Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Child's First Book of PrayersA Child’s First Book of Prayers by Lois Rock and illustrated by Alison Jay, is a collection of 150 prayers that is a rich resource for people of all ages.  It includes classics, such as “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” and the prayer of St. Francis, “Lord, Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace.”  It also includes original prayers by Lois Rock that touch me deeply.  Here is an example:

“Lord Jesus, who died upon the cross:

You know this world’s suffering,

You know this world’s sorrowing,

You know this world’s dying.

In your name, Lord Jesus, who rose again:

I will work for this world’s healing,

I will work for this world’s rejoicing,

I will work for this world’s living.”

Many of the prayers in this book could be used liturgically with little, if any, adaptation.

Here is another of my favorites:

“God does not neglect the poor

and neither will I;

God does not ignore their suffering

and neither will I;

God does not turn away from them

and neither will I;

God answers them when they call for help

and so will I.”

I commend this beautiful, thoughtfully illustrated book to you.

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Psalms for young childrenI love the psalms.  Here is a lovely book that makes the psalms accessible for children.  The author, Marie-Helene Delval, has captured the spirit of the psalms, and rendered them in language that is “prayable” for our younger saints as well as deeply touching for us older saints.  She includes the psalms of sorrow and lament as well as the psalms of praise and joy.  For example, here is how she renders Psalm 88, the most despairing psalm of them all:

God, please listen to me.

I am full of sadness, I am crying.

I feel lonely and scared.

Do you really love me?

I’m calling you, God.

Please comfort me!

And this is how she renders Psalm 8:

People are so small

next to you, God.

You put the stars and the moon

in the sky, and the birds in the air

above the cows and horses in the fields,

and the fish that swim in the seas.

You created all the beauty

in the world!

I highly recommend this book, and look forward to using it in many ways, including worship planning.

Psalms for Young Children, by Marie-Helene Delval, illustrated by Arno.  Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2008.  ©2003 Bayard Editions Jeunesse as Les Psaumes pour les tout-petits.

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view of Nazareth

view of Nazareth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you ever wanted to walk the land where Jesus walked?  Recently I read a beautiful book entitled Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land by Ruth Everhart, and I wrote a review for the Presbyterian Outlook.   Here is how it begins:


“Longing to glimpse the mystery of faith again prompted Ruth Everhart to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  She writes that faith had never not been a part of the ordinary landscape of her life.  It was as familiar as her mother’s hands.  In the complicated landscape of life in the Holy Land, Everhart hoped to find much more than simple validation of the faith she already knew.  She was ready to wrestle and be wrenched like Jacob at the Jabbok if necessary.  Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land chronicles her outward journey and her inward spiritual journey.


The immediacy of the present tense allows readers to travel alongside her, to feel heat and persistent thirst, and to touch cold, hard stone.  The Dead Sea stings the skin, while the Sea of Galilee soothes like silk.  We smell crowds of sweaty people and the odors of cooking food.  We taste cucumbers and tomatoes, communion bread and wine. There are nuanced shades of beige everywhere.  As we pass through the shadow of The Wall dividing Israel and Palestine, the words “separate and not equal” come to my mind, and they are heavy with meaning….”


You can read the rest of the review here.


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Church, Maui, Hawaii

Church, Maui, Hawaii (Photo credit: aimforawesome)

Imagining the Small Church by long-time small church pastor Steve Willis is an important new book for small churches and for the church at large.  Here is my mini-review that appears on the back cover:

“Are you weary of books aimed at ‘fixing’ the small church? Read this book instead. With deep respect, Steve Willis shows how healthy small churches simply and lovingly embody God’s upside-down wisdom. Long experience at the periphery gives us much to teach the larger church that now finds itself pushed to the sidelines of culture. Read, imagine—and hope!”

You can read my full review in The Presbyterian Outlook here.

Read an excerpt here, and another excerpt here on the Alban Institute website.

Small church friends, read this book and be uplifted and challenged.  Large church friends, read this book and be challenged and uplifted.

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The Vibrant Congregations Project of Luther Seminary has just published a free e-book that you can download in formats for your Kindle, iPad or Nook, or in pdf format to view and print from your computer.  It’s entitled Renew 52, and inside you’ll find over fifty short articles grouped under these headings:

  • Leadership
  • Community
  • Worship
  • Children, Youth, & Family
  • Preaching
  • Service & Mission
  • Discipleship & Spiritual Practices

Click on the image above or on the title to go to the web page.  The producers of the book want it to be shared freely.  You will find articles that you can share with people and groups in your congregation.  You could use them as discussion starters for your congregation’s board.

I scanned them all, and here are some that I found especially helpful:

  • “Change Your Self-Image from Performer to Coach”:   David Lose, who also edited this volume, writes, “[W]e need to stop executing religious skills for our people and train them to perform them for themselves.  Otherwise they will continue to be spectators, appreciating the faith but never really learning how to do it for themselves,” p. 19.
  • “Avoid McDonaldization and Advocate Distinctive Discipleship”: Ronnie McBrayer says that in their desire to do what “works,” churches imitate one another’s programs and marketing plans.  This leads to churches being like brands or chains, like McDonald’s–when you’ve been to one, you’ve been to them all.  Instead, each congregation is called to be a unique community of God where God has placed it.  He writes, “Churches should cease their efforts to build spiritual shopping malls and focus instead on helping people become committed followers of Jesus,” p. 26.
  • “Reinvigorate Youth Ministry by Learning from Eli and Samuel”: Kathy Wolf Reed and Nick Reed find inspiration for intergenerational youth ministry from the story of Eli and Samuel in 1 Samuel 3.  They maintain that the best youth ministry is intergenerational, authentic, and reciprocal, i.e. generations care for and learn from each other.  See p. 55.  This leads to deeper faithfulness for everybody.  (Small churches who can’t hire a “cool” youth director: are you listening?)
  • “Create Family-friendly Worship Spaces”: Theresa Cho offers creative ideas to help families with children be able to worship together in the sanctuary.  She writes, “Worshipping with children in our midst can be a vital asset to a faith community–not solely because they need to learn something from us, but because we need to learn something from them as well,” p. 58.

Many, many thanks to the Vibrant Congregations Project for this gift to the whole church!

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The Hungry Coat makes a marvelous illustration for James’ stern warning against showing partiality to the wealthy and well-dressed.  Children’s author and illustrator Demi retells a delightful folk tale about Sufi mystic Nasrettin Hodja.  Nasrettin was known for his wisdom and wit, and many stories are told about him.  If you search for them, you will find many spellings of his name, including Nasrudin, Nasreddin and Nasr-id-deen.

In this story a friend invites Nasrettin to a banquet.  Wearing his old patchwork coat, Nasrettin sets out for the banquet.  Along the way he stops to help capture a runaway goat.  When Nasrettin arrives at his friend’s house, the friend, the servants, and all the other guests ignore him. He realizes that it is because his coat is now dirty and smelly as well as worn-out.  Nasrettin hurries home, bathes, puts on a magnificent new coat, and returns to the banquet.  Now everyone is glad to welcome him.   Delicious food is set before him, which he proceeds to feed to his coat.  “Eat, coat!  Eat!” he says.  The host and guests are aghast.  “Why surely you wanted my coat to eat,” Nasrettin responds.  “When I first arrived in my old coat, there was no food for me.  Yet when I came back in this new coat, there was every kind of food for me.  This shows that it was the coat–and not me–that you invited to your banquet.”

James writes, “For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?” (vss.4-5).

For at God’s banquet it is the poor and sick and marginalized who have priority seating.

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Andrew Taylor-Troutman is a young pastor who loves his small congregation in Dublin, Virginia. In his book, Take My Hand, he takes readers on a journey through their first year together as pastor and people.   He stands with the congregation where their lives meet the word from scripture, and the living Word, Jesus.  Along the way he reflects on many topics, including how faith communities can live together despite differences of opinion.  Pastor and people take one another by the hand.  I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves small churches, and for beginning and experienced pastors alike.  You can read my full review of the book for the Presbyterian Outlook here.

You can visit Andrew’s web site, read an excerpt from the book,  and read his blog here.  You can also hear him speak about the book at this July 31, 2012 Morton Library Book Talk at Union Presbyterian Seminary via Union Live.  You can hear it live at 6:00 p.m. EDT on July 31, or you can view the archived version later.  Just scroll down to Book Talks on the Union Live page.

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