Just in time for holiday gift giving—or planning ahead for small groups in January—five books ReadTheSpirit recommends are now available in less-expensive paperback editions.
BRIAN McLAREN: NAKED SPIRITUALITY
Brian McLaren is a regular guest at ReadTheSpirit. He writes about so many distinct topics that you will want to explore this particular book’s content. You can do that by reading our coverage of its hardback release in 2011. In that interview, McLaren talks about the many challenges we face in prayer: There is no fool-proof method for prayer. … The Christians I encounter tend to fall into three camps or practices regarding prayer. One: You have people who are prayer book people. If they don’t have something to read, they don’t have anything to pray. For them, reading through prayers can have great meaning—but it also can become somewhat automatic. … At the other end of these groups is the camp where people don’t believe we should read prayers. Praying should be spontaneous, this camp says. But what actually happens is that we don’t come up with entirely new forms of prayer and, instead, we tend to link together a lot of cliché phrases into these long trains of what we consider spontaneous prayer. … Then, there’s a third camp that concerns me: It’s the camp of people who become aware of how rarely they pray, then they feel guilty about it, but they don’t quite know how to develop a meaningful prayer life. Mainly, it’s a camp where bringing up prayer makes people feel guilty. I’m trying to help all three camps. I’m offering people ways to center their prayers in a series of simple words. This has stood the test of my own life. It’s simple. It works for many people. Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in 12 Simple Words is available now through Amazon.
N.T. WRIGHT: THE KINGDOM NEW TESTAMENT
Bishop N.T. Wright ranks among the most popular authors ever featured in ReadTheSpirit. He is especially popular in evangelical congregations, but his appeal cuts across all Christian denominations. You can read our entire interview with Wright about The Kingdom New Testament. In that interview, he explains how he prepared this fresh translation of the New Testament: This translation took me 10 years. The first bits of it were done in the summer of 2000, when I was doing smaller Bible-study books called Mark for Everyone and Luke for Everyone. I prepared these translations, initially, to go along with the Everyone commentaries that I wrote over the years. In each of the Everyone Bible-study books, I included my own translation. Now, the complete New Testament is finished and we’ve put all of the translated books together in the form of this new book. I should also say that I did prepare this with editors and scholars who assisted. I had a brilliant Greek scholar, for example, who went through all of it with a fine-tooth comb. He raised a bunch of questions all across the texts. Then, sometimes I agreed to make a change, based on his questions, and sometimes I stuck with my original wording. But this process helped me sharpen it all.
The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation is available now through Amazon..
EUGENE PETERSON: THE PASTOR
Millions know Eugene Peterson for his dramatic paraphrase of The Bible, called The Message. But few people realize that Peterson created that new Bible as a pastor concerned for his own congregation. In this memoir, Peterson shares what he has learned about working effectively as a pastor. Some of his conclusions will surprise you. You can read our entire interview with Euguene Peterson, in which you will find thought-provoking responses like this: Pastors need to train people in a more mature Christianity. But people live in our consumer culture and they expect the pastor to do what they want. The popular view, even in churches, of pastoral work and the Christian faith is that it’s something about me—its purpose is to help me be a better person, richer, happier, more peaceful and more successful. But that isn’t really what the Bible is talking about. That’s not what Jesus is doing. The Bible is calling us to live a life of sacrifice, obedience and compassion—but always in relationship. There is no impersonal Gospel—and yet we’ve got a lot of lonely people in America who need relationship. A congregation is a place where we learn how to become friends. One of the most important things Jesus says to his disciples is: I call you to be friends. The basic thing we are called to work out is this relational model with Jesus and with the people around us.
The Pastor: A Memoir is available now through Amazon.
PHILIP JENKINS: Laying Down the Sword
You’ll have no shortage of spirited discussion if you ask a small group to read Philip Jenkins. In fact, Laying Down the Sword is a perfect book to choose after election day, when the dust of heated campaign claims about our world settles and people want to dig more deeply into the origins of global violence. Learn morea about that in our 2011 interview with Jenkins. In the Q and A, Jenkins described what prompted him to tackle this project: Let me explain how I got into this research. Since 9/11, there have been a lot of discussions in this country about Islam being a singularly violent religion and the Quran being a uniquely violent book. I am certainly willing to talk about violence in Islam. But I know enough about the Bible to know that these claims about the Quran being uniquely violent are overblown. I used to teach a university course on terrorism and I know a lot about this problem. I’ve studied these issues for a very long time. And, it’s not accurate for people to claim that the Quran is somehow more extreme and violent than the Bible. One of the difficulties is that most people are not even aware of these portions of the Bible. When I started working on this subject and began writing about it, the general reaction I got was that people wanted to deny that these biblical texts even existed.
Laying Down the Sword: Why We Can’t Ignore the Bible’s Violent Verses is available now through Amazon.
JAMES MARTIN, SJ: BETWEEN HEAVEN AND MIRTH
You’ll enjoy our entire 2011 interview with Jesuit Father James Martin, the popular author or editor of more a dozen books. In that Q and A, Martin tells about the inspiration for this unusual book on holy humor: I traveled a lot around the country, talking to groups about my earlier book, My Life with the Saints. I discovered that what people most wanted to hear were stories about the ways saints led joyful lives. They also were very interested in saints’ senses of humor and jokes they made—how the saints praised laugher. I realized that we are all facing two big problems. First, most Christian groups are rather in the dark about this aspect of the lives of saints. But, second and much more of problem: The idea of being joyful in church is a foreign idea to most Christians! It was almost as though I needed to give them permission to enjoy a good joke with the saints, to show their sense of humor and to laugh out loud in church. If you doubt that this is a problem, just take a look at the artwork in most churches. There are far too many sad and tortured-looking saints. Some of these saints had such a sweet nature and enjoyed a good laugh at the humor of life, yet we have captured them forever in images that glower at us.
Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life is available now through Amazon.
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