Archives For Desire

 

One of this week’s best new releases is:

You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit
James K.A. Smith

Hardback: Brazos Press, 2016
Buy now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]
 
The author recorded these five brief video clips as an introduction to the book…
 
 

Part 1: A Spirituality for Culture-Makers




 
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Lent is almost upon us again …

(Ash Wednesday is Feb 18…)

I’ve been asked a few times recently to recommend some books on Lenten themes that churches might read and discuss this year during Lent. And since, I think reading and discussing books together is an important practice for the health and well-being of churches, here are 10 new-ish books that would be appropriate for reading and discussion during Lent.  I offer each one with a brief explanation of why I have included it.

NOTE: I’m not recommending that any church or individual should read ALL of these books during Lent, but wanted to offer a range of options so that churches might have some flexibility in picking a book to read and discuss during Lent.

Meeting God in Mark: Reflections for the Season of Lent


By Rowan Williams

I’ll start with the only traditional collection of Lenten reflections on this list.  Normally, I’m not a big fan of this sort of devotional-type books, but Rowan Williams is always thoughtful (and sometimes provocative), and this book’s focus on Mark’s Gospel challenges us to stay focused on Jesus, which is an important reminder in our age of ideology.

Book 1 of 10
NEXT BOOK >>>>>

[ This list as a 1-Page Printable PDF ]

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Rich in Gospel and Grit

A Review of

Teach Us To Want: Longing, Ambition and the Life of Faith
Jen Pollock Michel

Paperback: IVP Books, 2014
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [  Kindle ]

Reviewed by Bronwyn Lea

 

Once, I was hijacked by a bishop.

 

I was in London at a conference, and the bishop of my church at home was hosting a reception one evening for South African expats. One of his purposes was to raise awareness and funds for our small denominational seminary, where I was a student at the time, and so I agreed to an interview.

 

I was prepared for a plain sailing interview about the bible college. I was blindsided by the direction he took: asking detailed, personal questions about the personal trauma which had derailed me while I was a law student, and set me on a path of question-asking.

 

I cornered him afterwards, furious and exposed: “If I had known you would ask me those questions, I would not have done the interview,” I fumed. He was gentle and clear: “I know. That’s why I didn’t tell you. I’m preparing you for ministry, my girl.”

 

I left the conference hopelessly tangled. Why was I in seminary, anyway? I didn’t want to be in vocational ministry: I wanted to be in the work place! But was that what God wanted? I felt sure it wasn’t what I wanted, but then why did I also feel a sense of satisfaction that my words had made a difference that night? And was it sinful to feel a sense of accomplishment at the same time as feeling sideswiped?

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766243: Gotta Have It! Freedom from Wanting Everything Right Here, Right Now A Review of

Gotta Have It!
Freedom from Wanting Everything Right Here, Right Now

By Gregory Jantz with Ann McMurray.
Paperback: David C. Cook, 2010.
Buy Now: [ChristianBook.com ]

Reviewed by Adam Navis.

I am suspicious of mixing Christianity with anything that could be categorized as self-help.  Christ did not die so that we can have a 4-hour work week, or retire at 50, or lose weight, or finish a triathlon.  So when beginning Gotta Have It! Freedom from Wanting Everything, Right Here, Right Now (Gregory L. Jantz, PhD, with Ann McMurry) I was skeptical.  I think that living simply is wonderful, beneficial, even helpful in drawing closer to God.  But I doubted there was a biblical mandate for cleaning your basement and de-cluttering your closet.

Luckily, Gotta Have It! is not just about selling your extra stuff on e-bay.  This book is only secondarily a book about simplifying your life.  It is primarily a book that asks the reader to consider what fills their life and how those things meet the needs of the soul.  It is about excessity, a term Jantz coins to explain the twisted human experience of turning excess into necessity.

“Excessity is about feeding our wants and desires, while at the same time starving our true needs.  The more we starve what we really need, the greater our hunger grows, causing us to stuff ourselves with more and more of our wants.  After stuffing ourselves full of our wants, we find that we’re still starving, empty, and desperate-and the mad cycle repeats.” (15)

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The Season of Lent is a time on the Church’s Calendar when we through prayer and fasting reflect upon our desires and submit ourselves to the transforming power of God.

Here are six recent books — one for each week of Lent — that reflect the Lenten spirit or that challenge us to take a deeper look at the seasons of the Christian year.


Fasting
(Ancient Practices Series)

by Scot McKnight.
Thomas Nelson, 2009.
[ Our Review ] [ Buy the Book ]

——

Seasons of Celebration:
Meditations on the Cycle of Liturgical Feasts
.
By Thomas Merton.
Ave Maria Press, 2009.
[ Our Review ] [ Buy the Book ]


Being Consumed:
Economics and Christian Desire

by Bill Cavanuagh.
Eerdmans, 2008.
[ Our Review ] [ Buy the Book ]

—–

The Liturgical Year
(Ancient Practices Series)

By Joan Chittister
Thomas Nelson, 2009.
[ Our Review ] [ Buy the Book ]


Enough: Contentment in An Age of Excess.
By Will Samson.
David C. Cook, 2009.

[ Our Review ] [ Buy the Book ]
—–
Living the Christian Year:
Time to Inhabit the Story of God
.
By Bobby Gross.
IVP Books, 2007.
[ Our Review ] [ Buy the Book ]

 

“Imagining the Shape
of our Life Together”

A Review of
Desiring The Kingdom:
Worship, Worldview and Cultural Formation
.

by James K.A. Smith.

Reviewed by Brent Aldrich.

Desiring The Kingdom:
Worship, Worldview and Cultural Formation
.

James K.A. Smith.
Volume #1 in the Cultural Liturgies Series.
Paperback: Baker Academic, 2009.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

James K. A. Smith’s new book Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation comes at a timely moment. Having moved directly in my reading from Empire Illusion – reviewed in these pages – which offers an indicting critique of the illusory narratives that dominate identity in this country, there is nonetheless, at the end, still the hope that in love we can move beyond empty myths of consumption, power, nationalism, or the like. Desiring the Kingdom begins with the affirmation that it is only in love that we become human; as this love is directed toward the kingdom of God and the reconciliation of all things, we begin to live into the kingdom come ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’ By first recognizing that “to be human is to desire ‘the kingdom,’ some version of the kingdom…that hoped-for, longed-for, dreamed-of picture of the god life – the realm of human flourishing – that we pursue without ceasing” (54), Smith continues to describe formation as embodied practices and liturgies directed toward love’s telos.
To begin with, it must be said that although Smith contextualizes this book as a vision of ‘Christian education,’ it seems as if it has much importance for imagining the shape of life together for congregations and church communities. Indeed, I could easily see the wisdom of Desiring the Kingdom for Englewood Christian Church in our shared life together. This is an important book for its clear articulation of the telos of the church; certainly one related discussion is education, but the rich liturgies described within could inform any facet of the multi-sided work of the church.
Smith’s first task is establishing an understanding of the ‘person-as-lover,’ “intentional creatures whose fundamental way of ‘intending’ the world is love or desire” (62). The kardia, which Smith usually translates as gut, the “embodied heart” becomes a corrective for oft-disembodied ‘worldviews.’ Building especially on Augustine to develop a model of humans as lovers, Smith continues with the language of the “social imaginary;” that is, an understanding that as humans we act into a particular image of the world: “how we imagine the world before we ever think about it…a vision of and for social life” (66).
The telos of love, then, is embodied in specific rituals, practices, and liturgies. By adopting ‘religious’ language, Smith serves two purposes: one is to show other cultural institutions for what they are, namely, powers with religious commitments intending toward a variety of ends. And so the mall, the military, and American nationalism become prime examples of embodied cultural liturgies: the liturgy of nationalism, for example is “a particular vision of human flourishing as material prosperity and ownership…and a sense that competition and even violence is inscribed into the nature of the world” (107). Describing cultural practices and institutions as such, their telos is identified as markedly other than the kingdom of God.
The second purpose of expanding the language of liturgy beyond a Sunday service, though, is to suggest an ordering of the world in which everything is charged with the immanence of the kingdom. All practices derive their significance from the liturgies of the gathered body, but then these practices become liturgical and formative as well. As Wendell Berry writes, “there are no unsacred places; / there are only sacred places / and desecrated places” (from Given). Comparing Berry’s language with Smith’s, the “desecrated places” may be similar to “misdirected love,” while the sacred truly is the in-breaking kingdom of God, echoing Psalm 24: “the earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.” As the Ekklesia Project reminds us, “formation happens,”  the question is: into what are we being formed?
The gathered worship of the church is then described as the ‘deepest,’ most significant liturgy for Christians, performed with specific, embodied, earthy practices. Going through historic practices of Christian worship, Smith narrates the telos of each as indicating specific characteristics of the kingdom: hospitality, reconciliation, economics, and on. This chapter closes with brief suggestions of “practices beyond Sunday,” which I must say, could be expanded upon greatly (and thus, I’m eager for Volumes 2 and 3 of this Cultural Liturgies series). Smith remains clear that he sees “the sacramental intensity of liturgical practices…provides a center of gravity that then orients and nourishes other Christian practices, which are extensions of latent possibilities for practice in Christian worship” (213).
The closing chapter returns to the Christian university, which, although I have a small interest (only inasmuch as I have been through and currently teach at a university, albeit not ‘Christian’), the chapter seems best read as one particular expression of a practice that could be informed and enriched by the fullness of the gathered liturgy, as well as understanding education as liturgy with a telos of its own. Other expressions of the church (I think of work I’ve been involved in, whether housing, gardening, mowing, publishing or even book reviewing) can draw on the same wealth.  I would submit Desiring the Kingdom to the church as an important text for helping us understand the shape of the kingdom embodied in our midst.

DESIRING THE KINGDOM - JKA Smith

James K. A. Smith’s new book Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation comes at a timely moment. Having moved directly in my reading from Chris’ Hedges Empire of Illusion – reviewed in these pages – which offers an indicting critique of the illusory narratives that dominate identity in this country, there is nonetheless, at the end, still the hope that in love we can move beyond empty myths of consumption, power, nationalism, or the like. Desiring the Kingdom begins with the affirmation that it is only in love that we become human; as this love is directed toward the kingdom of God and the reconciliation of all things, we begin to live into the kingdom come ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’ By first recognizing that “to be human is to desire ‘the kingdom,’ some version of the kingdom…that hoped-for, longed-for, dreamed-of picture of the god life – the realm of human flourishing – that we pursue without ceasing” (54), Smith continues to describe formation as embodied practices and liturgies directed toward love’s telos.

To begin with, it must be said that although Smith contextualizes this book as a vision of ‘Christian education,’ it seems as if it has much importance for imagining the shape of life together for congregations and church communities. Indeed, I could easily see the wisdom of Desiring the Kingdom for Englewood Christian Church in our shared life together. This is an important book for its clear articulation of the telos of the church; certainly one related discussion is education, but the rich liturgies described within could inform any facet of the multi-sided work of the church. Continue Reading…

 

“Rooted in Economic Discernment?”

A Review of
Being Consumed:
Economics and Christian Desire.

by William Cavanaugh.

 

By Chris Smith.

Being Consumed:
Economics and Christian Desire.

William Cavanaugh.

Paperback. Eerdmans, 2008.
Buy now from: [ ChristianBook.com ]

When William Cavanaugh’s little book Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire was published earlier this year, no one could have guessed how relevant it would become with the recent economic turmoil.  This little book of four essays is a tool for helping us reflect in our churches on why we got into this economic mess.  The book’s essays are structured around the contrast between pairs of key ideas related to contemporary capitalist economics: “Freedom and Unfreedom,” “Detachment and Attachment,” “The Global and the Local” and “Scarcity and Abundance.” 

                In the first essay “Freedom and Unfreedom,” Cavanaugh uses Augustine’s concept of freedom as the basis for a Christian critique of the modern capitalist notion of “free markets.”  The thrust of his critique lies in the distinction that the capitalist concept of freedom is a “freedom from” that has no clear end, whereas Augustine views freedom as a “freedom for” which has a specific end in mind (i.e., reconciliation with God).  Cavanaugh also emphasizes that in contrast to the stark individualistic autonomy of capitalism, the Augustinian view of freedom maintains that others are “crucial to one’s freedom” (9).  Our desires, he observes, do not merely bubble up from within us, but rather our desires are formed in a social crucible, being shaped both from within and without (i.e., from our relationships with others).  Finally, Cavanaugh highlights Augustine’s notion that everything that exists is good, but only to the extent that they participate in the telos of creation – reconciliation with God.  Thus, when we desire things for their own sake, they become nothing to us.  Cavanaugh sagely observes that this provides a striking explanation for the addictiveness of consumer behavior:

A person buys something – anything – trying to fill the hole that is the empty shrine. And once the shopper purchases the thing, it turns into a nothing, and she has to head back to the mall to continue the search.  With no objective ends to guide the search, her search is literally endless(15).

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