Spring books: Briefly noted


Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver
Mary Oliver
Penguin Press, 480 pages

What a feast of poems for the hungry heart! This is the definitive collection of Oliver’s selected work that covers her 50-year career of creating finely crafted poems that evoke the presence of the Holy One in the natural world.

Sacred Dying Journal
Megory Anderson
Paraclete Press, 128 pages

The author is the founder and director of the Sacred Dying Foundation. Here she offers her wisdom to those who desire to face death mindfully. The journal format encourages prayer and thoughtfulness around the event that comes to each of us, ready or not. You will be more ready by using this journal.

Night Driving
Chad Bird
Eerdmans, 160 pages

Part memoir, part theological exploration, part testimony to the unrelenting love of God in Jesus who is the friend of sinners. There is a deep shot of love in this book, written with clarity and a compelling honesty.

A Complicated Pregnancy: Whether Mary Was a Virgin and Why It Matters
Kyle Roberts
Fortress Press, 192 pages

Many assertions of the Christian faith are received without thinking about them or considering their importance. The virginal birth of Jesus is one of them. Roberts is a theologian who says, “The question of Mary’s virginity matters because it affects how we practice Christian faith based on our understanding of the gospel.” The book describes how he explored the question and arrived at his answer. Whether you agree or not, the question is important.

Christian Hospitality and Muslim Immigration in an Age of Fear
Matthew Kaemingk
Eerdmans, 296 pages

I doubt there is a better public theology addressing the most urgent concern of our time than this book. Kaemingk argues for a Christian pluralism that is committed to the Christian faith and the public rights, dignity and freedom of Islam.

Growing in God’s Love: A Story Bible
Elizabeth F. Caldwell and Carol A. Wehrheim, editors
WJK, 360 pages

This is wonderful collection of Bible stories – 150 from the New and Old Testaments – that will enrich family conversations as well as Sunday school classes. It’s designed for children ages 4-8. Most helpful will be the “hear, see and act” questions that accompany each story. The church needs a resource like this one.

Phyllis Tickle: A Life
Jon M. Sweeney
Church Publishing, 256 pages

Phyllis Tickle died as her insights were reaching a new audience and her reputation growing. She was on the leading edge of the emergent church movement and described the new reformation many believe the church is undergoing now. Sweeney, her colleague and friend, has offered a loving and thoughtful biography of one of the unsung leaders of the contemporary church.

Almost Entirely: Poems
Jennifer Wallace
Paraclete Press, 128 pages

The author is intent on being honest with faith and reason, hence the title. In these poems she lingers on the edge of faith without tipping falsely into affirmations ungrounded in human life. The poems express faith and ordinary human experience.

Remembrance, Communion, and Hope: Rediscovering the Gospel at the Lord’s Table
J. Todd Billings
Eerdmans, 240 pages

The title describes this book. The argument is that the renewal of the church will occur when Christians rediscover the Lord’s Supper as central to the faith. Not merely a formality, the Lord’s Supper embodies the gospel and is filled with promise for communal life with Christ. This is a rich book of theology and practice by a theologian who needs to be more widely read.

The Pilgrim Journey
James Harpur
BlueBridge, 208 pages

A thorough history of pilgrimage routes across Europe and the seekers who traveled them, Harpur also describes the reasons people take a pilgrimage — a practice that the Reformers denounced. The practice is returning today as people yearn for a deeper spiritual life. Read this book if you have a love for history and a desire to be a pilgrim in search of God.

Our God Loves Justice: An Introduction to Helmut Gollwitzer
W. Travis McMaken
Fortress Press, 240 pages

Helmut Gollwitzer is the most neglected of all the early students of Karl Barth and yet the one with the most to teach pastors, theologians and church leaders in our contemporary situation. McMaken has provided the most extensive introduction to Gollwitzer. It makes clear the political, economic and social implications of Barth’s theology.

The Prayer Wheel
Patton Dodd, Jana Riess and David Van Biema
Convergent Books, 224 pages

The authors discovered this method of prayer from a New York art exhibit of ancient medieval monasteries. The prayer wheel is arranged in a circle with seven paths that invite the seeker to examine and apply the “big ideas” of the Christian faith: the Beatitudes, the Lord’s Prayer, the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the life of Christ. This would be wonderful for a small group or for individuals seeking a new, yet ancient, way to draw closer to God in prayer.

Bruised and Wounded: Struggling to Understand Suicide
Ronald Rolheiser
Paraclete Press, 96 pages

Suicide is a growing public health crisis, particularly among teenagers. And, suicide by veterans is at the highest rate in history. This is a book of pastoral guidance by the wise priest who wrote “The Holy Longing.” Pastors need books like this to read and share with those in their congregations who are suffering.

Old Man Dreaming
John L. Williams
Wipf and Stock, 166 pages

The author issues a clear, urgent call for pastors and church leaders to find the vision for the future church in Scripture and in the theological expressions of the Reformed faith. He is dissatisfied with church reliance on organizational theories and management strategies. In this book, he urges a return to the original sources that will fund more creative visions sustained by Scripture.

Stay in the City
Mark R. Gornik and Maria Liu Wong
Eerdmans, 95 pages

We now know that the vast majority of the world’s populations live in cities. That, of course, has implications for the church that seek to flourish in the city. The authors, living in New York, explore the many vibrant ways this is possible in an urban world.

Faith in Action: A Handbook for Activists, Advocates and Allies
The Faith in Action Writing Collective
Fortress Press, 168 pages

The book is as is says: a handbook on nearly every major contemporary social concern with essays by a variety of activists.

Still Evangelical
Mark Labberton, editor (with contributions by Shane Claiborne, Soong-Chan Rah and others)
IVP, 180 pages

Many who once identified with evangelical traditions are questioning their identification with the label “evangelical” in the current cultural climate. The election of the current president deepened those questions and created a theological identity crisis. These essays by leading voices in the evangelical community describe the crisis and explore alternatives.

Barth in Conversation (Volume 1, 1959-1962)
Eberhard Busch, editor
WJK, 350 pages

Few have the patience to read through Barth’s “Church Dogmatics,” though his influence remains pervasive. The current climate, perhaps more than ever, welcomes his theological insight combined with his political practices. This is the first of a projected three volumes. Barth is much more informal in these addresses to a variety of audiences from students to friends, theological partners to political organizations.

Glory Happening
Kaitlin B. Curtice
Paraclete Press, 128 pages

There is a lot of fresh insight in these pages. Readers are invited to open their eyes to the presence of God in all things and places. The voices she draws upon are wonderful, too.

The Monk’s Record Player: Thomas Merton, Bob Dylan, and the Perilous Summer of 1966
Robert Hudson
Eerdmans, 224 pages

Who doesn’t want to know what Thomas Merton thought about the poetry of Bob Dylan that was stirring the country in a tumultuous time like 1966? The author is an expert on Dylan who became a member of the Thomas Merton society. The result of his research is a fascinating account of the influence of Dylan on Merton. 

Roy HowardRoy W. Howard is the pastor of Saint Mark Presbyterian Church in North Bethesda, Maryland, and the Outlook book editor.