice to it, but an understanding of its worldview is a requirement. There is no better book available on the subject.”
Unsqueezed by Margot Starbuck
“Margot Starbuck navigates the complexities of self-image, appearance, our bodies and beauty with humor, insight and wisdom. Get ready to be both entertained and moved. You will be laughing out loud one moment, then suddenly challenged with biblical truths that will transform your thinking and inspire change. Reading Unsqueezed is a truly liberating experience.”
Friending by Lynne Baab
“Friends are so important to me! But today there are more forces pushing us apart—as well as new media to bring us together—than ever before in history. Lynne Baab explores a world of options and encourages us to redevelop the art of friendship for a new era. This book is full of practical tools, winsome stories and keen insights. I’m hooked.”
The Wisdom of Pixar by Robert Velarde
“Wow. And here I thought I was just watching cartoons with my kids! I love how Robert takes readers through the beauty, fun, depth and warmth of Pixar films and frames the solid values that run through them. This book is a must-read for parents who love Pixar films as much as their kids—and for those interested in generating some great postfilm family conversations.”
Posted by Leah Kiple at 10:42 AM
April 21, 2011
In honor of Earth Day tomorrow, we present this lovely meditation from Lisa McMinn, author of the book Walking Gently on the Earth. Here she reflects on the rhythms of life on their small farm, Fern Creek.
In the Pacific Northwest we’re still in the 2010-2011 La Nina year, which means cooler, wetter springs than usual. Mark and I walk Fern Creek’s gardens most afternoons like hovering parents checking on the young broccoli and cabbage transplants to see how they are managing the hardship of a cold wet spring, and to see if more snow peas, arugula and spinach have decided to break ground.
When we aren’t teaching, writing, or preparing talks we’re often occupied with tasks related to food: growing, preserving, preparing or eating it. Last night for dinner I poured a jar of last season’s spicy tomato sauce into a pan, added a few pesto cubes and a handful of oven-roasted tomatoes from the freezer, crushed up half a dried cayenne pepper, splashed in some red wine, and simmered it all for a bit before ladling it over homemade pasta. That we are still eating bounty from last year’s crops while this year’s basil plants are under the grow lights downstairs and the tomato plants are filling out in the cold frame inclines us to give thanks. Even given our worrisome, cooler, wetter-than-normal spring. La Nina or not, the earth will explode with flavor, color, and aroma as fruits, vegetables and flowers awaken. It always does.
So as we walk down rows of strawberries, or sit down at our table to eat we give thanks. Besides creating an Earth that bursts with plant life, God designed a world where one creature’s action helps another creature flourish. We thank God for that, too. I love our interdependence—all creation groans together in harmony, yearning to come into the fullness of God’s intention and glory (Romans 8:19-23).
We thank God for people who bring us food we don’t grow on Fern Creek, like dairy, wheat, and of course, cocoa farmers—who I’m especially thankful for, since we consume a lot of chocolate. Thanking God for cocoa farmers reminds me to buy cocoa in ways that help farmers and families in West Africa flourish, which means buying fair-trade chocolate instead of more familiar brands that buy cocoa funneled in from plantations using trafficked children for farm labor.
I’m also thankful for God’s critters who contribute to the food on my plate, like bees who pollinate fruits and vegetables and from whom we collect rent in exchange for housing. Or Chicken Little, Penelope, and Greta (to name a few) who give us eggs, fertilize our gardens in the winter, and eat larva that would otherwise grow to wreak havoc for organic fruit growers. And when we venture from our typical vegetarian fare to eat Tilapia for Easter I will be thankful for the fish that died so that we might celebrate life and family while drawing nourishment from its flesh.
Eating is a sacred act. Jesus used the metaphor to refer to his own life-giving sacrificial act, commanding Christians to eat in remembrance of God’s saving grace. Could I prepare and eat every meal mindfully, remembering God’s love, and reflecting God’s desire for life on Earth to flourish?
I think about these matters more now that spring has arrived and we’ll have 12 families depending on us for food. (In addition to our teaching jobs, Mark and I operate a small CSA—Community Supported Agriculture.) We find the work of farming as deeply satisfying as the joy of eating from Earth’s abundance, both acknowledgements of our responsibility to be good caretakers of God’s Earth.
Tonight we noticed the potatoes we planted in March are beginning to leaf out, and that we’ll have asparagus in time for Easter.
Lisa Graham McMinn (Ph.D., Portland State University) is professor of sociology in the department of sociology and social work at George Fox University in Oregon.
For more from Lisa on how Christians can live with intention, using the power of our choices to walk gently on an earth that is beautiful and broken, check out Walking Gently on the Earth.
Posted by Rebecca Larson at 9:24 AM
April 13, 2011
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
(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
January 2, 2009
A couple weeks ago I wrote the piece I am pasting below as an introduction to a LifeGuide(R) Bible Study, Advent of the Savior, which I am compiling for release this coming June. I was thinking how nice it was to be working on that project the day before our church’s Advent retreat—getting into the right frame of mind and all that. The next morning I woke up an hour-and-a-half late and missed the whole introduction to the retreat. And so I got to learn the same lesson again.
Continue reading "Late Again"
Posted by Cindy Bunch at 3:30 PM
August 29, 2008
Yesterday I caught up with Mindy Caliguire, founder of Soul Care, a spiritual formation ministry serving church leaders. She's the author of IVP's series of Soul Care Resources, including two new volumes, Simplicity and Soul Searching, that just came out this summer.
I'm a workshop leader at Soul Care's upcoming Invite08: Soul Care for Leaders one-day retreat/conference to be held at Willow Creek this October. I'll be doing a workshop on spiritual formation in the suburbs. Here's the description:
Suburbia can be a challenging environment for a healthy spiritual life. How does the geography and sociology of the suburban landscape affect our relationships with God and others? This workshop will explore the cultural forces at work in suburbia and how Christian spirituality and practices can counteract suburban tendencies. The workshop will also help church leaders contextualize their ministries to connect with suburban seekers.
IVP's publisher, Bob Fryling, is also doing a workshop on "spiritual coherence and leaders," which will be a preview of his forthcoming book on spirituality and leadership. The event should be especially helpful for pastors and ministry leaders (whether church staff or volunteers) who find themselves responsible for people's spiritual health but may feel like their own souls lack spiritual vitality. If you're in the Chicagoland area (or close enough in the Midwest to drive in for the weekend), I invite you to Invite08!
Here's the info:
Saturday, October 25, 2008
As church leaders, we need to listen to and care for our souls. Most of us are responsible for the care of others, too. Do you truly know how it’s done? Are you making time for it? Join us as we seek God to learn what it means to work whole-heartedly for His purpose.
Gather with others in our area to enjoy worship, retreat, conversations, reflection and learning.
WHEN: Saturday, October 25, 2008 9am - 4pm
WHERE: Room 100 at Willow Creek Community Church, 67 E. Algonquin Road, South Barrington, IL 60102
COST: $35 until Oct 1, $45 after that. Cost includes casual pizza lunch
Anticipating a blessed day with you,
Invite08 Leadership Team
Posted by Al Hsu at 7:29 AM
January 23, 2008
I believe that a hallmark of good spiritual writing is that it causes the reader to read slowly. Fine writing has that effect on a reader most of the time. Because the ideas are rich. Because there's a lovely turn of phrase to savor. But there's something more--it's the very tone of the book that slows the pace. It's similar to Christian meditation. We sit and get quiet and let our blood pressure drop.
This is very different from the recent experience many of us had of racing through Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at breakneck speed. That was a great reading experience as well, but it didn't stir up a desire to slow down and savor life. (I was also driven by the need to read fast before another family member grabbed it away from me.)
It is also different from reading, say, Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics.* There we read slowly because of the depth and complexity of the ideas. Our brains need time to process the meanings. It's excellent to have our intellect challenged in this way. The writings of many of the church fathers and saints require this kind of slow careful reading just to get the meaning. But with contemporary spiritual writing it is a different quality I am after.
When I read Kathleen Norris's The Cloister Walk or Henri Nouwen's Genesee Diary, I read slowly. I'm not trying to race to the end because I'm enjoying the journey so much. I'm rereading sentences not to gain clarity but because I want them to sink deep into my own soul.
Good spiritual writing helps the reader start doing the spiritual work.
*About Church Dogmatics: I am obliged to note that that one of my colleagues does read this as devotional material. Nevertheless, I would say that Barth's work is fairly characterized primarily in the genre of theology.
May 2, 2007
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
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?
April 24, 2007
I recently heard a snippet of a radio interview with an author who was talking about the spiritual formation practice of lectio divina. (I didn't hear enough of it to catch the author's name, but I think she might have been one of our authors.) Two things struck me. One was that when she read the passage (part of the Sermon on the Mount), it was several paragraphs of text - far more Scripture than I usually hear on Christian radio, which might at most give a sound bite "verse of the day." The other thing was that when she paused to let listeners reflect on the Scripture passage, the radio silence was eerily uncomfortable. The host felt like she needed to break in and fill the dead air, and actually, in one case they cut to a commercial.
In other words, Christian radio is not the right medium for lectio divina. Radio does many things well - music, traffic, weather, conversation - but it is not the best medium for contemplation or reflection. The medium itself fights against silence. And the temporal nature of broadcast media makes it difficult to stop and think. There is no "pause" button on a car radio.
This is why print books remain essential in an age of iPods. The book allows for meditation and reflection. You can reread a passage that you want to mull over and digest. You can make marginal notes on the page. You can set the book down, close your eyes and pray if you want, and then pick up right where you left off. You can even toss the book across the room if you disagree with it. The tangibility of the published book itself contributes to the experience of the content.
This is not to say that books are a superior medium to others - obviously, every medium has its own pros and cons. But this brief radio interlude reminded me of why I read and edit books on spiritual formation. In our busy, cacophonous, multimedia culture, the invitation to "take up and read" still beckons.