By: Mary E. Speedy
Invasion of the Dead: Preaching Resurrection
Brian K. Blount. WJK, 2014
Our world and our churches are neither sinful nor lost; they are dead. This dead world is the one that God engages and into which Jesus invaded with a radically different vision of life. In this groundbreaking work, based on his 2011 Yale Beecher lectures, Brian K. Blount helps preachers effectively proclaim resurrection in a world consumed by death. Recognizing that both popular culture and popular Christianity are mesmerized by death and dying, Blount offers an alternative apocalyptic vision for our time–one that starts with a clear vision of life that obliterates death and reveals life’s essence. He explores the portrait and meaning of resurrection through the New Testament (the book of Revelation, the letters of Paul, and the Gospel of Mark) and discusses how to biblically and theologically reconfigure apocalyptic preaching for today. With three illustrative sermons, this book is an ideal resource to help preachers proclaim the power of resurrection.
Art in the Service of the Sacred (with CD ROM)
Catherine Kapikian. Abingdon, 2006.
“Art in Service of the Sacred” encourages congregations to take seriously the role of visual art in worship and in the broader life of the church. This rich resource explores the dynamics between art, artist, and the church. It proclaims the power of art when used as art, reclaims the presence of religious symbols in worship, asserts the importance of the aesthetic dimensions of ecclesial space, and recovers the role of visual art to engage our senses and imaginations as we seek to encounter God in our lives.
Songs from the Sanctuary: Hymns Spirituals & Classic Gospels, Vol. 1
William N. Heard. Heardsong Productions, 2013.
Songs from the Sanctuary is a series of compilations presenting and preserving the sacred music of the African American worship experience. Recorded in Miller Chapel on the campus of Princeton Theological Seminary, this project showcases sundry genres of worship music, including anthems, hymns and hymn arrangements, concertized and folk spirituals, as well as classic gospels. These volumes are designed prayerfully to enhance personal devotional experience, worship services, and special gatherings, or simply to provide solace and strength for the soul.
Creative Prayer: A Collection of Contemplative Prayer Stations
Faith McCLoud. EBook, 2012.
The purpose of a contemplative prayer station is to create a time and space for people to experience
God in their lives. Prayer stations can be highly creative or an incredibly simple approach to prayer and spiritual reflection. Typically, a space is set up where people can enter and participate at their own pace and level. This book has 70+ prayer station ideas along with specifics on how to set up and facilitate each station.
Following Jesus in a Culture of Fear,
Scott Bader-Saye. Brazos, 2007.
The twentieth century has been referred to as the Age of Anxiety. Similarly, the first decade of the
twenty-first century ushered in a “culture of fear”—especially in a post-9/11 world. Divided into three sections (Diagnosis, Antidote, and Recovery), this work draws insights about fear from medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas. Bader-Saye stresses the importance of sharing our fears in ecclesial communities, where we can develop courage. He asserts that a reclamation of God’s sovereignty will help us reframe our lives; the doctrine of providence not only assures us that the fragments of our lives will cohere into a narrative unity but also demonstrate that God is our Provider. This new way of living manifests itself in hospitality, peacemaking, and generosity. Each chapter includes questions for discussion.
The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains
Nicholas Carr. Norton, 2011.
Nick Carr provides a thought-provoking and intellectually courageous account of how the medium of the Internet is changing the way we think now and how future generations will or will not think. Furthering one of the most important debates of our time (Are we sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply as we rely on the internet more and more?), Carr explores in compelling ways the intellectual and cultural consequences of internet use. He describes how human thought has been shaped through the centuries by “tools of the mind”—from the alphabet to maps, the printing press, the clock, and the computer. Recent discoveries in neuroscience have revealed that our brains change in response to our experiences. The technologies we use to find, store, and share information can literally reroute our neural pathways. We are becoming ever more adept at scanning and skimming, but what we are losing is our capacity for concentration, contemplation, and reflection. The antidote is picking up a book and reading.
‘The Shallows’: This Is Your Brain Online”, NPR Author Interview. www.npr.org › Arts & Life › Books ›
Author Interviews, Jun 02, 2010
Stitches: A Handbook of Meaning and Hope,
Anne Lamott. Riverhead, 2013.
What do we do when life lurches out of balance? How can we reconnect to one other and to what’s
sustaining when evil and catastrophe seem inescapable? These questions lie at the heart of this book in which Lamott explores how we find meaning and peace in these loud and frantic times; where we start again after personal and public devastation; how we recapture wholeness after loss; and how we locate our true identities in this frazzled age. We begin, she says, by collecting the ripped shreds of our emotional and spiritual fabric and sewing them back together, one stitch at a time. It’s in these stitches that the quilt of life begins, and embedded in them are strength, warmth, humor, and humanity.
Why Your Weirdness Is Wonderful: Embrace Your Quirks and Live Your Strength
Laurie Wallin. Abingdon, 2014.
It’s in our weirdness that God’s perfection exists. What if who you are right now is exactly who God meant for you to be? What if the weirdest, most annoying things about you exist on purpose—for a purpose—to bring life, joy, strength, and healing to this world? Wallin wants us to stop fighting
ourselves and start following God. And the first step, she says, is to embrace our weirdness. Like wearing clothing that belongs to someone else is how we must look when we don’t embrace the strengths and weaknesses God has given us.
Soul Keeping: Caring for Most Important Part of You
John Ortberg. Zondervan, 2014.
Ortberg tells us that the soul is that part of you that is in relationship with God. Thus anxiety, depression, fear, and loneliness are all symptoms of a soul that has lost touch with its source of life. Like a flower snipped from the vine, the soul that is not turned toward God can only wither away. In this short volume he sheds light on the most overlooked, underrated, and least-understood part of your being. With a workable and relevant approach, he shows how living the “with God” life isn’t just a good idea–it’s the only way to find lasting peace and satisfaction. A six-session DVD and study guide are also available.
Learning to Walk in the Dark
Barbara Brown Taylor. Harper One, 2014.
Taylor has become increasingly uncomfortable with our tendency to associate all that is good with lightness and all that is evil and dangerous with darkness. Doesn’t God work in the nighttime as well?
Taylor asks us to put aside our fears and anxieties and to explore all that God has to teach us “in the dark.” She argues that we need to move away from our “solar spirituality” and ease our way into appreciating “lunar spirituality” (since, like the moon, our experience of the light waxes and wanes). Through darkness we find courage, we understand the world in new ways, and we feel God’s presence around us, guiding us through things seen and unseen. Often, it is while we are in the dark that we grow the most.
Icky, Sticky, Hairy Scary – Bible Stories
Jonathan Schkade. Concordia, 2011.
Put on your apron and goggles! The stories in the Bible are not always nice and happy. Some are messy and dangerous. Some are about foolish, strange, or awful things. This collection of short, funny poems is sure to capture the attention of any reader. Each poem shows that God works in the ugly, icky, gross world we live in and helps us out of our messes. This resource intersperses poems with paraphrases of biblical wisdom. Fun illustrations and shockingly gross stories are just right for inquisitive children. The Bible is terrifically funny at times, and we should not be afraid to explore and enjoy it.
Reality, Grief and Hope,
Walter Bruggemann. Erdmans, 2014.
Pointing out striking correlations between the catastrophe of 9/11 and the destruction of ancient Jerusalem, Brueggemann shows how the prophetic biblical response to that crisis was truth-telling in the face of ideology, grief in the face of denial, and hope in the face of despair. He argues that the same prophetic responses are urgently required from us now if we are to escape the deathliness of denial and despair. In this book Brueggemann boldly confronts the dominant forces of our time, taking on principalities and powers that vie for our souls, and calls the church to courageous action.
Pilgrimage through Loss: Pathways to Strength and Renewal after the Death of a Child
Linda Lawrence, Hunt. WJK, 2014.
The death of a child immerses parents in a lifelong challenge of living with one of life’s most heartbreaking losses. This book tells the story of one family’s journey, along with interviews from thirty other mothers and fathers who add their voices to the silences that often surround suffering in our ‘mourning-avoidant’ culture. The varied pathways parents eventually discover that open their lives to strength and healing are explored, and parents are encouraged to find the pathways that work for them as they seek to engage life again with meaning and hope. Each chapter includes questions for reflection and discussion, plus recent research on grief and loss. This is also an insightful resource for those wanting to understand and come alongside a family in grief.
The Answer to Bad Religion Is Not No Religion: A Guide to Good Religion for Seekers, Skeptics, and Believers
Martin Thielen. WJK, 2014.
If you think the only logical response to bad Christianity is to leave Christianity completely, this book is for you. In an effort to help those who’ve been hurt by or turned off by negative religion, the author explains that there is an alternative to abandoning religion: good religion. Thielen uses personal stories to illustrate the dangers of religion that is judgmental, anti-intellectual, and legalistic. While addressing the growth of the new atheism movement and the “Nones” (people that have no religious affiliation), this book argues that leaving religion is not practical, not helpful, and not necessary. Thielen provides counterparts to the characteristics of bad religion, explaining that good religion is grace-filled, promotes love and forgiveness, and is inclusive and hope-filled.
Sex + Faith: Talking with Your Child from Birth to Adolescence
Kate Ott. WJK, 2013.
Talking with your child about sex can be scary! Sex + Faith helps parents incorporate their faith values with sexual information so they can answer questions, discuss sexuality at each stage of childhood, and show support of sexual differences. Section one explains how faith relates to sexuality and the essential role parents play in forming healthy, faithful, sexually educated children. The second section designates a chapter for four age groupings of children from infancy through high school. Each chapter explains the biological and developmental issues of the age, answers questions children tend to have, provides relevant biblical and faith stories helpful to discuss with children of that age, and lists five to ten key educational issues for parents to keep in mind. Shaded text boxes are interspersed throughout the book with real life, practical questions that parents and children ask.
No Easy Choice: A Story of Disability, Parenthood, and Faith in an Age of Advanced Reproduction
Ellen Painter Dollar. WJKP, 2012.
In her new memoir, author Ellen Painter Dollar responds to the ethical dilemmas surrounding assisted reproduction with her personal story of being a mother living with a disability. Dollar describes living with a disabling genetic bone disorder called osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), which she passes down to her first child. As her toddler breaks numerous bones while learning to walk, Dollar considers whether to use assisted reproduction to conceive a second child. Her story brings to light the ethical dilemmas surrounding advanced reproductive technologies. Dollar considers multiple sides of the debate, refusing to accept the matter as simply black and white. Her book will help parents who want to understand and make good decisions about assisted reproduction The book is lso valuable for those who support and counsel them, including pastors and medical professionals.
Transformed Living in Tough Times
John Ed Mathison. Abingdon, 2010
In these days of tough economic conditions, with people out of work and churches experiencing reduced giving, Mathison offers a stewardship program. The four-part study offers hope from going back to the Bible, looking to God, and lifting up the teachings of Jesus. Questions for reflection and discussion are provided for use by individuals or small groups.
13 Reasons Why,
Jay Asher. Razorbill, 2011.
In this YA novel, Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker—his classmate and crush—who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why. Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and learns the truth about himself—a truth he never wanted to face. The message the book gives about how we treat one another, although sometimes heavy, makes for compelling reading. This book could be the jumping off point for a number of youth programs.
Gordon Pace and Martha Miller.
One of the most striking consequences of the increase in global communication and awareness has been growing fear and isolationism in the United States. Strongly affected by fears instilled by the attacks on 911, the American government and many of its citizens have become wary of foreigners and their influences on American culture. Fear is becoming more and more intrinsic in the very nature of many people, and this fear leads to suspicion, mistrust, and enmity fostered by the media. This study uses film to study the themes of global interconnectedness, suspicious fear, and the complexity of relationships in this new world using pertinent clips from the film that explores the interconnectedness of three stories taking place in widely divergent places around the globe and how the decisions of one person can potentially affect the lives of people halfway around the world.
Armageddon was never meant to inspire fear about the end of the world; rather, it was meant to givehope to persecuted Christians that forces of good would eventually win. This one-session adult study,”Armageddon,” examines the origin and meaning of the word “Armageddon” and considers its usefulness today.
Finding Intimacy in a World of Fear
Eric Law. Chalice, 2007
Eric Law offers a hopeful journey through the landscape of fear we encounter in the wake of events such as terrorist acts, wars, tsunamis, and hurricanes. Individuals may not know exactly how to cope with their fears, Law says, but marketers, media, and politicians certainly understand how to take advantage of fear and use it to sell products, gain attention, and win election support. Many of us are left doubting our abilities to cope, not trusting anyone, and unable to become intimate with other people. This reduces life to simple risk management. Surely life must be more than avoiding danger!
Law proposes that by following Jesus, we can become what he calls fear-miners, discovering within our fears the gifts and possibilities for ministry and the opportunities to build intimate communities of trust, which are our primary support for facing down terror.
The Alligator in Naomi’s Pillow
David Giuliano. Woodlake, 2010.
In the middle of the night Naomi runs to her parents, crying that there’s an alligator in her pillow and she needs mom and dad to make it go away. Over a few nights, Naomi’s parents groggily try different approaches to rid Naomi’s pillow of the alligator, but in the end it is Naomi who comes up with a way to face her scary nocturnal visitor. This book is an inspiring introduction to exploring fear as well as being an entertaining and engaging read. It also includes a page of questions to explore about fear with children.
The Night There Was Thunder and Stuff,
Cynthia Bolt. Woodlake, 1993.
This is the story of a child who can’t fall asleep because of a frightening storm. The child prays, “Dear God, please help me fall asleep,” and imagines the words flying away on their journey to God. The vivid prose sweeps us along, tumbling through adventures until the prayer reaches its destination—safe in the hands of God.
Water Bugs and Dragonflies: Explaining Death to Young Children,
Doris Stickney. Pilgrim Press, 2010.
Looking for a meaningful way to explain the death of a five-year-old friend to neighborhood children, Stickney adapted a graceful fable about a water bug that left its pond and was transformed into a dragonfly. The water bugs’ questions about their friend’s whereabouts are similar to those questions children ask when someone dies. Although first published in 1982 this lovely book is still available in several formats, including a coloring book.
Mary E. Speedy is a retired certified church educator living in Mechanicsburg, PA.